Ponder This

Wow… it has been over three months since I posted.

Sure… a lot has happened over the past 100+ days. Still, I haven’t been in a sharing mood. I’m sure that will be changing soon, as I am in the process of buying a cabin. More details will follow soon.

I have been doing a lot of reading, and when I find an interesting tidbit I save it to my “Ponder This” file I have in Google Docs.

“Sharing is caring,” right? So… I will be posting these juicy little morsels and tagging them as tidbits.

Next post to follow in 3… 2…


Join in the excess with E*Trade

When the new E*Trade commercial begins to play, it shines a spotlight on excess and how ludicrous it is.

The company even tells us it is…


Unfortunately, the commercial ends with their new slogan, “Don’t Get Mad,” inviting us to become a part of the problem.


Tom Shadyac: Simplicity, Community and Happiness

Today I came across an interview with Tom Shadyac and his movie, I Am. I didn’t expect to have a connection with the director of such classics films (NOT!) as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Nutty Professor.

I have posted the full interview (two parts) at the bottom of the page. It is all good stuff, but If you don’t want to stare at your computer or phone for 30 minutes, I have pulled out the two pieces I like the most.

Tom talks about simplicity, community, wealth and happiness. (5 minutes, 30 seconds)

Tom wraps up the interview nicely with the message of his movie. (1 minutes, 41 seconds)

I haven’t seen I Am, but I plan on watching it soon. I also reserved his book, Life’s Operating Manual: With the Fear and Truth Dialogues, from the library.

Full Interview (1 of 2)

(2 of 2)

Stein Club (929 Peachtree Street)

Today I decided to dive into the former nightlife along Peachtree Street and discovered Stein Club.

newspaper article photo of owner, David Heany, in front on Stein Club (c. 1980)

“We’re Not Buckhead” the bar proudly proclaimed while keeping glasses filled at 929 Peachtree Street. The pub attracted a mix of hippies, bikers, artists and beer lovers.

Donna Brown, a former regular of the bar, recalled her days at the Peachtree tavern. “The Stein Club was probably the highest IQ bar in the world,” she said. “There were artists, there were writers, journalists and also ne’er-do-wells, but they had the combination of being well-read.”

intersection of Peachtree Street and 8th Street, facing north (c. 1978)
Stein Club linocut print from artist Katherine W. Linn
facing south toward Peachtree (c. 1998)

The Stein Club displayed a variety of steins around the bar. Regulars could even bring in their own mug to enjoy their favorite brew. According to former manager George Faulkner, “you used to be able to come in and bring one of your own steins. We’d put them in the cooler and when you can in to drink a beer, you could drink out of your very own stein.”

Another popular draw to the neighborhood bar was the juke box, offering a diverse selection of tunes from classical to current.

Proposed developments and high rent forced the midtown bar out of town. After one “last gasp”, Stein Club closed its doors on June 10, 2000.

“I just don’t know if we really improve things by tearing them down,” said former owner Chris Lautz. “With all of the lofts coming in around here, its going to look just like a suburb soon.

Within a year of closing, Stein Club was razed and construction began on Metropolis, ushering in the hi-rise condo craze on Peachtree Street.

The two, 21-story towers of Metropolis, would include 498 residential units and 40,000 square feet of retail space. Completed in 2002, the developer followed in rapid succession with new developments down the street, Spire (860 Peachtree Street) and Viewpoint (855 Peachtree Street), before the Great Recession hit.

Lautz, who owned the bar for its last 11 years, had hoped to open Stein Club II in Downtown near Castleberry Hill. Unfortunately, these plans never materialized, and Stein Club regulars were left to find a new watering hole.

Photo Credits: We Miss the Stein Club (Atlanta bar), Novare Group, Georgia State University Digital Collections, Linn Print Works

The Farlinger/Frances Hotel (343 Peachtree Street)

I have passed SunTrust Plaza many times on my walks to and from Downtown Atlanta. The 60-story building is Atlanta’s second tallest, so it tends to demand your attention.

When walking I overlook verticals and focus on the horizon, like most people, to avoid stumbling into traffic or crashing into my fellow pedestrians. SunTrust Plaza doesn’t disappoint from the the ground either. The greenspace and courtyard sculptures at 343 Peachtree Street are a welcomed break in the concrete jungle as you’re leaving downtown.

Ground broke on the office building, greenery, statues, and fountains at SunTrust Plaza in 1989 and was completed in 1992. However, in order to make way for the new, Atlanta lost a building that was only a decade away from celebrating its centennial. That building was the Farlinger.

Built in 1898, the building gets its name from the original owner, Alex W. Farlinger. As Atlanta’s first large scale retail grocer, Farlinger envisioned “the model grocery store in the United States” for the lower level of the Farlinger. Above the grocery would be three floors of “French flats”, each with its own bath.

Alex W. Farlinger (c. 1900)

The architect, George W. Laine, would create Atlanta’s first apartment house in the Farlinger. Built at a cost of $42,000, the building would also become the first multi-use building in the city. In addition to the grocery store on the lower level, the first floor included a reception room for the wealthy female patrons. Inside the reception area, ladies could write letters, play the grand piano, or sip a cup of tea while clerks filled their orders. The Farlinger also included a fancy fourth-floor restaurant and an elaborate rooftop garden.

postcard image of Frances Hotel (c. 1950s)

The building was sold for $125,000 in 1910 and remained apartment for about the next 20 years. By 1931, the Farlinger was converted to the Frances Hotel. The 51-room hotel thrived for decades, but as time moved on, so did the upscale patrons. The once thriving central business district saw residents and customers flocking to the suburbs.

view of Frances Hotel along Peachtree Street (1978)

By the late-70s, strip clubs and peep shows became prominent on the block. Prostitution and homelessness became commonplace in the area. The Frances Hotel now catered to extended stay guests with rooms going for $9.72 per night and $55 per week in 1984.

Intersection of Peachtree Street and Peachtree Center Avenue (1985)

Atlanta preservationists fought to keep the Farlinger from demolition by adding the building to the National Register of Historic Places. Even so, the addition of the building to the prestigious list did not guarantee safety from the wrecking ball.

traveling south of Peachtree Street (1985)

By the mid 80s, the Farlinger had become an abandoned building and “a haven for the homeless”. With a non-working sprinkler system, a 1988 fire sealed the fate of the four-story icon and the building was razed the same year.

Out with the old and in with the new.

Adults play in the “Backstreet” (reprint)

While playing around in newspaper archives, I came across this article from The Georgia State University Signal from January 7, 1997. I would have been 21 at the time, but it would still be a couple of years before I made my first visit to Backstreet.

Adults play in the “Backstreet”

By Crystal Jaudon
Staff Writer

The night was full of promise as two roving newspaper types searched for an appropriate nightspot in which to intrude and demand entry. Actually, the people at Backstreet were incredibly cooperative and even friendly to a couple of novice college journalist out to snag a story and free admission. Located at 845 Peachtree St. N.E., this members only club is home of the one and only Ms. Charlie Brown. The mother of an all star cast of Grand Diva’s including Miz Lily White, Raven, Amanda Black and Heather Daniels. The cabaret motto reads something to this affect, “Welcome to Charlie Brown’s Cabaret where the men are men and the beautiful women… are men.” If this is shocking you, take a breather before continuing. Ready?

Charlie Brown’s Cabaret bombards the senses with comedy, dance, talented performers, great wait staff and cheap, yet tasty drinks. Definitely not for the meek, Ms. Charlie Brown goes for the jugular. Her barbed sarcastic humor drips with sticky, sweet honey as she good naturedly, rips those shreds who are rude, shy or simply from out of town. But, they love it! And they love her. The Charlie Brown quote for the night was, “Charlie Brown’s my name and fake is my game.

Raven, Charlie Brown’s co-host for the evening, gave the audience her dynamic rendition of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” in a midriff wedding ensemble with tassels. After her set, the Barbie of Backstreet moved through the audience forcing her victims to lace her shoes, mind their manners and acknowledge that we were in the presence of someone unaccustomed to dissension.

Although the show was hilarious and the drinks were good, the two novice journalist types had to pry themselves away from an excellent table, near the stage but not too far from the bar, to enter the land of Semi-Nude Male dancers. Wow! Not much one can say here, this is a school paper you know!

Stuart “Sweet Daddy” Gardner, the Senior Music and Video Programmer, creates that certain something that attracts young and old alike every Thursday, Friday and Saturday Night to Backstreet. “Sweet Daddy” has reported to Billboard Magazine since the eighties and has won international acclaim as one the best disc jockeys in the nation. But, to speak with the man is a rare treat, “I’m not interviewed much,” he says with the nicest voice as the flash explodes in a burst of bright light.

If you are interested in having a good time, with a diverse and good-natured crowd of people, join the club. Backstreet is members only, but a measly ten bones makes one a quarterly member with all of the privileges of membership. If you are under twenty-one do not even try it, everyone from twenty-one to ninety-one must show identification. So, adventurers have fun and as you step into Backstreet, an adult playground, remember this… approach that cute guy or girl you had been eyein’ all night, you may be surprised.

Peachtree Art Theatre (1137 Peachtree Street)

Peachtree Art Theatre (1948)

Rita Hayworth, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall… they were all big stars in 1946, the year the Peachtree Art Theatre opened in Atlanta. However, it was three years later when another star, Atlanta’s most popular resident, would be killed while crossing the street to watch a movie at the theater.

On Thursday, August 11, 1949, Margaret Mitchell and her husband were on their way to see A Canterbury Tale when she was struck by a speeding motorist. Her injuries included a fractured skull “from the top of her head to the top of the spine,” and two pelvis fractures. The famed Gone with the Wind author would not regained consciousness and died the five days later at Grady Hospital.

Hugh Gravitt, an off-duty taxi driver, was charged with drunken driving, speeding and driving on the wrong side of the street. Although Gravitt denied he was intoxicated, he would go on to be convicted of involuntary manslaughter and serve 10 years in prison for the death of the Pulitzer Prize winning author.

The Peachtree Art Theatre closed its doors in 1971.

Roma Lounge, Cine Showcase, unknown florist (1981)

The building at 1037 Peachtree Street would continue to house movie theaters and other business for the 15 or so years until it was razed to make room for Campanile Plaza. The 20-story office building was completed in 1987.

Campanile Plaza

Sources: Cinema Treasures, New York Times, Tulsa World. Photos from Georgia State University and Viracon.

Freedom through commitment (less is more)

The following is from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson.

Consumer culture is very good at making us want more, more, more. Underneath all the hype and marketing is the implication that more is always better. I bought into this idea for years. Make more money, visit more countries, have more experiences, be with more women.

But more is not always better. In fact, the opposite is true. We are actually often happier with less. When we’re overloaded with opportunities and options, we suffer from what psychologists refer to as the paradox of choice. Basically, the more options we’re given, the less satisfied we become with whatever we choose, because we’re aware of all the other options we’re potentially forfeiting.

So if you have a choice between two places to live and pick one, you’ll likely feel confident and comfortable that you made the right choice. You’ll be satisfied with your decision.

But if you have a choice among twenty-eight places to live and pick one, the paradox of choice says that you’ll likely spend years agonizing, doubting, and second-guessing yourself, wondering if you really made the “right” choice, and if you’re truly maximizing your own happiness. And this anxiety, this desire for certainty and perfection and success, will make you unhappy.

So what do we do? Well, if you’re like I used to be, you avoid choosing anything at all. You aim to keep your options open as long as possible. You avoid commitment.

But while investing deeply in one person, one place, one job, one activity might deny us the breadth of experience we’d like, pursuing a breadth of experience denies us the opportunity to experience the rewards of depth of experience. There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime. Now that I’m in my thirties, I can finally recognize that commitment, in its own way, offers a wealth of opportunity and experiences that would otherwise never be available to me, no matter where I went or what I did.

When you’re pursuing a wide breadth of experience, there are diminishing returns to each new adventure, each new person or thing. When you’ve never left your home country, the first country you visit inspires a massive perspective shift, because you have such a narrow experience base to draw on. But when you’ve been to twenty countries, the twenty-first adds little. And when you’ve been to fifty, the fifty-first adds even less.

The same goes for material possessions, money, hobbies, jobs, friends, and romantic/sexual partners—all the lame superficial values people choose for themselves. The older you get, the more experienced you get, the less significantly each new experience affects you. The first time I drank at a party was exciting. The hundredth time was fun. The five hundredth time felt like a normal weekend. And the thousandth time felt boring and unimportant.

The big story for me personally over the past few years has been my ability to open myself up to commitment. I’ve chosen to reject all but the very best people and experiences and values in my life. I shut down all my business projects and decided to focus on writing full-time. Since then, my website has become more popular than I’d ever imagined possible. I’ve committed to one woman for the long haul and, to my surprise, have found this more rewarding than any of the flings, trysts, and one-night stands I had in the past. I’ve committed to a single geographic location and doubled down on the handful of my significant, genuine, healthy friendships.

And what I’ve discovered is something entirely counterintuitive: that there is a freedom and liberation in commitment. I’ve found increased opportunity and upside in rejecting alternatives and distractions in favor of what I’ve chosen to let truly matter to me.

Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous. Commitment gives you freedom because it hones your attention and focus, directing them toward what is most efficient at making you healthy and happy. Commitment makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more, more, more again? Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would. In this way, the rejection of alternatives liberates us—rejection of what does not align with our most important values, with our chosen metrics, rejection of the constant pursuit of breadth without depth.

Yes, breadth of experience is likely necessary and desirable when you’re young—after all, you have to go out there and discover what seems worth investing yourself in. But depth is where the gold is buried. And you have to stay committed to something and go deep to dig it up. That’s true in relationships, in a career, in building a great lifestyle—in everything.