Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center in Reykjavik, Iceland

Click on title to view photo in large format: Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center in Reykjavik, Iceland was only half finished when the financial crisis hit in 2008. The crash brought all construction to a halt, threatening to make the facility a gigantic symbol of Iceland’s economic collapse. In early 2009, the Icelandic government and the City of Reykjavik made the courageous decision to complete the project. Since opening its doors in May 2011, Harpa has received millions of visitors and hosted performers Read More

Whenever he needed supplies, Eddie Owens Martin would dress up in drag queen regalia, open the doors of his beat-up old station wagon, and call his cats. Dozens would emerge from every corner of the yard and hop in for the short ride to Buena Vista, Georgia. In town, the cats would scatter to the four directions until Martin had finished his business. Once again he would call for the cats, who dutifully hopped in for the return journey.

Martin, who was better known as Saint EOM by then, had spent most of his youth wandering the streets of New York City. He made pocket change by telling fortunes, painting portraits of his fellow drag queens, and working as a con artist. Without the high fever that gripped him one cold winter day, he might have died on the streets, unknown and bound for a pauper’s grave.

In his delirium, Martin was visited by a tall being from another world. The alien introduced himself as a Pasaquan and told Martin to change his ways or he would die. He also instructed him to return to his childhood home in Georgia and build a place to honor the Pasaquan race.

The late 19th century farmhouse in Buena Vista, Georgia, that St. EOM turned into one of the most astounding creative art projects in the world

The late 19th century farmhouse in Buena Vista, Georgia, that St. EOM turned into one of the most astounding creative art projects in the world

Martin changed his name to St. EOM and, around 1955, moved into the Buena Vista house left to him by his late mother. For the next 30+ years, using bricks and stones from the site, he created a complex of six major structures connected by a series of painted masonry walls, colorful concrete sculptures, and an assortment of landscape elements. Read More

Legacy Hall at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts in Columbus, Georgia

Click on title to view photo in large format: Not so many years ago, downtown Columbus, Georgia, was a decaying, dilapidated mill town, with little hope for renewal. Some thought it best to just tear it down and start over. But a group of visionary townsfolk thought otherwise. They banded together to raise more than one million dollars to revitalize their blighted downtown. Today Columbus is the hub of arts and culture in the Southeast, and its RiverCenter for the Performing Arts is the crown jewel around which Columbus rose from the ashes. Read More

Riverwalk in Columbus, Georgia, a public/private partnership that has turned the Chatahoochee River into a world-class training area for kayakers

Click on title to view photo in large format: The 22-mile long Chattahoochee RiverWalk in Columbus, Georgia opened in 2013. In addition to providing walking and biking trails, it has used the power of two local dams to create a 2.5-mile kayak course, attracting world-class kayakers who use the facility to train. The $26 million project was funded with public/private partnerships, and USA Today called it one of the top 22 man-made adventures in the world. Read More

The Wall of Fame at Grant's Lounge in Macon, Georgia, displays some of the greats that played at the bar during the 70's, when Macon was the epicenter of the Southern rock scene

Click on title to view photo in large format: The Wall of Fame at Grant’s Lounge in Macon, Georgia. It may look like a hole in the wall, but the photo gallery at Grant’s Lounge attests to the many greats that have performed there over the years. We stopped in for a brief look during our music history walking tour with Rock Candy Tours. Our guide, Jessica Walden, comes by her knowledge of the Macon music scene quite naturally, as her father (Alan Walden) and her uncle (Phil Walden) were the founders of Capricorn Records, which recorded such greats as The Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, and Widespread Panic. Read More

On the way to the airport, my shuttle driver pulled over to the curb in downtown Atlanta. In the pre-dawn dimness, the blood red bulbs of the historic Fox Theater blinked slowly off and on. Directly beneath the marquis, purple balloons and flowers lay in a huge heap on the sidewalk. Just a week earlier, Prince had sat before his purple Steinway piano on the Fox stage, wowing the audience with a solo performance. By all accounts, it was pure genius. No one could have guessed that a week later Prince would be dead and the Fox Theater would be the last place he ever played.

All the previous week, I’d been exploring the rich history of Georgia music with a group of travel writers, hosted by the Georgia Convention and Visitors Bureau. We began in Augusta, where we hopped aboard the James Brown Family Historical Tour Bus for a fascinating retrospective of the “Godfather of Soul” provided by Brown’s daughter, Deanna Brown-Thomas. Although Brown was born in South Carolina, his family moved to Augusta when he was four or five, and it was there that he began singing. “Downtown Augusta in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s was vibrant,” said Brown-Thomas. “In those days it was called “The Territory” – “The Terry” for short.”

Elvis got the idea for his unique wardrobe from outfits like this one, worn by the late James Brown and now on display at the Augusta Museum

Elvis got the idea for his unique wardrobe from outfits like this one, worn by the late James Brown and now on display at the Augusta Museum

Many of the places that played such an important part in Brown’s formative years still exist in Augusta: the Imperial Theater, where he performed his first paying gig; Bell Auditorium, where fans could hear him perform for 88 cents; and Brown’s former WRDW radio station, the first ever to be owned by a black man. Read More