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Johns Creek, Gateway Signs and the Identity Crisis

Only eight people showed up at the public hearing. I’m surprised that they got that many, a typical response from a busy public with no time for such matters. So the city of Johns Creek put out the call to the media. They are requesting feedback on a proposal to add thirteen signs at various points entering the city. The cost? Upwards of $35,000 a piece for the larger designs. You can check them out for yourself here. Don’t worry, they’ve employed the services of consultants, so it can’t be that bad.

Before I weight in on this issue, let me get this out of the way. Politicians in the conservative burbs need to keep this in mind. If you’re pondering whether spending money on a new project is worth it, the answer should be a resounding NO in 99% of all cases. We’re in the midst of a recession and tax receipts are down. If you’re not already convinced that the project is vital, you say no.

So that pretty much let’s the cat out of the bag on how I feel on the issue. Yet what I see underneath all this is really an identity problem for Johns Creek. It goes back to how this city (and Milton) were founded. If there was a legal description of what is in Johns Creek it would be “everything in northeast Fulton County that isn’t already incorporated.” In essence, these cities are the leftover scraps of what Alpharetta and Roswell couldn’t finish consuming in their hungry annexation plans. As a result, there is little to no discernible boundary to these cities. Perhaps Johns Creek is trying to rectify this by putting enormous and expensive stacked stone signs everywhere. There is also a “keeping up with the Joneses” aspect to this. They show a picture of Suwanee’s entrance sign as an example. We can’t be outdone by our sister city across the river!

When I see this issue along with the Johns Creek vanity zip code and the “swoosh” street sign stuff… it seems that this young town is more concerned with their outward appearance and identity. It’s a common character flaw of the young I suppose. They’ll grow out of it.

Alpharetta Celebrities

Celebrity worship is not my forte. But since running my blog I’ve come to realize that people eat this stuff up. I’ve also come to realize that there are more celebrities living in Alpharetta than I originally thought. I decided to throw together a bigger list.

A few caveats before I begin. When I say “Alpharetta” I really mean north Fulton. I’m going to cover Alpharetta, Johns Creek and Milton. Almost all on this list are in the city limits of Johns Creek or Milton. Second, some of these folks may not live here anymore, and some information may not be correct. Celebrities live here to remain somewhat anonymous which makes gathering information difficult.

On this list you’d expect to see a lot of professional athletes. What surprises me is the number of hip hop and R&B artists. Alpharetta isn’t exactly a mecca for this genre of music. But again, I think these musicians are moving here for the same reasons as the others, privacy. You’ll also see a ton of celebs living in the Country Club of the South in Johns Creek. This is perhaps one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in the country. It is also relatively inexpensive compared to the company it keeps. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true.

So without further ado, here’s my Alpharetta celebrity list. Please feel free to add to my list if I’ve forgotten any.

Jeff Foxworthy – Comedian – Country Club of the South

Keith Sweat – R&B – Homes in Windward and Milton

Gary Rossington – Musician, Lynyrd Skynyrd – Milton. Made news in 2008 after being arrested for DUI by Milton PD.

John Smoltz – Baseball – Milton. Very active in the community and a big supporter of Kings Ridge Christian School.

Parvati Shallow – Winner of Survivor TV Show- Lived in the area for a time. Not sure if she’s still around.

Kim Zolciak – Real Housewives of Atlanta – Johns Creek

Tyler Perry – Producer – Recently bought the Dean Gardens in Johns Creek.

Chipper Jones – Baseball – Used to live in Windward, now in Roswell I think.

Tom Glavine – Baseball – Country Club of the South

Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston – Musicians – Used to be Alpharetta’s most famous and notorious residents. Starred in a reality show while living in the Country Club of the South. Split up and moved away several years ago.

Usher – R&B – Country Club of the South

Lil Jon – R&B – Milton

Brian Jordan – Baseball – Country Club of the South

Garrison Hearst – Football – Country Club of the South

Heath Slocum - Golf – Milton

Brian Littrell – Music/Backstreet Boys – Milton

Morris Day – R&B – Milton

Toni Braxton – R&B – Owns many homes including one in Alpharetta.

Keyshia Cole – R&B – Alpharetta

DeShawn & Eric Snow – Basketball and Real Housewives of Atlanta – They lived in Milton during the TV show. Since then they have filed for divorce. Not sure if either is still in the area.

Charlie Leibrandt – Baseball – Country Club of the South

Chris Childs – Basketball – Johns Creek

Allen Iverson – Basketball – Used to have a home in Country Club of the South.

There are a handful of younger celebs that grew up in Johns Creek and elsewhere, including some actors and athletes. Perhaps that’ll be another post.

I drew a lot of information from virtualglobetrotting.com and other sources on the internet. I’ve tried to be accurate without giving out too much information. It is quite possible there are errors.

Johns Creek and the House of Payne

Many years ago my wife and I were invited to a function at Dean Gardens in Johns Creek. I was a newbie to this area at the time and didn’t really know the significance of this 58-acre estate. I was just there for an alumni event as my wife’s date. It didn’t take long to realize how beautiful and massive this place really was. We strolled the garden, walked down to the river then took a short tour of the house.

And that house… There are times when being colorblind has its advantages. The pink color on the outside really didn’t jump out at me. But rest assured, it was very pink. The decor inside can only be described as over-the-top. We didn’t get to see a lot of rooms, and it was many years ago so I don’t remember a lot. What stood out the most to me was an impressive man cave decorated in the style of the 1950′s.

<cue the fog machine and harp music>

Fast forward to 2010… The AJC announced yesterday that producer Tyler Perry is the mystery buyer of Dean Gardens. He paid approx $14 million for the property and that amazing mansion. His plan for it? Maybe a new coat of paint? Nah. He’s gonna knock the thing down. Demolished. Thirty-two thousand square feet, four years to build and it’ll meet the wrecking ball.

I’m astounded by the display of opulence and wealth. Maybe I’m easy to please, but I’m fairly certain that any 32,000 square foot home would be adequate for my needs. But hey, the guy has money and this is a free country. As much as I scratch my head over this, I think the locals in Johns Creek are tickled pink (rim shot). They’re just breathing a sigh of relief that the buyer doesn’t want to put condos on the property. Everybody wins, right? I just hope they sell tickets on demolition day.

Johns Creek and the Quest for a Zip Code

The scarecrow wants a brain, the tin man wants a heart and the lion wants courage. Johns Creek wants a zip code. They’ve enlisted the help of Congressman Tom Price to guide them down the political yellow brick road. Will the great Oz grant their wish?

I’m torn on this issue of zip codes for the new cities of the burbs. In some ways I think they are going for a vanity zip code, something that could become exclusive like 90210. It’ll be a unique Johns Creek number the country club ladies can get snobby about. Yet in other ways I think the zip code system is partially broken and a new zip code for the city makes stuff function better. First I’ll make the case against a new zip.

Zip codes belong to the post office. They were invented by the USPS and are maintained by them. They exist to make postal delivery more efficient. Zips do not follow political boundaries and never have. Asking the post office to create one or more zip codes exclusively within the boundaries of the city of Johns Creek is not realistic. The USPS has enough problems right now, I’m sure they don’t need political pressure brought down on them by Congressmen for the purposes of city identity.

On the flip side, zip codes are often misused and misunderstood. The post office recognizes a “default place name” for each zip code. Johns Creek is not a default name of any zip code, even though they exist partially in five zips. The USPS agreed to allow Johns Creek to be what they call an “acceptable place name” for four of the five zip codes. That’s not good enough for one big reason…

Poor software design. Yeah, I blame it on the software guys (like yours truly). Many software apps incorrectly assume a one-to-one relationship between zip code and city. So for example, when they see 30022, they assume “Alpharetta, GA” or vice versa. Acceptable place names are often not factored into many software applications. As a result, using a website to find a restaurant or get a weather forecast might not work if you type “Johns Creek” or “Milton” as the location.

So what’s the solution? I’d kinda like to see the USPS change the default place for 30022 and 30097 to Johns Creek. Those two zip codes are mostly in the city limits anyway. I’m sure this change would tick off folks in Alpharetta and Duluth. North Point Mall is in 30022 and I’m sure the businesses near there wouldn’t care for the change.

Or Johns Creek could hope for an outcome similar to what happened in Milton. In their case, 30004 was just about the only zip code in the new city. In 2008 the USPS carved out a new zip code from 30004. This new zip, 30009, is mostly downtown Alpharetta with just a few addresses in Milton. They said the change was for efficiency reasons, yet the line somewhat closely follows the city boundaries. I’m certain there was some political influence involved in this though. What is confusing to me is that 30004 still has a default place of “Alpharetta”. It really should be Milton.

Pulling off something like this in Johns Creek would be more difficult considering that five zip codes are involved. And those five zip codes have four distinct default place names. Is it all worth it? Is this a waste of political capital?

The Greatest Paradox of the Affluent Burbs

The call went out. I noticed it twice in the course of the week. First it was in our church bulletin. A few days later I discovered this article in the Neighbor Newspaper. North Fulton Community Charities is in a bind. Cash flow is a little tight in the summer months, which makes providing services a little tough. On top of that, the food pantry continues to have high demand.

This is the greatest paradox of living in the affluent suburbs of Atlanta. Actually it is a double paradox. The fact that there is such demand for assistance may surprise some. Sure, we’re in a prolonged recession. Yet many of our neighbors are not as well off as you might think. Talk to enough volunteers at NFCC and you’ll hear stories of folks in luxury cars asking for help at the food pantry. It’s a paradox. It happens every day. Even in Alpharetta. Even in Johns Creek.

The second paradox is that charities like NFCC struggle financially. It makes me a bit embarrassed quite honestly. We drive nice cars, live in fancy neighborhoods, dine in expensive restaurants but don’t make even small contributions to local charities in need.

I gave a little something after reading this article. It isn’t much at all. I suppose indirectly I’ve helped through my church. Our congregation, like many others in north Fulton, supports NFCC in a lot of ways. But I couldn’t in good conscience write this article without doing something. We’re blessed to live in this area. Please do your part to support local charities in need.

Number of the Month – July

I’m going to rip off a blog idea from fellow blogger Bob Strader. He has a monthly feature called the big number that he posts at the end of each month. His number is usually real estate related but mine will be whatever. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I hope Bob takes it that way because I love his blog.

13

The number of ads for cosmetic surgery, BOTOX or teeth whitening procures in the August 2010 issue of Points North Magazine.

The American Girl Misdirection

Last night I sat in the food court of North Point Mall with my kids. Nearby was a sign advertising a promotion for American Girl. I asked my five year old daughter, “Sweetheart, do you know about American Girl?” She knew of them, but had never been in the store. She wasn’t familiar with their products or what they offer. We were literally on top of the store yet she had no clue. A little smile came to my face as inside I was thinking “Mwahahahaahhaha!”

It is significant that Alpharetta has an American Girl store. Our affluent suburb is in a small and exclusive club of locations that include Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. So what is American Girl? It is an evil and diabolical scheme to separate fathers from their money. There have been many such schemes in the past, most recently Build-A-Bear. But American Girl is different and far more sinister. It appeals to a deep primordial instinct in little girls. I’ve never fully experienced the store, but I think the general idea is that girls select a doll that looks like them. Next they dress the doll (and the girl I guess) in matching outfits. You then have tea together in the cafe, get your hair done together, etc. And of course you have to go back each season and update clothes to keep in the current fashion trends. This is way beyond stuffing a teddy bear.

What I’ve managed to accomplish is possibly the finest example of misdirection in suburban fatherhood. I’m sure it has saved me hundreds of dollars in the process. Here’s my secret…

First, start young, before your daughters are old enough to appreciate this store. I don’t know if this works once the cat is out of the bag (and the cash is out of your wallet).

Next, realize that the American Girl store at North Point is downstairs and off the main drag. Never, ever enter the mall near the store. I would go a step farther. Never enter the mall at Sears or Macys. I suggest parking on the second floor of the parking deck and entering at Dillards. From there, stick to the second floor of the mall. You’ll have easy access to the food court. It is safe to descend to the first floor so long as you are past Macys. You can distract your kids with choo choo rides, the soft play area or the other activities down on that end of the mall.

Lastly, utilize the various overpriced cookie stores all scattered strategically on the second floor. Yes, they are your friends. Dangle that carrot in front of them… if you’re well behaved then you can have a cookie on the way out of the mall. Yeah, they are expensive, but a dollar here and there is a small price to pay.

When I was a kid parents complained about $50 Air Jordan shoes. I don’t want to be the parent griping about dropping C-notes at American Girl. For now my little misdirection plan is working. Sure it is simple. Just let American Girl’s poor location in the mall play to your favor. Never venture over there, even for a latte at Starbucks. You’ll be fine. If you follow these steps you just might avoid being like your parents.

Suggested Itineraries in Alpharetta

Not long ago I wrote about the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau. Go back and read that article if you haven’t already. I made the observation that these guys have the hardest job in town. They have to convince people to actually want to come to Alpharetta (other than to sit in a fabric covered box for eight hours).

The CVB offers some suggested itineraries on their website. Some of their ideas are not half bad. There are itineraries for men, women, kids, art, history, etc. There are a few problems though. First, nearly all the activities are within the city limits of Alpharetta (except the history activities, half of which are in Roswell or Atlanta). Second, do people actually follow this advice? I found most itineraries to be unrealistic. But rather than criticize, I’ve decided to offer up my own suggested Alpharetta itineraries. Let me know what you think or suggest your own itinerary in the comments.

Alpharetta Tennis Mom

Begin your day at your six bedroom McMansion in a gated subdivision. Hop into your Escalade and meet your girlfriends for breakfast at the Red Hen on Windward. This small little breakfast joint offers an eclectic decor along with a creative menu.

After breakfast you’ll hit the courts! Tennis is uber competitive in the affluent burbs. It’s just what we do. Play a few matches before the day gets too hot.

Before long you’ll be ready to refuel. No need to take off the tennis outfit, just wear it to lunch. Head on over to Never Enough Thyme, a silly little lunch spot crawling with uppity women like yourself. Oh my God, does Jill have the same tennis outfit on today? We can’t have that! So after lunch head on over to Your Serve Tennis where you can get a color coordinated tennis skirt.

Next it’s time to unwind at one of Alpharetta’s numerous spas. While waiting on your masseuse in the lobby, check out the latest issue of Points North Magazine. You’ve been considering some cosmetic surgery for a long time, so browse through dozens of ads for botox.

Finally, with hubby out of town, why not check out the night life at Sage Woodfire Tavern on Haynes Bridge? It’s where every cougar goes during the week!

Cubicle Life

You wake in Gwinnett County and realize you’re running late for your technology job in Alpharetta. You jump into your Accord and take one of Alpharetta’s congested roadways. Check out Abbott’s Bridge or State Bridge road and wait in traffic to get across the river.

Cubicle life is hard, so take your lunch break and hit a terrific chain or franchise restaurant. Sure, Alpharetta has plenty of locally owned restaurants but who has time for that? You’ll choke down a pre-made and overpriced sandwich at Panera Bread or Which Wich, bypassing truly outstanding choices like Wildflour.

You’ll continue to work like a dog in your cubicle until well past sunset, missing your kids’ summer time activities. Around 9:00 you’ll roll back into your Gwinnett driveway.

Diabetes and Coronary Heart Disease

Obama-care is coming. Are you ready? We can help. Enjoy these gluttonous eateries everyday and you’ll need a lot of socialized medicine.

Start your day off right at Dutch Monkey Doughnuts. Deep fried dough covered with sugar. Ah yes. Or better yet, try your hand at their yearly July 4th competitive eating competition and try to swallow a baker’s dozen in 15 minutes.

You might be tempted to hike the Big Creek Greenway on a nice morning. Forget it! A sedentary lifestyle is key to developing serious heart problems. Instead, why not consider parking your ass in a comfy chair in the library or maybe Barnes and Noble?

For lunch try the best burger joint in North Fulton, Flippin Out in Johns Creek. Try “The Socialite” burger with smoked bacon mixed into ground beef. It’s just what the doctor ordered. Don’t like fancy burgers? The Varisty on Haynes Bridge might be greasy enough for ya. What’ll ya have? A prescription for Lipitor, please.

During the afternoon, sample some fine chocolate truffles at Schakolad on Windward or The Chocolaterie at the Avenue Forsyth.

For dinner try a full rack of ribs at ‘Cue in Milton and a cold beer. Add some sides of french fries and potato salad for extra carbs.

Finish up your day of fat and sugar gluttony with a late night dessert. Hit the Melting Pot on Mansell for chocolate fondue or maybe a custom cake from Alpine Bakery.

Fair Trade Coffee Is a Raw Deal

I got a minor in Economics in college. I found the study of price theory especially fascinating. Yeah, I was a wild and crazy guy in college, right? I didn’t do much with that knowledge otherwise. I’ve got fifteen hours of classes under my belt, whatever that’s worth. Today I’m merely an armchair economist.

Yet from time to time something around me triggers flashbacks to my price theory days. It happened recently when I started seeing all this “Fair Trade” stuff everywhere. Coffee, tea, chocolate, trinkets… anything! My first inclination was to think about the coffee that isn’t labeled as fair trade. Does that make a normal cup of coffee “unfair” trade? Hardly. Two parties agreed to engage in a transaction. A farmer traded coffee beans to a coffee broker for cash. Both sides engaged in the transaction on there own and both received something of value in return. Were that not to be the case, I’d argue the transaction wouldn’t have taken place at all. Thus it is, by my definition, a fair trade.

But this isn’t “fair” in the eyes of many well-meaning folks today. You see, a cup of premium coffee costs a pretty penny these days. Yet the farmers growing the stuff account for mere pennies of the final price. That’s gotta be unfair, right?

Not really. Coffee is grown all over the world. There is a lot of the stuff. But that doesn’t matter. Welcome to the Fair Trade movement. We all know the idea… those of us in the affluent burbs pay a little more for coffee with the hopes that some of the money goes towards paying the farmers a little extra. It is a pleasant thought. Who doesn’t want to help someone in the developing world, right? It is well meaning, kind, generous… and downright harmful in the long run.

Remember back to that Econ 101 class from college? You know, the one you slept through. I was the nerdy kid staying after class to talk to the professor. Anyway, you remember supply and demand, right? Sure, easy stuff. Remember price floors and ceilings? The Fair Trade movement seeks to create an artificial price floor on products. They try to influence a market by bringing the price up to a point higher than normal. What will result is farmers attempting to produce more. This will eventually result in an oversupply of coffee. Farmers will ultimately have to dump product on the market or let it rot. This will hurt all farmers, particularly those not participating in the fair trade movement.

So is the fair trade movement a noble idea? Sure. Perhaps it will make you feel better drinking the coffee. But in the long run, fair trade initiatives can create oversupply and hurt farmers. It is a lesson in Econ 101… don’t meddle in markets! Hope you enjoy the coffee.

The Joneses – My Review

I finally got to see Alpharetta’s new movie, The Joneses. Being somewhat rootless, it is hard for the wife and me to find a sitter and get away for a movie without the kids. But alas we did yesterday. All in all, I was disappointed in the flick. Here’s what I thought…

Showings

As of a week after the release, there is only one theater in all of Alpharetta and Cumming that is showing the movie. I was shocked. The UA/Regal North Point is it. That should have been a sign.

Alpharetta Sightings

If you’re going just for sights of our little suburb, you’ll be disappointed. I think most of the twenty or so people in our showing were there for that reason. Every single person stayed for the closing credits. How often does that happen? There are not many Alpharetta sights to see. Never do you see them cruising down North Point or Windward. For a complete list of Alpharetta area filming locations, see this post.

Review of the Movie

So how did I like the movie? In a word, I thought it sucked. With such a broad topic (consumerism in the burbs), they could have gone in many directions. They seemed focused on this fake family and not so much on the neighbors and their attempts to keep up. The plot developed slowly until the point where their imaginary world started to unravel. At that point the writers tried to touch on way too many topics in a short time, such as teen drinking, infidelity, consumer debt, foreclosures, closeted homosexuality, etc. I’m not a film critic by any means but it all left a lot to be desired. The writing sucked and wasn’t funny or dramatic. The camera work was marginal and inexperienced.

I suppose I expected a lot more. It was more about the fake family living together and the awkward situations that created. There was some romantic tension between David Duchovny and Demi Moore who were essentially co-workers, yet living together as husband and wife. That part of the movie was alright. But if you’re looking for a well-written and dramatic commentary on runaway consumerism, you won’t find it with this movie.

Save your money and skip this movie. I predict it’ll be on cable television shortly… just without the Amber Heard topless scene (yes, she gets neekid in this one).

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