Atlanta Never Ceases to Change

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It really never does. As someone who now hops back and forth between Atlanta and Tampa, I have a really hard time understanding the evolution of the city or more exactly capturing it. That’s something that never changes with Atlanta…it is always changing.

So forgive me when I try to grab hold of the past and find myself bypassing the latest and greatest for the stuff that has been here awhile.

That was the case tonight when I stopped at Woody’s on Monroe for a Cheesesteak. I don’t know how I had not been there before, and I am not really sure I’ll be going back, (see my other post on Cheeseteaks) but it is nice to know some places aren’t going anywhere…although I have always wondered how bad the city would probably like to use the right of way at Woody’s.

I looked around at the other clientele to try to figure out who the inhabitants of the neighborhood were these days. As is usual lately I was completely stymied when there was absolutely no correlation whatsoever. In the 90s it would’ve been everyone’s bet that this area would be simply full of young professional families (some people call them yuppies) who were renovating Ansley Park, Highlands, and Piedmont Park bungalows in the pursuit of being intown.

Tonight there were two hipsters, a hippy, a housewife, a guy and his three year old up way past his bedtime, and me up way past my bedtime. Combine that with the African-American and Hispanic employees and I can’t figure out one thing, except that Atlanta is a diverse place. It’s not unusual to see this hodgepodge in most old midtown Atlanta neighborhoods now. Makes it tough for a guy like me who would usually try to characterize it in someway.

But here, in Woody’s itself is a place with a menu that hasn’t changed since 1976 when they first made their name on Philly style cheesesteaks and milkshakes, no more, no less.

Here is to constant change, and the places, for my sake, that don’t.

Great Atlanta Restaurants in 10 minutes

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Recently a young man who is currently a sophomore at Georgia Tech emailed me and asked me to name some of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta. I only had 10 minutes right then to reply back, and below is exactly what I came up with…unedited! $’s indicate how pricey it is.  Given more time, the list may look a bit different, but again this is what came to mind in 10 minutes:

Eats  $ has been a long time Yellow Jacket favorite for great home cooked soul food
Antico Pizza $$ We’ve talked about this one…great pizza, try to sit in kitchen
Bacchanalia $$$ some of the best food in Atlanta, pre-fixe menu in dining room, I suggest sitting at the bar where you can order a la carte $$ and save lots of money but still get a taste for it, don’t miss the chocolate soufflé
Six Feet Under $ One on the west side has a great view on the rooftop deck and yummy tacos
Douceur de France $ - best breakfast, little bit of a drive
Silver Skillet $ – I’m sure you’ve been, 2nd best breakfast in Atlanta, 1st best traditional breakfast, worth the wait if there is one
Heirloom Market $ – never tried it but hear their Spicy Korean Pork Sandwich is great
Watershed Restaurant $$ - this is a really good restaurant, their menu has changed since they got the new location
Grand China  $1/2 - absolute best Chinese in all of Atlanta, high quality wonderful flavors, suggest the family combos
Cafe Intermezzo $$ – lots of locations, European coffee house best for dessert and coffee, traditional place to take your date

Question: What would be on your short list of great Atlanta restaurants?

Help me choose my New Header

I realize I haven’t posted in a while, and I apologize for that. I went on a small vacation to wind down after the convention week, and this week has been a whirlwind. I need the help of my readers though on determining which header to use for this blog.

I had a few developed all for $5 on this cool website called Fiverr. At first it seemed silly, then it dawned on me that this could be really cool. There are tons of designers on there who will do graphic design or anything else for that matter for you for only $5. I am not picky, and I am budget conscious so I figured I would try it out. I was pretty happy with the results, especially for just $5. The designer who I chose to create mine had the username shorya95 and came highly recommended.

So here are the options, let me know which one you like the best.

Option 1 – the header I am using now above

 

Option 2 – this one uses different colors for the tampatlanta text and a cool big A

Option 3 – this one uses a similar font to my old header that was simply text

Question: So which one do you like best?

Beltway Bubble in Tampa – RNC Convention Days 2 & 3 – Lesson on Politics

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Welcome to all of the new readers and people following this blog after the GOP Convention. I met a lot of really nice folks from other states and other countries, and I’ve been pleased that some of them have found their way to this site. I want to take some time to tell you what my last two days around the convention were like and share some photos, but I am also trying to paint a picture for another purpose, and that is to describe my perspective of politics, which was broadened this week.

I’ve never been naive about politics and its effect on government, but up until now my visits inside the Beltway have been brief, and I have scurried out as fast as I can. This time, the Beltway came to us here in Tampa, and I decided to immerse myself in it. But since I wasn’t a delegate, I didn’t have planning meetings and other official events to go to. Instead, I was hopping from special interest party, to media event, to book signing, back to special interest event, and stopped at some of my favorite Tampa hot spots along the way to mix and mingle.

The experience was complete with lots of interaction with some of the GOP’s top candidates and past leaders, but it made me realize what a bubble these people live in. I’ll save more for another post, but I think when you see the pace and influences of the people in this realm, the dysfunction of our government becomes more clear. I am confident that they have best intentions in mind, it’s just that a whole lot of other junk gets in the way…primarily in the green paper variety with our founders’ faces on them!

The photo at the top of this post has little to do with my observations above, other than the fact that it is of a panel I attended by a grassroots special interest group with a great purpose — to uplift women and the issues that matter to them. Many of these special interests, especially in my opinion the ones at this convention, have a good purpose. This National Defense and Security panel featured KT McFarland, a defense department advisor to Ronald Reagan that I greatly respect. I was really pleased to talk with her after the panel and get this photo. Her message that a strong energy and economic policy first, is the foundation of a strong security policy made a lot of sense. I also met Jennifer Carroll our fantastic Lt. Governor of Florida.

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After wandering around the Channelside area and realizing that I was one of six people that weren’t part of the MSBC crew broadcasting there, I decided to make a break for a real lunch spot, the newly reopened Floridan Hotel! This national historic landmark that my grandfather owned during World War II was at one time the tallest building in Florida. It had been shuttered since the late 80′s, and after many false starts by other developers, a local family purchased and renovated the hotel and opened it two weeks before the RNC.

I’ll do another full post on the Floridan soon, but I wanted to share a few photos so that you can see how beautiful it is. As I was hoping, it was reminiscent of the Georgian Terrace in Atlanta!

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I had a wonderful lunch in the dining room and was so pleased to have as my waiter one of the nephews of the Floridan’s owner who spoke with me at length about the renovation efforts and all of their hard work in decorating and preservation. The place was beautiful and the food was incredible. It was so important for the city to show it off, that NBC was assigned the hotel for its crew and commentators.

Sitting next to me in the quiet dining room was none other than Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, opinion writer for the Washington Post, and MSNBC contributor Eugene Robinson. We had a really nice chat, and although I hardly ever agree with anything that comes out of his mouth on TV or paper, he was such a gentleman. I look forward to sharing some of his observations of Tampa with you in future posts, he seemed very impressed.

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That experience made me realize that despite all of the political disagreements, these folks living in the world of politics are generally nice people who are real and actually have to eat food and go to sleep. (when, I don’t know) The thing is politicians, lobbyists, and the press, they all know each other and they are all truly in one business, and that is promoting themselves and their agenda. They enable each other and feed off of each other. Because there is a camera in their face all the time, they begin to believe they are experts on everything, and everyone they come in contact with shows them a level of appreciation that may be real or it may just be a show as well, but reinforces that idea in their head. The culture is so immersive I don’t see how many can avoid it. They just do their best to grow gills and swim.

Look at this event I went to with Rick Santorum. You can hardly see him because of the mass of press surrounding him asking him and his family questions along with adoring fans trying to touch him. Even the most honorable man has to be affected a little by this…I would think.

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Even I had to get in on the action and stop Gretchen Carlson for a photo. After all, we have the same last name. I told her this and she dryly responded, well good you’ll be able to remember mine. She was so gracious. The fact is, who doesn’t remember her name? Everywhere she went she was barraged by people wanting to take photos with her. It is amazing how clearly these people can focus once they are in front of the camera. I wonder if they feel like they live in two worlds, one in front of the camera and one behind it. Or if the two have just merged into one.

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Question: Is my portrayal accurate, and is this endless cycle of promotion at all healthy for getting our country back on track?

My Day at the GOP Convention

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Today was an eventful day for me at the RNC Convention! Since I am not a delegate, this is about as close as I was able to get to the Times Forum itself. Okay, a little closer than that as I attended a number of events that I had been invited to right at the security zone border. First let me say what a pleasant time I had. Contrary to some accounts you might hear on cable news, traffic is very calm and downtown is actually surprisingly empty other than delegates and the occasional protestor. Traffic in and out at the downtown exit was so smooth. I hear thought that on the busses at night after the convention may be another story! But during the day today and yesterday have been fine. The police, national guard, and secret service looked exhausted but vigilent, and all I spoke to were very polite. As a news reporter friend of mine today tweeted, I am very proud of Tampa…keep it up.

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I started the day by heading to Liberty Plaza, sponsored by Citizens United. There I spotted Gov. Mike Huckabee doing his radio show. I really respect the governor and the way he reaches across party lines for the good of the country, while also standing up for the principles he believes in. Then I headed into the makeshift theater to see the showing of “Reagan:Rendezvous with Destiny” produced by Newt and Callista Gingrich. The documentary on the life of President Reagan is one of the most thorough and all encompasing works on Reagan that I have seen. And I have seen a lot!

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Afterwards, Newt and Callista were so gracious to speak with attendees and sign books and DVDs. I had been looking forward to getting Mrs. Gingrich’s book Sweet Land of Liberty that stars Ellis the Elephant as he travels American history, and simply and eloquently identifies what makes our country so great by way of history’s most inspiring moments. My kids Lyndsey and Kyle have already fallen in love with the book. Here is an excerpt:

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“Ellis read of those coming from distant shores, arriving in a country they had never seen before. Speaking different languages, they all shared a dream–to live together in a land where freedom was supreme.” I’ll let you guess from that excerpt where Ellis got his name! What a beautiful book with gorgeous illustrations.

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Citizens United was getting ready for an exciting party tonight, but I had to run! Here is a sneak peek of the dance floor.

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Now before I move on, let me just say again, these events were all open to the public, well organized, complimentary, and fully catered. I wish more people had attended! I think the bluster of press coverage over the last few days has scared off people from going into downtown. Come check it out, convention events are lots of fun, and these are valuable events. For some ideas check out this website or my post yesterday about the YG WomanUp! Pavilion at Channelside. Tomorrow I plan to attend a national security panel with KT McFarland from the Reagan administration and a film showing at The Straz Performing Arts Center, also free with lots of fun perks.

I haven’t even mentioned all the nice people from various states and media outlets that I have met including lobbyists for the International Franchise Association and writers for the Tampa Tribune. I am not much for the slimy world of politics, but these events feel nothing of the sort. Everyone is polite, respectful, and just enjoying themselves. Even if you are a Democrat here in Tampa it is worth coming down to the convention to see your city shine!

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Finally, I ended the day with my kids and our friends from the Georgia delegation at their hotel that happened to be the place where my wife and I had our rehearsal dinner island party the night before our wedding. It was only fitting that our kids goof around at their welcome table! (Sorry for the wrinkled table cloth) This beautiful place provided us with many wonderful memories…as I am sure it will for every Georgia delegate!

Question: What has your experience been like during the convention so far?

Woman Up! at the RNC

I wandered down to the convention early this afternoon to check out the scene. I was surprised to see that most of the areas being promoted to delegates to spend their leisure time were not crowded at all. (Apparently busses from delegate hotels by the beach were not making the trip over to the bridges to downtown because of the rain…good for Pinellas County I guess) Both Ybor City and Channelside were relatively quiet, so I took the opportunity to look around. I was on a mission to find the YG Network Woman Up! Pavilion as I’ll be attending some events there later on this week.

I passed the MSNBC stage, leaned to the right, and found myself at the Women’s Pavilion. It is open to the public and is truly one of the coolest places to chill out during the convention…even for guys! Designed solely for the convention it has big couches, a club-like atmosphere, and huge TV’s with Fox News on. Sure, you can hang out at Hooters or that Tapas place, but why wouldn’t you rather sip on a cosmopolitan at the bar, get your hair done, shop in the boutique, and watch Shepard Smith on the big screens! Okay, so you’d think a guy like me would be a little uncomfortable, but I was pleasantly surprised to find more men than women there!

The Pavilion has taken over almost the whole first floor of the Channelside complex along Channelside Drive, right across the sidewalk from the Florida Aquarium. Named in honor of Dr. Miriam Adelson, the Pavilion will play host this week to a variety of events featuring prominent women including to name a few a Foreign Policy Panel featuring KT McFarland, a panel on Women-owned businesses, and a book signing by Callista Gingrich. Here is a full schedule! I met Barbara, one of the coordinators of the Pavilion, and I have to applaud her team and the organizers for such a fun venue at the RNC!

Get a Front Row Seat for Tampa Bay

This photograph is of Downtown Tampa and Tampa...

A very exciting and unprecedented media effort that is taking place here in Tampa and is incorporated with the Republican National Convention will launch in about 10 days. It is called Front Row Tampa Bay! I want to publicize it, because the more people around the nation that take the time to watch it, the greater the effect will be.

According to their website, Front Row Tampa Bay, presented by the Tampa Bay Partnership will promote regional and Florida businesses with interactive business panels, featuring regional, state and national VIPs in business, industry, and the public arena, live-streamed to a targeted list of business and political leaders from a theatre complex located nearby the convention site. (Of course you can sign up to watch too, or maybe even be part of the show)

Programming will include focus on the key business sectors and leaders from Florida and Tampa Bay, commentary from top political leaders, and a look at life in Tampa Bay and Florida.

It will be interesting to see what the overall impact of the convention is on our local economy, and this effort ought to plant some seeds that  will bear fruit over time. Although Florida is a top tourist destination because of its great weather and wonderful attractions, the media is having so much fun spinning the threats of hurricanes and making summer in Florida sound like slogging through the Amazon. In reality, most people from other cities visit and dream about what it would be like to do business in a place that combines great weather, a diverse culture, and tons of natural beauty.

I’ll try to do a few blog updates as I wander around Tampa during the convention, and attempt to determine whether my post on RNC parties ends up being correct. But if you are a business person or thinking about moving to Tampa, your best source for true on the ground reporting that extends beyond all of the political banter will be Front Row Tampa Bay and their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Moulthrop Studios

Fashion-plate Fridays!

Seems like everyone has a theme for Fridays, so my plan is to share local Tampa or Atlanta art, style, fashion, and home decor on Fridays. The south is full of all kinds of treasures and in my opinion some of the best artists and interior designers in the business.

To start with, today I am featuring the craftsmanship of a local Atlanta celebrity and a former classmate of mine from Georgia Tech, whose work is renowned throughout the world and especially the U.S. My buddy Matt Moulthrop has been turning wood since he was a child. You see it runs in the family! He is a third generation wood turner following in the footsteps of his grandfather Ed Moulthrop and his father Philip Moulthrop. Moulthrop vessels came along at a time when modern art and craft traditions were merging, creating the perfect opportunity for bold new work!

The family is committed to using only regional timbers, often from notable sources, and forms that best share their beauty. They’ve found an audience that ranges from leading art collectors, museum curators, and those who specialize in the field of wood turning, to your casual collector who just happens into a gallery and likes what they see.

Anyone who was anyone at Coca Cola in the 70′s and 80′s owned a Moulthrop piece. The permanent collection at the Coke world headquarters on North Avenue and at the homes of American Presidents is a testament to this! These days it is not uncommon to see them at a Miami Beach house or a rapper’s condo in LA. I was at a dinner party earlier this year at one of south Tampa’s finest homes and was pleased to see a table of over ten Moulthrop’s from all three generations prominently displayed.

The bowls come in all shapes and sizes including some of Ed’s large bowls that are 5′ tall and a person can sit in! According to Michael Shapiro, the Director of the High Museum of Art, “The Moulthrop family is an Atlanta treasure who literally have turned wood into art for three generations.” Permanent collections can be viewed in the  Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Chicago Art InstituteRenwick Gallery,Museum of American ArtSmithsonian Institution and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to name a few. Ed and Philip’s pieces were even shown in the White House Collection of American Crafts.

What I like about the bowls is that in a world that gets turned upside down with technology, this beautiful family work brings everything back down to earth. It is natural, yet it still looks modern and cool sitting in a high-rise loft on a glass table next to an i-pad! At Moulthrop Studios or a gallery near your home, you can purchase the piece that perfectly finishes off the decor in your pad, and that you will one day generously decide to donate to a local museum.

Get Excited Again about Roadtripping

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There is nothing I like much more than embarking on a road trip…except maybe planning it! Maybe it was all the summer vacations across America that my fearless mother took us kids on, that endeared me to road travel. More likely, it is the many many trips back and forth between Tampa and Atlanta. I often prefer driving the 7 hours to Atlanta over the quick Delta flight. I’ve got my car, and I’ve got the freedom to stop wherever I want, whenever I want, and even go off the beaten track.

I often wonder why Google hasn’t let me be more creative with my maps for travel purposes. I am always hearing about or web-surfing places I would like to explore in Florida, Georgia, and across the country. But until now, I hadn’t found an intuitive tool for me to discover hidden gems and then save them to a route for the future. Enter Roadtrippers.com!

I Stumbled Upon the Roadtrippers website in June. It is actually how I found my dream lodging destination The 1842 Inn for my next stopover in Macon. Roadtrippers is a simple, intuitive road trip planner, powered by local experts and travel writers. I just plugged in my starting point and my destination, and I could customize my route and build my own travel plan around incredible historical sites, restaurants, hotels, and attractions many of which I had never heard of.

These are the top features of the website:

Explore the best independent places in America. Browse by distance from your trip or explore everything on the map.

• Create “Bucket Lists” of your favorite places.
• Create road trips using the most powerful route planning features online, including instant fuel cost estimation. • Save your trips for quick access and further editing later.
• Share your trips with friends and family on email, Twitter or Facebook. They can even edit and share them back. • Become a guide and display your bucket lists and favorite trips to the world!
• Follow your friends or favorite writers/brands and see their curated trips and bucket lists.
• Print your itinerary or driving directions and hit the road!

http://www.roadtrippers.com

I hear Roadtrippers is also coming out with an incredible app shortly that will revolutionize how you travel. Imagine being able to book hotels from your map!

For me, road trips are a great metaphor for life. We are all on a journey, I have a destination where I want to end up; I set milestones along the way, and sometimes I take some detours. My goal is to savor the ride, treasure the lives of the people riding with me, and make a positive lasting impact on the people in the places where I stop along the way.

Question: Where are you going on your next road trip?

1996 Centennial Olympic Games – A Look Back in Pictures

It started with Sydney, and about this time every four years, I start to get sentimental and reminisce about the magic that was the Atlanta Centennial Olympic Games. According to readtiger.com ” The 1996 Summer Olympics, known officially as the Games of the XXVI Olympiad and unofficially as the Centennial Olympics, took place in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, from July 19 to August 4, 1996. A record 197 nations, all current IOC member nations, took part in the Games, comprising 10,318 athletes. Atlanta became the fifth American city to host the Olympic Games and the third to hold a Summer Olympic Games.

Atlanta was selected on September 18, 1990, in Tokyo, Japan, over Athens, Belgrade, Manchester, Melbourne, and Toronto at the 96th IOC Session. Atlanta’s bid to host the Summer Games that began in 1987 was considered a long-shot! The event ended up costing $3.8 billion in 2009 dollars and made a profit of $10 million.”

Here is a quick look back, in pictures:

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Question: What is your favorite Olympic memory?