Two poets meet

‘Twasn’t Merely Happenstance Nor Chance

These Two Poets Crossed Life Paths

Belsky and Vance

The Traveler, A Mid-Age Tex-Georgia Fellow

The Elder, A Sage New Jersey Aloha’n

Belsky Bellowed A Hilo, HI Hello

Vance, The Younger, Performed Mic-Free

Filled With Big City Hunger, He

Spewed Sonic Almost-Ebonics

Bought Belsky’s Beautiful Book

About This “Upside Down” World Be Free

Back Home He Had A Look-See, HV

And Knew For Sure – Sold

Belsky Was The Real Deal – Behold

Vance Peeled Precious Pages

That Spoke Of Oil’s Greed Rages

While Big Bad BP Bombed Our Gulf

With Black-Gold, Greed Indeed

And Nashville Near ‘Bout Decreed

Itself All Floated Away

Back In The A, Where He Stayed

Vance Said, After He’d Had A Cry And Prayed

Mr. Tomas Belsky, Sir, You Are A Okay

(Check out: http://www.tomasbelsky.com – Hilo, Hawaii)

(Photo by: Jami Buck-Vance)

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Rare Edition

I initially, mistakenly thought Rare on Piedmont was a steakhouse, until I walked into another dimension. Recently reopened after a fire two years ago, this place is a fancy lounge that serves “soul tapas” and is lusciously decorated with classic African-American historical photographs and glowing chandeliers that suggest a bygone era of bespoke fashion and roaring Harlem nights.

Deceptively calm due to the currently underused patio, an outside cloaked with lush curtains, and with a prompt valet service that meets you at front and then satellites your vehicle to a nearby parking location – nothing indicates the level of activity inside. And the place was somewhat hiving on a Tuesday for an informal networking event established by local auto impresario and Midtown high-rise apartment  “Mayor” Ken Jones.

Plenty of couch space and a hip bar with smiling service showcases the front half of the space. While the friendly servers please with prompt and thoughtful attention in the back half, which even has bed-type “tables” for dinner service. That is one thing we have been unable to find in Atlanta for that special one-on-one or slightly larger intimate dinner since BED closed down. Highly-charged energy amongst the networking pros up front where the shots were flowing; ambient and romantic in back where the fresh cocktails fit the mood just right for the couples I noticed gaga-ing to their own grooves. It made for a fun event.

The food is thoughtfully-prepared by Chef Wesley, a Hilton Head native and former Justin’s employee. His most popular item may be his rich and velvety lobster macaroni and cheese. I could have been completely satisfied to just eat three servings of that gourmet concoction – topped with a lightly-fried, large bay leaf – it left me somehow missing my grandmother’s cooking and simultaneously anticipating a trip to the ocean.

Before that, an Egyptian salad started me off on my path to fulfillment. Mixed greens topped with creamy Feta cheese, complemented by a perfectly pungent red wine vinaigrette and nicely offset by sweet golden raisins. Crisp tomatoes and cucumbers with the seeds removed, balanced by the intensity of kalamata olives and red onions. The surprise ingredient that set the dish off for me was the addition of fresh mint leaves – refreshing and satisfying.

My final dish of collard green pot stickers may have stolen the show – if that macaroni wasn’t so incredible. Chopped collard greens like your Deep South mamas made, inside delicate fried pot sticker dumplings also containing diced tarragon mushrooms, over a small boat of savory potlikker with aromas of brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. I was transported to a place where Gone with the Wind meets Top Chef.

And they are open and serving food until midnight, for that busy from hard working/partying set that gravitates to the pulsing energy of Midtown. As I contemplated the towering Bank of America building aglow in the night sky from the patio, I realized home really is where the heart is. We love ATL.

Spectacle: Of Montreal and Janelle Monae

I was in rewrite of my memoir and working as a late night server at Cafe’ Intermezzo on Peachtree Street in Atlanta when first I saw her. Her image immediately captivated me: pompadoured hair I adored and a cool cardigan framing her perfect pixie face.

A few weeks later, I waited on her and her entourage, including Nate “Rocket” Wonder – the man of sound behind her veritable wall of sound. We shared our stories of forays into art, of our efforts to bloom in an ATL that boomed around us.

Many years earlier, as I waited for takeout at The Grit restaurant in Athens, GA, I overheard Kevin Barnes speaking of his band, Of Montreal. The name struck my fancy, and I vowed to give them a listen and did.

A few years later while visiting a friend in Athens, I became acquainted with Of Montreal bassist Davey Pierce due to a collective affinity for scooter/moped crews and was inspired to dig further into their vast repertoire of recordings.

In Atlanta on November 6, 2010, my fandom of both acts culminated in a live show in Little Five Points that confirmed Georgia’s artistic musicality. Variety Playhouse was the venue, and never has that name been more fitting.

Janelle’s sharp looks and frenetic dance moves accentuated rather than overshadowed her music: an invented modern neo-soul meets songbird eclecticism that seemingly explains the rich American history of black music, while searching for the future. Even those unfamiliar with her in the audience recognized her rhythmic power and were awed by her singular voice – Janelle can really sing. Backed by tight musicians, she wound up the taut set with the stripped down single “Many Moons” and the romping hit “Tightrope,” as I tipped to the dance hook.

Deserving of an encore, there was one, a “La-La-La” singalong performed from stage to floor, reminiscent of the party energy of The B-52’s “Rock Lobster.” As Janelle’s rocking band crescendoed, she departed and the lights came on. I gave a shout out to Nate Wonder on the intermission and met some cute Chattanooga college kids in the big city South for the show.

The spectacle reached greater proportion as the headline act took the stage, seven musicians accompanying the lanky, fey, practically pansexual Kevin Barnes. The set started with the new album’s debut single “Coquet Coquette”, followed by an old fav of mine, “Suffer for Fashion.”

(Photo by: Han Vance)

Multi-costumed dancers, incredible video montage and the unbridled bouncing energy of Mr. Barnes pushed the show into the stratosphere. I was more overstimulated than a cokehead, more tripped out than an acid head, full of punch drunk love – as lifted as a sober man can be.

The theater only intensified as the band played good songs old and new. Kevin is a character on the level of Bowie or Prince, and he lives to push the envelope. At one point, his face broadcast from a giant cardboard TV set aliens assembled to watch. At another, he encouraged two feuding skeletons to kiss and makeup.

As the dream of a set ended, feathers filled the air, propelled from an alien’s head. I thought to myself: Earth is a pretty far out planet.

The band returned – beers in hand – to satiate the raucous crowd, while Kevin popped bubbly. I wondered what they could possibly do next. A Michael Jackson medley met and exceeded my encore expectations, especially as Janelle and the rest of the Wondaland Arts Society joined the fray, with my mate Nate on sticks, resplendent in his signature look of perfect dreads and a tux.

This lovely art was created here; Georgia as epicenter of modern music.

Ode to Oakwood

We were never Cobb County run of the mill

Nor cul-de-sac shackled kings of the hill

We came to Oakwood to look and act weird

And be accepted, schooled, heard, cured

In effect, of that staid duality-reality

Education and thought in the mindlessly numbing suburbs

Near a great city in the making, rising to thrive like us

We weren’t necessarily the best and brightest

More most likely to be voted absurdest

In fact, you detested the sight of many of us

The mess and muss from the back of the bus

But we came together and got our learn on

Life lessons mixed with fun in the sun

Earth is zesty, an unpeeled onion

I’m glad I was born American-clever

A proudly freaky Unicorn, forever

Keep Oakwood High School alive

The only alternative to the hive