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The Other Atlanta

ferris wheelFor those of you coming to Atlanta next week for the Romance Writers of America conference, things are looking up.  Way up.  On Tuesday, July 16 Skyview Atlanta—a 200 foot Ferris wheel will become operational at the South end of Centennial Park, next to the landmark Tabernacle concert hall. The wheel is almost 20 stories high with 42 gondolas that will be able to hold up to 6 people.  Don’t worry, each gondola is equipped with a panic button for those who find the height too, well, high.  They’re also climate controlled with A/C in the summer and heat in the winter. Each “flight” is four revolutions and lasts approximately fifteen minutes. Ticket prices vary with discounts for seniors and military personnel.  Adults are $13.50 and kids fly for $8.50.  The wheel, which originally operated in Paris, across from the Louvre art museum before being moved to Bern, Switzerland, then to the United States, promises to provide riders with outstanding views of the Atlanta skyline.  We’ve had steady rain here for the past two weeks, though, so let’s cross our fingers for better weather so we can take advantage of the great view.

Not into heights?  There’s always Atlanta’s trifecta of tourist attractions:  The Georgia Aquarium with its dancing dolphins; the World of Coca Cola with all the caffeine you can drink; or, the CNN center where you can tour the studios or simply take your picture next to a cardboard cutout of Anderson Cooper in the gift shop.  (Cheesy, but your friends will never know.)

Too touristy?  Then why not explore what Atlanta is quietly becoming famous for:  movies and television production.  That’s right, thanks to a generous film tax incentive, Atlanta, and the state of Georgia for that matter, is quickly becoming known as the Hollywood of the south.  According to the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office, more than 330 feature films, TV movies and shows, commercials, and music videos were filmed statewide in 2012, which translates to more than 25,000 jobs.  The city’s most prolific production house, Tyler Perry Studios in southwest Atlanta, boasts 200,000 square feet of studio space, five sound stages, a post-production studio, a back-lot and a 400 seat movie theater.  Perry’s studio has produced sixteen movies and five television shows.  Other television shows such as USA Networks’ Necessary Roughness, CW’s Vampire Diaries, AMC’s Walking Dead and LifeTime’s Drop Dead Diva, to name a few, are filmed in and around Atlanta.

A few movies you might have heard of have been filmed here, too.  The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire, The Blind Side, Identity Theft, Borat, Waiting for the Curve, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and Parental Guidance are among the more recent movies to have scenes filmed in Atlanta.  This year, we’ve already seen some heavy hitters like Jon Hamm, Robin Williams, Anthony Hopkins, Tommy Lee Jones, Meryl Streep and Reese Witherspoon filming around town.  (Okay, Reese was appearing in front of cameras she might not have wished to, but we won’t go there.)  Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are scheduled to film a movie at Lake Lanier just north of Atlanta later this summer.

Wanna see where it all happens?  Atlanta Movie Tours (www.atlantamovietours.com) offers a variety of tours including a Zombie Tour for all you paranormal aficionados.  Definitely a great way to spend an evening!

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you enjoy your stay. Welcome to Atlanta, y’all!

Photographs and Memories–and Magic Mike!

My niece is visiting with us this week.  Since we moved to Georgia six years ago, I’ve only seen her for a meal here and there during our occasional trips back to Maryland.  It’s been nice to get to know the beautiful young woman she’s become.

I must admit to being a very corrupt auntie, though.  I took her to see Magic Mike this weekend.  Yeah, I should have read the reviews just a tad more carefully, but I’m going with the excuse of having spent three days outside in the triple digit heat: My common sense melted.  Fortunately, my niece is a mature college student who wasn’t at all embarrassed by the movie’s content.  I, on the other hand, was a little flustered because I still picture her as a three-year-old, chair dancing on my living room furniture.  If she was creeped out about watching this type movie with her 50-year-old aunt, she never let on.  Maybe it was because an octogenarian in a walker nearly bowled us both over trying to secure the best seat in the theatre so she could whistle loudly each time Matthew McConaughey strutted onto the screen.

“Wow,” my niece laughed.  “When I grow up, I want to be just like her!”

The rest of the week was spent taking in Atlanta landmarks like CNN, The Georgia Aquarium, The Varsity, and a Braves game at Turner Stadium on July Fourth.   But, a part of the trip she particularly enjoyed involved a box of old photographs.  My daughter recently discovered a bin of old pictures from the early to mid-1900’s.  She was astounded to learn that several of the pictures were of her grandmother as a little girl.  Now, conceptually, she understands her grandmother wasn’t always in her 70’s, but she just couldn’t picture what my mother might have looked like.  Naturally, she had to share this treasure with her cousin.  One thing led to another and soon we were digging through boxes of old photos—my office seems to be the repository for all the family photos, diplomas, baptismal certificates and mass cards.  My niece wanted to see pictures of her dad as a child.  And, being the loving sister that I am, I had to oblige.  (Before you gripe, Dave, I was in many of those pictures looking just as dorky.)  We laughed our way through the evening, sorting and scanning and posting to Facebook, my niece happy to see the part of her father she would never know—before he became boring, she said.  When we’d finished, the two girls plotted about going through the pictures with their kids years from now so my grandchildren could see their geezer grandmother as a little girl with pig tails and horn rim glasses.

Yes, the trip down memory lane did make me feel a bit nostalgic and—well, older.  But, I’m not letting that hold me back.  I’m approaching the second half of my life with energy and fun.  I want to be like the little old lady watching naughty movies and whistling at the screen.  I want to be like the women still chasing a national basketball title in the indie film Granny’s Got Game. Who knows, maybe I’ll be like Grandma Moses of the literary world and crank out bestsellers in my 80’s.  It’s never too late, right?

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