Last weekend I took a trip to Atlanta. Although I always like to call it Hotlanta! One, it's usually hot there this time of year. But two, it's a city that's getting more vibrant each time I go. It's literally HUGE. Over the course of more than 2 days I found myself all over the city. What's odd is that all of a sudden I have a lot of friends and acquaintances in Atlanta. Maybe it's the connections of living in the Florida panhandle the past two plus years combined with the travels I did for ISI and working in the conservative movement.
I got up there on Friday night and my first stop was to get some chili burgers at the famous Atlanta joint, The Varsity. It's very conveniently located right off I-75 in the heart of Atlanta. The food there is absolutely gross, but delicious. And well, I had to have it. I'm in Atlanta.
From there I stopped in to see Matt Kabus play some live music at his mother's art show, which was part of a larger art show taking place in the historic Castleberry Hill neighborhood in southwest Atlanta. I first met Matt on The Rock Boat. He played a few acoustic sets on there, but I would have never known. He was one of the many people I met and hung out with on the Promenade deck, listening to other musicians play late into the night. We've kept in touch and before this trip I've only listened to his recorded music via my iPod. This was the first time I got to here a few tunes live and he is a very talented musician, who is still working on finishing college. Meanwhile, as I walked around the art gallery, I couldn't tell who was more talented, Matt or his mother, Lisa Kabus. The art work was incredible. I guess creativity runs in the family.
Well I didn't know anyone there but Matt, and he was kind of busy playing music. Plus I needed to get over to RiRa Irish Pub in midtown Atlanta to see my friends Sam Thacker, Michael Westbrook, and Mike Reddick. They played a couple sets of cover songs. My friend Dom, who just moved to Atlanta from Tallahassee six months ago, also met up with me there and we got the chance to catch up. It's too bad we didn't get a chance to play tennis. Dom is a teaching tennis pro in Atlanta - and he's also a drummer. More on that later.
I stayed to the end of the night at RiRa and then crashed at Sam's place. The next morning watched the first World Cup game with him and his girlfriend Melissa. Then, I was off to go pick up my friend Ezra, who was flying into the Atlanta airport from Miami for a dinner we both were in town to attend that night at Capital City Grille in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. After picking him up we went back to our friend Stan's place, who put us up that night in his house. But he was also hosting a big afternoon party to watch the USA-England game. About 30 people came over and we all just had a blast. I've never seen such a large and boisterous gathering of Americans at a house party for SOCCER! Will World Cup fever finally get Americans into soccer? Or will it forever remain America's future sport? ha
After the game and the party, Stan, his girlfriend, Ezra, and I went to the Capital City Grille to meet up with a few other folks that are part of this emerging social network of young conservatives. I'd tell you more, but... it's kind of a conspiracy. Ok not really, but just an exchange of intellectual ideas with top conservative young adults from around the country who are beginning to make their way in the world. After a dinner in a private dining room with an amazing view from the 8th floor (a dinner which lasted more than 3 hours!) we all walked down the street to East Andrews where my friend Sam was playing a solo set.
While there, we snuck off to a back room where there is a secret bar (seriously, I'm not making this up) called Prohibition. You have to know someone to get in because you walk in through an old style telephone booth. You have to dial the right number on the phone (and apparently the number changes every night or every week or something). We went in there. It was a very nice traditional looking bar that was more like a cigar bar. After a drink and some good conversation, I had to dip out. It was hot and smoky and I can only take that so long. Plus, had to go hear Sam play a few more songs before we dipped out.
Another odd thing - since we all had a few drinks... my friend Stan didn't want anyone to drive home, a mere 10 minutes away. They have this neat service in Atlanta called Zingo. You pay a driver to drive you home. He puts a very small scooter (which disassembles) in the back of the trunk (in this case, the back of Stan's SUV). Once we got home, the driver then rides his scooter back. I think the service cost about $20 (plus tip) for the distance we traveled. Better than taking a cab because you don't have to find a ride back to the bar in the morning to get your car. And you don't need to get a DUI.
Well the next morning, watched a little more World Cup with Stan and Ezra. Then I headed out to meet my cousin Joey for lunch. He is a student at Georgia Tech, getting a second bachelor's degree there. I picked him up there and we ate at a local pizza joint next to campus. It was great to see him and catch up. He's studying away in a mechanical engineering program.
After lunch, I headed east across town barely leaving the city limits to go to an art show/music festival at the Alcove art gallery in Decatur where my friend Dom's band, The Son Red, was playing that afternoon. Boy it was hot! As I waited for Dom's band to get on, I walked around to the many booths where people were selling all sorts of neat art. I happened to be wearing my "Enjoy Capitalism" t-shirt and I had so many people make positive comments about it. One of the vendors even had a 10 minute conversation with me about the future of capitalism and the prospects of drilling after the DeepWater Horizon oil leak. Was I back at my think tank? I was wondering why - at an art show - where most of these folks would appear to be pretty politically liberal - why I would get so many positive comments. Then I thought: of course! They are all participating in the free market at this very moment, selling goods to turn a profit. They are all entrepreneurs! Of course they loved my shirt.
After listening to Dom's band (which was very good - kind of a grunge feel to them) I headed out and swung up to the north side of Atlanta, near Johns Creek, GA in Gwinnett County to see my friends Esther and Seth Weathers. They just got married back in November. I first met Esther at least 4 years ago when I worked for ISI. I met Seth about 2 years ago. I was introduced to him via another mutual friend, and what do you know, he married Esther. Small world. Small conservative world. Through their companies, Weathers Corporation and Wildfire, they build websites and social networking experiences for companies and for political candidates in Atlanta and are tied into the political conservative world of this vibrant and growing metropolis. My visit to see them was short, but at least I got it in.
I eventually had to head out and put a close on a fun weekend. Leaving Atlanta about 6:30 PM, I ventured back south and got back home to Tallahassee about 11:00 PM, only stopping once to get some quick fast food. It was a whirlwind of a weekend. But I got to see so many amazing friends and even made some new ones. It was really neat to spend time in so many different and unique parts of this city - from the southwest historic district, to the heart of midtown, the Georgia Tech campus, to Buckhead, Decatur, and the growing areas of Gwinnett County to the north. A lot of cool things are going to come out of this city - and who knows, they might all come from my eclectic group of friends there. Musically, politically, academically, and socially - Atlanta is a place worth watching - and visiting again, for sure.