Blue Sky

The Allman Brothers at the Fox Theater was my first small venue concert. My Uncle Jim was visiting Atlanta and asked if I wanted to go. I wasn’t a huge fan, I mean at 15, I wasn’t yet a Ramblin’ Man and the intensity of Whipping Post wasn’t fully appreciated, but hey who turns down a free concert.

We settled into our seats in the Moorish-themed theater with a ceiling that looked like a starry night sky. The stage was crowded with the gear of a band that claimed two drummers with full kits, and two lead guitarists. I can’t tell you what song they started or ended with, but I was surprised that I liked and knew almost every one.

Over the years, certain Allman Brothers songs have become deeper and richer to me: Jessica with its rolling bassy piano always makes me think of the beginnings of road trips, melancholy sweet Melissa reminds me of lost love, and the country roads feeling of Blue Sky takes me away from the crazy fast-paced world we live in.

Now as an uncle myself, I hope that I can share in a moment that will not only be remembered, but grow and take on a life of its own, like the one my uncle provided me.

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Songs of a City

Cities have songs and musical genres that match each place: sometimes seasonally, sometimes geographically.

When I lived in LA, a friend of mine asked me to write for a documentary he was doing about famed Brazilian musician Laurindo Almeida. We interviewed him weeks before he died and the documentary turned into a tribute concert. The man was a poet and reminisced about how diving with sea turtles in his native Rio painted his dreams and influenced his musical style. He then moved to LA where he had lived for many years, composing for films like the Godfather.

He told me just before his death, what painted his recent dreams in LA was the freeways, and he wanted to do some kind of musical piece that spoke to that. I guessed he was referring to the cars constantly moving in every direction, reflecting light during the day, and giving off light at night. Maybe the ocean-like sound it all created.

LA does have a vibe that you can feel from the road. If LA were a song, it could be a cool jazz samba, like Laurindo Almeida was known for, or it could be a folky tale about driving 500 miles today and never leaving LA, like in the Michelle Shocked song “Come a Long Way.” I’d say depending on where you are in LA, a different song could relate: maybe the Go Go’s “We Got the Beat” for Santa Monica on a clear sunny day; some Jimmy Buffet for Marina del Rey; Joni Mitchell, CSN or Counting Crows for Laurel Canyon…

If Atlanta, where I now live, were a song it might be a rap or hip hop number by Ludacris or Usher. It could be any number of R.E.M. songs, or maybe an older southern rock number like “Champagne Jam” by the appropriately named Atlanta Rhythm Section. This song talks about partying with some “high class booze” and makes me think of the scrappy upbringing of this always growing metropolis with a chip on its shoulder.

What would your city songs be?

Music Doodle

A Touch of many Countries in the City

Our first year in Atlanta, we were expecting holiday guests in our new home but didn’t have enough beds. We walked into a couple of mattress stores and thought we had walked into a car dealership by accident: not only by the sticker shock, but by the sales strategies as well. Car dealers always try to get the customer in the car, and mattress dealers are the same with getting the customer in the bed.

These were the kinds of places that rent out large stores in busy areas, and sometimes have a guy out front dressed as a mattress to bring in customers. You always wonder how they stay in business—I mean how many mattresses can they possibly sell? And being inside, you get the same feeling. The two places we visited were so empty and quiet, I almost fell to sleep on one of the beds we tried out. Unfortunately (for the salesman) we weren’t taking one home with us—no matter how hard he tried to tell us, and sell us on a sale that he said was only good until the end of that day. I just couldn’t see spending thousands of dollars on a guest bed, especially when we had more than one guest room to fill.

Alex is the consummate hostess and her guestrooms are generally as cush, if not more, than our own room. She didn’t seem to believe her uncle who always quoted the old adage that guests, like fish, go bad after a few days.

I suggested we try Craig’s List for a slightly used bed, which she thought was revolting…until she checked it out for herself. There were some beds listed as never used, or only used in a guestroom, that were a tenth of the price of the large mattress dealers.

Now we used Craig’s List to sell stuff before we left LA and had some good experiences. People would come over and generally pay what you were asking, no hassles. In Atlanta we were on the buying end and it was, shall I say “interesting.”

The first mattress we found was in Doraville. The guy on the phone had a very southern accent and we thought he said the mattress was new. I was excited to show Alex a little more of the Atlanta area, and I remembered Doraville being in an old Atlanta Rhythm Section song called, appropriately, “Doraville.” The lyrics went, “a touch of country in the city.” Quaint, right?

 

Well, we pulled off of 285 right before Spaghetti Junction (the giant tangled interchange) and there we were—Doraville. “Not the best part I’m sure” I said to Alex. “I don’t think it can get worse. Let’s hope the mattress comes from the good part of town,” she shot back.

We pulled into a neighborhood not far from there and we were greeted by a big good-ole-boy and his two Dobermans. He led us to a back room where the mattress was, and while we entered the room he got distracted by a phone call. Alex looked at me like “we are going to die, let’s get out of here,” but we had driven almost an hour, so I was bound and determined to check out this mattress. Unfortunately, it looked like the mattress was new to humans, but used by dogs. There was a pee stain on the underside. We made our way out of there as fast as an Atlanta Rhythm Section guitar riff.

I had one more card up my sleeve to redeem Atlanta in the eyes of Alex, my California by way of Florida girl: Buford Highway Farmer’s Market, right next to Doraville. I know, by the name it sounds like another good-ole-boy situation, but it is quite the opposite.

Alex is such a great cook that people always tell her she should have her own restaurant. The Buford Highway Farmer’s Market is one of a couple places in Atlanta that chefs shop. This place seems to have as much square footage as an Ikea, but unlike Ikea, they don’t just have Swedish meatballs, they have a whole Swedish food aisle, and a Jamaican food aisle, and a Ukrainian food aisle. You name the ethnicity or geographic area, and this place has an aisle for it. This place is so diverse, Donald Trump would shut it down if he could.

So Alex and I were in heaven. I mean, the world’s foods under one roof, and an as seemingly well-represented group of shoppers. We heard more foreign tongues than English. There was a giant fish tank that you could pick fresh fish from and a fishmonger area that rivaled Pike Market in Seattle. They didn’t throw fish at you like up there, but they had as wide, if not wider of a selection.

Redeemed, and with a car full of groceries and bellies full of food samples, we headed home. Perhaps we would have to shop elsewhere for mattresses, but we knew we could always come back to the shadow of Doraville for any culinary treat we could imagine.

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