Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quiet on the Set!

I thought when I left NY that I wouldn't come across any more movie sets. I was wrong. Comedian/actor Owen Wilson has been in town for nearly two months for the filming of a 2011 movie called "Hall Pass."

There is a beautiful neighborhood near me known as the Brookhaven Historic District. It bounds the golf course of the Capital Country Club. A couple weeks ago, I found the country club on a Google map and went to check it out—to see if it would be a good place to go walking. It was beyond good. I fell in love with the neighborhood and its tremendous homes. The streets are lined with dogwoods, cherry trees, and multi-colored azaleas. The lots are huge, and the homes are fantastic. This quickly became my running trail.

On Saturday I was doing my run when I passed a security guard and some seriously long electrical cabling at an empty lot on Club Drive NE. I asked the guard what she was guarding, and she said they were filming the movie "Hall Pass" there with Owen Wilson. "Owen Wilson!? I love Owen Wilson!" I told her.

On Sunday, when I jogged past her again, I asked her if she was still waiting for the crew to show up. She said, "No, they start filming tomorrow night." So, on Monday after work, I grabbed my camera and went for a walk up Club Drive.

Sure enough, large trucks came up behind me, heading to the filming destination. The road was marked "Closed," but that didn't stop the Jaguars, Mercedes, and Lexuses of Brookhaven from navigating their home streets. Nearing the set, I saw all the lighting equipment set up and the trucks lining the street. A stunt company vehicle passed me.

I spoke with one of the guys in charge, who was standing in the front yard next door toof the adorable yellow house where filming was to take place beginning after dark. He explained how they'd come in two weeks ago and planted that huge tree in the middle of the front yard of the yellow house, and that the owners were ecstatic about it. Of course, they were also happy about the fee they received to allow filming at their home. He pointed to the front yard, which was scattered with kids' toys and bikes, and told me, "Those are my props." I took pictures of the crew and their vehicles, which you can link to here.

Pretty cool. I didn't stick around long enough to see Owen Wilson, although he's been spotted several times in Atlanta since arriving in February, per several online blogs and news articles like Follow Owen Wilson and Christina Applegate To Atlanta's Hot Spots and Farrelly brothers and Owen Wilson bring Hollywood to Castleberry Hill (Atlanta).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Yellow Cars of Georgia

You don't live down here without knowing what a Neti pot is. I can't get over how bad the pollen is in the South. As of last week, all of the cars in Atlanta were coated with a thick layer of yellow stuff. I'd walk up to my car to get into it, and I could literally blow pollen off the trunk lid. There was so much of it that I didn't want to touch my door handles! And I park in a garage.

It's a strange sight to see people using their windshield wipers to clear the pollen off— as if it were snow. Getting the stuff off your car is impossible. It keeps coming back. It reminds me of how cars look in the Northeast after a big snow when they're filthy from the road salt and dirty snow.

Yesterday I couldn't take it anymore. I had a free coupon for a $12.95 car wash, so I used it. I knew the line would be long, but the wait wasn't too bad because there were about 20 people working there. When my car came out, it was blue again. I was ecstatic to be able to touch the door handles. I felt squeaky clean, like I'd just had a long shower.

So I put the top down, (only temporarily, because you don't want the pollen inside your car too), and I drove to my brother Dave's for a dinner party—at which one of the big topics of conversation was, you guessed it—allergies. By the time I left that evening to come home, the first light coat of yellow was already on the car.

Walking around in sandals in Dave's heavily wooded back yard yesterday, I came back to the house with yellow toenails (previously painted red), yellow feet, and yellow shoes (inside and out). After sitting on a porch swing, my jeans were coated with the stuff. Puffs of yellow smoke emanated from the denim as I slapped away the pollen.

My poor sister-in-law Judy is really suffering because of her allergies. In fact, "pollen count" actually makes the news here. They've been talking about it on the news for at least a week now, saying this will last another month. A bad day is a pollen count of 1,500 particulates per cubic meter. Last Wednesday, that number topped 5,000. We had a temporary reprieve on Thursday when it rained, but the pollen is back in full force now.

See the MSNBC Video: In South, worst pollen in years, where the "run" on allergy medicine is causing pharmacies to restock their shelves daily.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Meet Baby II, the "Bimmer"

I think I'm in love. Prior to this year, I'd never seen the inside of a BMW car before, much less driven one. In fact, for years I'd stereotyped BMW drivers as snobby speeders, zipping in and out of traffic with no regard for those of us in our practical Japanese cars or American hybrids.

Boy was I wrong. BMW enthusiasts know a good thing when they see it. The first time I drove one last month, I was in heaven. It was a used Arctic Blue 3-series convertible. The ride was smooth, the car a timeless beauty, and the attention to detail and owner comfort beyond exceptional. I had to have one.

I admit, I had similar feelings for the Mercedes CLK convertibles. Driving those cars was like walking on air. I now knew what I'd been missing all these years. I've owned Hondas, Toyotas, Datsuns/Nissans, Volkswagens, Ford trucks, a Ford SUV, a Ford hybrid, a Chevy, a Mazda, and even (briefly) a crappy GM sedan. But never a luxury car. Never a convertible.

Car shopping was a pain. It's a full-time job that is full of disappointments (at least three cars were sold out from under me during the process, including the Arctic blue one that I wanted). But it's also a chance to meet interesting people. There was Jimmy, the 67-year-old widower out in the country who asked me to a dance after test-driving his '99 Mercedes-Benz SLK. Although Jimmy was sweet on me, I decided against roadsters after driving that car—a two-seater just does not provide enough space around me. I wanted a four-seater convertible.

There was the 6'1" tall massive mountain of a woman from New Orleans with four cats who told me about the time she parked her brand new Mini Cooper in a friend's driveway in Florida. She'd left the top down when the automatic lawn sprinklers came on and drenched the inside of the car, ruining the radio. Bummer. I didn't buy that car, either. It was cute, but not me.

Yup, met lots of interesting folk.

Then there was the whore's car. I was stepping into a used blue 2006 BMW 325Ci convertible at an importer's lot when a middle-aged black woman with long hair stopped on the sidewalk directly in front of the parked BMW. She was staring intensely at the car—admiring it, I presumed. I said, "It's pretty, isn't it?" She said, "No." Interested in her opinion, I asked her, "What makes you say that?" She looked at me and announced, "Because that's a whore's car."

I couldn't stop laughing. Either she'd already been drinking that day, or she was a zealous Southern Baptist who thought I needed saving. Possibly both. When I told the dealer about it later, he apologized. I laughed, "I'm from New York - I've seen it all."

Two days later I went back and bought the whore's car. And I love her. One of the cool things about BMW is their 4-year 50,000-mile free maintenance program and warranty. Nice. I took it in and had a free inspection and oil change this past week. Talk about getting the red carpet treatment. This dealer's service department didn't hesitate to put me in a brand new white 2010 BMW 328i sedan to use as a loaner while they worked on my BMW.

Man, the sedans are even smoother rides than the convertibles! I almost felt fickle for enjoying it so much. Oh, and BMW doesn't return your serviced car to you without washing it first. Granted, the valet key copy I had made cost me 50 bucks, but for some reason I didn't mind paying it. (A master key copy would have been $175. Yikes.)

Lucky for me, the week I bought the car, my brother Dave introduced me to two neat women who own a startup technology company here in Georgia, and I found myself employed just five days later.

To top that off, it was 80 degrees and sunny today—literally a perfect day. I, of course, found an excuse to leave my home office and go to my brother's home office to pick up some network equipment for the job. I sure took my time on that drive! The sun felt great.

Yeh, yeh. I am fully aware that in about six weeks I'll be complaining miserably about how much I am sweating in the sweltering humidity here. . . .

Man, I can't believe how much I'm enjoying it here. Atlanta - of all places. Hmm.