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Celebrating 20 Years in Business on Scenic Highway 30A!

“Furry friends on 30A like Tiger love the Smile, too! I am proud to support Laurie Hood at Alaqua Animal Refuge and all the wonderful work they do for animal welfare in Northwest Florida and beyond.” —Linda

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In this issue On the Cover

Laurie Hood, the founder of Alaqua Animal Refuge in Freeport, Florida, became an animal advocate at a young age. Now a two-time VIE cover girl, Hood embodies the determination and tireless effort that animal welfare advocates across the country put forth every day to help four-legged, furry, and feathered friends of all species. We are proud to share her journey and the expansion plan for Alaqua as it moves into a new phase. The story “Big Dreams Require Big Vision” is beautifully and boldly told by a fellow advocate, former CEO of The Humane Society of the United States Wayne Pacelle. Hood is pictured with Mocha, a stunning Alaskan malamute/Siberian husky mix who is available for adoption at the refuge. Photo by Romona Robbins Hairstylist: Adrianne Brackett, Pure & Couture Salon Makeup artist: Tania Crawford, Pure & Couture Salon Jewelry: Carrie Rhea Designs






Big Dreams Require Big Vision: Saving Animals One Day at a Time

96 The Call of the Wild: Artist Alex Beard’s


102 History and Nature Go Hand in Hand: The Art of Conservation

36 The Grateful Tread: 30A 10K Goes the Distance 42 Holding Your Horses 48 Kidding Around

VOYAGER 53 54 The Little Easy: Gracious Mobile Shows Its Mardi Gras Spirit Year-Round 66 Adventures in South Africa: Capturing

Animals through a Lens

76 Chasing Tigers: On Safari in India 82 Bears and Dogs and Wolves—Oh My! Explore Greece beyond the Beaches and Islands 88 Safari by Boat: Touring Namibia’s Zambezi Region

Mission to Save the Animals He Celebrates on Canvas

108 The Nature Within: Amy Guidry Gets Surreal


INTROSPECTIONS 119 120 How Do We Love Thee? 124 How to Get Across the Road When a Python Is in Your Way











VIE is a registered trademark. All contents herein are Copyright © 2008–2018 Cornerstone Marketing and Advertising, Incorporated (Publisher). All rights reserved. No part of this periodical may be reproduced without written permission from the Publisher. VIE is a lifestyle magazine and is published twelve times annually on a monthly schedule. The opinions herein are not necessarily those of the Publisher. The Publisher and its advertisers will not be held responsible for any errors found in this publication. The Publisher is not liable for the accuracy of statements made by its advertisers. Ads that appear in this publication are not intended as offers where prohibited by state law. The Publisher is not responsible for photography or artwork submitted by freelance or outside contributors. The Publisher reserves the right to publish any letter addressed to the editor or the Publisher. VIE is a paid publication. Subscription rates: Printed magazine – One-year $29.95; Two-year $54.95. Subscriptions can be purchased online at

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Editor’s Note

When Your Heart Is Your Guide


’ve met many talented, successful, and impressive people in my journey through life, but not many of them shine as brightly as the visionary founder of Alaqua Animal Refuge, Laurie Hood. This tall, willowy, green-eyed blonde with an effervescent, inspiring personality and runway-model good looks has been a tireless and passionate animal advocate since she was a child. She has accomplished many good things on behalf of animals as she educates the public, leading the way in showing compassion, love, and humanity toward all creatures. She is something of a healing counselor whose love nurtures a bond between animals and the community.

Laurie and her husband, Taylor, who is the executive director of Alaqua, recently hosted a fund-raiser on the lawn of their home in Freeport, Florida, which overlooks the serene West Bayou on the Choctawhatchee Bay. Devoted friends and family and beloved patrons shared a memorable evening under the stars during the Fifth Annual 100-Point and Cult Wine Dinner on June 16. Love and excitement for this great cause filled the air, as did the aromas of wonderful food prepared by Chef Nikhil Abuvala of Roux 30a. The event’s mission was to raise money for the next phase of Alaqua Animal Refuge, which is poised to become one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive animal sanctuaries and educational centers. It will connect people and animals in a place that, until now, seemed only imaginable in a storybook. New York Times best-selling author and former CEO of The Humane Society of the United States Wayne Pacelle eloquently penned our feature story, “Big Dreams Require Big Vision,” expounding on Laurie’s magnificent obsession. Mother, wife, entrepreneur, fund-raiser, animal advocate, and visionary are just some of the roles Laurie fills on a daily basis. Even more impressive is how she does it all with grace, a beautiful smile for all, and a calm resolve that she is going to see her vision through to the end. I had only a glimpse into the daily life of Laurie Hood during the week of our cover photo shoot and her fund-raiser, but I can tell you that not many could keep her schedule and still maintain such determination. When posing for a photo with an armful of puppies, she smiled and said, “People think all I do is play with puppies all day.” As much as she might like to do just that, running a massive nonprofit animal refuge does not leave her very much time. One of the highlights from our cover shoot included meeting a blind palomino named Delilah; Delilah had been scheduled to be euthanized—that is, until Laurie learned about her and bought her the night before

she was to be put down. This is just one of many heartwarming examples of our cover girl’s deep love and concern for animals. We watched her talk to her many birds—and them talk back to her—and bottle-feed a piglet she named Nugget, who was the runt of the litter. Being around the animals and witnessing the love shown by her employees, volunteers, and donors is a very humbling and grounding experience.

Above: Patrons gather by the Choctawhatchee Bay at the home of Laurie and Taylor Hood for the Fifth Annual 100-Point and Cult Wine Dinner benefiting Alaqua Animal Refuge. Left: Gerald and Lisa Burwell, VIE’s publisher and editor-in-chief, respectively, with Laurie and Taylor Hood Photos by Dawn Chapman Whitty

The vision and heart behind VIE from its inception was to create a platform for good news and to tell stories of the everyman and everywoman who defy the odds to attain a goal simply because it is the right thing to do—in other words, people fulfilling their destinies. Laurie exemplifies an ordinary person who is following her dreams and accomplishing the extraordinary. I thank her for leading by example and proving that one person can make a difference. To Life!

—Lisa Marie Founder/Editor-In-Chief



Sucre Says

Is the Answer


s I paw my second editor’s column, I am delighted to be VIE’s canine ambassador, allowing me to use my voice for the good of mankind and animal-kind alike in our secondever Animal Issue. As we all know, many people think that dogs are man’s best friend—and indeed we are—but our masters are everything to us as well! We basically live to love our human families. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it, but the word dog spelled backward is God, so I’m sure we were created to love and then love some more. I wish humans could learn to love as we do. Unconditionally. If my words of wisdom could teach you only one thing, it would be to love and accept each other. My mom sometimes sings a tune from the 1960s when we’re driving in the car (and I love a good car ride); it’s called “What the World Needs Now Is Love” by Dionne Warwick. I guess there just isn’t enough of it.

Always be kind and truthful, and make sure to stretch every day, as it’s important.

Sucre Burwell – VIE's Chief Security Officer Photo by Troy Ruprecht

get plenty of water. Take lots of walks and definitely smell the roses—and everything else too. I am a Francophile just like my mom, so I will close my letter to you in French. And, I hope our readers don’t mind that I am using a photo that I used four years ago—I really think I look good in this picture! Au revoir,

Many years ago, while eating lunch outside at one of my favorite places—it was Smiling Fish in Gulf Place, and unfortunately it isn’t open any longer—I met a young girl and her mother from out of town, and the girl suggested to me that my column should be called “Sucre Says.” I wish I could remember her name these several years later, as this is the perfect name. My own human mother always says, “Out of the mouth of babes speaks the truth.” So what else do I have to say? Always be kind and truthful, and make sure to stretch every day, as it’s important. Learn not to take life so seriously, as it goes by too fast (even faster for my species). Don’t eat too much, but enjoy your meals and

—Sucre Chief Security Officer


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The Creatives

We collaborate with talented photographers, writers, and other creatives on a regular basis, and we’re continually inspired by how they pour their hearts and souls into their crafts. Follow these creatives on social media and don’t forget to check out our account, @viemagazine.



Writer, “Big Dreams Require Big Vision”

Writer, “History and Nature Go Hand in Hand”



I relate to wolves. Their lives are built around a family social structure. They are intensely loyal, cooperate and share in so many tasks, and care for all members of their group. In a broader sense, they have a beneficial effect on the ecosystems in which they live, providing a check on prey populations and benefiting forests, streams, and all the species that depend upon their health. Without wolves, ecosystems miss a crucial component.

I most relate to the Sasquatch—and yes, late one night, years ago, I encountered the mythical wild man-beast on a dark, remote highway in Tennessee. Bigfoot and I share many traits. I too am tall, hairy, and mysterious. We are both champions of sorts, as Bigfoot is the reigning hide-and-seek champion (undefeated, in fact) and I commonly use the hashtag #winning. But to me, the most relatable trait of my untamed brother is that he has the same problem I do with profile photos—all the good ones are blurry.



Writer and photographer, “Adventures in South Africa”

Artist, “The Nature Within”

LAURIE HOOD Founder, Alaqua Animal Refuge @alaquaanimalrefuge

I have the pleasure of intimately getting to know many different species, and as a woman of many dimensions I feel I have traits that associate me with each one. I can relate to the fierce loyalty and forgiving nature of a dog. I sometimes need quiet time to curl up on my bed like a cat. I love to go on long walks on wooded trails like a horse. I can relate to why exotic birds have an inner circle of people that they trust more than others and appreciate the time it takes to become one of the chosen ones.

As I spend far more of my time in the company of dogs than with people in general, my answer can only be dogs. Interaction with any dog, not just my own, never fails to improve my day. Unfortunately, interactions with my fellow Homo sapiens tend to be hit-and-miss!

I’ve had dogs all my life and always felt like I related to them best; but the older I get, the more I’m starting to relate to cats. Cats have their routines, they know what they want, and they like things to be clean. I can relate to all of these characteristics, though my desk is the one thing that’s not very clean. It’s more Tasmanian devil!


La conversation


@carrie.rhea.designs Make a statement. Recycled African glass beads. Carved dyed bone beads. Vintage African brass bead accents. Have you picked up the June issue of @viemagazine? The Travel & Tech Issue—filled with insightful, informative, interesting reads. @In Detail Interiors Very cool article on our firm in VIE magazine July 2018! Pick up a copy! Many thanks to our clients for allowing us in their home!

@beauhomeinteriors Had a great shoot with the talented @romonarobbinsreynolds! Stay tuned for our upcoming @viemagazine ad featuring this dapper model, Phoenix!

LET’S TALK! Send VIE your comments and photos on our social media channels or by emailing us at We’d love to hear your thoughts. They could end up in the next La conversation!

@oasispearldestin Enjoying our lunch break by relaxing and catching up on the latest issue of @viemagazine. It’s all about architecture and design, which, of course, we love!

@fancycamps This shoot with VIE magazine is one of our all-time favorites! Thanks for the repost @lets_camp_more.


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Saving Animals One Day at a Time BY

24 | AUGU S T 2018

Wayne Pacelle |


Romona Robbins

Hood with a recent rescue of adorable sixweek-old puppies at the Alaqua Animal Refuge V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 25

Animals always had a central place in Hood’s life; she and her mom took in strays, making their home something of a makeshift refuge. But like most animal lovers, she wasn’t part of an organized movement, especially because her area had few groups with a presence or profile.

Laurie Hood has never been an armchair advocate for animals. She’s more of an arm twister. Growing up in the central Louisiana town of Alexandria—at the midpoint of a diagonal line between New Orleans and Shreveport in the northwest—Laurie’s first foray into advocacy came in the second grade. “Boys were shooting songbirds with BB guns,” Hood tells me. “I was upset about these poor birds and I wanted to do something about it.” Channeling the centuries-old moral adage that the boy throws stones at the frog in fun, but the creature dies in earnest, the indignant seven-year-old told her mother—whom Laurie credits with instilling “a sense of empathy in me early on”—that someone had to do something. Armed with her petitions demanding that the boys stop their mischief, Hood went house to house urging the adults in her neighborhood to rein in the kids. Even in Louisiana, where the license plates are emblazoned with the motto “Sportsman’s Paradise” and hunting and fishing are common field sports, shooting songbirds has long been out-of-bounds. “Pretty much everybody signed,” Hood recalls, with the residents motivated perhaps as much by their affinity for animals as their admiration for the indomitable little blonde with her twist on petitioning city hall. In the end, the town fathers and mothers told the boys to shoot at inanimate targets only and to leave the white-breasted nuthatches, Carolina wrens, and any other songbirds alone. 26 | AUGU S T 2018

She moved to Northwest Florida during her senior year of high school, but then bounced back and forth between the two states, attending Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge for her undergraduate degree. After a few marketing jobs, she settled in the Florida Panhandle town of Destin to build a family with her husband, Taylor (they have two sons, Crockett and Garner). It would take some years before helping animals on a significant scale became all-consuming, and with no major group to join and lead, Hood realized she’d have to build it herself.

ALAQUA ANIMAL REFUGE I S B ORN Typically, animal welfare groups are born of crisis. Some horrible event or festering condition is so jarring and awful that it inspires leaders to act and work to turn the situation around. That’s the creation story of Alaqua Animal Refuge.

Hood’s epiphany came in 2007 when she and a friend found their way to a rural shelter in Washington County, Florida. Fans of adoption, they went to the only operating shelter they could find, a private facility that contracted with neighboring Walton County and other county animal control agencies to hold stray and surrendered dogs and cats. It was a converted chicken coop, absent any comforts or flourishes, chaotic with the sounds of relentless barking, the air filled with the unpleasant odors of ammonia and other animal waste, and scared animals crowded into rudimentary cages.

services such as sterilization or vaccination. The fee, however, would be waived if she came on behalf of an animal welfare charity.

And this was the best—essentially the only—“humane” organization in the entire region, “except for a small group of dedicated women who did spay-and-neuter work,” Hood says.

Hood told them she’d be back the next day and asked them not to kill any of the animals in the interim. That night she went online, created the Alaqua Animal Refuge, and presented the paperwork to the shelter staff the next day. She left the facility with not only the nine dogs but also thirty other animals. She and Taylor lived on ten acres, but they had no animal sheltering capacity. “We put the animals in the barn, and I made cages,” she says. According to Hood, Taylor was as agreeable as anyone could be to having their home turned into an animal shelter. It would be the start of his journey. (At the time, he was the general manager of a highly successful automobile dealership that has been a high-profile family business for decades, and last year, he gave that up after twenty-five years to become director of operations at Alaqua, where he oversees animal care.)

Hood and her friend asked about the adoption fee for a mother dog and her eight puppies. It would be $900 for the entire family, perhaps without any medical

Born overnight, Alaqua not only grew in the months and years ahead but also stirred the conscience of

To Hood’s astonishment, one dog had an arrow protruding from his head. Other dogs had fallen ill and went untreated. There were no volunteers and only a handful of poorly paid personnel. The facility did not advertise that it was open to the public, and by the looks of it, according to Hood, the operators didn’t seem like they were planning on having visitors at all. The facility held the animals for a few days, consistent with state law, and then euthanized them, typically with a heart stick (a lethal intracardiac injection that is widely considered inhumane). Only a handful of animals who went in made it out alive, with the kill rate exceeding 95 percent.

Above: Laurie and Taylor Hood with their two sons, Crockett and Garner, along with their dogs, Kylie and Moonpie, and cat, Red Opposite: Hood goes barefoot chic on the refuge in a cotton dress from local boutique Kiki Risa, a supporting business.


Above: Hood bottlefeeding piglet Nugget, a newcomer to Alaqua and the runt of the litter

people throughout Northwest Florida. Today, a small staff and four hundred volunteers take care of packs, herds, and orphans, and thousands visit the refuge every year. Since its inception, Alaqua has adopted out more than fifteen thousand animals, but even that number vastly understates the impact and says nothing about its range of education and advocacy programs. While the work has been tangible and constitutes a remarkable upgrade in animal welfare for the region, Hood reminds me that she and her team are still overwhelmed. The sprawling, beautiful, well-tended grounds, which I first visited in 2016, are always at capacity. Even with the drumbeat of outreach and education that Alaqua conducts for the community about spay-and-neuter and responsible pet care, “We get as many as a hundred surrender requests a day,” Hood says. She is frustrated that Alaqua is only able to take three or four animals a day. That means that in a county of fifty thousand, and a region of perhaps two hundred thousand people, she’s getting requests to surrender three thousand animals a month, or thirty-six thousand a year—a figure perhaps larger than the combined intake totals for the three or four biggest shelters in New York, a city of eight million people.

THE F UTUR E O F ANIMAL WELFARE These days, she’s focused on developing one of the boldest undertakings in animal welfare anywhere, and Northwest Florida is the backdrop and the beneficiary. According to Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, a key partner with Hood on animal issues, she possesses the best qualities in leadership, engaging pet lovers and conservationists, philanthropists and architects, politicians and prosecutors, and just about anybody else whose forearm she can gently twist. 28 | AUGU S T 2018

“Laurie has that rare combination of passion and vision.”

“Laurie has that rare combination of passion and vision,” said the lawman, who is also president of the Florida Sheriffs Association. “Few people possess both qualities. She’s an outlier in the best sense of the word.” Thanks to a land donation from the late businessman and conservationist M.C. Davis and his wife, Stella, plus cash gifts of $500,000 from the Dugas Family Foundation (the family that started Dollar General) and $1 million from Raven and Ryan Jumonville, Hood’s got a one-hundred-acre stage to build on in Freeport, Florida, adjacent to the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center. She calculates that the first phase of the “small town” she’s building will cost $15

Left: Hood frolics with her favorite white cockatoo, Ivory. V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 29

million—about fifteen times her current annual budget. The scale of work she’s imagining is breathtaking.

Right: The master plan of the future Alaqua Animal Refuge complex Rendering courtesy of Schnell Urban Design Below: JR and Little Feather spend time together in the pasture.

The proposed complex includes dog and cat shelters, pastures for large domesticated mammals, a fenced forty-acre habitat for wildlife deemed unreleasable, a covered horse-riding arena, a veterinary hospital, and a forensics lab to aid in anticruelty investigations. She’s also building a bird sanctuary (to deal with the unfinished business of her childhood activism). The new facility will also have an education center—even a chapel and a healing center for people experiencing grief after losing a pet. At the complex, veterans and kids with autism will have the opportunity to interact with animals and heal. She also imagines it as a place where people will celebrate weddings and other meaningful life experiences in the presence of animals, getting a firsthand view of what the human heart can achieve when it’s open to the needs and suffering of other creatures. And she’s doing this in the mostly rural South, where animal problems are acute and the investments in animal welfare through the decades have been sparing at best. In her area, there’s barely any capacity to solve animal homelessness, to aid wildlife injuries

and rehabilitation, or to tackle cruelty investigations. The good news is that the people of Northwest Florida seem more than ready to join Hood’s crusade. So far, I haven’t run into anyone who doesn’t think she’ll make it happen. Indeed, even if she must go door-to-door in the towns of Northwest Florida to succeed, she’s more than capable of putting a petition in hand and hitting the street.

CHANGING THE LAW FOR GOOD Hood is also doing animal cruelty investigations in an area where arrests for animal abuses were unheard of. That work is so robust that Nat Geo Wild, the cable network, had more than enough material to complete a series on Hood and Walton County animal control officers called Animal PD. The show first aired in April 2018, and episodes are available for streaming on Fox’s website. Nothing was more painful to Hood than her first cruelty case in 2010, involving a miniature horse named Champ. Walton County officials delivered what was left of Champ to Alaqua; he was a miniature horse who should have weighed three hundred pounds but came in at a ghost-like fifty pounds. “I still don’t understand how he survived,” Hood reminds me. “I slept in the barn with him for ten days,” providing companionship, food, and water, and just trying to show him that all humans aren’t evil. Local prosecutors brought charges against Champ’s former owner, but two successive judges balked at conducting a formal proceeding despite overwhelming evidence that the horse had been starved. The decision not to proceed by the judges meant that Champ could be taken from Alaqua and go back to the owner. That was too much for Hood, and she went public with

30 | AUGU S T 2018

“ “There is little she cannot

do for the creatures who share our planet. Laurie is ‘all in’ for animals.”

Below: Amanda together with her piglets in an Alaqua Animal Refuge barn

the details of the case. News of the aborted legal proceeding went viral, and people from all over the world wrote to authorities and expressed their outrage. Florida State Attorney William “Bill” Eddins came in on high and invoked a little-used procedure to trump the decision of the judges. In the end, the state won a conviction, albeit without jail time. Alaqua never relinquished custody of Champ, and he’s lived there in peace and security for eight years now, seeing the best of humanity every day.

Hood hasn’t been content to see prosecutions alone; she’s also determined to fortify the law so that future prosecutions will have more force. When she and Walton County officials rescued 117 animals in a neglect case, the anticruelty statute allowed prosecutors to bring only a single charge against the defendant. Hood found the law deficient and went to Tallahassee to bring this to the attention of Matt Gaetz, a Republican state representative and devoted animal welfare advocate. With an assist in the other chamber from Gaetz’s father, Don, who was then the state Senate President, the group worked to upgrade the law to allow prosecutors to bring multiple counts of cruelty where warranted. In the years since, Hood has made a habit of working with the Gaetz clan (Vicky Gaetz, the matriarch of the family, is also deeply devoted to animal welfare). Hood and the Gaetz family worked together to pass legislation to ban bestiality after Hood and Walton County law enforcement came across a dog who was the victim of sexual violence and for which they had little legal recourse. “Laurie is the animal welfare guru of Northwest Florida,” Matt Gaetz tells me. “There is little she cannot do for the creatures who share our planet. From fund-raising to caring for infant life to helping me change laws to punish abusers, Laurie is ‘all in’ for animals.” The outspoken and quick-witted Gaetz is now a US representative and continues his partnership with Hood in Congress, where he’s backing legislation to create a federal anticruelty statute and a federal ban on bestiality. One bestiality website, where people interested in having sex with animals gather online, has more than a million registered users.


While Hood helps animals in crisis, she recognizes that she can’t rescue her way out of the problems animals endure and must also work to change public policy. That’s why she’s also worked so closely with Kate MacFall, state director of the Humane Society of the United States, and others to stop the trophy hunting of black bears in Florida, and she’s now engaged in an effort to ban greyhound racing. Don Gaetz, now retired from the Senate, recently served on the state’s Constitution Revision Commission; the bipartisan group referred a racing ban to the statewide ballot for a vote this November. Florida is the hub of the withering but still stubbornly defiant industry—twelve of the eighteen remaining tracks in the United States are in Florida—so voters could finish off a good portion of the industry by enacting the constitutional amendment this fall. A Florida greyhound dies on the track every three days, and Hood plans to campaign across the Panhandle to put a stop to needless risks to dogs for a sport that attracts few spectators these days. It’s an animal industry, she says, that has outlived its usefulness in a world where other forms of entertainment command much more interest from citizens drawn to games of chance. “Laurie has a servant’s heart,” Sheriff Adkinson says. “She has raised the capacity of this region to do good,” and he’s proud to be a key player in a public-private partnership to end euthanasia of healthy animals in Northwest Florida and to demand that people adhere to the rule of law. Thanks in large part to Hood and her refuge, attitudes toward animals and conditions for them are changing for the better in Northwest Florida. The region is experiencing a demographic and economic high tide. There are thousands of wealthy seasonal residents who’ve purchased luxurious Gulf-front homes and a far larger stream of visitors trekking there to enjoy the views, the beaches, and the

year-round warmth. Together they are buoying the job market and the success of the region. Hood says Alaqua already attracts a bevy of tourists, and that the new complex will rival the museums, zoos, shopping plazas, and other essential stops for visitors who will then return to their communities and tell the story of the extraordinary complex for animals in the Florida Panhandle. Among the wave of visitors will be animal advocates with their own aspirations to do good, some perhaps wondering how they might replicate what’s been created at Alaqua. Hood assures me she’s ready to share her vision with all takers.

Visit to learn more and find out how you can help today. Wayne Pacelle, formerly the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, The Bond and The Humane Economy. 32 | AUGU S T 2018

Above: Hood with veterinarian Dr. Amy Williams and a few of the staff and volunteers that make up the invaluable team at Alaqua Animal Refuge Left: Hood in action on an episode of Nat Geo Wild’s Animal PD Photo courtesy of National Geographic




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In the New Urbanism beach communities along Scenic Highway 30-A in Northwest Florida, you’re likely to see people wearing sneakers almost as frequently as you see them in flip-flops. The vacation destination has become a Southern favorite, and its eighteen-mile paved running and cycling path along the main corridor and miles of flatwoods trails attract active vacationers and encourage locals to explore on two feet or two wheels year-round. Thanks to this fitness-friendly mind-set and the warm temperatures most of the year, many organizations hold road and trail races, duathlons and triathlons, and even big events such as the Ironman along the Emerald Coast. Many of these races are the perfect opportunity not only to bring visitors to the region but also to support local nonprofit organizations. This type of support was the mission when Karen Meadows, Amy Stoyles, and Craig Baranowski founded the 30A 10K Thanksgiving Day road race in 2012.


“Our focus has always been on helping those in need, particularly families and children in our local community,” says Stoyles, who is also the owner of Archiscapes Architects. “In the six years since we started our event,

By J o r da n Stag g s P h oto g r a p h y by S h e l ly Swa n g e r


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we have supported Donations 4 Danny, Shelter House, Anchorage Children’s Home, Sandcastle Kids, the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, the South Walton Fire District, the Walton County Sheriff ’s Department’s Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Repertory Theatre of Seaside, the Northwest Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation, the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, and the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County. We try to rotate our charity recipients every two years so that we can help as many people as possible.”

Opposite: Runners of the sold-out Sixth Annual 30A 10K Thanksgiving Day race in 2017, which had a record number of participants Below: Eager contestants bolting off the starting line at the 2017 Fun Run event

Since its inception, the 30A 10K has raised over $250,000 for the nonprofits mentioned, and more and more people show up to race and support the good causes every year. Eight hundred runners joined in the fun early on Thanksgiving morning in 2012—nearly three thousand ran in 2017. The event has grown to include a 5K race and a one-mile fun run for those looking for something shorter than 6.2 miles along Scenic Highway 30-A. “While supporting globally minded causes and other initiatives is very important, there are still many underfunded charities in Walton County that have pertinent causes,” Meadows chimes in. “We feel some of them are forgotten, and yet they are very close to our hearts and lives.”

Since its inception, the 30A 10K has raised over $250,000 for the nonprofits mentioned, and more and more people show up to race and support the good causes every year. What better way to show thanks to those doing good in the community—and to feel guilt-free about having that slice of pumpkin pie later on in the day? Meadows, whose family used to run the Atlanta Half Marathon every Thanksgiving before they moved to the beach, says the 30A 10K has become a new tradition, and that the route and variety of distances make it approachable for any age or skill level. “Our 30A 10K racecourse is not only scenic, with views of our world-famous beaches and our unique coastal dune lakes, it also has minimal elevation and is a certified Peachtree Road Race qualifier,” she says. “Back when I lived in Atlanta, I was always looking for that elusive flat 10K that would get me seeded for a faster time group!” Meadows, who is also a certified running coach (most locals know her as Coach Karen), has even gone the extra mile—pun intended, of course—to help runners interested in doing the full 30A 10K. The race website includes a beginner training program and nutrition tips and information for those who wish to start training about twelve weeks before the event. The event’s Instagram account, @30a10k, also posts motivational quotes and health tips throughout the year. “As a USA Track and Field coach and a competitive amateur athlete, I have found the mental side is the most challenging part of coaching almost everyone, including myself,” Meadows says. “I tell my marathon runners to run the first two thirds with your head and the last third with your heart.” Working with the 30A Company, whose website and social media accounts are beacons for fans of the area from all over the world, was a crucial component in growing the race in its first few years, Stoyles says. “Their marketing helped get us on the map for vacationers and local runners,” she explains. “It was a huge help. As both their company and our race have evolved, we have developed new marketing strategies with them to promote our event, and we have a few more partnership surprises coming out this year that I know our runners will love. Stay tuned and get ready to run fast!” “The 30A 10K has become an important family tradition in our community,” says Mike Ragsdale of the 30A Company. “The event has changed the dynamic of the entire holiday in our community. Instead of putting food and excess first, the

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30A 10K makes ‘giving back’ our top priority. It’s the perfect way to start every Thanksgiving.” Other valued sponsors “have been instrumental in helping us have a successful race,” Stoyles continues. “Some of our biggest sponsors over the years have included the Rosemary Beach POA, Rosemary Beach Cottage Rental Company,, Barefoot Princess in WaterColor, Ocean Reef Vacation Rentals and Resorts, O’Connell and Associates, Zarzaur Law Firm, Visit South Walton, Silver Sands Premium Outlets, Archiscapes LLC, Coach Karen LLC, Craig Baranowski with Scenic Sotheby’s International Realty, and the St. Joe Community Foundation.” VIE is proud to be joining the lineup of sponsors this year. Rosemary Beach, one of the area’s most beautiful communities, serves as the start and finish line for the race. Runners and walkers, volunteers, vendors, and supporters gather in the charming town square.

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Above: A group of volunteers waits at the finish line to hand out custom medals designed by Ashworth Awards. Right: Co-race director Craig Baranowski (center) of Scenic Sotheby’s International Realty stands in the Rosemary Beach intersection of Highway 30-A with 30A 10K Thanksgiving Day founders, Karen Meadows (right) and Amy Stoyles (left), at the 2017 race.

Refreshments and activities abound, and the spirit of fun also runs rampant during this race. Many participants dress in fun costumes or bright colors—there have even been a few Thanksgiving turkeys and Pilgrim outfits trotting down 30-A over the years! Baranowski says watching the 30A 10K grow annually and raise money for local nonprofits gives all the race directors a great sense of joy. “Every year Karen, Amy, and I stand at the first fifteen yards of the race and watch thousands of runners pass by,” he says. “We stand in awe with a profound amount of pride, knowing that our community has supported our race every year to make it successful, and our sponsors, volunteers, beneficiaries, and the community make our race exceptional. We could not do this without the support of our city council, the sheriff, and the fire departments, and the support of the Town of Rosemary Beach.” From those competing in costume to those who are just enjoying their time at the event, there are many laughs and memories made each year. Baranowski recalls the challenging but funny incident when the directors and volunteers didn’t realize just how long it would take to unwrap three thousand race medals—which are designed by industry leader Ashworth Awards and feature a fun new design each year. “Handing out three thousand race medals to runners became a huge challenge, too,” he admits. “Our volunteers would have hundreds of medals on their arms waiting at the finish line. We quickly discovered that the medals get very heavy after five minutes. Our volunteers looked like they were covered in Mardi Gras beads. Last year, I made a cart specifically to handle holding all the medals. It was an engineering feat, but it worked amazingly. Our volunteers were very happy!” Volunteering is a perfect way to help support the 30A 10K even if you don’t want to run or are unable to do so. Distributing race packets and T-shirts (which will be designed by 30-A artist Justin Gaffrey for 2018), helping with setup, handing

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The 30A 10K and its committed team of directors prove that with a grateful heart, dedication, and a little help from friends, anyone can go the distance to do good in their community.

The 2018 30A 10K is set for Thursday, November 22. On November 21, The Hub on 30-A will host the race Packet Pickup and Fall Festival with live entertainment and activities for all. Volunteer sign-ups are open at

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HORSES By Anthea Gerrie


oint replacements undreamed of years ago, surrogates for mothers too precious to take time out to give birth to their own babies, and tinted-glass windows to confound the paparazzi ... All items of choice for high maintenance celebrities today—and all the more so if they happen to be prize racehorses. Cutting-edge orthopedic surgery and state-of-the-art reproductive technology are just two specialties at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, one of the most acclaimed veterinarian practices in Kentucky’s thoroughbred country. But, when it comes to providing their most valuable patients with stalls fitted with smoked-glass windows to obscure their identities, it’s more than just pampering—it’s also what the sheiks, royals, and tycoons who own many of these top-performing racehorses expect. “We’ve had photographers peering over the fence with long lenses,” confides Whitney Fields, marketing

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coordinator for the practice, emphasizing that discretion is paramount as we walk past those stalls which, like their less-obfuscated neighbors, are not labeled with the horses’ names. It’s widely known that top horses are regularly booked into Rood & Riddle—after all, partner Larry Bramlage has been described as the USA’s most sought-after equine surgeon—but the practice couldn’t possibly confirm who they are. Unless, that is, the former patient is named the Comeback Award winner of the year, like the 2016 World Grand Champion Fine Harness mare, Tempt Me, whose owner permitted her astonishing recovery to be documented last year. Rood & Riddle gives this award to client horses who have overcome medical issues and gone on to perform at the highest level, and after colic surgery in 2015, Tempt Me ran undefeated in two categories the following year. When pressed, the practice owns up to having seen thirty of the past thirty-three Kentucky Derby winners.

Thoroughbreds at Mill Ridge Farm Photo courtesy of Mill Ridge Farm


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oors once firmly closed to the public have recently been opened by appointment to horse enthusiasts. The stateof-the-art facilities include all the specialist departments you would expect of a human hospital—from a neonatal ICU to an isolation ward, not to mention the vast barn of a diagnostic area housing giant X-ray machines, an MRI scanner, endoscopy devices, and an ultrasound unit. When looking around, it’s hard to believe that Bill Rood and Tom Riddle launched their practice out of a garage in 1982. “They didn’t have a facility. They were ambulatory vets who would go out to the farms to see the horses,” Fields says as she shows me around the practice, which now employs fifty-eight veterinarians. She explains that since the building that now houses the reception area and consultation offices went up in 1986, the practice has extended to nine barns accommodating 140 inpatient stalls and additional “cabanas” for outpatients. Some thirty thousand horses were seen last year, and of the 7,600 admitted, two-thirds underwent procedures, the majority of them elective. “The majority of surgeries we do are orthopedic and can be done as much to prevent the degeneration of a joint as to treat an injury,” explains Dr. Bramlage as we move into his inner sanctum. “This is important because horses grow faster than people, arguably a hundred times as fast, so disruption in the growing of the bone is much more common.” Keyhole surgery has taken much of the risk out of operating, he adds. “Equine arthroscopy has led the charge in veterinary medicine because it is so good for the horse. It has moved surgery from being a last resort to the frontline treatment and can actually prevent arthritis from occurring.” The minimally invasive procedure also makes injury repair much faster, safer, and more desirable for owners. “We do a lot of removal of chip fractures in young horses who are destined to go to the races,” Bramlage says, “because the buyers demand that the horses be clean and that their problems be taken out before they start. “We can’t prevent a horse breaking a leg, but the number of fractures has gone down because we have 44 | AUGU S T 2018

“Equine arthroscopy has led the charge in veterinary medicine because it is so good for the horse. It has moved surgery from being a last resort to the frontline treatment and can actually prevent arthritis from occurring.” better diagnostics in our X-ray machines and MRIs than we did fifteen years ago. We can diagnose stress accumulation that comes with training, when the overload that strengthens the horses’ legs can get out of whack.” The problem, he explains, is that a horse’s heart and lungs “train so fast that the bone has trouble keeping up. While humans need to focus on improving their cardiovascular system in training, the limiting system in horses is the skeleton.” Today, Bramlage’s big concern is the harm done by bisphosphonates, an overprescribed drug class that has also raised alarms in humans advised to take them for osteoporosis.  “I don’t like them and wish we hadn’t seen them,” he says of medications horses have been prescribed for pain and inflammation that can’t quite be pinpointed. He believes bisphosphonates delay healing. “They disrupt the horse’s normal coping mechanism, and while they may help bones get denser, they don’t help them get stronger.” This and other insights have been shared with professionals from all over the world in Rood & Riddle’s auditorium, where vets  come annually to catch up on the latest equine research. Last year alone,

Above: The entrance to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, which opened in 1986—a far cry from its humble beginnings in a garage just four years earlier Photo courtesy of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital Above right: A horse undergoing a procedure in the operating room at Rood & Riddle Photo courtesy of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital Following page – right: Off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) That’s Nothin’ in training for a second career at the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center Photo courtesy of Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center

professionals from Bahrain, Norway, Australia, Brazil, and England, as well as all over the US, were represented at the equine upper airway symposium, which is held here every February. Reproductive medicine, the subject of its own annual symposium at Rood & Riddle, is another cutting-edge area of expertise. The practice boasts a register of three hundred brood mares ready to receive embryos transferred from competition horses whose time owners consider better used continuing to jump and show while their foals are gestating. When embryo transfer fails, Rood & Riddle is one of very few practices offering oocyte aspiration, in which the precursor of an egg is removed from a mare’s follicle and shipped to a sperm lab for fertilization. Rood & Riddle is also an enthusiastic advocate of second career opportunities for thoroughbreds; as a breed, they are considered highly intelligent, not to mention light and speedy. Stud duty is an obvious progression for high performers, but even thoroughbreds who have not won major prizes have fine potential as sport and show horses, and the practice awards an annual trophy to horses that have proven themselves to be masters of reinvention.

Anthea Gerrie is based in the UK but travels the world in search of stories. Her special interests are architecture and design, culture, food, and drink, as well as the best places to visit in the world’s great playgrounds. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, the Independent, and Blueprint.

IF YOU GO . . . Rood & Riddle is one of two cutting-edge equine practices opening its doors to visitors via Horse Country, an initiative to help visitors engage with those who interact on every level with Kentucky’s magnificent steeds.   Also on the list are horse nurseries, studs and reschooling centres; all tours are by appointment only via   The following are highly recommended:

MILL RIDGE FARM A tour of this stunning farm is pure joy. Price Bell describes Mill Ridge as a place “where we see foals from their first day in the nursery all the way through kindergarten.” (Price is a sixth-generation horse nurturer whose grandmother, Alice Headley Chandler, was the first woman to raise an Epsom Derby winner in Kentucky.) Mares give birth here and spend precious time with their foals who are then socialized before many go on to the yearling sales and a new crop of baby thoroughbreds emerges. Expect some up close and personal nuzzling time over the fence as well as a thorough rundown on how prize racehorses are reared.


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MAKER’S MARK SECRETARIAT CENTER This charity based in the Kentucky Horse Park helps retrain and rehabilitate thoroughbreds to have second careers after the track if they are not ready for retirement. Many help with a variety of emotional and physical issues through equine therapy, aid young riders learning to jump and negotiate obstacles for the first time, or become family pets. The aim is to find a new lease on life and a loving home for each one.

Kidding Around By Ke l s e y Og l e t r e e

Two goats running together in a field at ZiegenVine Homestead Photo by Allison Lavine Opposite: Owner Cathi Huff holding a baby goat at Atlantis Dream Farm Photo courtesy of Atlantis Dream Farm 48 | AUGU S T 2018

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H OLDI NG D OW N WA R D D O G TA K ES ON A N E A R-SPI R I T UA L QUA LI T Y W H E N A BLE AT I NG BA BY G OAT J U M P S ON YOU R BACK , A S T H ESE T H R EE FA R M S PROV E . Atlantis Dream Farm What’s next? That’s the question adventurous Cathi Huff, a mother of two, has asked herself for the entirety of her adult life. Train for and compete in a triathlon at age fifty? Check. Own a racehorse? Check. Buy a farm in Georgia knowing nothing about farming? She checked that one off the list too, after purchasing Atlantis Dream Farm in Milton, Georgia, thirty miles north of Atlanta, in 2016. Then came Clara and Annabelle, the two loving goats who stole Huff ’s heart— and led to her getting Laila and Kaila next as she slowly grew her goat herd. “Someone told me I should do goat yoga,” says Huff, who’s also a certified health coach. “I thought, this really fits in with the healthy and holistic lifestyle I live.”

corporate groups—so much so that Huff says she can barely keep up with demand. Her calendar is booked more than three months out. But, looking beyond the popularity of the classes, the most rewarding part for Huff is the experience she’s giving to others. “We had a group of breast cancer survivors out, and I captured some beautiful photos of the goats with a woman who is fighting cancer right now,” says Huff. “She said that she hadn’t been that happy in a long time and having that playful time with the goats put her at peace.”

And so, on April 10, 2017, Atlantis Dream Farm’s first goat yoga class took place. Classes can accommodate up to eighteen people and are held on mats in a fenced-off area outside the barn. Depending on the number of participants, Huff will bring in two to four baby goats, who are very social critters. She’ll start them around three months old, and during that time, they’re playful as kittens. “They’ll literally hop on your back,” she says. Huff began calling the concept GOGA. After a local news station did a segment on the farm, she started getting about a hundred people a week. “It just kept going and going,” says Huff. “That’s when I realized it’s much deeper than goat yoga— it’s about the therapy those animals provide.” The GOGA classes have become especially popular for private bookings—from birthday parties to


La vitalité Little Goat Farm at the Lake Below left: A young boy holds a goat kid during a class at ZiegenVine Homestead. Photo by Allison Lavine Below right: An alpaca hangs out by the water on a sunny day at Little Goat Farm at the Lake. Photo courtesy of Little Goat Farm

A few states north, Suzanne Marsh, owner of Little Goat Farm at the Lake in Nokesville, Virginia, is also tapping into the benefits of these precious animals and spreading their love throughout the Washington, D.C., area. Marsh’s journey began with a desire to raise goats to produce organic milk and cheese for her family. She was focused on quality over quantity and considered her goats to be pets—she even sold them to others as such, as goats can easily be house-trained.

Soon Marsh began getting calls from vets and animal shelters. They’d heard about her goat herd and were looking for a farm to rehome animals—like llamas and alpacas—who had been abused because the laid-back personality of a goat has a calming effect. “If you look at racetracks, like Churchill Downs, you’ll see little goats roaming around next to big thoroughbreds,” says Marsh. “There’s a reason they use them: it brings down the horses’ heart rates.” One morning, Marsh was outside doing a stretching routine—a form of yoga—to ease the pain of her osteoporosis, and her baby goats flocked all around her.

They’d heard about her goat herd and were looking for a farm to rehome animals—like llamas and alpacas—who had been abused, because the laid-back personality of a goat has a calming effect.

“A neighbor came by and said, ‘I do this at the gym, but this looks more relaxing. Can I join you?’” recalls Marsh. One by one, neighbors continued to join, and soon she had regular yoga classes taking place. Goat yoga at Little Goat Farm has now grown into lots of events, from private sessions for up to 20 people to large classes for 150 to 200 people, which often include live jazz or bluegrass bands. Especially popular among children is the baby goat snuggle, which is as delightful and smile-inducing as it sounds. The larger classes become a family affair, which is just how Marsh likes it.

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F I N D YOU R C EN T ER Want to try goat yoga and experience its therapeutic benefits for yourself ? Here’s how.

Atlantis Dream Farm Milton, Georgia (770) 845-1018 $20 per class; $25 per person for private class

Little Goat Farm at the Lake Nokesville, Virginia (703) 929-7228 $20 per class; $35 for sessions with live band

ZiegenVine Homestead Savona, New York (607) 207-5730 $25 per class

“Our alpacas and llamas are very much like cats. They join the yoga, but they go in a line, in and out,” says Marsh. Even her chickens come around the outskirts. Other wildlife and birds, such as a blue crane, a white swan, and two bald eagles, are also frequent observers of goat yoga. For those who can’t make it to a class, Marsh posts videos of the baby goats’ antics on the farm’s Facebook page. It began one day when she randomly posted a clip of a baby goat flipping over a box and getting inside it; the post went viral. “It’s worth it to give that joy,” shares Marsh.

ZiegenVine Homestead Randy Ziegenhagen and Allison Lavine, who met eight years ago on, also discovered the power of giving that joy when they bought a farm in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Ziegenhagen, a semiretired fire chief and chaplain, and Lavine, a professional photographer, read up on raising goats after seeing a news story about goat yoga. “We thought, why don’t we offer that?” recalls Ziegenhagen. The farm they’d purchased had gone fallow, meaning it hadn’t been worked in ten years, so they knew they had a difficult road ahead. One thing they couldn’t have anticipated, though, was how their goats would change them in the process.

“I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy the animals until we got them,” he says, and like a proud father, he goes on to share the news of the births of a baby boy goat and twin girl goats the week of our interview.

Top: A goat stands on the back of a woman participating in a GOGA class. Photo courtesy of Atlantis Dream Farm

Since New York’s weather is unpredictable much of the year, they knew they needed a spot to hold indoor yoga, so fixing up the 1800s-era barn on their property became a priority. They began holding goat yoga classes for up to twenty-five people in the top of the barn, and to their surprise and delight, the classes sold out nearly every weekend—with some weekends even having a waiting list. But that’s just icing on the cake, says the couple, because they’re not doing this for the money. “People get a lot more than a yoga workout; people get to turn off the world,” says Ziegenhagen. “The goats will come right up and nuzzle you, and some people have had goats fall asleep in their laps. It’s very therapeutic.” V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 51


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Spend any time in Mobile, Alabama, and you’ll quickly learn that it—and not that upstart Louisiana city to the west—was home to North America’s first Mardi Gras. It doesn’t take long to see the connection between Mobile and New Orleans. The two Gulf Coast cities were founded by the French and have deep ties to the Caribbean. They both boast historic neighborhoods where Spanish moss hangs from live oak trees. And although Mobile’s Dauphin Street isn’t as raucous (or raunchy) as Bourbon Street, it certainly is lively. That similarity has led some to call Mobile the Little Easy. “New Orleans is like our younger sister who married well and got everything she wanted,” says L. Craig Roberts, a local historian and architect who offers city tours. But Mobile has its own style and grace. “It’s elegant and more refined.” 54 | AUGU S T 2018

Charming and colorful historic facades of old downtown are juxtaposed against the striking modern skyline. Photo by Tad Denson



hat becomes clear the moment you step on the grounds of Bellingrath Gardens. We can thank Coca-Cola for the sixty-five-acre botanic wonderland, which was created by early bottler Walter Bellingrath and his wife, Bessie. Inspired by estates and plantings they had seen while traveling in Europe, the family used its new carbonated fortune to gussy up a Fowl River fishing camp. The property opened in 1932 as one of the first public gardens in the South. There’s always something blooming at Bellingrath. In winter, crowds come to see the garden’s thousands of camellias, a renowned collection of more than four hundred varieties. During spring, its quarter-million azalea bushes astound visitors. Throughout the year, patrons explore hidden rock gardens, admire scenic river views, and tour the 10,500-square-foot Bellingrath mansion with its original furnishings. Mobile developed as a port and owes its livelihood to the water, so it’s perhaps not surprising that it has a Second World War battleship. The USS Alabama, once home to a crew of 2,500, sailed in the North 56 | AUGU S T 2018

Atlantic and then Asia, leading the American fleet into Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrender. But it was destined for the scrapyard until hundreds of thousands of Alabama school children donated pocket change to help save the ship and build Battleship Memorial Park on Mobile Bay. Decades later, the vessel is still open to tours, along with the USS Drum submarine and several dozen vintage warplanes. For another view of the water, head to GulfQuest: National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, a $62 million ship-shaped building that combines the hands-on fun of a science center with the nautical lore of the sea. Visitors love the ninety interactive exhibits, theaters, and displays, including a hurricane

The USS Alabama, once home to a crew of 2,500, sailed in the North Atlantic and then Asia, leading the American fleet into Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrender.

simulator showing what it’s like to be blown around by 78 mph winds. Just as appealing are the outdoor balcony views of the Mobile waterfront where barges, freighters, and even the Carnival Fantasy cruise ship might sail by, creating a scene that looks straight out of Richard Scarry’s Busytown books. But as one might expect, life in Mobile revolves around Mardi Gras, which is an official city holiday. The city first celebrated the late winter festival in 1703, when it was the capital of what was then French Louisiana. In the nineteenth century, Civil War veteran Joe Cain revived the bacchanal. The celebration is organized by mystic societies—private organizations that build floats, sponsor parades, and hold parties. The groups meet year-round and set the city’s social calendar. On Fat Tuesday, Mobile welcomes more than a hundred thousand celebrants, who cheer on parade floats shaped like fire-breathing dragons, Greek goddesses, and other incredible creations. Families line the streets and are showered with parade swag, including beads, toys, and, the most coveted throw of all, MoonPies. After the parades, thousands attend Mardi Gras balls—white-tie spectacles that fill ballrooms and civic arenas. If you can’t snag a ticket, you can still take a peek at the pomp and circumstance at the Mobile Carnival Museum, which is open year-round. Galleries display the elegant gowns worn by the queens, and videos show the elaborate ball ceremonies.

Opposite: Established as a museum ship in 1965, the USS Alabama (BB-60) has since hosted throngs of curious visitors. The vessel participated in pivotal battles in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean theaters during WWII. Photo by Tad Denson Left: Located in historic downtown, the popular Noble South restaurant features inventive Southern-inspired cuisine and cocktails. Photo courtesy of Noble South Below: Located a short drive south of Mobile’s city center, Bellingrath Gardens is a beautiful and impressive landscape of both formal and natural features. Photo by Tad Denson



Eat and Drink Just like any Southern city worth its salt, Mobile is serious about mealtime. And the city moved up a tier this year when newcomer Southern National was nominated for a James Beard Award as one of the nation’s best new restaurants. The downtown eatery is run by the same folks who made waves with One Flew South, a restaurant at the Atlanta airport that was so good, travelers would hope for a flight delay. Southern National chef Duane Nutter focuses on Gulf seafood, craft cocktails, and global-influenced Southern dishes. In practice, that means offerings such as honeysuckle vodka–cured salmon and a pork belly fried rice bowl. The dining room, located in a historic building with a New Orleans–style courtyard on Cathedral Square, is just as impressive as the menu. And not only are the food and atmosphere entertaining, so is the chef; Nutter’s also a standup comic and was once a semifinalist in Comedy Central’s Laugh Riots competition.

The downtown eatery is run by the same folks who made waves with One Flew South, a restaurant at the Atlanta airport that was so good, travelers would hope for a flight delay. Top: Dinner with a view at Ed’s Seafood Shed along Mobile Bay Photo by Tad Denson Right: Enjoy German-style craft brews at the Tap Room of Serda Brewery. Photo courtesy of Serda Brewing Opposite: The oyster sampler is a favorite at Wintzell’s Oyster House. Photo courtesy of Wintzell’s Oyster House

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A few blocks away, the airy Noble South restaurant is just as compelling. It focuses on fresh ingredients and serves dishes such as rabbit fricassee and heirloom tomato ceviche, along with champagne cocktails. To add a little exercise to your grazing, sign up for the Bienville Bites Food Tour, a strolling and snacking exploration of LoDa (the Lower Dauphin neighborhood.) The walk includes a history lesson and snacks from seven city stalwarts; these include gumbo from the Royal Scam, beignets from Panini Pete’s, and pralines from Three Georges Candy. Guests can take drinks from stop to stop, as everything’s located in the Dauphin Street entertainment district, which allows open-container drinking (with certain restrictions).

Indeed, drinks always seem to be in order in the Little Easy. Recently, happy hour got a lot more interesting, thanks to the opening of Mobile’s first craft beer maker, Serda Brewing. (Four other breweries now plan to open in the downtown area.) While Serda doesn’t have a kitchen, its outdoor courtyard features live music and welcomes food trucks almost every night. Not surprisingly, music is in the air on most nights across the city. Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, a longtime favorite, manages to be both a legendary performance venue and a welcoming neighborhood pub in the middle of the Oakleigh Garden District. If you’re there for dinner, grab an outdoor seat and order the legendary L.A. (Lower Alabama) burger, which is made with house-ground beef and Conecuh sausage. Make sure to stay for the music. Over the years, the pub has welcomed A-listers including John Paul White, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Alabama Shakes, packing fans into an area not much larger than a suburban rec room.

Dan Bailey Seaside, Florida

Tom King Central Square Records Seaside, Florida


Right: The exceptional lobby area showcases the multimilliondollar renovation of the interiors that celebrates the hotel’s art deco origins. Opposite: Launch is a trendy restaurant with an upscale and urban vibe. Photos courtesy of The Admiral Hotel 60 | AUGU S T 2018

uilding on that musical tradition is the new Cedar Street Social Club, which opened so that musicians recording at the adjacent Dauphin Street Sound studio would have a place to hang out and jam after recording. Although the downtown venue is a private, membership-based club, it often hosts public concerts and music events, which are listed on its Facebook page. The studio itself has some star power; it’s owned by music-loving baseball player Jake Peavy, a Mobile native who pitched for the Boston Red Sox and the San Francisco Giants. Just as impressive is the Steeple on St. Francis. The nineteenth-century Methodist church saw its congregation shrink over the decades and in recent years had housed the homeless. But it reopened in 2016 as a striking events space and concert hall where artists perform on the altar and the crowd packs a now pewless floor surrounded by original stained-glass windows. It rents out for parties and weddings and is worth a visit if it’s hosting a show when you’re in town. If it reminds you of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, there’s a reason—the church was built by the architectural firm whose principal partner designed the famed Music City venue. And finally, there’s the Saenger Theatre, which opened in 1927 as a grand Europeanstyle playhouse at the cost of $500,000. Over the decades, it hosted vaudeville

acts, silent movies, and touring shows, but eventually fell into disrepair. The city saved it from destruction. It has been lovingly restored and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The theater, which seats nearly two thousand, is home to the Mobile Symphony Orchestra and hosts lectures, movies, and concerts through the year. With a grand marble staircase and architectural flourishes inspired by Greek mythology, the venue is as much a star as the evening’s entertainment.

It rents out for parties and weddings and is worth a visit if it’s hosting a show when you’re in town. If it reminds you of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, there’s a reason— the church was built by the architectural firm whose principal partner designed the famed Music City venue. V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 61


Stay in Comfort Come bedtime, Mobile has some compelling options. The city’s grand hotel, the Battle House, feels right out of a gilded European fantasy with polished marble, thick carpeting, and a stained-glass rotunda skylight. Peering out from the corners are trompe l’oeil paintings of the men who have ruled over Mobile: King Louis XIV of France, King George III of England, King Ferdinand V of Spain, and good old George Washington. While they appear to be carved into stone, it’s only an illusion. The hostelry traces its history to the 1850s and was rebuilt in 1908 after a fire. For decades, it was the center of Mobile social life, but it fell out of fashion and stood empty for three long decades until reopening in 2007 after a $220 million renovation. Now part of Marriott’s upscale Renaissance collection, the Battle House’s rooms are modern and comfortable, and it offers a spa and a colorful lobby bar. Just as lovely is the Malaga Inn, which started as a pair of townhouses built by two brothers-in-law in 1862. Eventually, it was transformed into an antiques-

Right: Mobile’s skyline and the port of Mobile—considered the ninth busiest port in the nation. Photo by Tad Denson Opposite: Blue crab from the Dauphin Island area. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock 62 | AUGU S T 2018

furnished lodge with thirty-nine rooms and suites surrounding a courtyard dripping with Old South ambience. Located near Mardi Gras balls and parade routes, the inn is particularly popular during Carnival, and some families have kept standing reservations during the festivities for decades. Nearby, there’s also the seventy-five-year-old Admiral Hotel, which wowed Mobile in 1940 when it opened as the city’s first air-conditioned hotel. The art deco–style high-rise was completely renovated in 2015 but kept stylish touches like the marble flooring and an oval lobby balcony. It’s now part of Hilton’s upscale hotel brand, the Curio Collection. All these properties are within just a few blocks of the waterfront that first brought settlers here in 1702. And, as many Mobilians will proudly tell you, that was a good sixteen years before anyone had thought of New Orleans.


Birmingham, Alabama–based freelance writer Larry Bleiberg is an eight-time Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award winner and was honored for editing the best newspaper travel section in North America. He writes a column for USA Today and contributes to the Los Angeles Times, BBC, Afar, Better Homes and Gardens, Delta Sky, and many others. Learn more at



an impressive green moray eel. “All of our animals and our plant life within the Estuarium are native to this area,” says Levins. “Our octopus has quite the crowd when he’s on display.”

By Larry Bleiberg

Groups also gather around the 6,400-gallon Rays of the Bay tank for thrice-daily feedings of cownose rays, Atlantic stingrays, and other ray species found in the region. Outside, a boardwalk stretches across a saltwater marsh, introducing visitors to the fragile ecosystem that serves as a nursery for many sea creatures, including shrimp and oysters. And throughout the year, Sea Lab sponsors excursions, taking visitors to explore nearby marshes, dunes, and maritime forests.

With ten eyes and a spiky tail, the horseshoe crab isn’t exactly cuddly. So when a Dauphin Island Sea Lab docent pulls one out of a tank, and its ten legs begin to wave frantically, it’s no surprise that most visitors instinctively back away. But eventually, someone holds out a tentative hand to touch the prehistoric curiosity, whose closest relatives are scorpions and spiders. That’s when the magic happens, says staff member Angela Levins. “They are amazing, docile creatures that you can handle.” Soon, guests are petting rays, staring down an alligator, and learning about the important role that estuaries—the area where sea and freshwater mix—play in the region. Indeed, Sea Lab’s Estuarium (a combination of estuary and aquarium) focuses on coastal Alabama’s four key habitats: the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, Mobile Bay, Northern Gulf of Mexico, and the Barrier Islands. The ten-thousand-square-foot facility includes thirty-one aquariums and more than a hundred species, such as sharks and seahorses, not to mention

The Estuarium, which welcomes about seventy thousand visitors a year, is Sea Lab’s most visible arm. But like the ocean around it, much more occurs beneath the surface. The twenty-seven-acre research and education institution, which dates to the 1970s, plays several roles. Its Discovery Hall program offers teachers intensive summer training sessions covering the latest information about marine science, including weather and climate data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Also, thousands of students come for daytime and overnight programs and camps, reinforcing and building on Sea Lab’s strong connection to primary and secondary schools across Alabama and the Gulf region. One popular program offers instruction on constructing remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) used for underwater exploration. Kids love it because it builds on their interest in robotics, marine biology, and oceanography. During the school V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 63


year, students create their versions of these research machines, and every spring, the lab welcomes teams to put their ROVs to the test in a regional competition. At Sea Lab’s core is the Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium, a partnership with twentythree Alabama universities and colleges. During the summer, college students earn credit in classes that cover everything from turtles to hurricanes. Throughout the year, graduate students and faculty members work on projects that often have them heading out to sea on research vessels.

Found in the shallow waters around Mobile Bay, horseshoe crabs have hardly changed in millions of years and are considered to be living fossils.

And while they analyze data that will later appear in scientific papers, equally important work is happening across campus. With a little encouragement, future scientists are reaching out their hands for the first tentative touch of a sea creature.





Whether you’re looking for family fun, eco-adventure, nonstop thrills or a romantic escape, you can plan an itinerary that’s uniquely you.


A sweeping view of the majestic Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga, South Africa 66 | AUGU S T 2018







Above, clockwise from left: A herd of African elephants at sunset. An impala checks out photographer Mark Furniss on the savanna. A hippopotamus swims with her young calf. 68 | AUGU S T 2018

or anyone with a passion for nature and a love of the great outdoors, there can be no greater destination than the continent of Africa. The vastness and diversity of ecosystems are unmatched anywhere else on earth. My wife, Annett, and I have tasted what Africa has to offer through trips to the coast of South Africa and Mozambique and the deserts and plains of Namibia, and with every taste, the hunger to experience more gets stronger. Unable to withstand the hunger pangs any longer, we recently made the journey back to South Africa with a trip around Kruger National Park and the Mpumalanga region. The Kruger Park is one of the greatest nature reserves in the world, covering an area of approximately 7,722 square miles. This area encompasses many different ecosystems that sustain a vast variety of flora and fauna.

much of a culture shock. You can land at the airport in the sprawling cosmopolitan area of Johannesburg, with its population of 8 million, and within the space of a five-hour drive in your hired air-conditioned SUV, you can be at Paul Kruger Gate, the entrance to a world of magical wild wonder.

South Africa is the ideal destination for anyone wanting to dip their toes into what Africa has to offer. It is wild and exotic enough to pull most Westerners out of their comfort zone while being modern and sophisticated enough not to be too

There are strict guidelines for anyone visiting the Kruger Park, one being that you must be in the fenced rest camps before nightfall and not leave before sunrise. The only option for witnessing the park at night is with an experienced ranger. Luckily, we arrived at the lodge just in time to make the evening game drive with our designated ranger, Charl. Rhino Post is situated in the south of the park, with

The Kruger Park is perfectly designed for self-driving tours with a variety of accommodations, from exclusive private rest camps to self-catering tented camps. There are pros and cons to all, but to get the most out of what the park has to offer, it may be best to do a bit of each. With this in mind, we decided to kick the trip off with a slice of luxury at Rhino Post Safari Lodge, situated just a half-hour drive away from the park entrance. In this short drive to the lodge, we passed a huge troop of baboons, herds of impalas, a bask of crocodiles, and a tower of giraffes (I intend to attempt to use the correct collective noun for all the animals in this piece!). If this was the first half hour, we could barely imagine what the rest of our trip would have in store. The benefit of staying in the private lodges is that everything is provided for you: luxury accommodations, beautiful food, and an experienced ranger to take you on game drives, often in areas of the park exclusive to your lodge.

a high concentration of big cats such as leopards and lions. Sightings of lions are especially plentiful in the evening as they emerge from the bush to take advantage of the heat absorbed by the tarmac roads during the day. There is no guarantee of wildlife sightings in the park—in fact, if you were to drive every road and side road in the park, you would only see about 7 percent of it. But Charl was able to locate animals that would have been missed by the untrained eye, such as a tiny bush baby and a chameleon camouflaged in a tree. He also knew where the best hangouts were for lions and was able to bring us face-to-face with a huge male lion. You could easily underestimate the power of a lion while he’s slumbering, but when you witness his jaws yawning not six feet from the back of your open-top Land Cruiser, you truly appreciate why he’s at the top of the food chain! After the drive and a fantastic dinner, we were personally escorted back to our private chalet, as it was not uncommon for leopards to be skulking about the camp. We were then left to reflect on the events of the day and rest in preparation for what was to

come. Over the next couple of days, we witnessed such spectacles as large herds of elephants, an amorous pair of lions, and a lovely close encounter with a mother hyena and her cubs. We also spent a memorable afternoon relaxing on our private riverside deck reading and bathing in a roll-top bath while bushbucks grazed beside us and a golden-tailed woodpecker hammered away in the tree above.

South Africa is the ideal destination for anyone wanting to dip their toes into what Africa has to offer.

After a couple of days, it was time to reluctantly leave the luxury of Rhino Post and head approximately five hours north to Olifants Rest Camp. From there, we were on our own. Olifants is one of many basic but perfectly comfortable government-run camps. The government camps offer reasonably priced self-catering accommodations with plenty of amenities around the camps, such as a shop and a restaurant, maybe even a pool in some of them. The drive there was beautiful and no less fruitful than the previous days with fantastic wildlife sightings. Although the accommodations were a little underwhelming after being spoiled at Rhino Post, the setting of the camp was spectacular. It is nestled atop a cliff that overlooks the meandering Olifants River where elephants and waterbucks can be seen from time to time emerging from the bush savanna to take refreshment in the water. Although at the government camps you are a free agent and able to come and go as you please within daylight hours, it is still possible to book activities otherwise not permitted without being accompanied by a ranger. We took advantage of this service and arranged a walk along the river bank with a ranger named Patrick.

Above: Giraffes graze from acacia trees while two zebras appear to keep watch. V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 69


Patrick was delighted to hear that we were interested in both flora and fauna as he was a keen botanist and was able to wax lyrical about the local plant life without the pressure of tracking down the “Big Five.” Nevertheless, we still had a stroll past a large bloat of hippopotamuses wallowing in the shallows and witnessed a giant bull elephant appear from the bush for refreshments downstream. After Olifants, we pushed on further north toward Mopani Rest Camp. The park became much quieter, which was great for us, but I have to say that the crowds don’t know what they’re missing. There aren’t many big cats around, but they are here, and that makes the sightings all the more special. The vegetation and landscape change as you go, and the varieties of wildlife change with them. As we approached Mopani, we were cutting it tight to reach camp before sundown when a herd of buffalo

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decided to cross the road in front of us. The herd must have been a hundred strong and they were in no rush. In these situations, you just have to be patient— you wouldn’t want to argue with a buffalo! Luckily, we made it through the gates by the skin of our teeth. Once in the camp, we arranged a morning bush walk for five o’clock with one of the camp rangers. My alarm went off at four thirty, and looking out of the chalet window, I noticed it was pouring rain. The choice between a warm bed and going for a walk in the rain at five in the morning was not difficult for Annett, but the fear of missing something made me get up. I met the still sleepy-looking ranger, Abel, at reception along with two South Africans who had also managed to wrench themselves out of bed. We drove in the icy rain for an hour in an open-top Land Cruiser to the start of the walking trail. After walking for around ninety minutes we had seen very little wildlife, but Abel had identified and explained in depth the digestive waste of several different animals—to the point that I now think I could confidently tell you the age and sex of an elephant purely by looking at a pile of dung. At this stage Abel decided it was time for breakfast. While tucking into our dry cheese crackers and juice boxes, I was starting to think Annett had the right idea. Then, from nowhere, a low rumbling

Above: Lisbon Falls is a popular site for visitors in Mpumalanga. Left: When a herd of cape buffalo blocks your path, it’s best to wait for them to clear out! 

sound seemed to vibrate the ground around us. Abel’s eyes lit up. “OK, lion, let’s go!” Crackers and juice were quickly thrown in the bag and off we went. What I didn’t expect was that we were going in the direction of the sound. This didn’t seem like a good idea, but Abel was the guy with the rifle, so we best follow him. Not only were the rumbling sounds becoming louder, but now they were also coming from different directions, meaning there was more than one lion. My heart was beating like crazy. We reached a clearing in the bush about the size of half a soccer field that was covered in tall grass. Abel motioned for us to stand behind him and whispered, “They’re here.” He then mimicked the sound of a panting lion. Then, at the opposite end of the clearing, this large, bushy-maned head popped up out of the grass and eyeballed us, and then a second one did the same next to him. They then both dropped back down in unison. “OK, that’s it; they’ve seen us. They’re gone!” Abel exclaimed confidently. Sure enough, as we trekked back to the vehicle, the tracks of the running lions could be seen clearly on

the ground. When I returned back to camp with the adrenaline still pumping through my veins, I recalled the excitement of the morning with Annett. To this day, I don’t think she believes me.

Then, at the opposite end of the clearing, this large, bushymaned head popped up out of the grass and eyeballed us, and then a second one did the same next to him.

After Mopani, we headed to the most northerly camp in the park, Punda Maria. This is probably the smallest and least visited of all the camps, but it’s also the most charming. The entire area around it has the greatest variety of vegetation in the whole park, with thick woodland and a scattering of mighty baobab trees. Again, there is not the density of the big crowd-pleaser animals of the south, but they do all pass through, and along with the trees comes a vast array of birds and smaller critters. While there, we took a drive up as far north as you can get to Crook’s Corner where the Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers converge and the countries of South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique meet. Crook’s Corner gets its name from its past as a haven for those who had no great wish to look into the eyes of the law: think gunrunners, ivory poachers, outlaws, and anyone else who may need to escape over an international border at a moment’s

Below: A zeal of zebras grazing on the savanna


Voyager notice. The shady history of the area belies the paradise that awaits you there. Swarms of butterflies flutter by under the dappled light coming through yellow-barked fever trees while colorful lilac-breasted rollers and bee-eaters fly past. Warthogs forage in the undergrowth while fish eagles patrol the rivers and dinosaur-sized crocodiles line the banks. After spending two days in this heaven, it was time to leave Kruger Park via the Punda Maria Gate. But we were not done with South Africa yet; we were heading to the town of Sabie to explore Blyde River Canyon and the Panorama Route. Blyde River Canyon is credited with being the world’s third-largest canyon, behind the Grand Canyon in the United States and Fish River Canyon in Namibia, but it might be the world’s largest “green canyon” due to its lush subtropical foliage. The whole area is scattered with immense geological spectacles, cascading waterfalls, and breathtaking vistas (hence the Panorama Route moniker). The area is also deeply entrenched in the history of South Africa. The route is the same one that General Louis Botha used to flee from the English army during the Anglo-Boer War. It was also the site of a great gold rush during the late eighteenth century, and many of the small towns in the area were established during that time. Pilgrim’s Rest, about twenty-two miles north of Sabie, is a fully restored gold-mining town that is classified as a national monument. The

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whole town feels like it has been preserved in a time capsule and to this day holds the South African National Gold Panning Championships. This was a perfect end to a perfect trip, with experiences and memories to last a lifetime, from heart-pounding excitement to transcendent wonderment in equal measures. Our hunger was sated, for now, but it won’t be long before the desire to taste the delicacies of Africa draws us right back again.

Left: Pinnacle Rock is a massive quartzite structure that juts from Driekop Gorge near the town of Graskop. Bottom left: Nyalas, like this female, can generally be seen in the early morning and late afternoon. Bottom right: Sunsets in Kruger National Park are not to be missed.

Mark Furniss is an Irish photographer based in the western region of Connemara. He specializes in landscape, nature, and travel photography and shoots in both digital and analog. Visit to see more.


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Story and photography by Kevin Revolinski

he driver and the guide each lean out over their jeep doors to scrutinize the dirt road for tracks. “Going this way,” the driver says, pointing, and we continue down a winding lane through teak forest and Indian ghost trees, peeling and paling through colors as they slowly turn white this time of year. We’ve been bumping around for days, kicking up clouds of dust in an open safari jeep. We ride in back, covered with blankets and hot-water bottles from the lodge on cold mornings. The sun is intense in the afternoon, the dry season offering no cloud protection. No one minds or complains; we are caught up in the hunt. We’ve invested time and money to come to Madhya Pradesh, a state in the central highlands of India, to see a rare creature: the mighty tiger. This isn’t the instant gratification of a game drive in the Serengeti, where there are wide-open grasslands, herds of elephants, zebras, giraffes, and wildebeests, and the likely chance of seeing lions. This is a slow burn. Detective work. A patient hunt. This shouldn’t be surprising; the tiger population in the world has long been declining from somewhere around 100,000 in the early twentieth century to today’s numbers of less than 3,900 in the world. The biggest of the big cats, the tiger, is extinct in several of its native lands and declining in number elsewhere— except in India. Although only 11 percent of its territory remains, India reported

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a 30 percent increase in its tiger numbers in 2015. The six designated tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh are the best bets for spotting one. It’s been four days, and all we get are clues. A paw print. Scratch marks on a tree. A roar off in the distance. The driver stops for a mahout who leans forward on his elephant mount, pointing back along the jungle path from where he came. “He says he saw one this morning,” the driver relays. Over the whine of the jeep’s motor and the rattle and creak of its frame as it traverses the rough road, our driver can hear something in the distance. “There,” he says. “Warning cries.” These are the danger calls of the langurs, black-faced monkeys with tails longer than their bodies. They are the watchmen of the forest: they get vocal when danger passes beneath the safety of their treetops. Then there’s the bleat of a sambar, a large type of deer. The smaller spotted deer are spooked, ears turning like parabolic antennas, heads up from the grasses they have stopped chewing. We wait, but still, there’s nothing.

The tiger’s stripes provide excellent camouflage in tall grass— making it particularly elusive to photographers visiting the tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh, India.


Voyager t is remarkable that tigers can still be found in the wild, let alone that India has reversed their decline. Poaching is no longer a tiger’s biggest threat; now it’s other tigers. Tigers are fiercely territorial and, depending on availability of prey, that territory tends to be rather expansive. Fights among males can be deadly. The dominant male mates with females in the area, and afterward, the females have the challenge of defending their cubs from other males (competing males kill cubs to make a female able to breed again). A male cub needs to survive at least two years before it might hold its own or challenge an older male for territory. A shift in power means more threats to the most recent litters. To minimize this concern, the tigers need more land. With six reserves in Madhya Pradesh already, that is a challenge. The jeep slows, and the driver and guide lean out over a fresh print. The tigers like to follow the roads. A couple of park workers inform our guides that they caught sight of a tiger moving east. Another mahout on an elephant appears from a forest trail and points back. “He saw a kill and a mother with two cubs feeding on it,” our guide says. It’s after 9:00 a.m. already, and our odds of spotting a tiger diminish as they become less active from now until the evening. And so it goes. We’ve already been to Satpura National Park, where we also had the chance to view wildlife from a canoe, and Pench National Park, where we took a mountainbike tour along a road with tiger and sloth bear tracks. Satpura required a boat ride to get to the jeeps at the gate, while Pench featured an impressive ridge in the distance rising from the teak forest. The bird-watching has been excellent, and we’ve seen plenty of monkeys, jackals, wild boars, and various herd animals. One jeep in our group even came upon a leopard. But no tigers. The next day, we move to a new lodge and a different park. It’s day five, and we are starting to consider the possibility that on an eight-day tour, we might come up empty. But our odds increase as we head to Kanha and Bandhavgarh National Parks.

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In Kanha, the evening is settling in around us as we stop to photograph a rare owl in the branches right above us. We continue down the road, and a tall hill shrouded in jungle rises to our right. We come to a narrow, grassy clearing that rises up the hill like a ski run. The driver hits the brakes. “There!” he cries. A hundred meters up, a light patch in the grass turns, and a pattern of black bars slips off into the trees. All decorum is lost, and we are like children clambering over our seats for a better view, but the driver commands us to sit. He reverses the jeep back to where the owl was, and we wait. Nothing. After fifteen minutes, we roll forward to the clearing again. “He will come down,” the guide says with confidence. Fifteen minutes later, he is vindicated. “There!” We point at a hint of movement back where we just were, and again he drives backward to reach it. We’ve found our tiger. Standing parallel to the road, the beast seems almost bored as he sizes us up. He takes a few steps through the grass and brush, his muscles quivering beneath his

He takes a few steps through the grass and brush, his muscles quivering beneath his orange-andblack fur. We are not twenty feet away—in an open jeep. The hairs on my arms stand up. orange-and-black fur. We are not twenty feet away—in an open jeep. The hairs on my arms stand up. We can look right into the tiger’s eyes, see its whiskers and the white dots on the backs of its ears. There is no glass partition, no bars; just a tiger, burning bright, free in the forests of the night. Was it worth the wait? The long drives over bumpy roads, the hours traveled to reach the parks? Would it be so exhilarating if we could easily see tigers at every turn? The tiger turns back toward the trees, casts one last look over its shoulder at us, and leaves us with our hearts thumping. Yes, it was all worth it. You have to earn it. You have to have patience. And a little luck doesn’t hurt either.

Above: The big moment arrives; an adult tiger is finally spotted alongside the road in Kanha National Park. Opposite top: Two langurs relax on a log. Their warning cries from the treetops are often a good sign that a tiger is nearby. Opposite left: Safari guests and their guides enjoy a picnic in the forest before continuing their trek. Opposite right: A mahout rides an elephant through the national park.

Roya l E xped itions .com Kevin Revolinski is the author of several books, including The Yogurt Man Cometh: Tales of an American Teacher in Turkey. He also writes online at V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 79

Voyager If You Go: Royal Expeditions coordinated all our travel and safaris, and Pugdundee Safaris provided lodging. From Delhi, I traveled by train to Agra to experience the Taj Mahal, then to Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh. There, Royal Expeditions arranged drivers in a circle tour to four national parks, with stops at two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Paleolithic paintings at the Bhimbetka rock shelters and the erotic-themed sculptures and temple complex at Khajuraho. The chances of seeing tigers in the four national parks break down as follows: Satpura, 20 percent; Pench, 40 percent; Kanha, 70 percent; and Bandhavgarh, 90 percent. By the end, I’d seen several tigers and all other manner of wildlife. A typical traveler would likely want two to three days and two daily game drives at each park.

Where I Stayed: – – – –

Denwa Backwater Escape, Satpura National Park Pench Tree Lodge, Pench National Park Kanha Earth Lodge, Kanha National Park Kings Lodge, Bandhavgarh National Park

A scenic guesthouse at Denwa Backwater Escape in Satpura National Park

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OH MY! bears and dogs and wolves

EXPLORE GREECE BEYOND THE BEACHES AND ISLANDS by rebecca hall · photography courtesy of arcturos bear sanctuary

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ention to your friends, family, and colleagues that your next vacation will involve a trip to the southern European country of Greece, and many are sure to assume you’ll head to the islands of Santorini or Mykonos. Maybe the well informed will think of the Peloponnese—the peninsula southwest of Athens famous for its wine production, hiking, and archaeological sites. But many don’t equate Greece with wild animals, such as brown bears and wolves, or with the ability to experience them. Come with me on a trip to discover more about the rescue and rehabilitation project of Arcturos bear and wolf sanctuary and the region it inhabits. One hour from Greece’s northern city of Thessaloniki or a five-hour drive from Athens along the Ionian highway that hugs the west coast of the country, you’ll find yourself in the protected village of Nymfaio within the Florina region. Nestled on Mount Vitsi in a forest of beech trees, the village is included among UNESCO’s ten most picturesque villages in Europe, and by law, any new buildings or renovations must not detract from the original stone architecture and mansions so typical of the region. The village is like stepping into a fairy tale or back in time—indeed, it dates back to approximately 1385 when the Vlach travelers (Eastern Romance language–speaking people of the Balkans) settled here after fleeing Ottoman invaders. Their language has been handed down, and it is possible, occasionally, to still hear it spoken among the older generation in the village. The brown bear, the most common of all bear species in the world, used to roam North America, northern Mexico, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Today, brown bears are found only in northwestern North America, Europe, and most of North Asia. In Greece, there are an estimated 450 bears living in two independent populations, which are not geographically linked.

Aside from Nymfaio’s beauty, one of the most important features of the village is the Arcturos bear and wolf sanctuary.

BROWN BEARS IN GREECE: A BRIEF HISTORY The brown bear is Europe’s largest land mammal and holds significance to many countries: it’s Finland’s national animal, it’s minted on coins in Croatia, and Slovenia has one of the biggest populations of them within the continent. Although Greece is not renowned for these creatures, they do exist there. V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 83

Voyager time the bear would hear the drumbeat, he’d associate it with fire and start to jump from paw to paw to extinguish an imaginary fire. The practice has been outlawed in many countries, but unfortunately, there are still some dancing bears being exploited. The declining numbers of wild bears in Greece, topped with the numbers of rescued dancing bears, brought Arcturos to life.

ARCTUROS BEAR SANCTUARY Rewind to 1992 when the sanctuary was established: on a trip to the Balkans, the son of Thessaloniki’s mayor was particularly disturbed after seeing a dancing bear, and this forward-thinking, straighttalking mayor decided something had to be done. Arcturos was born—the name originating from the Ancient Greek arktos, meaning “bear,” and Arcturus, meaning “guardian of the bear.” Think of the Great Bear you can see in the constellations of the night sky and the brightest star near it. Initially the sanctuary rescued dancing bears, and in 2012 Greece successfully passed a law that no animals were to be used in circuses; Greece was the second country in the world (after Bolivia) to do so. Circus bears were also brought to the sanctuary. Then, with the development of roads and infrastructure in the region, wild bears were being hit by cars, causing cubs to lose their mothers, and Arcturos expanded.

Threatened by deforestation, road construction, and hunting in the Pindus Mountains that skirt the northern part of the country, the bears’ natural habitat was diminishing. At one point, the wild population decreased to only two hundred bears. And, until as recently as the 1990s, many people kept bears in captivity, some using these magnificent creatures as “dancing bears” to make money.

THE DANCING BEARS OF EUROPE A dancing bear is exactly as its name suggests: a brown bear kept on a chain and paraded in the streets to a drumbeat, encouraging the public to part with their cash for a look. It’s a cruel practice that goes back to ancient times; a bear was made to walk on hot coals or someone would set fire to its paws so that he would rise up on two legs. Then a drumbeat would start, and the bear would “dance” while trying to extinguish the fire. This would later trigger a Pavlovian response: every 84 | AUGU S T 2018

As of 2018, Arcturos houses fourteen bears and is awaiting another six. All its bears had a lousy start in life, either as dancing bears in the Balkans or because of human encroachment. The twenty-four-acre wildlife sanctuary ensures that these bears can safely live out the rest of their lives in nature, as they should.

Arcturos was born—the name originating from the Ancient Greek arktos , meaning “bear,” and Arcturus, meaning “guardian of the bear.” Think of the Great Bear you can see in the constellations of the night sky and the brightest star near it.

Sanctuary bears do not breed and cannot be released back into the wild due to being too long in captivity or too severely injured, but hope is not lost for their species. Thanks to the efforts of Arcturos, local governments are taking ecological habitats and wildlife corridors into consideration when planning infrastructure projects, and the bear numbers in Greece are on the rise. There are now approximately five hundred bears in the wild, and the majority are found in the Pindus mountain range in the northeast, where Nymfaio is located.

Not only does Arcturos rehabilitate bears and wolves, but it also started a Greek shepherd dog breeding program. The Greek shepherd (or Greek sheepdog) is a special breed that is incredibly loyal and strong, aggressively protecting its flock. They have instincts similar to wolves, meaning the dogs understand the thought processes and hunting strategies of these natural predators. Arcturos breeds these sheepdogs and distributes them freely to local shepherds, removing the need to hunt and kill Greece’s wolf population.

WOLF SANCTUARY AND GREEK SHEEPDOG BREEDING PROGRAM Arcturos offers not only the bear sanctuary near Nymfaio but also a wolf sanctuary, which is located a few kilometers away outside the small village of Amyntaio. The refuge was created in the mid-1990s to help these majestic creatures that were either being held in captivity or hunted. There are seven resident wolves, all originally from Thessaloniki Zoo. Again, they do not breed and won’t be able to be released back into the wild, but, thanks in part to the education programs of Arcturos, wild wolf numbers in Greece are increasing. What do we mean by education? As mentioned previously, one of the main issues of dwindling wolf numbers was the fact they were hunted and killed, mainly by shepherds, as the wolves would kill their flocks and therefore threaten their livelihoods.

Above: A Greek shepherd puppy; this breed will guard its flock against attacks from large carnivores, such as bears and wolves. Left: Melina joined the Arcturos Wolf Sanctuary in June 2015. She came from Thessaloniki Zoo, where she was born. Opposite: A brown bear stands on its hind legs. The largest bear populations in Greece live in the Pindus and Rhodope Mountains.


Voyager While we (thankfully) did not see wild bears or wolves during a hike around the surrounding countryside of Nymfaio, the bears were easily visible within the sanctuary, which receives about seventy thousand visitors each year. With twenty staff members taking care of the animals and leading tours and education initiatives, the refuge is funded by entrance fees (about six euros per person), donations, its Sponsor a Bear/Wolf program, and the gift shop. Despite the financial struggles of Greece, it is gratifying that Arcturos is still able to maintain its important missions of conservation and education.

A R C T U R O S .G R Rebecca Hall is an English language teacher turned travel writer and novelist. After life in the UK became too cold, she moved to sunny Greece and admits the slightly chaotic nature of it suits her very well. She writes for various online publications such as Weather2Travel, has contributed to guidebooks such as The Rough Guide to Greece, The Rough Guide to the Greek Islands, and The Rough Guide to Portugal, and maintains her travel blog, Life Beyond Borders, encouraging others to travel beyond the borders of geography and their minds. Her debut novel, Girl Gone Greek, was released at the height of the Greek debt crisis in 2015 with the aim to bring a positive view of the country; it has been written into a screenplay in the hope that it will be picked up for production.

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A tower of giraffes heads for their meal of choice—acacia trees—in Namibia’s Zambezi region. 88 | AUGU S T 2018




he Zambezi River flowed seven paces from the foot of my bed. I could have thrown a rock and hit Zambia from the back deck of my spacious cabin. The water moving past me would eventually tumble over the mighty Victoria Falls, a day trip from here. I had ten days in Namibia touring the Zambezi Region, formerly the Caprivi Strip, the narrow 280-mile-long protrusion of territory that extends from Namibia’s northeastern corner where it borders Angola, Zambia, and Botswana. Dubbed the Four Rivers Route, the safari starred the Zambezi, Okavango, Kwando, and Chobe Rivers and explored the lush lands in between, home to elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, and crocodiles, plus the occasional lion and over four hundred species of birds.



hildren walking home from school along the highway waved at our passing safari jeep as our driver and guide, Rusten, delivered us from the regional airport to a boat to reach Zambezi Mubala Lodge. With a welcome drink in hand, I listened to my options: boat excursions in search of crocodiles, fishing for the long-fighting and fast-running tigerfish, and hikes into the grassy area around us to spy exotic bird species.

Namibia slips under the radar a bit. It’s the quiet neighbor to Botswana and South Africa, and only finally gained its independence in 1990. Once a German colony, Namibia’s roadways are direct and well maintained, making this nation, roughly double the size of California, the perfect African destination for independent travelers. Known best perhaps for its Skeleton Coast along the Atlantic—a land of dunes, shipwrecks, and surprising desert animals—and Etosha, a national park comparable to the classic African safari destinations of Kruger or the Masai Mara, Namibia has protected nearly 38 percent of its land. Much of what falls outside those boundaries is nevertheless natural and sweeps to the horizon. The human population is just over two million. My next stop was Camp Kwando, named for the river running past the property. The most rustic of my stays, the resort offered cabins with screened windows open to the night sounds of insects, frogs, waterbirds, and even a distant lion’s roar. A loud, guttural grunting, deep from a cavernous throat, awakened me in the middle of the night. I was fight-or-flight awake and knew it could only be one thing: a hippo. Assuring myself that hippos can’t climb deck poles, I grabbed my phone to try to capture its call on audio. I stood at my screen door, the world around me as black as oil but the heavens showing a riot of stars. I listened to the river slipping through the reeds along the bank. And again I heard a single exclamatory grunt and then the low grunting pattern like the evil laugh of a villain—Jabba the Hutt comes to mind—so loud that I nearly dropped the phone; the hippo wallowed right under the edge of the deck. I listened to it roll a

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A loud guttural grunting, deep from a cavernous throat, awakened me in the middle of the night. I was fight-or-flight awake and knew it could only be one thing: a hippo.

bit in the water, the rippling along its invisible hulk, and after a lengthy silence, I knew it had moved on. The next day, on an aluminum boat with an outboard motor, a guide ferried a group upstream to find a bloat of thirty hippos along a bend in the river. They stood on the river bottom, all of them staring, only their eyes and those amusing, tiny, cuplike ears above the waterline. Our guide slipped the boat into a grassy area along the bank no more than twentyfive feet away. Another hippo rose up out of the river, mouth wide to show some jagged teeth. This was the deadliest mammal mouth in Africa. Lions? Less than a hundred people per year fall to the king of the jungle. Hippos—territorial, sharp-toothed, and weighing in at 3,300 pounds—kill more than five hundred annually.

We lingered long, the light shifting as pink clouds reflected on the water, and then turned back for the lodge, stopping halfway back when we came across two male elephants. Their tusks clattered and trunks tangled as they threw their weight against each other in a challenge for supremacy. While many of my excursions occurred on the water, land-based game drives didn’t disappoint either. In Mudumu National Park, we spotted elephants, hippos, and impalas, and the Mahango Game Reserve impressed with its giraffes, crocodiles, baboons, wildebeests, ostriches, and abundant herds of antelope and zebras. Days later and another river over, I checked into Divava Okavango Resort and Spa. Dining on the deck overlooking the Okavango River, I could hear the cascading Popa Falls nearby, and upriver in the distance, a cluster of gray rocks in the water moved and revealed themselves as hippos. Expansive thatch-roofed rooms high along the riverbank offered outdoor showers and tubs looking out to the water.

Boat tours on the Four Rivers Route along the Zambezi, Okavango, Kwando, and Chobe Rivers are ideal for safari-goers to see wild animals such as hippos (above left), hornbills (above right), zebras (opposite left), and much more. Opposite right: The flora on the Four Rivers Route is just as magnificent as the fauna.



hat afternoon, I joined a visit to a village just outside the lodge. Our guide, a resident, walked the group through daily life there. The villagers gathered under a tree and began singing and drumming, forming a dance circle. This dance was not a shuffle or a measured step, but the leaping and stomping of letting loose, smiles on their faces, taking turns. This wasn’t a hotel floor show. They finished, and we thanked them, wandering deeper into the village with our guide. As soon as we were out of sight, they started singing again off in the distance, for themselves, for the love of it. This was the second of two village excursions, and by this point the number of locals I’d met far outnumbered the travelers I’d encountered that week. Back at the lodge, I struck up a conversation with a German couple who had been coming to Africa for years, specifically to Namibia for the last six. I noted the scarcity of tourists, and the woman nodded with satisfaction. “Botswana is too expensive now. And so many people.”

Right: A glorious sunset on the Okavango River. Below left: A herd of impalas stands at attention. Below right: A male African darter perches on a branch near the river.

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My final two nights were back on the Okavango at Hakusembe River Lodge. The previous day’s sundowner cruise had put me nearly an arm’s length from a variety of bird species perched and posing for the camera: giant kingfishers, African darters, two species of herons. We toasted the sunset, sipped champagne, and then returned to the beach, where the entire staff of the resort greeted us in song and drumbeats next to a fire. That final day had been rainy on and off, the sky seemed low and leaden, and the chill was enough for me to need a windbreaker. A visible sunset seemed unlikely, but I decided to go the full mile and book one last sundowner cruise. We encountered more birds, paused to hop off the bow onto the Angola side of the river just to say we did it, and had another round of champagne. The boat turned to head back, and then magic happened. A golden crack opened up on the sullen horizon, and marmalade warmth began to spread from the west. The smooth water mimicked it until the light had scattered overhead and at our

feet, and the whole world appeared as if through a rosy filter. Then the sky to the east took up the color as well, and sunset simply went over the top and lit up part of a rainbow behind us. Even craning my neck around I couldn’t take it all in, and my camera never stood a chance. When all the golden glow had faded through pink and then to purple, we returned to shore. Only the joyous welcome of singing and dancing from the entire staff could follow that display, and after dinner I retired to my cabin, the melodies still ringing in my ears. This is Africa.

Only the joyous welcome of singing and dancing from the entire staff could follow that display, and after dinner I retired to my cabin, the melodies still ringing in my ear. This is Africa.


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Blue Crane Safaris offers this multiriver trip, coordinating all transportation, bush plane fly-ins, and guides while booking lodging with Gondwana Collection along the way. Visit BlueCraneSafaris. com and to learn more. Kevin Revolinski is the author of several books, including The Yogurt Man Cometh: Tales of an American Teacher in Turkey. He also writes online at

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Visual Perspectives

Visual Perspectives THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Photo courtesy of Fox Chapel Publishing Visit Dean-Russo. to learn more.

Dean Russo, an expressive pop artist from Brooklyn, is well known for his paintings and work with animal welfare, wildlife extinction, celebrity portraits, and cartoon characters. His book, Dean Russo: A Retrospective, a collection of two hundred images of his colorful paintings, is scheduled for release in November. His most recent project, which launched in May of this year, is a series of eight lined journals, each featuring one of his iconic pet portraits on the cover. The animals in his paintings are adoptable shelter pets, and proceeds from his sales are donated back to the shelters. Russo says, “My greatest inspirations are art and animals. Animals’ expressions allow for endless possibilities, and portraying the energy and joy that can sometimes be lost in otherwise preconceived notions of the subject is what drives me.” V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 95


Call W i l d l

of the

Artist Alex Beard’s Mission to Save the Animals He Celebrates on Canvas

By Tori Phelps Photography courtesy of Alex Beard

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Visual Perspectives

Having a conversation with Alex Beard is a lot like exploring the untamed terrains he loves so much: a little wild, often surprising, and guaranteed to lure you off course. But it’s also a surefire way to learn something about life and about yourself (hmm . . . what is my view on the value of formal education?). The New Orleans–based painter, author, and reluctant filmmaker is equal parts smart and authentic. He describes his approach to life as “Thoreauvian,” citing a pursuit of off-the-beaten-path zen in any backwoods he can find. But there’s zero chance that he takes himself too seriously. He cheerfully admits, for example, that he knows much of the praise he receives is just people blowing smoke.

grandmother’s unaccompanied move to France at the age of nine to learn the language as evidence that he was actually a late bloomer. Creativity was another trait his family embraced. His mother worked as a writer and editor for publications like Town & Country, and his uncle, Peter Beard, was a talented photographer and scrap artist. It was “invaluable,” he believes, to have been raised not only among creatives, but among successful creatives. Rather than viewing a career in the arts as a pipe dream or something one lucks into, he saw it as a logical outcome of hard work.

Left: Alex Beard Photo by Chris Granger Below: Beard in his studio working on a large canvas

His easy laugh only retreats when talking about the life-or-death mission of the Watering Hole Foundation, an organization he founded to help save endangered animals and the world’s remaining wilderness. In other words, he wants to ensure that his paintings won’t be the only place his kids and grandkids can see African elephants. Beard’s artistic style lends itself well to bringing awareness to the foundation’s cause. While it’s based on gestural painting, Beard had to coin a new term— Abstract Naturalism—for the kind of art he does. In searching for a way to describe it, he realized all of the “categories” were taken. Was it wildlife painting? Not really. Abstract art? Naturalism? It’s none of the above, yet all of the above, he says of the way his nonphotorealistic work mimics the way animals implicitly move in nature. Wildlife wasn’t something he grew up around, except when he went to the Central Park Zoo. Born and raised in Manhattan, Beard came from a family that believed travel to be the best education. He tagged along with them from an early age, and by the time he was a young teen, he was taking solo international jaunts. Beard rejects the suggestion that junior high is too young for such things, pointing to his


Visual Perspectives

Beard creating in pen and ink Photo by Todd Ritondaro

eard opted for formal education at Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but his preferred educational method is more Emersonian. “Find someone who knows more about something than you do, and learn what you can from them,” he says. “I’m not as interested in what degrees you have as I am in what you know.” “Find someone

Over time, people took notice of his ability to bring two-dimensional subjects to life. Both his profile and his prices rose substantially, though he’s far more comfortable with the latter than the former. He admits to being stunned that people not only know what he does, but also actively seek out the chance to view and buy his work. Yet he insists that fame isn’t anything he aspires to. “As soon as you think you’re hot s**t, you stop making anything worth looking at,” who knows more says the straight shooter.

about something than you do, and So he learned and worked ... and learned In addition to a wife and kids who make and worked some more. Art was the only learn what you can from them. I’m sure he doesn’t get too big for his britches, career he ever considered (except playing not as interested in what degrees you Beard’s travels keep him grounded. third base for the Yankees, as any New Literally. It’s not like celebrity counts Yorker would), and he made gradual have as I am in what you know.” for anything when he’s sitting around a inroads toward building a clientele. His campfire in Africa or trying to avoid malaria by sleeping under a mosquito net. typical cycle involved going to Africa or Asia, where he would complete a bunch of art; returning to the States to show his work at a friend’s apartment, gallery, or And when he comes back to the US, New Orleans takes care of any remaining any venue that would have him; and then selling the art to pay for his next trip. delusions of grandeur. The fact that locals care more about the person than the A bachelor at the time—he’s now married and has two children—he didn’t need profession is one of a thousand things he loves about the city, which he’s called much money to fuel that lifestyle. “I wasn’t staying at the Ritz,” he explains. “I home for twenty-five years. As an artist, he has the freedom to live wherever would just go to India or wherever for six months and stomp around in the bush.” 98 | AUGU S T 2018

he wants, but Beard shoots down the idea that he could, in fact, live anywhere else. He revels in New Orleans’s small-town feel and international outlook, adding that its identity as a port city gives it a man-meets-nature environment that’s endlessly inspiring. Besides which, “There are so many cultures here that the culture itself is forgiving of eccentrics,” he sighs. “And I’m kind of eccentric.” Safely ensconced in a spot that welcomes every form of different, Beard is able to lean into whatever captures his interest. As well as the (usually) large-scale paintings for which he’s best known, he also authors and illustrates critically acclaimed storybooks. The series, Tales from the Watering Hole, features animaldriven plots that are ostensibly for children but which have a message for readers of any age. His soon-to-be-released fourth book, The Lying King, is an especially timely parable about more. But when he was presented with the opportunity several years ago as a tangible way to fight the horrific slaughter of African elephants, he didn’t consider saying no.

Above: Walking on the Backs of Crocodiles, oil on canvas Left: Day Tripper, oil on canvas

It was a bit of déjà vu for Beard, who had seen similar poaching spikes before. As a child, he was privy to the issue through the work of his photographer uncle, and Beard himself had been at the secondever ivory burn in the early 1990s. The situation seemed even more dire this time, and he jumped in however he could. “It’s not okay for all the elephants to die. Full stop,” he says. “I did the documentary for no other reason.”

a warthog ruler who believes he’s immune to the consequences of dishonesty. It’s easy to draw conclusions about whom the main character is based on (which Beard doesn’t deny), but it’s a subject that’s larger than one person. “We’re living in a time when the truth seems to be under siege,” he laments. “When I was growing up, lying was not okay. And I thought it was important to refocus the conversation people have with their children about the consequences of lying.” He has also dipped his toe into film, with a documentary called Drawing the Line. Filmmaking wasn’t a long-held dream, and he doesn’t plan on making any

Through the Watering Hole Foundation, which he launched in 2012, he’s able to funnel money into projects, organizations, and communities in Africa that are working diligently to stop poaching. This isn’t a tax write-off for him; it’s a primary measure of whether he’s a decent human being. “I’m in a position to help and, frankly, have a responsibility to do so,” he says. “You can’t traipse around these places and see them being destroyed over the course of your lifetime, do nothing about it, and feel okay with yourself.” V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 99

Visual Perspectives So he gives his money away and encourages others to be part of the solution—sometimes during conversations he has at his Magazine Street atelier. He welcomes the public to his studio, in part because he just likes people, but also because he believes that isolated artists are self-referential (read: boring) artists. Mixing with locals and visitors not only prevents him from getting stuck in the rarefied air of the art world, but it upholds his conviction that art is for everyone. At least, he hopes his art is for everyone. Because the more people who get to know him and his work, the more people who join the conversation about the value of animals and their habitats. He wants viewers to consider the interconnectedness of life when they see his art, though he knows he can’t control that. All he can control is his own motivation. “Everything I do as a person is to teach my children and then their children the same things I was taught,” he explains. “Err on the side of doing the right thing, be open to new things, and give it your best all the time.”

Left: Emerald Isle Peacock, oil on canvas Tori Phelps has been a writer and editor for nearly twenty years. A publishing industry veteran and longtime VIE collaborator, Phelps lives with three kids, two cats, and one husband in Charleston, South Carolina.


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Artwork by Rob Decker

An iconic view of Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains 102 | AUGU S T 2018

he year was 1872, and the United States, still reeling from the Civil War, was near the end of what became known as Reconstruction. Social and political upheaval were in full swing throughout the country, particularly the war-torn and battle-scarred land of the South. President Ulysses S. Grant, inspired by the second westward expedition of geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden, photographer William Henry Jackson, and landscape painter Thomas Moran, signed into law a bill creating the first national park, Yellowstone. After the 1890 designation of many more national parks, but most notably the second great national park, Yosemite, Sierra Club cofounder and noted preservationist John Muir famously remarked, “There is a love of wild nature in everybody.� This sentiment would set the tone for the continued appreciation and conservancy of the landscape of the United States while simultaneously healing the wounds of the Civil War by recognizing and protecting the natural beauty of the land that had remained untouched by its ravages.


Visual Perspectives ears later, during the Great Depression, the New Deal created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to employ Americans in public works projects. The WPA’s Federal Art Project hired thousands of artists to create pieces of art, including posters that publicized everything from public health to theater productions to travel. As many more national parks were created or enhanced, the opportunity to share the beauty of these lands was recognized, and WPA-style art became a vehicle by which this end was accomplished.

Fast-forward to today as photographer and graphic artist Rob Decker revisits and re-creates the style of these iconic WPA posters through his unique and modern take on what has become a wholly American style of art. Decker grew up in Northern California, a few hours from Yosemite, and his family camped and explored there often. He was eight years old when he went on a ten-thousand-mile cross-country trip with his family in a motor home as they visited several national parks. He used a Kodak Duaflex camera with black-andwhite 120 roll film to photograph the trip. He hadn’t put his future together at that point, but he enjoyed the photography side as well as the nature side of the experience, which later became the essence of his current art and ultimately his passion project. “I was into photography as a kid,” Decker says. “In elementary school, I used to skip Spanish class to work in the darkroom with the science teacher. I also worked as a photographer for my high school yearbook.” Throughout his career, Decker has owned a photography business doing everything from portraits to product shots and live performances. He has spent the past twenty-five-plus years as an independent consultant and producer involved in interactive programming, multimedia software and web development, educational textbook publishing, and graphic design. Decker says, “The real catalyst that brought everything together was the summer of 1979 when I studied under Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park.” This, he shares, was the experience that solidified his love of photography and the national parks. “Adams hosted these workshops in Yosemite, and I went through an extensive application process, submitting work, and it was almost like applying to college and waiting to hear if you were accepted. I was fortunate enough to be accepted, and then it was several weeks in Yosemite with Adams.” Decker says that this opportunity was an extended program of instruction and working directly with Adams in different parts of the park, attending lectures, and also being able to work with other notable photographers of the time. “It’s coming up on forty years ago, and I have to say that I think I value that experience more today than I

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did when I was nineteen years old. It was an amazing experience in that I got to spend time working with Adams out in the field in the Yosemite Valley and up in the Sierra Nevada high country. We did a lot of experimental stuff with Polaroid film.” (Adams was a friend of scientist and inventor Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid camera and film).

He has spent the past twenty-five-plus years as an independent consultant and producer involved in interactive programming, multimedia software and web development, educational textbook publishing, and graphic design. “We had all of this Polaroid film and cameras, so we did all kinds of interesting experimental projects with them,” Decker continues. “I also got to spend time with him in the darkroom. His big thing was the Zone System, which was his photographic technique for determining the optimal exposure and development of film. I think that this is in large part why his photographs are so impressive—he was a master at creating the right exposure and then being able to manipulate that further in the darkroom.” Decker notes that some of the most important lessons that he learned during this experience came after the day’s work was done. “After the workday was finished, there was time in the evenings when there would be these cocktail parties with Adams and his wife, Virginia, and there were other photographers—not necessarily of his caliber, but there were other photographers who were a part of this program—and it was awe-inspiring and motivating for me as a young man to be around these artists.” In retrospect, Decker believes that the entire experience was ultimately one of complete serendipity. He was in between colleges at the time, and this was something that got him on the right track as an artist

and a professional photographer. It was not long after the Adams experience that he applied to and was accepted at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he finished his college career and received his bachelor’s in communication. “It was one of those things where being a professional photographer, especially at a young age, was a daunting career path, and so I did a lot of other things that would be considered stable—to pay the bills, to raise a family, and all of that good stuff.” The switch into what Decker calls the National Park Poster Project started with his daughter’s wedding. V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 105

Visual Perspectives

he found this retro dress, and I made up all of the save-the-date cards and the table cards and created a poster with shots that I had taken around Colorado, and I did it in this WPA retro style. We joke about this today, that even though this was supposed to be her day, I got a lot of positive feedback about all of the artwork, and so I decided to take the leap. I tested the waters to see if I could leave my day job, my career, in the rear-view mirror and pursue my passion for photography and the national parks.” Decker ran three successful crowdfunding campaigns through Kickstarter, and this became the true “proof of concept” that his idea was a viable project and more than just family flattery. Most importantly, the campaigns proved that a lot of people enjoyed his style of artwork.

As of today, there are fifty-three unique posters within Decker’s portfolio. Some of the imagery goes back to the 1970s when he graduated from high school and went on a big road trip with friends. They visited several national parks along their path. Decker saved the photos from this trip, and after his successful crowdfunding campaigns to start the project, he went back into his archives and started from there. Now that this has become a full-time project, he has since revisited some of the parks to try to capture the “iconic shot” that would represent each one for the poster. He also has had the opportunity to visit many parks that he hadn’t been to before. “Every park has something different, something new. It’s fun to explore, to get out the camera and hike around and see some new things. This really is a passion for me as I love the national parks, and they offer a lot to so many people.” Decker gives back 10 percent of the profits from the sale of his prints to a wide array of organizations supporting national parks. “It’s not easy to give directly to the National Park Service or to a specific national park, but each one either has its own conservancy, trust, or association, or there are some bigger groups that have a lot of parks under their umbrella. So I give back to the National Park Foundation, Yellowstone Forever, and the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Last year, after Hurricane Maria, I did a fund-raiser for the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, which got hammered pretty hard by that storm. It seems that people appreciate this, too, as I seem to get a lot of good response from people who are feeling good that a part of their purchase is going to support these parks.”

“Every park has something different, something new. It’s fun to explore, to get out the camera and hike around and see some new things. This really is a passion for me as I love the national parks, and they offer a lot to so many people.”

The artist’s works are printed on a paper stock by Neenah called Conservation, which is 100 percent recycled. Most printing inks are petroleum based, so to take his mission further, Decker uses soy-based inks. He also employs a printer in Colorado that is exceptionally green and Rainforest Alliance Certified. Decker says, “These aspects of the printing process really fit in with the idea of the whole project here.

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“My hope is that by creating these kinds of iconic images, I can help to generate some awareness for these places. I want to showcase not only the country’s amazing landscapes but also the rich history and vibrant culture that go along with them,” Decker says. “I think that everybody today—and in the future—should have the opportunity to enjoy our national parks, and creating the next generation of national park stewards is going to be important. We’re going to need people to put in government to help to keep these parks funded, as they’ve been underfunded for many years, and it’s not just by the current administration. These parks, our national treasures, could use all the help they can get.”

For more information on Rob Decker and his art, visit

Visual Perspectives



Sentience; acrylic on canvas, 6 × 6 in.



Artist Salvador Dalí, a surrealism pioneer of the last century, toyed with his critics and admirers upon saying, “The secret of my influence has always been that it remained secret.” Regardless of what stirred his soul, Dalí captivated artist Amy Guidry with his technique. Their attitudes, however, differ in that Guidry enthusiastically explains her motivations and uses her gift and love of painting to ignite change. With several artists in her family tree, including Eleanor Norcross (1854–1923), a fifth cousin, Guidry acknowledges an innate talent that landed her Loyola University’s most prestigious art scholarship. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in visual arts and initially worked as a graphic artist and jewelry designer before taking the advice of her husband, Zachary, and launching her fine art career in 2003. Subsequently shifting from commissioned portraiture to producing her inspired collections, Guidry has vividly depicted what occupies her mind and penetrates her soul: the human condition relative to the natural world. “When I first started out,” she says, “I thought I needed to paint what other people wanted me to paint. I’ve discovered over time that I must be excited about the work because it’ll show.” Her paintings have since been exhibited nationwide and received international exposure, garnering collectors from several countries. Guidry’s mesmerizing imagery can be disquieting for some viewers; however, even when presenting a harsh reality, the artist says, “I want people to understand that I have a positive outlook.” Mentioning her concern for the environment as an example, she says, “We are perfectly capable of preserving nature. With technology, it’s evident that we can create positive results. It’s not all doom and gloom. I want people to remember that.” All the same, the artist neither expects nor wants everyone to view her work the same way. “People will have different interpretations based on something

personal to them,” she states. Learning what others see and experience also broadens her perspectives. “I like it when they point out some bit of symbolism that I didn’t consider,” Guidry says. Whether they tell her directly or she overhears remarks during an exhibit, she finds it “amazing to know how my pieces perfectly illustrate” a narrative from their lives. “Even if their stories are not my own,” she offers, “I can still relate to them somehow. It’s almost as if we have a subconscious connection.”


She has produced three collections: New Realm, Beneath the Surface, and In Our Veins. The New Realm series endeavors “to challenge antiquated views of women as often seen in fairy tales . . . and explores strength of character and independence.” To execute the theme of each contemplative self-portrait, Guidry incorporates butterflies and birds, symbolizing independence and freedom, along with other animals and natural elements.

Above: Sustain; acrylic on canvas, 12 × 12 in.


Visual Perspectives

In comparison, Beneath the Surface examines “the human experience as a whole—who we are and the interactions and experiences we have in our environment.” Each composition raises unsettling truths about the unnatural, destructive norms of modern culture. In Our Veins, Guidry’s current and most prolific series, “explores the connections between all life forms and the cycle of life through a surreal, psychologically charged narrative.” Not yet compelled to move on, she says, “When dealing with animals and nature, I feel that I have so much to cover. There are so many subsets to nature and ecology and saving the environment. I don’t see an end in sight.” Providing further insight, Guidry says, “More than art, I care about animals and nature.” Some of her earliest memories are of spending endless hours exploring the forest next to her home in Louisiana with her dog Juno, a constant childhood companion. “I would go out in the woods pretty much every day,”

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she recalls. Like many children, she was fascinated with tadpoles and minnows, but Guidry, who trained a dragonfly to rest on her finger, formed extraordinary bonds with living creatures. No wonder that as a young artist she had the notion to “create a book with illustrations of every animal in the world. When I made this book, I thought everyone would see the animals and love them as much as I do and want to save them from extinction.” Accordingly, she adopted a vegan lifestyle.


Having drawn animals her entire life, she often captures their features from “muscle memory.” Horses fall within that group. “It’s as if I can draw them with my eyes closed,” Guidry says. “I have a lot of contact with animals in nature,” she adds. Encouraging others to spend time outdoors, she and her husband never grow tired of exploring the wetlands of Louisiana, where they’ve settled. “Hiking makes you stop and look at the world—the little things you take for granted. At first glance, you may not see anything, but then you’ll notice the little newts and salamanders and a plethora of insects. I’ve seen all kinds of larger mammals, too, like deer, possums, and raccoons.”

Below: Vital; acrylic on canvas, 12 × 6 in. Opposite left: Transformation; acrylic on canvas, 6 × 6 in.

On the Rise; acrylic on canvas, 10 × 20 in.

Guidry also uses her photography, internet sources, and books with medical illustrations as references. “I do have a skeleton model in my studio,” she reveals. Professors encouraged her to pursue medical illustration when she was in college, but her passion was always painting. That doesn’t mean every step is a breeze; gathering inspiration can be tedious. “Sometimes, I’m just writing things, like facts and figures, and I’ll start brainstorming on the topic,” Guidry says. Many little sketches come next. “For one painting, I might do fifty different thumbnail sketches. It’s very intuitive, so I’ll take one sketch and do multiple variations. It can be painful at times, and if I see that I’m forcing them, I’ll put the work away and take a break. Then, I’ll hit on it, and it’ll be so simple.” She carefully plans her compositions but says, “Colors can sometimes be a bit of a surprise. I use colored pencils, which gives the gist of it, but I’m coloring quickly, so it’s not a deep application. Once I start painting it out, I may need to tweak something; maybe something needs a splash of red.” Louisiana’s high humidity makes working with acrylics, which dry quickly, the logical option. “My pieces are time-consuming as it is,” Guidry says. “An oil would take a year to dry.” Her canvases, sometimes as small as four square inches, surprise many upon viewing them in person. People refer to them as “big paintings on a small scale,” which amuses Guidry. She produces larger paintings, too, and for her, it’s always about composition. “Sometimes a small canvas is enough to V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 111

Visual Perspectives

handle the composition,” she says. Likewise, small size does not mean little time. She’s taken nearly two hundred hours to complete some pieces.


Her commitment to her paintings connects Guidry to each one, but she neither picks favorites, which would be like choosing a favorite child, nor puts any aside for her personal collection. Instead, she acquires original art in different media by others. “I try to distance myself from my artwork at home,” she says. “It’s best because it would be hard to give up a piece. I get attached. I enjoy it while it’s on the easel, and I can continue to enjoy it in a magazine or on my computer.” Relating her paintings to the animals in her life, she says, “There’s a reason why I’ve had so many cats and dogs over the years. They show up, I get attached, and they end up living here!”

Besides, by letting go and sharing her work, Guidry engages those with whom she’d probably never interact in person. They, in turn, can initiate valuable discussions. “I think it’s important for art to have a dialogue that keeps going,” she says. “If I can create a painting that continues that dialogue, it will remind people to do something.”

The Pack; acrylic on canvas, 20 × 10 in.

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Integral; acrylic on canvas, 20 Ă— 10 in.

A M Y G U I D RY. C O M Sallie W. Boyles works as a freelance journalist, ghostwriter, copywriter, and editor through Write Lady Inc., her Atlanta-based company. With an MBA in marketing, she marvels at the power of words, particularly in business and politics, but loves nothing more than relaying extraordinary personal stories that are believable only because they are true.

C’est la vie


There’s no denying it; the adoration of animals has long been a part of the human condition. From the Egyptians with their cats to the sled-dog communities of the northern reaches, animals have played a major role in cultural development around the world. They’ve even been known to save lives. So for our second-ever Animal Issue, here is a C’est la VIE collection that celebrates our furry, feathered, and fun-loving friends.


Just a Little Husky

Siberian Husky Dog Brooch $125 – 114 | AUGU S T 2018


Southern Gal

Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon, to be released September 18, 2018 $21 (preorder) –

Beach Please!


The Hawaii Beach Pouch $155 –

King of the World


Arthur Pet Bed in Royal Blue Velvet €389–€569 –



Love Bird Minaudière Clutch $4,295 –


Feline Fine

Leather Belt with Feline Buckle $650 –


Pawsitively Patriotic

Bandana James $35 –

Treat Yourself!


Zuke’s SuperFood Blend Dog Treats $7.50 –


La maison


doghouse By Anthea Gerrie Photography courtesy of BowWow Haus


ho says architect-designed houses are only for humans? Not Zaha Hadid and other world-class design firms that joined artists from both sides of the Atlantic this spring to create some of the chicest dog homes on the planet.

Born in Tampa fourteen years ago, the canine home show known as BowWow Haus was reprised in London in aid of less lucky dogs who are helped by Blue Cross, the UK charity that treats and rehomes forty thousand pets a year. They partnered with the Florida-based Outdoor Arts Foundation, which organized the first BowWow Haus in 2004, for a new show of dozens of designer kennels, most of which have now been auctioned off to raise funds. The kennels, many designed in Florida and some from as far away as Venezuela and Singapore, ranged from the minimal and understated— Zaha Hadid Design fielded an egg-shaped pooch perch recalling Eero Aarnio’s famous 1960s bubble chair—to the highly decorative. Mosaic artist Ivan Djidev was not the only creative thinking in tiny, multicolored tiles, as Saint Petersburg artist Allison Shelly-Redd created a mosaic 116 | AUGU S T 2018

for the entire front of her Dutch gable–style doghouse and lined its interior with a traditional black-and-white diamond-tiled floor. Shown off by the kind of canine supermodels who don’t get off their dog beds for less than ten thousand biscuits a year, the doghouses went on display before the auction at several London venues, including the iconic Saint Pancras International railway station. As one of the UK capital’s most legendary pieces of architecture, albeit one built 150 years ago, it was a fitting venue to show off the cutting edge of contemporary canine living. The station, one of the many pet-loving transatlantic sponsors, helped make possible the twenty-first century’s greatest barkitechture show to date. Anthea Gerrie is based in the UK but travels the world in search of stories. Her special interests are architecture and design, culture, food, and drink, as well as the best places to visit in the world’s great playgrounds. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, the Independent, and Blueprint.

Left: This creative example of barkitecture was made from Legos for the 2018 BowWow Haus and displayed at Saint Pancras International Railway Station, London. Opposite: Two border terriers pose in the glamorous kennel designed and created by FT Architects and Bruce Oldfield OBE for BowWow Haus London 2018. V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 117


American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Cancer Stem Cell Consortium, Farrah Fawcett Foundation, Genome Canada, Laura Ziskin Family Trust, LUNGevity Foundation, National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer STAND UP TO CANCER IS A DIVISION OF THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY FOUNDATION, A 501(C)(3) CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION. IMAGES ARE FROM STAND UP TO CANCER TELECASTS AND EVENTS. THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR CANCER RESEARCH (AACR) IS STAND UP TO CANCER’S SCIENTIFIC PARTNER.


Introspections THINK DEEPER


T:10.8125” Photo by Gray Malin Learn more or purchase prints at

Gray Malin is known for his beautiful photographs that usually include vibrant blue waters and beaches from around the world. That’s what makes the Gray Malin at the Parker II photo series a true standout project. Joined by his friend Kyle Kittleson, an animal behaviorist in Southern California, Malin captured surreal pictures of many exotic animals, including an elephant, a camel, a lion, and a monkey, at the gorgeous Parker Palm Springs hotel. Kittleson, who has worked with dozens of species of animals while focusing on conservation, rescue, and rehabilitation, assured Malin’s fans in a behind-the-scenes interview that top priorities during this photo shoot were the safety of and respect for all animals and staff. We believe the results are nothing short of stunning! V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 119




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and equally unwelcome commentary on beastly merits. My adopted daughter— five feet, two inches, though she claims she’s five-three, of class and beauty—beholds the world with that inward eye known as intelligence. Invariably, when she appears in public with her French poodle guide dog in the lead, some acutely perspicacious onlooker will observe, “Wow, I’ve never seen a French poodle seeing eye dog before.” No matter how often I beg, she has far too much savoir faire to retort, “Poodle? What do you mean? They told me it was a German shepherd.”


Don’t permit your children to read the ensuing paragraph in the absence of a parent or guardian.

ow look, before all you owners of surrogate children, otherwise known as the family pets, write to the editor and cost me this lucrative gig, I want it on the record: I love animals! In fact, for the first thirteen years of my life, I was convinced that I was among the primates. So often after my brothers and I had committed an outrage warranting incarceration, my father would let us have it. “I hoped for sons, but God sent me you three gorillas instead.” What’s more, if there really is such a thing as reincarnation, I’m either coming back as my cousin’s cat or my friend’s bichon frise. Who in his right mind would turn down a life of leisure, gourmet meals, hours of being incessantly addressed in baby talk, and the run of the household? All right, maybe we could can the baby talk, but it’s just one of the side effects of being so darn cute. On my street, you’ll find a lovely lady we call “the neighborhood watch.” Several times a day, she patrols with her impeccably well-behaved dog. How I love the feel of those two paws on my shoulders and that warm tongue licking my cheek—while the pup stands demurely by. It’s not necessarily the pet owners or the pets themselves that merit distemper shots, but those who can’t ever refrain from offering unsolicited affection

A college buddy of mine, during those undergraduate years of finding ourselves, found himself with that day’s girl of his dreams alone in her Cambridge apartment. All was unfolding in accordance with the protocol of youthful lust. What he mistook for the ecstatic scratches of his lady in full flight, however, turned out to be the outraged protests of her escaped hamster. Then there was the major celebratory family gathering when the resident Siamese cat succumbed to an irresistible attraction to one of the lady’s pantyhose. With a diving board–like flick of her clawed leg, the woman sent the offending feline soaring across the room in an almost perfectly executed two-and-a-half gainer in the tuck position before it harmlessly splashed into the opposite wall. All except the Russian judge, who was never satisfied, awarded the dive a 9.3.

I realize that Eddie Money is not the only one who hates to sleep alone, but sharing my bed with anything possessing more than two legs is not one of my pet cravings. Three-dog nights might have played well in cottages where central heating consisted of a warming pan that was filled with embers from the fireplace and rubbed along the feather mattress, but even a one-dog night is one pooch too many for this boy. On the other paw, separation anxiety is a terrible thing. Many European countries have resolved it to their—if not my—satisfaction. Imagine a posh Parisian or Viennese restaurant where diners are sophisticated enough to match the wines to the courses. In walks a well-dressed, middle-aged couple who can’t stomach the thought of abandoning little Robespierre or Fritzy to a solitary evening of high-end dog food and a screening of 101 Dalmatians. They simply must bring the canine to the eatery. Instead of doing a dog-in-the-manger act, the cur curls up under the table, out of sight and out of mind. Master and mistress get to enjoy their repast without interruption. All the while, we Americans sit and wonder why we can’t get our kids to behave this well on a long road trip. I’ve never had the guts to approach such a couple and ask if their doggy deportment school accepts seven-year-olds. Perhaps the language barrier would be insurmountable. V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 121

Introspections Granted, for the most part, the joy of animal ownership is special to the point of being therapeutic. Nonetheless, everyone knows that a brisk trade in forbidden fauna continues. The authorities can’t seem to ferret out the culprits. Those in the profession have told me that lions and tigers and bears do not exclusively populate the fevered imaginations of Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow. Lately, I must confess to hearing suspicious noises from the house opposite to ours. Then again, they might be nothing more than beer belches from the millennials who have been convinced by thousands of hours of advertising that suds taken internally are superior to suds you might employ to clean the bathroom. Oh, before I forget—I was never allowed to bring my mythical boar, Alfred, to the office. However, the mere threat sufficed to dissuade my office mate from littering the facility with an Irish setter who had the intelligence of a garden hose. Alfred, meanwhile, sleeps eternally beside the truffles he so fondly dug during his productive years.

Nick Racheotes is a product of Boston public schools, Brandeis University, and Boston College, from which he holds a PhD in history. Since he retired from teaching at Framingham State University, Nick and his wife, Pat, divide their time between Boston, Cape Cod, and the Western world.


How to Get Across the Road


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Life before the war was normal. I was eleven and hadn’t watched television and I knew little about American history. I had never been to a grocery store stocked with dozens of cereals or played on a school playground. My American family lived in Enugu, Nigeria, before evacuating during the Nigeria–Biafra War. Living as nomads, what kept us tethered to normalcy were parties, school, books, and radio. My all-Nigerian school had four-foot-high walls around a courtyard of red clay, and it held sewing classes for girls, gardening for boys. Were the Nigerian girls learning skills for the future, to clothe their families or become seamstresses? What about the boys, digging in the clay and dirt, gathering knowledge about growing food to feed future children or become farmers? What about me— where did I belong? America, its people, and its cultures were all a mystery to me, but African and diplomatic cultures I understood. Handling pythons, cheetahs, and gazelles were no problem. What terrified me most were my morning scripture classes. The teacher loomed over us students with a long ruler, ready to whack us on the head or hand if our pronunciation of an Old Testament name was wrong. My Bible education was nonexistent, so I became a fainting phenomenon; I could pass out the moment the teacher looked at me. After school, I did as the schoolboys did and tended to my vegetable patch in our big backyard, or sometimes we went to the zoo without cages down the road. One day, a baboon escaped and found our classroom. In one high jump, my teacher leaped on top of her desk, shaking her useless ruler at the baboon, setting off mayhem in the classroom. V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 125

Introspections At night, our family strolled down the road to drink with the neighbors whose naughty monkeys finished everyone’s half-empty cocktails. When the sky turned black and it was time to walk home, we tapped sticks on the ground in front of us to feel for snakes. Sometimes the tip touched the slippery-soft flesh of a twenty-five-foot rock python stretched across the road. The poke in the side may have felt like the nip of a mosquito to the constrictor; it was not a big deal. We were warned and stepped over the snake. The snakes let us be, just like the baboon who took a disdainful glance at the screaming class and turned his back on all of us.

Where will my friends go? When will I see my father again? Which Barbie doll should I take?

When there wasn’t a dinner party, my father and I sat in his library listening to the Voice of America on the radio. It was evenings on an upstairs terrace, hearing the music beyond the wall, that I liked best—the frogs, the animals in the bush, and the other nighttime sounds created a symphony of nature. Once night descended, the stars danced across the sky, and my father taught me about the constellations and how to identify the animals’ sounds in the distance. At the breakfast table one day in June of 1967, I learned about the war. My father told us that we were now in a new country named Biafra; we were not in Nigeria anymore. “This can’t be true,” I said. We hadn’t traveled anywhere overnight! My dad told us to get packing. My mother, sister, brother, and I had to depart that very hour in a convoy headed five hours south to the ocean and then board a plane. After explaining that I couldn’t leave my friends, that I needed to return books and toys, and any other excuse I could think of, my life turned unreal and my brain went berserk. Where will my friends go? When will I see my father again? Which Barbie doll should I take? What happens to the baboons and the other animals in the zoo? Where will the plane take my mother, sister, brother, and me? I didn’t know America. I was an African child. Would there be animals there? Would I make friends? My father stayed in Enugu for the first six months of the thirty-month war and lived on the vegetables from my garden. The lessons the boys learned in gardening, overheard by my girlfriends and me as we sat nearby chatting and sewing, fed my father in wartime. We received only two letters from him (in one he wrote that he owed me money for my 126 | AUGU S T 2018

vegetables), and we didn’t know if he was dead or alive until he returned to America. Our house in Enugu was bombed, our household belongings and family photos turned to rubble. What became of my beloved friends and the teacher with the stick? I can only imagine. The Biafran war was the world’s first televised war. People were stunned by the pictures of children with skeletal frames succumbing to famine. The Biafran leader, Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, was a thirty-three-year-old, Oxford-educated, sports car–driving, Shakespearean scholar. Shakespeare was not my teacher; I was too young for his plays and also too young to absorb and accept the implications of the devastation of war on my Nigerian classmates staying behind and perishing. Those nights sitting on the terrace with my father, watching and listening to the life in the jungle behind our house, were life lessons given to me by animals. The animals taught me death and survival, joy and terror, beauty and blood.

To not have been squeezed and eaten by a python and simply ignored by the baboon was lucky. Escaping a war was even more fortunate. The notion that life will go on but could at any moment shift to joy or terror is one of the immutable rules of existence, taught by any living creature.

Suzanne Pollak, a mentor and lecturer in the fields of home, hearth, and hospitality, is the founder and dean of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits. She is the coauthor of Entertaining for Dummies, The Pat Conroy Cookbook, and The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits: A Handbook of Etiquette with Recipes. Born into a diplomatic family, Pollak was raised in Africa, where her parents hosted multiple parties every week. Her South Carolina homes have been featured in the Wall Street Journal “Mansion” section and Town & Country magazine.

2018 MTV MOVIE & TV AWARDS The stars aligned on the red carpet outside the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California, on June 16 as Tiffany Haddish hosted the MTV Movie and TV Awards. Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and the rest of the Black Panther team took home big wins, while Stranger Things was crowned Best Show. Other highlights included Lena Waithe taking home the Trailblazer Award and Aubrey Plaza presenting the MTV Generation Award to her Parks and Recreation costar Chris Pratt. Photography courtesy of Getty Images for MTV

Olivia Munn and Best Villain winner Michael B. Jordan 128 | AUGU S T 2018

Jeremy Ray Taylor and Chris Pratt


Travis Mills and Best Scene Stealer winner Madelaine Petsch

Black Panther’s Winston Duke, Chadwick Boseman, and Michael B. Jordan

Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis

Alana Mayo and Lena Waithe

Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson

Noah Schnapp and Sadie Sink

Kim Kardashian and Olivia Munn


La scène

Laurie Hood and Stephen Banks

Demetria McNeese and Sophia Rea

Joe Capers, Lea Capers, Anastasia Stull, and Eric Koe

Chef Nikhil Abuvala

Tablescape by Florals by the Sea

Stephen Marlette and Harriet Crommelin with Angela and Mike Ragsdale

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Diane Bradford and Hermione the Lamancha goat

Demetria McNeese, Laurie Hood, and Lynn Dugas

Dennis and Lisa Peters with Don and Janis Bishop

100-POINT & CULT WINE DINNER Alaqua Animal Refuge hosted the Fifth Annual 100-Point and Cult Wine Dinner fund-raiser at the home of founder Laurie Hood on June 16. Patrons gathered by the Choctawhatchee Bay to enjoy an incredible five-course meal by Chef Nikhil Abuvala of Roux 30a and chocolate sommelier Sophia Rea, paired with unique 100-point and cult wines. Artist Justin Gaffrey created a beautiful painting live on-site. Photography by Dawn Chapman Whitty

Slater and Haley Odom

Kristen Nostrand and Steve Junkar

Justin Gaffrey and Shelby Schuler

Ryan Jumonville and Raven Smith

Heavenly and Bill Dawson Chris Camp, Justin Gaffrey, and Vicki Camp

Vicki Camp, Pam Wellborn (with Zsa Zsa), and Chris Camp V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 131


Au revoir!

Au revoir! THE L AST WORD

Photo courtesy of D Pet Hotel Visit to learn more about its five locations or book your pup’s stay.

Located in Los Angeles, the D Pet Hotel is the largest dog-boarding facility in Southern California. The hotel promises to spoil pooches rotten with several amenities such as spa treatments, California king beds, and staff available 24-7 to wait on them! The dogs are able to play and mingle with others all day on the lawn and in the pool and then retire to their individual suites for the night, where they can lie on a memory-foam mattress and watch TV. Every minute of their stay with D Pet Hotels is guaranteed to be luxurious, including the transportation to and from the resort, which could be in a Range Rover, a Rolls Royce, or a Ferrari. This place has truly gone to the dogs! V I E MAGAZ INE . COM | 133


Performance Division: Pre-Ballet Ballet & Pointe Contemporary & Modern Jazz, Hip Hop & More

Open Division:

Adult Ballet Yoga & Dance Conditioning Family Style Classes Free Community Classes

Profile for The Idea Boutique

VIE Magazine August 2018