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may.10 www.uptownclt.com

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LUXURY APARTMENTS

FROM $724 / MONTH

SPECTRUMSOUTHEND.COM

Choose from a variety of floor plans featuring ample sunlight and maximum livability equipped with gourmet kitchens, granite countertops, laminate wood floors and full size washer and dryers.

2225 Hawkins St.

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AMENITIES • Resort-style saline pool with spa, & lap pool • Pool gazebo featuring an area for grilling • Outdoor living room with fireplace www.uptownclt.com

UP TO $3000 IN FREE RENT AVAILABLE May 10.indd 2

• Fitness Center • Internet cafe • Sports Lounge with billiards

CALL 704.332.5022 TO LEARN MORE 4/27/2010 9:22:43 AM


now oFFeRing UP To THRee MonTHs FRee FoR a liMiTeD TiMe onlY

Ashton mixes classic design with upbeat modernism. It’s an emerging “it” spot – the ideal locale for the urban sophisticate who thrives on energy and seeks out the unique and intriguing. Here, just south of Uptown Charlotte, South End’s distinguished galleries, shopping, entertainment and dining district is just outside your door.

SOCIAL SPACES

PRIVATE PL ACES

• Unparalleled views of Uptown Charlotte

• Dramatic living spaces with high ceilings, sleek-lined solar shades and custom-color accent walls

H I GH - R IS E L E A SA B LE L I V I N G

• Pedestrian access to South End’s galleries, boutiques and chic eateries • One block from the East/West Boulevard station with LYNX light rail and trolley service

• Open-concept gourmet kitchens with granite slab countertops, wine racks, custom European-style cabinetry and stainless steel appliances

• The Club with Wi-Fi Internet cafe and HDTV sports lounge with billiards

• Luxurious natural hardwood, travertine and Berber flooring

• Private HDTV screening room with surround-sound and leather club seating

• Spacious bedrooms that accommodate king-sized beds and feature extra-large walk-in closets

• Elevated outdoor terrace with conversational seating

• Upgraded fixtures and ceiling fans with decorative lighting

• Gourmet demonstration kitchen with private dining room • Oversized spa-inspired fitness club • Executive conference room and business center • 11th floor Sky Lounge with resort-style pool, aqua bar, sunning cabanas, firepit and grilling areas • Premier resident services such as valet dry cleaning, package delivery and complimentary fitness classes • Daily coffee and hot tea service

• Luxury bathrooms with custom framed mirrors, marble slab countertops, sumptuous soaking tubs and available frameless shower doors • Full-size washer and dryer in every residence • Oversized terraces, french balconies, street-level entries, studies, dry bars, built-in bookshelves and computer niches are available in select residences

• Multi-level private garage parking with controlled-access entry; storage rooms available • Pet friendly

now leasing // 888.890.3 794 125 W. TremonT Avenue // ChArloTTe, nC 28203 // AshtonsE.com www.uptownclt.com

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Visit our sister project, The Residence at southPark, at TheResidenceliving.com. May 10.indd 3

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Priced from the $200’s in Historic Elizabeth 2 car garages with sealed floors & storage Granite counters in kitchen & baths Stainless steel appliances & maple cabinets 10 ft. ceilings & hardwood floors Wireless Internet throughout community Pool & clubhouse with rooftop terrace Park-like setting with mature landscaping Brandon Ruby: 704.277.8016 brandon@helenadamsrealty.com Kelly Blandford: 704.907.4560 kblandford@helenadamsrealty.com

Laurel Ave.

E. 5th St.

Laurel Ave.

Caswell Rd. Vail Ave.

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E. 7th St.

Vail Ave.

Randolph Rd.

Providence Rd.

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Dotger Ave. E. 5th St.

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www.uptownclt.com

www.TheGroveTownhomes.com May 10.indd 4

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Ladies Night will never be the same‌

Premieres may 6 : 8Pm Designer shoes & Bag Giveaway ½ Price martinis : skinny apps Free shoe rental : Pampering

www.strikeandtheCity.com

eat : drink : bowl private events May 10.indd 5

RSVP online get on the VIP List First 50 receive an exclusive Strike Swag Bag www.uptownclt.com uptown 210 east Trade street, epiCentre Charlotte, NC 28202 : 704.716.9300

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Townhome Living in a Resort-Style Neighborhood Close to Shopping and Dining at South Park Mall

From the $190’s

• 1,747 to 4,500 sq.ft.

Tour 4 Decorated Model Homes, Open Daily! Every aspect of this luxurious community announces you’ve arrived, from the majestic gated entrance and resort-inspired amenities to the perfectly manicured greenscapes and spacious, stunning townhomes. Enjoy a truly exceptional lifestyle less than one mile from the light rail and just minutes from the world-class shopping, dining and recreation of South Park.

• 2 to 4 bedrooms and 2 ½ to 3 ½ baths with owner’s bedroom up or down • 1 or 2-car attached garage • Bonus room, loft & rec rooms available

Phone: (704) 643-7112 Directions: I-77 to Exit 5/Tyvola Rd. Go East 2.6 mi. toward South Park Mall. Right on Park Rd. Go .5 mi. to right on Archdale Dr. Go 0.7 mi. to left into community on Park Royal Avenue. Model homes ahead on right.

Model Hours: Sun–Mon. 12-6, Tues.–Sat. 10-6 Prices and offers subject to change without notice. See a Sales and Marketing Representative for details.

Welcoming Families Home for Over 60 Years

For More Information, Visit RyanHomesUM.com 6

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4/27/2010 10:20:53 AM


IT’S HIP. IT’S URBAN. IT’S CLOSE.

plazavu.com

80% SOLD! ONLY 5 UNITS LEFT! •

One and Two Bedroom Condos

Modern Loft-Style Design

UNBELIEVABLE LENDER INCENTIVES:

Storefront Windows

2.99% and 4.75% Financing Available

10 – 16 Foot Ceilings

95% Financing

High Level Finishes

No Lender Fees

Walk to Eclectic Shops & Restaurants

No Private Mortgage Insurance

Priced from the $180s - $250s

Located near the corner of The Plaza and McClintock Rd. www.uptownclt.com

Pat Deely - (704) 604.9303 - patrick@themcdevittagency.com May 10.indd 7

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Lana Laws - (704) 779.9005 - lana@themcdevittagency.com 4/27/2010 10:21:04 AM


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4/27/2010 9:22:52 AM


we don’t play around when it comes to the health of your pet.

*

CASE IN POINT: LASER SURGERY Less Pain, Bleeding, & Swelling, Lower Risk of Infection and Faster Recovery We have invested in the most current technology at each of our clinics for the sole comfort of your pet. At Mixed Pet Veterinary Hospitals we use surgical lasers to ensure that procedures are less painful and your furry friends are back on their paws in less time. As always, we limit the number of surgeries per day to ensure the highest quality of care for your pet. Why would you choose any other option?

South End 704.632.8012

2135 Southend Dr. Ste 106 - 28203 (Behind Chipotle and EQ3)

Chipotle By Design EQ3

South End

Lowe’s

Other uptown Locations: 9 Ballantyne Stonecrest 704.926.7000 704.752.9787

www.uptownclt.com

We Match PetMeds Pricing May 10.indd 9

www.MixedPet.com

4/27/2010 9:22:53 AM


the seen

pictures: catch light studio george lanis

Charlotte Trolley’s 6th Annual Gala was held on April 17 in a nondescript warehouse on Ninth Street in uptown. The gala was a rip roarin’ good time. With a 1930s theme it captured the era when speakeasies were all the rage and the trolley was taking residents out to the newly created suburbs of Myers Park and Dilworth. All the money raised benefited the Trolley Museum in South End.

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the seen

pictures: catch light studio george lanis

Trafk Media did the heavy lifting by organizing the event and all the folks at Uptown Magazine had to do was enjoy the view and celebrate the launch of their April issue. More than 250 people attended the party held on the terrace at the Garrison overlooking the skyline of uptown.

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Priced from

$249,500 to $899,000

3% DOWN, 3.89% FIXED • Payments as low as $1,475/month • Down payments as low as $7,000

SPECIAL INCENTIVES: · 3% down, 97% financing · 3.89% fixed for 10 years · 30-year amortization · Closing costs paid by Seller · Buyers select interior finishes · Move-in in 30 days!!!

OPEN HOUSE 2-5 PM, OR BY APPOINTMENT

CONTACT: TERRY CHILDERS First Charlotte Properties www. T

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heGarrisonAtGraham. com

704.299.6925 www.uptownclt.com uptown TChilders@1stCharlotte.com

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uptown

name: Little Shiva species: mutant here for: the smell of ink on paper interests: juxtaposition, transformation, mystery, clarity, the process of becoming, image and design contributions to this issue: table of contents website: littleshiva.com

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Shelly Shepard, an editor/writer, called The Charlotte Observer home for over 10 years, writing headlines and copy editing countless front-page stories. Wanderlust has taken Shelly from teaching English in Prague, to living in a hut in Thailand. If not working, chances are you’ll find her hiking. Professionally, Shelly’s at home with a page of words in front of her, a mouse in hand and a deadline looming.

Deciding to move to Charlotte a few months ago was an easy decision for Jessica Bitner. Tired of the heat and humidity in Orlando, she has now settled comfortably into the charming Plaza Midwood area. Working as an Account Executive for Uptown Magazine, Jessica is quickly learning about all the unique characteristics of the Queen City. During race season, you’ll find her hanging at the local tracks promoting her clothing line for female race fans.

Ryan Sumner is both Creative Director and Owner of Fenix Fotography, a full-service photo studio located in Plaza-Midwood that’s dedicated to creating compelling and artful images for corporate, advertising, fashion and weddings. The studio also offers onsite studio work for executive headshots. Click to fenixfoto.com to find out more about Ryan.

Charlotte native Matt Kokenes is no stranger to the media-sales business in the Queen City. He has been selling both print and television for almost seven years. Through perseverance and intestinal fortitude, Matt has shown he has the toughness to succeed in this business.

www.uptownclt.com

4/27/2010 9:23:26 AM


say more

with your smile!

G. Clay Whittaker has spent his first year as a college graduate sponging off his generous parents. While his Bachelor’s Degree in English and Creative Writing has helped him procure freelance writing gigs, he has found ample time for the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest List, and taking wine classes through Johnson & Wales University. He recently purchased an IBM typewriter from eBay using his Macbook.

A man about town with his camera, George Lanis of Catch Light Studio has been photographing people in his native Charlotte for years. From friends’ weddings to parties to family photos for the holidays, his work is creative and diverse, and he’s always looking to show you in the best light. Check out catchlightonline. com for more.

CHELSEA COOLEY- Miss U.S.A. 2005 Dentistry by Dr. Shapiro “I cannot tell you how very impressed we are with Dr. Shapiro and his entire staff!” - Kate T. “Thank you for all that you do! Your office and staff is the best in the Carolina’s - I always look forward to my visits and you always make me smile!” - Matt K. “I absolutely loved the experience and you made me feel like a family member. I was nervous, but it was over with right away.” - John B.

Edward I. Shapiro, DDS Latta Pavilion, Dilworth

now accepting

cigna, united healthcare, delta premiere, and met life insurance plans general practice | sedation dentistry cosmetic & restorative dentistry | neuromuscular dentistry

704.632.9922 www.ShapiroSmiles.com www.uptownclt.com

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* Susan Tran grew up as a nosey, talkative kid in Los Angeles and used to watch the evening news with her dad. At 12, she decided that’s what she wanted to do. After graduating from Boston University, Susan worked at WKTV in Utica, WFXT in Boston and WSOC in Charlotte. Tran is now freelance reporting at WHDH in Boston. She thinks it’s pretty cool when you’re paid to be nosey and talkative!

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Sam Boykin has lived in Charlotte since the days when mullets and skinny leather ties were in fashion. He was a reporter at Creative Loafing for many years, and has written for a number of local and national publications, including Men’s Journal, National Geographic Adventure, Maxim, Scientific American, The Charlotte Observer and Charlotte Magazine. He’s now happily married and the proud new dad of a little girl.

Bryan Reed is a man of simple interests— among them, words, records, movies, and adjusting to life as a grownup (whatever that means). Since graduating from UNCChapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Bryan’s been living the dream, working as the assistant editor of Charlotte-based music magazine Shuffle, and freelancing for several publications including Tiny Mix Tapes and several weekly newspapers across the Carolinas.

Sean O’Connell is a freelance writer living in the SouthPark neighborhood. His work has run in several local publications, and he’s been honored by the North Carolina Press Association. When not staring into a laptop, Sean can be seen in a movie theater or playing sports with his sons.

Joey Is Charlotte Style Fox News Charlotte J Studio Uptown Magazine Risings Fashion Friday Tanqueray Spokesman Glitterati Ball Flashdancer And Hairstylist

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Publisher Todd Trimakas Advertising Jessica Bitner Matt Kokenes 704.944.0551 Executive Editor Shelly Shepard Contributing Editors Peter Reinhart (Food) Ryan Sumner (Fashion)

In the summer of 1993 I was a rising senior at Clemson. I had just spent the summer learning Spanish in Mexico City and had had one of the best times of my life. Coming back from Mexico I was the typical returning college-aged gringo with long blond hair, tan, covered in Mexico City grime, and wearing a rough green poncho I had bought on the streets. I landed in the Queen City, went through customs, and was waiting for my bag in baggage claim. I picked up my well-worn luggage and was quickly greeted by a sweet little beagle. I’m a dog lover and as I bent down to give him some love, the DEA agent holding the dog’s leash brusquely told me to leave the dog alone. I passed the sniff test and quickly went over to where my dad was waiting to pick me up. Dad helped me with my luggage, and we got in the car. He let me know that my sister Viki was in the hospital and was “waiting” for me to get there so she could give birth to her first baby. We rushed over to CMC and not 15 minutes after I got to the hospital, Viki’s baby was born. Healthy, pink and screaming, Alexa Victoria Haas and I were introduced for the first time. Fast forward to today – well, actually April 17 – and Alexa, my sister and my family go down to Clemson so

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Alexa, who is now a junior in high school, can tour the campus. I’ve returned to Clemson quite a few times for football games, and we rarely go on campus, but this trip we go specifically so Alexa can get a feel for what to expect if she decides to go to my alma mater. It’s almost like a dream; it’s been 20 years since I was a freshman at Clemson but I can still remember the cool breeze that would come off Bowman field at night, listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan before going to bed in my dorm room in Bradley Hall, and the utter lack of any responsibility we had. It was amazing, and almost hard to understand at this point with two kids, a couple mortgages and a business to run. But I barely remember the Gulf War that was going on when we were freshmen; we were too busy watching the first episodes of “The Simpsons.” I try to tell Alexa these things, and I think she’s listening, trying to take it all in. But I know it’s hard. I tell her it goes fast, four years in college feel like they will never end, and then all of a sudden you’re talking with your niece about your days in college and what it was like when you were her age. At least some things don’t change; I am still a fan of “The Simpsons.”

~Todd Trimakas Publisher / Editor Todd@uptownclt.com

Contributors Sam Boykin Joey Hewell George Lanis Sean O’Connell Bryan Reed Little Shiva Susan Tran Clay Whittaker Photography Ryan Sumner Todd Trimakas George Lanis Cover Art Ryan Sumner Distribution Sean Chesney Office 1600 Fulton Ave., #140 Charlotte, NC 28205 Contact us at info@uptownclt.com Uptown Magazine is a trademark of Uptown Publishing inc., copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Uptown is printed monthly and subscriptions are $25 annually and can be purchased online at uptownclt.com.

www.uptownclt.com

4/27/2010 9:23:41 AM


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Buy one Pass &

ble !

Whitewater Rafting Flatwater Kayaking Mountain Biking Climbing Climb 2 Zip Eco Trekking Mega Zip

Coming Soon! Adventure Course Mega Jump

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www.usnwc.org May 10.indd 21

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music the life

christian scott

Christian Scott – “Yesterday You Said Tomorrow” (Concord Jazz) Jason Ajemian & the HighLife – “Let Me Get That Digital” and “Monsters & Animals” (Sund Magi) Pop listeners have an interesting relationship with jazz. At least, pop listeners’ relationship with jazz has been interesting ever since pop listeners and jazz listeners became two groups of people. And recognizing that pop and jazz were fairly synonymous

before rock ‘n’ roll made the blues not-the-blues and jazz got more complicated and less song-oriented is important in defining that relationship. I find that as pop listeners, we’re often pressured to feign an interest in jazz, the allegedly “smarter” of the two musics. Apparently, as we reach a certain age, it’s time to stop listening to this and start listening to that. Usually this results in the purchase of “Kind Of Blue” and a metaphorical washing of the hands before returning to Zeppelin “IV”. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Christian Scott is a 26-year-old Grammy-nominated jazz trumpeter. His third studio album, “Yesterday You Said Tomorrow,” is unquestionably jazz and slyly pop. On the whole, it carries much of the smooth swinging, melodic complexity and socio-political inspirations that drove jazz records of the ’60s and ’70s. Scott is a master of tone, as able to coax velveteen whispers from his horn as he is to color a motif with brash squeals. But despite Scott’s own instrumental prowess, and the fact that the record bears his name, the sound is that of a band effort. Jamire Williams’ precocious percussion backs Scott’s improvisations with agile phrases that – whether driving an upbeat number, or plying brushed rhythmic textures – speak as much as Scott’s trumpet. Matthew Stevens’ guitar dashes countermelodies as delicate tone and high-tensile-strength confidence. But as much as “Yesterday You Said Tomorrow” evokes the jazz greats, Scott’s currency is in his breadth of influence, copping R&B melodies, citing Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, and, as he does here, covering

“The Eraser,” originally a solo cut by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke (a songwriter whose band, it should be noted, owes more than a small debt to jazz). Here, the melodies meander, and any lyrical quality is relative to tonal expressiveness — but the song remains at the core. It thinks like jazz, but it moves like pop music. On the other side of the jazz spectrum, free-form bass ace Jason Ajemian, fronting his HighLife combo, has made a collection of songs that move like jazz, but think like pop music. The HighLife’s dual March releases, the “Let Me Get That Digital” LP and “Monsters & Animals” single, both build pop structures from freeimprov components. Ajemian’s moaning vocal, playing often at the intersection of bleating indie rock and monastic chant, coaxes some semblance of verse-chorus, but the band’s communication is ultimately what allows the music to mine accessibility from out-minded skronk. Trumpeter Jacob Wick and guitarist Owen StewartRobinson ably complement each other’s efforts to make their instruments sound like anything but a trumpet and

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words: bryan c. reed

MGMT “Congratulations” (Columbia)

a guitar, respectively. But when Wick and saxophonist Peter Hanson congeal their horns’ timbres, it lends the bands a taste of Fela funk. Marc Riordan’s drums are never complacent, interjecting commentary and offbeat fills before returning to provide a pulse for the songs. And that’s key, here. Even when the band members veer as far afield as they can muster, the song pulls them back. They’ve effectively made a free-jazz primer of pop fans, and done it perhaps more effectively than any number of jazz-leaning indie rock bands with vainglorious aspirations. It all does bring us back, though, to how pop listeners try to approach jazz, or why they don’t approach it at all. Matters of timbre preferences – the “I don’t like horns” argument – aside, when the song offers a comforting formality, a momentum and a few memorable points of reference, the canyon really isn’t so wide after all. U

Annuals “Sweet Sister” (Banter)

Jakob Dylan “Women + Country” (Columbia)

Having completely abandoned the fluffy synth-pop mega-jams that turned them from indie darling to mainstream megalith, MGMT has arrived at something unexpected, and unexpectedly good. Fitting they named a song “Brian Eno” as the pop-weirdo’s fingerprints are all over the graceful, panoramic acid-pop MGMT has compiled into its sure-to-bemisunderstood sophomore effort.

Separated from their major-label contract, Raleigh’s Annuals ramp up the textures, buttressing soft-pop jams with synth burbles and entangled guitars. It’s more refined than their debut, but looser and more spirited than 2008’s “Such Fun.” And their cover of Johnny Cash’s “Flesh and Blood” is somehow pretty OK.

Returning to work with T. Bone Burnett, who produced The Wallflowers’ breakout “Bringing Down The Horse,” proved a fortuitous decision for Jakob Dylan. With “Women + Country,” his second solo outing, Dylan’s steering a steady ship buoyed by Burnett’s lush, smoldering Americana signature. Dylan’s country rock shuffles along a well-trod path; it’s as commonplace as a sunset purpling the horizon.

There’s not much to Harlem, an ungroomed and unbridled garage rock band from Texas. The band’s real appeal appears in its ability to mine the charm out of surf-rock boogie and R&B swagger, and assemble it hastily. The result sounds something like the soundtrack to a Tarantino movie, if he made actual B-movies.

Harlem “Hippies” (Matador)

Reach Bryan at bryan.c.reed@gmail.com For more info and to listen to selected mp3s go to www. uptownclt.com

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Summer Fun

Two years ago summer fun included a trip to a South Carolina barrier island, four-course dinners and plenty of booze for everyone invited. Last year it was toned down to a trip to Myrtle with your spousal equivalent, and a stay in a motel efficiency so you could eat in. This year it’s a weekend getaway in the backyard and if the gas runs out of the grill you might have to burn this Sunday’s paper, but damn it we’re going to have fun. Let us help with some day-tripping ideas that will run you from loose change found in the living room sofa to less than a Benjamin for a day’s worth of wellearned leisure.

The Lake Perhaps your 23-foot Air Nautique was the first thing to go after you got that pink slip, but for less than $25 per person, you and nine friends can get out on Lake Norman on one of Kings Point Marina’s pontoon boat rentals. Sure, you won’t be doing 360 tail grabs behind it, but think of it as a floating party barge you won’t ever have to worry about insuring, cleaning or maintaining. Rentals: $225 for a full day, with a 10-person limit. 704.892.3223 morningstarmarinas.com

words: matt kokenes & todd trimakas

Indoor Skydiving Flying lessons were too expensive in 2005, and jumping out of a plane is still hundreds of dollars. The next best thing is indoor skydiving or what’s called body flight. They say it’s comparable The Park to free fall from an Freedom Park is THE BEST park in Charlotte airplane but takes for everything from a summertime first date to place in a vertical a lazy stroll with your first grandchild: walking wind tunnel. All you trails, shady picnic spots, and 98 acres of people have to do is drive out to watch – all just two quick miles from the heart with a couple friends, of uptown, at 1900 East Blvd. The sparkling jump into a wind suit lake is the park’s centerpiece, and feeding the M.C. Hammer would resident ducks is always fun, so don’t forget to be proud of, take a bring a few slices of bread. Beware the geese, 30-minute lesson and though; they can be a bit testy. Pick up lunch then crank on the fan from one of a dozen restaurants just outside the for realistic, controlled park’s entrance, spread out your blanket, and free fall. There are two enjoy. Open from sun-up to dusk: charmeck.org wind tunnels pretty close by: one outside of Day Hikes Crowder’s Mountain State Park Asheville and one east offers Charlotte’s best, and deservedly most of town in Raeford. Call popular, day hike. True, it’s a 45-minute drive before you go to make from town, but it costs nothing more than a few reservations. gallons of gas to get there and back – entering Raeford: the park is FREE. An extremely invigorating 1 paracletexp.com 1/2-mile hike will put you on top of the mountain Asheville: and in front of 20-plus mile, 360-degree views. verticalwind.com/aac. On a clear day you can count every crane in html uptown Charlotte: ncparks.gov

Outside

Multi Sport At the U.S. National Whitewater Center, as the name suggests, whitewater rafting and kayaking are the facility’s premier attractions. But there are miles of mountain bike trails, a climbing wall, and a 1,123-footlong Mega Zipline. The AllSport 2010 Season Unlimited Pass is a killer value – $149 buys unlimited access to almost everything the place has to offer and it’s good until the end of the year. For those on a tight budget, you don’t even have to own a bike or a boat; just rent one for the day from the Center’s array of the latest gear. Be sure to visit the website for the complete list of USNWC activities, pricing and for accurate driving directions to the center: usnwc.org

Disc Golf Forget all the stereotypes you may have heard about “frisbee” golf, because they aren’t true. Well, okay, you’ll probably see some tie-dyed t-shirts, and might be offered a bong hit while out on the course, but it’s a ton of fun, and it’s FREE. Unlike “ball golf” courses, leashed dogs and coolers packed with ice-cold beverages are more than welcome here. I’ve even seen baby strollers out on the course. If you’re a golfer concerned about being challenged, know that extremely narrow fairways and infuriating tree placements go a long way to make up for the lack of club to ball contact. The Charlotte Disc Golf Club has an unbelievably thorough website with area course maps, printable score cards, information on competitive events, and even a list of stores where you can buy discs. Beginners should invest $15 on a brightly colored—and easy to find in the woods—Innova Pro Roc, a versatile disc that you can use to drive, approach, and putt. Choose from a half-dozen well maintained courses all over the city: charlottedgc.com courtesy of michael p. hoffman

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is pleased to present the Actor’s Theatre & Once Upon a Blue Ridge Production of ...

Hope Happens.

A NEW down-home musical comedy about the history of stock car racing! Told from the point of view of rabid race fans, HOW is a tribute and send-up of everything we love about the sport. Who’s the greatest driver? Who’s the best builder? Who makes the best car? Who wants to fight? Filled with fun songs and memorable stories, HOW is a musical racing scrapbook that will take you back to a simpler place in time.

Every Sunday we gather to celebrate the hope that only Jesus brings. We hope you will join us.

central ave

coMMonwealth ave independence blvd

briar creek rd

May 6 - 29, 2010

Ever wonder how some people have hope even in the tough times? Ever want to be one of them?

Morningside dr

by Tally Sessions & Peter Holland

Recommended for ages 8 and older.

More Info & 704.342.2251 or actorstheatrecharlotte.org pp Supported in part by:

worship services: sundays at 10 a.m. 2940 commonwealth avenue 704-377-6575 www.resluth.org

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Summer Fun Uptown

Mint After 5 Definitely not just another event where you’ll get smashed and pick up a hook-up; nope, the view alone destroys that idea altogether. The rooftop is six stories up, next to the Hearst Plaza on Trade, edged with weathered statues of angels that remain from the days when the building housed a Montaldo’s, and engulfed by the skyline of uptown. The summer schedule could not be better: The event starts at 6:00, but the “gorgeous ones” don’t show until 7:00 – just enough time to freshen up after work. By 8:00 the sun is done baking the city and you’re enjoying the sunset with a chardonnay in your hand and 300 of your fellow urbanites just getting warmed up for the evening’s festivities. The third Friday of the month through September. youngaffiliates.org/mintafter5.html

Taste of Charlotte With 12 years under their belt, the folks at Taste of Charlotte have got this event dialed in with samplings from over 100 of the city’s restaurants, live entertainment on its Center Stage, and even an “Adventure Village” for the kids. Tavern at the Taste, between Fifth and Sixth Streets, is where we’ll be: “where the entertainment is lively, the beer is cold, and the wine is vibrant.” Admission to this event is FREE, but alas, food and drink are not. June 11-13 on Tryon Street between MLK Jr. Blvd. and Sixth Street: tasteofcharlotte.com

Charlotte Criterium Don’t think Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France; think more NASCAR on two wheels and lots of left turns. It’s called the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium (which is a fancy name for a bike race). Well, there is a bike race going on in the middle of lots of picnics and beer drinking, and if you’re lucky enough to get into the VIP tent, plenty of fine food. But skip the tents and head straight for Stool Pigeons on the corner of Fifth and Church, get an outside table, and set up camp. You’ll have your own waitress delivering beer and wings for the night. If you’re watching someone exercise, maybe the calories don’t count (check with your trainer). charlottecriterium.org

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Cage Fights at the Epicentre MMA (mixed martial arts), or cage fighting, might be one of the most outrageous evenings of entertainment in uptown. Underneath the tents on the top floor of the Epicentre, grown men come at each other with a complete and total disregard for maintaining the placement of their noses in the middle of their faces. Surrounded by 300 to 400 screaming spectators, the fighters go at each other for three, 3-minute rounds. The winner is the one who’s left standing or has less of his own blood on the mat. Fights start at 7:30 on May 7. For more info go to fightlabpros.com

Alive After Five at EpiCentre One of the longestrunning after-work parties in town, Alive after Five at the Epicentre is a glorious mixture of cold lite beer, warm summer days, and live music. Right after work on Thursdays throughout summer, most folks go home to change before hitting the top floor of the Epicentre, but they are ready to enjoy some of the best people watching in all of Charlotte when they arrive. The party is free and the bars are open, so it’s best not to schedule an 8 a.m. meeting on the following Friday. Check the website for the band lineup: aliveafterfives.com

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Summer Fun Art & Music

Bill’s Belmont Drive-In Theatre Located just a short drive down I-85 from Charlotte, and a long way from the expensive movie tickets and absurd concessions prices here in town. Taking in a movie on a giant outdoor screen from the bed of my truck on a warm summer night? Where do I sign?! Upcoming releases include Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man 2, and Brendan Fraser in Furry Vengeance. You’re wondering how much, and I’m happy to report that admission per person (not per vehicle, cheapskates) is a refreshingly fair $4. The snack bar sells burgers, French fries, corndogs, barbecue and nachos – in addition to popcorn, candy and soda. And only $3.20 for a quarterpound cheeseburger all the way. This place makes for an incredible summer value and a memorable evening. Use the money you save for the December blockbusters that you’ll be forced to watch indoors. They do have one or two rules, though, so be sure to check out the site. Be sure to leave your laser pointers and barbecue grills at home. belmontdrivein.20megsfree.com or 704.825.6044

Pops In the Park This concert series has become so popular that folks show up at Symphony Park (near South Park Mall) on Sunday mornings to lay out blankets and thereby claim their spots for that evening’s FREE Charlotte Symphony performance. This is a truly all-ages event that runs Sunday evenings throughout the summer: charlottesymphony.org

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Wells Fargo Cultural Campus Just before the bubble burst on the economy we were able to sneak in this wonderful addition to the fabric of our city. The Cultural Campus is a grouping of museums and theaters on the south side of uptown. Included in the mix is the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, a world class collection of modern art from the Bechtler family; the Knight Theater, a more intimate setting for traveling shows; the new Mint Museum of Craft + Design, which moved from the old Montaldo’s building; and the Harvey Gantt center focusing on African American art and artists. Each venue has so much going on year-round it’s best to visit their websites for the latest and greatest each has to offer. Becthler.org Blumenthalcenter.org Mintmuseum.org Ganttcenter.org

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NoDa Gallery Crawls Extended gallery and retail hours, eclectic music, lots going on outside – and, with luck, decent weather – make for pleasantly crowded sidewalks, humming galleries and restaurants, and an altogether fantastic time in North Charlotte’s Historic Arts District. Crawls take place the first and third Friday of each month, with the heart of the action between the 3200 and 3600 blocks of North Davidson St. It’s FREE, of course. For info call 704.782.4221 or: noda.org Historic South End Gallery Crawls A truly unique gallery crawl experience on the edge of uptown in Charlotte’s South End historic district. With so many local restaurants participating, you may want to make a night of it and enjoy dinner along with the art and good times. Easy to get to by light rail and every other means as well, the galleries fill on the first Friday of each month, from 6-10 p.m. It’s FREE. Take a break between galleries on Common Market South End location’s outdoor patio. See: historicsouthend.com

The Light Factory Housed in uptown’s Spirit Square, this is the place to see independent films in a noncommercial environment. FREE to the public. Often the filmmakers are present at the screenings and eager to interact with the audience about their work. The Filmmaker’s Showcase is May 19-21 when the Factory showcases the best short films from local and emerging filmmakers. Still photography exhibits run throughout the summer within the Spirit Square gallery as well. lightfactory.org

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Summer Fun Kids

Discovery Place In the heart of uptown and with so much to offer parents and kids alike that there isn’t room here to even scratch the surface, Discovery Place is a Charlotte “must do.” The museum is going through a complete overhaul right now but there are exhibits open this summer. The newest exhibit is titled “Them” and takes a microscopic look at all the icky sticky creepy crawlies living on and in your body. And don’t forget the IMAX Theatre. If you have kids, this website should be in your favorites: discoveryplace.org

Carowinds Want to instantly be seen as a hero to your kids? This might work! The season pass makes the most sense if you plan on going at least twice this summer – the price isn’t much more than a single-day pass. For $80 (adults) and $62 (those under 48 inches tall), visit the park all summer and enjoy free parking, be first in line to your favorite rides, and even bring a friend for as little as $10. Tons of other perks all add up to make the season pass your best bet, hands down. Maybe you have the nerve to step up to this year’s new ride, the Intimidator, “the tallest fastest longest coaster in the Southeast.” If not, don’t worry – there are plenty of tamer attractions to warm up with, including three water rides, Boomerang Bay water park, and Nickelodeon Central: carowinds.com

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Imaginon Like a modern-day Willy Wonka chocolate factory without all the sweets, Imaginon is for kids (and for the kid in all of us). Books, automatic drum playing machines, and exhibits that exist to simply make noise greet you when you walk through the front sliding doors. Let your children and their imaginations run wild at this magic facility on the light rail line, across from Time Warner Cable Arena, and a million miles from another afternoon in front of the TV. imaginon.org

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Newcomers The Levine Museum of the New South During the months of May and September, the museum offers walking tours that take participants through uptown Charlotte and the Fourth Ward neighborhood with a look at the history behind today’s Center City. The tours are FREE and are led by museum historian Dr. Tom Hanchett. It’s a unique opportunity to get out in the city and up close with uptown’s thought-provoking history. Those new to the city should make it a point to take the tour, and also log on to see what other exhibits and events the museum is offering this summer. Educational fun for any age, this is a great resource for learning about your new home: museumofthenewsouth.org.

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And whether your furniture is still on its way from Rochester or you graduated from East Meck in ‘90, these websites will prove invaluable for you this summer: visitcharlotte.com charlottecentercity.org

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TRU FFL ES truffles

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words: sean o’connell pictures: todd trimakas

U L

People call Franklin Garland the “father of truffles.” His wife, Betty, prefers the nickname “Truffle Czar.” And Garland, using an analogy to legendary nurseryman Johnny Appleseed, leans toward the colorful moniker “Franklin Trufflespore.” “But that name hasn’t exactly caught on,” he says with a hearty laugh. No matter how he’s labeled, Garland – who commercially harvests truffles in eastern North Carolina – will forever be remembered as the pioneer of a truffle industry that, seemingly overnight, has exploded in North Carolina. These truffles aren’t chocolates. Don’t worry – I didn’t know that either. oak tree growing truffles

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hey are, instead, an edible fungus that’s used as a flavor enhancer in cooking and food processing. Truffles affect culinary items that have a natural fat, such as butter or olive oil. Cultivators have described truffles as a natural MSG, and they say the truffle remains in high demand because of its unique, exotic and earthy odor. Truffles are hardly contemporary, though. Their history dates as far back as the fourth century B.C., when they appeared in the writings of Greek philosopher Theophrastus. The Muslim prophet Muhammad once was quoted as saying truffles were “Manna which Allah sent to the people of Israel through (Moses), and its juice is a medicine for the eyes.” During

rows of trees growing truffles

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the Middle Ages, truffle traces could be found in medieval recipes. And to some, they were aphrodisiacs. African, Middle Eastern and European kings legendarily ate them by the basket. In recent years, though, the truffle has achieved a new and far more practical status as a viable crop. For centuries, farmers balked at the notion truffles could be cultivated. They grew in the wild, falling off the roots of oak, hazel and beech trees where they would be dug up and harvested. But European farmers were among the first to begin planting trees for the sole purpose of producing truffles. And for a time, it worked. The valuable black Perigord truffle, for instance, helped revitalize whole areas of Italy that had been economically devastated in the early 20th century. Drought, pollution and two world wars, however, wiped out the bulk of the wild truffle crop in Europe, setting the industry on its heels. The setback was temporary. Over the past four decades, truffles largely have been produced by Italian and French farmers, though the industry gradually is expanding to include Spain, New Zealand, Sweden, Australia, Chile and the United States. A FOUNDATION FOR TRUFFLES Ironically, America’s “father” of truffles –

Garland – might not be in this business if not for his sons spilling an inordinate amount of lime on his soil. For a truffle spore to properly grow near a tree’s root, the soil’s pH level must be between 7.9 and 8.2. North Carolina’s soil generally measures around 6.5, while chief truffle-producing farms in Italy have pH levels closer to 7.9. Garland’s primary business is his nursery, which occupies acreage in Hillsborough, N.C., 14 miles outside of Chapel Hill. His family grows trees for sale, and he already had plenty of trees in the ground when he stumbled on the truffle. It couldn’t have happened at a better time. “I had almost given up (on farming), believe it or not,” said Garland, who had been in business since 1979 but was struggling. He was maintaining his orchard, but felt he was at a standstill. As a last ditch effort, he contacted the academia at Oregon State University, who advised him to experiment with the development of alternative crops. In the late 1980s, Garland and his sons committed to truffles and gradually began increasing the pH levels in their soil. “We really sort of overdid it with the lime one day, and by doing so, accidentally got

it … to the right levels. Let’s put it that way,” Garland said. It worked. By 1992, Garland was producing the first commercially grown truffles in the United States. “And while I’m the first commercial grower,” he said, “we really didn’t have any substantial products until (that year).” By “substantial,” Garland means 50 pounds – not tons – of truffles a year. And that’s not even close to meeting the demand Garland receives at his farm. Unsolicited, he estimates that he fields requests for between 500 and 1,000 pounds of truffles a week. His clients are restaurants and gourmet food stores. In fact, Garland’s main customer for the first 10 years of his orchard’s existence was celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, who would buy almost all of the farmer’s truffle inventory each month. “We estimate that demand for truffles in the U.S. hasn’t even really started,” Garland said. “We are at the tip of the iceberg.” CLIMATE RIPE FOR FUNGUS The trend, if one can call it that, is catching on. Garland estimates there are more than 100 truffle farms, of various sizes, in North Carolina. Farmers in the Pacific Northwest are experimenting with truffle harvesting, but recent history shows that the Mid-Atlantic states – Tennessee, Kentucky,

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rusty the truffle sniffing dog

Virginia, North and South Carolina – have ideal circumstances for growing truffles. Soil structure, annual temperatures, and rainfall totals all factor into the equation, helping the Carolinas resemble the European regions that produce the finest truffles. “Climate-wise, these states have proven to be very workable,” Garland said. “We have well-marked seasons out here, which we believe is one of the primary requirements for growing the types of truffles (clients) want.” Garland said there are at least 120 classified species of truffles and up to 200 total categories. Only a handful has commercial value, though, because they are edible and possess a coveted flavor. Perigord Black, the Italian Alba white truffle, the black Burgundy, 42

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and the black summer truffles top most aficionados’ must-have lists. “At this point, in the U.S., truffles have become known but they’re not yet readily available,” Garland said. “So people have been relying on truffle flavors (to enhance) their food. They use truffle oil or extremely thinsliced truffles.” That may have to do until local truffle farmers can start producing major amounts of truffles. According to Garland, for an individual farm, “major” means more than 100,000 pounds of truffles per year. But this is a slow-moving industry that requires a substantial commitment of time, energy and, most important, money. Trees planted today might not start producing substantial amounts of truffles for at least seven years. Garland admits he’d prefer to be harvesting truffles full time, but has avoided taking the plunge because it is such a long-term investment and the results, while promising, are not proven. “I’m planting every year,” Garland said. “I got caught up with the nursery business, with it being so attractive, that I went in that direction fearing that the orchard was going to give out and I wouldn’t have a decent replacement. At that point, I started partnering with nearby farmers, so I could travel to their (truffle) orchards and help out.” BORROWING EUROPEAN SECRETS One of those partners is Jack Ponticelli, a certified jack-of-all-trades who divides his time among two N.C. farms and a hot air balloon business (he’s a certified pilot). Ponticelli also boasts an agricultural background – he was a forest ranger – and stumbled upon the truffle industry while trying to patch up damaged relationships between farmers and balloonists. “The balloonists, at the time, would land in the farmers’ fields and mess up their crops. Each party was ignorant of the other one,” Ponticelli said. “And farmers are very traditional. They pride themselves on their land and their crops.” Ponticelli reached out to the farming community in his home state of New Jersey. He volunteered to head up an agricultural group, and began researching alternative crops that could stimulate New Jersey’s stagnant farming community. “When I started, the Internet was brand

new,” Ponticelli said. “I was using dial-up connections. I typed in the search words ‘alternate crops.’ … After about two days of searching, I came up with the Northern Italian Truffle Institute. At that time, all of the data that they had was online. And they didn’t realize how far the Internet stretched. So I downloaded 50 pages. On dial-up. And they were in Italian! So I had to go to a translator to have it translated. I understood some of it. But there were no translation programs at that time.” Realizing he, and other farmers, could duplicate European conditions in the States, Ponticelli started preaching truffles to anyone who’d listen. Garland, who’d already been to Europe several times and had carried some of its secrets back to the Carolinas, heard every word. The duo entered a fruitful partnership in 1992. It continues to this day. Ponticelli echoes Garland’s sentiment that North Carolina is in the opening stages of what could be a prosperous season. “This is an industry that is at its beginning,” he said. Ponticelli operates two farms about an hour outside of Charlotte. His 75-acre Piedmont Valley farm – headquarters of the family’s Piedmont Valley Truffles company – has 25 acres dedicated to truffle production. He also presides over Black Diamond Farm in East Bend, N.C., which Ponticelli calls his “retirement” farm. Ponticelli and his son, Aron, list more than 400 restaurants throughout the Unites States that have purchased their products. “He’s the CFO and I’m the president of Piedmont Valley Truffles,” Ponticelli said. Over the years, Ponticelli and Garland have seen an influx of interested parties gravitating to North Carolina’s truffle industry. “Since we started, and did the groundwork, there are people with a lot of money coming in. And they want to build 100- to 200-acre farms,” Ponticelli said. “The industry is just beginning. We’ve learned a lot. And they are going to go through a learning curve, as well. It’s not as easy as they think.” To that end, both Garland and Ponticelli offer daylong tours of their truffle farms. It’s Garland’s hope that he can convey to interested truffle barons that this is real work. “We have a two-hour presentation about how to properly grow truffles,” Garland said. “That pretty much convinces people that they

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4/27/2010 9:24:42 AM


don’t want to do it.” So far, Garland and Ponticelli have encountered two types of individuals who purchase trees and enter the truffle trade. One is retirees – people primarily in their late 40s to early 60s – looking for a crop to supplement their diminished income. But the second crowd is much younger, probably in their 30s, who see the potential for growth in the truffle industry and are seeking a new form of investments. Garland falls into the former group. “My goal is to get 10 acres (dedicated to truffles) out here before I retire, and then I can turn my nursery business over to my son,” Garland said. “I just want to be able to harvest truffles and retire, a la Don Corleone (from Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’) harvesting tomatoes.” And they’re both content with the fact that they helped launch a booming industry with unlimited potential that really benefits farmers in the Carolinas. “I’ve been saying for years that this can be a real good replacement crop for small tobacco farmers,” Garland said. “While there are other places where truffles will grow, North Carolina does have (ideal) weather … so that we can actually turn this whole area into the equivalent of the wine-producing areas in California – Napa and Sonoma – for truffles.” U Reach Sean at soconnell33@yahoo.com For more info go to www.uptownclt.com

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courtesy: harold hinson photography

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words: susan tran

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Who knew four continuous left turns would be so thrilling? Not me. Not this girl who grew up in Los Angeles. Not this Yankee who went to college in Boston. Nope, not me, not this transplant! For five years I lived in the tundra of Utica, N.Y. I thought the only reason I’d ever need to climb into my car through the window was because 4-foot snow banks surrounded my doors. (It has actually happened. I’m fortunate to be compact and flexible!) But I ventured to my first NASCAR race in Charlotte three years ago and I fell in love with four left turns and everything surrounding it.

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everal people played pivotal roles in developing my crush on the sport, starting with my former coworker Bill Voth. He’s Channel 9’s weekend sports guy, and when NASCAR season started, he told me it was imperative that I pick a driver. You’re probably thinking this was no big deal. But to commit to a driver was more difficult than you might imagine. The operative word here was, of course, “commit!” First of all, I didn’t want to make an obvious choice like Jeff Gordon, a standout like Jimmie Johnson, or a brand like Dale Earnhardt Junior. No, I wanted to pick someone with potential for greatness. I wanted my love for the sport to grow as my driver’s wins continued to accumulate. I didn’t want to be a carpetbagger. I desired the ability to proclaim, “I knew him when!” We went online and scanned the list. It was a bit overwhelming. All these names: Busch, Busch, Bowyer, Burton, Kahne, Allmendinger, Menard, Truex, Gilliland, Waltrip, Rudd, Vickers. It was like an ad for some law office. And then there were the numbers. Who knew #7 was not the same as #07? But drivers attached to numbers turned out to be a good thing. It helped me narrow down my choices. My favorite number: 25. In 2007, Casey Mears was driving the #25 car for Hendricks Motorsports. I clicked on his bio and I immediately felt good about Mears! He’s from California and so am I. He liked the musician Jack Johnson; so do I! He was untested but full of promise. Done and done. Then the day came when I got to cover my first race for Channel 9. It was a Friday night in May, a NASCAR Busch Series race. (Busch like the beer, not like the aforementioned drivers. But more important, in this context, it was like the minor leagues for NASCAR.) While I was at the race, the focus for my news story was gas prices, or maybe it was the economy and its effects on fans. I really can’t remember because in hindsight the story itself was a moot point; the thrill for me that day was the scene. You see, when the race comes to town, all roads lead to the then-Lowe’s Motor Speedway. No, really – all roads, traffic lights and all, are configured to lead the nearly 200,000 fans to the venue. Then when the race ends, everything is reversed in order to direct folks home. It’s one of the most well-choreographed traffic events I’ve ever witnessed. Then there’s the commerce. There were rows upon rows of

previous: turn 4 at then-Lowe’s Motor Speedway above: susan and her crew getting rowdy before the race // susan in the crowd // the pole at the Speedway

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tony stewart getting gas

Behind me, rising from the ground, was a modern day Colosseum. It was a feat of concrete that contained the actual track and seating to ensconce its 200,000 fans.

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brightly colored trailers selling paraphernalia for each driver. And everyone at the race has a driver. It felt like the Mo Chit Market in Bangkok where the vendors are nearly as numerous as the patrons, where every turn promises a new discovery. I recall how anxious I was to finish gathering my interviews for my news story so I could run back to the news van, grab my wallet, and purchase my very first Casey Mears #25 T-shirt. It was like picking out my first prom dress, when I was confident gold lame could never go out of style. I was a wide-eyed newbie to this sophisticated world and I desperately wanted to fit in. But it gets better. The next day, while at work, I watched with Bill Voth as Mears, unlike other drivers who went into pit row, gambled on gas and won the race. My #25, my long shot, my guy with potential had just won his first career Nextel Cup victory. Mears triumphed over bigger names and more seasoned drivers, and my driver-pick yielded its first win! I felt like I was witnessing the start of a historic reign for Mears, as if my new allegiance had somehow played a role in his success. I feel a bit like the late Billy Mays here, but wait, there’s more. The second pair who was quite influential in my love of NASCAR was my friend Katie and her husband Michael, also transplants. They had already been to a few races and insisted my attendance was needed at a race. So in May 2008, I took the weekend off work to witness the Coca-Cola 600 (the same race Mears won the year before). We packed an SUV full of food, shelter and necessities. We filled a 15-passenger van with friends. We departed uptown

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Charlotte at 9:30 a.m. sharp for a race that started around 6 p.m. Our intention: to beat the traffic, as we were attending an event with nearly 200,000 of our closest friends, and of course to do a bit of tailgating. Thanks to some planning, I had mapped out a traffic-free route to then-Lowe’s Motor Speedway with the help of the Channel 9 news photographers. They’re no amateurs when it comes to travel. Their directions cut out any gridlock and got us to the parking lot in a half-hour (no, I can’t give you the secret directions – I plan on going this year and I want a clear path to parking entrance N). As we headed into the compound, I felt I had been transported into a wondrous land where all my senses were heightened. It was better than any 3D movie James Cameron could create because it was all real. It was as if the parking lots surrounding the speedway were part of a large marina and the hundreds of Winnebagos had dropped anchor and docked. Many of the folks who come to NASCAR events make it their vacation. They stay for a full week. So there were RVs with satellite dishes, mailboxes and trailer-hitched grills. Tens of thousands of families, friends, co-workers and neighbors mingled with strangers from various cities, states and countries. I felt like a child watching the moon follow me, except the recurring image that captivated me that day was the endless sea of humanity. I was in awe. I love events. I enjoy people. I embrace crowds. But never had I seen it all before me with such bravado. I couldn’t wait to get out of the van and be a part of this world. We pulled in with our 15-passenger van and our SUV of supplies. We pitched two pop-up tents to shield us from the intensity of the Carolina sun. We produced two folding tables and topped them with endless bags of chips, buns, cookies and the requisite veggie platter. We unfolded and prominently placed our two life-size cardboard cutouts of Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne (we are serious fans!). We set up our tailgate grill, put out 15 lawn chairs, assembled several lawn games and iced down three coolers’ worth of beverages (it was a very hot day and we needed to remain hydrated; don’t judge). It was 10:30 a.m. Our day was just starting. The first order of business was to relax and just enjoy our arrival, on schedule and without a hitch, and to absorb the scenery. In front of us was a family that ranged from toddler to octogenarian. They had flags, shirts, stickers and Koozies all emblazed with the number 3. You could instantly tell their fanaticism for Dale Earnhardt started decades ago. Next to us on the right appeared to be a legion of fraternity brothers and to the left, their female counterparts. With hours to go before the race, I figured we could just sit there and be treated to the dramatic details of a reality show as it unfolded before our eyes. There was pre-race entertainment during the tailgate; could it get any better? We played some corn hole, watched more of our live reality show, and when our Doritos snacking gave way to true hunger, the guys started up the grill for some burgers and dogs. It was just after noon and with our full bellies hanging

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over our cut-off jeans, we plotted the rest of our day. We decided two things: We needed more paraphernalia, and we had to pick up headsets for the race. The headsets let you tune in to the announcers, color commentators and even the individual pit crews. I would be able to listen to Casey Mears talk to his crew chief! The $75 cost seemed a small price to pay. And our T-shirts weren’t enough. We didn’t want to be outdone by the groups around us. We needed more stuff, more gear! We are Americans. We are consumers. We did not want to disappoint or be disappointed. We split up into two groups. One went in search of the coveted headsets. The other went in search of hats, Koozies, jerseys, key chains and lanyards with our driver’s name and number. Now, on a map, the distance between our campsite and the team trailers appeared to be a quick jaunt, but with no shade, and only human mass, asphalt, and concrete to intensify the heat, the distance grew with each step. By the time we reached the intersection with Concord Parkway, I was again stupefied by the magnitude of this event. To my left, the Speed Channel had a full stage from which it was broadcasting live. As a news professional, I was envious of its numerous crewmembers, jib cameras and set. Behind me, rising from the ground, was a modern day Colosseum. It was a feat of concrete that contained the actual track and seating to ensconce its 200,000 fans. Around me were people of all shapes, sizes, colors and ages. There were at least 500 people on one side of Concord Parkway and another 500 on the other waiting to swap sides. And when the state trooper blew his whistle for us to cross, it was the most orderly moving of the masses. It was as if we were part of this intricate marching band moving in and out of formation in concert with the ambient sound around us. I hope you don’t think I was being frivolous in wanting new gear, because in reality, it was well past simple desire; there was an actual need. For those who aren’t aware, after a year of driving

We needed more stuff, more gear! We are Americans. We are consumers. We did not want to disappoint or be disappointed.

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geared up and ready for race

the #25, Casey Mears switched to the #5 car. I was standing in the middle of NASCAR country with my #25 shirt when my driver was now #5. It was a NASCAR faux pas because everyone at a race should be able to ascertain your alliances from just a quick glance at your apparel. As luck would have it, the #5 trailer had some sweet gear. There was a cute baby-T with Mears’ name and number in pink. Since I’m a girlie girl with a pink Panthers jersey and pink Red Sox cap, I thought, “Perfect.” But I wanted to seriously consider my options. I also saw hoodies, hats and hosiery along with tanks, T-shirts and toy cars. Every souvenir had an item number, its price and the available sizes. That way when you say, “I’ll take the A5 in a small,” you just hand the attendant your money and he hands you a cellophane bag containing your very cool black tank top with the number 5 surrounded by “Casey Mears” written in blue and gold. Transaction time, 28 seconds – that’s one lap around the track, in record time. I rejoined the others in our group and immediately saw I was severely outdone by Katie’s brother. He had purchased a Tony Stewart driver’s jacket. It was 92 degrees out and Gary, an investment banker from Manhattan, was sporting this thing like a pro. I totally should have sprung for the Casey Mears bandana and socks. Our walk back was long. We were weighed down by shopping bags, thirst and a lack of shade. We slugged across Concord Parkway and toward our campsite. Our return was marked by two spectacular events: the ice cream man and a man selling ice. The ice cream man came first. It was as if he sensed our need for revitalization from the heat because the music crackling from the loud speaker rigged to his van had a Pavlovian effect on me. At that point in the day, I would have paid 10 bucks for a Popsicle. I likely forked out as much. The next to arrive was this guy with a flat-bed golf cart selling ice. We bought four bags. The day continued with more eating, hydrating and several rounds of “Florence of Augustine,” a famous-person name game that for some reason entertained us for hours. By the time we hauled our shoulder coolers into the track for the race (you’re allowed to bring in your own beverages!), the sun had set. I was finally going to see why NASCAR was one of the most-viewed professional sports. The experience did not disappoint. Imagine sitting at the 50-yard line at the Super Bowl when the Panthers were playing, or a Madonna concert when you’re third row center, or seeing the Great Wall of China for the first time. Well that’s what witnessing this race felt like for me (minus the Super Bowl game – I wasn’t there for that one). The magnitude of the sport struck me at the precise moment the deafening sound of 43 stock cars flying by at an average of 140 miles per hour hit my ears. I was left with my mouth agape and my mind set: four continuous left turns was a thrill. NASCAR rocks! U Reach Susan at suetran25@gmail.com For more info go to www.uptownclt.com

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2010

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words: sam boykin

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For the Money Her first client was fat, breathed with the aid of an oxygen mask, and had a small penis. Ava was about 21 at the time. She was nervous and a little scared as she drove by herself to the man’s University City apartment. They spent the first 20 minutes or so sitting on his living room couch engaged in awkward conversation. He told her about his job in computers and various health problems; she explained this was her first time as a professional. “He was extremely nice,” Ava said. “But a guy like that is probably not going to go out to a bar and find somebody. And he wanted company.” After they finalized their hourlong appointment, the man handed her an envelope with $150. Ava’s cut was $90.

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fterward, as she was driving home, Ava felt empowered. But was the experience satisfying or enjoyable? Not so much. “It made me happy to make him happy,” she said. “But there wasn’t much happening for him down there. Unfortunately that’s very common in what we do. And we get really excited when there’s a nice averaged-sized one. It’s like, ‘Alright, I can feel it!’” And so began Ava’s career as an escort. And that is “escort,” not hooker or whore, Ava stressed. Those are the girls who stand on the street corner and turn tricks, usually to support a drug habit. Ava said she operates a safe, legitimate business that makes people happy. “I’ve always enjoyed helping others, and this is a service that’s beneficial to a lot of people. I think it’s silly that’s illegal.”

Charlotte got a glimpse into the world of escorts in 2007 when the FBI arrested “Southpark Madam” Sallie Saxon, who was released from prison in March after serving a two-year sentence. Saxon ran “Hush Hush,” the largest Internet escort service in the country, according to prosecutors. Many of her clients were rich and powerful and would shell out up to $2,500 for a three-hour date with Saxon’s girls, usually at upscale hotels. Saxon made millions during her 15year career as a madam. Ava’s foray into prostitution isn’t quite so glamorous, but she provides a fascinating insight into a world and lifestyle that most people don’t know anything about. She recounted her experiences recently over a cup of coffee at Starbucks. When I first spotted her she was smoking a cigarette and reading “The God Delusion,” in which author Richard Dawkins contends that believing in a supernatural creator is irrational and that religion has inflicted grievous harm on society. Ava, 27, said she grew up going to church, but is now an atheist – something

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she mentioned several times during our conversation. Dressed casually in a simple green dress, she’s full-figured with a round face, straight, dark hair and dark eyes. She laughed nervously at some of my questions, but was also articulate, open and seemingly honest. But before we get into her story, there are a few things we need to get out of the way. According to Ava: u She was never molested or raped. u She’s never had a drug problem. u She’s always had a good relationship with her parents, and remains close to her family. “I don’t have some sob story,” she said. “I’ve had a very nice, healthy childhood and life.” Which makes her decision to sell her body for money all the more puzzling. Ava, the oldest of four kids, was born and raised in the Charlotte area. During high school she was sexually adventurous and rebellious, and she admits to giving her parents plenty of grief, but nothing too extreme. “I got a fake ID and started hanging out at bars at 15 and 16. But I barely drink now. In

high school I smoked weed here and there, but never even tried cocaine. It’s gross to me. My only bad habit now is these,” she said, lighting up another cigarette. Not long after she graduated high school she got married. She met her husband in a chat room, and the two dated for about two years before tying the knot. It only lasted a few months. “He was a great guy, but I was just too young. I was more excited about the wedding than actually being married.” After her divorce she moved home with her parents. It was not long after this that she and a friend, while in a Yahoo chat room, were contacted by a couple who ran a small escort business. The couple told Ava and her friend they both looked pretty and bubbly, and could earn nearly $100 for just an hour’s work. It’s something most people would never consider, an altogether inconceivable, even insulting, proposition. But something in Ava made her decide to go for it, to cross that line. “I wasn’t seeking out that kind of work, it just kind of fell into my lap,” she said. “It was great extra money, but it’s not why I got into it. I’ve just always been very open-minded and

comfortable with sex and my body.” Her first appointment with the University City client went off without a hitch. Next, Ava and her girlfriend were sent to do a “double” with a client, an encounter she can barely remember. But after just two appointments, Ava had grown wary of the couple running the escort service. They told her nothing about the clients they sent her to, and security was nonexistent. “They were just trashy,” Ava said. So Ava and her girlfriend quit the escort service, figuring they could do better on their own. To attract clients, they posted their contact information and photos of themselves in chat rooms and online escort “hobby” boards. It didn’t take long for horny and lonely guys to start calling, eager for some female companionship. The two girls, both still living at home, rented a hotel room in Charlotte for a weekly rate of about $750, which served as their base of operations. “We had a great time,” Ava said. “We’d lay out at the hotel pool during the day and screen calls and schedule appointments. Lord knows what our parents thought we were

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doing.” They averaged about 15 guys a week. Their hourly rate was $150 for a one-on-one date, and $250 if they double-teamed a guy, which was a common request. The girls were making more money than they ever had, and living like they were on vacation. “We’d get manicures and pedicures every week, go shopping at the mall, and eat out at nice restaurants.” Ava said most of their clients were in their 20s and 30s, and a mixture of skittish guys who had never been with an escort before, and those for whom paying for sex was a common practice. “We didn’t really have any bad experiences,” Ava said. “Occasionally we got somebody who sweated too much and that was kind of gross, but never anything frightening or scary where we felt like we were in danger.” But the good times didn’t last long. Somehow her friend’s mother found out what they were up to, and that put an end to their fledgling escort operation. And after six months, Ava was ready to call it quits. “I was scared it was going to catch up with me and something bad was going to

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happen.” So just like that, Ava seamlessly slipped back into her old life. She returned to the hotel industry and worked her way up to sales manager. She bought a cozy two-bedroom house about 10 minutes from her parents. She also “got engaged a couple of times,” but always broke it off. “I’m just so picky and I refuse to settle,” she said. For nearly five years she “was a good girl,” but then the recession hit. Her sales job slowed to a crawl, and she wasn’t happy working at the hotel. In fact, she was feeling restless and frustrated with her life, and one day she found herself thinking back to those six wild months and all the money she made. “I thought, ya know, I never hated it. And if I really did it the right way, by the time I was 30 I could be a lot more financially secure and comfortable.” So last September Ava got back into the world’s oldest profession. But this time she approached it like a serious business venture. She researched the industry and asked established, successful escorts for advice. She set up her own website, complete with professional photographs. She also listed her information on special escort sites like

Bigdoggie.net and signed up for services that allowed her to screen potential clients. “You have to run it like a business if you want to be successful,” she said. “It takes work. I don’t lay around eating bon-bons waiting for people to throw $200 at me.” Rather than rent a hotel room like in the old days, Ava now sees clients at her home, which is in a suburban neighborhood. “I’m lucky everyone around here minds their own business. I’ve never had anyone question what I do.” And until recently no one except other girls in the industry knew what she did. But she told her little brother a few months ago after he moved in with her. She said he’s “very cool and supportive” about the whole thing, even when she boots him out for a few hours to entertain clients. Ava said most of her appointments are during the week in the afternoon. “A lot of guys come by during their lunch break or just tell their boss they’re out with clients.” Unlike the first time she was an escort, when most of her clients were single and relatively young, Ava said now the majority are married and in their late 40s and 50s. “They love their wives, and speak highly

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of them. But they’re not intimate anymore. There’s not that connection. And they would rather do this than go out and have an affair because affairs hurt people. I have no reason to ruin someone’s life. I would never try to break up a marriage.” And Ava said she’s developed a good reputation, which allows her to be more selective, not to mention make, on average, about $5,000 a month in cash. (She’s saving for a Mini Cooper convertible). She’s also started traveling to cities where there’s a lot of demand, including Charleston, Roanoke and Knoxville. “I do really well in mid-sized cities,” she said. She’s what’s known in the industry as GFE – girlfriend experience. This means she provides for her clients a more intimate, romantic experience, with candlelight, soft music, wine and conversation. This is opposed to PSE – porn star experience. “I’m not going to get in crazy ass positions and start moaning and screaming. That’s not me. Most people are looking for someone they can connect with. I’m not some petite super model, but I do really well. It’s about your personality and making a guy feel special.”

And rather than just the onehour sessions, Ava said many of her clients request date nights or even overnight trips. She recently had a client who lives near Columbia request she spend his birthday with him. “We went out to dinner, a movie, and visited an adult sex shop and laughed at the toys. Then we went back to the hotel room, watched some TV, had maybe 20 minutes of a good time, and went to sleep.” She had another overnight date recently in Charleston, where she and the client walked along the beach holding hands, had dinner at an upscale restaurant, and then cocktails in the hot tub. “In the eight hours we were together there was probably only 30 minutes of sex. It was a lovely time.” But regardless of how much she might enjoy herself, Ava said she’s careful to keep these relationships in their proper perspective. “My regulars are awesome. They know more about my personal life than some of my friends. But there still has to be a line. It is still a business relationship.” As Ava continued to open up about her life, the light and airy vibe she projected faltered a bit. I certainly don’t claim to have

any real insight into Ava or her motivations after just one encounter, as people are infinitely more complicated and complex than what they might say or an accounting of events. But I also can’t imagine any little girl, when dreaming what she wants to be when she grows up, envisions being a prostitute. And I told her that. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” she said. “I get to do something I really enjoy, travel and make good money. It’s not a bad gig if you do it the right way. And do it for the right reasons.” But she also admitted that her job is very lonely and isolating, especially when she’s on the road. It’s during these times when doubt and sadness creep in, when despite her own rules, she finds herself longing for the men to stay behind and snuggle even after their time has expired. “But then I just remind myself that the right person will come along when they’re supposed to. And the second I meet someone that I think I could fall for, I will quit without a second thought. I could never do this if I was in love with somebody.” U Reach Sam at samboykin4@gmail.com For more info go to www.uptownclt.com

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Uptown Magazine May 10