Tag: Atlanta

Two positive stories from Birmingham

By Gary Lloyd

There are positive stories happening in Birmingham.

Two recently stand out.

A Tarrant High School graduate, Corey Patrick, had been taking a transit bus to school all year, getting up as early as 4:30 a.m. to make the 5:41 a.m. bus. He took the bus to his graduation this month, wearing his cap and gown. Determination. Read about that here.

Radio host Rickey Smiley gave Patrick his own car Friday morning. A graduation party is planned for Patrick on June 23 in Birmingham.

How awesome is that?

In other Birmingham-area uplifting news, a 4-year-old is acting as a superhero by feeding the homeless. His catchphrase? “Don’t forget to show love.” You can read more about Austin Perine and donate to his cause here.

And people think only negative news comes out of Birmingham.

Wrong.

Community Heroes Week returns to Atlanta Braves in August

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves Foundation and FOX Sports South have announced the return of Community Heroes Week, the inspiring, weeklong community recognition initiative.

The third annual Community Heroes Week will take place Aug. 13-17, when the Braves host the Miami Marlins and Colorado Rockies. Nominations are now being accepted and can be submitted on http://www.Braves.com/inspire.

The Braves are seeking nominations for individuals who have made a lasting and positive impact on their community in Braves Country. A panel of Braves and FOX Sports South staff will select five individuals to be named the 2018 Community Heroes Week Honorees. Nominations will be accepted until Friday, June 15.

“We have been inspired and grateful by these wonderful people in our community over the last few years,” said Atlanta Braves Director of Community Affairs Ericka Newsome. “We are delighted to continue to recognize people in Braves Country who go above and beyond to help others and make our community a better place.”

On each day of Community Heroes Week, the Braves will recognize a different Honoree by surprising them with a day of VIP treatment. From the surprise of meeting Braves players and FOX Sports South on-air talent to a game at SunTrust Park that evening, every Honoree’s day will be filled with unforgettable elements. Each Honoree’s story will also be shared during the game and in the FOX Sports South telecast, to celebrate the individual and bring awareness to their cause or organization.

“We look forward to again showcasing Honorees from Community Heroes Week during our Braves telecasts on FOX Sports South and FOX Sports Southeast,” said Rolanda Gaines, Director of Marketing and Communications for FOX Sports South. “This is fun and compelling initiative that allows us to shine a light on everyday people.”

For more information, visit http://www.Braves.com/inspire.

Some positive news from Atlanta

I went to Atlanta this weekend, and if you perused the Georgia headlines, you would have seen this:

A Gainesville, Ga., man was charged with molesting an eleven-year-old girl. 

A man was shot outside of a Krispy Kreme.

A middle school student brought a gun to school and showed it to classmates. 

A man fired a shot into the air after a disagreement with his Uber driver. 

You see these headlines daily. You see them everywhere, in Georgia and California and Europe and Alabama and Canada and everywhere else. It’s maddening. But this isn’t one of those posts. This isn’t a cry for gun control or stiffer penalties for criminals. No, this is a post about, dare I say, some positive things I saw in Georgia this weekend, and they all happened Saturday.

As a group of four of us walked around downtown Saturday afternoon, we encountered a woman who was shouting at no one in particular in a courtyard. I grew concerned as we passed her. As it turns out, she was shouting about despite her circumstances, whatever they are, no one will take her peace and joy in life, no matter what. 

We stopped off for some caffeine at a Burger King, and then proceeded toward Underground Atlanta, which has closed its stores for now to renovate and construct new mixed-use developments. We approached a crosswalk, where I heard a man yelling around the corner. Imagine you’re in downtown Atlanta and you hear commotion nearby. What is your first thought?

What we saw was surprising and refreshing. A group of about ten men had gathered on that corner, and one of them was doing all the talking. Men held tattered Bibles and nodded their heads as the one man preached.  

We took an Uber that night, a day after one man fired a shot into the air after a dispute with his driver. I sat up front with our driver, who we read in a review was a good conversationalist. He was silent, and I couldn’t stand it. I asked him if he liked his job, and he said that after just a few months, he really enjoys it. I learned that he lived in Texas for 12 years, Tampa Bay for 10, and has been in Atlanta for five.

He had worked in the grocery business, and he was never off work.

“It was too much,” he said.

With Uber, he picks the times he likes to work. He’s his own boss. He typically works from 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. until after midnight, so that he can get his two boys ready for school in the mornings and pick them up in the afternoons. 

It was an expensive ride for us, considering it was on a Saturday in downtown Atlanta, but I’m glad he was our driver. 

We attended a concert that night, and the main act was not my kind of music. It rattled the walls and shook the blood in my veins. My brother’s ears were ringing two days later. I couldn’t understand almost all the lyrics. But the group’s most popular song ended with these lyrics:

“Hope for the hopeless, a light in the darkness,
Hope for the hopeless, a light in the dark,
We stand for the faithless and the broken,
Hope for the hopeless, a light in the dark.”
 

Augusta

Have you ever been teased with something to the point you could cry? The perfect house is fifty thousand dollars over your budget. Your favorite college football team loses the national championship game on the final play. The McRib makes its comeback the week after you started a fierce diet.

We’ve all been there. My biggest tease was a golf course. Not just any old acreage of grass, but Augusta National in eastern Georgia, home of The Masters, the best golf tournament the sport has to offer. Let me explain.

The tournament is always in April. To attend, whether it be one of four rounds, a practice round or par 3 contest, you must sign up online to enter a ticket lottery. Winners of tickets are selected at random. You will refresh your email for the results like a lunatic, believe me. In 2014, a friend of ours won tickets to the Monday practice round. He, another friend, my dad and I made the trip. We stayed in a small hotel about an hour outside of Augusta, and the aroma of a nearby Waffle House hung thick in the air. We gave in and went around nine-thirty that night.

The next morning, it was foggy, with rain in the forecast. We toted umbrellas and pullovers and prayers for the rain to hold off. It didn’t. We strolled parts of the most beautiful golf course in the world for fewer than two hours. The practice round was canceled really before it got started. Major bummer. Just setting foot on the muddy grounds was more than most golf fans get in a lifetime. We were appreciative.

Then, a miracle. Everyone who came that day got rain checks. We were allowed to come back in 2015. We had a year to speak with the golf gods, to plead for pleasant weather. April finally came and we drove Interstate 20 across the state line, past Atlanta and on to Augusta. No rain. We wanted to see it all.

Television does not do Augusta justice, no matter your TV’s size or 1080p resolution. The grounds are hilly and spacious. The fairways are so pristine that you feel as if walking on them is a felony. Early in our tour, we had our picture taken in front of Hole No. 13’s green, encircled by bright pink and purple flowers. The hole’s name is, fittingly, Azalea. We watched Tiger Woods tee off on a long hole called Yellow Jasmine, stood in a long line to have our photo taken on Magnolia Lane, saw Titleist ProV1s clear Rae’s Creek on No. 12, walked every square inch of the place that we could, ate pimiento cheese sandwiches for a dollar-fifty. 

I watched the eventual tournament winner, Jordan Spieth, send golf balls airborne on the driving range. I stood close to Graeme McDowell, who played at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, as he putted on the practice green. I said hello to Tom Rinaldi, who tells tear-jerkers for ESPN. 

You don’t have to appreciate golf to have a blast at Augusta. It is heaven on earth, even if it rains. The merchandise store has more stuff for sale than a Sam’s Club, and the food is always cheap. 

I’ve passed through the gates at Augusta National twice, and will most likely never win the ticket lottery. Every time I’ve tried, I have eventually received the “We’re sorry” reply. 

But you can bet I will sign up every year for the rest of my life.

A peaceful getaway

It is easy to navigate your way to the height of the Smoky Mountains, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

But the foothills, maybe the best place for a getaway, lie in Ellijay, Georgia. Ellijay is an hour and a half north of Atlanta, about the same distance to the south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. If you blink, you could miss it.

My wife and I made a quick three-day getaway to Ellijay in the fall of 2016. I had never heard of the place, and I sort of liked that. Sometimes the best places to visit are the ones where you have to search, and search hard, for the place you’re staying in.

That’s what we had to do. It was the sort of trip that a GPS was good for getting you halfway there. It got us to Atlanta and through Canton. Then, the directions we had received from the cabin rental staff took over. The directions advised to continue through Jasper to Ellijay, proceed to the third traffic light at the Hardee’s intersection, and turn left. I love directions that utilize landmarks.

We then made turns on Industrial Boulevard and Main Street and a couple Georgia highways before reaching the gatehouse that acted as the check-in area. From the gate, we were to stay on the paved road for two and a half miles, and were instructed to clock our mileage. We crossed two bridges and veered right at a “Canoe Park” sign. Again, perfect directions.

Our cabin was a dream. There was a wraparound porch that included cushioned chairs and a fireplace with a teal “Relax” sign pinned to it. There was a hot tub and a fenced-in yard for our dog, Sonny, to roam in. There was a gas grill, and an American flag hanging over the front porch. 

We did a whole lot of nothing on this trip, and it was bliss. We walked to a nearby river several times a day, casting purple Zoom worms into shallow water that never seemed to flow. We didn’t catch a thing in three days, but many times fishing is not about the end result. We took Sonny hiking, and at night he snored in front of the fireplace. We peered through the living room and kitchen windows to see deer bounding through the pines, and strutting up the paved road. Near our cabin, we saw more deer in three days than humans.

At night, we played card games and tested our knowledge with a trivia game about the television series “Friends.” We watched Christmas movies, as is tradition in November and December, and I introduced Jessica to the awesomeness that is the Indiana Jones trilogy from the 1980s.

We heard just about nothing. The notable sounds I remember from this trip are the occasional rumble of a vacationer passing over a rusty iron bridge, Sonny’s collar tag jingling as he shook off river water, and the fishing line peeling out of the reel of a Zebco 33.

We took photos that should be featured on postcards, from deer crossing the street to green-headed mallards easing down the river. I snapped a shot of Jessica and Sonny standing on the muddy bank of that river. Jessica is in her boots and a blue long-sleeve Florida Gators shirt, and Sonny is actually looking at the camera. You can see trees leaning over the river, and the multicolored leaves swept along the ridge. I can’t believe I was so lucky to get that photo. It’s my favorite. 

We had to come home from Ellijay just when we had decided that cabin should be our forever home, away from car payments, career disappointments and an ugly world that I fear has lost much of its beauty.

For now, at least, when I’m having a bad day, all I have to do to smile is pull out my iPhone and look at my new background photo.

Typical disturbances not in store

I wrote about this shopping center quite a few times. It was never about a new store opening, or a door-buster sale.

It was always about crimes and disturbances. 

There was the possible flash mob in the summer of 2011. There was the alleged shoplifter in 2013 who fled from loss prevention authorities and struck an elderly man with his vehicle. 

The last quarter of 2014 was full. In October, I wrote about two alleged purse-snatchers at this shopping center. Their M.O. was simple: One suspect would approach the women, loading purchased items into their vehicles, and he would say “Hello.” He would then snatch the purse and jump into a SUV that fled. 

The next month, I wrote about shoplifters who crashed into two police cars during their attempt to flee the scene. The driver was caught after the wreck, while the passenger ran but was later apprehended. A responding police officer broke a finger in that ordeal. Luckily, I had the opportunity to also write about the suspects’ arrests.

After I left the daily journalism world, I often read about this shopping center. There was a weekday bomb threat at its anchor store in 2015. The store was evacuated. A year later, there was another bomb threat. 

In December 2015, I read again about a shoplifter who fled, made it not even a mile, and wrecked into another vehicle. I read about police having to respond to a large group of loiterers on Christmas night in 2016. This January, I read about two people being arrested for disorderly conduct, and another person with a gun.

These stories make me uneasy. My mom shops there, as does my mother-in-law. Friends shop there. I’m thankful for police presence, but my Lord, it shouldn’t be that much of a necessity. 

Today I went to this shopping center to eat lunch with my brother. I have become accustomed to seeing the red and blue lights here, the suspicious people strutting between the cars in the dark. Not today. Today was different. As I made the right turn into the shopping center, I saw a handful of people holding large white signs. 

Great, I thought. I have seen photos and videos from the political protests across the nation. I was in Atlanta recently and observed about a hundred people marching in support of Obamacare. I assumed this would be something similar. We are conditioned to believe it is always a protest, these days.

I was dead wrong.

I’m not sure who they were, a family or members of some church group. But printed on their signs in red were “Stop For Prayer” and “Jesus Cares.”

I just hope those past stories, of fleeing thieves and hoax bomb threats, didn’t scare people away and keep them from seeing this today.