August 23rd, 2004

buzzed, B&W


I meant to post this earlier (I'm pre-dating it as is), but I went to Philly last weekend. Was a working meeting for the DI Alumni Association, which we're trying to get off the ground, and I'm the treasurer of. Anyway, the meeting could have been better, but the accommodations are what I really want to write about. We stayed in the mansion of one of the board members. It's a beautiful stone house, three stories tall with a full basement. You walk in, and to the left is the parlor, with curved walls to improve the acoustics, to the right is the dining room, and in front of you is a large, curved staircase. The home has four kitchens (partly from when it was serving as apartments), and a nice deck. The house was apparently designed by some architect that Frank Lloyd Wright studied under, has no rectangular rooms, and was built in 1907.

Our hostess was incredible, having two rotisserie cooked chickens for us (slow cooked for long enough that the meat practically crumbled when you took a fork to it), beans and rice, baklava, green beans, and other stuff that I can't remember for dinner Friday night. Like the rest of the weekend, everything was homemade. Around midnight Friday, she started smoking a 16-pound brisket in her new, cast iron smoker that was on the deck out back. That probably cooked for a good 18 hours or so, along with the turkey she threw in there around 6 am or so, that was smoked for around 12 hours. She also made some spanakopita, which was of course wonderful. The most impressive things were perhaps her desserts, which included a four layer cheescake with incredible rich buttermilk icing, a chocolate cheesecake, which she intentially made so it collapsed in the middle while baking. This allowed her to drizzle a pound of melted chocolate and cream over it, pooling in the middle, and when you pull a slice away, letting the chocolate drizzle down the middle of it.
buzzed, B&W

VISTA Leader Training

So, I've been in Atlanta since Tuesday for VISTA Leader training. While I wasn't overly impressed with the training, the people and the experience was good. (To be fair, I though being introduced to open space technologies was interesting.) There were about 90 some VISTA Leaders there, and unlike the Montana VISTA Pre-Service Orientation, it was composed of a group of vary diverse people. (Again, to be fair, there was some diversity among the MT group, but it was a weird group of probably around 50, that was maybe 10% male, all white, and mainly upper-middle class 20-something college grads.) The Leaders were of all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds (lots of Peace Corps vets). The person who I chatted with the most, was probably Katie, the tours editor for Tiny Mix Tapes, a 26 year old single mother of an 8 year old son, and just an interesting, open-minded person. Another truly memorable person was Sue, the older woman (read grandmotherly) from Anchorage, Alaska, who had recently returned from the Peace Corps in Bulgaria, and was now serving as a leader. A vibrant woman, and if I have half the energy she does when I'm her age, I'll be amazed.

It was also refreshing to hang out with people who have a genuine respect for personal viewpoints, even if they don't agree. While many of us, being in national service, have similar views, we also realized that everyone was entitled to their own opinions. I don't remember anyone ever getting upset or frustrated with others about dissenting views, and no one letting a discussion become stupidly emotional, with ranting and raving. In fact, the last night of the training, we had a moment where we decided to not talk about politics anymore as we understood each others positions, and knew that we weren't going to change anyone's opinion.

Being in Atlanta (or any city for that matter) with a diverse group was interesting. The first night we just went across the street to a bar ($14 premium pitchers) and then went down the street to Spondivits, a local seafood restaurant, and had some more drinks there, where we had discussions on Reagan and the spread of HIV/AIDS, being a VISTA, and many other topics. The following night, we had to get away from the heavy-hotel, buffet food, so we went to a great Thai place (Tamarind) which has apparently been featured in Atlantic Monthly and was the Champions Dinner for the Masters when Singh won in 2001 (the place is lined with autographed pictures of PGA players from various years, including Woods), and was reasonable (I had pad thai for $12), and then to a bar that a local Starbucks barista had reccomended. The bar was Vinyl, which is next to the EarthLink Live concert venue which had just hosted Sonic Youth, and featured some live music and we (there were seven of us) got to sit in a great little nook with couches and a table while sharing great conversation.

Yesterday afternoon, we skipped the last training session (the training wasn't the greatest), and instead went downtown. We did the Underground, which I had pointed out to the others wasn't very exciting and way too touristy for what we wanted, but since we took the MARTA to that station, we walked through it, and the magic store was nice. We then found our way to Little Five Points, a nice, diverse area of town, similar to Ludlow in Cinci, with an eclectic mix of stores, include a great record store, that had a wonderful collection of magazines, music, and personality. We also had $1 sushi at Sweet Lime. The sushi was worth the $1, but wasn't great. We then went back to the hotel, went to the liquor store, and then hung out in someone's hotel room for the rest of the evening.

The week there also made me realize how nice light rail is. Anyway, I got to go run some more errands, since I leave for Burning Man tomorrow.