Monday, May 4, 2015

SUNDAY IN ATLANTA

BRAVES AT 50
“Baseball is the greatest game there is!”

                                        Ted Williams

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA- A baby blue cloudless Sunday sky merits a trip across town to Turner Field for a Braves game. Surrounded it seems by turmoil, divisions, hard feelings and seemingly irreconcilable differences, I’ve always found the national pastime a personal balm in Gilead. Maybe it’s just a local tradition-good cheer, friendliness and courtesy. But with very few exceptions this is where I observe vastly different people cheerfully gathering to have fun.

Top billing on this glorious Sunday Down South was a shared success between Braves pitching ace Julio Tehran who was masterful in a shutout of the Cincinnati Reds and tenor Timothy Miller singing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch with all the power and emotion you expect from an accomplished opera singer.

Timothy Miller During the 7th Inning Stretch
 Watching the game from the right field stands triggered nostalgia, something baseball is well suited for. Memories of Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine,” the dominant National League team decades back when Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Pete Rose could attract sellout crowds here when the Braves weren’t always competitive.

On this glorious day, the women seemed a little prettier, effective clarions for the majesty of springtime in Atlanta. Men of all ages were well behaved. There was a noticeable absence of drunks. No explanation other than maybe more people are coming around to the notion that over-indulgence has a huge downside.

Julio was Masterful
Turner Field has a promenade exhibiting large roster photos of each team for the past 50 years, this being the half-century celebration of their opening night in Atlanta. Fresh out of Emory University, almost penniless without a care in the world, I was there. The old squad images brought back special days and nights. Watching the incomparable Sandy Koufax pitch his last game for the Dodgers here before a sold-out audience who came to say goodbye to a hero. The games Phil Neikro pitched knuckleball victories, literally carrying some mediocre teams to heights they otherwise could not reach. The night “The Hammer” broke Babe’s record.

The years we were blessed with the talent and good character of Dale Murphy, twice the National League’s most valuable player and to this day wondering why in heaven’s name this great player is not in baseball’s’ hall of fame.

Sunday down South is personal, a prelude to paradise.

 NOTE: For cooks, enjoy Georgia Magazine’s six pages of recipes from top chefs and great home cooks using Coca-Cola as an ingredient:
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/gemc/georgia_201505/#/42 




Braves Girls of Summer

Thursday, April 23, 2015

WOMEN WHO SAVED A CITY



         THE NANCY HART MILITIA

By Doc Lawrence

Mort Kunstler's Final Painting
LaGrange, Georgia-Brooklyn native Mort Kunstler, widely considered the most successful and admired Civil War artist, came to this lovely west Georgia city to unveil what would be announced as his last painting in a storied career. Almost 150 years ago to the day, a confrontation of local women armed like a military platoon met Union invaders led by Col. Oscar LaGrange, ready to do battle in an effort to spare the city from the atrocities of General Sherman’s total war that included the destruction of Atlanta and the March to the Sea.



Beautiful Downtown LaGrange
Mr. Kunstler’s oil on canvass painting magnificently interprets the dramatic event. The women weere organized as the Nancy Hart Militia paying homage to Ms. Hart, a Georgia girl who defended her east Georgia home during the American Revolution from pillage and destruction by British soldiers,

According to historical accounts, two LaGrange women, Nancy Morgan and Mary Heard recognizing their vulnerability with most able-bodied men away serving in the Confederate army, organized the militia and gave it the name.

The painting shows well-dressed  armed women (they wanted to have clothes to wear in the event their homes were looted and burned) ready to do battle with the battle-tested soldiers. Displaying admiration for them, Col. LaGrange assured them that their homes would be spared. As gratitude for his promise and in keeping with the finest traditions of the South, the Nancy Hart’s prepared and served dinner for the Union officers.

No participant was aware that General Robert E. Lee had surrendered days earlier at Appomattox.

Mr. Kunstler at Legacy Museum
Today, the spirit of the Nancy Hart Militia is evidenced. Many of the beautiful homes survived the Civil War and add to the stunning landscape. Perhaps inspired by their preservation efforts, LaGrange is a showcase of revitalization and prosperity. Restaurants and sidewalk cafes are positioned alongside retail shops and art galleries. Taste of Lemon, a popular family-style restaurant, occupies what was once a Methodist church. LaGrange College enjoys a national reputation for academic excellence while  Legacy Museum and the LaGrange Symphony are testaments to community support of the arts..

Just minutes from the city fountain with the statue of the Marquis de Lafayette, Hills & Dales Estate, once home to business legend Fuller Callaway, welcomes visitors with a tour of the mansion and stunning gardens. Nearby West Point Lake is a top-rated fishing attraction and landmark Callaway Gardens is a short drive from downtown LaGrange.

Close proximity to Atlanta makes a day trip easy. Visitors are inspired to stay a little longer. Not surprisingly, they enjoy this magnificent Deep South city and its friendly folks. Walking around town, there’s a chance that the smiling lady passing by might be a descendant of the Nancy Hart Militia.

Friday, April 17, 2015

ATLANTA THEATER

STOREFRONT CHURCH
SHINES
“I doubt there’s a better play about the consequences of the economic divide.”                                                            
                         Tom Key-Theatrical Outfit

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-Storefront Church  by Pulitzer Prize, Oscar and Tony-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley concludes his "Church and State" trilogy of plays that began with Doubt and   Defiance.  Storefront Church  is a hilarious morality tale that explores the often-thorny relationship between spiritual experience and social action. On a rainy spring afternoon, the story awakened a dormant sense of what is right and wrong when greed faces desperation.

Directed by David De Vries with an all-star cast featuring Donna Briscoe, Tom Key, Joe Knezevich, Clayton Landey, E. Roger Mitchell and Anthony Rodriguez,  Storefront Church transports us to a wintry Bronx, where greedy capitalists devour giant gingerbread houses, a disenchanted, nomadic preacher rediscovers his faith and inspires it in others, and a curmudgeonly loan officer experiences a glorious rebirth.

As in all his best works, Shanley dissects authority figures and tests their mettle with moral issues, often comically. "I think,” he elaborated, ”with the third play, it all comes to a landing place. I feel a sense of resolution. What Storefront Church says is very applicable to the time we're living in. There is a dearth of places for people who have a spiritual hunger to satisfy, and there's a dearth of places for people who have the hunger for community to satisfy.”

Theatrical Outfit, Atlanta ’s second-oldest continually-operating professional theater company was founded and has been led by Artistic Director Tom Key. A visionary, Key led the company through the creation of its award-winning downtown home, the Balzer Theater at Herren’s, the first U.S. theater to achieve LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The theater is on the historical site of Herren’s, the first Atlanta restaurant to voluntarily desegregate..

Tom Key, one of the top actors and directors today, whose masterpiece, Cotton Patch Gospel entertains audiences throughout the planet, sparkles as the top banker in Storefront Church. Located next door to Georgia State University’s magnificent Rialto Center for the Performing Arts and a block away from popular music venue The Tabernacle, the neighborhood is a cornerstone of Atlanta’s downtown revitalization.

Theatrical Outfit tells consistently high-quality, soul-stirring stories, often from great classics and contemporary literature that feature many of the best writers of the American South: Carlyle Brown, Truman Capote, Evan Davis, Horton Foote, Harper Lee, Cormac McCarthy, Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Sherry Shepard-Massat, Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder, Hank Williams and Tennessee Williams.

For some personal revitalization, get your tickets now at 678.528.1500. www.theatricaloutfit.org. Runs through May 3.





Tuesday, April 14, 2015

BRAVES AT HOME

Braves Slugger Freddie Freeman
TAILGATING DOWN SOUTH

By Doc Lawrence

“No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference.”
                                   Tommy Lasorda

ATLANTA-For baseball fans, life begin again each spring with the first pitch. It’s the home opening series for the Atlanta Braves and who better to battle than the New York Mets followed by the Miami Marlins? The Braves are rebuilding, baseball vernacular for low expectations. But who really knows what the standings will look like come September? Youth can trump geezers in this game and when that happens, miracles often appear.

Remember the 1991 “last to first” Braves loaded with kids named Glavine, Smoltz, Breen, Avery and two-sport Falcon/Brave Deion Sanders? That October, the earth trembled. That was the year when the war Tomahawk chant and chop became a Braves’ tradition.

Chef Lara Lyn Carter
With so many new names on the roster, it takes a little time to become familiar, but nothing works better than winning. Strangers become heroes. Hustle, daring, spectacular fielding, daring base running, smart pitching and clutch hits. That’s quite a start. So far, so good.

The inaugural home stand series of 2015 featured something besides good baseball: Tailgating. The tradition is as embedded as the Tomahawk on the Braves uniforms. With the season openers, Chef Lara Lyn Carter created a Tailgate special, a culinary tribute to first-baseman Freddie Freeman.

                     
                     

             
FREDDIE’S FEAST 
 Grilled Catfish with Sweet and Spicy Tartar Sauce
              Chef Lara Lyn Carter 
FOR THE FISH
(4) 6-oz. catfish fillets
Juice of one lime
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of pepper
Canola oil for the grill
Season the catfish with lime juice, salt and pepper. Brush the grill with canola oil to prevent the fish from sticking.
Cook the fish over medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes per side.
FOR THE TARTAR SAUCE
1/2-cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. Creole style mustard
1 tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 tbsp. sweet pickle relish
Combine all of the ingredients together and serve with the fish.

WINE PAIRING

Catfish has a subtle sweetness that blends well with a classic Chenin Blanc. Few producers do a better job with this white grape than Dry Creek. Reasonably priced, it is widely available.


Monday, April 6, 2015

RACING TO THE BOTTOM?

 ATLANTA BRAVES 2015

 By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA--Some days I really miss reading Lewis Grizzard. His newspaper columns-loaded with wit and
targeted sarcasm-were best when local sports was the subject. Imagine giving him some fresh meat provided by the Atlanta Braves rather shocking trade of Craig Kimbrel while local fans were still reeling from the unloading of other proven players. Lewis would have been ferociously creative. What he often accomplished was like puncturing overblown egos with his typewriter assuming the function of a large hairpin.

While others, notably the San Francisco Giants concentrate on going to another World Series, our team looks to new digs: a luxury stadium surrounded by sports bars and doodleburger

outlets. Traffic? No problem. They’ll build a skyway over the Interstate-one of the country’s busiest-an engineering feat comparable to Henry Flagler’s plans long ago to connect Key West to Havana with a railroad bridge.

Kimbrel was the National League leader in saves in 2014 (47) and has topped 40 saves in each of the past four seasons. Kimbrel has a 1.43 ERA, the lowest ERA in the entire league in that span.

This feels like the 1970’s, when six months of mediocrity was the norm. A race to last place?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

CONFEDERATES DOWN UNDER


THE CSS SHENANDOAH

By Doc Lawrence

CSS SHENANDOAH  by Patrick O'Brien
Just north of Atlanta, the lovely city of Roswell is home to stately Bulloch Hall, once home of Theodore Roosevelt’s mother, Mittie Bulloch and his “Uncle Jimmie,” James Dunwoody Bulloch. Mr. Bulloch was in the news this week in Australia where the Seaworks Maritime Festival in Melbourne celebrated the 150th anniversary of the arrival of one of Bulloch’s masterpieces, the Confederate raider CSS Shenandoah.

Living in Liverpool during the Civil War, James Bulloch headed a blockade running industry sending war material into the South while producing warrior ships like the CSS Alabama, CSS Florida, CSS Atlanta and the CSS Shenandoah.. It was the Shenandoah that found its way into international naval history.

In January 1865, the CSS Shenandoah docked in Port Phillip, creating one of the greatest stories of early colonial Melbourne and Australia’s only significant link to the American Civil War. According to Maritime Festival officials, the fabled ship arrived unannounced in Hobsons Bay on its way to the North Pacific Ocean to destroy the Union whaling fleet. While resupplying in Melbourne, the Shenandoah recruited 42 British sailors as crewmen and went on to capture or sink 39 commercial ships flying the American flag s over the next six months. The captain of the Shenandoah was unaware that the Civil War had ended in April.

The 2015 Melbourne Festival
After the Civil War, James Dunwoody Bulloch remained in Liverpool and became a wealthy cotton broker. At the urging of his famous nephew, he wrote a memoir, The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe. President Roosevelt, speaking at Bulloch Hall, praised James Bulloch for his naval expertise and the high quality of his character.

Bulloch is buried in Liverpool's Toxeth Park Cemetery and his headstone bears the inscription: An American by birth, an Englishman by choice. His grave is a popular stop for tourists.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

LEWIS GRIZZARD ON STAGE


CLASSIC SOUTHERN HUMOR FOR THE NEW YEAR
                                  “Delta is ready when you are!”
                                                Lewis Grizzard’s Advice to Critics

Bill Oberst, Jr. as Lewis Grizzard
By Doc Lawrence

Has it been that long since Lewis Grizzard left us? On the road, when  I’m identified as a Georgia boy, his name and stories regularly enter the conversation. “Did you know him? some ask. First time I met Lewis was at Manuel’s Tavern during my Emory days. He was introduced to me by the legendary bar owner as “a bright sportswriter who may have a future.”

Soon, Grizzard left for a sports reporter position in Chicago, which, by all accounts he hated. “The only good thing about Chicago,” he later said, “is Interstate 65 south.”

That was Lewis the funny guy who would say anything as long as it was on target or outrageous. I had some time with him over the years but was never a member of his inner circle. My admiration was from his columns and recordings, many of which are classics of Southern humor.

Now, the fine actor Bill Oberst, Jr. has mastered the challenge of becoming the stage version of Lewis. Successfully channeling Lewis by delighting audiences throughout the country, For the 13th straight year Oberst brings the humorist back to Stone Mountain’s acclaimed Art Station Theatre. Count on two hours of laughs, priceless memories and maybe a few tears. When, through Oberst, Lewis warns to “never eat barbecue in North Carolina,” you’ll look around to see who isn’t laughing. His story about Sherman’s massive army stopped dead in their tracks by a Confederate sniper on Stone Mountain is a classic. And when Lewis reminds everyone to call their mother, I join many others in wiping away some tears.

“Lewis Grizzard: In His Own Words” is performed on January 15, 16 and 17 at 8 PM and Sunday January 18 at 3 PM. See www.artstation.org for more information.