Atlanta’s Vortex Satisfies Hungriest Appetite 

The morning after the Radiohead concert was a slow-moving affair. Before my feet hit the floor I did a systems check; no headache, cognitive thought was functioning, and my parts & pieces were intact. I must be living right.

Sunday was a travel day. Atlanta had been beyond a gracious host, but time to shake the cobwebs, gather our debris, catch a shower, and get mobile before missing the late checkout deadline.

When you gotta get moving after an ambitious night out, I find the best way to guard against fatigue and a delayed onset hangover is to indulge in breakfast cocktails. It’s important to get your hops levels re-elevated and evened out.

While it’s sad to be departing Atlanta, travel days do have their positives when executed properly. My idea was to saddle up and rampage through a few notable establishments for a parting fix of Atlanta love.

Maia and I needed a plan, and in order to make that plan it would require a Bloody Mary.

My thought was to seek out inspiration at The Highlander. Open since 1992, it had a solid rep as a rock-n-roll dive bar, and seemed a sympathetic location to get our bearings straight as Radiohead’s music still rang from our ears.

Oddly, we found this devilish location tucked away quietly in a rather unremarkable Midtown strip-mall. Cheerful flower boxes hung welcomingly from the railings outlining the front patio, contrasting the black glassed front door and windows covered in a vast array of counterculture stickers. Inside the walls were hung with goth portraits, emblazoned skate boards, shadow box deities and one prominent psychedelic rendering of Edgar Allen Poe. Much, if not all of it, was for sale.

Our gaunt waitress was pale in complexion, with long straight jet black hair and lots of tattoos. She could tell what we were up to the night before and asked curiously about the Radiohead show. Having seen them previously, she was into discussing details about the set.

We took in the menu. The Highlander is known to have a solid kitchen that serves out of the ordinary comfort food, like Jamaican jerk chili, jalapeño corn fritters and oxtail soup. We easily could have dined here but I was looking for something else.

As I began searching through scraps of paper where I had written down local restaurants to possibly try, out came a tall and in-charge Absolute Bloody Mary, full of olives, peppers and celery. It was a vegetarian meal with a buzz.

With my vital signs starting to stabilize, I began serious strategizing of where to go next. Atlanta has world-renowned traffic and we didn’t want to go venturing across the city only to be sitting in our car. God bless the Google that provided destination distances and restaurant reviews.

We were in Atlanta, so serious barbecue was a legit option. A mere 12 minutes down the road from The Highlander was Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q. Texas twin brothers Jonathan and Justin Fox opened their Atlanta restaurant in 2007, after hosting backyard barbecues that grew to crowds of more than 250 guests. Here they smoke their hearty Lone Star-style barbecue over hickory daily.

Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is regarded as a national and international destination for barbecue lovers. It’s a big dog in the Atlanta region. These boys move 10,000 pounds of pork and brisket each week.

We arrived on this Sunday to find an expansive parking lot overflowing. Fox Bros. is a melting pot of different folks crossing paths in mutual love for the consumption of smoked pig and cow. It was brimming with energy, as all knew this would be a taste treat.

That being said we opted not to stick around. Sounds crazy I know, but parking was a pain and there was a wait for seating. In our slightly damaged condition we were not feeling the hassle or the crowd.

Don’t get me wrong, I did visit the carry-out window to secure a double order of the fatty cut brisket.  I may be particular but I’m not getting this close to a joint with a reputation like Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q and not give it a try. That would be crazy. The smoke infusion was super yummy, and the fatty brisket was beyond decadent.

Back to the Google I went, but this time I needed a sure winner. We had a six-hour drive to get started soon.

I credit our waitress, Christine, from Friday night at Noble Fin with helping to make this selection. She suggested visiting the Little 5 Points neighborhood to get a dose of local weirdness. I took notice of a Midtown cheeseburger joint, The Vortex, that happened to have a Little 5 Points’ outpost not five minutes down the road from Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q.

The different atmosphere of Little 5 Points (L5P) was immediate. It had a funky lo-fi feel, very hippy & trippy. As I heard it described, your five senses will be stimulated by the texture of L5P. Murals cover many building walls and windows, giving the neighborhood a vibrant landscape. Don’t look for chain stores here, they’ve been provided limited access to preserve the community’s character.

I fully appreciated that the marijuana dispensary in L5P shared a storefront with an Atlanta Police substation.

The Vortex is a well-known hangout spot, and impossible to miss – just look for the 20-foot giant laughing skull. It is an Atlanta landmark.

Inside is full of strangeness, up the walls and across the ceiling. The original Vortex bar was opened in 1992 in a cramped Midtown location by the three Benoit siblings, followed by the L5P location four years later. What started as a bar that wanted to feed their friends quality cheeseburgers has turned into a reliable establishment that is a frequent winner of “Best Cheeseburger” in Atlanta.

The Vortex is first and foremost a full on bar and only serves those 21 and over. Vortex also enforces an “Official Idiot-Free Zone.” The owners are big on wanting to maintain a fun place to drink and work. They do not tolerate poor behavior from rude or demanding customers. Clearly they have a sense of humor, but violators do get tossed. Check the House Rules or “Idiot Barometer” if you have questions.

They don’t play around with their booze selection. Hundreds of beers are on the menu, along with a substantial selection of bourbon, whiskey, and Atlanta’s largest offering of single-malt scotch. Atlanta magazine was impressed enough to give The Vortex its “Best Overall Liquor Selection in Atlanta” award.

I went with a Maker’s Mark & Coke to get things started. It was a little Kentucky to go with the soft drink of choice when in The Real Thing’s hometown. Picking up the oversized menu it was quickly apparent everything The Vortex offered was substantial and aimed to please. It’s comfort food on steroids.

The soft drinks come in “big-ass 32-ounce tumblers,” why, “because this is motherfuckin’ America,” or so the menu says. The sandwiches come king sized and are unique concoctions.

Take the trademarked Hot Southern Mess: A fried chicken breast topped with a fried egg, all covered with white sausage gravy, and served on Texas Toast. “It’s so damn good you’ll wanna slap yo’ mama.”

Priced at a reasonable $10.95, my immediate thought was this sandwich could lead to a coronary, but just wait, the owners have that concept cornered.

I was no joke hungry, and informed my server I wanted a bacon double cheeseburger. He paused, giving me a once over, and then asked, “you sure about that?”

The burgers at The Vortex come in big, juicy half-pound patties of premium ground sirloin. I did not need a pound of meat, and revised my order down to The Plain ‘Ol Original Vortex Burger, for $8.25, adding bacon & cheddar cheese.

Now about that coronary. Past the Signature Burgers, Non-Beef Options, and Old School Diner Burgers on the menu come the Coronary Bypass Burgers. I don’t know what consumes these monstrosities but it must be large and have the stomach of a goat.

Take the entry-level (single) Coronary Bypass Burger. Instead of hamburger buns, two grilled bacon cheese sandwiches anchor the top and bottom ends of this beast. Included are four slices of white bread, a 8-oz. ground sirloin patty, 10 slices of American cheese, one fried egg, nine strips of bacon, with 4 ounces of mayo. This is served with 10 ounces of spuds topped with 6 ounces of Cheesy-Cheese Goo, sprinkled with bacon bits. Estimated calories (w/side): 3,707, for $19.95.

There are double, triple and Quadruple Coronary Bypass Burger offerings, with the latter topping out at 9,606 calories, and costing a weighty $79.95, which is nothing compared to the medical bills this behemoth must visit upon its victims.

Meanwhile my measly half-pound bacon cheeseburger arrived cooked to a medium rare perfection, all pink and bloody. It was a hefty sandwich, dense and substantial in my hands, like true ground steak should feel. The succulent texture was rich and exploded with the flavor of beef seared over an open flame.

One bite and I became a Vortex believer. Sure this place has lots of attitude and swagger, but it can back it up with its bar service, knowledgable staff, and what I regard as arguably the best bacon cheeseburger I’ve had the pleasure of sampling.

The next time you’re in Atlanta, make a pit stop at the giant skull in Midtown or L5P. The Vortex is still family owned, and still fiercely independent. Be sure to bring an appetite and do remember to play nicely with others.

THE VORTEX | 438 Moreland Avenue NE | Atlanta, GA | 404.688.1828

FOX BROS. BAR-B-Q | 1238 DeKalb Ave NE | Atlanta, GA | 404.577.4030

THE HIGHLANDER | 931 Monroe Drive | Atlanta, GA | 404.872.0060


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Radiohead Rock Atlanta

Finally it was Radiohead Day. We arrived in Atlanta Friday night – dined impeccably at Noble Fin that evening, and Saturday at the Atlanta Breakfast Club, taken in whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium, but those were merely fringe benefits of making this 400-mile journey south. We were here to see Radiohead play a sold out concert at Philips Arena Saturday evening.

I was psyched by the new disc, A Moon Shaped Pool. It was more direct and up than the previous King of Limbs, and less ambient. This new tour opened in America, but only 11 shows would be played in the states, with the predominance of the dates overseas. Atlanta was my closest opportunity.

I last saw Radiohead in 2012 at Riverbend in Cincinnati on the King of Limbs tour. These boys don’t get out often, and the last few times I’ve seen them it has been outdoors. This would be a stand-alone show under a roof, allowing all the energy to stay contained.

Tickets for Atlanta went on sale Inauguration Day in January. I was off work, home watching the awfulness in Washington, DC unfold and monitoring Ticketmaster. I felt obligated to salvage a sense of civility by scoring tickets, in the midst of the despair witnessed by Trump ascending to the White House. This was no easy feat, as Philips Arena sold out instantly. I quickly turned to the brisk secondary market on Stub Hub, and was able to secure respectable lower bowl seats at a premium.

Radiohead is not a new band but they set themselves apart from others in that they remain in a calculated state of flux. Like their music, the band itself is divergent. Members are constantly shifting and shaping with the times, using technology and skill to develop a different sound and invent a new dynamic.

Most bands are one trick ponies. They are what they are, and they play the same sound till the creativity is gone and greatest hits shows are all that’s left. Whereas Radiohead creates its own energy force through reinvention, keeping the sound fresh and the interests of the musicians thriving.

Formed in 1985, casual observers know Radiohead for Creep, their 1992 debut single, and its inclusion on the subsequent first disc, Pablo Honey (1993). Creep became one of the definitive anthems of the fledgling 1990s alternative rock movement. Their reputation solidified with The Bends, its impressive sophomore release that saw the band pull away from grunge, and produce the epic, Fake Plastic Trees. But it was the third release, OK Computer, from 1997, that established Radiohead as international rock stars.

It’s easy to say Radiohead is the current generation’s Pink Floyd. They are different animals, but the social commentary is present in both, along with the trippedelic aspects. When a band like either of these hits the road I treat it like a happening. It’s a celebration to get the opportunity to be in a room with these boys. Watching them work these massive layered tunes up live is breathtaking. As a fan of psychedelic music, anytime I can venture through the mind’s eye of Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards) and witness the brilliance of their audio & visual effects play out, I’m there with bells on.

Trust my buzz was fully engaged. It was an all-day affair, pre-gaming since waking with breakfast drinks. Things were going to get psychedelic, so I chose to sport a necklace of blue LED light-up dolphins. I arbitrarily purchased them that afternoon at the Georgia Aquarium. You never know when you might need light in a dark space, said anyone who has walked the moors at night.

Philips Arena is situated across from the Georgia Dome and is home to the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. It is sleek, modern and full of flavor. Maia and I walked around for a minute seeking Kentucky bourbon to mix with that fabulous Atlanta soda pop, Coca-Cola. None could be found. Only Crown Royal. Finally Maker’s Mark was spotted and two double Maker’s & Coke’s were ours at $20 a pop.

If the stage was at 12 o’clock, our seats were at 5 o’clock, perfect to take in all the visuals and stage antics. Yorke welcomed fans with Daydreaming off the new disc. The band played it straight with a solitary light on them for half the song before a sea of white pinspot rays pierced the darkness like a disco ball.

Three straight songs led off from the new disc before a jump to light speed came with Airbag from OK Computer, followed by the single My Iron Lung from The Bends. Joining Airbag was Paranoid Android, Subterranean Homesick Alien, and Karma Police – all massive tunes from OK Computer, which is being celebrated on this tour to mark its 20th anniversary.

Other highlights included: Street Spirit (Fade Out); Idioteque; the tour debut of House of Cards from In Rainbows, marking the first playing of it since 2012; Burn the Witch; and You and Whose Army. Atlanta made for the perfect backdrop to such a monster rock-n-roll show, and the knowledgeable crowd, many traveling from Nashville and Birmingham, responded with tremendous energy throughout.


Yorke’s spastic dance moves were unveiled 12 songs into the set with Myxomatosis (Judge, Jury & Executioner) off Hail to the Thief. Seemingly overtaken by trance, Yorke’s body began to gyrate and undulate in vertical waves moving him back and forth across the stage, as he punched holes in the air.


This English alternative rock band formed in 1985 while attending school together in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Twenty five years and nine albums later Yorke, Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, other instruments), Ed O’Brien (guitars, backing vocals), Colin Greenwood (bass), and Phil Selway (drums, percussion, backing vocals) continue to impress.

Radiohead, like the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd are different every time out of the box. They teach listeners the value of patience. Hold on tight, the journey to the crescendos will be winding, but some of the best stuff happens in these in-between moments.

Radiohead put its mellifluous brilliance on full display in Atlanta. It’s hallmark of ethereal diffusion was perfected with the band’s innovative musicianship, curated special effects, and simmering intensity throughout a 25 song set and three encores.


Outside a confluence of enthusiasm hit the Atlanta streets. My blue dolphin lights were blazing away, and had a Pied Piper effect as followers joined us marching to Centennial Olympic Park. Passing the CNN studios how could I not climb on the iconic red letters out front. I was informed the police frown on such behavior so we made it quick.

A block down, glowing like a beacon in the night was Skyview Atlanta. This was another take on the giant urban Farris Wheel. It was a big sucker, with crazy lighting. All the trippers spilled from Philips Arena to this spot in search of thrills. It just happened to also be prom night. Tux-clad seniors escorted their taffeta-challenged dates into enclosed viewing pods with wide-eyed Radiohead attendees. Bet those were some fun conversations.

Maia and I continued to walk deeper into the peace of Olympic Park. The lights diminished and sounds faded. Only water sliding over rocks accompanied us. Yet Radiohead lifted my spirit into the clear Atlanta night, reminding me that we would all be Okay.

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Chris Cornell of Soundgarden Found Dead in Detroit Hotel

One of the grand architects of the grunge movement and premier shapeshifters of the 1990s was lost on May 18, 2017, when Chris Cornell died. He was best known as the lead singer for avant-garde Seattle ragers Soundgarden, who along with Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Nirvana were vanguards of the alternative “grunge” rock movement that shattered the deplorable headlock hair metal bands had on popular music entering the 1990s.


Formed in 1984, Soundgarden achieved its biggest success with the 1994 album Superunknown, which debuted at number one on the “Billboard 200” and yielded the Grammy Award-winning singles Black Hole Sun and Spoonman. The band broke up in 1997 due to internal strife over its creative direction.


In 2000, after Zack de la Rocha left as vocalist of Rage Against the Machine, the remaining members Tom Morello (lead guitar), Tim Commerford (bass/backing vocals), and Brad Wilk (drums) decided to remain together and sought a replacement. After trying out several  prominent possibilities, there was no denying the instant chemistry that came when Chris Cornell stepped to the microphone with the remaining Rage members. This resulted in the formation of the rock supergroup Audioslave.

Through six years Audioslave released three albums and received three Grammy nominations. They also became the first American rock band to perform an open-air concert in Cuba.



I had the privilege of catching Audioslave at one of its tour warmup shows on March 7, 2003. It was a Friday night in Philadelphia at the Electric Factory. Myself and two buddies drove up from DC after Audioslave’s self-titled disc had dropped and curiosity was at a premium for the volatility that would be on display when combining Rage with Soundgarden.

Both these bands were use to playing before massive crowds of spectators. Turning them loose inside a 2,500 person venue was almost unfair. They exploded onto the stage with “Set It Off.” I vividly recall Chris Cornell stalking the stage. His intense eyes were piercing, as he scanned the crowd looking at them like prey. Many in attendance were not familiar with the new disc yet, but were fans of Rage and Soundgarden. None was disappointed as tunes from all were played. It was a sharp, tight set, full of energy as these titans of the rock world knew they were about to unleash a powerful musical presence, and they were amped to be in front of a crowd performing the new songs. It was one of the best shows I’ve seen in terms of presence and sheer energy.

Audioslave disbanded in 2007. This corresponded with Rage Against the Machine getting back together in 2007 for a reunion tour. Soundgarden regrouped in 2010 and released a new disc in 2012, King Animal. Soundgarden was playing together up until Cornell’s death.

On May 18, 2017, Cornell was found dead with a band around his neck in his hotel room at the MGM Grand in Detroit, after performing a show with Soundgarden. From the outset, the investigation into Cornell’s death was described as a possible suicide. Subsequently, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death as suicide by hanging. However, Cornell’s widow questioned whether he would deliberately end his own life, and said that the drug Ativan, which her husband was taking, might have led him to commit suicide. Cornell had a long history of substance abuse.

Cornell will be remembered for his extensive songwriting and nearly four-octave vocal range. His ability to maintain pitch and control while delivering his brand of powerful vocal belting is what set him apart. The man could shred.


Cornell was voted “Rock’s Greatest Singer” by readers of Guitar World, ranked 4th in the list of “Heavy Metal’s All-Time Top 100 Vocalists” by Hit Parader, 9th in the list of “Best Lead Singers of All Time” by Rolling Stone, and 12th in MTV’s “22 Greatest Voices in Music.”

According to Nielsen Music, across his entire catalog (Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog and solo career), Cornell sold 14,865,000 albums, 8,808,000 digital downloads, and had 300,091,000 on-demand audio streams.

Admittedly Superunknown is the most accessible Soundgarden disc, but press play on Badmotorfinger to feel the full power of Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd, and drummer Matt Cameron.

Cornell was a seeker and a story-teller, translating his experiences and mental anguish into a coiled fist of vocals, ready to punch to the face. His angry growl will be missed.


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Trump Travels Abroad As Controversy Swirls Back Home

The Trumpster took to the air last Friday with his merry band of pranksters, to embark on his first foreign journey since taking office. The nine-day carnival ride is stopping in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bethlehem, a sit down with the pope at the Vatican, Brussels and finally Sicily before heading home May 27.

It’s amusing that Trump had to venture to Riyadh to gain the fanfare and adulation he so desperately seeks in America. While he did pull off a long shot victory in winning the presidency, Trump was a damaged goods from the campaign trail for all his bluster, misogyny, xenophobia, and white nationalism.

Things only worsened once he began transitioning into the presidency with his questionable choices for staff and cabinet positions. Then the Russia investigation went public. There was no honeymoon period for Trump, which was of his own doing. But the president feels he deserves more love from the press and other detractors.

This made all the pomp and circumstance the Saudi royals lavished on Trump that much more welcomed by the beleaguered neophyte president. Evidently in Saudi Arabia Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is held curiously in high esteem. I don’t get that, but I will say it has been powerful to see the first lady and Ivanka prominently accompanying the president in a country where women’s rights and human rights are tragically suppressed.

Meanwhile back in Washington a firestorm was raging on several fronts for a White House consumed by scandal over inappropriate Russian contacts, the haphazard firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and an inability to adequately run the country.

Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor who was forced to resign due to lying about his contacts with Russian operatives and for having served as an agent of the Turkish government, refused to comply with a subpoena to provide records to the Senate Intelligence Committee and is invoking his Fifth Amendment rights.

Subsequent subpoenas have been issued for records from Flynn’s two private businesses as well. The two leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee are weighing the option of a contempt charge against Flynn. Any daydream that Flynn might be granted immunity to testify appears remote. Instead it’s likely he will be squeezed to provide information because he is vulnerable to unlawful contact charges and possible influence peddling. Democrats say new documents show Flynn lied to investigators about trips he made to Russia and misled Pentagon officials about his contacts with Russians when he was renewing his security clearance in early 2016.

Ex-Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Roger Stone did turn over requested documents to the Senate Intel Committee.

Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating Trump’s Russian ties.

Robert Mueller, the former FBI director appointed as special prosecutor to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s contact with the Trump campaign, was briefed on contents of some of the memos that James Comey, the recently fired former director of the FBI, kept to document his conversations with President Trump.

Arguably the biggest development was the revelation President Trump asked Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Adm. Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to publicly deny evidence of cooperation between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. The president’s treatment of Comey has raised questions about whether he abused his powers by seeking to discredit the FBI investigation or risked giving the impression that he was obstructing justice.

Both Coats and Rogers were uncomfortable with the nature of the president’s request and refused to comply. As the FBI investigation ramped up further and evidence grew stronger, Comey sought additional funds to widen the inquiry into Trump and his associates colluding with Russians so the president fired Comey to cover his tracks – as Trump indicated in his recent interview with Lester Holt from NBC News.

John Brennan, former CIA director.

Thickening the plot was testimony from John Brennan, the former CIA director, who confirmed the link between Trump and Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. “It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process,” said Brennan in testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, “and that they undertook these activities despite our strong protests and explicit warning that they do not do so.”

Brennan indicated that Trump campaign aides and associates repeatedly communicated with senior Russian intelligence officials, and that the information about these contacts rose to the level of being passed along to the FBI for investigation to determine whether collusion took place. “People on a treasonous path …don’t always realize they’re on that path until it’s too late.”

Brennan later confirmed that it wasn’t just the fact that Trump campaign officials communicated with Russians that concerned him – it was which Russians the Trump associates spoke to.

Brennan has served both Republican and Democratic presidents, and has a reputation beyond reproach. Considering the classified nature of much of this information, Brennan could only speak so freely in an open committee session, but this was some of the more damning indications of the evidence piling up against the Trump administration.

With all of this swirling as a backdrop, Trump again showed his impeccable sense of timing by choosing to release his first budget. Politicians from both sides of the aisle reported this harmful and cruel budget proposal was dead on arrival.

Overall, Trump’s budget would cut $1.5 trillion in non-defense spending and $1.4 trillion for Medicaid over the course of a decade, while adding nearly half a trillion dollars to defense spending. Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) and Sen. John McCain (AZ) say they will largely ignore Trump’s proposal.

Here’s hoping The Trumpster enjoyed the rest of his feel good journey overseas. It kind of closed on a sour note as Trump delivered a less than well received speech at the NATO summit in Brussels, and there was the unfortunate bum rush move Trump put on Montenegro’s prime minister so Mr. Personality could elbow his way into the front row of a picture. Why is this man such an embarrassment?

It appears Trump and his staff believe they stayed on message throughout the trip and all this foreign goodwill can magically chill the fervor for answers into his administration’s contacts with Russia, and why running the country is not coming easy. Staff remaining back in Washington and Republican officials are singing a different tune as they’ve been nervously hand wringing awaiting the return of their delusional leader.

It’s abundantly clear none of these issues are going away quietly, and with a special prosecutor such as Robert Mueller involved, rocks will be overturned to see what hides in the dark, pressure will be applied to the complicit, and answers will be found out.

Welcome home Mr. President!

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Terrorist Attack at Manchester Concert Kills 22

An explosion rocked concertgoers exiting a performance by pop star Ariana Grande Monday night in Manchester, England, killing 22 people and injuring 59.

The blast at Manchester Arena occurred around 10:35 PM in a foyer outside the main performance space. Making this a particularly disturbing attack was many in attendance were young girls and mothers accompanying their daughters, sharing in the American teen-pop sensation’s concert.

Reports indicate a suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device that took the perpetrator’s life. Police are treating this as a terrorist incident, and the Islamic State did claim responsibility for the attack today.

It’s of growing concern that these types of soft targets have become a routine strategic target for terrorists. Aside from the carnage of the explosion itself, the Manchester Arena seats 18,000 – a blast of this nature creates a secondary catastrophe as crowds tend to stampede toward safety. It’s unknown yet, but speculation is some of the fatalities resulted from the storm of humanity trying to exit the arena in panic.

It’s sad that we have reached a point in the civilized world that death is a possibility when attending large public celebrations, sporting events or concerts.

I’m going to a highly political performance Sunday in Louisville featuring Roger Waters from the British psychedelic band Pink Floyd. Myself and three blokes from college are carving out time from our busy family lives to take in one of our favorite groups from back in the day. Unfortunately we will have to make a plan for where to meet in case of a terrorist incident.

Ariana Grande was not injured in the attack, but she has put a hold on the rest of the European dates for her current world tour. A message posted on her Twitter account read, “broken. from the bottom of my heart. i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.” That message has since been re-tweeted more than 1 million times.

British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke eloquently Tuesday on the bravery of emergency personnel and of the people of Manchester. May stated the attack stood out for its “appalling, sickening cowardice” in the way it had targeted “defenseless children.”

President Trump condemned the attack speaking in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, referring to terrorists as not “monsters,” because they would like being identified that way, but instead termed them “losers.”

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Trump Discloses Classified Material to Russians

The cover story during the campaign was Hillary would be the candidate if elected we needed to worry about mishandling classified information. Turns out it’s Donald Trump who can’t help but pass along state secrets to his Russian bed buddies.

In a White House meeting last week with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, Trump revealed “code-word” information pertaining to an ISIS plot provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement. Apparently, “code-word” intelligence is of the highest sensitivity, and access to what Trump revealed was restricted even to allies and within the American government.

Interestingly, the administration pushed back on this tidal wave of a revelation late yesterday, walking a tightrope to express how Trump didn’t reveal the source and collection method associated with this intelligence. On face that’s true, but Trump did boast to the Russians about the impressive intelligence briefing he was given daily, and did disclose the sensitive information captured by this U.S. ally, which was first reported by the “Washington Post.”

The administration can spin this excuse like a tilt-a-whirl and traverse the narrowest of edges, but that fails to explain why if this exchange of information with a hostile nation was no big deal, how come as soon as that meeting ended Trump officials felt compelled to contact the CIA and intelligence organizations to warn them of what the president revealed.

Of course Trump tweeted Friday that, “…it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy.” It has become blatantly obvious that the truth is something we can’t expect from Trump or his people. The Trumpster faces the biggest credibility gap of any president since at least Richard Nixon, who was a criminal. The most recent Quinnipiac Poll found 61 percent of Americans sampled said Trump wasn’t honest.

Instead of denying this story, Trump said he had the “absolute right” to share this information with Russia. To me it doesn’t appear Mr. Trump is either capable nor living up to his end of “faithfully executing the Office of the President of the United States.”

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Haymarket Whiskey Bar Clears Away The Blues

After a particularly soul crushing day of corporate consulting, I wasn’t prepared to immediately hop on the expressway for the evening commute home. I had too much anxiety and aggravation built up. These demons needed exorcising first, otherwise I risked returning home, where I could easily transfer my angst onto unsuspecting family members.

Besides it was Kentucky Derby Eve Eve or the day before the Kentucky Oaks. I wasn’t attending any of the actual Derby events so Thursday was an excellent evening to soak up the festive atmosphere around Louisville and catch some Derby pre-gaming as most folks flowing into town for the races arrive by Thursday. In fact Churchill Downs now officially markets its Thursday meet schedule as Thurby. It’s more of a locals day to have an inexpensive opportunity to take in the sanctity of Churchill Downs with the Derby energy in the air but without the crowds or cost.

I will add it had done nothing but rain all week, so it was a gray, damp and cool day – one that only a strong glass of bourbon could chase away. My go-to joint in Louisville for  a curated selection of fine bourbon is the Haymarket Whiskey Bar. As they like to say it’s “the only spot on the Urban Bourbon Trail that boasts a bar, bottle shop, arcade, and concert venue.”

Located in the East Market District of Louisville, just under the I-65 overpass away from downtown, the Haymarket is in the heart of NuLu or New Louisville. This neighborhood has a city-in-transition feel, as many of the old buildings and deteriorating warehouses are undergoing historic restoration projects. Green is the buzz over here, from architectural standards to casual and upscale restaurants offering local sourced and organic offerings. It’s definitely hipster friendly, and the bars, restaurants, antique stores, galleries and specialty shops offer a nontraditional Louisville feel.

The building in which the Haymarket resides was erected in 1885 and sits at the easternmost edge of Louisville’s Whiskey Row, across from what was an outdoor farmer’s market established in the wake of the Civil War known as the “Haymarket.”

Walking inside the bar gives off the feel that it has been around for decades, with its dark worn wood, residue-encrusted apothecary bottles and olde world bourbon advertising painted on the walls. But then there are the X-Wing Fighters and alien pop-art interspersed that brings us back to the current century.

In the five years since opening the Haymarket has established itself as having the best selection of whiskey around, with upwards of 400 different varieties, some 250 of which are dedicated to bourbon, along with the city’s largest assortment of private barrels. It’s a collection really, of potent libations, for both deep and shallow pockets, from mainstream offerings to some of the rarest whiskey available. It’s all crammed in here together to make the Haymarket one of the best bourbon bars in America.

I’m only agreeing with publications such as Esquire, TIME, Garden & Gun, Men’s Journal, Travel + Leisure, Southern Living and countless others. For those coming into town to do some bourbon tourism, if the Kentucky Bourbon Trail has you out in the countryside visiting Kentucky’s famed distilleries, staying in Louisville gives you access to the epicenter of the Urban Bourbon Trail. This is where the end product from those fine distilleries may be sampled in comfort. It’s comprised of some 35 restaurants and bars that must offer a minimum of 50 bourbon selections on their menus, of which the Haymarket is a proud member.

On this particular Thursday before the Kentucky Derby, it was not surprising to see four middle-aged guys from out-of-town getting their drink on. They were spending some cash, drinking glasses of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20-year old. It retails for around $169.99 a bottle if you can find it. In reality it could cost $2000 from a private seller. A glass of it runs between $20-$40 in a bar – don’t pay more.

Here is why I love the Haymarket. When these geeked tourists eventually turned to their knowledgeable bartender belatedly to ask his opinion of their liquor conquest, he told them in deadpan honesty that he wasn’t a fan of Pappy. This caused their brain gears to grind to a stop. How could there be anything but accolades for this highly touted selection?

Don’t take this the wrong way, all the Pappy offerings are fantastic sipping bourbons, and those labels with the help of Sazerac/Buffalo Trace have marketed this nectar into rarefied air. What few bottles do become available each year vanish, and a premium price is paid for them on the secondary market. Pappy Van Winkle has become legend. Scarcity from quality is a beautiful reputation to have in any industry.

But when you take into account its ingredients, mash bill, aging and flavor profile – there are several wonderful bourbons to match Pappy’s presence and depth that do not require chasing its release date, having to wait outside overnight at a Liquor Barn in the rain, and doesn’t cost $40 or more per glass.

Welcome to the Haymarket Whiskey Bar, a unique punk rock fine drinking establishment, where tattoos and depression era facial hair are prevalent. It’s a place to try that bourbon you’ve only heard rumors about. You may have a favorite label for special occasions, well this is the joint to put that brand to the test against whatever the house recommends will blow your hair back.

I came out strong from the gates ordering a Michter’s American Whiskey, 83 proof, aged in bourbon-soaked American white oak barrels, and smooth all the way down.

Next up was Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style. This is the latest in Brown-Foreman’s “Whiskey Row” series. It is a stout beverage at 115 proof, but opens up nicely over ice. It looks like iced tea and drinks that way too.

For my third entrant I went with Maker’s Mark Private Select at 111 proof. This recipe is based on the Maker’s 46 formula, fully matured at cask strength, with 10 custom finishing staves added to each barrel to extract more flavor. These can be any combination from five different flavor profiles, meaning there are more than 1,000 combinations, to offer a customized finish and unique taste profile. It’s infinitely Maker’s, but brings a richness in-depth without the burn. The 10 flavor staves for this particular bottle were: (1) Baked American Pure 2; (3) Seared French Cuvee; (4) Roasted French Mocha; and (2) Toasted French Spice.

I probably should have gone home at this juncture of the evening, but we were solving the world’s problems and smoking Parliament cigarettes in the throughway as the rain fell. These beverages had definitely helped melt away the morbid work day. It only seemed logical that a fourth would improve things even more.

For this glass a private barrel from Four Roses was selected. It was the OBSF recipe (denoting the specific mash bill and yeast strain used) from the distillery’s “Icons of Whiskey” series that is composed of 10 different bottled recipes. The OBSF was aged 11 years + 8 months, from a single barrel, bottled at barrel strength (58.1 percent alcohol) and weighing in at 116 proof. This is a big bourbon, very yummy. I had to laugh as I noticed on the label a printed take off of a Grateful Dead lyric stating, “The bottle was dusty but the liquid was clean,” from “Ramble on Rose.”

I closed out with a local favorite, Heaven Hill Old Style Bourbon – Bottled in Bond. This is a solid table bourbon. It’s aged 6 years, bottled at 50 percent alcohol and 100 proof. It’s not going to change your life, but at $12 a bottle it doesn’t break the bank either.

Those five glasses of whiskey cleared away all that illed me. Not that I needed it, but the Haymarket does offer an impressive menu of packaged bottle service available, so one can take some serious potency home for later consumption.

Expect a bunch of service industry folks, kitchen staff, waiters, hostesses, bartenders from other establishments, along with locals, hipsters, University of Louisville students, connoisseurs and booze travelers at the Haymarket. This is the exact collection of humanity signaling I had arrived at the right place to imbibe. This is a drinking establishment on a serious level, just try to play responsibly. The contents of these bottles bites back.

HAYMARKET WHISKEY BAR | 331 E. Market Street | Louisville, KY | 502.442.0523

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