Archive for November, 2006

We Always* Rock the New

Written on November 29, 2006 at 11:54 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Let me tell you about it. For those of you who have not entered the back door of the Wren’s Nest recently lest you fall through the loose assembly of rotting planks we call stairs, fear not! They have been replaced.

Also, some of you may remember our back screen door that doesn’t so much open as it does topple over. You know, the one that once it falls over, knocks you down and crashes through the rotting staircase bringing your unsuspecting self along with it. Right. Well we have a new door, too! Maybe not new, but it has newish, semi-glossed parts that allow it to (a) open; (b) close; and (c) not knock you through the stairs.

Wren’s Nest = going places …including out the screen door, starting today.

We have none other to thank than temporary awesome-guy-in-residence Nathan, who has also recently replaced the rotting part of the front porch. Thanks, champ.

Re-reading what I’ve typed so far, seems like there’s a lot more rotting at the Wren’s Nest than the finances. Yikes. But speaking of finances, you will be very excited to know that I have Quicken and know how to use it. Hooray bookkeeping! Also, the debt shrinks more and more with every passing day. So we’ve got that going for us.

Thus, like the dead rat behind the wall that plagued the halls of the Wren’s Nest and tainted the legacy of Joel Chandler Harris for upwards of one week, all the other rotten stuff is slowly drifting away.

Or maybe that’s just the Christmas tree covering up the smell. Mmm, piney.

*not true, not by a long shot.

History Repeats Itself, Kinda

Written on November 27, 2006 at 11:08 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

In our modest but perpetually improving bookstore, the Wren’s Nest offers the volume Herren’s: An Atlanta Landmark. The book is the story of Ed Negri, restauranteur who willfully and willingly integrated Herren’s in 1963, before any other Atlanta restaurant. He also played a major role in saving the Fox. Of course, those of you who know anything about anything know that the Fox is worth saving for about a million reasons. One reason, incidentally, is that the Fox housed the premier for Song of the South in 1946. And let us not forget the first annual BET Hip Hop Awards in 2006.

Anyway, one of the chapters in Herren’s is called “The Wren’s Nest.” Not long after saving the Fox, Mr. Negri was instrumental in preserving and restoring the Wren’s Nest in the mid-80s. By 1984, finances had spiraled out of control, and the Board, originally a group of “100 white ladies” according to the by-laws, had become inneffective long before. Negri explains:

The income of the building, from tours, was totally inadequate to begin to cover the expenses. A huge gas bill (I believe it was around $700) had just been received and there was no money to pay it. …When asked how much money [the board] needed to raise, they didn’t know. When asked what specifically needed doing, their answer was, “Everything!”

Sounds familiar, huh.

Now, I’m not calling our current board a bunch of old ladies, but certainly the Wren’s Nest is and was in need…of everything! Mr. Negri was able to shake things up, become the first male member of the board, and turn the Wren’s Nest around in what looks like less than a year. I’m impressed. I wonder how long it will take us.

Though this was but a small event for Mr. Negri and spans only one chapter in a book chock-full of cool stuff, it was revolutionary for the Wren’s Nest. And in effect, Negri’s influence at the Wren’s Nest crowned his legacy rather appropriately. That is, in preserving the Wren’s Nest as he had aided in preserving the Fox, he finally forced the board to come to terms with race, just as he had with Herren’s twenty years prior. By opening the Wren’s Nest to the African-American community in 1984 (!), Negri in some ways bookended the reaction to the civil rights movement in Atlanta. That’s a complicated and very debatable claim, sure, and I don’t really stand behind it, but instead more to the side of it, shrugging my shoulders. Perhaps, though, you see what I’m driving at.

Our current board, of course, is completely different and distinct from the previous board. In fact, board chair / live wire Marshall himself was even denied access to the Wren’s Nest not so long ago.

In many ways the history of the Wren’s Nest is just as interesting as the history of Joel Chandler Harris. For those of you my age, and perhaps even moreso for those not my age, it’s worth contemplating that I was alive when the Wren’s Nest was still turning away blacks because of the color of their skin.

Anyone else feel those shivers?

The Wren’s Nest Gone Bonkers

Written on November 25, 2006 at 2:02 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Remember when folks said nobody comes around on Thanksgiving weekend? Well I’ve got news for you, buster. This place is hoppin’. People are parking in the amphitheatre. Can it be sunny and 68 all the time in November?

Remember: Saturday storytelling at 1. Rain or shine every weekend.

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Categories: Storytelling |

Fan Mail

Written on November 20, 2006 at 10:35 am, by Lain Shakespeare

You won’t find this online, but the following letter ran in yesterday’s paper:

Uncle Remus stories reflect the times

Jim Auchmutey’s story about uncle Remus (Arts & Books, Nov. 12) was well-written. However, I disagree with the “herd mentality” that Joel Chandler Harris’ stories are racially problematic. For heaven’s sakes, they are stories – I even call them fables – reflecting a time in history. Chandler deserves his place among the world’s greatest authors.

As a child my favorite was “Tar Baby,” a delightful story with a lesson about being smart. I have the film “Song of the South,” and I treasure it. I found it online and have enjoyed it with my grandchildren. Br’er Rabbit was such a clever fellow. Not to mention, I still sing “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.”

Too bad people take these stories out of context – another case of political correctness being carried too far. Three cheers for Marshall Thomas (chairman of the nonprofit group that owns the Wren’s Nest, Chandler’s Atlanta home). I vote for the resurrection of Uncle Remus.

Merle Evans


Dear Merle,

What, not even one cheer for this guy? Thanks buddy. Your heart is in the right place though, and I appreciate that. If you ever need a copy editor, and I think you just might, I’m your man.




Sweating the Speaking Circuit

Written on November 15, 2006 at 4:06 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

When you get your picture in the newspaper for a worthy cause, two things will happen. One, you’ll be contacted by all sorts of crazy people who, apparently, troll the paper looking for people to talk to so they can spew forth their crazy ideas. Two, you’ll be asked to speak at different venues.

If you have any interest in becoming a groupie (I’ve already thought of a name for y’all: the Shakeandbakes. Good, no?), you can find me here:

Decatur Rotary – December 1

Northside Kiwanis Club – December 15

Airport Kiwanis Club – TBA, but in January

Wow, what a lineup! And three separate heart attacks in the making. Sheesh.

Edit: I forgot to mention that if you want me to speak at your very own civic organization or if your kid wants to bring me in for show and tell, just ask:¬† I am devastatingly funny in person and better yet, I’m free and flexible.

The Phone Is Ringing

Written on November 13, 2006 at 1:52 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

And I’ve got people saying things like, “We want to help the Wren’s Nest;” “The Wren’s Nest will never have to worry ever again;” and “How old are you? Are you kidding me?”

So we’ve got that going for us. A little press can go a long way, and I’m hoping to ride the wave for a while longer yet. If you also want to help, by all means let me know. The comments are fine or via email:

If you need me I’ll be at my weekly lunch meeting with Board Chair / culinary expert Marshall.

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Categories: Fundraising |

In Search of Uncle Remus

Written on November 12, 2006 at 2:11 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Well well well, looks like someone made it to page K10 of today’s Arts and Books section in the AJC. Big time, I know.

Luckily, the article begins on the front page, and my how we dominate it. Even Diddy is relegated to the “More Inside” section at the bottom. Mo’ money mo’ problems indeed (sorry). We’ve got five, count ’em five, awesome photos on the cover…and the best one is inside!

Read the full article here.

Props to Jim Auchmutey. Great article, and I really think it hits the nail on the head.

Ghost Hunt 2006

Written on November 11, 2006 at 5:44 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Well, the time of reckoning is upon us. Yes, the Georgia Ghost Society has begun to trickle in, and the hunt officially starts at 5 pm. Stay tuned right here for live updates on the search for the Ghost of Christmas Pa…Joel Chandler Harris. Or someone. I don’t know. Whatever happens, it’ll be scary I just know it.

5:19 pm – In addition to all the fancy cameras and detectors, we have a psychic / medium here who has traveled all the way from sunny California to investigate some murders as well as ghosts at the Wren’s Nest. All in a day’s work, I suppose. One of my main concerns going into this thing was that we wouldn’t have a psychic present, but now I can rest easy. This is going to be awesome.

5:47 pm – It is dark, and I am terrified. We are waiting on one last investigator before we get started. In the mean time, everyone is telling their stories of how they became involved in ghost hunting, and what made them believe in ghosts. They are not helping me feel any better.

6:01 pm – Who knew that ghost hunters were so good looking? Seriously, if you tell me that you hunt ghosts and you look like just some shmuck, well of course you’re crazy. But if you hunt ghosts and you happen to be a babe, I’ll hear you out, sure. Anyway, we’ve started talking to the ghosts in the house just to let them know we’re cool and not here to harm anything. Okay.

6:41 pm – Cigarette break for the ghost gang. Our resident psychic Dawn was just picking my past apart and telling me about all the women in my life which was the creepiest. thing. ever. She’s good though, I’ll tell you what. Some people pay her $3.99 a minute for that kind of treatment. Some people who are executive directors of allegedly haunted house museums get it for free. Boo(ya)!

7:46 pm – Captured orbs on film. Sensed spirits moving. More later.

10:30 pm – Unfortunately our psychics / conduits / mediums had to leave. Fortunately, I have never been so scared. The only light on in this house is coming from my computer monitor.

We’ve been performing EVPs, which are Q and A sessions with spirits recorded by a highly sensitive device. We’ve been asking questions in various rooms, but in the foyer when someone asked, “Do you have a message to tell?” suddenly a LOUD noise came from the front door. It wasn’t the doorbell and it wasn’t the wind, but almost in between, like the wind sounded electronic, or the electronics sounded windy. All my time in this house, I’ve never heard anything like it. I started crying right there. Almost, anyway.

It totally could be blamed on the wind, since it is indeed a dark and stormy night, but! when we replayed the tape and a question was asked, “Can you give us a sign?” the same noise happened again! And again, as if in response to the question. The noise happened a final time, again while the tape was playing.

12:36 am – The scary noise happened two more times. The first time it
happened randomly, unlike before; however, when fearless ghost
hunt leader Drew yelled “STOP, SPIRIT!” it stopped like that on a dime. The final time was once again in response to the question, “Will you show me a sign?”

I swear I’m not making this up.

Before the night was through, ghost hunter babe-in-residence Julie had played hide and go seek and received a hug from a spirit, or so we believe. Leanne passed by the room she thought we were in and saw a person moving. She was shocked when we approached from the other end of the hall. Of course, nothing is confirmed or denied until the photos are viewed and the tapes are cleaned up.

But I’m just sayin’.

Do I believe in ghosts now? Well, I’m not sure. But if you never hear from me again, I’ll bet good money that a ghost has eaten me in my sleep.

Thank you, Georgia Ghost Society, for your work. You guys were awesome and professional and I shan’t forget it any time soon.

P.S. I’m never going back to the Wren’s Nest again. I’m just sayin’.

Very Important Failures

Written on November 10, 2006 at 12:36 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Last night the Georgia Trust honored the Wren’s Nest by placing us on their 2007 Places in Peril list, which highlights ten historic sites around the state of Georgia that are in danger and in need of help. You can read more about it here and here.

In order to properly honor these sites, the Georgia Trust hosted an event at the restored Puritan Mill, complete with an open bar, fancy-pants catering, an art auction and “business cocktail” dress code. ¬†Good thing “open bar” is my middle name.

Suffice to say I was the youngest dude in the room and felt a little out of place. Not because I’m uncomfortable around an older crowd, but more because they give me funny looks and whisper. I’m glad they didn’t expect me to speak as a representative of the Wren’s Nest. Undoubtebly I would have said something funny to me but not funny to them, like “Wow, what an honor. I wish I could take the credit for this award, but I wouldn’t be here today without the efforts of my predecessors. I really owe it all to them.”

Ostensibly, this kind of event takes award show inanity to a new level. Think: the Academy Awards meet the Razzies. After I attended the event, however, it made much more sense. Those in attendance are the very likely to be interested in historic preservation and know more folks like themselves. The awareness and credibility that the Places in Peril list provides is priceless, and I’m honored that our lil’ ole Wren’s Nest made the list.

Also, I wonder how long it will take for people to notice that I only have one suit, one shirt and one tie. Shhh!

I Smell A Rat

Written on November 9, 2006 at 11:44 am, by Lain Shakespeare

No really.

Something must have died in here a few days ago because the odor emanating from our back hallway and kitchen has gone from nonexistent to intolerable over the past twelve hours or so.

Immediately I assumed something had died in the basement down below, but when I went down to check out the crawl space with Board Chair / amateur exterminator Marshall, we couldn’t smell a thing. The smell is limited to two rooms, without a hint of anything foul down below.

I’ve looked in every nook and every cranny, checked behind the fridge, the stove, and ye olde Coke Machine, but have had no luck.

What do I do now?! Febreze? Come on! Work with me, people.