Hawaii (we ascended)

Sweet dream songbirds sing me awake, as the sheer joy of realization dawns. We are here, perched in the suite of an open window resort atop the Kona coffee region of Big Island Hawaii. The busy tourist port of Kailua Kona visible to me as I stand, yet so far from our reality.


Only yesterday, my true love and I landed in the tiny Kona Airport, invigorated but exhausted from our far journey from the World’s Busiest Airport in Atlanta. We’d had an early dinner in the Jetson’s-like Encounter restaurant at LAX, where the fresh Cali cuisine was only a tease for the bounty which awaited us many miles across the Pacific. Plane two seemed to soar forever.

The rental car ride revealed a bleak black frontier of lava burnt earth. After stopping in Kona for a quick glance at the ocean and an adult refreshment, we ascended.

The 4 types of elopement

(Photo by: Han Vance, Hotel Oceana)

We each came to understand that we wanted to be together forever, well before we dared to utter. Then we did, eventually, and it was just letting the truth out more than it was any sort of a revelation. And considering I was still in rewrite and final edit of my Cali travel adventure memoir at the time, we – I – postponed. It was untoward to move forward while clinging back like I was. And a memoir is nothing if not a cling back, especially when one of the strong themes of said memoir is divorce.

Speaking of divorce, she’d been through it, too. More recently, so her wounds were fresher. Mine were deeper, as I’d made grave mistakes last time around and though we all fall – I’d really fallen and failed. And I have two children; she has none.

Of note: we were married in the same facility in Atlanta, just not to the final spouse. This is final. This is real. This is forever. Forever – ever…

Her mom’s in poor health and shouldn’t travel. We’ve both done the whole big wedding thing before. We both know everybody and would have to offend or invite everybody. So, elopement was an obvious choice.

We traveled to Augusta and being a Southern gentleman I asked her dad, the Colonel’s permission, and he gave consent.

Dreaming of getting married in a beautiful out of country location like on a beach in Mexico or in the rainforest in Vancouver. Means legally nothing in the United States of America. You have to do it again, and we are trying not to do too much. So, USA.

The Texas hill country spawned me and is one of the least known-for-its-beauty, breathtakingly beautiful spots in America. It’s far enough – Charleston is not, Rosemary Beach is not – but Austin is not a beach. Hawaii is something we did last year to great expense and exhausted elation; we want a relaxation vacation. Since I’ve traveled Cali extensively, Jami said pick a place that’s not LA yet in Cali, maybe. So, Santa Barbara, the American Riviera.

And the Spanish-tiled Santa Barbara County Courthouse is noted as the prettiest government building in America. So, there.

This is a planned elopement. Dinner at Bouchon. Hotel on the beach. The dress. The rings. Thoughtful this and that. And here I’d like to mention my guys at JFL Corp. in Atlanta’s Apparel Mart. I’ve bought suits from Jerry and his dad for over 15 years now, and I recommend you fellas do the same. Selection, prompt onsite tailoring, and the unrivaled eye of Jerry Junior are reason enough to go. There prices are unbeatable, too. By appointment only: (404) 523-2498 or 1 (800) 767-2498, www.jflcorp.com. My new suit is midnight blue and totally crushin’ it. My tie and shirt are a gorgeous, regal lavender, and Jerry picked that out too.

Anyway, I came to realize there are four types of elopement:

1. Planned Elopement – as detailed above

2. Secret Elopement – hiding out from family, friends, ex-spouses, maybe the IRS

3. Emergency Elopement – bump of a bun in the oven and her dad has a big shotgun

4. Spontaneous Elopement – VEGAS, baby, VEGAS

Ponce Crush (and skate and stroll)

CRUSH-CRUSH. So the Ponce Crush – the hot new art crawl that roams in and around Ponce de Leon Avenue in The ATL – unofficially starts with Angel Poventud accidentally redialing me from the International Pillow Fight of Atlanta in Freedom Park. Longboarding down from the high land and then back up Ponce, through the fun seekers, the crack dealers and the cars – way too many cars. Not me. I’m just being free.

First stop is Beep Beep Gallery, fitting since a car just honked at me. I greeted a seated Mr. Poventud, bench outside the cute space on Monroe, right across from where Boulevard is becoming something entirely different, the Old 4th Ward shifting to Midtown. Gallery co-owner Mark Basehore welcomed me with an almost-cold, free can of Miller High Life, the champagne of beers, as Angel made a $2 cash donation on my behalf before being called into work.

Mark’s suit and popping bright tie show the seriousness of expression this growing community has for local art. Allen Taylor and Andrea Sanders display a two-person art endeavor, filling the space with color and energy. And the window has a smoke machine meets art screen video montage that invites and excites, while it moves to the music. Sanders’ work was far too dark in subject matter for my taste, but I did enjoy Taylor’s colorful patterned drawings. Co-owner James McConnell offered a warm smile and firm handshake and dressed the part as did his counterpart. Color me impressed with these guys and this space. I believe in space and movement.

So, I was off again. This time with my girlfriend in tow, and we’ve slipped into ’bout to elope soon land, so she’s my fiance, I’d have to say as of that day. What a balmy spring first Saturday of April it was for an art adventure in the city too busy to hate. Next stop was Kibbee Gallery, behind Fellini’s Pizza off Ponce. Big, beautiful house filled with art and beer and food and people hiving together in a communal bonding of appreciation. I most-appreciated Yana Dimitrova’s check to-do list paintings. We all have these lists, and I couldn’t help but crack up at what Dimitrova had done on a large physical scale, here in a piece called The Greatest Achievements. “HALFAWAKE” was the title of the show itself, and the range of vision expressed in these paintings moved me. I also just adored Sarah Daly’s small, bright cityscape paintings in the back of the gallery, sadly finding the one I wanted to buy out of my current price range.

Finally it was time to get crushed, and no place better for that than Young Blood Gallery, near the Highland Inn on N. Highland. Now, the freaks were out. Now, the crowd was revved. Now, I could hardly find a place to stand with such a long skateboard. Can someone invent a lock for these please? I digress, to here mention that “Medicina” as a show did impress. Kris D, from the Classic City of Athens, GA, has teamed with David Hale to show that “all things are connected, all things are one.” This mostly neutral-colored show was voluminous in prolificness and expressed its soothing message in figure-after-figure and pattern-after-pattern. My favorite were the birds, and they alone were remarkably numerous. Over 300 total works were on display. I enjoyed meeting merchandising entrepreneur Brandon Craig who does the new Medicina shirts on my way out, as I’ve also been known to dabble in lowbrow fashion and the commerce thereof.

Night was complete with a snack and cocktail from the pretty patio of Cafe’ 640 next door, while I stared into the face of my true love. Thinking to myself: I have to agree with Mr. Poventud’s earlier gruff-voiced whisper of a statement to me, “I love my life.”

Next Ponce Crush is May 7th (FIRST SATURDAYS!), when I’ll be a bit busy – day after I get married in the American Riviera, Santa Barbara, California. But I’ll definitely be there for June 4th. Please help support local art and this movement that matters.

(Photo by: Han Vance)

My 1st Critical Mass

I used to be a super-sharp dressing and fast-talking parking and transportation regional operations manager, planner and staff writer. Did that relatively obscure mess for eight long years, until I suddenly walked the F out and then wandered Cali for half a summer and wrote a book about it.

I came to know and love trains in that former line of business and had always envisioned myself as this New York-San Francisco-type urbanist, who had never lived outside of the Southern United States of America and lived periodically in suburbs, country, small cities. I’d always liked the notion of not driving everywhere, never drove until I was around 25, and don’t drive now again and am simply much happier and calmer because of it. I guess you could say that I dance to the beat of a different drummer than most of y’all around here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I moved to the Classic City of Athens, GA for school in 1990, I finally found a society where I could fully thrive without getting rides. I walked or rode my bike everywhere I went, and I was constantly on the go and in the know, you know. I managed the Tate Student Center Set-Up Crew, threw epic parties, played basketball everyday, ate at T-stand, lived off campus, watched the Dawgs, met a few cute girls and Michael Stipe, made some new friends I’d always cherish, even studied some. More than anything, I had fun.

At age 40, I’ve finally seen my ATL gain some ground on the rest of the world in terms of becoming a bike-able city. I recently purchased a new-used bike myself, and on my first free Friday in, like, years, I joined up with my dear buddies Angel Poventud and Jason Jarrett and a cast of hundreds at Downtown’s Woodruff Park for my first ever Critical Mass.

My bike’s back wheel didn’t hold up as well as my rickety-old-still-an-athlete body did, as we rode long and far and saw nearly every neighborhood this urbanity has to offer. Beautiful homes, rundown shacks, smiling faces, confused stares, honks, children greeting us warmly and feeling a part of something big while watching from their yards. Happy Friday is the call and the response is universally pretty good, though some people did want us out of their always SUV automobilized wrong of way. Even that’s okay; they are getting an education at least. We are here. We care. We ride. Happy Friday, indeed.

MetroFresh Likes You

I had a super-fresh late lunch today at MetroFresh, while I was walking around Atlanta In-town East. They’ve been open about four and a half years in the Midtown Promenade, behind Piedmont Park.

I have decided that not only shall I rise up by reverting to the previous level of niceness I had before I became jaded, I will also revert to my previous level of healthiness in diet. I was raised vegetarian by a health food caterer/gardener mom and a Chiropractor/nutritionist/deep muscle therapist dad.

Anyone that knows my siblings and I well knows that we are a seriously athletic and strong clan of handsome people that rarely get ill without provocation. This physical prowess is a result of both our healthy upbringing and our lineage: Dad was a young professional water ski jumper who also boxed and played football; Uncle Griff was the dominant SouthWest Conference football player of his day.

I slam dunked a basketball as a thirty-five year old white man who can’t palm a ball, and my three little brothers are all literally huge now and still super-athletic for their size. Your family simply could not cover or guard my family. And we can definitely out dance you – our nickname is the Dancing Vances! Even my little sister could beat many of my male friends up.

I attribute much of this to the fact that we all ate so well growing up, and we still eat our homegrown veggies. My much less health conscious friends are constantly getting sick, so I now revert.

I now digress: They change the menu daily at MetroFresh, where the slogan is “Fresh Food Fast.” It’s not cheap, but it is well worth it.

I had a Coke Zero and a deliciously melting lemon bar on the not that healthy tip. But I also had a rich and wonderful broccoli and cheddar soup; perfect soba noodles contrasted with colorful green edamame and snap peas; and an apple and cauliflower salad with crisp purple cabbage. It was almost LA-like, almost Cali-like, except the portions were American grownup-sized.

They do serve some meat dishes, but the focus is soups, salads, sandwiches.

The counter help was actually helpful … and fun to talk with.

Here is the real test of healthy food: I felt great when I was completely full from it. Full and walking, up a hill, in the heat. My mom would like this place; I loved it.

Check it out: www.metrofreshatl.com

Few things in the ‘hood

They closed down the disco, but don’t panic because it will re-open in a few months … or so. San Francisco Coffee in the Poncey-Highland hood of The ATL is easily one of my favorite hangouts, because they have good brew, show cool art, and the hilariously sardonic Christian of the super-heavy band “Whores” is amongst the quality baristas that work there. But they shut her down to move to a bigger location next store, so I’m frequenting Aurora in the Virginia-Highlands for now. I like to bust that way sometimes anyway (on my long board of course), because Bill Hallman’s shop along the way is my favorite for window shopping and stopping in to see my friend Will at Striver’s Row is always an enlightening cultural experience. Great people, great clothes, great weather for sidewalk surfing, and great coffee. (Please tip your baristas as you would a good bartender -They do notice and really love it.)

Anyway, they have some funny, cool baristas at Aurora (Krystal, James, etc). And they play a wild mix of music that today included the Flight of the Conchords’ better stuff and some smooth alt-rock I’d never heard before. I once had an office across the street and ate a scone dunked in a cap daily back then, so my nostalgia is palpable. Plus, the sun shines in, and they display and sell local independent art.

I bought a groovy owl magnet there recently, which gives a hoot on my fridge amongst the Cali, NYC, Mexico and Vancouver travel magnets and my collection of DAWGS and Texas Native magnets. I also have a 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympics magnet proudly displayed; a brand new Elvis Hawaii magnet which excites me on several levels; and fun art magnets by my oldest son, my oldest nephew and several more-acclaimed artists

The artist Jeffree Lerner created my owl magnet, and he has other magnets and small paintings displayed at Aurora, all for sale at very reasonable prices (well under $100, some around $10). I would describe his style as modern primitive tribal, with an emphasis on animal iconography and positive messages. Great stuff.

My positive message to y’all this Good Friday is just that: In every way possible: Live Love and Be Good!

Painting by Jeffree Lerner:

(Photo by: Han Vance)

My New York State of Mind

The Q33, through Queens, Queens Boulevard

And Calle Columbia which was thick

Entourage none, solo Han convention

Did I forget to mention my intention

Sell book soon, agent and sell book and

I really love this story, it’s the story of my life and

NYC from The ATL to sell a book about LA and SF and the rest of Cali

Free plane tickets for volunteering to bump with Buck in The Big Easy

Free couch surf but first, it was Jackson Heights-Roosevelt, then train

Downtown to NoLita, Houston and Mott, via Grand Central

Changing trains at Grand Central Station, rush hour, the sensation

the crush, the pulse, the beat of life – City Life – the beat of life

Like the Chrysler spike spiring and awe inspiring in the afternoon sun

I had fun. A good convention. I had schwagger. I walked a lot, saw a lot

Met the agents and pitched and it was well received

And it was The City – Manhattan – the center of the known universe

I was working in New York City for the first time

And that is what New York’s about:

try and hustle and heart and try and pizza and people and art and life

Julie C. May at pb&j (Kirkwood-ATL)

Friday March 20th was the opening for photog Julie C. May at pb&j Gallery in the Kirkwood district in Atlanta, GA. They have been in business for two years. And the charming little village as a whole is doing quite well and now has most of your major urban needs condensed for you into a couple of blocks – so Atlanta, y’all. Please Go!!!

Hailing from the Beverlywood area of LA for the past ten years, Julie C. May has meanwhile toured the world in pursuit of great shots. The front room at this quaint, super-cute gallery is full of her selected finds. It runs through May 3rd.

Featured locations: Venice, Italy…Russia…Berlin…Poland…Puerto Rico…St.Kitts…CHI-Town…the girl really gets around. Her photography, shot in black and white with a 1976 Nikon and in shiny-today-digital-color, has so much life. As she says: “Every wrinkle tells a story.” These photos capture people “not reacting, living.”

Not much for self-promotion, the striking and radiant Julie C. May instead chooses to focus on her true passion – her business.  She founded the “Unscene Tour” to give a sense of home and a big boost to emerging photogs across the nation.  Check it: www.unscenetour.com

Back to the show, my companions were my adorable girlfriend, Jami Buck and my uber-hip Bromance from Cafe Intermezzo (via Cali), Duane. I wore lime green seersucker and a white belt and spring was underway. Spritzers are nice and so are almonds and art. Check it: www.facebook.com/hanvance

May got into photography originally “to get more boys to flirt with me.” Provocatively sexy statement for a married woman, I thought. Duane and I were the best heterosexual options on this night, as “the boys” were out in full force to support the gallery and kick back some free wine. They dress quite well, too. Check it: www.facebook.com/bobburkhart    (the b of pb&j)

From elderly Venetians that are clearly Old Souls to a Navyman resplendent in that one ray of light amongst the Chicago skyscrapers, personalities of people and the commonality of life experiences throughout diverse areas of the world are conveyed in a show perhaps more about face than space.

And then my baby paid half for me to get a small piece of Jack Simmonetta’s stuff. He is the j of pb&j. Just thinking to myself I was: the thousands of colors of blue are a nice color, and it is getting late.

So we said bye and headed to Poncey-Highlands for a post-pre-party at my babe’s townhouse, with too much of that Absolut Mango vodka and yet another adorable Jaimie, and then the four of us were up the street to the basement of the Highland Inn for the single best dance party in town. We listened to the Detriot to ATL transplanted rapper Stewart House along the way. And then we finally hit the dancefloor.

Cisco Adler Branches Out

Cisco Adler Interview by Han Vance, Copyright © 2008

I interviewed Cisco Adler at the Malibu Rum Party at Mason Murer Fine Art:

What did you grow up listening to?

My parents’ music first, then Hip-Hop: I was a Hip-Hop snob. Then I started branching out; rebelling from my Dad’s music…and it paid off.

How did you meet Mickey Avalon?

My brother and his manager were friends, and he opened up for my band, Whitestarr. I was like, “That’s why I was so…why I had been so into Hip-Hop.”

I hear influences of classic rock when I listen to your solo stuff.

Melody: I always dip into that. You can’t beat a classic melody. That’s why Akon and those dudes are making so many hits. They sound classic in a way.

Where did you grow up? LA?

Back and forth between LA and Maui with my mother, so I’m an island boy.

Tell me about Cisco Adler Presents. Do you produce, promote, write songs for others?

I do everything under the sun…Banana Beat Records is my imprint through Interscope/Suretone. Lisa D’Amato is my first artist.

I love her stuff. You don’t seem to have any genre boundaries.

As long as I like it and it goes with my vibe I don’t…Then I have Remi Nicole from London. She’s like a Lily Allen but a little harder and ghetto.

Shwayze walks up nearby and I recognize him from the Buzzin’ video and ask Cisco if it is him. Shwayze? I ask.

Shwayze, Cisco confirms. It’s all about Shwayze right now. A hit song will always speak for itself. You don’t have to say anything.

How did you guys meet?

When I was in my band there were always people around. He was one of the people on the couch. Then he started begging to show up at the studio. He would always come up to me at night when I was drunk. I was like ‘ just show up in the studio.’ We made the whole album before we got picked up. It was uninfluenced.

I briefly spoke to Shwayze next while Cisco posed for pictures with chicks that knew him from the Hollywood celebrity press or MySpace:

You grew up in Malibu?

Mostly. I moved to Malibu when I was really young.

I read that on your MySpace account, but you never know what is true. It said, “Only black kid in Malibu.”

That’s pretty true.

How big has MySpace been for you?

It’s been everything. I got so much exposure through meeting people on MySpace, people hearing my stuff.

Currently listening :
Mickey Avalon
By Mickey Avalon