Like many, I find myself on the road this holiday season. While my head believes this trip might have been better postponed – nobody wants to go viral – my heart and my wife told me to pack a bag. So pack a bag I did.
As a result, I spent a little time at our airport. It is, I suppose, pretty nice as airports go. On a weekday afternoon, even during the holidays, it was blissfully free of fellow travelers. It was also, I noticed, less-than-blissfully free of something else.
Everywhere. I looked there were walls – blank, beige and looking for something to attract the curious eye. I expected photography – probably of the golf variety – but even that seemed in short supply. It seemed like a missed opportunity to promote our community and, in the fiendish plot I hatched while waiting for my flight, the artists that call Augusta home. Yes, there are a couple of long-standing displays dedicated to James Brown and Jessye Norman and a small display case near the gates – but nothing that speaks to and of the art community in a contemporary manner.
So, what if the first thing a visitor saw in Augusta was an art gallery – carefully curated and rife with the diverse talent that Augusta calls home? How might that change – or affirm – perceptions of the city? How might the kinetic brushless strokes of Baruti Tucker or the bold lines and graphic designs of Jason Craig inform opinion? Would Leonard ‘Porkchop’ Zimmerman’s surprisingly soulful robots prepare visitors for a different kind of Augusta experience, one aesthetically they may not have otherwise expected? Would Jay Jacobs’s deceptively playful approach to form and symbol help recast the city as a more astute community that otherwise expected? While a few beautiful pieces of art may not start a sea change of opinion, it might prove the sort of surprise that start the process. Rivers start as a stream after all. Besides, what would be the harm? Those beige walls seem to be asking for it.
Here’s some other things that I’ve been thinking of lately.
The Fox’s Lair
When my family moved to Augusta more than 40 years ago, our first stop was the then-active Telfair Inn downtown. And while encamped there, every evening my parents would turn on the television for me and my sister and take the short walk from our room to the hotel’s small basement bar. Well, the Telfair Inn closed so long ago that it’s barely remembered. But that bar, the Fox’s Lair, remains today.
Unlike a lot of watering holes, the Lair has survived because it knows exactly what it is. It small, suitable only for intimate entertainment such as acoustic acts or perhaps the occasional comic. It’s not a dance club. It’s not a loud club. It’s a quiet bar for a quiet evening with friends – like a living room with a liquor license. It’s the kind of venue every town needs, and Augusta is very lucky to have.
Bands on the run?
A quick glance at the charts show us that bands – rock, soul or otherwise – are not the current musical standard. Single performers and studio projects are the jam when it comes to jams these days. It’s been the cycle for quite a while. But that hasn’t necessarily been the case in Augusta. Ours is a community that has always embraced bands. But those numbers, in recent years have fallen off precipitously. I’m not sure why.
Certainly there are still musicians playing around town. But the new model seems to be cover and tribute acts – an entertainment option, when done well, I whole-heartedly endorse. I never saw Lynyrd Skynyrd, but I sure saw Goin’ South.
But what’s missing are the bands that write songs and offer them up for our consideration. There are a few around and I know from covering Augusta music for many years these downturns are inevitable and cyclical. That said, this one seems have gone on longer and cut much deeper than any period in recent history. So I’m putting out a call to all the singers and guitar slingers, to the bands toiling in the garages and back rooms from Appling to Beech Island – let’s hear what you’ve got. The rock and roll radio the Ramones once extolled may be a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean local fans won’t get behind the classic sound of guitar, bass and drums.
Hey Yule! What’s in a name?
Somehow my Netflix queue has been infected with Christmas movies. And not just any Christmas movies – because I’m always down for the occasional reindeer romp – but movies that have, without shame, stolen the style and format from the well-established Hallmark model. While not exactly carbon copies – the Netflix versions can trend a little more raunchy than the driven snow movies on Hallmark – what is similar is the titling conventions. Like beauty salons and coffee shops before them, the Netflix/Hallmark/whoever movies love an often-clumsy play on words involving holiday iconography. Whether it’s a “Mistletoe Miracle” or “Gift of Love,” these romances never seem to run out of ways to tie the Christmas spirit to romantic stirring. And while I often find these titles unintentionally hilarious – “Love Under the Christmas Tree” sounds like a good way to find needles in unexpected and unpleasant places – I have to wonder if there will come a time when the title well runs dry.
So here’s my holiday challenge to you. Give me your best Hallmark-style holiday movie title. And because we dig diversity here at the Bag, I’m hoping to hear some ideas that go beyond Christmas-obvious. Give me your Kwanzaa, your Hanukah, your Winter Solstice. Who knows, perhaps an idea generated here will lead to the next great – by Hallmark standards – holiday classic.
Steven Uhles has worked as professional journalist in the Augusta area for 22 years, and his Pop Rocks column ran in The Augusta Chronicle for more than 20. He lives in Evans with his wife, two children and a dog named after Hunter Thompson.