As you all know, Atlanta is a home away from home for me. I went to college there (Morehouse). I lived there for a few years after college - working at WSB and WAGA-TV (FOX 5). And it's still the place I come back to for holidays as my sister (and now nephew) live there. And with Dad and my brother a few hours away in Savannah (our home), Atlanta has become my hub. So, when I was asked to moderate a panel sponsored by the National Association of Black Journalists and Lion's Gate Films to promote Tyler Perry's upcoming film "Daddy's Little Girls" (http://www.daddyslittlegirlsmovie.com), I jumped at the chance. Also, my Anthony, who is - for now - still Denver-based - and I decided this could be our time to come together as we are committed to do monthly.
As thorns in the side go, the "event" was canceled a week and change before we were to arrive. Anthony and I decided to do the trip anyway. And I am so glad we did. We arrived on Thursday evening at about the same time. We first checked into our Sheraton Colony Square(www.starwoodhotels.com), which is right in the heart of midtown across from the Woodruff Arts Center where the High and the Alliance Theater are housed. (I have lots of memories there, including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with which the Morehouse College Glee Club performed every year). (www.woodruffcenter.org/)I)I looked forward to sharing some of that with Anthony. We hit the ground running for a meal at a soul food tappas spot in midtown Atlanta called RARE. It's interior was warm and inviting. Filled with lots of BEDS on which you can lounge or more traditional dining room areas that were dimly lit, our first impressions of RARE were quite favorable. Then, we ordered. The food was generally good, but the "oxymoron" that is SOUL FOOD & TAPPAS (small plates) made for some interesting presentations like the "deviled eggs". We got three halves (featuring different toppings: shrimp, bacon, and regular). Well, where was the fourth half?????? Would it have been considered a BIG PLATE had they included a fourth half?????? What did they do with it, we wondered??? Though we enjoyed the shrimp and grits dish (which has inspired Anthony to put cream cheese in his grits from now on), we wondered as they served "chicken and waffles" as a quarter of a belgian waffle plus two wing/drumsticks, Would it have hurt to include another "quarter" of the belgian wafffle???? We made the best of it by paying our $100 bill (drinks were pricey too) and segue-ing to "Wendy's" and "Krystal" for something that was going to fill us up. From there, we met up with my friend Mashaun (and his friends) at Broadway Diner (just next to the Fox Theater on Peachtree Street). They had just left the Fox, seeing The Alvin Ailey Dance Company. After sitting with Mashaun and a couple of his church members from VISION Church (www.operationrebirth.com/affirmingchurches.html), which they tell us is a "gay affirming" church, Anthony and I went to the OPENING NIGHT of: Cartoon Network's Design at Play The High Design & Low-Brow Humor exhibit (http://www.museumofdesign.org), which runs through May 19. At this point, however, our focus was the after party at Halo, which featured a set by DJ Dylan. Then, we hit the classic "kids" spot for any night in Atlanta, "Bulldogs", also on Peachtree. A few drinks and some good tunes later, we turned in to get rejuvenated for our next day. (http://members.aol.com/bulldognco/index.htm)
Friday, we got up to have a lovely lunch with dear friend Kelly Welborn who is in marketing at the High Museum (http://www.high.org/) and a woman she wanted Anthony and me to meet, Val Porter, who is the Business Development Director at Brand Atlanta (www.BrandAtlanta.com). Kelly thought there might be some synergy and though we were there for "pleasure" at this point, Anthony and I are always open to "take a meeting" and - in this case - a lunch at "South City Kitchen", where I continued my jones for all things GRITS. I don't get them often. I replaced the rice that my "jambalaya" was to be served with and substituted GRITS for them. DELICIOUS! Also TASTY? Our conversation. We brainstormed about the "new" Atlanta and how much it's changed since I lived there in the mid-'90s. But also, how Atlanta seems to be hungry for a RENAISSANCE of sorts around culture, a movement that should attract all demographics and bring what can sometimes be a segregated Atlanta together as one in the name of art, culture, music, and the many other healing energies that come out of expression. Kelly, too, made sure that Anthony and I were going to be entertained for the rest of the weekend. So, we got tickets to see the Louvre exhibit at THE HIGH as well as tickets to see Dawnn Lewis (of "A Different World" fame) in "Sister Act: The Musical", which is playing at the Alliance Theater. (www.alliancetheatre.org/). You recall, she has a non-speaking part in "DREAMGIRLS" as James Thunder Early's wife (Eddie Murphy). Well, we took my nephew Noot (I call him) and his Spelman sister Rachel and had a great time. We started at SHOUT (http://www.heretoserverestaurants.com/) where Anthony walked them through SUSHI 101. They had never had it. (I only began to eat it after I met him). With chopsticks in tow, they did very well and enjoyed it. From there, we walked over to the musical which we all enjoyed. If it follows the trajectory of "The Color Purple" which got its try-out at the Alliance in Atlanta (back in 2003), it might be coming to Broadway (but will need some tweaking along the way). The NUNS stole the show. They matched the whimsy of the film's nuns to perfection. Afterwards, we went to TROIS for late night supper. (http://www.opentable.com/rest_profile.aspx?rid=6610). Though pricey, I think we all enjoyed our seafood and fixin's. My sister joined us after she completed her night's plans to say HI. But the kids and our night didn't end there. We took them to Cafe Intermezzo for dessert and coffee (cocktails for those who were legal). (www.cafeintermezzo.com). I was able to give my nephew his MTV LAGUNA BEACH sweat shirt which finally came. And Anthony had a great gift for him too. It was a rare pic of BEYONCE performing "Ring The Alarm". BRILLIANT NIGHT all around!
On Saturday morning, Anthony and I got up to meet my sister and her husband Vincent, who had yet to meet Anthony. One of my "Amazing Graces" Chandra had yet to meet Anthony as well. And given she has roots in Denver, I really wanted them to meet. "Thumbs Up" (www.thumbsupdiner.com) was the location. Fortunately, in addition to an awesome southern breakfast (Yes! I had grits!), everyone got along. Chandra loved Anthony. Anthony loved Chandra. Vincent seemed to like Anthony. Anthony says he liked Vincent. And inside of all the authentic, loving, and vulnerable conversations around "gay relationships" and people being in "the closet", my sister managed to stay in the conversation without having to regurgitate her food. Though much of the conversation centered around levity and fun, some of the content was serious. And somehow, we all were able to stay with the LOVE.
Afterwards, Chandra, Anthony, and I had a post-breakfast cocktail at Cafe Tu Tu Tango, where I had a chance twelve or so years ago, to attend its opening. (www.cafetututango.com/atlanta/) We had frozen drinks, which loosened us up to experience THE KING PAPERS at the Atlanta History Center. (www.morehouse.edu/events/kingpapers/index.html). My alma mater is now the host of a 10,000 piece collection of handwritten notes and unpublished sermons of Martin Luther King Jr., Morehouse '48. The deal was spearheaded by Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin who raised $32 million to purchase the collection, so it would reside permanently in the city where King was born and the Civil rights Movement was anchored. More specifically, the papers will be owned by Morehouse, where they will be made available for research, public access, and exhibits. My friend Mashaun and my friend/author/ man of all trades (and master at many) Gil Robertson joined us along with one of his clients Dr. Rani Whitfield, who is one of the top African American physicians and health advocates in the South. He has been using hip hop in an innovative way to introduce young people on how to maintain good health. (www.h2doc.com). So, our time with the papers and networking up and through the exhibit made for good vibrations in line with Dr. King's legacy.
After taking some down time at Chandra's place in Decatur, she, Anthony, and I met some friends at Atlantic Station's Mexican Restaurant "Rosa Mexicano" (www.rosamexicano.com). Anthony wanted me to meet a friend of his, Janene, who is a law student at Emory. She introduced us to her boyfriend. I wanted him to meet my college friend Audrey and close Atlanta friends Carla and Cristal. And Chandra wanted us to meet her boyfriend Carlos. So, it was a night of meetings and first impressions. But after their specialty margaritas kicked in, it was ALL LOVE! We had a great time. So great, we opted to do an encore post-set at Buckhead's "Cafe Intermezzo" (www.cafeintermezzo.com).
Sunday was "easy" as we did a second day at "Thumbs Up" for breakfast (More "Grits", but with catfish this time!. Chandra was hosting (on this day). (www.thumbsupdiner.com) We reflected on our Saturday night and got our final good-bye in to her. Then, we went to the High Museum to enjoy the exhibits there before briefly meeting up with my friend Chris (who I shared "Dreamgirls" #11 with over Christmas) at The Georgian Terrace (across from the Fox). (www.thegeorgianterrace.com) I introduced him to Anthony, we caught up, had a quick drink before we had to head on to the airport and pat ourselves on the back --- one more time --- for staying in our commitment to see each other monthly. We too are now looking forward to our WHAT'S NEXT?, which is pointing east... to New York City! It's a new chapter and the page is about to turn... STAY TUNED!
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