Top Of Atlanta, And The Chocolate Blue Dome

I shall never tire of a revolving restaurant.

We’ve been to the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ontario, the Chart House at Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, and now both of the ones in Atlanta.

Earlier this year, we planned to celebrate our anniversary by going to the Sun Dial Restaurant for lunch and then later drive to Florence, Alabama for the 360 Grille at the Marriott Shoals (on our way over, after having our reservation for several days via OpenTable, the manager at 360 called a couple of hours before our res to let us know that the mechanism that makes the restaurant revolve hadn’t been working for a few days. I canceled our reservation, but couldn’t he have called earlier than that night so we could have made other plans? It worked out okay because we wound up at Odette which was fab).

The Sun Dial is on the 71st floor of the Westin Peachtree Plaza.

Over the course of…maybe an hour, we got a 360* view of Atlanta, which the boys got a big kick out of

Besides getting to see everything from a window-side table, there’s also an area with an observation binocular


Av had blackened Georgia trout over tasso-crawfish grits, which he liked

Shug went with pasta and Shugie had pizza

And I wasn’t so hungry, so I just ordered a Caesar salad which was tiiiiny.

(looking up from the lobby at the Hyatt)

This past weekend, we were in Atlanta again and after supper elsewhere, we walked over to the Hyatt Regency and had dessert at Polaris, which is on the 22nd floor. This time, we had a nighttime view of the city as the restaurant revolved.

We rode right past the open kitchen

We shared the very pretty Polaris Blue Dome: fair trade chocolate mousse, rooftop honey caramel, flourless chocolate cake atop a meringue disc


Hotel Finial, Neon, And Pawn Shop Murals

Earlier this year, we went to services in Anniston with plans to go on the next day to Atlanta, so we made reservations to stay at the Hotel Finial. It was recently renovated and had previously been known as The Victoria.

Only suites are inside the main home, and all the other Expedia et al-bookable rooms are in a motel-like arrangement with exterior corridors. That’s what we wound up with.

Parking was in a gated lot. The room was okay — not luxurious (e.g. two pillows on each bed whereas most hotels offer at least three or four) but not uncomfortably minimalist, either. It was fine.

We stayed out until almost bedtime anyway, and when we got up, it was time to walk over to the Victorian home for breakfast, which is included in the cost of a stay. The food was a step up from, say, a Hampton/economy hotel breakfast, and the best part was definitely the setting.

That first night, though, for something different, we decided to drive up to Jacksonville, Alabama where a there’s a family pizza place on the square with a fab neon sign — so we figured we’d have supper and walk around…

The boys liked their pizza

We drove back to Anniston for services. The congregation there is so, so kind and they have a great building. The rabbi here drives in from Atlanta and he’s in his mid-80s…he and his wife are just super sweet.

Before we left Anniston, we stopped to take a picture of this great mural at a pawn shop there.

Fried Chicken In Paper Bag, And Beef Fat Candle

I had a friend visiting Birmingham while I was away, and she asked me what I thought of Chris Hastings’ OvenBird — it’s all about small plates, and live-fire ovens for cooking. No gas lines. In fact, I was there late once when the power went out and they had to close the restaurant early because of the fire smoke (serious fans for ventilation are required, I guess). The entry is by Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery at Pepper Place, so the courtyard is beautiful, and the inside is cozy and comfortable.

While I’ve had a disappointing brunch at Chris Hastings’ The Side by Side, and some mixed nights at Hot and Hot Fish Club (it’s always better if he’s there), Av and I are impressed with how great everything at Ovenbird is, and I encouraged my friend to give it a try.

We’ve had their fried chicken which comes served in the bag — order it first if you’re planning on staying a while and ordering as you go, since they sometimes run out

*The* thing to get, though, is the beef fat candle with ember-roasted vegetables and chimichurri. To me, it tastes like all those bits at the bottom of an exceptional all-day roast, with all the little soft vegetable pieces and the jus from the meat, all this made even better as the candle burns down, offering up its own beefy flavors.

Here, anchovy, curtido, romesco deviled eggs. Nice and creamy, but they needed more…something. Also: the egg at 6:00 is jealous of the egg with all the sprinkles at 9:00.


Here’s the NYT’s take on OvenBird. Oh! And my friend loved it. xoxo!

Perfection Never Taste So Good

…at least, that’s it according to the sign at Road Side Bar-B-Que in Birmingham

A while back, they repainted the image of the gentlemen next to the pit, and they look different than before — now:


Cathedral of Junk

One of my other Austin friends, Scott — who has his own art environment — took me to visit his friend Vince who is the creator of the Cathedral of Junk.

Because Scott and Vince have been friends for so long, we got to visit for a long time (and Scott had called him earlier in the week about coming over for a while). But before I get too far ahead, it’s absolutely imperative that visitors call before they visit — Vince’s number is 512-299-7413 and he’s pretty adamant about people having appointments. He’s kind, but he’s serious about a minimum of disruption to the neighborhood. When a couple of cars full of people showed up to see him while Scott and I were visiting, he sent them away, even though they explained they were only in town for a day or two and were from different states. Besides Vince’s sanity, there’s another reason for that…

He’s been working on the cathedral since the late 80s, and then around 2010, there were complaints. City inspectors came in and made a big deal about safety and permits, neighbors were apparently complaining about the parking situation and total strangers showing up whenever in the neighborhood.

Vince had to start taking the cathedral down — volunteers came out and helped. At one point, he was just sick of the whole thing. But finally the city relented, no doubt due in large part to community outrage that part of what helps Keep Austin Weird was being stomped on.

From The Statesman in June 2010:

Hanneman said he is happy that the structure will remain an Austin landmark but said working through the city bureaucracy was unnecessarily complicated. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” he said. “It was like a cross between a divorce and a death.”

There are several different ways around, ways up to the top, and pathways with colorways

A must-do in Austin. You could spend an hour or a few hours and of course you’re never going to see it all. Fab.

Big, big, big thanks to Scott for arranging my visit and to Vince for being so kind and hanging out while showing us his work. xoxo!

The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Lockhart Barbecue, Franklin, and Round Rock

When a friend and I were talking about uber-Texas venues to have a wedding in Austin, I instantly thought of the Driskill. Our family has stayed there a couple of times before and it’s beautiful. I shared this room with a sweet friend of mine who lives in San Antonio now.

…but even prettier are the common areas at the hotel.

The pic below can be clicked through for an album of images from this and previous stays at the Driskill:

Driskill Hotel, Austin TX

The last time we made our annual Texas trip, Av did the big three in Lockhart, as usual.

BTW, Aaron Franklin was interviewed by Eater for where he’d go for a barbecue roadtrip (and what he’d get there) and the first stop on the list was Kreuz.

Kreuz Market:

We happened to get the same things Aaron suggested from his list — pork chop, prime rib, sausage — but we weren’t fans of the prime rib at all. Stick with the pork chop here.

My fave, Black’s (because they have those huge bronto-size beef ribs)

beef ribs at Black’s all day, every day.

and Smitty’s

hot ring yesssss

The boys and I watched a movie another day while Av survived the line at Franklin in Austin, and he felt as though his hours-long wait was worth it (plus it sounds like he made some friends). The brisket. The brissssketttttt yesssssss.

Notice no sides on any of the barbecue stops. That was enough meat to put anybody in everlasting ketosis, I think. Anyway, on our way out the next day, we did decide it was time to sneak some carbs so we made it to Round Rock Donuts which were a-maz-ing.

I guess we could have thought about splitting a Texas-sized one with six other families, but…

We tried some doughnut holes (yummm)

…and we each got a flavored one for later. Chocolate sprinkles for Shugie.

Calling Ex-Boyfriends

Earlier this year, I was invited to a wedding at The Driskill in Austin — I was one of the people who suggested the hotel as *the* perfect super-Texas venue, so I was really looking forward to seeing a bunch of friends…friends at the wedding, and friends I know from elsewhere.

Thinking about the trip one day, out of the blue, I messaged an ex-boyfriend who lives there now to see if he wanted to get together on the Friday I was flying in, for a late lunch before the rehearsal supper.


But that was so much harder than it sounds.

So much harder. During school, we’d spent a couple of just super-fun years of being together, but I realized that it wasn’t going to work out long term. I could-not-waitttt to get my degrees, start my career, move away and have a big life, and he didn’t have those kinds of aspirations — he trusted that college and career and those kinds of things were just going to come together without having to think or work too hard at it. He wasn’t religious and didn’t have fantasies about kids and fun trips, while I was literally filling notebooks with what I thought a beautiful life would look like. We were fun at 19 but I realized it wasn’t for keeps.

I wanted that guy I was dreaming about in my notebooks. The one who knew what ‘scattered, smothered, and covered’ meant *and* who knew Maimonides’ eight levels of charity. Well rounded, y’all.

So. One summer, my boyfriend and I broke up. We went our own directions. We weren’t upset at each other, just moving on.

But it got even more complicated.

At the end of the summer, he had a terrible accident and broke his neck. I was at a friend’s house when I got the news. It was just so casual. “Did you know he hit a tree and broke his neck?” and I remember a weird little yelp escaped from my throat. I had to get to the hospital.

It was terrible. He was alive, but paralyzed. His hands were all curled up, he couldn’t move anything, and he was in one of those metal halos.

I walked in the door and that was it: we were a team again. I canceled all my classes and my residence was a vinyl hospital chair. Time stood still for weeks, for months. We read the big red collection of Allen Ginsberg poems over and over (‘A Supermarket in California’ — our fave — maybe a million times), we listened to music, we told stories based on fact and made up others with fantastical endings.

More time went by as he was discharged to rehab, then was able to come back to our hometown. There was more rehab there.

As months went by, I saw our friends going back and forth to wherever their universities were. One day at his house, I admitted that while I didn’t want to leave him, I was scared. I needed to finish my last two years of college. I’d worked enough minimum-wage fast food and summer factory jobs while going to school (ohmygoooosh that summer I spent between freshman year and sophomore year at an un-airconditioned factory at which I was literally tethered by the wrists to metal-bending press machine the size of a small car) to know it wasn’t just going to fall into place if I didn’t get back on track.

It was weird, because after the wreck, we never ‘got back together’ or talked about being a couple, so it’s not like we had to break up again.

He told me it was okay.

(above: my dorm room with pics of him. Clements Hall obviously didn’t yet know the fab of the Ole Miss dorm makeover.)

Here’s what happened: I went back to school and felt guilty for leaving. So I put off calling. And then I felt even more guilty for going a few days without calling that I didn’t have the courage to call him then. And so on.

I knew he was going to be okay, but I was afraid just the fact that I had been doing things was going to be hurtful. He was stuck in a bed or at rehab, and I was running off to classes and trying to fake being a regular college kid. When I wasn’t cramming material for assignments or working a register somewhere, I was horseback riding and eating at Taco Bell at odd hours and spending time with other kids our age who hadn’t had anything crazy happen. We weren’t just two teens in a time capsule anymore. Guilt ate me alive. I felt like such a faker to everyone: everything’s awesome! while inside I have a hole in my heart the size of a teenage boy.

Years ago, we friended on FB but I had no idea what he was up to, other than he was living in Austin.

So I messaged him about lunch. And he offered to pick me up from the airport.

And oh. He parked, stood up, and walked (not perfectly, but ohmygosh he.can.walk!) over. It was like nothing ever happened. He even had some of our old music playing in the car. It was the 90s all over again. It was good having our team back.

There was a point, though, I told him how crazy sorry I was for leaving him so I could finish school, and for not knowing how to navigate both those worlds. He understood. He was still the person who figured things were just going to work out.

We had a great weekend. We had lunch at Lonesome Dove (okay I have to put some more pics in this post. Here’s the restaurant — you’ve probably seen owner Tim Love on telly):

elk -foie sliders with blueberry jam — yummmm

some of the best bread everrr

meatloaf — meh

brisket with Mexican street corn — the brisket was meh too but the corn was out of this world good.

He showed me some of Austin, then when it was time, dropped me off at the Driskill so I could get ready for the rehearsal party, which was fun.

The next day he texted and asked me if he could take me to Salt Lick, so we did that:

ribssssss were soooo goood (Av says since I’ve shown him these pics and told him about it, he’s totally ready to go to Salt Lick — we have a yearly Texas trip which of course includes a trip to Lockhart, but he’s ready to include Driftwood now)

…and I got shug the fab B R I S K E T tee there.

He’s super happy. He has a girlfriend, Austin suits him great, he has this big circle of friends, and he does what he enjoys. I called his mom when I got home and it was so good. So, so good.

And I didn’t realize then, but those notebooks I filled with ideas about the future with a beautiful family life…turns out I met that guy and married him (and yes, Av knows those eight levels *and* the way to order hashbrowns at Waffle House (even though he just likes them plain)).

So call your ex-boyfriends. ha! Not really. Okay, maybe. Alright, do it. If you do, I hope it turns out this great.

Oh, and:

We talked about what I could bring back for Av and the boys, and he suggested Voodoo Doughnuts which was just down from the Driskill. I think EVERYbody in the airports (AUS –> DFW –> BHM) who knew what that pink box meant was totally jealous.

A girlfriend and I stood in line to get them that Sunday morning — they’re open 24/7, even. Cash only.

This awesome Mona Superhero 8’x16′ duct tape masterpiece was on one wall

That’s a tribute doughnut — whenever someone famous passes away, they create a big doughnut with their likeness. They’re not for sale.

I had one of the plain ones once I got home, and it was fab. All the ones I got were yeast doughnuts, and everybody was super-happy with what I picked out. Voodoo puts fresh stuff on IG all the time.

Also on Sunday: another friend took me to Palvos where they have their own salsa bar, and to the Cathedral of Junk — I’ll post pics from that visit soon. Faaaab.

(from Supermarket in California:) Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?

“No Rain On Mary Jane” Graveshelter, And She Was Number One

Driving up to the Whitesboro Cemetery in Etowah County, the little paved path by the church was blocked by a pickup truck. I parked behind, and as a gentleman and another person were standing in front of another grave, I nodded as I walked by quietly to give them their privacy.

I was going further back, to document the grave shelter for the Jacobs family, James J. (1865-1939) and Mary Jane (1869-1934). Under their names, ‘Having finished life’s duty, they now sweetly rest’ is engraved.

Above, a wooden carport-style graveshelter decorated with zigzag wood edging and in front, a painted wooden monogram cutout that suggests this graveshelter is still being maintained by family currently.

Especially striking is what is handwritten inside the shelter — a family tree with 70+ names, one entry noting that Wilmer was KIA in 1944 in France, another note that there would be ‘no rain on Mary Jane‘ (thus, this graveshelter), and at the bottom, ‘for other descendants & (kin) just look around‘.

Walking back to my car, I waved goodbye to the people who were standing at the grave, still wishing to give them their space. They waved back, and I walked nearer, judging if they would be willing to talk a little. About thirty minutes later, we were still there talking about graveshelters, homemade monuments, and other folk practices.

The gentleman told me about one other cemetery closer to Attalla, the one at Noble Hill Missionary Baptist, that he thought either used to, or may still have a graveshelter, so after a while, I left to check on it. There wasn’t a graveshelter, but I did find this:

#1 Wife, Mother, and Grandmother