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Remembering Capt. Billy Martin

UNA’s Bass Fishing Team: Hooked on Success

The Art of Alabama Food

Spanish Moss: A Deep South Symbol

Life Water on the

SOUTHERN WAYS. SUNSHINE DAYS.

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» spring 2015

features

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©University of West Florida

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Everything Old Is New Again A clearer picture of America’s colonial past, in the cloudy waters of Pensacola Bay. TEXT BY ROY HALL

Drift Away to Savannah Whether you’re looking for art-filled galleries, new Southern cuisine, or a tour of Georgia’s history, Savannah offers contemporary flair with old Southern charm. BY Krista Mastrangelo

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Photo: The magical world of winter by Dan Davis on the Little Pigeon River in Tennessee. ©Sean Pavone

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The Art of Alabama Food A delicious photography exhibit celebrates the very best of Alabama cuisine. BY ALLEN TOMLINSON PHOTOS BY BECKY LUIGART-STAYNER

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Spanish Moss: A Deep South Symbol The spectral beauty of a peculiar Southern plant revealed. BY John N. Felsher


reflections » on the water

Welcome to spring on the water... our favorite time of year! I’m Allen Tomlinson, the new publisher of Life on the Water. With this issue, we begin a partnership with the publication you know and look forward to reading, and we promise to continue to bring you all of the best of life on the water. Southern Ways - Sunshine Days; that’s the life we love, and we intend to continue to share the very best of all of it with you. We’ve been cheerleaders for years, showcasing the best of North Alabama living through our sister publications, No’Ala and No’Ala Huntsville; check them out at noalastudios.com if you’d like to see our publishing credentials. In this issue, we have a huge variety of really cool things to share. The Alexander home on Lake Wilson is amazing; our tour of Savannah is intriguing; our focus on the Art of Alabama Food is mouthwatering; and our feature on a sunken Spanish ship in Pensacola Bay will make you want to travel there to see it for yourself. While you’re traveling, will you do me a favor? Let me know what you see that you want to share. This part of our country is remarkable, and I’d like to invite you to be our eyes and ears, to let us know about the stories out there that we should focus on. We have a long list already, but there is definitely room for more! Also, with this issue, we want to welcome Allegro Club members, owners of Tiffin Motorhomes who may be reading this magazine for the first time. We’re making an effort to let you know where you can camp and tie a boat by listing local RV parks, campgrounds, and marinas with our articles. Let us know about those places, too; if you have a particularly good experience, we think that’s worth passing along. As we were finishing up our transition from Daymarker Publishing to No’Ala Studios, we were saddened to learn of the unexpected and untimely passing of Billy Martin, Life on the Water’s publisher. Well known and widely loved, he will be missed; be sure to look for the tribute to Billy in this issue, and please join us in sending warm thoughts and prayers to Christy and her family. Spring is here. Take an hour or so to read this issue, and then get to the water. The fish are biting, the flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining. It’s time to get on the water!

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» contents

Life Water on the

SOUTHERN WAYS. SUNSHINE DAYS.

Water is the canvas on which we Southerners paint our lives. Life on the Water explores and introduces with a blend of people, lakes, rivers, towns, food, history, and culture. It’s life in the South…on the water.

Brian MacGregor – Savannah Artist

Brian MacGregor blends dreams, travel, and woodworking to create timeless paintings. BY Krista Mastrangelo PHOTOS BY Brian MacGregor

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everything else

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LOTW Staff Picks

Remembering Billy Martin

A fond farewell to our editor and friend.

Modern Family

All the comforts of home in a chic, contemporary setting.

BY Allen Tomlinson PHOTOS BY PATRICK HOOD

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Shopping Guide

Gadgets, gizmos, and grown-up toys to help you make more of your life on the water.

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Parting Shot BY Patrick Hood

Chief Operating Officer | Editor Matthew Liles CREATIVE DIRECTOR LESLIE FRANKLIN Advertising Director Heidi King Editorial Assistant LuEllen Redding Research & Administration Melissa Blank, Roy Hall Proofreader Carole Maynard Intern Isaac Ray Norris Consultants Christy Martin, Fred Myers

Events on the Water

PHOTOS BY melissa blank

PUBLISHER C. Allen Tomlinson

52 Hooked

Get caught up in the lure of UNA bass fishing – hook, line, and sinker. BY Isaac Norris and Laura Anders Lee PHOTOS BY Danny MItchell

Contributing Writers John N. Felsher, Roy Hall, Laura Anders Lee, Krista Mastrangelo Isaac Ray Norris, Allen Tomlinson

DISTRIBUTION Now available at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Books-A-Million stores, Hastings, and other selected independent bookstores in the South. Visit lifeonthewater.com/distribution for a retailer near you. To become a distributor, call 256-766-4222 or contact roy@noalastudios.com.

SUBSCRIPTIONS

noalastudios.com | 256-766-4222 roy@noalastudios.com

contact information No’Ala Studios PO Box 2530 250 S Poplar Street Florence, AL 35630 256-766-4222 800-779-4222 – toll free info@noalastudios.com


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chart your next adventure By boat or by land, explore these locations featured in this issue of Life on the Water.

18 Pensacola, Florida

Everything Old Becomes New Again

Pensacola Campground & Marinas

Perdido Cove RV Resort & Marina 13770 River Road, Pensacola, FL 32507 877-402-7873 Emerald Beach RV Park 8885 Navarre Parkway, Navarre, FL 32566 866-939-3431 Pensacola Marinas on Bayou Chico 806 Lakewood Road, Pensacola, FL 32507 850-455-4552 pensacolamarinas.com

26 Muscle Shoals, Alabama

Modern Family

52 Florence, Alabama Hooked

Shoals area Campgrounds & Marinas

McFarland Park 200 James M Spain Drive, Florence, AL 35630 256-740-8817 Joe Wheeler State Park 4401 McLean Drive, Rogersville, AL 35652 Campground: 256-247-1184 Marina: 256-247-6971 alapark.com/joe-wheeler-state-park Florence Harbor Marina 1050 Clayborn Liles Drive, Florence, AL 35630 256-768-1299 florenceharbor.com 10

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34 Art of Alabama Food Locations Big Bob Gibson Barbecue, Decatur Crawmama’s, Guntersville Grille 29, Huntsville Trowbridges, Florence Carliles, Scottsboro Springhouse Restaurant, Alexander City Cosmo’s Restaurant & Bar, Orange Beach Gainesridge Dinner Club, Camden LuLu’s, Gulf Shores Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham All Steak, Cullman Peach Park, Clanton

48 Chattanooga, Tennessee

Products on the Water - Rock/Creek Headquarters

58 Savannah, Georgia

Drift Away to Savannah Brian MacGregor: Global Artist in Savannah

Savannah Campgrounds & Marinas

Skidaway Island State Park 52 Diamond Causeway, Savannah, GA 31411 800-864-7275 gastateparks.org/SkidawayIsland Bahia Bleu (Morningstar Marinas) 2812 River Drive, Thunderbolt, GA 31404 912-434-1005 morningstarmarinas.com/bahia-bleu Thunderbolt Marina 3124 River Drive, Thunderbolt, GA 31404 912-356-3875 thunderboltmarine.us


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events » on the water

Not To Be Missed... LOTW staff picks We really know how to throw a festival in the South…here are three favorites from our staff.

Savannah Music Festival Savannah, Georgia March 19th - April 4th Plan your getaway around the Savannah Music Festival for an unmatched cultural experience. A musical mash-up of jazz and classical tunes with a modern Americana and world music edge makes this festival a highlight of the spring. Festival features include more than 100 productions in 10 unique settings, numerous debuts and intriguing collaborations, and dance parties to Cajun, Salsa, and Zydeco music.

Hours and tickets: For a complete listing of performance times and ticket information, visit

savannahmusicfestival.org For more Information:

912-525-5050

The Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast's Greatest Beach Party Perdido Key, Florida April 24th - 26th Toss this date on your calendar–The Interstate Mullet Toss at the Flora-Bama Lounge in Perdido Key is the area’s wacky annual contest. The Flora-Bama Lounge is a beachside bar and oyster house situated on the Florida-Alabama state line. The Mullet Toss has participants toss an actual mullet from Alabama across the state line into Florida and is a great excuse to have a weekend-long party. Mullet are one of the area’s most populous fish and are even said to possess mystical properties. There will be lots of fun activities for everyone with live bands and great food.

Hours and tickets: Friday, April 24th, Noon Saturday & Sunday, April 25th & 26th, 10 am Celebrity Tossers at High Noon Friday, Saturday, & Sunday Tickets: $5.00 per person For more Information:

850-492-0611 florabama.com 12

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Arts Alive Florence, Alabama May 16th - 17th The 29th annual Arts Alive juried fine arts and crafts festival takes place in Wilson Park and at the Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts and features quality national, regional, and local artists and crafters. Admission is free, so bring the family and stroll through the park as you meet artists, find one-of-a-kind treasures to add to your collection, and enjoy good food. The festival showcases artists specializing in painting, stained glass, jewelry, sculpture, pottery, fiber art, woodwork, photography, and much more. The Arts Alive juried gallery exhibition is in Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts right across the street from Wilson Park and is open the same hours as the festival.

Hours and tickets: Saturday & Sunday, May 16 & 17, 9 am-5 pm Admission is free For more Information:

256-766-4222 alabamaartsalive.com


This project is partially funded by Visit Mississippi

The 40th Annual Aberdeen Southern Heritage Pilgrimage

April 10-12, 2015

Aberdeen Visitors Bureau (662) 369-9440 • www.aberdeenpilgrimage.com

www.tishomingofunhere.org 1-800-FUN-HERE (386-4373)


PHOTOS BY melissa Blank


Water is the canvas on which we Southerners paint our lives. IN LOVING MEMORY

CAPT. BILLY MARTIN In December of 2014, Billy Martin–who, with his wife Christy, started this magazine– unexpectedly passed away. At age 51, Billy seemed to be the picture of health; his passing was a shock to the entire community of people who love life on the water, and who loved him. This issue of Life on the Water is dedicated to his memory. Perhaps it is fitting to pay tribute to Billy through the words of his friends, the people who knew him best; he will be missed. We all went to high school together and were the best of friends. Nonetheless, it was the summer of ’82, and we decided to build a raft and enter a river raft race sponsored by one of the local radio stations. Boy did we construct one fine vessel. It was one of those Huck Finn types, built out of raw timber and big enough to ferry a Cadillac. Even though it was a work of art, there was one problem, and yes, it was green wood. Our magnificent, floating creation sank to the bottom of the Elk River and took our hearts with it. Needles to say, Billy was a fine boat captain, but a ship builder, he wasn’t. We would like to think that Billy is on the other side right now, floating down a river on that raft, and waiting for us to join him. – Mickey Sanders, Greg Whitt, Sonny Mitchell, and Tim Broach

Capt. Billy Martin had a way of making you proud to have him as a friend. We traveled the rivers, IWC, and Gulf together moving boats of all sizes in all kinds of weather and every day was an adventure. There were long days where we watched the world go by, reflecting on our lives and how much they were alike even with our age difference. I was 20 years older but that never came into play as we were a good team and we got the job done. I will miss him. – Larry Long My favorite memory of Billy Martin is his use of expressions or phrases. He had a fitting expression for just about every situation we found ourselves in. Billy never ceased to amaze me with some of the sayings that he would seemingly pull out of thin air and always with a facetious chuckle. Billy’s laugh was contagious and I will always think of him as a good friend and fun guy to be around. – Greg Whitt

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Billy Martin was my friend for many years. He was on the short list of yacht captains that I would recommend with confidence to an owner; he was a broker that held honesty and integrity to the highest level when he represented a client. He told great stories of his many boating experiences that I enjoyed when we had the opportunity to make a delivery together. His outgoing personality was evidenced by the number of friends and clients that were around him. I looked up to him, and my goal is to earn the respect of the boating community that he commanded. I am honored to have the opportunity to express my feeling about him. He was deeply in my mind on the day of his memorial as I delivered a yacht across the Gulf of Mexico. – Jay Martin

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The first time I met Billy Martin, he tried to sell me a boat. What I would learn later is that he didn’t sell boats because that was his job. He sold boats because he loved the water and wanted to share that experience with others. He was reasonable and when he gave advice, it always seemed to make sense. I’ll always remember how the last time I saw him he was talking about music and then suddenly started singing. He will be missed. – Melissa Blank

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What I remember best about Billy was his infectious smile, passion for life, and the love for his family. I admired how he would talk about how he would pilot boats on the different waterways and what it was like to be a captain. His stories were engaging and fun. I will miss Billy and I know he is looking down from heaven on his family. – Betty Boyd No matter what was going on in the world, his life or his business, Billy always seemed to have time, a warm smile, and a kind word for everyone. It was an honor to call such a great man a friend! – Tina & Adam DeMaioribus Billy Martin was a great man... PERIOD. My memory of Billy Martin will go down as a man who always set the example of being a loving and supporting husband to Christy, showing love and support to his sons, and always being willing to help out his friends in need. My favorite memory of Billy Martin was seeing his interaction with his wife Christy while I worked at Life on the Water. Not many married couples can work together; however, Billy and Christy did it with ease. My final thought on Billy Martin... ROLL TIDE. – Denice Kirby

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Everything Old Is New Again TEXT BY Roy Hall » PHOTOS BY University of West Florida

Every year, from June to September, it’s the same old story: the nervous anticipation of hurricane season. For anyone who lives on the water or whose vacation revolves around beach life, hurricane season brings with it anxiety, watchful apprehension, and the occasional hasty exit to higher ground. It’s just a fact of life on the water. But while hurricane season, with its attendant threats and warnings, can be treacherous, we at least enjoy the protections of modern day meteorology and the early warnings it provides–even when those warnings are, at times, a bit overwrought. One cable channel in particular has been known to indulge in wall-to-wall brim and bluster, with broadcasts that sometimes generate more fury than the storms they predict. But what a frightening prospect hurricane season would be without them. »»»


“More than 4,000 artifacts have been recovered from the two Spanish vessels, including pottery, food remains, and cooking implements. Undoubtedly, the most important artifacts are the ships’ hulls.” – Dr. John Bratten, University of West Florida, Chair of the Department of Anthropology

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Sixteenth Century Spanish explorer and conquistador Tristan de Luna y Arellano would likely have given away the keys to the mythical city of El Dorado to see Jim Cantore standing in the middle of downtown Pensacola, lashed with wind and rain, warning of an incoming storm. Unfortunately, de Luna, dispatched to presentday Pensacola by Luis de Valasco, Viceroy of New Spain (today’s Mexico), didn’t have the luxury of 21st Century weather satellites. In place of modern technology, de Luna had only luck on his side to protect him, his fleet of 13 ships, and his crew of 1,500 soldiers, colonists, and Aztec warriors from nature’s fury. De Luna’s luck ran out on the night of September 19, 1559, when a hurricane destroyed his fleet, anchored near the site of today’s Naval Air Station Pensacola, and, along with it, all the supplies necessary to sustain his expedition’s efforts to construct one of the first permanent European settlements in the New World. That settlement would have to wait almost a century before Spain established its first permanent colony in North America, with the city of Pensacola in 1698. Three additional centuries would elapse before a magnometer belonging to the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research detected one of de Luna’s anchors, buried for nearly 450 years in the sands of Pensacola Bay, in 1992. That site, referred to by researchers as Emanuel Point I, and its successor, Emanuel Point II, have provided Pensacola’s University of West Florida archaeology department with a store of artifacts and a wealth of knowledge that have so expanded our understanding of the colonial maritime experience, they can rightly be referred to as a “treasure trove.” While that trove has provided a wealth of knowledge, accessing it has not been an easy task. In fact, the process of maritime excavation is so formidable, it took two years after the initial discovery of Emanuel Point I to even begin full-time dives: a full year of test excavations, in 1993, preceded the first full year of official excavation, which began the following year. And then with all the luck that eluded de Luna, UWF researchers discovered a second site, Emanuel Point II, a mere quarter of a mile from the initial discovery.

Dr. John Bratten, chair of the Department of Anthropology, describes the significance of the Emanuel Point sites: “More than 4,000 artifacts have been recovered from the two Spanish vessels, including pottery, food remains, and cooking implements. Undoubtedly, the most important artifacts are the ships’ hulls. Continued documentation of the buried timbers in the form of detailed drawings and photographs permits a detailed reconstruction of this 16th-century colonization fleet.” The significance of the Emanuel Point II discovery recently led the Florida Division of Historical Resources to award a Special Category Grant of $290,000 to the University of West Florida Archaeology Institute to facilitate further excavation. The grant will, in the words of Dr. Bratten, “ensure the continued search for as yet undiscovered vessels, allow for continued artifact conservation, provide opportunities for many students, and bring new information to the public about the founding of Pensacola.” As reported by the UWF Newsroom, the grant will also allow teams of UWF archaeologists, led by Dr. Bratten and Dr. Gregory Cook, to “conduct fieldwork, laboratory analysis, artifact conservation and curation, archival research in Spain and public outreach for two years.” While the Emanuel Point sites are among the most historically significant of all the innumerable shipwrecks buried in the waters off Florida’s coast, they are not the University of West Florida’s first experiments in maritime excavation. UWF has been uncovering America’s submerged colonial past since 1989, with the excavation of the Deadman’s Shipwreck. An artifact of Britain’s colonial era, the Deadman’s site “provided valuable scientific information and served as a resource to educate the public about the region’s unique underwater resources,” according to UWF spokesperson Margaret Roberts. Additionally, the Deadman’s sites, and later Emanuel Points I and II, have provided UWF anthropology students with real-world maritime field schools in the summer, ranging from six to thirteen weeks.

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While the Deadman’s site provided valuable insights into the colonialization period, Roberts emphasizes that Deadman’s significance pales in comparison to the Emanuel Point I and II sites, which are “one of the few sixteenth-century Spanish wreck sites, and the only one where multiple colonization vessels from the same fleet have been excavated.” Even more impressive, the ships at the Emanuel Point sites are the oldest ever discovered in the waters off Florida’s coast, and the artifacts they have produced shed new light on the ships’ crews, which included not only European settlers, but Aztec warriors, too, as evidenced by pottery and cutting blades recovered from the sites. These insights gleaned from de Luna’s ships are so valuable that the training necessary to recover the long-buried artifacts, and the patience necessary to slowly and safely bring them to the surface, has been worth it.

So just how does all that history reach the surface after centuries of submersion? First, before a single artifact is brought to the surface, UWF archaeology department students undergo a week of “Scientific Diver Training,” the purpose of which, according to Roberts, is to “assess the student’s diving skills, provide training in first aid and CPR, and to practice dry land training exercises supplemented by lectures.” During this training period, students are taught to operate the dredge systems used for maritime excavation, followed by lessons in navigating according to dive compasses, magnetic or sonar-based searches, and instruction in “how to record ship structure, map and recover artifacts, and set up grids,” all of which, Roberts says, are perfected on land, then repeated in pools, before the real work begins at excavation sites. The result of all that diligence and training under the murky waters of Pensacola Bay is a clearer view of the lives and missions of the men and women aboard de Luna’s crafts. Despite the fact that much of the fleet’s supplies had already been unloaded by its crew prior to the hurricane, their absence doesn’t diminish the “important glimpse [the Emanuel Point sites provide] into the material culture of one of the earliest major Spanish expeditions to the southeastern United States.”

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The University of West Florida, due to its coastal location, as well as the serendipitous location of de Luna’s ships, has been able to provide opportunities for maritime archaeology students other schools could only dream of.

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UWF has been uncovering America’s submerged colonial past since 1989.

Roberts describes our new-found understanding of the lives of these colonists: “The portrait of the expedition that emerges is one of hundreds of unpaid men, along with many wives and children, as well as Mexican Indian warriors and craftsmen, all recruited to be explorers and initial colonists on a risky colonial venture.” That’s right– unpaid! Documentary background research conducted by UWF has revealed the startling fact that de Luna’s crewmembers were the only members of the expedition to be paid by the Spanish Crown—not the many colonists and warriors aboard his ships, who supplied their own clothing, food, and weapons. The archaeological treasures recovered at the Emanuel Point sites, as well as documentary research contextualizing those artifacts, have uniquely positioned UWF’s department of archaeology among other schools. Margaret Roberts sums up the Emanuel Point sites as an “almost unprecedented opportunity” for the University of West Florida, which, due to its coastal location, as well as the serendipitous location of de Luna’s ships, has been able to provide opportunities for maritime archaeology students other schools could only dream of.

But the presence of the Emanuel Point sites is not UWF’s sole advantage; their approach to maritime excavation is unique, too. 24

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“The program at UWF is distinct in several ways,” according to Roberts. “Our emphasis on local shipwreck projects, the many opportunities students have to participate in maritime archaeological research year round, and our focus on both instructional activities, as well as running contract archaeological projects, separate our program from others elsewhere.” Would-be amateur archaeologists will be disappointed to learn that the Emanuel Point excavation opportunities have attracted so many students to its program that the University of West Florida’s department of archaeology is no longer able to include volunteer divers. There is good news, though, for members of the public who would like to participate in UWF’s excavation efforts: the department utilizes public help with laboratory conservation and documentation. Additionally, the University of West Florida offers Pensacola visitors multiple opportunities to take in the finds from the Emanuel Point excavations, as well as artifacts from various time periods. Prehistoric Native American, Colonial, Early American, and Victorian artifacts are all on display in the exhibit area of the Archaeology Institute, located on the UWF campus at 1100 University Parkway in Pensacola. All exhibits are free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm. Special tours by UWF archaeologists are also available by calling (850) 474-3015.


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Architect » Phil Kean Designs, Inc. Interior Design » Rob Turner Construction » Alexander Modern Homes


homes » on the water

TEXT BY Allen Tomlinson » PHOTOS BY PATRICK HOOD

Northwest Alabama is home to the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed residence in the state of Alabama. The Rosenbaum home stands in stark contrast to its neighbors, a truly modern structure in a neighborhood of traditional cottages. The same is true of the Alexander home, on the shores of Lake Wilson. A truly modern structure, embracing technology but retaining its warmth, it’s a breathtaker. Situated on its spacious lot in such a way to take advantage of sweeping views, it’s as impressive from the water as it is from land.

It’s a great house for entertaining; it’s better for raising a family. It’s memorable. noalastudios.com

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If you’ve always thought that Florida-style architecture couldn’t possibly fit the shores of the Tennessee River, you’d be wrong. Although the Alexanders have built an impressive home on the banks of Wilson Lake in Muscle Shoals, the most impressive thing is that the entire Alexander family (including their children) helped research and build it themselves, since few local subcontractors had experience with the technology used in its construction. It’s a contemporary home that stays true to its style, but still maintains a comfort that you’d expect from, well, a Florida resort. The Alexanders call it “warm modern.”

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Left: The great room, dining room, and custom wine cellar compete for attention when you enter the home. Custom furniture (like the dining table by North Alabama Artist Robin Wade) was almost a must to meet the scale of the residence. Above: The entrance to the home features a sleek waterfall that pierces the stacked stone exterior. The house is set down into the land and away from the street, giving the family privacy, but also creating a dramatic first impression when visitors enter the property.

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Left: The walls of the master bedroom suite (as well as much of the home’s lake face) disappear into the structure, blurring the lines between indoors and out–screens drop down from hidden ceiling channels to provide protection from both the hot Alabama sun and its pesky mosquitos. Below: The expansive kitchen fills the entire west side of the home with separate interior and exterior dining areas. The master bath (below far right) has amenities equal to a five-star spa.

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dining » on the water

TEXT BY ALLEN TOMLINSON » PHOTOS BY BECKY LUIGART-STAYNER

There are some foods that you just have to eat before you die. In fact, of all of the things Alabama is known for, a visitor to this state is most impressed by the food. We’ve heard of the “farm-to-table” movement, but Alabamians find that amusing; after all, they've been growing fresh things in their gardens and putting them on the table for years. During the recent “Year of Alabama Food,” the Alabama Tourism Department commissioned a series of photographs of some of the more memorable dishes in the state, and created a traveling display and a mobile app. The photographs, by photographer Becky Luigart-Stayner of Sunny House Studio in Birmingham, are stunningly mouthwatering. The dishes themselves are even better. Browse these delectable photographs and see for yourself; then go to artofalabamafood.com, download the mobile art, and plan your trip. Bon appetit!

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Crawfish » Crawmama’s, Guntersville Whether you enjoy your crawfish boiled, fried, with potatoes or corn, Crawmama’s special recipe is sure to satisfy. The water is seasoned before cooking the succulent crawfish, ensuring that each bite is as flavorful as the last.

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Orange Rolls

All Steak, Cullman These addicting, soft, chewy rolls get their delicious sweet and tart tang from a glaze made with plenty of sugar, butter, and a hint of orange peel. Home cooks have long tried to recreate these unique treats, but nothing compares to the original.

Chicken & White Sauce

Big Bob Gibson Barbecue, Decatur Big Bob Gibson’s split, seasoned chickens roast on the barbecue pit for several hours and are then dipped in white sauce. The unique flavor of the sauce, combined with meat smoked in hickory-fired brick pits, helped establish white barbecue sauce as a North Alabama regional specialty.


Grouper Oscar

Grille 29, Huntsville

Pan-seared and topped with jumbo lump crabmeat, asparagus, and hollandaise, this dish is worthy of all the raves it receives. In reviews, customers repeatedly say the fish is “amazing,” and the accompanying white-corn cheese grits give it a Southern flair while maintaining the quality of fine dining.

Black Bottom Pie

GainesRidge Dinner Club, Camden Opened in 1985, GainesRidge Dinner Club has served this pie since the beginning. In one bite, you’ll crunch into the gingersnap cookie crust layered underneath intensely flavored dark-chocolate custard, a bourbon infused chiffon, and a topping of freshly whipped cream and grated unsweetened chocolate.

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Sea Bass in Banana Leaves » Cosmo’s Restaurant & Bar, Orange Beach This unique dish is prepped using the French cooking technique of wrapping the fish in parchment paper along with banana leaves. Beforehand, the fish is rubbed with blended herbs and seasonings. Baked until it’s light and flaky, this sea bass is then paired with rice and vegetables.

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Orange Pineapple Ice Cream

Trowbridge’s, Florence

The signature orange pineapple ice cream recipe created by Trowbridge’s has won the hearts of customers since the restaurant opened. The popularity of this frozen treat has grown so much that the shop has had to enlist extra help to make enough ice cream to keep up with demand.

Tomato Pie

Carlile’s, Scottsboro The pie ingredients seem simple–fresh basil, tomatoes, and bacon. But the catch is in the topping–a mixture of mayonnaise, cheese, green onions, salt, and pepper. The pie is baked for half an hour until it’s golden brown.


Baked Grits

Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham On the menu at Highlands Bar and Grill for almost 30 years, this signature dish is served with a buttery Parmesan sauce that includes white wine, sherry vinegar, shallots, country ham, and heavy cream. And the garnish? Wild mushrooms, strips of country ham, and fresh thyme.

Peach Pies

Peach Park, Clanton These peach pies, served with a scoop of peach ice cream, are a collaborative effort–from the homemade dough to the locally picked fresh fruit. Manager Jean Mims says, “They’re fried pies like your grandmother used to make.”

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S’mores

Springhouse Restaurant, Alexander City This is not your ordinary s’more: It starts with a graham cracker on the bottom and made-fromscratch marshmallows. Atop the marshmallows sits warm, dark chocolate lava cake, oozing with chocolate sauce and topped with more homemade marshmallows.

Cheeseburger in Paradise

LuLu’s, Gulf Shores

Inspired by the Jimmy Buffet song, this hand-pattied burger is made with all natural, grass-fed beef. Seasoned with LuLu’s Salty Peppa, the burger comes with all the fixings: lettuce, tomato, red onion, sweet pickles, and your choice of cheese.

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TEXT BY John N. Felsher

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robably no other plant more closely epitomizes the Deep South than Spanish moss. Movies, books, paintings, and television programs depicting the Southern way of life go to great lengths to show stereotypical oak trees festooned with the wispy gray plant. Long a symbol of the South and the Southern way of life, paintings of old plantation houses always portray Spanish moss dripping from stately trees. Along coastal wetlands, forlorn cypress trees draped in the mysterious gray threads warn intruders not to enter unprepared. The swamps might not let them go home. Today, the plant blankets hardwoods across the Deep South from east Texas to Virginia and as far north as southern Arkansas. Although modern urbanization and pollution have taken a toll on the delicate plant, travelers still find it clinging to trees in nearly every public park or forest across its range. Despite its common familiarity, Spanish moss suffers from an “identity crisis.” Largely misunderstood, it is neither “Spanish” nor a “moss.” It is an epiphyte, or air plant with the scientific name of Tillandsia usneoides. Of the family of Bromeliaceae, or a bromeliad, it is closely related to orchids and, oddly enough, pineapples. The only species of the pineapple family indigenous to the continental United States, it attaches itself to tree trunks and branches, especially live oaks or cypress, and hangs in mysterious long, gray strands. Slender, threadlike stems can reach lengths up to six feet. Not usually thought of as a leafy, flowering plant, it does not root in the soil, preferring to cling to supporting trees. However, it does grow small leaves and inconspicuous miniscule yellow flowers. It even bears a small capsule-like fruit that somewhat resembles a pineapple. Contrary to popular belief, Spanish moss does not harm trees. Not parasitic, it absorbs necessary moisture directly from the air through scales in its “stem.” Its presence on the tree does not harm its host, nor does it compete for food with its host. It gets nothing from the tree, except a sturdy place to hang around.

To survive, it needs a strong host, sunlight, moisture, and clean air. Like octopus tentacles, it wraps itself around suitable branches and hangs in the sunlight, absorbing all the goodness of the air. Because it gets nourishment directly from the air, it cannot tolerate airborne contaminants or cold temperatures. Therefore, increasing pollution and urbanization reduced the abundance of this rather delicate plant across much of the South. One would think that such a hairy plant would host its own swarming insect populations. Quite the contrary, something about Spanish moss repels insects, although other small creatures, such as tree frogs, seek refuge within its protective cocoon. Instead of draining its host of food, it actually provides a degree of protection from creepy crawly pests that might damage trees. Long ago, fishermen, hunters, and trappers wrapped themselves in Spanish moss when mosquitoes became too annoying. Even today, sporting men and women sometimes drape themselves with Spanish moss when sitting on a deer stand or in a duck blind. Not only does the moss protect them from insects, but also provides excellent native camouflage. Its propensity to repel bugs made Spanish moss fibers an excellent stuffing material for mattresses and upholstered furniture. Two centuries ago, insect-borne diseases killed thousands of people in the warm, wet, semi-tropical wilderness of the Deep South. Settlers used anything to keep bugs away. Until the early decades of the 20th century, Spanish moss not only protected people from the ravages of insects, but also from the ravages of poverty. Commercial moss harvesters operated lucrative enterprises throughout the once vast swamps and forests in parts of the South. They used long poles to pull moss clumps from tall trees. They baled their “catch” into great heaps and transported them by boat or wagon to processing gins. Processing gins turned the gray scaled strands into black fibers similar to horsehair. These fibers constituted the backbone of a thriving upholstering industry. Some of the best furniture in stately old homes still contains this symbol of the South.

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Today, with cheap, synthetic fibers on the market, few people still make their livelihoods from the hard, backbreaking labor of gathering or ginning Spanish moss. The great wilderness areas where the moss thrives largely disappeared. Those wild areas that remain sit mostly on private land or in highly regulated refuges, wildlife management areas, or other sanctuaries. Some people still make small, stuffed objects and handicrafts from the moss. One can still purchase small quantities in hobby or craft stores. These remnants of a once-great industry usually go into making decorative ornaments.

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As often happens, especially with teenaged girls, love proved more powerful an influence than parental authority. The princess obeyed her father, at least publicly, but secretly rendezvoused with her forbidden lover deep in the swamp. Alas, as often happens throughout history, the lovers could not keep such an illicit affair secret for long. Soon, the chief learned about the clandestine assignations. Enraged, he swore to end such disobedience immediately. He hid near an oak tree that marked their secret meeting place.

While few people still put Spanish moss fibers into furniture or mattresses, the plant remains the stuff of legends. Native Americans from what became the southeastern United States had many ideas of how the odd-looking plant originated in their lands. Two of their more romantic legends attribute the moss to either the short-lived affair of two star-crossed young lovers or to the death of a lusty Spanish conquistador.

When the lovers arrived, the chief hurled himself at the surprised young warrior. They grappled in a deathly embrace. The brave warrior fought like a lion, but his strength was no match for the chief ’s blistering paternal hatred and battle experience. The old man cut the young warrior to pieces with his knife. Heartbroken, the princess then grabbed the knife and thrust it into her own stomach, killing herself as the legend goes.

According to the first legend, long before the first white men penetrated the swamplands of the southeastern United States, a Native American princess fell deeply in love with a brave from another village. Her choice of a mate outside the clan greatly angered her father, a powerful war chief. The chief prohibited her from seeing her lover. Simply unthinkable, marriage to an outsider would disgrace the chief, the village, and the tribe.

This tragedy so saddened the Great Spirit that he placed the lovers’ long, ebony hair high in the oak tree where all could see it blowing in the wind. Forever, it would remind all who passed beneath this monument of the power of love and hate. After many years, the hair turned gray and spread from branch to branch, then tree to tree as a lasting memorial to the affection between the princess and the young warrior.

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A second native legend evokes the bitter rivalry between indigenous people and European explorers. In the early history of the Gulf Coast, Spanish conquistadors roamed the swamps in search of gold and other treasures. Months away from home and long stretches at sea without female companionship burdened these men with powerful overflowing hormones. When they landed and discovered beautiful, scantily clad young Native American maidens in a semi-tropical paradise, their boiling hormones erupted. One particular Spanish conquistador fancied a certain Native American maiden. She did not return his affection. Spying her fetching water one day, he fell hopelessly in love–or at least in lust with her! He approached the young maiden who fled through the swamp in terror. Not being able to outrun the larger, stronger man, the girl tried to escape by climbing into a giant oak tree, but the Spaniard saw her and climbed after her. She climbed higher; so did he. Soon, she had no place else to go. As the Spaniard reached for the beautiful woman, she jumped to the ground. Injured, she limped away, disappearing into the vast unknown that marked the primordial swamp. She never returned to her village. The Spaniard suffered a worse fate, according to the legend. He lunged after the maiden, but entangled his long gray beard in twigs and tree branches. Hopelessly enmeshed in the high branches, the Spaniard became the prisoner of the tree. Trapped deep in the swamp, he never returned to his shipmates either. Over time, nature took its course. Eventually, nothing remained of the lusty Spaniard except his beard. By supernatural force, it propagated from tree to tree as a reminder of the explorer’s sin. Soon, nearly every oak tree in the South sported some “Spanish Beard.” Doubtful though these legends may seem, the name “Spanish Beard” caused considerable real friction between French and Spanish settlers competing for control of the lands along the Gulf Coast. The plant reminded French explorers of the long, flowing gray beards worn by Spaniards. They called it Barbe Espagnol, or “Spanish Beard.” Highly insulted, the Spanish retaliated against their European rivals by naming the plant Cabello Frances, or “French Hair.” Eventually, a variant of the French version stuck, more or less. Today, the popular name of Tillandsia usneoides, “Spanish moss,” survives as a reminder of the time of legends, when rival tribes and nations fought for honor, riches, and glory in the new land, eventually called “America.” Hopefully, this wonderful plant that so epitomizes the Deep South will survive for as long and continue to represent the Deep South.


products » on the water

Cool Gear for Warm Weather

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Hari Mari Men’s & Women’s “Dunes” » $45

BIC Sport ACE-TEC 10’6” Standup Paddleboard » $999

Hari Mari’s all-terrain Dunes flip-flops live as comfortably in water as they do on sand-lined hills. Constructed with water safe rubber, soft squeeze foam, high test nylon straps, and boat safe outsoles, Dunes are a color driven, lightweight flip-flop…perfect for a morning trek & afternoon swim. $3 of every pair sold goes to support children living with cancer.

The BIC Sport ACE-TEC 10’6” SUP is designed to be a great all-around board for riders up to 180 pounds. This is one of our favorite boards for rentals and is great for your lake house. Anyone can hop on and have a good time, and the construction is such that it can take a beating without being damaged like a fiberglass board could.

Available at Alabama Outdoors and www.harimari.com

Available at Rock/Creek locations or online, rockcreek.com

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Astral ABBA PFD (Women’s) » $140

Chaco ZX/3 Yampa Sandal (Women’s) » $105

YETI Coolers Tundra 35 Cooler » $299

Why settle for an ugly orange PFD? If you’re going to be paddling this summer, stop by Rock/Creek and get this beautiful ABBA PFD from Astral Buoyancy Company. Made with environmentally friendly materials, it is fit specially for women.

Chaco improved on their most popular women’s sandal, the Chaco ZX/2, by adding another strap. We love the feminine look paired with this classic non-marking Vibram sole package that has become a top seller for Chaco. We loved it so much we commissioned a Rock/Creek-specific custom color, or rather lack of color–we are the exclusive store where you can get black ZX/3 sandals.

The YETI 35 Cooler is the portable smaller cousin of the big YETIs, is easy to carry, and will hold 20 cans. Whether you have it on the boat or in the back of your camper, you’re going to have cold brews or soft drinks ready for you at the end of a fun day outside. We don’t have to worry about grizzlies here, but this thing is indestructible and bear-proof. Little details like non-slip feet keep the cooler from sliding around on a wet surface. One piece rotomolded construction makes it a long-lasting summer companion.

Available at Rock/Creek locations or online, rockcreek.com

Available at Rock/Creek locations or online, rockcreek.com

Available at Rock/Creek locations or online, rockcreek.com noalastudios.com

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products » on the water

Petzl e+LITE Headlamp » $30 Keep a Petzl e+LITE in every vehicle and on the boat. With batteries designed to last in storage for 10 years, this is your go-to emergency light. Waterproof and extreme temperature resistant with white and red LED’s for regular beam or emergency signal, the light weighs only 27 grams and is about the size of a walnut, so you can stow it in your emergency kit or have it in a pack. Available at Rock/Creek locations or online, rockcreek.com

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Swarovski Optik Companion 10x30 Binoculars » $1,110 Handy, compact, reliable. The CL Companion from Swarovski packs the legendary optics company’s quality into a surprisingly compact package that is convenient for bird watching and won’t weigh you down if you’re hiking all day. Available at Rock/Creek locations or online, rockcreek.com

myCharge RazorMax » $69.99 Crafted from anodized aluminum, the ultra-thin RazorMax delivers an extra 27 hours talk time for your smartphone or tablet. Charge two devices at once! Rechargeable 6000 mAh battery. Available at Target, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon


Tech » For Your Trek

GoPro HERO4 Black Video Camera » $500 Nixon Blaster Waterproof Speaker » $150 This wireless bluetooth speaker is not only waterproof, sand-proof, and good looking in a variety of colors, but it’s also “concrete proof,” and to prove it Nixon has videos of kids throwing the speaker against a concrete wall. This is no dainty little speaker! It’s built for the outdoor lifestyle and only available at specialty retailers like Rock/Creek. Check back in every season because new colors come out every few months. Available at Rock/Creek locations or online, rockcreek.com

Whether you’re getting a first-person point of view while waterskiing, or just hanging out on the lake with the family, you can capture all the moments you don’t want to forget either in still photographs or videos. With WiFi and Bluetooth built in, this is the most advanced and easiest GoPro to use. With this new “Black” edition, you can get up to 30 frames per second on still photos and capture the night sky with the new “Night Photo” and “Night Lapse” modes. You can use your smartphone or tablet as a remote. You can even use the new “Protune” to manually control exposure and other imaging settings that were previously not customizable. Available at Rock/Creek locations or online, rockcreek.com


UNA’s Bass Fishing Team Loves to Fish, and They’re Catching National Attention TEXT BY Isaac Norris and Laura Anders Lee » PHOTOS BY Danny MItchell

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Evan Horne casts a line into the Tennessee River during a practice session.


Hooked

W

hen you think of collegiate sports, bass fishing doesn’t usually come to mind. People tend to think of football, baseball, softball, or basketball. Collegiate-level bass fishing teams have been popping up all over the southeast in recent years. According to Cabela’s Collegiate Bass Fishing website, in 2008 there were only about 50 collegiate level teams in the southeast; in 2015, there are over 200. Several southeastern teams are nationally recognized for their ability. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT) is known nationally for its bass and fly fishing teams. The University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) recently won the Fishing League Worldwide Southern Conference event on the Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Brookeland, Texas. ULM is currently the number one bass fishing team on the collegiate level in the nation. The University of North Alabama (UNA), 54

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the current number two team, was named the best collegiate bass fishing team in the nation in 2014. Located on the Tennessee River in Florence, Alabama, UNA’s bass fishing team was formed in 2008 with only five members. The team now has 40 active members and participates in every tournament offered in their region. Top competitors for UNA include ULM, the University of South Carolina, the University of Alabama, Auburn University, Clemson University, and Ole Miss. The Tennessee River and the rich life it carries has been a draw for the earliest of settlers. Over the centuries, the river, the lakes, and their tributaries have provided an abundance of some 175 species of fish, including the prized smallmouth and largemouth bass. While the area has locally been known as a fisherman’s paradise, today it’s on the bucket list of anglers from


UNA is well acquainted with a national ranking: UNA football has a history of dominating the NCAA’s Division II. The UNA Bass Fishing Team is currently in second place among more than 200 collegiate fishing teams, as ranked by the American Collegiate Anglers. The talented team is getting valuable exposure for the Shoals as the place for bass fishing. Dawson Lenz, a junior from Atlanta, enrolled at UNA specifically for its bass fishing team. “I started my high school fishing team in Georgia, so when I saw the river two minutes from the UNA campus, I knew I wanted to come here,” he said. “There is no other college out there that gives a collegiate angler the opportunities to go to class, get classwork done, and then be on the river from 1:30 to dark every day. The fishing team here has been the best decision I have made.” UNA’s bass fishing team was named Cabela’s School of the Year in 2014, and in the year since, they have only grown as a team. “We have grown from having 25 members and 16 boats to 40 members and 26 boats,” said Dawson. “We won School of the Year last year, and we are absolutely going to go after it again this year. We plan to send at least two boats to every event this year. For the big events, it is not unusual for UNA to send 10 to 12 boats, more than any other team.” UNA’s Vice President of Student Affairs David Shields is the team’s academic adviser. “They’re the best in that series program. It’s sort of like being named All American in football, and then having your team play for the championship,” Shields said. “In the last three years I have personally met with four students who were making decisions about college, and they looked at UNA purely to fish on the bass fishing team. We have a Japanese student on the team,” said Sheilds. “Bass fishing is huge in Japan. He wanted to come to the United States for school, but he had a list of criteria that he wanted to check off beforehand: the school had to be in the South, they had to have an entertainment industry degree program, and he wanted a school with a bass fishing team. He searched, and UNA came up.”

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all over the country wanting to cast a line for their chance at a big one.

There is no other college out there that gives a collegiate angler the opportunities to go to class, get classwork done, and then be on the river from 1:30 to dark every day. The fishing team here has been the best decision I have made. – Dawson Lenz, junior, President, UNA Bass Fishing Team


Hooked The team has not only put the Shoals on the map for anglers, it has also helped the economy in the area.

then there is the physical fatigue. You get sore. You can throw and cast easily a thousand times.”

Suzie Shoemaker, sports marketing manager for the Florence/Lauderdale Tourism Bureau, says the collegiate annual tournament generates more than $500,000 for the local economy, which is really more when factoring in the financial impact of the anglers’ families.

The sport also comes with its own set of challenges, as players are left to the mercy of Mother Nature. Unlike other sports, where conditions are fairly stable, many things can go wrong in the great outdoors. For instance, Dawson competed in a tournament in 2013 in Missouri in 30-degree temperatures and freezing rain. Out of 165 anglers, UNA placed first, second, and third. That’s impressive for a Southern team spoiled by good weather most every day of the year.

Shields says the tourism bureau has given the team a purpose within the community. “The tourism bureau has been a big supporter for our team. The bureau has brought in professional tournaments, and they’ve asked our guys to help with those,” Shields said. “Can you imagine being a college bass fisherman and being able to communicate and interact with professionals? It’s a wonderful thing.” “They’ve been able to have freedom, while still being supported by the university,” Shields adds. “What I’m proud of them for is that they work at this as a team. Dawson is a great leader and a great motivator. “ Each fall, the UNA team hosts qualifying tournaments internally, and the six students who accumulate the most points are selected to travel and represent the team. Most of the tournaments last one to two days, and each boat can bring in a total of five bass. The goal is to bring in the highest cumulative weight over the tournament. At the end of the day, all bass are released. Teams get penalized for killing a fish. Bass fishing is a mental game as well as physical. “Before a tournament, we practice for about two days to see the pattern where the fish will be feeding,” says Dawson. “It’s a puzzle every single time. We study the weather conditions and the water temperature. And

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Dawson is the current president of the team and represents UNA in several events throughout the southeast, from workshops to panel discussions. Though the team has not won any tournaments this year, Dawson is still confident and hopeful. “We have not won any big tournaments in 2015, but after this year’s Southeastern Regional on the St. Johns River in Palatka, Florida, we are now ranked second place in the nation,” said Dawson. “We are extremely blessed to have UNA back us up and help us out financially for these trips. Without the support from our school, it wouldn't be possible,” Dawson noted. “With that said, we are recruiting new, young anglers every year and look to grow even more in next year.” Shields sees the team only progressing in the future. “In 10 years, I think the team will continue, and I think it will grow in size. I think it will attract a lot of people to this university to fish and I think that it will be a great thing. I see the continuation of the team. I see one or two university-owned boats, even. The only direction we can go is forward and upward.”


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TEXT BY Krista Mastrangelo

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hen General James Oglethorpe arrived here aboard the good ship Anne in 1733, he saw the site as a place to found a city where men seeking a new lease on life could get a fresh start, where a British parliamentarian and a Yamacraw chief could become friends, and where slavery, lawyers, and rum should be illegal. When another general, one William Tecumseh Sherman, arrived in December of 1864, he saw a city too beautiful to burn. In fact, he sent a telegram right away to President Lincoln, saying, “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah.” From its haunting yet inspiring history, to its 22 squares sheltered by ancient and imposing live oaks, to its fine examples of historical architecture,

Georgia’s oldest city offers antiquity and beauty that are hard to come by in the United States. Once you venture past the adolescent River Street offerings, rife with neon frozen beverages and booths for ghost tours, you’ll discover a very grown-up city, just waiting to welcome you with Southern hospitality and charm. Start your day on the south side of Savannah’s largest square, Forsyth Park, at the hip, eco-friendly café, The Sentient Bean, where healthy, hearty vegetarian breakfast items are served every day, and brunch is available on Sundays, fresh from local markets. The menu includes gluten-free items as well. Try the yummy sunflower bar–like a rice crispy treat with fruit and nuts instead of marshmallows. As you wait for your order, sip the fair trade organic coffee and read some of the hundreds of sticky

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notes that paper the walls, each inscribed with what its author either “dreams for Savannah” or “loves about Savannah.” Every one implies a story, revealing much more than the few words scrawled in colored ink belie. My favorite: “I got a second chance here.” I guess General Oglethorpe was right. If you simply must feed your inner carnivore, Goose Feathers (near Ellis Square) will hit the spot, as it has been satisfying patrons for over 25 years with its breakfast and lunch offerings. Part Greenwich Village part Parisian Left Bank, the café serves a wide variety of menu items, from Belgian waffles and oatmeal to their breakfast panini and hollandaise-drenched eggs Benedict. In addition, Goose Feathers is known for its sinfully tempting selection of pastries, all made fresh daily. Get some to go for a midmorning nibble later. For ease of movement around the city’s well-planned but widespread grid, get a ticket for the Old Town Trolley hop-on/hop-off service. Tickets may be purchased online (for a small discount) or at several locations around the city: The Savannah Welcome Center, The Visitor Center, and City Market to name a few. These quaint and charming open-air trolley cars, which run on eco-friendly propane gas, are a convenient way to view the city and set your own schedule for the day. Trolleys run every 20 minutes at the 16 stops around the historic section of town, allowing you to get around without worrying about long walks, cab fares, or parking issues. Each stop features a favorite Savannah historical site and surrounding attractions, such as the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace (a must-see for every current and former Girl Scout) and the childhood home of Flannery O’Conner, for the Southern

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Forsyth Park Andrew Low House

Old Town Trolley

Š ecadphoto

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forsyth fountain

cotton market

mercer house St. John the Baptist Cathedral

Sorrel-Weed House

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Literature aficionado. For history and architecture buffs, check out the famously haunted Sorrel-Weed House, the Gothic Revival Green-Meldrim House, Telfair’s English Regency style Owens-Thomas House, and the lovingly preserved Andrew Low House, where you can step back in time and glimpse the luxurious lifestyle of this rags-toriches immigrant from Scotland, who started out the son of a grocery merchant and ended up the wealthiest man in town. After a morning inside stately, historic homes, pick up some of Savannah’s best takeout from Zunzi’s and enjoy a picnic lunch in one of the city’s many verdant squares, canopied in the comforting shade of its massive trees. Zunzi’s is a unique culinary experience, a blend of Johnny and Gabriella DeBeers’ eclectic collective heritages: Dutch, South African, Italian, and Swiss. So, you’ll delight in choosing from a menu with dishes ranging from chas schnitte (baked ham, cheese, and asparagus served with tomato), to authentic lasagna, to boerewors, bits and glitz (South African beef sausage), to cottage pie, and even a burger Jo Burg style (the usual cheese, lettuce, and tomato with the added bonus of bacon and a fried egg). But Zunzi’s might be most famous for their Conquistador, a chicken sandwich that was featured on Travel Channel correspondent Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America. This place is worth the wait in line, where you’ll hear uber-cheerful servers exchanging pleasantries with various literary, historical, and musical allusions, each containing the word “bro” in them. The most impressive one was “Coming right up, Ludwig Von Beetbroven.” Maybe it was the reggae music in the background, but these guys radiated perpetual mirth, serving up all their customers’ trays with smiles, laughter, and jokes–no additional charge.

After lunch it’s time to shop, so head toward the downtown historic district. Savannah is home to a number of independent galleries and boutiques, and the line between art and merchandise can be thoroughly blurred here. You’ll find jewelry that looks too good to wear and dresses that look like they should be hung on walls, not to mention interior fixtures that would be at home in a museum. A perfect example of this would be ZIA Boutique; prepare to be astonished by the array of beautiful things in here. Located on West Broughton Street, ZIA showcases jewelry, watches, accessories, and home accents by dozens of designers from all over the world. Handcrafted and unique, each piece is a wearable work of art. If you fancy a pampering bath at the end of your evening, stop into Nourish Natural Bath Products for a bar of their handmade glycerin soap, a bath fizzy, and a soy candle. A green company since 1990, this business is the brainchild of Shoshanna and Corey Walker, inspired by their mother who made homemade soaps in small batches while they were growing up. With all natural ingredients, their products fill the air with the aromas of lavender, eucalyptus, mint, and a host of other botanical scents. You may even smell the store before you see it.

When you walk into Villa Savannah, just down the street, you will literally see the light. The shop is illuminated with a stunning array of light fixtures, all for sale, that would make any home “an estate.” You’ll see caged sparkling crystal and Chihuly-inspired chandeliers, casting their incandescent glow on a wealth of home fashions, jewelry, and couture. With lots of sparkle and pizzazz, the treasures in Villa Savannah are classic yet contemporary, from nautical-themed jewelry to travel-inspired canvas prints. Head designer Dean Caldarelli has an eye for items that are modern without being trendy, and traditional without being dated. Across the street from Villa Savannah, you can’t miss The Paris Market, both a café and a shop. Through the large windows, you’ll see people sipping coffee and reading the paper, while behind them shoppers smell soaps and sample perfumes. Due to its scale in an interior setting, the first thing you’ll probably notice when you walk in is the authentic art nouveau “Metro” sign, ubiquitous on every corner in gay Paris. The first thing you’ll probably smell is the lavender, emanating from a large bowl full of dried buds surrounded by sachets for sale. On the back wall, large red letters spell out “PARIS” all in lights behind a counter with a large selection of Tocca fragrances. In addition to their bath and body collection, The Paris Market sells books, candles, home decor, kitchen wares, and lighting (you can buy the “PARIS” letter-style lights for $217 each). There’s even a little section for children with simple and unique toys, like wooden blocks and shadow puppet collections. But downstairs is where the real fun is. Descending the staircase, you’ll feel like you’re stepping into someone’s Old World hunting lodge. The brick walls painted white really offset the

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antique furniture, the shelves filled with old books and amber glass bottles, and the animal head trophies that stare down at you from the walls. There’s even an actual boar’s head. With earth tones and natural decor, a French country dining table is set, as if lunch will be served as soon as the men get home from the hunt. If upstairs is urban Paris, downstairs is Provence, about a hundred years ago.

Ian Kesson Photography

If you’re shopping in Savannah, you can’t leave City Market off your list. Touted as “the art and soul of Savannah,” this mixture of shops, galleries, and restaurants in the downtown historic district has been restored to its original intent and purpose: as a social and commercial epicenter. In the 1700s farmers and traders sold their products here. Today, in this four-block pedestrian section of town, local artists make, show, and sell their creations here, while street musicians perform daily. Peek in the

Elizabeth on 37th Street

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shops, have a drink on the patio of one of the sidewalk cafes, or simply enjoy an ice cream while you relax on a bench and people watch. If you have a sweet tooth, you won’t want to miss Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, where you can sample some pralines and watch an antique candy making machine pull salt water taffy. This place has every kind of candy you can imagine, including old-school favorites you thought didn’t exist anymore. (Remember Bit-o-Honey?) The best part of City Market, though, are the mixed studio galleries, where you can soak in all the soul-nourishing art, and even watch an artist make careful progress on his or her latest creation. Many of them are happy to tell you about their work and their process, and among the wealth of creative talent in Savannah, you are sure to find something to fit your taste here. One of my personal favorites is Brian MacGregor, (see p. 70) an artist whose work reflects both his passion for travel and his fascination with dreams as a manifestation of the collective unconscious. His studio gallery can be found upstairs in The Art Center. Don’t miss it. Many of the shops close at six, just in time for dinner. In a city known as much for its food as its art, there are a number of options for you. If you want the dining experience par excellence, make reservations in advance for Elizabeth on 37th Street. Built in 1900, this Greek revival styled house was replicated from a similar home in Boston, so it stands out among the Victorian painted ladies that line the streets in this section of town. Elizabeth and Michael Terry bought the house in 1980, and it’s been a restaurant since ’81. With a 15 page wine list and a seasonal menu that features “coastal new southern” cuisine, it’s no mystery why the restaurant has thrived for so long. The

chefs, Kelly Yambor and Jeremy Diehl, show incredible talent and creativity with flavor, exemplified by dishes such as Tanglewood Farms roasted chicken breast dusted with cardamom, with pan gravy, apricot butter, braised local greens, and cornbread dressing with shiitake mushrooms. As you might expect with a house-turned-restaurant, the dining area consists of multiple large rooms, most with a fireplace, and fresh flower arrangements don the mantles as well as every table. Here you will enjoy the classic Savannah dining experience. If you prefer fine dining in a more contemporary setting, the place to go is Local 11 Ten on Bull Street. With towering ceilings, a nature-inspired color scheme, and industrial textures, the interior of Local is stunning. Think earth-colored walls and green malachite-patterned pillow rolls along the banquette. Dimly lit with clear incandescents and candles, this place is sexy. Brandy Williamson, the executive chef, and Jacob Hammer, the chef de cuisine, source most of the produce and herbs they use from local farms all over the southeast, and they’ve even credited these farms on their menu. So, you’ll know, for instance, that your honey came from Hen Pecked Farm in Savannah. Local’s seasonal menu includes such varied sides as local mac-n-cheese and smoked bone marrow. In tune with its contemporary decor, the main dishes are also a bit more avant garde than you’d find at a more traditional restaurant. Inventive creations are the norm, like this entree: lavender marinated duck breast, roasted celeriac, rutabaga, pickled cherries, pear, mustard greens, and sauce au foie gras. After dinner, head upstairs to Perch, Local’s rooftop bar. Here, you can sit back on cushioned rattan couches, relax under the illuminated live oaks, and enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine.


Although dinner is only served downstairs, they do offer a tapas menu up here. If you’re in the mood for contemporary seafood, a newer option for sleek modern dining is Chive Sea Bar and Lounge on West Broughton Street. Open for less than two years, it is sure to become a new favorite in the downtown historic district. Its vibe is old Hollywood meets new Asia. An elegant small space, Chive is big on impact. Glittering glass tiles, blue lights, and chrome chairs set a modern and sophisticated tone, balanced out by large-screen plasma screens showing old Sandra Dee movies or silent films. With heavy deep blue drapes, the booths are curtained off from one another, each with its own glamorous crystal pendant light.

Now, if you want a delectable dining experience, but in a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, probably my favorite dining option for creative yet traditional cuisine is Circa 1875 Gastro Pub on Whitaker Street. Appealing to creative types, the pub side draws a variety of artists, musicians, and writers who like to congregate here on any given night, according to Donald Lubowicki, co-owner. He and his business partner, Jeffrey Downey,

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Ian Kesson Photography

Choose from several seafood options, like Dungeness crab tartar or lobster and edamame risotto, or traditional favorites like Chilean sea bass or pan seared scallops. You may wish to be more daring and dine on slow-cooked grilled octopus, quail, or duck. Not in the mood for fish or fowl? Try either the venison or buffalo tenderloins or the Wagyu Kobe steak. Also a bar, Chive can be a stylish, atmospheric place to relax and imbibe on their vintage cocktails, with fun names like Bohemian, The Cat’s Pajamas, The Bees Knees, and Sidecar. Either way, you have to stick around to see if Sandra ends up with Bobby Darin in the end.

Circa 1875 Gastro Pub

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Ian Kesson Photography

Circa 1875 wine cellar bought the place in 2007 when it was just a pub. Bartending and living off tips, they saved all the income the pub generated to build the dining room next door, which opened in 2010. ToulouseLautrec prints and Tiffany lamps set the French tone. Taking advantage of its high ceilings, they’ve decorated the place with large scale statuary and tapestries, leaving the original 12 inch crown molding and tin ceiling tiles, giving the place a grand feel. But they’ve also kept it humble, with brown paper placemats on the tablecloths and simple wooden chairs. Outside, a sandwich board sign proclaims the day’s specials under the phrase “Unpretentious French.” And that about nails it. As an example of this motto, on the wall in the dining room hangs an impressive list of all their wine offerings, along with each one’s country of origin (very French), and it’s written in chalk (unpretentious). The seasonal menu has some standards that never change. Donald says, “If we took the cassoulet off the menu, they’d have my head.” (Was that a reference to Marie Antoinette? Nah, that’d be too pretentious.) The cassoulet maison to which he refers is 66

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made with fresh sausage, white beans, onions, carrots, celery, and confit duck leg finished with natural jus. For a dish that is quintessentially “unpretentious French,” try the 9 oz fresh ground Certified Angus Beef topped with green peppercorn brandy mustard sauce accompanied by French fried potatoes with truffle oil. Downstairs you’ll find Circa 1875’s wine cellar, decorated in a style Donald likes to call “wine and monks.” With an arched stain-glass window that proclaims “In vino vertias” (“in wine there is truth”), gold leafed religious art, and dark carved wooden wine racks, it fits the description. Inspired by cafes that dot the Left Bank in Paris, it’s a cozy little nook with an Old World feel, much like the upstairs pub and dining room, but more intimate. It’s the perfect place for a quiet, romantic dinner. After dinner, while soft jazz music plays in the background, enjoy a handcrafted cocktail in the pub. Sidle up to the ’20s-style bar where Ian, the bartender and also a talented photographer, can tell you its history (it was actually flown over from Dublin) as he shakes up your Bois de Rose, a

fusion of Bombay gin, St. Germaine, Aperol, and a float of rose with a twist of lemon. Or, if you’re feeling like an adventurous Bohemian, consider the absinthe table service. A crystal absinthe decanter, with four faucets, is filled with ice water and brought to your table. As the water drips over a sugar cube on a special silver lattice spoon and into the small glass of absinthe below, it slowly transforms the clear green spirit into an opaque chartreuse. You’ll soon discover why absinthe is affectionately referred to as “the green fairy.” With its year-round temperate climate, Savannah is a great city for a nighttime stroll. Whether on your own or with any one of the many walking tours that are available, ambling through the squares at night is an eerie and intriguing experience, heightened all the more if you know the history of the town. For a drama-filled evening, plan ahead and book tickets for a show at The Savannah Theatre. Open since 1818, it is known for being one of the oldest continuously running theatres in the country. Not only has the historic building survived a hurricane and two fires, but also the rapier-like wit of Oscar Wilde, who performed here among other entertainment giants like W.C. Fields, Sarah Bernhardt, and Lillian Russell. Since its 1948 renovation, the theatre has retained its Art Deco style, with “SAVANNAH” spelled out in neon vertical letters and a traditional marquee advertising the shows that are currently running. Across from Chippewa Park, this venue is worth a look even if you don’t stay for the show. One day probably isn’t nearly enough time to spend in this elegant port city. With its lively traditional festivals and so many options for food, shopping, and entertainment, it’s worth another look, so you’ll surely want to revisit Savannah again and again.

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Sunsets are better at HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA’S RIVERFRONT Bonaventure Cemetery Perched on the edge of the Wilmington River lies Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous by the bestselling novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The Bonaventure Dash Tours are a great way to see this spectacular venue, where you can meander among the tombstones that reflect the Victorian romanticism of death, a period when monuments were works of art, gothic and transcendent, and cemeteries were rambling gardens. Bring your camera to capture that iconic main road, lined with azaleas and ensconced with its archway of moss-draped trees.

For information on schedules and prices: www.dashtours.net

Wet slips up to 50 ft. • Dry storage up to 23 ft. 24 hour diesel, gas • Campground • Free wi-fi Pavilion rental • NEW transient docks Minutes from shopping & attractions

293 Ditto Landing Road • Huntsville, AL 35803 MM 334, mid-point Tennessee River GPS: 34.5771107, -86.5554481

fuel dock 256-883-9420 • office 256-882-1057

dittolanding.com Photo courtesy of the Burns family of Huntsville, Alabama


Tybee Island Whether you wish to book a dolphin tour, charter a deep sea fishing excursion, or take an eco-tour of the marsh, Tybee Island has something for every nature lover. You can also climb the lighthouse steps and take pictures from the top, walk along the wide sandy beaches searching for shells and tide pools, or rent bicycles, jet-skis, or stand up paddle boards to venture out on your own. This barrier island 18 miles outside the city is certainly worth the trip! For information on all that Tybee Island has to offer: www.tybeeisland.com

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Savannah is home to a number of festivals throughout the year. Time your visit to take advantage of the extra entertainment brought to town by any one of these celebrations of art, music, and culture.

Annual Festivals in Savannah Tara Feis Irish Festival: March 12 Savannah Music Festival: March 20-April 5 Savannah International Festival: March 27-28 Savannah Jazz Festival: September 21-27 Picnic in the Park: October 4 Fiesta Latina: October 10 Savannah Folk Music Festival: October 9-11 Savannah Film Festival: October 31-November 7 Live Oak Library Children’s Book Festival: November 14


1929 CUSTOM Sternwheeler COMPLETELY UPGRADED & REMODELED IN 2007 Originally Steam - converted to diesel over hydraulic. 3 Beautiful Decks. Stunning Interior. 3 Staterooms, 3.5 Baths, Full Bar, Dining Room, Galley, Large Main Salon. GUNTERSVILLE, AL

$550,000

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND MORE PHOTOS, VISIT WWW.YACHTSOUTH.COM OR WWW.BOATTRADER.COM


Brian MacGreg or

A Global Artist at Home in Savannah TEXT BY Krista Mastrangelo » PHOTOS BY Brian MacGregor

S

urrounded by pegboard walls filled floor-toceiling with his layered and timeless paint-

ings, Brian MacGregor looks far too young to have seen 23 countries and nearly every continent (except Antarctica). Although born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, his Scottish heritage definitely shows, with his tightly curled hair and fair complexion, and even with a beard, he looks like he could be Justin Timberlake’s little brother. But he has been called an “old soul or whatever,” by many, he says. “I think it’s just from knowing what I’ve wanted to do at an early age.”

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Firmly settled into the Savannah’s City Market since 2003, Brian has been a professional artist since his teens. “I have always been self-employed, my whole life,” he says. “I once worked at a grocery store for three days, out of curiosity. My friend worked there, and I guess it was just to give myself some sort of grounding and understanding of what I want to do and what I don’t want to do.” “Did your employer know it was a three-day stint?” I ask. He smiles. “No, no.” Then he laughs. “I didn’t even know it was a three-day stint. At that time in high school, I started doing murals. I’m pretty quick at murals, and they’re a high dollar ticket item, especially for a teenager.” Brian earned about $1,000 a mural, depending on the size. “Doing those in like three days, as a teenager, you can’t really beat that.” “No kidding. That’s about $333 a day,” I say, “versus what you were making for your three days at the grocery store.” “Yeah,” he laughs. “It was 62 bucks, that was what my paycheck came out to. And I had the same hair I do now; it’s curly and they were like, ‘You need to cut your hair.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m out.’” When asked when he first realized that he wanted to be an artist, Brian becomes pensive. His fingers go to his chin, and his expression reveals that “old soul” he mentioned. “You know, it’s a difficult question,” he says, “because I really have no idea.” “So it’s just always been there?” “Yeah.” He nods slowly. “Always been there.” “So were you the best colorer in kindergarten?” I muse. “You know…before that,” he replies. “More like two, three. Before I really even knew what an artist was.” He goes on to tell me about his creative parents: his father, a devoted woodworker, and his mother, a talented seamstress. Throughout most of his work, Brian includes pages of dream journals–and in his early years, intricate tangles of Celtic knots–as a foundation under his subject matter, much of it showing though in the final product.

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This love of pattern he credits to his mother’s artistic influence. “She did these awesome tapestries that show a visual scene, but using patterns. And they look like a painting. My early work in college, and just before, I used even more pattern, some sort of flat pattern. The dream text and the travel text, the handwriting, acts as that pattern. I’ve seen that my drawing style and the way that I lay out my work, that very much comes from her.” Inspired by his father’s woodworking skills, Brian sets most of his work in what he calls his “mixed frames,” which he has been building for eight years in his second studio, his wood shop. Artists and frame shops have donated thousands of different frames, which he has stacked in his woodshop’s complex network of shelves. Many of his donations are high-end materials, selling for $45 or more per foot in a frame shop. With the ingenuity and time it takes to construct them (he said they average three days each) and their unrivaled uniqueness, Brian’s mixed frames are too difficult to copy. He’s the only one doing them, which makes a piece by Brian MacGregor even more one-of-a-kind. “Do you think because of the influence from your parents that you’ve always approached art as a craft?” I ask. “Yeah. Essentially, the way I view the word ‘craft’ is that you built it well. Knowing the material is going to hold up.” Another way Brian shows that he approaches his art as “craft” is that he is constantly adapting. One can see a progression in his work as he tries new methods and ventures into new territories. “I never plan on doing the same painting over and over again. Just like a musician, I have some of my greatest hits, so there will be certain pieces that I may do again a few years later, but differently. Just like a musician might use different instruments, I may change the color scheme or some of the materials I’m using.” Brian’s love of travel permeates his art. Each trip becomes a new source of inspiration and produces a series of work. Looking through his gallery, a viewer may notice

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Inspired by his father’s woodworking skills, Brian sets most of his work in what he calls his “mixed frames,” which he has been building for eight years in his second studio, his wood shop.


There’s a mixture of colors, media, and styles that gives his art a timeless appeal, with an old-school lacquered look to it, pages of journals peeking through the warm colors and adding depth with their flat patterns on the broader surfaces.


themes and scenes from Thailand, Guatemala, Peru, and Egypt, just to name a few.

Also, having preferred solo travel for so long, he mentioned how quickly he adapted to traveling as a couple.

“I’m going to China this summer, to see Tibet, which I’m really excited about. So when I come back from that, I’ll do 10 to 20 paintings, and then potentially set up a show. I’ve been doing that now for…over a decade.”

“Just things like, going somewhere, you instinctively grab two water bottles, not just one for yourself, but one for the other person…because you’re a team.”

Looking at his work, you can tell that Brian likes to venture down the road less traveled, rather than stay in world-wide hotel brands in big, touristy cities. One of his paintings depicts a view from inside a cave, a cave that took over a four-hour trek through the jungle to find. “You have to have ingenuity in order to travel. That’s the way I like to travel anyway. Typically by myself, or with my girlfriend.” When I asked how he met his girlfriend, Jen Marks, an acupuncturist, he has quite a story. Having read an article about his artwork in an online magazine while she was traveling in Egypt, she reached out to him over email. They met one time and remained long-distance friends for several years. “Then we went on our first (30 day) date, while traveling through Guatemala together.” Yes, that’s correct. Their first date was a month long. Jen was going to do volunteer acupuncture work treating some rural villagers. “We’d known each other for about five years, and she said, ‘Hey do you want to go to Guatemala?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’” He laughs, and then continues telling how he responded to her invitation. “I’ve never been there, I really like Central America, I could definitely get some inspiration from that, and you’re cool. Yeah, let’s do it.” “So you went as friends, but came back as something else,” I say. “Most definitely,” he says with a wry smile. Whereas traditionally couples develop a relationship over a series of dates, several days apart, each one after getting dressed up and putting on one’s best face, Brian and Jen found that the nature of traveling together really propelled their relationship, like playing a movie on fast forward. “We would make jokes each week, that after two weeks, we were now like, two years in.”

Jen herself is also a “world traveler,” he says. “She’s of the same mind.” And that’s a good thing, since that appears to be such a big part of Brian’s process. “Every trip has massively influenced my work, because I’m sketching the whole time. I do take a camera and I do take photos, but I don’t want to be behind the lens the whole time. So I focus a lot on my sketches. You really look at the scenery more. You get into the people that are walking around, and it’s almost like I’m a secret agent.” He smiles and laughs at the analogy before explaining it further. “Suddenly I’m very much aware of what age group of people come by, what type of people, how much traffic is there. All these details from the scene come into play. I like to spend three days in a town, rather than just five minutes and leave. You get a good feel for the city. Every city has an emotion and a color scheme.” “My sketches and photographs and notes allow me to process the trip in my mind. When I come home, I can go through my sketches and photos and references, and start to tease out what’s the best, the cream of the crop. Because I might have 50 sketches, and a couple hundred photographs. I’m not going to paint all of that.” The amount of work that goes into preparing each piece is evident in his final products. There’s a mixture of colors, media, and styles that gives his art a timeless appeal, with an old-school lacquered look to it, pages of journals peeking through the warm colors and adding depth with their flat patterns on the broader surfaces. Many of his pieces have a patterned and textured perimeter surrounding a detailed, colorful center composition, so the painting almost frames itself. After a decade or so of documenting his travels in this way, Brian has amassed what amounts to an exquisite visual autobiography. “It’s really nice to go through them when people come into my gallery and I’m talking about my art, reliving those travels again. It becomes autobiographical, even though I’m not painting a self-portrait. I’m really documenting my life, and I never really thought of it that way until recently.”

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With so many sketches and photos to choose from, how does he decide what is “the best, the cream of the crop”? Brian says he needs three things in order to proceed with a project. “One, whatever I’m doing has to be really fun to paint. I want it to be really, really fun. Then, a challenge, so there has to be something that challenges me while I’m working on it. Then, making it better, I want improvement. I’m always stepping up my game.” “So take me through the stages of a piece, from start to finish,” I ask. “I like to work initially from the inspiration. Never approach a blank canvas. Never stare at a blank canvas and think you’re going to get an idea. It starts with an ‘Aha’ moment, and the way you’re going to get that ‘Aha’ moment is by sketching a whole lot in your sketchbook. If you draw a whole lot, like I do, it becomes a self-fulfilling process. I’m a firm believer in doing ‘bad drawings.’ What I mean by ‘bad drawings’ is just draw something and don’t worry if it’s not going to be good, because at that stage it doesn’t matter.” “I’ll take those sketches, and then something from art history, or my travels, or my dreams will influence that sketch in a different direction. From there I’ll do it one of two ways. I’ll either do the drawing fully on the canvas without adding any collage work, or I’ll start the other way and cover the entire canvas with the dream pages and the travel stories, and any collage materials I’m going to use and cover the entire surface, and then I’ll draw on top of that. It just depends on the painting.” Brian often lets the painting itself lead the way. “I’m very much an organic artist and a narrative artist, so within both of those, I’m telling a story, but the painting is also telling a story.” His next step involves spreading a matte layer over the whole canvas, which both seals in the paper of the journals, and also protects both the paper and the canvas itself from being ultimately destroyed by the oil paint. Apparently, oils will eventually eat through the canvas. “So this ends up being like a preservative layer. Every stage within my process of painting has multiple reasons.” “That craft. ‘Making it well,’” I say, referencing his words from earlier. “Exactly.”

The dedication he puts forth to make sure his work will stand the test of time is not only impressive and admirable, but unfortunately, it’s exceedingly rare these days. In fact, Brian often underlays the entire canvas with pages of text, much of which won’t be visible in the final product. “I’ll do about umpteen layers of oil paint on top of that. Slowly build it up, with transparent layers. Certain other aspects, like the leaves for instance, I may want to be very thick, so obviously anything written under that will be completely covered up.” Just outside his studio gallery, Brian has two journals for anyone who wants to share either their travel stories or their dreams with him, many of which are written in other languages. “Where do you get all the dream text for your work?” I ask. “I currently have at least 20 or so journals of my own dreams, and another 10 dream journals from other people. I think I have about 1,600 dreams, each one with ‘Dream’ and a number at the top, and the number correlates to how many dreams I’ve collected up to that point. And I’m not excluding myself. I number mine in with everybody else. I’ve been writing down my own dreams now for over 20 years.” “Why did you start writing them down at such a young age?” I ask. “In my family we always talked about our dreams, so I’ve always been fascinated by them.” Because he was always encouraged to write them down, share them, and discuss them, Brian has developed a whole philosophy around dreams and what they mean, what they reveal, and what they can teach us. “I believe that dreams come from two places: One is your inner psychologist. Your true self is talking to you. It’s helping you understand what you really want to do in life. Also, dreams are there to help prepare you for future decision-making. Déjà vu comes from dreams. If you’re like ‘Hey, I’ve seen that before,’ it’s because you did; your mind already went through a scenario about that, to prepare you for it.” “Looking back on almost every major event in my life, I can go through my dream journal and realize that I’ve had a precognitive dream about that event. And I may not have been aware of it before, that it was a precognitive dream, but looking back on it I can tell. But the older I get, when I have those dreams, I’m starting to be able to tell

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“I’m very much an organic artist and a narrative artist, so within both of those, I’m telling a story, but the painting is also telling a story.”


between a regular dream and this one is talking about something that’s going to happen. I need to pay attention.” In addition to his belief in precognitive dreams, Brian sees dreams as a way to tap into the “collective unconscious,” much like tuning into a specific radio frequency on a dial, and this is possible whether a person has passed or is still alive. “So you always exist within that realm, some part of history, your mind, so that anyone who still remembers you can tap into you that way. My grandmother was very significant in my life, and I’ve had dreams where she was talking to me about something, like a really great life lesson.” So, does he ever paint things from his own dreams? “The funny thing is every now and then I do a painting based on a dream, but those are pretty rare, because physically painting a dream is probably…not probably, it is the hardest art form to potentially ever do. It’s incredibly difficult.” Then the good art history student in him comes out. “It’s also the first form of art. The first paintings, cave paintings, were dream art.” But dreams do find their way into his art, in the form of text. “All of this dream text that I’ve collected from so many people is in the background of these paintings and shows through because that’s how I view the world. Some people say they see God in everything; that’s kind of how I see the collective unconscious. I see that in everything all around me. So that’s what I try to mix into my artwork. A lot of people see my work as being kind of spiritual…I’m not going for that. If you’re tapping into something that’s bigger than yourself, or trying to tap into something that’s bigger than yourself, then that’s bound to happen.” “You travel quite a bit, as is evidenced in your work. Why did you choose Savannah as your home base?” I ask him. “I did go to SCAD, but that was not the reason why I moved to Savannah,” he says right off the bat, referring of course to Savannah College of Art and Design. “I thought about New York, but I’m a Southerner. Ultimately, I like the east coast, but Richmond felt a little too big for me. There are so many aspects of Savannah that were just right. It’s got a big art scene, but it’s a small city. So I can be a big fish here. I have a good life here. I can do whatever I want, paint whatever I want. And thankfully people like it and buy it.” And they do. Recently Brian was commissioned to do two large pieces based on his most recent collection, his “skyline series.”

With enthusiasm, he tells about the excitement of working with a client on commissions. Some members of his clientele have even collaborated on travel pieces with Brian, supplying him with their vacation photos and travel journals (sometimes even their dream journals), and letting him create a piece especially for them, in the style of his own travel-inspired works. Around 160 repeat art collectors own more than one of Brian’s original paintings, and at least 25 collectors own 10 or more of his originals. His art has found a home in over 10 different countries and nearly every state in the U.S. “That gives me plenty of income to live here and travel around the world. I would like to say I could do that in New York, Miami, L.A., but it would be a lot harder. In a way, I would probably have to change my style, which is what a lot of artists do, is to compromise in some way in their artwork, if they solely do artwork as a career.” And apparently Savannah is just a great place to live. “Savannah hit that sweet spot. Great temperature the majority of the year round. The beach is 20 minutes away. I bought a house, in downtown. It’s 110 years old. And it’s about a mile to my gallery.” He laughs, like his good fortune has suddenly just hit him. “That’s great!” he adds. “I can ride my bike here or walk here. I’m basically working in retirement. I live my life in like, ‘working retirement’ mode.” “You said that every city has an emotion and a color scheme,” I remind him. “So, what would you say Savannah’s emotion and color scheme are?” “Oh man. That’s hard. It’s difficult because I live here. It’s much easier to be objective about a place if you don’t live there. To be honest, a light shade of green would be Savannah’s color, and not because of St. Patrick’s Day,” he says with a grin. “It’s because of all the trees,” he clarifies. “That’s why I moved here and still live here, is because of all the parks and the trees in the city. Living in Savannah is the best of both worlds. You’re living in a forest, but you’re also living in the city at the same time. There really is nowhere else that is like that. A few places are close, but not in the aspect of Savannah where every single block you turn you see a tree. That’s pretty awesome.” “And the emotion of Savannah?” “The emotion of Savannah…” he ponders. “Would have to be laidback. There’s a lot of creativity here. And there’s a lot of energy

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here, but it’s a relaxed creativity. Yeah, that would be my emotion for Savannah. Relaxed creativity.” “The last question you’re probably going to hate,” I warn, “because it’s like asking you to pick your favorite child, but if you have a favorite piece, or pieces, maybe because they challenged you specifically, or because you’re particularly proud of some aspect of them, or because of some story that’s attached to them, what would those pieces be?” Right away he says there will be a few that would fit that bill. Definitely more than one. “Whichever one that I’m working on, honestly, and then I have my greatest hits, my most popular past ones. Some of them would be…” He gazes around his gallery, narrowing his eyes at each work, gravitas evident on his face. “First, Egyptian Hammock, I’m doing a new one now.” He gets up and goes over to the new version of an old favorite, telling me that it’s not finished yet. “There’s so many things that I like about it. The composition is really interesting to me. I love asking people where they think that scene is, and I tell them their first guess will probably be wrong, as a hint. And they’re like, ‘Oh, okay that counts out the Caribbean because that’s what it looks like.’ They’re not expecting that to be the Sinai Peninsula,” he says pointing to the painting. “And that’s the Red Sea. And the color, the play of the color, it’s really fun. That trip itself was quite an adventure.” He pulls himself away and wanders to another wall. “A really personal one to me is this one, The Writer’s Garden,” he says. The work in question depicts a patio in a jungle-like setting, surrounded by palm fronds and greenery on the right, and the dwelling and its patio roof on the left and top, the roofline creating a diagonal composition that separates the flat pattern of the dream text on top from the lush, dark greenery inside. Text shows through on the far right as well, where a path meanders off into the jungle. Again, the text appears to frame the realistic, detailed center, where on second (or even third) glance you might notice a partially hidden man, lounging and reading on a wooden bench. “Okay, so the story of this piece, this guy is a writer, and he went to this spot in Northern Thailand for three months to write a book. I helped him. He was writing a fiction novel, and he was going back and forth between chapters in his book, so I helped him put the chapters up on the wall. Then he could see it and move them around. He really inspired me to do the same thing. So years later, I went to Costa Rica, and my main mission was to be there for a month, and I got ideas for painting, sure, but I wrote, like, 10 chapters of a novel. Inspired by this guy.” Just above The Writer’s Garden is his next favorite, and I have to say, mine as well: Blue Leaf Meditation. In this painting an Asian boy in a golden robe sits lightly on a red meditation rug laid on a

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forest floor that is scattered with fallen leaves. The leaves appear illuminated. The whole painting is done in autumnal colors: reds, oranges, browns. The boy’s face and most of the leaves are all painted in a sepia tone that almost looks black and white. Among the warm tones, there is one blue leaf, cool and solitary, that appears to be floating above the rest. “It’s from my experience in Chang Mai,” he tells me. “It’s about an experience I had from meditating all day long. At the end of a week of learning how to meditate with monks, we spent an entire day meditating on the leaves. I was meditating on this one leaf, trying to make it go from the left of me and have it blow all the way over to the right of me, over several hours. And it did happen.” He laughs and shrugs his shoulders. “I have no idea if I had any control over that, but it did happen.” I notice that there is a strip of “Admit One” carnival-style tickets near the bottom of the work, under the paint but visible in places. “Tell me about the tickets,” I say. “Yeah, that’s kind of my inside joke to myself. I believe every painting is so individual, to the person, so…one viewer at a time. Admit One. Unlike many other art forms where people experience music together, experience a movie together, a painting is very individual.” Summing up his philosophy as an artist, Brian obviously values authenticity in his work. “I strive to be myself. I don’t paint what I think other people want to buy, because the moment I even think about doing that, nobody likes that painting. I have to be very honest within my work. And that comes through and people see that, and they like it.”

Brian MacGregor’s Awards and Achievements: Artist of the Savannah Jazz Festival Voted Best Artist of Savannah, by Connect Magazine International Dream Art Award, First Place Grant, from IASD SCAD National Award scholarship National Congressional Art Award Competition Brad Boynton Art Award Eagle Scout Award

Contact information:

Brian MacGregor Gallery 308 W. St. Julian Street Gallery 103 Upstairs City Market Savannah, GA 31401 www.brian-macgregor.com (912) 596-2201


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82 » parting shot » Patrick Hood » patrickhoodphotographer.com

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Life on the Water, Spring 2015  

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