A frowsy hippie chick and a right-wing moppet share cocoa, ideas

Atlanta Magazine
February 2010

The Artful Dodger

Right-wing wunderkind Jonathan Krohn rebuffs the fluff
By Candice Dyer

Child prodigies inspire an unsettling mix of awe, protectiveness, and peevishness in the adults around them. When young Jonathan Krohn delivered his barn-burning speech at last February’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Rush Limbaugh beamed paternally at his new mini-me, while Jon Stewart joked, “I’m not sure there’s a nurple purple enough.”

“I thought Stewart’s routine was quite funny,” Krohn says. “But I declined his invitation to appear on one of his specials.” With the publication this month of his second manifesto, Defining Conservatism: The Principles That Will Bring Our Country Back (Vanguard Press), Krohn is instead expected to make the rounds of tea party protests and join the punditocracy as the boy king of Fox News. His new book has the ambitious aim of helping readers “understand the ideas, principles, and values of Conservatism,” and it expands on the principles spelled out in his first book, Define Conservatism for Past, Present, and Future Generations, self-published in 2008. Homeschooled in Duluth, he is fourteen but looks younger, a downy moppet eerily channeling William F. Buckley. In his book-jacket photo, Krohn sports a navy blazer, a flag pin, and a defiant smirk.

“I have an opinion on absolutely everything,” he says as we chat over hot cocoa at a suburban coffee shop. His mother, Marla, a drama teacher, watches sidelong like a sentry as he launches into the minutiae of tort reform with such rapid-fire, hyperarticulate vehemence that his pubescent voice cracks.
Krohn’s political awakening came at age nine, when he chanced upon a funny-sounding word—filibuster—and began studying it. “Back then, I was like the average young person who doesn’t understand left wing or right wing, but I knew exactly what I believed and what I stood for,” he says, recalling his embryonic self-awareness. “Of course, people say, ‘You’re just a kid; what do you know?’ I read and exchange ideas with people who may or may not agree with me.” He adds magnanimously, “Some liberals are actually nice people who can be pleasant to talk with.” My attempt at a little talking-head byplay—“You’ll find as you get older that they can be fun to party with, too”— is met with a blank stare.

“Look, I’m doing this to help my country,” he says. “I’m not just some cute kid, some anomaly, some traveling sideshow. I know what I’m doing. I hate to sound like some dream crusher, like some angry old conservative, but some people simply do not know what they are doing, and that is the worst thing.”
A sinking suspicion sets in that he could be alluding—justifiably—to me, the interlocutor who earlier, when attempting to get him to discuss life as a kid outside of politics, invoked the “old soul” cliche when he cited Frankie Valli as his favorite musician. He has endured enough little-shaver condescension.
“Age is irrelevant,” says Krohn, who is fielding offers from think tanks. “I want to be judged as any other political analyst. What I write is what I write is what I write.” Asked if he experiments with other forms, such as fiction or poetry, he guffaws. “Poetry? Why would I do that? What would I write—an ode to healthcare reform?”

“Well,” I say, “you never know what you might want to do. You might feel compelled to write a poem someday.” When one of the Palin daughters breaks your heart, I think silently. Then I add, like some
hippie-dippie Polonius, “That’s the beauty of being so young—so many possibilities, including opportunities for rebellion.”

He rolls his eyes. “I will rebel against conservatism the day Michael Moore makes a good movie.”

Photograph by Alex Martinez


Georgia, U.S. face veterinarian shortage

Alone on the Grange

The farm-to-feline practice of Dr. Donna Thompson carries the load of two Georgia counties and highlights a bigger problem—a vet shortage that affects humans beyond their pets.
By Candice Dyer
Under other circumstances, Lady would have been put down. The once-graceful horse, a piebald American Paint, kept walking in circles and falling, until finally she could rise no more.
“We don’t have any horse vets near here,” says Lady’s owner, Gina Davis, proprietor of Southern Class Farms in Toombs County. “Horses aren’t easy to transport like puppies; most vets don’t make house calls, and most vets today tend to be genuinely afraid of horses and large animals in the first place.”
Dr. Donna Thompson, though, is not like most vets; she does not shy away from any hurting animal, except maybe, she concedes, a rattlesnake. A couple of times a week, Thompson—the only veterinarian serving Telfair and Wheeler counties—extends her territory to Toombs to administer medicine and fluids to Lady, who is trussed and harnessed to stand upright for a long convalescence from a neurological disorder called equine protozoal myeloencephalitis.

“She’s able to walk some on her own now,” Thompson says. “I’d probably make more money around here as a mobile vet, because I wouldn’t have the overhead, but I like having my place.”

Her place is Countryside Veterinary Clinic, a mixed-animal practice (meaning she handles pets and livestock) in McRae, a flyspeck community of around 2,700 in the piney woods of South Georgia. Thompson, who earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 2002 from the University of Georgia, says she was influenced early in life by All Creatures Great and Small, a series of stories about a mild-mannered country vet in England. “What we do here is really not that much different,” she says, even though the James Herriot mood is occasionally salted with a Harry Crews moment. “Dove season opened last week.” She points bleakly to a dog with bandages around two of its paws, hunched in a backroom recovery kennel. “This fella may have stumbled into the middle of a shoot or something. We’re not sure what happened, but it looks like he was shot deliberately. The sheriff’s looking into it.”

Thompson is the caretaker of about 3,000 regular patients, not including walk-ins. She is on call all the time, her cell phone number a sort of 911. The night before, her dinner was interrupted by a message about a listless goat. The next morning, after a few hours of gently prodding the bleating animal’s belly and treating his urinary infection, she called the owner and announced: “The kid just peed like a champ, but I’d like to keep him overnight.” The young goat cocked his head in her direction with seeming gratitude.

The grassy paddock and barn in back of Thompson’s downtown office are hospitable to ruminants like the goat, which are not always welcome at other clinics, even in this rural, agricultural belt. Fitting, considering her job title, coined in print as early as 1646, derives from the Latin veterinae, which means “working animals.” But as social perceptions of animals have shifted from chariot- and plow-pulling utility to fawning, sentimental anthropomorphism—98 percent of Americans count pets as “members of the family”—more veterinary grads are making a beeline for small-animal practices in the big city. Only 4 percent of UGA’s 2009 DVM grads entered large-animal medicine and 13 percent went to work in a mixed-animal practice, presumably because a cosseted shih tzu in Kirkwood commands less dirty work than a herd of Santa Gertrudis cattle kicking up muck in Hahira. Also, women have dominated vet schools since the early 1990s (and now constitute about 78 percent of grads nationwide) and traditionally have not gravitated as readily toward cattle, poultry, and hogs.

At the moment, thirty counties in Georgia lack a vet practice devoted to the “food supply” end of the field, and twenty-five of those are adjacent to each other, increasing the distance vets must travel to support agricultural clients. Moreover, about ten more counties are currently served by livestock vets who are near or past retirement age. They tend to trudge on until they can recruit replacements.

Before Thompson opened her doors in 2004, local owners of both livestock and little breeds were driving thirty minutes or more for treatment. “It would be nice to have another vet around, even on a part-time or fill-in basis, so I could take a vacation sometimes,” says Thompson, thirty-five, who grew up in Vidalia and speaks with a 98-degrees-in-the-shade Southern accent. “Atlanta is just very enticing to people. If I hadn’t grown up around here, I probably would not want to move here right out of school, either, so I understand.”

The veterinarian shortage in South Georgia proves frustrating and costly to aggies and pet owners and exhausting to Thompson and her colleagues. But it also highlights a much broader national shortage—projected to worsen by up to 5 percent annually—that threatens even the bipeds at the top of the food chain.
Read the rest here:

Karen Peck, Southern Gospel sweetheart and north Georgia native, is ready for her close-up

This appears in the current issue of The Brenau Window, the university’s alumni magazine.

Karen Peck seems incapable of projecting the cool indifference that many celebrities affect on a red carpet.

Instead, she waves giddily to the fans who are shouting her name along the roped-off pathway winding through Dollywood for the annual Southern Gospel Music Awards. Peck, looking belle-of-the-ball in a rustling black gown, would pause to hug each of them, like long-lost kin, if there were time.

The gospel singer, who studied music at Brenau for two years in the 1980s, is both a presenter for this awards ceremony and a nominee for “Favorite Soprano,” an award she has won 11 times. Karen Peck and New River have become a mainstay act of the “Gaither Homecoming Series” with five consecutive No. 1 songs and a “Song of the Decade” to its credits.

She walks past the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, with its old-fashioned, hardwood church pews, yellowed sheet music, and other homey artifacts that date to the genre’s origins a century ago as men’s “quartet music.” While women have made jubilant inroads in the industry, Peck, 51, is one of just a few who front a band with her marquee name, and she is winding up her second term as the first female president of the Southern Gospel Music Association.

“It’s still a male-dominated field, but that’s changing,” she says, in between all of the hugging, back-and-forth compliments, and photo shoots backstage. “I have a passion for honoring our legends and preserving the music’s history, which is one reason I’m here.”

The atmosphere – part evangelical homecoming and part class reunion – noticeably lacks the catty tension that simmers behind the scenes at other awards ceremonies. “Our community,” Peck says, referring to gospel artists, “is like a great, big family. The singers of my generation all grew up together. When we have troubles, as people do, we pray for each other. We’re not perfect — and it’s human nature to be just a little competitive with each other in music — but we’re all engaged in a ministry. If we talk the talk, we try to walk the walk and support each other. We aren’t ‘stars’ anyway – Jesus Christ is the star.”

She does a last-minute mirror check in the “Hen House,” as the women’s dressing room in Dollywood is labeled (the vending room across the hall is the “Biscuit Basket”) with her longtime friend, Sheri Easter, a “Favorite Alto” nominee who earned her MBA through Brenau’s online program in 2006.

“But this is the mackdaddy event for our form of music!” Peck says.

Easter, smiling, says, “Karen can always bring out a laugh in me, especially when I need it most.”

While they are waiting in the wings, Paul Couch, entertainment director of Dollywood, approaches Peck and says, “Hey, aren’t you that girl in that movie? Can I get your autograph?”

She playfully swats him with her evening bag.

Peck will appear, alongside Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, and Kris Kristofferson, in “Joyful Noise,” a movie about a struggling, small-town gospel choir in Georgia scheduled for release in January. The film’s much-anticipated soundtrack, produced by five-time Grammy winner Mervyn Warren, includes a song, “Mighty High,” performed by Peck, who plays the master of ceremonies for a sing-off.

“I think it’s great that a big, mainstream movie is celebrating Southern Gospel and including a track from an artist who has worked so hard and brought so much to the industry for years,” Couch says.

Adds Peck, in her cane-syrup drawl, “It’s just a tiny role, but I’m excited that I got to say ‘y’all’ on camera.”

The movie’s casting agency had scoured contemporary Southern Gospel music for an authentic, telegenic artist and settled on Peck, who did not have to audition. She has been playing that role since she was four.


When Peck was growing up in Gainesville, Georgia, her parents would take their three daughters to the marathon, all-night gospel “sings” at the Atlanta Civic Center.

Standing on tiptoe in her chair to see the performers, Peck was enraptured, in every sense of that word, with the piano chords, the homespun pageantry, and the solace of old-time religion on tear-streaked faces. When the anointing came, as they say, on Vestal Goodman, the “queen of Southern Gospel” would start waving her trademark handkerchief over her bouffant in divine semaphore.

“I was uplifted and just mesmerized by it all,” says Peck. “I rededicated my life to Christ in the 11th grade and said, ‘Lord, if it’s your will to give me a chance to sing, I’ll never stop.’”

She formed a girl group called The Joyful Trio and studied classical piano for 11 years, the last eight under Brenau faculty member and cosmopolitan taskmaster, Eliza Feldmann, WC’29, who became her mentor.

“Ms. Feldmann was so strict, so uncompromising, so tough,” Peck recalls. “She was a sophisticated lady who had traveled all around the world and returned to live on the edge of Brenau’s campus, and she would not accept anything less than your very best. At the time, I did not fully appreciate that – I probably grumbled about it, to tell you the truth — but I am so grateful to her now for her high standards, for giving me that foundation. I wish I could go back and thank her for all she did. She opened up my world.”

Feldmann, discerning potential in her pupil, helped Peck secure partial music scholarships in 1980 to attend Brenau.

“Brenau played a major, pivotal role in my life,” says Peck, who studied piano, voice, and elementary education. “It taught me that, while it’s great to sing and play by ear, I believe your voice is your instrument, and I always encourage younger artists to keep studying music, to learn the breathing techniques and keep refining their voices and their other musical abilities. It’s an ongoing, lifelong process.”

Karen Peck (center) and New River

A promoter asked the Joyful Trio to open for The LaFevres, one of Southern Gospel’s “first families” since 1921. Later, when Alphus Lafevre needed a soprano, he called Peck, who had just completed her sophomore year at Brenau. She began touring with the group when its founders were nearing retirement and passing the torch to Rex Nelon, who reconfigured The Lafevres as The Nelons.

“I was truly living my dream,” she says. “Instead of a poster of Shaun Cassidy on my bedroom wall, I’d had one of The Nelons. I had a crush on Donny Osmond, too, but I would look at that poster of The Nelons and pray, ‘Lord, if you can’t put me with that group, please put me with one just like them!”

Peck toured and performed with The Nelons for about 10 years.

“I was green as all get-out, wearing those fancy dresses and feeling like Cinderella, touring and traveling all over the place,” she says.

She also was developing her singular voice: a lyric soprano that confides, entreats, and reassures like the Balm of Gilead. “I think she simply has one of the best voices in gospel music,” says Stella Parton, the country music entertainer who conducted a master class earlier this year at Brenau. “It’s both delicate and powerful.”

The same could be said of her outsize stage presence. Peck, whose extracurricular music tastes include Lady Antebellum and Beyonce, comes across as a blond beatitude with a light heart and a killer wardrobe. She notes that ever since James D. Vaughan officially established Southern Gospel in 1910, its performers, like other sacred-music communities, have squabbled intramurally over issues of showmanship and solemnity.

“I believe entertainment can be a form of ministry,” she says. “I want the audience to love the music and to feel the love of Christ through the music. People are genuinely hurting out there. My calling, I believe, is to communicate hope and encouragement through music, to let folks know that the Lord is with them. And if I can make ’em laugh a little between songs, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.” She adds with a wink, “I may get in trouble for saying that!’”

By the 1990s, when Peck was hitting her stage-stiletto stride, gospel music could be divided into several subgenres (defined by stylistic interpretation rather than ethnicity), including Southern Gospel, still quartet- and hymnal-driven and dominated by white Protestants; traditional Black Gospel, with its roots in African-American spirituals and the expressiveness of the Holiness church; and Progressive Southern Gospel, which spotlights more soloists, with the smoothing influences of pop and contemporary country. Karen Peck and New River fall under the last heading. Their hair lacks the vertiginous volume and their costumes the rhinestones of their forebears, but they still sparkle with some strategic Swarovski crystals. “Our look is more subdued these days, and we try to keep up a little more with trends, within reason – we’re not teenagers any more!” Peck says. “That’s something that I think more people are realizing – that gospel music does not always have to sound and look so old-timey.”

Over the past decade, the music surged in popularity through impresario Bill Gaither’s “homecoming” series of concert videos, which air ubiquitously on cable television. In 2004, the Gaither Homecoming concert tour ranked 16th in Pollstar, out-selling Elton John and Rod Stewart, among others, and Peck reigns as a Gaither favorite. A recent study ranked Southern Gospel was the ninth most popular format for AM stations and the 21st most popular for FM.

Of a recent show in Sweden, Peck says, “We were using an interpreter, who didn’t really understand the word ‘y’all,’ to try to talk to the crowd. I told them that was ‘Southern Swedish.’ Judging by their faces, I don’t think they got that joke. But the spirit of God knocked down all the language barriers. Even if the audience didn’t understand the lyrics, they felt the anointing through the music.”

When she married Rickey Gooch, the vocalist had planned to retire, more or less, and start a family. “I thought maybe I’d just perform locally from time to time, but God had other plans,” says Peck, who homeschools her two children.

In 1991, she renewed a familiar harmony with her alto-range sister, Susan Peck Jackson, who is married to David Jackson, from Nashville’s Sho-Bud pedal steel guitar dynasty, and they since have added pianist Jeff Hawes to the mix. The name “New River,” she says, had refreshing, regenerative associations, plus “the Lord loved to be near water.”

Peck’s husband, a hairstylist and builder, converted his family’s Lumpkin County homeplace in Yahoola (“Yay-hooler,” in the local dialect) into a gospel compound called New River Park, with a stage designed to look like a country chapel, covered in weathered, reclaimed wood with a tin roof.

“There’s such a beautiful, quaint, serene feeling there, especially when the sun is setting, and you can see the cross outlined against the sky,” says Susan Jackson.

For the past decade, the couple has held “Christian Music Nights,” an annual festival on Father’s Day weekend. It usually attracts a crowd of around 600, including gospel stalwarts such as the Lewis Family, The Primitive Quartet, old friends Jeff and Sheri Easter, and up-and-comers like CS&K and Brian Free and Assurance.

“For days before the event, we talk about the menu – fried chicken, casseroles, corn, the best Southern cooking you’ll ever put in your mouth — and for days after, we declare we’ll never eat again,” says Sheri Easter. (Her son, Madison Easter, also studied for a year through Brenau’s online program, and her daughter-in-law, Shannon, is enrolled at the university now.) “The community that is created there is a direct reflection of Karen.  She welcomes everyone in with arms wide open, and the people feel that warmth.”

The progressive, upbeat sound of Karen Peck and New River – with album titles such as “Taste of Grace,” “No Worries,” and the latest, “Reach Out” — has earned the act three Grammy nominations; multiple Dove nominations; and a place among the evangelical gentry with appearances on Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) and gigs aboard Alaskan cruises with Mike Huckabee and the Rev. Charles Stanley. Peck is the first woman to serve on the board of Abraham Productions, a driving force behind arena-scale Christian entertainment, and lately, she has focused her personal ministry on churchwomen with seminars and conversational presentations, mingled with music. “I have a soft spot for pastors’ wives, and for all ladies who are dealing with life’s ups and downs,” she says. “So I sing a little, but we also share stories from our lives, and, well, I over-share. I don’t have a lot of boundaries when I’m talking.”

Peck’s faith, the source of so much joy, also has sustained her through tragedy, she says, recalling a devastating accident: “We were on our tour bus, headed back from a show in Branson, about 20 miles from home, when an elderly gentleman pulled out in front of us, and we hit him. The man, who did not survive, turned out to be a retired pastor,” she says, pausing to gather her thoughts. “We have been persevering through that aftermath with a process of faithful prayer, striving to view events like that as preparations, not punishments, to remember that the darkest times also come with great blessings. It’s part of us now, part of our story. All of us are more keenly aware that we are not promised tomorrow, that today is a gift. An amazing gift.”

Then, to lighten the mood, she says, “I do love my job, and I couldn’t ask for a better boss. And I have one great retirement plan, let me tell you.”

Bikers preen pooches into haute dogs

In this month’s Macon Magazine, with photos by the luminous Maryann Bates:

Like an heiress settling in for her weekly spa ministrations, Georgia, a white Standard Poodle, stands stock-still and holds her muzzle high while the clippers skim her coat, forming the round “rosettes” on her knobby hips. Because of its density, a poodle’s fur lends itself to shaping and sculpting, so when the primping is complete, Georgia looks like a fantastical topiary at Versailles — a bouquet of pompoms on stems. Just add a diamond-studded collar and Westminster ribbon.

“This cut is called the ‘Continental’ and gets used a lot in shows,” said the man with the clippers, Larry Hulsey, after rewarding Georgia with a gluten-free treat at Showtime Pet Grooming in north Macon.

If you assume this lace doily of a dog will be claimed by an equally froufrou Cotton Belt socialite, guess again. A sort of in-house floor-model as well as pampered pet, Georgia belongs to Hulsey, who at first glance looks more like a coonhound or Rottweiler kind of guy. He operates Showtime as a family enterprise with his 27-year-old son, Kyle.

Meticulous, detail-oriented perfectionists who insist on the “scissor finish,” the Hulseys take pride in their award-winning work, but they also represent a different breed of canine aesthetician. They wear leather and ride motorcycles to work, and with their “long-haired country boy” ponytails; mellow, porch-swing manners; and Middle Georgia drawls, these alpha-dog groomers might have stepped off the cover of an Allman Brothers album. Where tattoos meet Shih-Tzus, Showtime is perhaps the South’s only biker-operated beauty parlor for dogs and academy for aspiring pet beauticians.

“Hairdressing and Harleys run in our family, going back several generations,” Hulsey said. “We just brought dogs into it.”

The consistently fun and incongruous visuals that arise at the salon on Forsyth Road – tough guys tenderly tying bows around the topknots of teacup yappers – have proved an effective selling point, both to the midstate’s gentry and its animal-loving hipsters.

“The first time I went there, I was intrigued by all of these Harleys parked out front and these guys with long hair behind the counter,” said Lisa Love, who was the director of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and now works in music and film promotion development for the state. She regularly hauls Cooley, her family’s rambunctious West Highland White Terrier, to Showtime from her new home in Atlanta. “At first, I didn’t get that these guys were the groomers. They were super-friendly, though, and when I picked Cooley up, he was drop-dead handsome with the best Westie cut he’d ever had in his life. When I realized these bikers were the talent behind Showtime, I was sold, lock, stock and barrel.”

However, there is more to Showtime than the novelty of its proprietors, who bring a trained skill set and unusual comfort level to highstrung clients – not just the dogs, but their owners as well. The Hulseys serve as the region’s only “Certified Master of All Breeds” stylists.

“My Shih-Tzus require more grooming than most because of their undercoat and overcoat, and they used to be very apprehensive about those appointments,” said state senator and Macon politico Miriam Paris, “but they actually enjoy going to Showtime. They’re excited in the car and can’t wait to jump out and go in. I think it’s because these guys genuinely care about dogs, and the dogs instinctively pick up on that feeling; they sense the love. I’ve never seen an angry, uncooperative dog there, which is unusual. It’s always a friendly, tip-top, professional environment, and, believe me, I wouldn’t settle for anything less for Sebastian and Lily.”

Larry Hulsey grew up in Macon, where his mother was a stylist at Four Seasons. He was working in construction when he noticed that his dog, KISS, a “party mix” cocker spaniel named after the fire-breathing rock band, seemed sluggish. “The groomer didn’t clip his toenails, and one of this nails was growing into the pad of his paw, so he was in pain,” Hulsey said. “I shaved him all the way down at home to get a better look at what was going on and realized how much weight he’d gained. Turned out he had a thyroid condition.”

Hulsey was dismayed by the lack of standardization, regulation, and certification in the pet grooming industry. “Anybody with a set of clippers can hang out a shingle and start charging to work on animals,” he said, shaking his head. So he relocated temporarily to Knoxville to study at the Concord School of Pet Grooming, which is accredited by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and then he trained his son. They since have won numerous grooming and styling competitions and seldom place outside the top three.

“There’s so much more to it than just cutting hair,” Hulsey said. “In addition to the cosmetic benefits, there are health issues we’re trying to address with a total-body cleaning. One of our customers joked that it doesn’t cost as much for him to get his hair trimmed, and I said, ‘Well, do they also clip your nails, clean out your ears, remove the plaque from your teeth, and relieve your anal glands while they’re at it?’”

Hulsey opened Showtime in 2009 and added the School of Pet Grooming a year later, as a way to elevate industry standards statewide. Currently training one student, the academy has applied for status as a nonpublic, post-secondary educational institution. Instead of a clinical-seeming, clanging kennel atmosphere, Showtime looks like a Romper Room for dogs, with brightly painted wooden enclosures and a “Tiki Bar” recovery area. Spa music, and the occasional Bob Marley tune, help calm the clientele. Recently, Jana London joined the staff and added the “Bow Wow Bakery” with homemade treats (reportedly tasty enough for people, too) and a pet boutique with a variety of accessories and snugglies. One tee announces: “Karma is a Bitch.”

“We haven’t had any requests yet for the kind of feather hair extensions that are popular with people these days, but if we do, I’m prepared,” said London, who used to work as a hairstylist for people.

Hulsey was not quite sure what to expect when he set up shop during an economic downturn, in the heart of Georgia.

“I was worried there might not be a big diversity of breeds around here to get really creative with,” Hulsey said, “but I was wrong.”
Among his favorites is the Bedlington terrier, whose sheep-like appearance can be exaggerated dramatically with a “lamb cut.” As if on cue, a Bedlington prances gamely into the lobby of Showtime, looking like an odd, ambiguous bundle of wool.

This sort of inter-species drag is popular. “We can groom them to look like lions, peacocks, camels, whatever,” Hulsey said. “Look at this – now talk about a lot of work,” he added, pointing to a photo of a dog primped and dyed to look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

“I like for Cookie to get the ‘lion cut’ to make her look like a little lion,” said model and media personality Tosha Walden, of the Pomeranian that often accompanies her during interviews and fashion shows. “It’s important to me that Cookie looks perfect as she attends different functions, and the Showtime folks are perfectionists. Dogs leave there ready to strut around Westminster. Being a fashionista myself, I’ve rubbed off on Cookie, and her little wardrobe is quite extensive for a dog, so we both just adore the selection of outfits Showtime has to offer.”

Her husband, music impresario Alan Walden, and their son, Christian, have three miniature schnauzers who also go for regular preenings. “As a family, we are serious ‘dawg people,’ and so are they,” Alan Walden said. “Our dogs enjoy being there so much that they’re kind of reluctant to come to me to go home.”

Showtime’s specialized services include “hand stripping,” a razor technique used on schnauzers for the show ring (the effect is similar to flat-ironing). “Boy, you can really tell when a schnauzer hasn’t been cut correctly because a lot of people won’t scissor the hair to blend it,” Hulsey said.

What about cats? Hulsey rolls his eyes and lets out a low whistle. “We have the training to groom cats, but they pretty much have to grow up accustomed to a show environment, and most cats around here aren’t – owners may get them groomed once a year, if that,” he said. “Cats are ten times more difficult to groom than dogs and ten times more dangerous. But we’ve never encountered a dog we couldn’t groom.”

“Pawdicures” with shea butter and a variety of spa treatments, including aromatherapy mud masques with lavender, mint, and chamomile soothe and detoxify itchy, scaly skin and remove “tear stains” from beards. As London massages a creamy concoction all over a well-fed Chihuahua named Bella, the dog’s plump body slackens and her eyes grow heavy-lidded with bliss. Finally, Bella gazes up at the humans around her with melting gratitude.

“Now that’s the kind of face we like to see,” Hulsey said. “Another satisfied customer.”

The science of sex

I prefer to think of it as an art.
Anyhoo — another shortie for Paste from a coupla years ago:
Mary Roach
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
W.W. Norton & Company
If anatomy is destiny, ladies, envy the barnyard sow, whose clitoris lies fortuitously inside its vagina. So notes Roach, the playful author behind those other one-word best-sellers, Stiff (cadaver, not arousal) and Spook. After immersing herself in so much death, she understandably sought a subject with a pulse, and preferably a flushed look of satisfaction, in this survey of sex research. Alfred Kinsey and the usual players get their due in sticky detail, but so does Dr. Ahmed Shafik, who studied lab rats in tiny, drawstring polyester pants, confirming the value of natural fibers. (The rodents could not get laid because they were dressed so unfashionably, Roach speculates.) Her witty writing style begets giggling for the right reasons, with well-turned footnotes that are fun to read aloud to prudes. That impotence was once attributed to witches stashing purloined penises in birds’ nests makes one appreciate the onslaught of Cialis commercials. Just don’t crack this book before a date. So many images of glans, tugged and prodded, will leave you reaching for a fig leaf.

Foxfire phenom celebrates 45 years with book full of moonshiners, conjure-wimmin, haints

To read the entire article, go here:

Confronted by a claustrophobic newcomer who wanted to “reach out and push back the mountains” in Appalachia, poet Byron Herbert Reece observed: “It depends upon whether you feel you are shut in or the world shut out.”

Most of us who grew up in the Southern Highlands can see both sides from our vertiginous vantage-point: Hermits by default, we have been hemmed in—miserably, at times—but also sheltered and safeguarded by a rugged landscape and a clannish culture. This isolation has yielded some distinct, if not gloriously peculiar, folkways celebrated, once again, in Singin’, Praisin’, and Raisin’: The Foxfire 45th Anniversary Book, an expansive oral history collected by high-school students in the Foxfire program, based in Mountain City, Georgia, and edited by Joyce Green and Casi Best.

Published in August by Anchor Books, it features the usual entertaining cast of moonshiners, conjure-wimmin, and “boogers and haints”—all of them flinty, hard-working types—with a special emphasis on music. For the first time in the series, this edition offers a companion compact disc of twangy pickers from its “Echoes” chapter, including mainstays like The Primitive Quartet, as well as others such as LV and Mary Mathis, a seasoned, husband-and-wife duet never recorded until now. (The initials stand for “Lyin’ Varmint,” Mary jokes.)

The sepia-toned nostalgia of Foxfire deepens in its valediction with Singin’, Praisin’, and Raisin’, which is stuffed with wistful reflections on the program itself from some of its first researchers, who, in middle age, still marvel at their role in this ongoing, idealistic, intergenerational phenomenon. Foxfire, named for the eerie, bioluminescent fungi found on rotting logs, began in 1966 as a writing project at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, where Eliot Wigginton, a Cornell-educated teacher determined to fire up his classroom, charged his students with interviewing and recording their backwoods elders to produce a quarterly magazine. In 1972, faced with a growing demand for back issues, the budding folklorists published an anthology of their writings, a curious hodgepodge of “olden days” storytelling and how-to advice on hog-butchering and the like. Pickled and preserved with corn likker and salt of the earth, The Foxfire Book quickly became a national bestseller, appealing to back-to-the-land hippies as well as antiquarians. A dozen more books, including this recent installment, followed.

For homefolks, Foxfire has served as benediction—and ammo. Note the timing and setting. In 1972, a movie that was filmed in the same county stigmatized the entire region with its enduring stereotypes of inbred, toothless, predatory hillbillies. However, the homespun anthropology of Foxfire offered a note-for-note, “Dueling Banjos”-style counterpoint to “Deliverance” by honoring the ingenuity, resilience, and, above all, the unassailable dignity of Appalachian people. Throughout the rambling anecdotes of “Aunt Arie” the widder-woman, Lawton Brooks in his overalls, and other high-lonesome, no-bull voices, their devotion to family and intimate understanding of nature, their sustaining faith, their mulish work ethic, and their native wit shine through like mica in a creekbed. In effect, they announce to nervous outlanders: Not only are you safe on our rivers, but you also will find sincere nourishment for your mind and spirit—along with biscuits made from the freshest lard—around these parts.

Even so, the Foxfire series affectionately serves up enough grotesquery for fans of Southern Gothicka.

My redheaded grandmother, who wielded a hoe with a vengeance, prized her collection of the books, and while she encouraged me and my cousins to study the properties of yellow-root tea and planting by the signs, she also was leery of our grubby, destructive fingers. So we would read the tales of “boogers and haints” by flashlight at night, growing increasingly spooked and primed to scream. I remember feeling especially terrified by the “hoop snake,” which reputedly takes its tail into its mouth and rolls like a bicycle tire after its prey. My grandfather claimed to have been pursued by one, but he probably was messing with me. Of course, there also were the elaborate engineering plans for whiskey ’stills, presumably run by Baptists since almost everyone claimed that affiliation (a contradiction that continues to bedevil me).

In Singin’, Praisin’, and Raisin’, I again find myself drawn to the juicy bits, starting with the true-crime stories in a section called “Knoxville Girl,” after the old-timey murder ballad, with chapter headings such as “Hell-Bent and Whiskey Bound: A Scaly Mountain Murder” and “Yeah, that stuff’s a-growin’ wild up there,” about bush-hogging the first marijuana seized in Georgia. The legends, Old World and otherworldly, under the heading of “Barbara Allen”—the “little people,” “the deer and the witch,” and one man’s “true encounter” with the devil—probably were exchanged by ancient Celts around a peat-bog campfire.

I had wrongly assumed that the “Raisin’” part of the book was about child-rearing and would involve some controversial one-upmanship about the “strops” and “hickory switches” used in corporal punishment (a favorite dinner-table topic in my youth), but instead it chronicles the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School Farm Family Program, which provided a top-drawer academic education for its tenant families along with its boarding students, with all of them getting their hands dirty with pullets, udders, and cane syrup mills.

My grandmother would have enjoyed reading, and listening, to the “Echoes” component of the book, with its themes of music as salvation, ministry, and respite from back-straining labor. To her, a banjo was, to use an arty phrase she would have sniffed at, a vehicle for transcendence, not the ominous cue for trouble around the bend, as portrayed in “Deliverance.”

The how-to guides that wrap up this edition cover “Tying a True Lover’s Knot”; “Chair Bottoming with Poplar Bark”; and “Braiding a Leather Bullwhip,” among other tasks, which prompted some unwanted, melancholy thoughts: Will anyone bother to follow these instructions? Moreover, now that most of us no longer plow with a mule, will the Foxfire field soon go fallow?

I hope not. The project initially homed in on the arcana of a few hollers in Rabun County, but it has evolved into an educational methodology, known as the Foxfire Approach to Teaching and Learning, applicable anywhere, from a Muslim community in Detroit to the Navajo Reservation—wherever a dialogue between the young and the old can flower.

Co-editor Casi Best offers these reassuring words: “I am a mere nineteen years old. If you mention iPods, Wi-Fi, netbooks, text messaging, iTunes, or anything of today’s modern technological world, I’ll know exactly what you’re talking about…however, mention a water dipper, a mess of greasy white half runners, a sling blade … and I’m lost.”

So she began seeking out those faces cross-hatched with age and experience, asking questions, and “simply falling in love” with her Appalachian heritage. These mountains may close in around us, but they also offer a panoramic view if we scale their heights.

“If you remember anything from this book,” Best writes, “I hope it is this: Every person has a story, and they’re simply waiting for someone to say ‘hello.’”

Candice Dyer writes regularly for Atlanta magazine, and her work has appeared in Men’s Journal, Garden & Gun, and Georgia Trend. She is the author of Street Singers, Soul Shakers, and Rebels with a Cause: Music from Macon.

Ever wonder where the expression ‘get laid’ came from? Meet the Everleigh sisters

One of my capsule reviews for Paste. Sadly, the lovely Ms. Abbott no longer calls Atlanta home.


Long before Hef, a palace of pulchritude

Ada and Minna Everleigh, the Victorian sisters behind the expression “get laid,” might relish their enduring place in the lexicon, but they’d likely sniff at its frat-house vulgarity. In their brothel, the Everleigh Club, Venuses swathed in French couture recited Longfellow while kings sipped champagne from their slippers. Pleasure was an art, hard-won and forever under siege, as Abbott, an Atlanta-based journalist, reveals in this engaging account of Chicago’s bawdy, turn-of-the-century belle époque.

“I want to stress that this is a work of nonfiction,” she writes, as if to wink, “You won’t believe this!” before affectionately introducing her rogues gallery of crafty courtesans, underhanded aldermen and Bible-waving crusaders. Their schemes culminate in a showdown over “white slavery” that heralds, with a ragtime beat, American ambivalence about the pleasure principle.

If only their puritanical detractors had understood: The Everleighs strove to cleanse the red-light district, too, with their own high-end (and scrupulously hygienic) brand of gentrification.