Archive for December, 2006

Mission’s Accompli

Written on December 27, 2006 at 11:41 am, by Lain Shakespeare

Today we had a steady stream of folks ramble through the Wren’s Nest. Docents Star and Jeri performed admirably and even gave out free Wren’s Nest stuff to folks they thought were nice. I can’t promise we’ll always be this sweet, but you never know until you visit.

Jeri gave out a Br’er Rabbit pencil to one lucky dame who in turn requested that it be sharpened. Since I’m not a jerk I said, “Yeah, okay,” and retreated with the pencil to the office.

Initially I wondered, does the Wren’s Nest even have a pencil sharpener? But then: oh right, of course, that one attached to the wall that we never use.

It’s a dinosaur of a pencil sharpener, and after I figured out how it worked and had been happily sharpening for maybe twenty seconds, I realized that this is no ordinary dinosaur of a pencil sharpener, this is indeed original to the house. It didn’t hit me until I noticed the small curator’s tag hanging from the back.

Clearly, there’s a reason my title is Executive Director and not Museum Curator.

The moral of this story is that if you want a Br’er Rabbit pencil it’s gonna cost you 50 cents. If you want your pencil sharpened at the Wren’s Nest in Joel Chandler Harris’ very own pencil sharpener, well that’s going to run you an additional $19.50. If the point ever gets dull you can always bring it back for more sharpening. Then it’s on the house. Literally. (I know…and I’m not sorry!)

A few of today’s other accomplishments in order of importance:

  1. took a nice nap at the desk;
  2. supplied the now official Wren’s Nest coffee pot;
  3. cleared broken glass from a window pane;
  4. installed new glass;
  5. used putty;
  6. reflected on how my time at the hardware store continues to pay off…though I’ll let you be the judge of my glazing skills / knowledge of the names of tools.

Predicted accomplishments of tomorrow in the past tense:

  1. installed new toilet seat;
  2. took a nice nap at the desk.

Eatonton! Home of Joel Chandler Harris, Indian-Egyptian-Black Nationalist Tribes, Alice Walker, and a Dairy Queen

Written on December 25, 2006 at 10:44 am, by Lain Shakespeare

I’ve been meaning for quite sometime now to take a trip down to Eatonton, GA to visit the Uncle Remus museum. Eatonton, of course, is the hometown of Joel Chandler Harris. I’ve been there before, but I think I was like eight, so it doesn’t quite count. I do remember the Dairy Queen, however.

There are about a million (make that a dozen, tops) cool things to do and see on the way to Eatonton. Flannery O’Conner and Alice Walker are also from those parts, plus I understand there are some great antebellum homes not burned by Sherman.

Unfortunately, there is one less totally awesome place in Putnam County, and that is of course the compound of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors. Oxford American has recently published an audio slideshow featuring footage from the compound. I’d hop on that latter link quick, before it changes, by the way.

Whatever I write here will not do the thing justice, but I think the photographer sums up his interest nicely when he concludes, “I love things that are falling down. I love things that are abandoned. I love things that are slightly cheesy. And when you have forty acres of falling down faux-Egyptian religious iconography …it’s just wonderful.” Amen.

Yes, the compound has been levelled by developers within the past twelve months or so. Now, I don’t have a particularly strong argument in favor of preserving a place like this. In fact, my argument would consist mainly of the following two sentences: “But it’s so weird!” and “I didn’t get to see it!” Considering some of the atrocities and bizarre activities that occured there, I can understand why folks wouldn’t want it around; however, it could have served as a totally awesome museum / memorial / carnival ground. Personally I think it would make a fine spot for the recently disbanded Lakewood Antiques Market. Unless that whole “location” thing mattered.

Of course, except for the Eatonton connection, all this has nothing to do with Joel Chandler Harris. Consider it my Christmas present to you, dear reader.

Sweet Survival

Written on December 20, 2006 at 4:58 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Welp, I made it back from Kiwanis Peachtree just fine, and not empty handed, either. I’m now the proud owner of my very own triangular Kiwanis clock. It even says Quartz on the face.

What a difference a few days make. At Friday’s Kiwanis Club meeting I thought that I had put the entire room not just to sleep, but drooling, too. Yesterday, however, I think they could have listened to us all day. In fact, Akbar made an encore performance and one gentleman told me afterwards that I should teach a course in speechwriting. Or making. Regardless, I misheard him and thought that he said I should take a course in speechwriting. It …was awkward.

The Capital City Club is pretty swanky, and they made their scrambled eggs look kind of like Dippin’ Dots. The projector I used descended from the ceiling. If we could direct all of my speaking engagements there, I would not be upset. I have recently been invited to speak at the Airport Kiwanis club, which meets at the nearby Steak & Ale. I don’t think the ambiance will be quite the same.

In other news, today I met with a developer who happens to be working on a great project in the old fourth ward (though why do websites feel like they need music?) and who also happens to want to help build the Wren’s Nest visitor center. While many people in the past have assumed we would build “a facility” right here on the property, I’d much rather open something up down the street. This guy would rather have something downtown. The last two options both have their merits (mainly: community involvement and visibility, respectively). But hey, why not both? As long as we’re going to have a petting zoo with Pygmy Goats, might as well go for it, no?

It would be really cool if we could become, say, an anchor tenant in the old Atlanta Constitution building. Why? Because Joel Chandler Harris was the associate editor of the very same paper for twenty-five years, that’s why. Plus it’s a fine example of modern architecture. While the building is rather blighted these days, the location is pretty excellent. Don’t believe me? Check back in five years, then talk to me.

Anyway, all this would be great, if they weren’t going to tear the thing down. I swear, when will this town learn? Believe it or not, a multi-modal passenger terminal and the Constitution building can (and should!) coexist, and that area would benefit greatly from the combo.

Now the only thing standing in our way of having two more additions to the Wren’s Nest is that pesky money problem. But I’ll worry about that later.

Speaking of money, if you’re still looking to donate to a non-profit before the year is up, may I recommend the Wren’s Nest. The cool part is that I can tell you exactly what your cash was spent on. Or you can tell me exactly what to spend it on.

Sure, you could give to the Salvation Army or United Way, but come on: everyone’s doing that. Are they going to miss you? Do they even know your name? I didn’t think so. Now consider: do I know your name? Maybe not, but I could easily learn it! And that’s something those jerks at the Salvation Army aren’t willing to do. Go on, ask the boss of the Salvation Army. I’ll wait. Board members, don’t forget, you’re allowed to donate too.

P.S. Rock candy is back!

You, San Francisco and Other Mishaps

Written on December 17, 2006 at 4:05 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

It has recently come to my attention that I don’t know many of the people that read this blog on a regular basis. That’s totally fine, but may I suggest that you all use the comments at least once, if only to say “Hello!” and “Great job!” or “Get a life!” or “Is ‘awesome’ the only adjective in your vocabulary?” Once you’re done reading this post, all you do is go down to the bottom and click “Comments” then type away. It’s easy really and you can contribute to the Wren’s Nest (a piece of living, breathing Atlanta history!) without handing over any dough.

Housekeeper / docent / pink sweatshirt enthusiast / all-around tough gal Miss Nannie has vowed to “put the hurt on” me if people don’t start commenting. She is so serious.

If you’re struggling to come up with something for the comments, here are a few prompts you can work with: (1) Man, isn’t this blog clever? Explain your answer. (2) Have you ever been to storytelling at the Wren’s Nest? If so, how was it? If not, why not? (3) Would you consider volunteering at the Wren’s Nest? (4) Name eight good reasons why the Wren’s Nest should not have a petting zoo. (5) Fair enough, but what if we included Pygmy Goats? Aha!

So where were we? Ah yes, McSweeneys and Wholphin DVD. Had time to familiarize yourself with their websites? Good. I went to San Francisco last weekend to check out their non-profit division, 826 Valencia. 826 Valencia is the swashbuckling, book publishing, kid-tutoring, community bringing togethering kind of place that the Wren’s Nest strives to emulate. 826 is kind of the best in the business, and I am grateful that they entertained me all day and let me steal all of their best ideas. I think the West End neighborhood is ripe for this sort of thing and the Wren’s Nest is just the place for it to go down.

While in San Francisco I also visited the Haas-Lilienthal House. Luckily I do not have to write that name out on a regular basis, though in a similar vein, our street address (1050 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd, SW) does get a little tiresome. Like the Wren’s Nest, the H-L House is a Queen Anne Victorian with mostly original stuff in it. They are the home of San Francisco Heritage (much like Rhodes Hall and the Georgia Trust or The Grant Mansion and the Atlanta Preservation Center), and they have programming for kids that shows hands-on just how to construct a Queen Anne. Not quite sure how that works, but at least it sounds cool.

Trooper / Haight resident Emily accompanied me on the tour and the subsequent Victorian Homes Walk where we saw, among other things, the home of Danielle Steele. According to our tour guide, she is “the queen of the novel.”

Upon returning home to Atlanta, I had the opportunity to speak at the Northside Kiwanis Club. Unfortunately I did not bring my A game, but luckily Donald was there to back me up. As he was telling The Wonderful Tar Baby Story and was approaching the climax… the fire alarm went off.

Yeesh. Everyone moved outside, and Donald finished the story practically standing on Peachtree Street. Could have been worse, I guess. I’ve got another Kiwanis engagement on Tuesday morning at the Capitol City Club downtown with Akbar. Apparently these are the hot shot Kiwanians. Check back Tuesday to see if I’ve made it out alive.

Baseball? Really?

Written on December 16, 2006 at 12:06 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

By now you must be almost hallucinating from all the suspense: what on earth has been going on at the Wren’s Nest for the past week? It must be so awesome that Lain cannot even blog about it! Well, dear reader, it is that awesome and just now have I mustered the strength to ignore real work blog about it.

Last weekend I was in San Francisco (awesome, given). My friend Emily over at Wholphin DVD — you know, the DVD magazine branch of McSweeney’s — you know, the publishing branch of Dave Eggers — you know, the author of A Heartbrea…oh nevermind. Anyway, like I said, it was awesome. Believe it or not, the McSweeney’s offices do not occupy three city blocks, but instead just two big loft-like rooms plus a dungeon for the interns. This is remarkable considering the quality of work they put out on a regular basis. Look no further than the Lists section of their website to hear the sizzle. We’ll talk more about McSweeney’s in another post, but for now I’ll just provide a shockingly (sort of) relevant list from the website:

If Shakespeare Had Sold His Plays to Major League Baseball Instead of to the King’s Men.


Taming of the Brewers

A Midsummer Night’s Bream

As You Van Slyke It

Much Alou About Nothing

King Liriano

All’s Well That Dontrelle

Romeo and Junior Ortiz

The Humorously Poor Fielding Performance

Julius Selig

This is relevant for several reasons: (1) it’s funny and so is this blog; (2) my last name is Shakespeare; (3) I like baseball; (4) So did Joel Chandler Harris, and that’s why he helped bring baseball to the South; (5) anything that references Sid Bream is automatically classic. Wait, what? Joel Chandler Harris brought baseball to the South? Well, yes, and there’s a curious newspaper article from 1946 that details it in awesomely cryptic fashion.

According to Lucien Harris, son of Joe and great-great grandfather of yours truly, the league’s organization occurred in either 1883 or 1884, and the ballpark was located on West Peachtree where the Coca-Cola bottling plant and O’Keefe High “now stand.” Of course, all three are gone now. Says Lucien:

At that time Dr. Amos Fox was postmaster at Atlanta and an ardent baseball fan. He was invited to head the team against one headed by [Joel Chandler Harris]. [Joe’s] side was dubbed “Brer Rabbit’s Team” and Dr. Fox’s, of course, was known as “Brer Fox’s Team.” …Naturally, Brer Rabbit won–he always does.

Is this guy serious? Lucien contributes other details like, “During the season one of the Atlanta players unfortunately was killed while running bases” and “Among the players was the famous battery of Dunden and Mappis. Dunden, a deaf-mute, was the pitcher.”

I am totally lost. How in the… Why did… What? There is no explanation! How did someone playing for the Brer Rabbits die while running the bases! Was killed, even, meaning it wasn’t a massive coronary or a sudden stroke. Killed? What, was he shot while rounding third? Was there a freak pigeon attack?  How can that happen! For goodness sake, Sid Bream, the slowest human being in the history of time, was able to (barely) survive lumbering around the bases (click “1992” to relive the glory). If he can do it, I’d be willing to bet just about anyone else can. And who is this deaf-mute pitcher? And let’s start bringing back the word battery!

I think that’s enough exclamation points for one day. Also, that’s probably enough tying together some vaguely related instances involving things and people I like. Though seriously, Sid Bream. That guy is the best. More on San Francisco and Wholphin and McSweeney’s later.

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Categories: Atlanta, JCH |


Written on December 8, 2006 at 11:58 am, by Lain Shakespeare

Tomorrow marks the 161st birthday of Mr. Joel Chandler Harris! Great work, Joe, you’ve really outdone yourself.

In celebration, we will host a birthday party for JCH at the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur tomorrow at 11 am. Storytelling and birthday cake will be served. And if you haven’t been to Little Shop of Stories before, now is your chance. Seriously, children’s books plus Jake’s Ice Cream equals an awesome place to take your kids and probably the most adorable space you’ll set foot in all year.

Also, Saturday storytelling at the Wren’s Nest will go on as usual at 1 pm.

In other milestone news, as of oh let’s say 4 pm today the Wren’s Nest will have paid off just over $25,000 in debt since August 15th. Hey, that’s not bad, right? It’s not over either: we’ve got about $86,000 to go, so, you know, we still need your help and stuff.

Now, back to grant writing.

A Day In Hartford, CT

Written on December 6, 2006 at 11:24 am, by Lain Shakespeare

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit the Harriet Beecher Stowe House and the Mark Twain House. The two are right next to each other in sunny Hartford and make up kind of a 19th century house museum campus. If you like this sort of thing, by all means stop what you’re doing and go!

Initially I was a little put off by Mark Twain’s House, if only because the tour costs $13. Usually at the door of these museums I off-handedly and rather smoothly mention that I am indeed an EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ahem, of a similar museum and had heard wonderful things about this very museum so I’m here to check it out and steal ideas. The ticket-issuer-person always says something like, “Then you don’t have to pay.” And then whispers something that rhymes with “jerk.”

This was indeed the case at the Mark Twain House, but after fooling with the cash register for about three minutes, the ticket-issuer-person remained unable to comp me, so I had to shell out thirteen big ones. Not that I mind, because after all I am an EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR and making minimum wage or less than that or whatever, but really, couldn’t she have just told me to go on in? Surely in the history of time, someone has gained entry into the Mark Twain House without an actual paper ticket. And yes, of course, that person should be me.

Anyway, once I navigated out of the new Mark Twain Museum complex and actually got to the home itself, I realized how dope it was. Oh and it was dope. From my previous experience at the hardware store I know how hard it is to paint a place red (always use grey primer!), and the house is very red. Not to mention filled with inticate wood and glass detail by Tiffany’s. Or Tiffany. Whoever, the house is way awesome and way elaborate.

In the girls’ room eagle eye Amelia Trace spotted Nights with Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris. I had been distracted by something shiny as usual and would have missed it. The Twain folks strategically placed the Harris book among “recently” opened Christmas presents. Rumor has it that Twain read the Uncle Remus books aloud to his daughters …when they were fifteen. I bet that went over well.

The Mahogany Room, currently being renovated, was a rather plush guest room on the first floor of the Twain House. JCH did indeed stay in that very room and probably very much enjoyed the view of the now underground river nearby.

These days he would have a great view of the new and kind of enviable Mark Twain Museum. The facility has classroom space, museum space, a gift shop, nearly as many elaborate details as the house itself, and it’s LEED certified. I think there’s a lot to learn both at and from their facility, and the Wren’s Nest would benefit greatly from having a similar project, except with about one third of the space.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s House was smaller and less ornate, but still rich with cool stuff. As I found out on the tour, HBS was something of a 19th century Martha Stewart who had opinions on everything and was not afraid to let them be known. Boy, she sounds like fun. For someone else. Most of the paintings in her home hang in corners as a result of one of these opinions. Other opinions include: “Group your oil lamp related items together” and “Don’t use curtains, you jerk.” Her husband Mr. Calvin Stowe, was often referred to as Mr. Beecher Stowe. That’s a little bit like being Mr. Connie Chung. But I digress.

Our tour guide continually referred to Harriet Beecher Stowe as “Harriet” and makes me wonder if I should start calling Joel Chandler Harris “Joe.” After all, I’m here every day, often in my slippers, so I figure me and Joe have a pretty informal relationship. Joe: I like it, I think that it’ll stick.

What have I learned from these homes? Well, for one, I am thankful that Joel Chandler Harris did not have a terrarium for me to neglect, however cool those may be. And two, JCH, while not doing poorly for himself by any stretch, was no Twain or Stowe in terms of cash money. Though what the Wren’s Nest lacks in bling we more than make up for in spunk, big time.


Categories: Uncategorized |

Relief! And an invitation.

Written on December 1, 2006 at 5:09 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

For those of you who are interested in my well being, I did indeed survive Decatur Rotary today and without serious incident, I might add. Since my presentation is based on powerpoint and we encountered some initial technical problems, there were a few moments there where I thought I wasn’t going to make it. Like when someone said, “Oh, we didn’t know you needed a projector and a screen. Hmm.” Or, “I don’t know how to get this thing to work.”

So the preparation phase could have gone a little smoother probably, but the execution was flawless if you don’t count voice cracks or stutters or “um….s.”

Akbar was on today and told a new story (to me) that is perhaps now my favorite. It’s called “The Silent Debate” or something like that, and it’s worth requesting.

In other news, Board Chair / Christmas-aholic Marshall and I put up the Christmas tree at the Wren’s Nest today. It’s an eight footer and will be donned with traditional Victorian baubles and trinkets starting tomorrow morning.

Oh, and that reminds me: you’re invited! Ever feel like decorating a house for Christmas that wasn’t your own? Well here’s a great opportunity that you don’t have to live with for the next month. At 9:30 tomorrow morning we’ll be decorating the house if you want to stop by.

Storytelling with Miss Woodie to follow at 1 PM and probably refreshments throughout the day.

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Categories: Events |