Wade on Birmingham

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 31, 2014 by Wade Kwon

🎃🐰

A photo posted by Shota Tsukamoto (@shotatsukamoto) on

Happy Halloween! Beware of black bunnies …

costume drama

Friday, October 31, 2014 by Wade Kwon

No one knows who you
are, and yet everyone knows
who you want to be.

• • •

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Birmingham’s Sarcor, Slice featured on PBS series “Start Up”

Thursday, October 30, 2014 by Wade Kwon

Slice Pizza and Brew , Sarcor, Start Up

Top: Slice Pizza and Brew’s Jason Bajalieh, Chris
Bajalieh and Jeff Bajalieh; bottom: Sarcor’s Selena
Rodgers Dickerson.

You have to be tough to be an entrepreneur. I mean, really, really tough. I don’t know if I have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

Those who have started a business and kept it going can have amazing stories. The PBS series “Start Up” featured the owners of two Birmingham companies earlier this month.

Selena Rodgers Dickerson founded civil engineering firm Sarcor in 2010. On the show, she discusses surviving the darkest time in her life and the challenges of working in a field dominated by men.

Video: Birmingham civil engineering firm Sarcor featured on
“Start Up” (skip to 13:22).

The Bajalieh brothers Chris, Jason and Jeff opened their restaurant Slice Pizza and Brew in 2011 in an old Lakeview house. The road to that moment was bumpy and filled with setbacks, as they discuss in their “Start Up” segment.

Video: Lakeview restaurant Slice Pizza and Brew featured
on “Start Up.”

The show’s producers flew in from Detroit to film both segments in 1 day. “Start Up” interviews entrepreneurs from across America to share their stories on the highs and lows of starting and owning a business.

Sarcor

Slice Pizza and Brew

“Start Up”

the cracks

Thursday, October 30, 2014 by Wade Kwon

Society runs
as long as we overlook
daily mistreatment.

• • •

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9 things to prepare you for this weekend’s Moss Rock Festival

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 by Wade Kwon

Moss Rock Festival hammock

Into the woods: The Moss Rock Festival hits
Hoover this weekend.

Hoover’s eco-spectaular 9th annual Moss Rock Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday at Moss Rock Preserve. These nine notes will help you get ready for this free event …

Choko Aiken1. Ten bands will perform on the Crescent Stage, from Choko Aiken, right, to Alexa Rankin.

2. Hunting is allowed. Hunting for geocaches, that is. Find the hidden treasures of Moss Rock Preserve with wits and a GPS device. Geocaching workshops take place on the hour from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days. Experts will help teach newcomers to the sport.

3. Forget Halloween. The sugary treats will be at the Sweetery, the successor to the Nature of Cakes Expo from previous festivals. Five bucks gets six samples of pies, cakes, cookies, baklava and more from area bakers.

4. This 4-minute video guide from Real World Productions.

5. Beer! The Beer Garden will have three afternoon craft beer tastings, $20, $25 at the festival. Two sessions on Saturday and one on Sunday will offer dozens of brews from Alabama and across the nation, including hometown favorites Avondale Brewing, Cahaba Brewing, Good People and Trim Tab.

6. Works from 100 artists will be on display.

7. Children will have a chance to flex their creative muscles at WonderKid Studios. Artists will teach participants different types of expression, including paper Mexican folk art, recycled mixed media and mask collages. Nearby will be Planet Project, class art collaborations from 10 schools in Jefferson and Shelby Counties.

8. The new Smart Stage will feature educational topics, such as nutrition, energy efficiency, beekeeping and more.

9. Moss Rock Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Parking is at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium [map], with shuttles running all day to and from the festival site. For more information, visit the festival website.

Moss Rock Festival

the sugariest treat of all

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 by Wade Kwon

Little did the ghouls
expect a gallon of sweet
tea poured in their sacks.

• • •

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Russian/Slavic Food Festival: Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 by Wade Kwon

St. Nicholas Russian/Slavic Food Festival dancing

St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church will hold its
32nd annual Russian/Slavic food festival this weekend.

It’s a food event like none other in the Birmingham area. The 32nd annual St. Nicholas Russian/Slavic Food Festival takes place this weekend in Brookside.

The free 2-day celebration includes homemade Russian dishes, a Saturday performance by the Atlanta Balalaika Society and tours of the church. A Beriozka store will offer souvenirs and gifts for sale.

On the menu are piroshkis (meat pies), halupki (stuffed cabbage), borscht, kolach (semi-sweet pastry with a dollop of fruit) and spiced Russian tea. Food is available in platters or a la carte.

Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church is located at 105 Park Ave., Brookside, about 15 miles northwest of Birmingham [map].

For more information, call (205) 285-9648 or visit the festival page.

Atlanta Balalaika Society

The Atlanta Balalaika Society returns to perform at the festival.

it takes a cabal of strangers

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 by Wade Kwon

Ills of postmodern
society can be traced
to isolation.

• • •

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The Birmingham channel: The Classic 2014, wandering souls

Monday, October 27, 2014 by Wade Kwon

A look at Birmingham in videos …

Birmingham Mercy Initiatives, establishing Urban Hope Community Church in Fairfield. From Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church.

•


After ending up in Birmingham by mistake, college student Rikito Okubo of Osaka, Japan, experiences Southern hospitality. From Redemptive Cycles.

•

Granddaddy took the train to see the Birmingham Barons play. From PDFork.

•

Chromeo’s Oct. 14 show at Iron City. From Kevin Henderson.

•

Superintendent Craig Witherspoon resigns from Birmingham City Schools. From SomewhereITN.

•

Tibetan monks make a sand mandala painting at Railroad Park in honor of the Dalai Lama. From Jay Burnham.

•

New Orleans group PellYeah performs Oct. 7 at Iron City on Southside (our vertical video of the week). From Brandii Rae.

•

Parades! Alabama State marching at the Magic City Classic parade downtown on Saturday. From Jerrion Joy.

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Alabama A&M’s halftime show Saturday at the Magic City Classic. From al.com.

•

“Take Us Deeper” at the Birmingham Prayer Furnace. From Richard Rutledge.

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Fun at the Magic City Classic. From NaturalBellaFace.

•

See Alabaster’s Noah Galloway on “Ellen.”

•

See Vestavia Hills boy win “Project Runway: Threads.”

•

See the Dalai Lama at UAB’s symposium.

• • •

Send us links to your videos. | More videos on the Birmingham channel.

a sense of a sense of humor

Monday, October 27, 2014 by Wade Kwon

Eyebrow raised, smirk, smile,
bigger smile, tiny laugh, a
chuckle, belly laugh.

• • •

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Books: Excerpt from Scott Thigpen’s ‘Trail Magic and the Art of Soft Pedaling’

Sunday, October 26, 2014 by Wade Kwon

Scott Thigpen, Trail Magic and the Art of Soft Pedaling

The following chapter “Columbia Falling” is an excerpt from Birmingham author Scott Thigpen’s new book, “Trail Magic and the Art of Soft Pedaling” [aff. link].

He details a harrowing night ride up a Montana mountain during the 2013 Tour Divide, a mountain bike race from Canada to the U.S.-Mexico border.

• • •

I couldn’t really afford to stay there at the lodge, but I also didn’t want to bike out and camp in the middle of nowhere because it was bear country and my bike was a walking meat wagon with all the beef jerky and food stuffed in it. I considered my options, finally gave in and decided to go ahead and do it; however, every red flag in my brain was waving saying “No!”

I remember a guy named Rob Roberts that had done the Tour Divide previously and was following my progress. I messaged him and said, “How bad is Richmond Peak?” He said it wasn’t overly bad, but that there were some sketchy spots, and if they were just too sketchy for me to just walk. I told him I was nervous and his response was:

“Bears are scared of big dudes with Southern accents singing at the top of their lungs. I’ll share my song with you …

“Go home, bear,
Leave me alone, Mr. Bear,
Just passin’ through,
Want no trouble, bear,
Move along now, bear,
Just passin’ through,
Go home, bear.”

I rolled my eyes at his poor attempt at humorous songs, half-smiled and went out to my bike. The rain had stopped, and I took everything out of my bike, repacked and took a deep breath. I put one foot on the pedal and hoisted off to Richmond Peak.

There are some dumb, really dumb things I’ve done in life, but none have been as stupid as trying to take Richmond Peak, Mont., in the middle of the night, alone. The day was waning, and I started in on the climb. It was a long climb, but nothing I couldn’t handle. My legs had been in Superman mode for the past few days, and I was still going strong. I gritted my teeth and kept pedaling on the fire road.

Eventually the fire road turned into a trail, and all I could see were the remaining purples of the Montana sky, then the moon and shadows. I started to get a little nervous so I put in my iPod and listened to some poppy music. I’d accidentally grabbed one of the kid’s playlists when copying over mine, so what I’d hoped to be what I call “working man’s music” like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams III (not Hank or Hank Jr.), Eminem, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Atmosphere ended up being Ke$ha, Hannah Montana (not Miley Cyrus), One Direction and a bunch of other bubble gum songs.

Fortunately, the bubble gum songs are happy enough to take the edge off a very dark, scary hike through bear-infested woods. I kept my eyes peeled for anything but wanted nothing more than to find the light of another biker so I would know I was in some company.

The trail turned back into a road, and it was now pitch black. I started to break down a little bit, because I was convinced by now that every grizzly bear in America was hot on my trail. I continued to ride, and finally the climb partially started to flatten out. I wiped my forehead thinking I was done; however, when I checked the elevation profile, I realized I’d only just begun what was going to be a long, long night.

As I started into the first descent, it was all pitch black by now. I grabbed a bite to eat and started downhill, that’s when a series of orange eyes all lit up in my lights. I skidded to a halt and started to breathe heavily. At least eight pairs of orange eyes stared back at me and didn’t move. I was stunned and frozen in my tracks. I tried to sing the song that Rob Roberts has mentioned.

“Misst … Missster Bear … don’t eat … oh God.” With a surge of adrenaline, I screamed “Get the hell out of the road, or I swear to God I’ll throw this damned bike down your throat!”

To my surprise, the orange eyes all darted off and now somewhat relieved, I realized they were all elk. I grabbed my very loud whistle, stuck it in my mouth and, with a newfound adrenaline, I poured downhill blowing my whistle as loud and possible to scare off any wildlife that would be lingering in the dirt road.

The next climb was worse, but only to be matched by the worseness of the climb thereafter. I was sweaty, tired and just didn’t know how much more I had left in me, but there was no way in hell I was sleeping in these woods, I could feel everything starting at me, waiting for me to let my guard down. The road leveled off for a moment then did a switchback where I saw a manmade sign jabbed into the ground. As I made my way around it, I looked at the sign.

It was warning that this was heavy grizzly activity, not to go ahead alone and to make sure your food was packed in airtight containers. Well I was alone, I had beef jerky stuffed from one end to the other on my bike as well as M&M’s, Snickers, a slice of cake and Sour Patch Kids all shoved into what was definitely not an airtight container.

I sat there and thought about going back down to the lodge, but I’d spent hours just getting to this point. I looked to see when the next town was and it was going to be easily another 3 to 4 hours to get there. I tried my best not to panic and kept looking back for any lights of a fellow biker foolishly taking this climb like I was. No one.

I ate a bunch of my food and threw out the rest that wasn’t sealed. It really killed me to do that but I really had no choice.

“Enjoy these peanuts and candy, Yogi … You suck.”

I hopped on my bike and started the slow and grueling climb. I kept the bubble gum music going; however, a feeling of dread just came over me. I stopped, looked back and felt like something was following me, but nothing was. I collected my thoughts and continued to climb. I stopped again and looked back, I swear I thought something was following me. My lights peered through the fog and cold behind me, as I looked … nothing.

I continued to pedal and, between my nerves, the drop in temperature, I was a cold nervous wreck. A few more bubble gum songs by pop singer Ke$ha came on and I started to sing along: Happy music makes for a happy Scott.

Then I saw it.

There was movement in the corner beam of my light, I saw it move, this was it. It was going to be a grizzly, and I was about to become a snack. My adrenaline spiked along with my heart rate and I started to breathe heavier and heavier. I yelled, “Come on, bear! Do your worst!” And bit down on my whistle and blew. The movement tore out from the bushes and darted out in front of me. I started to scream again; however, the frightened rabbit I’d scared to death probably was in worse turmoil than me as it scurried across the road and down the mountain.

I sat there and felt waves of relief and anxiety flow out of my body. “Damned rabbits,” I said, and, by this time, I’d used up so much energy that I couldn’t pedal any more and I had to start pushing. An hour went by or so as I’d push, stop, freeze up from the cold and then continue to try to ride, only to push, stop and freeze up again. Rabbits would dart in front of me and, while I was much more relaxed, I was still keenly aware there were bears in the area.

I looked down at my watch. It was 2 in the morning, and I was tired, really nervewracked, cold and scared. I would have done anything to find a fellow rider while cresting Richmond Peak, and that’s when I noticed it, two lights ahead of me up on the peak of the mountain. Finally, it was two bikers, and I blew my whistle hard and started screaming at them. I saw their lights flicker and move, but not really towards me. But I was sure they heard me.

I picked up the pace and blew my whistle again; again, the lights flickered back and forth, and then, one disappeared and appeared around another tree. “Hey! Hey hey!” I screamed, but nothing. I pedaled faster, and then faster trying to catch them. I wanted so bad to see another human, someone to talk to and feel safe in numbers. Nothing. Their lights, which were an odd orange instead of the bright white that most bikers had on their bikes, just sat and flickered back and forth. As I got closer the lights look like the eyes of an angry tiki god or something, something like an angry bear tiki god. I started to get a little nervous that maybe they weren’t bikers but some raging backwoods hillbillies bent on taking out bikers up on Richmond Peak in the middle of the night. I started to get scared and slowed down my pace.

The road ended and turned into a trail that steeply went up, the trail got narrower and narrower, then I heard “crunch.” I looked down and my shoes were in a foot of snow. I decided to move to the left to get out of the snow, but there was no left. My foot found no ground, it was straight down and when I looked all I could see were the tips of trees. I looked over at the other mountains, sheet lightning would hit, and I’d see the sea of mountainous nothing with me surrounded by darkness.

I trudged through the snow hoping I wouldn’t slip off the mountain. I looked up and noticed I was closer to the two other bikers with their lights, but it wasn’t lights after all — it was fire. Two trees were on fire, and it was now spreading down the mountain towards the trail I was heading towards.

I frantically picked up the pace and walked faster through the snow, occasionally slipping and making it to surer ground. Smoke surrounded my nose and eyes. I started coughing and grabbed my bandana, wrapping it around my nose and mouth. My eyes watered with the billows of smoke and, in a panic, I said, “Screw it,” and hopped on my bike powering through the snow, with a few flareups of fire to my right where the forest had started to burn (I later found out that lightning had struck two trees and caught them on fire).

I flew down the snowy trail trying to get through the smoke, see which way to go and not cough up a lung at the same time. “Go, go, go!” I yelled and hammered it down hitting limbs, briars, slipping in the snow and trying to keep upright. The upright part didn’t work out very well, and I bit it pretty hard one time. I got up and took a long breath full of smoke and coughed uncontrollably again while flames licked up here and there around me. I was a nervous wreck.

I grabbed my bike and continued hammering as hard as I could, zip through the cold night and going down. The smoke started to ebb, the trail started to clear out, there were no bears, and I was going faster than I’d ever gone at night on a single-track trail. I was covered in sweat from panic, fear and fatigue. The snow started to fade, and then it happened, I hit a fire road that was all the way down. “Hell. Yes!” I screamed and let off the brakes flying down the road at speeds I’d never take usually, especially at night. I didn’t know what shape I was in, I didn’t know what shape my bike was in, I didn’t care, I just wanted off that damned mountain.

Twenty minutes or so went by and a new issue, cold, replaced relief. It was still in the 30s, and the sweat that covered me was now chilling me to the bone. I started to shake and had nothing else I could put on, because I had everything I possibly owned on. To make matters worse, I experienced a new sensation, one that would appear many times to the very end of the Tour Divide.

This new sensation was when my front wheel hit the miles of divots or washboard terrain that was made into the dirt roads by cars, bulldozers, rain and erosion. As I whipped around a corner and hit the washboard part of the road, my teeth and bones were instantly sent into a violent vibration and rattling.

“What the hell was that!” I screamed as I vibrated through the divots.

Then, I hit another long patch of vibrations, and I was constantly working to pick better lines through all the washboard roads. It became tedious, and then it became an act of patience, which lent itself to almost losing my temper. I was shaking uncontrollably from the cold and sweat and also kept getting surprised by the washboard roads. I kept riding and was desperately looking at my GPS seeing how close Seely Lake was. It showed five more miles, then four-and-a-half, and then I saw lights in the distance.

To put the icing on the cake, my lights started to dim and flash “Low batteries,” followed by my GPS flashing “Low batteries.” Three miles, the lights grew bigger. I hit another round of washboards jarring every bone in my body. I hit a fork in the road and saw a sign that said “Seely Lake,” I hammered it. The lights got bigger and signs of life started to pop up on the dirt road; neighborhoods, then the city, which had a hotel. I zipped under the awning, taking note of all the Tour Divide bikes there and knocked on the door, which was closed, no response. I went to a window, and it said, “Buzz for service.” I pressed my fingers on the buzzer and 4 minutes went by with no response. I was freezing now and shaking uncontrollably.

“Yes …” a sleepy lady said.

“Do you have any rooms available?” I said with my teeth chattering.

“No,” she said. “We have a sister hotel a few miles down the road you can stay. It’s $85.”

“$85!?” I said shivering “Do you have a cheaper room? I don’t need anything special!”

“No,” she said angrily and hung up the phone.

• • •

Trail Magic and the Art of Soft Pedaling” (Sept. 2014, self-published)

Scott Thigpen

#sundayread for Oct. 26, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014 by Wade Kwon

be happy book

Photo: Nasir Nasrallah (CC)

My picks for #sundayread for Oct. 26, 2014:

More posts from Wade this week:

The latest #sundayread tweets

the laziest weekend

Sunday, October 26, 2014 by Wade Kwon

It begins with a
24-hour nap and
then another one.

• • •

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Heads and tales: Mighty big footsteps

Saturday, October 25, 2014 by Wade Kwon

Craig WitherspoonLet’s say 25,000 children left behind: The Birmingham school system is shopping for another superintendent. Craig Witherspoon surprised many with his Oct. 7 resignation after four-and-a-half years on the job.

Most Birmingham superintendents since 1984 have served 2 to 4 years before moving on. Witherspoon’s tenure was marked with a high degree of rancor with the previous board and an apparent falling out with the current one.

Oh, and the state took over the city school system. One of the state’s worst districts was so dysfunctional (a situation Witherspoon inherited), it had to be run by the state itself, among the worst in education nationwide.

• A timeline of Craig Witherspoon’s years as Birmingham schools superintendent [al.com]

Mike HubbardEthics, or the lack thereof: The 2010 Republican takeover of the Alabama Legislature came about in part by a pledge to end the corruption of Democratic rule for a century. Monday, the leader of that revolution was indicted on 23 counts of corruption.

Mike Hubbard is still Speaker of the House, but for how long? He’s accused of using his office and his previous role as head of the Alabama Republican Party for monetary gain, including getting help from former Gov. Bob Riley and Business Council of Alabama president Billy Canary among others.

Are we better off than we were 4 years ago? An editorial in the Anniston Star says far from it, arguing that no matter which party is running the government, the state suffers with no relief in sight.

• Editorial: The culture in Montgomery [The Anniston Star]

Dalai LamaHouses of the holy: The Dalai Lama arrived Friday in Birmingham for a weekend visit. At 9 a.m., he will participate in a UAB symposium, “Neuroplasticity and Healing,” which will be streaming live for free on YouTube.

On Sunday, the spiritual leader will take the stage for two events. “Beyond Belief,” a 2-hour interfaith discussion, takes place at 9 a.m. at the Alabama Theatre downtown. He’ll speak at Regions Field starting at 2 p.m., with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.

Both events will stream live for free in the window below.

• Human Rights Week in Birmingham

Video: The Dalai Lama at UAB’s symposium,
“Neuroplasticity and Healing”

Video: The Dalai Lama participates in an interfaith
discussion at the Alabama Theatre.

Video: The Dalai Lama with Birmingham mayor
William Bell (skip to 1:09).

• • •

More headlines | send us your news tips.

squashed plans

Saturday, October 25, 2014 by Wade Kwon

The Great Pumpkin will
skip visits this year out of
fear of ebola.

• • •

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