Sunday, April 27, 2014

What?! No Ludacris Museum? Oh well, A-T-L still earns a second look

Editor's Note: Wow have we been busy. Between DC and NYC, we have been doing everything except blogging. This post was started long ago, and it's time to finish!

After one day with big ol' mosquitoes and another with cold weather in the Okefenokee swamp, we were thrilled to roll into the city of Atlanta. We had spent only two nights there in our first visit. This time we got a little time with the Greens (Sarah's cousin's family) but less than we would have liked. They were off to Mexico so we dog-sat for them. Wow, did our boys love JoJo. Fastest dog I have ever seen. We walked him a lot, and to burn off his (ample) remaining energy we revved him up to run circles in the street. He was like black lightning. So of course he needed his rest. Can't believe I didn't film him running. This totally non-posed shot will have to do:

Suburban Atlanta was a nice slice of everyday life. The stuff people who aren't on walkabout might not realize they'd miss. We watched cousins play Little League and high school lacrosse, we took a walk to the park. Simple pleasures. 

As for "stuff we did," three deserve your attention. One was a reunion with our old friend Scott, who we volunteer-mentored with, more than 15 years ago. He moved from Portland many years ago, and we hadn't seem him since. So we invited ourselves over for brunch and got to meet his wonderful wife and kids. Two girls and little redhead twin boys who LOOK JUST LIKE SCOTT. We ate great latkes and bagels (oh how we have missed thee). The kids put on several short plays for our entertainment.

What a pile of humanity!

That's Emmett in the Big Bird suit

Scott remains a mellow dude, even with four kids scampering around. We enjoyed meeting Amy and wish them all the best as they approach the post-diaper phase. (Not much longer!)

Next big stop was the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Even though we went on an overcast day, it was gorgeous. Sarah loves these places, and we 3 boys learn to love them. Especially when there are carnivorous plants and humongous flowers to see.

E shows off the apple trees trained to the trellis. There's a word for it, but I forget.

A cocoa tree, I believe


More Chihuly! Just like the one in Indianapolis, only smaller.

Hardy Oregonians, braving the damp. 

Ahhhh.... [photo credit: Emmett]

Nature can be crazy looking


Last, but certainly not least, in our tour of Atlanta was our Sunday in the city. A city trip, when you're staying out in the 'burbs, requires a 40 minute drive and you risk getting stuck in traffic. How bad can traffic get in Atlanta? Bad enough that when Atlanta was NOT on a list of ten worst cities for traffic, that itself was a news item. But what we did that Sunday was worth it. 

We knew that Martin Luther King Jr. had been the co-pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. (Loyal readers will remember that we learned that during our tour of Dexter Ave. Baptist in Montgomery.) So I thought we could combine a little religious education with some social studies by attending Sunday services at Ebenezer Baptist. It turns out that the old church is now used mostly as a tourist site. So the service was in the new building:

And what a service it was. I was nervous beforehand. We didn't have our most formal clothes, I wasn't sure if we would be the only White people there, it wasn't clear how long the service would be, would there be a lot of religious references we might not understand? All our concerns melted quickly when we saw the program. Turns out that weekend was the Hymns and Hip Hop conference. The youth pastor organized it to bridge the gap between the church and "kids these days." So the service was full of hip hop songs (like Kanye's "Jesus Walks") and skits with half the youth choir dressed up like stuffy adults. Very engaging and thought-provoking. 

The guest pastor was a woman from the Bronx who went to Stanford and Yale. She discussed the struggle to reconcile loving hip hop music and being Christian. As the songs got rougher in the early 90s, she boxed up her CDs and chose religion over music. Now she wonders if the two can coexist. Not anything Sarah or I had ever struggled with (music wins!) but fascinating to hear about.

The boys were patient, and even clapped at the right times. The big payoff came right afterward, when we hit Gladys Knight's Chicken and Waffles for a late lunch. Emmett had been hankering for it for months, ever since we saw it on Man Vs. Food. It was worth the wait, especially since standing outside for an hour is easier when it's 70 degrees and sunny.

By the way, we followed the rules.

[Leaving NYC in an hour. To Rhode Island for camping and hiking. State #30! Will try to catch up on blogging NC soon!]

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ol' Virginny here we come!

State #27. Looking forward to hiking and colonial Williamsburg. Maybe we'll get to churn butter!

Swamp-vision 2000

Pretty bird, pretty bird

And Nature's perfect predator (not on that day, lucky for us)

Okefenokee Swamp critters

Have any of you looked at a map of Florida lately?  It's long.  And the Everglades are at the very tip of it.  We've learned that when you drive really far to somewhere, you then have to turn around and drive all the way back.  So, we're happy to report there are plenty of gators to view at the Okefenokee Swamp, and that's up in Georgia, folks (barely).  

 As we do whenever possible, we started our next adventure at Trader Joes.  With the new opening in Tampa, we had to decide: Tampa or Gainsville?  We're glad we took the latter, as there were these sweet topiary monkeys hanging from the tree out front.
stop at a gas station before you see this sign; it's 20 miles to the campground!

As you can see, it was absolutely beautiful.  The birds were all singing, and the swamp attracts a pretty diverse bird crowd. It also attracts lots of skeeters, which is why Gary is reading so far away from the tent, in the sun, fully covered.

yep, he's real

We took a guided boat tour with a real swampee (that's what I've decided to call the locals).  While I'm blanking on his name, his dad had been a ranger in the park as well.  He knew a thing or two about the swamp...

why is the water tea colored?

can you spot the gators? 

that thar cypress tree is 900 yrs old 

Des got to pull out the bladderwort plant and see the insects inside!

luckily, alligators are quite lazy

We ended our camping trip like we usually do, and found the smoke to be especially helpful with the skeeters.  Piling into the tent smelling like campfire smoke is one of those smells that takes you back and envelops you in happy memories.  I'm so very grateful to have them.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How could we forget?

Sarah's excellent post about Largo and Lois continued a hot streak for us. After some slacking, we are now blogging regularly. (Most of the credit goes to Sarah).

In our flurry of catching up, I left out one major event. Our last night in Vero, I surprised my newly-40 wife with 2 tickets to see Paul Simon and Sting in Orlando. I had asked Taunya if she would watch the boys, and not only did she say yes, she and Jeff and Cole took them to a polo match and a movie and pizza. Wow!

What a great show it was. After coming out a half hour late (Sting cut himself shaving and the bleeding took a long time to stop. He is 62 years old, after all.) they rocked it. The two of them were clearly having a great time up there. Their combined bands totalled 15 souls, I believe. [Side note: One of them works as a ranger at New Orleans' National Historic Park for Jazz. When we visited there, his fellow ranger had mentioned that he was away, touring with those 2. That's what gave me the idea in the first place]. Almost every song you would expect to hear got played. We both cried at various times. I broke down during Fragile. It's always been one of my favorite Sting songs. Simon covered most of the verses and they shared the chorus. I was missing Dad and felt some intense catharsis. Ironic in light of Dad's dislike for Sting ("limousine liberal"), but hey, we never agreed much on music.

Here we are, enjoying being the 2 youngest people in the building (but not the 2 youngest in the city, as it was St. Patty's weekend and spring break--whoa!). I think we were the only 2 who did not get up during the show to use the restroom.

That's me on the right!

Pretty good seats, off to stage left.

Finale of the straightforwardly-named tour
One review (of the LA show) mentioned some of the funny banter. There was a lot of that, as well as a healthy mutual respect. And some appropriate adoration by Sting of Simon.

A great date night and memories we can revive every time we listen to their music, which is almost daily. If you haven't heard Simon's recent work, do check out these 2 albums:

So Beautiful or So What

And one that's not so recent but still newer than what most people have in their Simon collection: You're the One -- we played it on repeat when Desi was taking his sweet time getting borned.

So long for now, from lovely Asheville NC! Okefenokee Swamp will be the topic of our next post. Yes it's real!