Pretty Southern

What does it mean to be a Southerner in the 21st century?

August 2012 archive

Chapter 1

Editor’s Note: this is the first chapter in a working novel. All material belongs to the author and may not be republished or copied without written consent. Should you want to publish this story, well please let us know by emailing editor(at)

My Christian name is Vivienne Grace Cunningham but for my whole life, I’ve always gone by Grace. Literally y’all, since Day One, I’ve never once gone by my first name. According to my daddy, I was laying there in my crib at the hospital’s nursery, and he had his video camera – you know, one of those monstrosities that you needed a VHS tape to record anything. Daddy was trying to capture my first moments of life on camera. He kept saying, “Vivienne, Vivienne, look over here Vivienne,” yet I wouldn’t acknowledge his presence. So he tries, “Vivienne Grace. Grace. Grace…my Angel Baby, look over here.” At that, I smiled at my daddy.

If you ask doctors, they say newborns don’t smile. My daddy took it as a sign. He goes back to my mama’s room and says, “We can’t call the baby Vivienne.” Mama protested because that was her grandmother’s name, and questioned my father’s intentions. Daddy declared, “Well she wants to be called Grace.” That was it. Even as an infant, I had such gumption that I picked my own name. Mama just smiled, and from then on out I was Grace. However, I know I’m in trouble whenever Mama hollers, “Vivienne Grace!” But I’m rarely on her rotten side. My middle sister Kate has got that covered.

To this day, Daddy still calls me his “Angel Baby.” I suppose it’s a fitting nickname because, as Mama says I, “have the childlike disposition of a cherub”. Waves of pecan-colored curls, belonging to my daddy, caress my heart-shaped face. Thank God I’ve got a pimple-free complexion, sprinkled with freckles from laying poolside beneath Atlanta’s sun, shimmering on me from head to toe. My golden skin gives way to bright blue eyes like my father’s. Above those sapphire peepers are thick lashes passed down from Daddy’s Cherokee ancestry, while my dainty nose and high cheeks belong to Mama’s French heritage.

For having such a big name like Vivienne Grace, I’m pretty darn short. Most folks fail to realize this because when I put on an extra-tall pair of high heels I look like a model despite being barely five-foot-flat. I get complimented a lot. Even from perfect strangers, I hear words like “adorable”, “cute,” and “pretty.” When people talk about my oldest sister Macy, that’s when adjectives such as “gorgeous, “stunnin’,” and “hot” come out. Lord help our middle sister, Kate, because she just gets called smart.

In case y’all can’t tell, this is a story about my family – the whole Cunningham crew. You’ll get to know us pretty well, because I’m not going to leave anything out. I could drag y’all through the lovely details of my childhood but it’s neither here nor there. I’m choosing to begin this story on the week that changed my life forever: when Macy married the son of Georgia’s governor. I was almost eighteen years old. It was a Thursday in early July and the start of Macy’s wedding weekend. On this particular morning, we were getting ready to depart from our big ole house in Atlanta. The temperature at sunrise was already eighty-degrees-and-rising. At least all I had to do that day was sit in an air-conditioned car for the five hour drive to St. Simons Island on the coast of Georgia.

It was so hot outside and I just wasn’t ready to get out of bed. My petite frame lazed on the fluffy white comforter on my queen-size mattress. The dawn cast a rosy glow on the pink walls of my childhood bedroom. Pictures of my friends, Mama, Daddy and my two sisters smiled at me from frames reflecting bright rays. Overhead a ceiling fan whirled blowing cool wind to combat the heat. The whole point of the summer break was to enjoy the luxury of sleeping in. Today — Mama wasn’t havin’ it.

“Vivienne Grace!” she called on the intercom. “Are you up? You better be ‘cause we gotta get on the road!”
“Pish posh,” I said to myself climbing out of bed. My feet with their pink-painted toenails padded across the white Berber carpet of my bedroom. I flung open my door to face the intercom unit in the hallway and punched the “Kitchen” button with my French-tipped fingers.
“I’m UP!” I hollered back.
“Good.” Mama declared. “Are your bags packed?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“Even better, now go make sure your sisters are ready to roll too. Then get your cute butt downstairs ‘cause your eggs are already cold.”

“Yes Mama.” I sighed and started down the hall. I caught my reflection in the mirror hanging in between our bedrooms. My light brown curls were wild from bedhead. Across my chest sagged a bright red, oversized, University of Georgia t-shirt. On my bony hips rested black cotton shorts, wrinkled from tossing in my sleep. I padded down the hallway, passing dozens of family photos dotting the walls in gilded frames. I was still half in dreamland when I knocked on Kate’s door.

“Kaaaa-te,” I moaned. “You up?”
“Come in,” she called back. I opened the door to see my sibling seated on her bed. Our rooms were identical except hers had light blue walls and her view overlooked the large swimming pool in our backyard. A stack of blue-patterned Vera Bradley duffle bags waited to be taken downstairs. CNN was on the flat screen TV facing her bed. A talking head remarked about the record temperatures in Atlanta for July. Kate was watching the news, brushing her blonde hair cropped at her narrow shoulders. We looked very much like sisters with the same petite frame and deep blue eyes. Although, Kate had white blonde hair like our mama and Macy. Plus she was a lot paler because she was a recluse. Kate would hole up in her room for hours reading. While all that study was advantageous to a young lady heading for Yale Law, her time of the sun left her skin quite fair. Her white, bony arms cradled the brush as she wrapped a rubber band from her wrist around her hair. She was wearing a simple royal blue sundress matching our sapphire eyes. Kate’s dress wrapped in a halter ‘round her neck revealing her flat, bony chest. None of us Cunningham girls were blessed with much of a bosom. We had Mama to thank for that.

Kate stopped brushing her hair to take in the disheveled appearance of me — her baby sister.
“Grace, did you just roll out of bed?”
“Can you tell?”
Kate shrugged and looked back to CNN.
“Aw, heck…I look like a hot mess.”
“Screw it,” Kate said. “You can shower after the car ride. No one from that far south in Georgia knows you anyway.”
“Thank God for that. Did you hear Mama on the intercom?”
“Yeah, I’m ready. And unlike you, I already had my breakfast.”
“Pish posh! Why didn’t anyone wake me up until now?”
“We all know you like your sleep. Macy was up before sunrise to go running and when I heard her rummaging around, I just woke up too so I could start reading.”
“How many books are you bringing with you?”
“Only that one,” she pointed to a large volume of tort law lying open next to her. “But let’s face it. I’ll be lucky if I get any time to myself this weekend.”
“So the bride was up and at ‘em early?” I asked flopping down beside her on the bed. “I just want to go back to sleep.”
“You can nap in the car. I’ll go make sure Macy’s ready. You better get downstairs.” Kate nudged me in the thigh to scoot off her mattress. “I think there’s still some coffee left if you’re lucky.”
“Forget coffee. I only want sleep.”
“Now, now, sister, that’s no way for a lady to talk.” Kate mimicked in a high-pitched voice. “We can’t have Governor Brayden or any of Macy’s future in-laws hearing that kind of language.”
“Kate, I have to be on my best behavior this weekend, and it’s gonna be nuts. Is it too much for a girl to ask for a little shut eye?”
“Meh,” Kate grumbled. “I’m trying to train myself to only need five hours of sleep so I’m ready for Yale.”
“I still can’t believe you’re going to a Yankee school. Couldn’t you have stayed at UGA at least another year to wait on me?”
“Oh please. I had my fill of Athens for four years. Besides, you should get to experience the magical world of college on your own.”
I sighed and rolled off the bed. “Want me to help you take those bags down?”
“Do you mind?”
“Not at all,” I replied and pecked my older sister on the cheek.

As I padded across Kate’s room to the luggage, I looked out to the backyard. Our usually pristine swimming pool had tons of crap floating on the surface. Even from our third floor view I could make out large cicadas, beetles, and other insects which had dive bombed into the water, along with pine needles and leaves from the tall trees around the property.
“Ew…Kate, have you seen the pool?”
“No. Why? You know I never go out there.”
“It just looks disgusting. Like, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it that nasty before.”
“Guess they forgot to come clean it this week. And it is summer, so the bugs are awful.”
“Yeah, it just doesn’t seem like Mama or Daddy to not say something to the lawn guys.”
“Who knows? Mom’s been solely focused on this wedding. I wouldn’t say anything to her now. You wouldn’t want to incur the wrath of the Mother of Bridezilla.”
“Oh come on Kate! You know I hate it when you call Macy a Bridezilla. She’s really not that bad.”
“Not to you anyways,” Kate sighed.

I wasn’t about to go down that path with her. I grabbed one of her largest duffle bags and headed back into the hallway. Kate exited behind me to go make sure the bride-to-be was ready. She started down the hallway toward Macy’s bedroom calling, “Maaaa-cyyyy! Future Mrs. Brayden! Let’s go!”
“I’m COM-IN’! Jesus, Kate!” Macy screamed from her boudoir. She flung open her door to face Kate. She was wearing a white silk bathrobe, gaped open to reveal half of her left breast. Her blonde hair, highlighted in honey and gold shades, was tucked up in rollers. Her lean, muscular body was bronzed from the airbrushed tan she received the day before.
“What’s the rush?” Macy snipped, her green eyes blazing at Kate.
“Nothing, you still got time. Mom wanted to make sure we were all up-and-at-’em.”
“Well, I am. Can’t the bride have a moment to herself? It’s my wedding week.”
“Your wedding weekend, you mean?”
“No, it’s my week. Get it straight. Or my hand to God I will throw out all five hundred of those wedding programs where you’re listed as my Maid of Honor. And then, I’ll have new ones printed statin’ you’re out of the bridal party.”
“Christ, Macy. Give it a rest. Don’t get your panties in a wad.”
Macy’s emerald eyes widened with wrath towards Kate. “All I want is a few minutes to look my best in case a photographer is waitin’ outside. How about that?”
“Yes,” Kate groaned, rolling her eyes, “because the paparazzi are so concerned with your wedding to Campbell.”
“Well he is the son of the governor. Not like you ever had a boyfriend.”

I stopped before going downstairs. The last thing I wanted was for my sisters to be at each other. It would only make the five hours in the car an even longer trip. This weekend was going be a crazy enough in-and-of-itself with Mama stressed out over all the wedding details. I dropped Kate’s duffle with a loud thud to get Macy to notice me. She had such a short attention span I just needed to snap her out of Mad Macy Mode.
“Do I need to go roll my hair too?” I called down the hallway. “I haven’t even showered.”
Macy’s hard face softened at the sight of me: her baby sister. “Oh, Gracie. Sorry, good mornin’. No, no…you’re fine. It’s only me worryin’.” She shoved Kate aside to move down the hall to give me a big hug. “You always look so pretty, Gracie. I wish I could be seventeen again. There’s nothin’ better than to have youthful skin.”
“I told you to stay out of the tanning bed,” Kate scoffed. Macy dropped her arms from hugging me and started to move in towards Kate. Her mouth formed into an angry grimace then opened to open to hurl another insult when Mama called on the intercom.
“Girls, I can hear y’all! Everyone downstairs, now! Your daddy says we gotta beat the holiday traffic so let’s get a move on!”
I ran up behind Macy and flung my arms around my oldest sister’s waist. “Please, y’all don’t fight. I know everyone is stressed. I’m tired too, but can’t we just get along?”

Macy hugged me back. “We’re all good, Gracie” she simpered, patting my forearm with her French-manicured fingers, “at least for now. But Georgia Katherine Cunningham, I swear, you better act like my Maid of Honor for the next four days. I’ve got enough sorority sisters comin’ who are your size. I can stick one of them in your bridesmaid’s dress.”
“Go ahead.” Kate challenged. “I never looked good in that light yellow you chose. Who the hell picks ‘daffodils and daisies’ as their wedding colors?”
“Y’all!” I shouted with my arms still around Macy’s waist. “Kate, you stop. Macy, I’m not lettin’ you go until we get into your bedroom. Now march!”
“Who’s supposed to be the mature one here?” Kate quipped. “Whatever, it’s not my wedding. I didn’t ask to be your Maid of Honor. Mom made you ask me.”
“Mama didn’t make me do anything,” Macy spat as I her walked back into her room. “I thought it was a nice gesture to have you, and Grace, stand up there with me. I wanted y’all to be near Campbell as we made him part of our family. But if you don’t want to do it…”
“Macy!’ I cried. “Jesus! Please, just finish getting ready.” I unfurled her arms around Macy’s waist. My brown curls were even messier from wrangling with the bride-to-be. Macy turned to face me and ruffled my hair once more to show I was her favorite sister. Sometimes I think she acted this way only to piss Kate off.
“You’re too cute, Gracie. Maybe you should’ve been my Maid of Honor but Mama said you were too young for the bachelorette party.”
“Yeah, that woulda been pointless since I can’t even drink yet.”
“Maybe you can start this weekend,” she winked. “You are almost eighteen, and you’ll need training before you head to Athens. Kate, perhaps you should have one now. Maybe a cocktail would correct your bad attitude.” She stuck her tongue out at Kate before going inside her bedroom and slamming the door.

“Even at twenty-six she’s still a brat.” Kate remarked.
“And you should know better, Miss Yale Law.” I sighed. “Come on, Kate, you know she’s stressed. I would be too if I was marryin’ the son of Georgia’s governor.”
“What’s that saying of yours, Grace…pish posh?”
“Pish posh, indeed! Be made of honor this weekend. Ladies don’t lash out at each other the way you and Macy carry on. Perhaps some of those manners Grand Mere and Mama are always preaching about will help you in court.”
“God love you, Grace.” Kate said pecking me on the forehead. “Now you really better get downstairs before Mom hollers on that damn intercom again.”

Click here to read Chapter 2.

Czar Ice Bar

The Russians may be cold rulers; however, they have nothing on Czar Ice Bar. Atlanta’s newest destination for creative cocktails is the epitome of cool. Nestled in the heart of Buckhead’s bar triangle, this joint is equal parts Southern hospitality mixed with 300 different vodkas in a beautiful setting surrounded by gorgeous people. Oh yeah…and the sushi is to die for!

Of course, being Buckhead’s newest royalty, the house vodka at Czar Ice Bar is Russian Standard. Y’all can try any of their delicious martinis but beware (like the Russian mafia) they are quite powerful. But Czar, being filled with charm, decided to offer a clever way to sample multiple types of vodka. Guests can build their own flight with any of the distilled liquors in a variety of flavors – all made in-house. And the sampling of four vodkas is served on a block of ice!

The Cucumber vodka is distilled for just three hours while some of the fruit infusions such as Melon and Mango take a full 24 hours to develop their unique flavor. We highly recommend the Blue Ginger, Pineapple, Strawberry, Blueberry, and the somewhat spicy Jalapeño. Czar’s mixologists got very creative when they distilled Krispy Kreme in vodka (see photos of these delicious treats above) and even tried a green Skittle vodka which sold out in a flash.

Management says Czar has already hosted a few ATL celebrities including Young Jeezy, Sheree from The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and players from the Hawks, Braves and Falcons. Yet the most unique celebrity is Czar’s very own sushi connoisseur. Master Sushi Chef Saito Saito chef is one of only a handful of exclusive Master Chefs in the U.S., let alone in the South.

Born in Fuku-Shima Ken, Japan, Saito was in retirement down in Savannah for more than five years before management coaxed him into returning to the foodie scene. The new concept of a sushi restaurant coupled with a vodka bar so excited Saito that he came out of retirement and moved to Atlanta.

Thousands of pretty Southerners have flocked to this hot spot adjacent to East Andrews. So head over to Czar Bar to sit a spell with a cool cocktail and plate of sushi. It’s the perfect way to chill before things heats up. And Lord knows, in Buckhead, the night is always bound to get wild. From Russia with love and straight into Buckhead, y’all have got to check out Czar Ice Bar. Afterall, a night in Hotlanta should always start on a cool note.

For more information about Czar Ice Bar, check out their website, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter. Also, Daily Candy is offering $50 for $100 worth of sushi and cocktails to Czar!

Candy Bacon

Sugar Glazed Bacon Twist atop The Kang by Honeysuckle Gelato

Sugar Glazed Bacon Twist atop The Kang by Honeysuckle Gelato

It’s easy to create your own savory & sweet candy bacon concoction. This is the perfect appetizer to serve if hosting a brunch. Or bring it into the office on a weekday morning as a pleasant surprise for your colleagues. Candy bacon is sure to please anyone who lives both meat and sweets. Ron Swanson would love this dish. Our recipe includes a generous dash of Tex Blair’s Everything Seasoning Spice Rub, but y’all can include any flavor which suits your palette. To make this dish, simply purchase a package of bacon, a bag of brown sugar and ensure your spice cabinet has cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg and ground mustard. If you don’t have any of those seasonings, then just purchase a bottle of Tex Blair’s BBQ Rub and it’ll provide all the flavor needed. We also like to top it over ice cream, like Honeysuckle Gelato’s “The Kang”.

Remove it from the plastic wrap and place it on your cutting board. Slice that bad boy in two. Pour 1 cup of brown sugar and your “essence” as Emeril likes to say in a bowl. For our essence, we like either a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and ground mustard or your can use a heft helping of The BBQ rub. Take your pieces of bacon halves and dredge them in the brown sugar mixture. Twist each slice, then place on a greased bacon sheet. Pop in your oven for 25 minutes at 375 degrees (and flip on the broiler for 2-3 minutes towards the end) for a perfectly sweet bacon treat. If y’all really want to wow a crowd, serve with Bacon Waffles & Ice Cream.

Note: if making this for an early-morning event, y’all can season and twist your bacon the night before, then place it on a cooking tray lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap then place in the fridge and keep for up to 24 hours.

The Red & Black Needs Help

The University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication experienced two great tragedies this year. The first was when long-time professor, Conrad Fink, passed away. Fink left behind a legacy spanning 80 years of fantastic journalism with almost three decades of teaching us young “rascals” of the world to become decent reporters, editors and publishers. His classroom was small (a rarity at UGA) where he gathered the best and brightest Grady had to offer to impart his words of wisdom. I can’t even think about Grady now without remembering Fink.

Grady’s second great loss occurred this week, when Polina Marinova resigned as Editor-in-Chief of The Red & Black. Marinova spent this past summer interning at USA Today. Her story profiling Aimee Copeland’s recovery process even made national headlines before she returned to Athens for her final fall semester. I’ve met Marinova only once, at Professor Fink’s memorial service. Upon meeting her, it’s easy to see that this girl has got “it.” I couldn’t think of a better Grady candidate to serve as Editor of The Red & Black.

I was in her shoes about five years ago. Back then it was my turn to captain the helm at UGA’s newspaper. For those who have never visited The Red & Black, the pretty two-story building sits atop a hill in Athens looking down over the historic campus. To write for The Red & Black is to be a part of history in the making. Established in 1893, as the independent voice for students, this newspaper’s mission is to empower its young journalists with their right to Freedom of Speech. UGA was home to some of the most famous writers such as Lewis Grizzard, and even The AJC’s own publisher, Amy Glennon. Other notable Red & Black alumni at The AJC include Kyle Wingfield, Greg Bluestein, Elissa Eubanks, Matt Kempner, plus many more.

Therefore, it was disappointing to see The AJC not take a stronger stance on the ruckus over in Athens this past week. For those readers who missed it, on Aug. 15 it was announced in a memo from the board (albeit a draft) that UGA’s students would no longer have the power to veto content for their own publication. Final discretion of all stories would be given to a newly created Editorial Director. Effectively, an executive committee presiding over the student newspaper was trying to take power away from its student journalists. This is the first time in 120 years such audacity was ever considered.

The national media, including The New York Times, Huffington Post, Gawker and The Poynter Institute gave more editorial space to this story than Georgia’s own leading newspaper. When I looked to The AJC for coverage, the best it could come up with was a story from The AP Wire. As a former Editor of The Red & Black, I was bombarded on emails, texts, and Facebook posts with the simple question “What the hell is going on in Athens?” I could only respond with the answer I knew to be true: if Fink was alive, this would never have happened.

Last Thanksgiving, AJC columnist Kyle Wingfield’s paid homage to Professor Fink as his mentor; yet, I’ve seen nothing from the staff of The AJC calling attention to the dire situation at their own college paper. Perhaps The AJC didn’t think this story was newsworthy. The other major media outlets who care about journalism in America sure thought this was fit to print.

Thank God…Marinova had the gumption to call “foul.” She and the entire group of desk editors resigned from The Red & Black, launching their own website and Twitter page appropriately called “Red & Dead”. Yet the AJC hasn’t published her side of the story. By the way, Marinova is from Atlanta. The young 20-something alumna from North Springs High School made headlines in The New York Times. Isn’t that newsworthy in-and-of-itself?

And perhaps The AJC thought the story would die away. Harry Montevideo, The Red & Black’s publisher of more than 20 years sure did. “I hate to say it, but from my viewpoint it was an overreaction,” Montevideo told The Poynter Institute. “It was our best attempts at creating discussion and dialogue around it. We were met with an emotional response.”

As a former Editor of The Red & Black, my heart broke upon hearing the news of the staff walking out of the building on Wednesday. Sure, it was an emotional response, but it was the right one, and the student staff should not be penalized for it. This is my formal request to The Red & Black board to reinstate Polina Marinova, Julia Carpenter, and the rest of student staff who resigned last week, should they so desire to return. I know the majority of Red & Black alumni feel the same.

Grady will be in dire straits if it cannot continue to supply its most talented student journalists the opportunity to manage their own newspaper. Although The Red & Black became an independent student newspaper in 1980, completely free from the influence of the University’s administration, perhaps it is now time for Grady to get more involved. The whole reason this hullabaloo occurred was because of money. The Red & Black went to printing once a week last fall, when it previously published Monday through Friday, due to rising costs. Continuous coverage could be found online at But insufficient funds incited Montevideo and the board to hire a staff of professionals to help increase revenues. It was the new General Manager, a board member by the name of Ed Stamper, who wrote that terrible memo. Stamper has hence resigned, but the problem of funding remains.

Maybe it’s time Grady gave The Red & Black some financial help. If The Red & Black board cannot continue to protect its own students’ First Amendment rights, then perhaps Grady should play a stronger role in the management of its students’ media outlet. Without The Red & Black and Professor Fink, The AJC wouldn’t have the staffers it does today.

The Red & Black’s Dire Position

Editor’s Note: was created on the premise of spreading good news across the South. In these dark times of demise regarding our First Amendment rights, it was our duty to publish the sentiments of one of our own contributors.

I, Polina Marinova, have resigned as the editor-in-chief from The Red & Black, the student newspaper covering the University of Georgia. The Red & Black’s top editors, design staff, photo staff and reporters walked out of the newspaper building this afternoon.

The Red & Black has covered the University of Georgia community since 1893 and has been independent of the University since 1980. The newspaper has always been a student-run operation, but recently, we began feeling serious pressure from people who were not students. In less than a month, The Red & Black has hired more than 10 permanent staff with veto power over students’ decisions.

In a draft outlining the “expectations of editorial director at The Red & Black,” a member of The Red & Black’s Board of Directors stated the newspaper needs a balance of good and bad. Under “Bad,” it says, “Content that catches people or organizations doing bad things. I guess this is ‘journalism.’ If in question, have more GOOD than BAD.” I took great offense to that, but the board member just told me this is simply a draft. But one thing that would not change is that the former editorial adviser, now the editorial director, would see all content before it is published online and in print. For years, students have had final approval of the paper followed by a critique by the adviser only after articles were published. However, from now on, that will not be the case. Recently, editors have felt pressure to assign stories they didn’t agree with, take “grip and grin” photos and compromise the design of the paper.

But what’s most alarming to me is that there was no input from The Red & Black student staff about any of these changes. I was doing an internship this summer, and I did not receive any materials related to these changes until I myself emailed the board member about it. Even then, nothing was solidified, and I still do not even know what the print product will look like in a week. I’ve worked at this paper since I was a freshman and held multiple leadership positions throughout. This semester, we have a really talented, smart and dedicated staff that had no voice in these changes. It all came from the top, not from the students.

The Red & Black has always been the best experience for student journalists. It’s no longer a place where lessons can be learned without “serious repercussions.” We don’t believe that is a learning environment.

As the former editor-in-chief, I stood by my editors and staff 100 percent and what I found out today was that we all stood together.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]Polina Marinova is a University of Georgia student and former fall Red & Black Editor-in-Chief. As of Aug. 15, 2012, she resigned from her post in the pursuit of her First Amendment rights. Follow Polina on Twitter and check back for more of her adventures. [/author_info] [/author]