Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Last of the Breed: Three legends, two men and a lot of $6 beers

This is a story written by my father.

AUGUSTA, GA. / ATLANTA, GA. - My son came to me with a dilemma: two tickets to the “Last of the Breed: Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Ray Price” show at Chastain Amphitheatre and a shift at work he couldn’t get covered.

“I’m sorry about that,” I said with as much pity in my voice as I could put in it. Inside, I was jumping for joy at the chance to see three of my all-time favorites in country music. And my son wanted to know if I wanted to go see them with just two hours notice and my wife teaching all evening. How little does he know about me?
The album is in stores now.

A golfing friend once held me and two others captive in his car while he played a loooong tape of a country concert he recorded. He did have a few too many “Jacks” before he got us, but we were too gentlemanly to make a big deal about it. I called him to invite him and told him had to make a decision right now. He said he had to ask his wife.

“I’m waiting for a married man to ask his wife if he can go on a date with another married man,” I thought, as I dressed and waited for his call. “There are so many things wrong with this picture. We may never live this down if the other guys we play golf with hear about this.” But Henry called back. I had a date.

Chastain is an outdoor theatre in a city park, and concerts are a big social event. I could see more skin than if I was at the beach. “This might not be too bad,” I think as the wind began to blow and what passed for dresses on some of the young women seemed to float in the air. Henry nudged me as the wind picks up. I nodded my head and assumed a more mature appearance.

Unlike other concert venues, one can bring refreshments to Chastain or arrange for Chastain personnel to prepare something for you. Or, as we did, bring nothing and faint from the summer heat. The last option: mortgage your house to buy refreshments on site; but we passed on the food and concentrated on the drinks. It was hot. We did this as self-preservation.

We had a lot of self-preservation as the evening grew on, even though a beer — uh, I mean, a “refreshment drink” — costs $6 each. Luckily, the young folks sitting next to us offer to share their cooler contents. I looked at Henry and said, “Life is good.” After we finished our pricey beers, they handed us two more without making us grovel for them. But then they spied some of their friends. We both teared up as the group left to visit them for the rest of the evening. Back to the $6 beers.

The crowd roared as Nelson and Haggard sang the duet "Poncho and Lefty."

Chastain is a great arena for a musical event, even if one is in the nosebleed seats. And Merle Haggard was the first to take the stage. He sang and talked to the audience, as if they were his friends, for an hour and 15 minutes. His voice is somewhat weaker than when he was a younger man, but this doesn’t take anything from him in the least. When Willie meandered out to sing “Poncho and Lefty,” all of Atlanta could hear the crowd roar their approval. Willie kept the audience in the palm of his hands. He sang most of his hits and included three songs from a new album he has coming out later this year. It looks like it will be a success if the reaction of the crowd means anything.

Ray Price came out and joined Willie for two songs — that was it for Ray for the night and I was disappointed. He is in his sixth decade of singing and only the people of my generation, born in the 1940’s, the Country music purists and the Country music industry know what he has meant to many songwriters and singers over the years. He is getting weaker as he grows older, but his voice is still deep and pure. The two songs didn’t show what he could do, but perhaps his physical strength limited his time on stage.

The other disappointment I had is one I have read about for years in the newspaper. Since most people see a concert at Chastain as a social event, conversations run the entire concert. A few entertainers have become very upset about this and have either stopped singing and asked everyone to be quiet or have decided not to return to the venue. I always thought the entertainers were spoiled, but I have changed my mind after one concert. I was taught to be respectful of the entertainer, give applause, stomp or yell after a song, but never talk with your friends, neighbors or on the cell phone. The people at this concert never shut up. I could still hear the music, but the conversations were an annoyance.

Still, it was a great show. If Willie, Merle and Ray come back into town for another concert, I don’t know if I’ll go see them again. They might not meet the standards of tonight’s show, and I don’t want to remember them as having a lesser show than tonight.

Three legends, two tickets, one show and a lot of overpriced beers.

I haven’t been to a music show in years, and I thought it would be nice to buy my son a tee shirt. After all, he did give me the tickets — alright, my wife called and told me to buy one for him. Those of you who go to concerts on a regular basis will laugh at my reaction to the prices. Then I remembered that my wife strongly suggested that I pay.

"I guess it didn’t cost that much," I think, when I see how happy my wife is. She gives me a hug. Maybe I can talk her into letting me play golf tomorrow since she is in a good mood. Nah…

Editor's Note: The writer unknowingly arrived late to the show and missed the 40-minute set that Ray Price played prior to his arrival. Witnesses say he was in good vocal form.

Power play

Characters return to stage a desperate dance in Le Chat Noir’s season-opening play about relationships on the edge

Richard Justice and Ashley Poteet star in Le Chat Noir's "Torch Song Trilogy: Fugue in a nursery."

AUGUSTA, GA. - It’s been a year since we’ve seen the acid-tongued drag queen Arnold, and love has found him. But not much else has progressed for him. He’s still doing his act. He’s still pining for companionship — and he’s still pushing it away.

“The only thing that’s changed for him is that he has a new boyfriend,” said Richard Justice, who reprises the lead role of Arnold in “Torch Song Trilogy: Fugue in a Nursery,” Le Chat Noir’s first offering in its second season.

“Fugue” is the second section of the Tony Award-winning play by Harvey Fierstein. The play picks up after the “The International Stud” ends, but audiences who skipped that first installment won’t miss a thing. Enough of the back story is explained so that audiences can keep up.

“The plays, they all three stand alone. It’s just a sort of catching up with an old friend,” Justice said. All you basically need to know is that Arnold and Ed (Doug Joiner, who returns to the role) dated previously, and that didn’t work out real well in the end.”

Now, Ed’s new girlfriend, Laurel (Ashley Poteet), invites Arnold to their country house for the weekend. Arnold initially resists, but his new lover, Alan (Brett Hall), wants to go. Laurel, in welcoming her boyfriend’sex-boyfriend into her home, reveals herself to be a woman possessed of either great selflessness or cunning.

“She needs to size him up,” Poteet explained, so perhaps she possesses a little of both. “Everyone obviously has a hidden agenda, and they are revealed at the end of the play.”

More than agendas are revealed as the planned pleasantries devolve into a desperate dance of desire. Characters switch conversational and then emotional partners. Call this a tango, an emotional chess game, a power play. They wrestle control, love and security with manipulation and secrecy. If honesty appeared, personified, these people would probably beat him back with a rake.

“The question that enters my mind is to what extent are we allowed to hurt other people?” Joiner said. “How far can we push each other until we crack?”

His character, Ed, has nestled himself very safely in a heterosexual relationship. But his bond with Arnold is not broken.

The witty cynicism of the first play is sugared by the almost painful civility that begins the relationship and soured by the finishing flourish.

Lost among the whirling dervishes is Arnold. He is his own torch song, a sentimental lament for unrequited or lost love. But it is Arnold’s almost pathological sympathy that dominates the exchanges.

“My personal take on it is I think he has lofty ideas about love and relationships and no one will ever live up to those expectations — and neither will he,” Justice said. “Deep down, Arnold doesn’t feel like he deserves anything.”

But Arnold doesn’t merely survive. He hopes. And in the end, he will need to.

“Torch Song Trilogy: Fugue in a Nursery”

Le Chat Noir
Aug. 10-11, 17-18, 23-24 and 26
8 p.m.

Medium as message

Former potter rises to art world’s challenge of his medium by ‘taking the clay out’ of his work.

The art world told Raoul Pacheco what he ought to do.

AUGUSTA, GA. - When Raoul Pacheco went to graduate school, he had no idea he was entering occupied territory.

“There’s this battle between craft and fine art,” he explained, “clay being a craft medium.”

But clay was his primary medium and he created earthy, textured vessels that he considered art.

“I went in as a potter. I considered myself a potter. I spent a lot of time working side by side with Shishir [Chokshi, of Tire City Potters],” Pacheco said. “When I got to grad school it was a constant battle to prove myself and my medium.”

The California College of the Arts campus is split between Oakland, where Pacheco worked on the practical side of his art, and San Francisco, where he learned theory and critical thinking. Traveling back and forth between the two worlds, he struggled to build a bridge.

“I constantly had to defend myself as to why I was working with clay,” he said.

He experimented with other things, like Project Slowmover. The activist/aesthetic project had high aspirations of eliminating a danger to the common brown garden snail. The danger: Pacheco’s own feet. He often found on wet and rainy nights that he accidentally crushed them as he walked the city sidewalks.

The answer? Adhering blinking red warning lights on their shells. It didn’t work out that well. As it turns out, the adhesive he used was deadly to the snails. Still, one could crown it a Dadaist success.

But in the meantime, he worked on his wheel — “I’m dedicated to the wheel as a tool,” Pacheco said — and continued to develop his response to art’s idea of what art ought to be.

Ott talks back.

Say hello to Ott.

“This little guy helped to take the clay out of my work,” Pacheco said, indicating his knee-high claymate in the corner. The white, bumpy and slightly conical little doppelganger is Pacheco’s clay-dough response to the art world’s attacks.

Ott plays with the ideas of being and nothingness, social and artistic convention, and invisibility and social setting. In this way, he is still a vessel Pacheco created as a potter. But the content he carries is metaphorical and narrative in nature — although in many ways still liquid. People tend to fill him with their own meaning. Ott has been accused by others of being isolated, pathetic and phallic, yet intriguing.

His effect is similar to a Rorschach test, a nebulous ink blot imagined by the viewer into resemblance of a defined object. And it might say more about the artist’s psyche if Pacheco used Ott differently. But by placing him in scenes with implied but still ambiguous narrative, Pacheco’s work draws out of people their own pride and prejudices as they relate to social interaction. The result is a dialogue between intent and inference. The difference is the same as that between listening to a storyteller and making up a story to fit a situation.

Pacheco plays with that concept himself by using second-hand children’s coloring books to create art on paper. It grew out of his fondness for what he calls the “throwaway culture.”

“I really like things that are thrown away, temporary, ephemeral, whatever,” he explained, surrounded in his Ellis Street studio by the detritus of everyday life: receipts and other bits of paper, old photographs, things he finds on the street.

Pacheco looks for post-World War II/pre-1970s illustrations — there is simplicity of style and emotional earnestness that appeals to him — and he works Ott into the existing scene.

“I think of it like I collaborate with the kid who had it before me and create my own
narrative out of the work,” he said.

It’s a technique that would work well in helping the kids he’s taught at The Art Factory, the Jessye Norman School of the Arts and Augusta Preparatory Day School. That’s the kind of partnership he brings to his position as an adjunct professor at Augusta State University, where he teaches 3-D fundamentals and life drawing.

Much of his artwork — and his work in education — attempts to build a bridge between art and life. In his art, though, he juxtaposes the familiar with the alien, giving the viewer just enough to draw them into his storylines without structure. A name. A familiar illustration from a Richard Scarry book. A recognizable scene.

He provides just enough to start viewers on a journey. But where they end up is entirely up to them.

Raoul Pacheco and Dwayne Clark

Mary Pauline Gallery
Opening reception Friday, Aug. 10
5-8 p.m.
Show runs through Sept. 22

Master Plan

Commission votes to fund year-long project to develop new plan for an expanded and improved downtown.

AUGUSTA, GA. - Over the past 25 years, the downtown master plan led to the creation of green spaces like Riverwalk and the Augusta Common, says Augusta Tomorrow’s Braye Boardman. But the work isn’t over.

“So much is happening in Augusta right now. We’ve got talk about the Kroc center; we’ve got the third level of the canal; the TEE Center; the new condo project; the Golf Hall of Fame issue,” Boardman listed off future and proposed projects. “We’ve got a lot of things going on and we need to make sure as a community that we’re planning well in advance so we don’t grow haphazardly like so many other communities have done.”

The organization wants to develop a public-private partnership to fund the project, which Boardman estimates will take a year and cost $250,000.

“I brought it up to the finance committee last week and it was unanimously approved there. We talked to each of the commissioners one-on-one just to tell them about master planning and strategic planning for communities,” Boardman said.

Augusta Tomorrow presented their request for $95,000 in funding from the city to the full body on Aug. 7. Andy Cheek moved to approve it, and the proposal passed by a vote of 8-0, with Calvin Holland and Bernard Harper abstaining.

“It’s really going to be a 50-50 deal. Both parties need some skin in the game. There’s so many organizations around that are just asking for a handout,” Boardman said. But Augusta Tomorrow used its previous experience with master planning as a model. The group aims to develop a public-private partnership to work closely with an expert team to target what the taxpayers think is important and identify ways to drive economic development. Boardman sees a lot of potential in green space development, riverfront improvement and water recreation.

“When we talk about the economic engines that drive the community, we talk about the medical community, SRS and Fort Gordon. But I’m a big believer that there’s a fourth one. I would like to see how we can enhance not only the view that we get with the river, but the quality of the river,” he said.

The new master plan will also cover more area than the 25-year-old plan, in which the boundaries that shaped downtown were defined as running from the Savannah River to Laney-Walker Boulevard to 15th Street. The new proposal extends those parameters to include Harrisburg and Olde Town all the way to East Boundary Street.

“We need to do a better job of incorporating surrounding neighborhoods downtown,” Boardman said. An urban center needs a residential core to sustain it. Above all, the organization wants to use intelligent design standards.

“You know, there’s talk about a stadium. The idea of a stadium is very enticing, but we want to do it if it makes sense. We have to do our homework on this,” Boardman said.
No matter what kind of project — a new civic center, a reopened Georgia Golf Hall of Fame or a baseball stadium, he said the community needs to balance the opportunity to be progressive with sustainable initiatives.

“The end product, hopefully, is a good, concise master plan that is a reflection of what the community wants,” Boardman said.

Musical praise

Contemporary Christian superstar Twila Paris has 19 albums under her belt.
But, this time out, she found the way to move forward was to go back.

AUGUSTA, GA. - After 19 albums, any artist can struggle to move forward. Twila Paris, the contemporary Christian artist who is a 10-time darling of the Dove Awards, found the solution on her current tour by going backwards.

“It really harkens back to the way I started out, so I’m excited about it. When I first started out, I didn’t even have a band with me. I would go up and sing and I would just play the piano,” Paris said.

Over the years, the nature of her shows changed. Less of the responsibility for carrying the musical performance fell on her shoulders, as she hired musicians to back her up.

“In a way, after 27-28 years, whatever it is, it’s the same story. You add a year to it,” she laughed. But sometimes she’d noodle around during shows, just her and the piano and a song for her fans. They loved it.

“That was our favorite part of the concert because it was just so intimate and worshipful,” Paris said. So she began to play with the band again during her House of Worship tour. But despite more than two decades of musicianship, she wasn’t quite up to standard.

“These guys are serious session players,” she laughed. “I was on probation for about half the tour and then they made me an official band member.”

Some modern musicians (listen up, Ashlee Simpson) wouldn’t be able to handle how far Paris has gotten back to basics. They aren’t even playing with loops or synthesizers. Guitarist David Cleveland has a synth pedal and accomplishes effects with his instrument.

Joining her onstage for portions of the show is a 36-voice children’s choir, the World Vision Korean Children’s Choir from South Korea.

“These are serious little singers,” Paris said. The choir is 300 members strong back in their home country, but only the best make the American tour. Despite the highly competitive nature of the group, the members have sweet spirits and that shines through in their stage performances, she said.

This combination of organic arrangements with multiple players, produces a performance somewhere between a coffeehouse and an arena that engages audiences in a totally new way.

“There is a sort of fellowship there that translates to the audience and that they become a part of,” Paris said. “I just sense that people are really enjoying the evening and really feel a part of it.”

Audiences at Paris’ closer shows get the same energy that large corporate gatherings offer, she said, and fans who visit with her on this tour get a little bit more. She and her manager, anxious to get her next album out, pressed a limited number of advance copies of the CD that won’t be released until an undetermined date in the fall.

Recording on the album has been completed — and a couple of songs from the release are included in her live show — but the CD isn’t quite ready. Because usually only industry insiders get copies of an album before it is released, pre-release CDs are hard-to-find collectors’ items. Copies of these CDs are only available at shows on this tour.

Twila Paris
with the World Vision Korean Children’s Choir
The Sanctuary, 4584 Cox Road, Evans
Wednesday, Aug. 22
7 p.m.
Donation at the door

All your rowdy friends are at Diamond Lakes Park

AUGUSTA, GA. - If modern-day race fans had a place to see Richard Petty and others of his ilk burning up the asphalt practically in their own neighborhoods, you better believe they’d be there, cold beverage cans in hand. As it turns out, Augustans had the opportunity long ago.

“Petty won more races at Augusta than anyone,” said Bobby Bates, a former stock-car driver at the now-defunct Augusta International Speedway. Bates is full of stories about the pre-
corporate NASCAR days. Like that he once won a race sliding across the finish line on the doors of his car after crashing against the guard rails.

Legends like Frank Warren, “Fireball” Roberts and Rex White ran the track out at what is now Diamond Lakes Community Center. Hall of Famer Wendell Scott was one of the most popular drivers out there.

“He would jump out of his car and change his own tires,” Bates laughed.

Now a monument stands to honor the drivers who raced at the Augusta International Speedway in the 1960s, when Number 43 himself lovingly hugged those lake-bordered turns in his Plymouth.

And every year, a flock of race fans and former drivers from all over the Southeast and Canada crowd the campus at Motor Sports Memorial Plaza with plenty of racing vehicles and memorabilia, former NASCAR, NHRA and USRRC drivers and their families telling tales of the old racing days and available for autographs and photos.

It’s a day to induct new members into the AIS Hall of Fame, and to unveil expansions to the monument that names the drivers who won and lost at what was the fastest half-mile track in the U.S. The event is free to everyone.

Celebrating Motorsports Racing Heritage
Diamond Lakes Regional Library
Saturday, Sept. 8
10 a.m.-4 p.m.

You have to be kinder to your circulatory system

"What's Augusta Magazine's circulation?" my boss asks.
"Uh.... I dunno. I'll find out."
Moments later...
"Augusta Magazine’s circulation is 10,000, with a readership of 86,000," I read off the corporate website."
"Ten THOUSAND?!" he asks, incredulous. "I don't know anybody who gets it."
"Well, it's not a circulation thing, it's a point-of-sale thing. They have it at Kroger and stuff," I answer.
"Yeah, but I don't know anybody who gets it," he repeats.
"They have it in doctors offices and dentists offices," A.W. says.
"Yeah, but are there 10,000 doctors offices and dentists offices around here?" T.G. asks.
"In this town? Probably." I answer.
"Wait," A.C. interrupts. "They go from 10,000 to 86,000?"
"That probably includes their pass-along and their online readership," I say. "It's still totally inflated."
"Didn't Charles Walker go to jail over something like that?" T.G. asks.
"Yeah, but it's Billy Morris," I say. "A black man trying to own Augusta gets in trouble. If you're a white man who already owns Augusta, you're good."
(In fact, you get the TEE Center contract)
Tom laughs.
"Charles Walker's biggest mistake was not wearing a cowboy hat," I say.
Tom laughs. "Oh, that's good."
"Cowboy Mike wears a cowboy hat," A.C. says.
I smile. "And has he ever gotten arrested?"

City walls

AUGUSTA, GA. - Climb to the top of a hill in Tuscany and look down upon a vast quilt-like pastoral landscape of vineyards, farmland and the remnants of ancient civilizations.

“It’s just so quiet and so nice. I could see myself painting over there, almost have a chicken and a goat and be happy and never have to go anywhere,” laughed painter Karen Banker. Along with photographer Rick Martin and his wife, author Sharron Martin, she toured the Tuscan countryside for several weeks, documenting their journey — Banker with canvas and Martin with camera.

The two will debut the images of their travels at Sacred Heart Cultural Center on Sept. 6.

Martin said that the work he brought back was different than his usual imagery.

“I’m ordinarily a landscape photographer and a nature photographer, which is what I enjoy most and what I’ve shown in the past,” he explained. But the architecture and villages in the area entranced them all: stucco cottages with wood-lined entrances accented by brightly painted doors and narrow stone streets lined with benches and cafe tables.

“We visited primarily the walled hill towns with the very narrow streets and balconies with flowers hanging over — actually laundry hanging over, too, on the streets,” Banker explained.

Martin went from snapping landscapes to zooming in on architectural details, but Banker went the other way. She’s normally the one who focuses on the arch of a doorway or the angle of a staircase.

“I don’t generally do panoramic landscapes, so I want to try and capture some of that because you can see miles of stucco houses and red roofs all over,” she said.

The juxtaposition of modernity and antiquity was unexpected. But follow a fence line in the Italian countryside and you may find it turns into a crumbling wall barely tall enough to hold in the cows. That’s because thousands of years before Italy existed, as we know it, the land was in the possession of Etruscans and Romans. They built a vast infrastructure — roads, mining operations and irrigation, for example — and developed complex societies with distinctive artwork.

Thus, Tuscany is blessed both by the brilliance of nature and that of man. The rolling countryside was sculpted first by wind and water — it’s two-thirds hills, one-quarter mountain and the Arno River cuts through the rest. Then, centuries of human habitation added detail to the lay of the land.

“I photograph things that I have some sort of emotional attachment to — that strike me as being beautiful or otherwise impresses me,” Martin said. And in Italy, historic structures are preserved as much as possible.

“The government and others have good sensibilities about the past. It’s very difficult to get a building permit,” Martin said. “If you’re going to get a building permit, it’s a lot easier to find an old ruin and restore it. You can get a lot of support from different programs.”

The villa in which they stayed had been fully restored, but it was originally built about 500 years ago. The stones they walked in the narrow streets were the same rocks Michaelangelo trod. History in this part of the world isn’t just a subject studied in books. It is a part of the most mundane aspect of daily life. For example, farmers may use those existing ancient walls to their advantage, building onto them as property lines.

“Rick and I both were just fascinated with those walls,” Banker said.

And Italians find other ways to incorporate history. As in the case of the villa in which the artists stayed, a builder might use a 2,000-year-old Etruscan foundation stone as the support for a wall.

The vast story of human development in this part of the European continent, so well-documented from Herodotus to the BBC, is something of an exotic riddle to many Americans traveling abroad. But not to Banker.

“It’s strange because as soon as I went over there, I got to where we were staying and I felt like I was home. I felt so comfortable,” she said. “I’m hoping all of that translates in the paintings, just how at ease I felt.”

And Martin hopes that his photography captures the spirit of Tuscany through the architecture of the area, which is so integral to its character and charm.

As enchanted as they were, Banker said she wouldn’t be cutting ties and crossing the ocean for good. The group rented cars — Martin said that drivers there get a bad rap — and stayed just outside of Florence the whole time. They avoided Italy’s notoriously chaotic train system. The transportation system alone is enough to scratch any itch to move there, Banker said.

“I would do it if I didn’t have to go anywhere,” she laughed.

And to visit again, she said, she merely picks up a brush.

“Le Facciate della Tuscana” Opening Reception
w/ special guest, author Sharron Martin
Sacred Heart Cultural Center
Thursday, Sept. 6
5:30-7:30 p.m.

Show and tell

AUGUSTA, GA. - When Laurie McRae asks which members of the audience at her antiques seminars have seen a Chippendale chair in person, most of the attendees raise their hands.

Not so fast.

As it turns out, Thomas Chippendale was more than an excellent designer. He was also a consummate marketer who published a book of his designs that gained him vast popularity. In truth, he actually produced very little furniture. Most of his pieces are in the possession of museums.

“The study of antiques is as much a study of what was socioeconomic history as anything,” McRae said. “What was happening in the world that made them desire for, say, neoclassical lines as opposed to what they wanted before?”

Along with independent collector and appraiser David Towles, McRae will present a seminar on the telltale designs of period furniture at the Morris Museum of Art on Sept. 6.

McRae specializes in “period” furniture, which is to say what was produced at a point in time when the design was new. Chippendale, for example, incorporated simplified French rococo styles with some Chinese influences thrown in. He practically invented breakfront bookcases and serpentine-back sofas. But a chair cannot rightfully be called a Chippendale chair unless it was produced by his firm between about 1740 and 1779, the year he died.

These details are what antique experts use to separate pricey wares versus worthless ones. The classes that McRae teaches are eight-and-a-half hours long, but she’ll present a condensed version of her extensive knowledge to attendees of the Morris event.

“I can give them enough to make them dangerous,” she laughed.

The basics of identifying period furniture are to look at the primary and secondary woods used in construction, and the basic lines of the furniture.

For example, tiger maple indicates that a piece was constructed in New England. Walnut can date a piece to the 17th century, because a blight wiped out much of the walnut after that time, and the wood was not used again until the young trees grew back up. Mahogany began to be used in the 18th century, because it was resistant to insects and could be shipped long distances.

But it’s not all about furniture. Decorative accessories are very popular, and McRae and Towles will offer their knowledge in identifying those that can be carried into the seminar. No pianos, please.

But if, for example, someone in your family has uncovered what he thinks is a Native American clay horse sculpture while tearing up the back yard to build a fire pit, McRae and Towles might be able to help identify the piece. Looking at the manner of construction and material used, as well as wear patterns and other markers, they can often give the approximate age and place of origin of a piece. The clay horse is more likely a child’s toy from the ’50s, but one never knows for sure until an expert gives an opinion.

Show and Tell: Antique or Junk
The Antique Market
Thursday, Sept. 6
6:30-8:30 p.m.
RSVP by Sept. 3

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Theft of Intellectual Property

AUGUSTA, GA. - Scott is reiterating his speech about the Ellis Street Option that he gave to a packed community center on Tuesday night.

"Some people have called it pie-in-the-sky. That's fine, because in 1845, Henry Cumming had his detractors, but he built the canal. That was his time. This is our time. In 30 years, what do you want your grandchildren to see? This is our time. This is OUR time," he said.

"That sounds like it went over well," I complimented him.

"Yeah, I stole that from 'The Goonies.'"

99 cents of love out of a dollar

AUGUSTA, GA. - My husband would buy lunch meat from, like, the 99-Cent Store. He doesn't worry about the brand, the expiration date or even the concept of a food product before he buys it. He considers only two things:

1. What food section am I in?
2. How much does it cost?

This is the reason that he will frequently leave for the store with a list of items and come home with only half of the items I requested. The items in the other half fall into three categories:

1. Stuff that vaguely resembles the missing items but were cheaper
2. Stuff that does not resemble the missing items but were closer to the section he was in when he checked his list the final time

3. Stuff that wasn't on the list, but which was on sale.

Thus, he brought home a brand I had never heard of:

Their website says that they sell "meats cured in the tradition of Old Virginia. Since 1870 Gwaltney hams, franks, lunchmeats, sausage and bacon have delivered the Finest in taste from Virginia. Today, Gwaltney Great Dogs and Great Bolony are America's favorite poultry franks."

But all I know is a company that spells their lunch meat "bolony" can't possibly read the FDA guidelines on how to manufacture it.

Spam stupidity

AUGUSTA, GA. - "Maybe if everyone passes this on, someone will see this child. The internet circulates even overseas, South America, and Canada, etc. Please pass this to everyone in your address book. With GOD on his side he will be found."

Because with GEOGRAPHY on his side, he won't be able to locate Toronto.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Tribute

Mini Kiss, a tribute band, in miniature.

"There's going to be a Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band at The Country Club," A.W. says.
"Good lord," I moan.
"I wonder if that would suck," she muses.
"Don't they have to, like, not be a band anymore before you can have a tribute?" A.C. asks.
"You would think," A.W. says. "But no."
A.C. mulls it over. "God. Soon there's going to be a tribute band to a tribute band."

Showin' My Ass (Sorry, Mom)

I'm wearing a new dress that's made of very light material. I'm not quite used to it.
"Hey, Alice, I'm worried that when I get up today this dress is going to ride up, so sorry if I flash you," I say.

She shrugs: "Nothin' I haven't seen before."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Why the South won't rise again

Go, Miss South Carolina!

Monday, August 20, 2007


About a boy who thinks women being mean to men is worse than misogyny:
Me: "I bet if he had a girlfriend he would never say that in front of her."
A.W.: "He might be able to get one if he hung out with someone besides those two 'Night at the Roxbury' dudes."

I knew that

A.W.: "This place where Twila Paris is playing...?"
Me: "The Sanctuary?"
A.W.: "Oh, okay."
Me: "It's a church."
A.W.: "Well, I didn't think it was a juke joint."
Me: "No, it's a strip club."

Working in a Room of One's Own

A.W. is asking me about a paragraph.
"I always tend to write long sentences," she said.
"Yeah, well, we're not going to the lighthouse Mrs. Dalloway," I snark.

Fresh 'n' Fruity

We're potty training Emerson... you know, when she lets us.

I sit her on the potty, and talk to her while she tries to go. She's really getting into it. A lot. Friday I sat her down and she looked up at me with wide-eyed and determined expression and said, "Mama, I gon' make poo-poo."

"Good for you!" I said. That's my standard response. She could say, "Mama, I gon' make headless kittens," and I'd probably say the same thing.

"Mama! Mama!" she shrieked, as though I weren't two feet in front of her. "What, honey?"

She stared at me intently. "I gon' make GIANT poo-poo!"

I laughed. "Well, you do what you gotta do, sweetie."

So, um... she did. And then she had to get up to look at what she'd accomplished. Which was a poo-poo. Not giant, but certainly not insignificant. It was shaped in a way that reminded me of something.

"Look, mama!" she shrieked and pointed. "I make a BANANA poo-poo!"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Torturing My Fellow Media Peeps

An e-mail exchange:

Me: Need to talk to Liz Hill and Brigett Williams. They’re both finalists for Metro’s Best Local TV Reporter. Also need high res photos. Can you help?!
Ed: Stacey, No problem. PLEASE reference us as NBC Augusta (and/or) NBC Augusta NEWS.
Me: I was just going to call you WJBF.
Ed: I am going to kill you now.

A short while later, Ed shows up at the office with a large cardboard box under his arm.

Ed: "To help you remember...." He takes a baby blue baseball cap out of his box and places it gently on my head. "And when you forget, you can just look here!" He shows me the back of the cap, on which is embroidered NBC Augusta with the multicolored peacock logo.
Me: "That's nice, Ed," I say. "Thanks!"
And he gives each of the department one in turn. He tries to skip our intern.
Me: "Why do you have to be a douchebag?"
Ed: "Oh, okay. Here you are, then," he ceremoniously places one upon John's head. "Well, I must be gone."
Me: "Alright, thanks, Ed... Say hi to Brad Means for me!"

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


A co-worker's child was left at the wrong bus stop last year.

Yesterday, a 5-year-old was put on a bus home and refused to get off the bus. The bus driver forced her off the bus. When she found her front door locked, she began walking down Berckman's Road. Luckily, an off-duty police officer picked her up.

Today, a child was left on a bus in Grovetown.

What. the. hell?

Get your stuff together, local school systems. I have never heard so much bull hockey in my life.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's All About Me

Tuesday, August 14, 2007 By 1 comment

I'm working my way through the parking lot at Augusta Exchange, trying to get to Bruester's. I promised Emmie we could have some (sugar free low fat) ice cream after dinner. Emmie was in the back seat, whining.
"I wah eye keeeeeem," she said.
"I know, honey. Can you be patient? We're going right now," I try to calm her while I pull up to the entrance to Agerton Lane by the Regal 20.
"Okay. Be pashen... firss, eye keem. Den, home," she says to herself.
"Very good, sweetheart! First ice cream, then home," I coo at her, watching the cars whiz pass me.
"Ooooh! LooK!" she shrieks.
"Mmmhmm," I mutter. Where are all these fools going?
"Das a letter," she says.
"Mmmhmm." Geez! People, go home!
"Das a O," she says. "Das a- das a O, yeah."
"Mmkay..." A truck cuts over and makes a sudden turn into the parkng lot, cutting off my only chance to escape. Gee, thanks. I drum my fingers on the steering wheel, fighting off the urge to use my middle ones for another purpose.
"Das a O, das a M, das a P, das a yoo, das a sssssss," she says, and I think, "Ompus." Oooookay. That's not even a word, honey.
"Do you want to sing your ABCs?" I call back to her, daring the butthead in my rear view mirror to cut around me. It won't get his testosterone-fueled sports car out of this parking lot any faster.
"NO, I don' wanna," she says. "Das a O. Das a M, mama. Das a M, das a P, das a yoo, anna sssssss."
"Fine, Ompus-head," I say, and I see my chance. Py-yow! I'm streaking across the suicide lane into the right lane. A sign flashes by my face. COMP USA. Hmm. I've been meaning to get a new keyboard.


Oh, my god. She just read me her letters. And my brain wasn't even in the game.

A Message to My Husband

I Can Has Cheezburger?

Monday, August 13, 2007

2 going on 20

Emerson and I were engaged in a massive, three-hour play session that had somehow devolved into just running from room-to-room and shrieking. Don't ask me to explain it, but it was fun at the time. Finally I caught her and tickled her until she couldn't take it anymore.
She slumped, gasping for breath, over the coffee table, while I giggled from the couch.
"Yoo killeend me, mama!" she gasped. "Yoo killeend me!"

Sunday, August 12, 2007

For Sale - $20 Each

So I posted these two items to craigslist, just wanting to get rid of them to make space in the house. The next morning, I had two e-mails from interested buyers, and one came to the house while I was at work.

The phone rang at my desk.

"This is Stacey. How may I help you?"

"So your craigslist guy came," my husband's amused voice came over the line, "in this broken down old hoopdie that sat so low to the ground that when he pulled into the driveway, he got stuck."

I burst into laughter. I know how much Scott hates my little re-sale enterprises. It annoys him to no end to get stuck with the collection end of things when I'm away from the house.

"What happened?!" I ask.
"I had to go get some lumber from the garage and shove the planks under his tires," he snarls while I cackle some more. "I'm wrangling a two-year-old, trying to help him get his car off the pavement, and the whole time Emmie's saying, 'He stut. He stut. He no get out.' and I'm like, 'Yeah, he's stuck alright.'"

"So what happened?"
"He got unstuck."

"Did he pay you for the shelves?" I asked.
"Hell, no. The car was too small to carry them!"

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hard-to-Find Vintage Albums For Sale

Saturday, August 11, 2007 By

Friday, August 10, 2007

Band Name

AW: There's a band called The Cutlines.
Me: That's what we need. Unemployed copy editors with guitars.

They'd know that I was supposed to use a colon instead of a period after "need."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Go Ask Alice

We're talking about... oh, hell, I don't know what we were talking about yesterday. But Amy weighed in.

A.C.: "You can stomp him with your huge shoes."
Me: "Hey!"
A.C.: "I'm sorry! But A.W. isn't here. Someone has to make fun of you."
Me: "Oh, yeah, that's what I've been missing today. The never ending stream of insults."

Speaking of Shoes...

What the hell is this supposed to be?


I don't mean to complain - really! - because usually I love my job. But our ad reps, it seems, are doing TOO good a job. Every time I've called someone today about a story, they've practically shrieked, "WE DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY!"

Case in point, the Aiken Center for the Arts. SUCH NICE PEOPLE! I'm serious about that. But I've spoken with their Executive Director recently for another story, and I thought she might remember my name or publication - you know, one or the other. However...

Me: "Hi, my name is Stacey Hudson, and I'm calling from The Metro Spirit newspaper about Aiken Arts Alive. I'd like to do a story on the event. Is it a good time for you to talk?"
KB: "Briefly, Stacey, because I'm leaving in about three minutes."
Me: "Oh, well, why don't we set up a time to talk tomorrow?"
KB: "Well, we're really not interested in advertising right now."
Me: "Oh, no! I'm calling about a story. We'd like to do a story on the event - on Aiken Arts Alive."
KB: "Right, but is this about money?"
Me: "Uh, no. It's about a story."
KB: "I mean, I really hate to tell people that we don't have any money in our marketing budget right now."
Me: "Right, well, I'm not selling advertising. I'd like to write a story. You know. Help promote the event."
KB: "Oh... OH! Oh, great! Well, we'd like that!"
Me: "Right. So how about I give you a call tomorrow and we can talk about it?"

Blah blah exchange numbers, bye.

Seriously? Can you gorgeous ladies over in ad sales lay off the thumbscrews, please?! You're making my peeps crazy.

Oh, and Joe White: Bite me. Our sales dept. is rocking the suburbs. Don't make me kick your ass at the Beasley Christmas Party, 'cause mama got a new pair of shoes! They're red. And cute. See below. But you don't want them up your bunghole.

Monkey Mail

BOB: Thought you'd get a kick out of this since you always asked Natalie for a monkey... Man smuggles monkey into NYC airport! NEW YORK - A man smuggled a monkey onto an airplane Tuesday, stashing the furry fist-size primate under his hat until passengers spotted it perched on his ponytail, an airline official said.

Me: I've started asking Krystal, but NO ONE WILL GET ME A MONKEY!

Bob: you're surrounded by them!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

How Can You Follow Idiots?

Regardless of our ideological differences, how can members of the Taliban follow such obvious morons?

Taliban Launch Frontal Attack on Base

GHAZNI, Afghanistan (AP) - A group of 75 Taliban militants tried to overrun a U.S.-led coalition base in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, a rare frontal attack that left more than 20 militants dead, the coalition said in a statement.

The insurgents attacked Firebase Anaconda from three sides, using gunfire, grenades and 107 mm rockets, the coalition said. A joint Afghan-U.S. force repelled the attack with mortars, machine guns and air support.

"Almost two dozen insurgents were confirmed killed in the attack," the statement said. Two girls and two Afghan soldiers were wounded during the fight in Uruzgan province, it said.

A firebase like Anaconda is usually a remote outpost staffed by as few as several dozen soldiers.

"The inability of the insurgent forces to inflict any severe damage on Firebase Anaconda, while being simultaneously decimated in the process, should be a clear indication of the ineffectiveness of their fighters," said Army Capt. Vanessa R. Bowman, a coalition spokeswoman.

A direct attack on a U.S. or NATO base by insurgents on foot is relatively rare. More often insurgents fire rockets at bases and flee. Military officials say that Taliban fighters know they can't match Western militaries in a heads-up battle, which leads the insurgents to more often rely on roadside and suicide bombs.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Grandparents! Gah!

So I went to pick up Emerson from the grandparents' house last night at 10 p.m. and there she was, in a t-shirt and diaper, sitting at a newly purchased Little Mermaid table-and-chairs set, watching Harry Potter on their huge television, eating homemade chocolate ice cream and having her hair brushed by Uncle Chris. She would gladly have stayed there forever in the Land of No Rules, where vegetables are a mere memory and bedtime is - what is that, again? They picked her up yesterday and took her swimming until they kicked them out of the clubhouse pool, she ate macaroni and cheese for dinner, and was on her THIRD helping of ice cream by the time Troll Mommy came and whisked her away to Jail, aka that horrible place where people tell her "no."

But I was prepared for her outrage. I presented Pretty Pretty Princess with her favorite thing in the whole world, the thing that proves once and for all that she is not a child of mine: new shoes. Thus, the child was won and life could proceed as normal.

But she is getting so freaking spoiled. This morning when she woke up, she didn't say "Goo mornee," like usual. She sat up in bed and said, "Emmie wanna pwesent."


Friday, August 03, 2007

Breakfast Schmekfast

Upon the advice of Chris, I actually went to Starbucks yesterday morning, and I don't even know what happened. It was like time and higher reasoning both ceased.

After trying to order the Turkey Bacon Bagel ("May I have the turkey bacon bagel?" "WHAT kind of bagel?" "The one with turkey bacon?" "We ain't got one wif TURKEY bacon" etc.) for about three minutes, with cars backing up behind me and no breakfast menu on the drive-through board and Emerson in the backseat shrieking, "Wha we do here? Wha we do here, Mama? Emmie get chips? EMMIE GET CHIPS?!?!?!" because she is two-years-old and obsessed with Pringles and also speaks at a volume of SPACE MADNESS... well, I gave up. I went next door to Dunkin' Donuts where I pulled up and ordered "anything you got on a bagel," and the disembodied voice said, "Okay, pull around." I got bacon and egg on a croissant, but you know what? I freaking got it, and fast. No arguments.

And I don't even like coffee. Try ordering a Diet Coke at a Starbucks and they give you a lecture about the moral quality of your beverage.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Happy Birthday

Thursday, August 02, 2007 By 3 comments

Scott went to the fights last night so Emerson and I went out for girls' night.

"I go downtown!" she shrieked when we got in the car at day care.
"That's right, we're going downtown," I cooed.
"I go downtown!" she shrieked again, and about every 30 seconds after.

"Downtown" to her is a nebulous place where there is water and playground equipment and enough room to run. If we are on Broad Street, she still says, "I wah go downtown." She means Riverwalk.
So we went down to 9th Street where the pretty fish fountain sits in front of the Jessye Norman Amphitheatre. "WaaaaAAAAAterh," she gasped, and jumped up and down until I lifted her onto the stone rim.

"I run away!" she laughed, and ran around the fountain until she reached me again.
"I run away!" she shouted, and ran the other way until she reached me again.
"I run away!" she called, and... really, this game went on for about 30 minutes. I had long since given up even pretending that I was playing along.

Finally she grew bored of it and we walked up the top of the levee.
"Huuuuh!" she gasped at the top and her eyes grew large. "Bid waaaaAAAAterh!" she pointed at the Savannah River....
... and took off at a dead run for the Amphitheater. It drops precipitously into about two stories of stadium seating and I managed to grab her just in time. We walked carefully down the steps to the riverbank, where boats passed and we watched a train cross the water in the distance.
"I run away!" she yelled and took off running down the brick sidewalk.
(sigh) Okay...

So I followed behind her as she merrily tore down the path, pointing at everything we passed and shrieking, "LOOK, MAMA!" Flowers, rocks, more bricks, dirt, trees, leaves, ants. There was a lot of pointing and shrieking. You'd think we'd raised her in an underground bunker.
We got about a block down the river when I saw a man ahead, lounging on top of a picnic table. He was obviously homeless, but looked harmless enough. Emmie plowed towards him, reached the table, stopped and looked at him.
"OhNo!" she squealed, turned tail, and hauled ass in the opposite direction.
Great. Sorry, guy.

Then we went back up the amphitheater steps... and back down... and back up... and back down... and then she climbed up the bleacher seats... and when she turned around to go back down, I had to put a stop to it. I called 'time out' and we went to get dinner.

"What do you want for dinner, sweetie?" I asked at the table.
"Um... lemonade... and burh-day cake... and lemonade... and burh-day cake, okay?!" she smiled up at me and laughed excitedly.
Got it. She was not going to stay seated for long.
She scarfed up spinach and artichoke dip, although it was more about the chips (why does she love chips so much?!), pounded lemonade, and I had the waitress bring out a slice of cake.
She insisted I sing "Happy Birthday" to her, even though her birthday isn't until January... not that she knows that.

After a few bites, she pushed the cake back to me.
"I sing it," she said, and sang "Happy Birthday" to me:
"Hah Burhday to yoo
Hah Burhday to yoo
Hah Burhday dear Mama
Hah Burhday dear Mamaaaaaaaaa!"
"Wah sum?" she asked. "Hab sum cake!"
I picked a little off the plate.
After a few bites, she pulled the cake back to herself.

"My turn!" she called.
I sang to her again. We went back and forth until she had largely destroyed the cake, grown tired of it, and gone back to the chips. The other diners looked at us like we were ridiculous, singing Happy Birthday to each other repeatedly. Whatever. I had an awesome time.

Then we got in the car and went to the playground for a little while. When she fell down and then wouldn't stop crying, I knew it was time to work our way home.

But it was a great evening together. I just love spending time with her!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

An Unidentified Source Reveals...

A story about my wonderful husband:

"I was in high school and he did like a casting call thing. He did a performance at Regency Mall with a dance group and it was in conjunction with the Dysart studio people. So half of the people did a number from 'Vogue,' [Madonna's song] and the other half did a number from 'Dick Tracy.' [the soundtrack that, unsurprisingly, also included Madonna]. He picked me out because he said I looked like a silent film/jazz era person.

We performed in the middle of regency mall. He was trying out "Nicholas Scott" at that time.
We did the Madonna thing and I remember the next number - and I think I kind of stepped away from the group, but it wasn't personal, I'm just more of a visual artist... I was just kind of toying with it at this time - but their next performance was to "Cold-Hearted Snake" by Paula Abdul. He needed someone who was comfortable with a snake. So that's where I kind of stepped away.

But much love to your husband. If he's on something he's living with gusto. I've always really admired him."

Yes, I'm sure when he was gyrating to "Poison" by Alice Cooper, there was nothing by admiration on your mind!

Stacey Simpson

Dictionary of Motherhood

Published in Augusta Parent today:

The first time I forgot my husband’s name was funny. The second time was annoying. After the third time, he became “honey” or “sweetheart.” That’s because I can never remember his name, even though he’s a semi-famous reporter for a local radio station and is, of course, the father of our adorable 2-year-old daughter. We sleep in the same bed, eat at the same table and walk the same ridiculously demanding dog, but there are times when I look at him and draw a huge blank. Who is this man and why is he eating my meatloaf?

Truthfully, I can’t remember my own name most days. At first I blamed new-baby exhaustion, but after Emerson began sleeping through the night, I fell back on the old standby: I blame my own mother. Mom, frazzled beyond reason by a tri-pack of children who regarded discipline as a running joke, often ran through a list of names before settling on the correct name for the misbehaving child in front of her. “Kelli! I mean, J.D.! I mean, Pepper! #$@R%*@#, Stacey, you stop that right now!”

We were probably all doing something sneaky anyway. We just never understood how she knew. But now I know. She was momniscient.

It was a term I had not heard. But there are a number of things we learn as moms. As an apology for the damage done to our netheregions, the universe grants us a number of new abilities that are just short of superpowers along with a few random phemomena. Like sidekick Robin to superhero Batman. Quick! To the momnibus.

Dot-Mom - The websites that we deem age and subject-appropriate for our children. "What's the deal with Webkinz?" "I don't know what the appeal is, but it's definitely a"

Mombrophobia - 1) The excessive fear that a wet child will catch a cold; 2) intolerance for prolonged wetness, resulting in the strident drying and/or toweling down of all surfaces that come into contact with moisture. "Makaylah! Don't forget your raincoat! And your galoshes! And your rain hat! And... here! An umbrella!"

Momen - 1) [mah-men] That what you say when you're thankful that we gave you life and have not yet chosen to take it away. "Dear Mother, thank you for my life. Momen."; 2) [mow-men] The foreboding sense that a child is in danger - or in danger of a tantrum. "Wow, you got us out of that store just in time! How did you know she'd have a melt-down soon?" "I saw a momen."

Mominous - The jolt of fear every child has at being found out for misbehaving. "Oh, man, I can't go home right now." "Why not?" "I've got a mominous feeling that I'm about to get grounded."

Momnesia - The Swiss-cheese brain syndrome that will let you lose your keys, forget a change of clothes for the diaper bag and neglect to take a shower for three days but that always keeps you on time for children's meals, baths and nap times. "How could you leave the bank card in the ATM?" "Sorry. I have momnesia."

Momnibus - 1) the vehicle that transports a mother's growing brood to their many events, classes, parties and playdates. "How are we all going to get to soccer practice?" "To the momnibus!"; 2) the mental book that retains copies of all wrongdoings, report cards, and disciplinary actions every experienced by any child to whom a mother is related. "$1,200 in cell phone calls?! I told you when you were (checking mental momnibus) five years old not to blow your allowance on candy. Now look!"

Momnipotence - The state of powerful being that trumps all whining. The words "Because I said so" spring from this power. "But how come you get to decide?" "Because I am momnipotent."

Momniscience - That's how come we can yell "Get down from there!" from the kitchen without even looking when you're climbing from the yellow plastic chair to the changing table to the dresser to retrieve the balloon that we put in time-put. "How did you know I was sneaking out of the house?" "My momniscience."

Momomastics - the tendency of a mother to cycle through all of her children's names - and sometimes the names of any household pets - before coming to the name of the child misbehaving. "Jeffrey! Chloe! Mr. Piddles! I mean, Dakota, you get over here right this minute

Momomatopoeia - the tendency of a mother to repeat herself; the ability to express mood, thought or desired action in primordial sound, as opposed to fully formed speech. "Eh!" "Alright, I won't eat the frosting before you finish the cake!"

Momphaloskepsis -A woman who contemplates too much the dangers of becoming her mother; sometimes as part of a mystical exercise as an aid to parenting.

Phemomenon - The change that overcomes a woman once she has a baby. May include cooing and small furry things and collecting porcelain figurines. "You sure have changed, honey. I didn't ever think you'd be making mud pies without worrying about your manicure." "It's a strange phemomenon."

A Request

Is it too much to ask for a healthy, portable breakfast that can be obtained quickly in this town? Here's my suggestion: Instead of a fried chicken breast on a buttered biscuit, serve a grilled chicken breast on a whole grain bagel. Instead of a side of fried potatoes, serve a side of fruit or crudite. I would eat that every morning.