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Caroline Cox

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My Style: Vanessa Toro, founder of Rabble & Rouse

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Vanessa Toro
Toro experiments with her style, but she never strays from her signature red lip.

Photograph by Ben Rollins

Vanessa Toro launched her clothing brand, Rabble & Rouse, in 2015 with the tagline “Give all the damns.” Her T-shirts make bold statements with phrases like “Be vigilant, not afraid” and “All we have is each other.” Toro herself is regularly stopped on the street for her jet-black pixie cut, signature red lip, and flair for pairing colors and prints. “Even when I try to blend in, it doesn’t work,” she says. “So I just own the fact that I have a look.”

Hails from
Providence, Rhode Island

Neighborhood
Virginia-Highland

Local haunts
Staplehouse is definitely my favorite restaurant. For drinks, [I love] 8Arm, Kimball House, and my iced Mexican hot chocolate at LottaFrutta.

Shop around
I go thrifting OTP. The Goodwill in Roswell has been good to me. There is a little boutique in my neighborhood called Bridge Boutique where the owner always knows what looks good on me.

Face first
I have a routine, but it’s very simple: tinted moisturizer, mascara, and a red lip. I am all about a red lip. I feel naked without one.

Signature style
Audrey Hepburn meets The Nanny’s Fran Drescher

Outfit inspiration
It’s definitely based on that day’s mood. I attempt to articulate something; it’s not uncommon in the dead of winter that I wear a lot of yellow because I don’t want to get the winter blues.

Recent purchase
A collar pin I got from Sad Truth Supply. It has little art deco hands with heart tattoos on them. There’s something macabre and Gothic about it, but at the same time precious and delicate.

Rabble & Rouse

Good vibes
Rabble & Rouse donates a portion of their profits to a rotating list of Atlanta community organizations. rabbleandrouse.com

This article originally appeared in our November 2017 issue.

Get your Halloween on with these creepy antiques at Freeman and Fugate Oddities

Freeman and Fugate Oddities Co., run by Pine Lake’s James Freeman, sells creepy antiques via Instagram and his booth at Scott’s Antique Market. Below, a few of his favorite finds:

Freeman and Fugate Oddities Co.

Animal skulls
“For the skulls, I try to keep it antique to make sure everything I have is ethically sourced. I spend a lot of time on the phone with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to make sure everything I sell is legal.”

Freeman and Fugate Oddities Co.

Soothsayer boards
“These got really big in the ’40s because of all the deaths during World War II. People were trying to contact loved ones.”

Freeman and Fugate Oddities Co.

Medical models
“A shortage of cadavers [in the 1800s] led to people creating wax molds of people’s faces. They’re one-of-a-kind items.”

This article originally appeared in our October 2017 issue.

Hurricane Irma “set the record” for Waffle House closings

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Waffle House hurricane IrmaThe next time you want a reliable gauge of how well your area will fare during a natural disaster, look no further than your local Waffle House.

Earlier this week, 157 outposts were forced to shut down in the wake of Hurricane Irma. “Before Irma there was [Hurricane] Katrina, where we had to close 107 restaurants for evacuations,” says Waffle House spokesperson Pat Warner. “So, Irma has set the Waffle House record.” Metro Atlanta boasts around 300 of the Waffle House’s 1,900 total locations across 25 states, most of those in the Southeast.

Waffle House has a reputation for, quite literally, weathering the storm. Back in 2011, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Craig Fugate coined the phrase “Waffle House index” as a way to measure just how bad a natural disaster would be. He reportedly told his team to keep driving if they came upon a Waffle House that was open. If the Waffle House was on the generator or a limited menu (which they use during issues like power outages and water boil advisories), then there was a power issue. If the Waffle House was closed, you’d know there was likely serious damage.

While Hurricane Harvey affected only a few dozen Texas-based restaurants, mainly with flooding, Warner says Irma caused 144 of the restaurants in Florida to lose power at some point. When we spoke on September 12, only 14 were still closed, with nine on generators.

What about here in metro Atlanta, where downed trees and power lines from Irma’s winds caused some residents to go without power even into Thursday? “Atlanta was kind of a surprise for us, because a lot of our attention was down in South Georgia and Florida,” Warner says. “Some [in Atlanta] were shut down overnight—I think at one time we had 25 restaurants with power issues.”

“For 62 years now we’ve had restaurants in the Southeast, so typically if there’s a hurricane in the Atlantic basin, we’re going to be impacted by it,” Warner explains. “Hurricane Hugo in Charleston back in the late ’80’s was probably the first big hurricane that we responded to.” Ever since, they’ve fine-tuned procedures and resources for restaurants to open quickly post-storm.

Those resources include a software that takes official models from the National Hurricane Center and plots their paths against restaurant locations. In the event an outpost loses power, rather than closing, they simply offer a limited menu (which sadly doesn’t include waffles, as the waffle irons need electricity) that still makes use of natural-gas grills. Closing completely is a challenge, says Warner, as the restaurants aim to operate 24/7. If a mandatory evacuation is announced, the company enlists what they call “jump teams,” or experienced managers from other states, to assist in keeping locations open as long as is safe. “Right now in Florida we have folks from Louisiana, the Carolinas, and some from Georgia, Tennessee, and Ohio,” says Warner. “We form jump teams to come in help the local operations team get back open so they can focus on their people in their individual restaurants.”

During both Irma and Harvey, the company has helped provide temporary shelter to employees who lost their homes. Warner says that’s indicative of how the WaHo powers that be choose to run their business. “Our CEO was in Orlando before the storm. We have four executive vice presidents down there. Our chairman of the board was down there. We like to have our leadership standing in the restaurants so they can make better decisions instead of staying back here in Atlanta, calling shots—our leadership is different than a lot of companies in that way.”

The company has even been known to dispatch the infamous Waffle House food truck for disaster relief. They once sent a truck to Baton Rouge to serve as a mobile restaurant people could visit when the city’s locations were affected by flooding. During our call, Warner said it may or may not make its way down to Florida.

After each storm, the team sits down to assess their procedures. “If the Waffle House is closed, our associates are not making money, so we feel there is a responsibility to them to get opened quickly after a storm,” Warner says. “Each storm has it’s own personality, and we learn something from each one. The best we can do is be prepared and be ready to roll back in right after.”

How I learned to build a vibrator at MODA

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Building the Crave Duet Pro vibrator at MODA’s Build-a-Vibe workshop

Photograph by Caroline Cox

It’s a warm Friday evening in August, and I’m sitting inside the beautiful Museum of Design Atlanta, listening to Atlanta native and Georgia Tech grad Ti Chang teach a sold-out workshop on how to build your own vibrator.

Once a taboo subject reserved for hushed conversations and seedy adult novelty shops, it’s safe to say that sex toys are more mainstream now than ever. The reasons are manifold: The accessibility and discreet process afforded by online shopping, and large retailers stocking these items, means it’s easier for those skittish to enter an adult store to experiment with accessorizing their sex lives. Plus, television shows from Sex and the City to Broad City have kept the conversation in the zeitgeist for the past few decades. (The latter even launched its own toy line.)

Recently sex toy companies have also been designing sleeker products, and many are marketing exclusively toward women. Increased access and expanded marketing have likely factored into making the once niche sex toy market into the reportedly $5 billion-dollar industry it is today.

San Francisco-based Crave is one of these companies. Their luxury products are well-designed, made with quality materials, and intended to enhance a woman’s sexual experience. (They also created the world’s first crowdfunded vibrator in 2012.) Their offerings include a “bullet” vibrator the size and shape of a lipstick tube (a photo on their website shows it sitting on a shelf, camouflaged among perfume bottles) and jewelry that you’d never guess doubles as a sex toy. Prices range from $35 for leather tassels to a $219 Duet Luxe vibrator plated in 24-karat gold. Crave was co-founded by Chang, who received her BS in industrial design from Georgia Tech.

Ti Chang leads the Build-a-Vibe workshop

Photograph by Caroline Cox

“Ti is an Atlanta native who is committed to designing beautiful products that meet women’s needs, and she’s doing so in a field that has been traditionally dominated by men—industrial design,” says MODA’s executive director, Laura Flusche. “She’s changing the world by creating gorgeous, wearable sex toys that eschew the shame and stigma that traditionally surround such objects.”

The Build-a-Vibrator class fits in with MODA’s other progressive programming, which has also recently included a “Subversive cross-stitch” workshop, 3-D printing classes, zine-making workshops, and the Lemonade Project, a monthly discussion on race, gender, and social justice inspired by the Beyoncé album.

Chang—who’s one of the few female industrial designers working in the sex toy industry—first held this workshop at the Austin-based music and technology festival South by Southwest. Outfitted in a white jumpsuit with “vibration technician” emblazoned on the back, she begins the Atlanta session with a brief history of vibrators, which she says were invented in the 1880s to help physicians treat women who were diagnosed as suffering from “hysteria”—arguably a weird, blanketed term that just meant “horny” or “sexually frustrated.” Nearly a century later, after vibrators became one of the first electrified gadgets, some devices remain on the market under the guise of “massage wands” or “muscle relaxers.”

Assembling the pieces

Photograph by Caroline Cox

On each table are small screws, a screwdriver, glue, a USB drive, three dual-tipped silicone sleeve color options (we forego the black and purple for a trendy merlot shade), and various metal and plastic odds and ends. There’s also a pressure gauge to ensure the product is completely sealed and waterproof. Along with Chang, expert technicians walk each table of participants through the step-by-step process of assembling the company’s new programmable Duet Pro vibrator, which Chang explains hasn’t yet been released on the market. The vibrator retails for about $199, but participants will get to bring home the one they assemble for half that price. (Workshop tickets were priced at $99 per couple.)

The device charges via USB.

Photograph by Caroline Cox

As my friend and I affix, screw, and glue pieces together, Chang explains how this vibrator is programmable and rechargeable—it can be charged in any USB port and, when the silicone tip is removed, it looks just like an ordinary thumb drive. Users can take advantage of the Duet’s pre-existing factory setting programs or customize it with any of 16 different vibration patterns that vary in intensity and frequency.

After assembly is complete, the finished product fits into my palm, and comes complete with a chic black case. Everyone begins turning on their vibrators, pressing them to the back of their hands to test the feeling and intensity. “Whoa,” says the woman across from me. “That’s some serious power!” Holding a piece of technology I assembled by hand, which was designed by a woman specifically to make women like me feel good and take charge of our own pleasure, I’m inclined to agree.

The finished product

Photograph by Caroline Cox

When separated, the charge port looks like any other USB thumb drive.

Photograph by Caroline Cox

ColorATL, a local coloring book, sparks joy for those who need it most

ColorATL
A couple colors together at a public creative-gathering at Atlanta City Studios last December

Photograph by Connor Dwyer

The concept of an adult coloring book might seem trivial to some—a trendy, mindless activity to pass the time. But for those dealing with long-term illness, suffering from addiction, or experiencing emotional turmoil, coloring books can be a powerful healing method. Not convinced? Just ask artist William Massey, illustrator Amber Guinn, and designer Connor Dwyer—they’ve seen it for themselves.

After collaborating with a handful of local artists whose work they admired, the trio released the first volume of the ColorATL coloring book last fall. It features works—everything from abstract geometric patterns to lifelike people and scenery—from more than 40 creatives who live in Atlanta or have local ties, including Sam Parker, Mac Stewart, Estela Semeco, and Lela Brunet. They released the books in a TOMS Shoes-style one-for-one model: with every book sold, they’d donate another to a local cancer center, homeless shelter, hospice home, or transitional facility. “I started it thinking it was just going to be a little side project,” explains Massey, “a cool little book I could pass out sometimes when I’m volunteering or working with one of these art programs. It has definitely exceeded my expectations.”

Through online sales, markets, events, and some retail, volume 1 sold about 2,000 copies, which means a couple thousand books also went to nearly two-dozen local health and social organizations. A launch-slash-exhibition event showcased the artists’ original works from the book; about 75 percent of the pieces were sold, with the artists receiving 100 percent of the commission.

This fall, Massey and his team will launch volume two of ColorATL. This time around, they plan to print around 4-5,000 copies, the same volume as the first book, with a pre-sale fundraiser that’ll help with costs. But unlike the first edition, volume two will be a mix of Atlanta artists they’ve curated as well as a local call-out for emerging artists to submit their work for inclusion.

“I’m proud to be involved in projects like this one that bring the Atlanta creative community together with other groups around the city,” says Molly Rose Freeman, a local painter and muralist who contributed to the first volume. “Projects like this show that artists don’t exist in a container outside the real world. We can be integral in community development, social justice, and cultural healing.” She adds that, especially now, it feels important for to use her creative power in a way that can uplift others. (“We ask for a very loose and general theme of ‘hope’ within each artwork,” Massey says.)

And art-based projects like these do seem to help heal. A recent Instagram story from ColorATL showed a woman who had received chemotherapy at a cancer center remarking about how the coloring book made her treatment seem to go by much faster than normal. “Some of the most profound interactions have been at the cancer center because in the chemotherapy infusion room, patients have to sit while they’re being literally injected with some of the most toxic stuff you could ever put in your body,” says Massey. “They just have to sit there and feel it and not move for like eight hours.” He’s sat with patients while coloring and watched their heart rate drop and their tension melt away.

ColorATL
Lisa Thornton receives a copy of ColorATL during a month-long stay at Piedmont Hospital

Photograph by Bill Massey

Escapism can also help with healing. Massey says he once brought ColorATL to the Gateway Center, an all-male transitional facility in the metro area, on a day when the fire alarm had been going off all morning. Understandably, participants were not exactly in good spirits. But Massey and his crew turned on some jazz, handed out coloring books, and watched the mood of the room change.

“People were giggling; they started telling stories, and you could just feel the tenseness drift away,” Massey explains. “They were acting like family. It creates this real vulnerable, yet really comfortable space for people to interact and to just get away from the everyday stress of what’s next. Coloring turns people into kids again.”

But it’s not just those dealing with hardship who can benefit from a project like this. “I think if we don’t take time to partake in the goodness of creativity and creation on a regular basis, we’re just setting ourselves up for more hardship,” Massey says. “We can wait until something really dramatic and bad happens to focus on self-care, or we can make it a part of everyday lives.”

As far as the future of ColorATL, Massey and his crew want to keep creating volumes, expand to more cities, and continue the quarterly events they host at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center for adults and kids alike (the next one takes place June 29). “In a nutshell, we come together to color, collaborate, and meet new friends,” he explains. “We hear from a spotlighted ColorATL artist about their story, passion and process, and [those of age] can enjoy a custom cocktail.” The featured artist this time around will be Geinene Carson.

ColorATL
A public collaboration during the ColorATL Volume One launch at Ponce City Market

Photograph by Heather Troutman (WildGrainPhotography)

Massey’s ultimate goal is admittedly audacious, but one that’s worthwhile. “We want to get art into every facility or organization that art is not already part of, and make sure people at least have the option to release the jumble of whatever is stuck inside of them,” he says decidedly. “ColorATL definitely strives to be more of a community and connector rather than just a book. The book is a tool to grow good things.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson: The expanding universe will have “no impact on Atlanta traffic”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson will be at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on June 15.

Photo illustration by Gluekit

Neil deGrasse Tyson may not quite be a household name, but among those interested in modern space exploration, he’s basically Beyoncé. The astrophysicist and bestselling author (his most recent book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, was released in May) heads up the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium, which he also founded; hosts a podcast called StarTalk Radio; and occasionally graces a theater stage to riff on everything from life on Mars to The Matrix. On June 15 he’ll appear at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre to discuss the “Cosmic Perspective.”

We recently chatted with Tyson about what attendees can expect from his talk, what he thinks of NASA’s latest big discovery, and how shifting our perspective on space can improve our relationships with others here on Earth.

What exactly is “the cosmic perspective?”
“Cosmic Perspective,” for me, is perhaps the most important outlook anybody can have in life. If you look at Earth from space, that Earth doesn’t resemble the Earth that we’re trained to think about in our social studies class. That globe has color-coded countries. From childhood, we are forced to think of earth as a divided place—divided by geography, divided by language, skin color, religion. That is the context in which we come to reflect on who and what we are. When you go into space you realize we are humans on this planet called Earth. If you’ve never thought about it that way, it can influence your behavior, how you treat other people. You see them not as somebody different from you, but as someone who is exactly the same as you because you’re both human.

You also say it can put our problems in perspective. How?
Humans want to think that they’re the center of the world. Children think this way. Then you come into adulthood and it’s a little disappointing to learn that’s not the case. We still think events happening locally, in our lifetimes as significant in a way that is out of proportion with reality. This can be depressing to some people, if you come into it with a high ego. If you go into it with no ego at all, you realize that you can be special not for being different, but for being a participant in life on Earth. That participation, if you’re open to it, can be quite illuminating, even sort of spiritually uplifting. You’re a part of all of life on Earth. Earth is part of all the planets that exist in the galaxy. The galaxy is part of an entire system of the universe.

I have to ask you about TRAPPIST-1 (a dwarf star that NASA recently discovered is orbited by seven Earth-like planets). What most excites you about it?
It’s great. Seven planets? Come on now—all Earth-like and it’s relatively nearby [at] 40 light years. You’re not going to go there overnight. Of the seven planets, three are in the Goldilocks zone where the temperature’s just right for liquid water. These planets are very close to their host star, and their orbit is just five or 10 days, depending which you’re identifying. It doesn’t take months, it takes days. The system is different from what we’re familiar with. Regardless, just the fact that seven are in one system not all that far away—it’s just a reminder of how prevalent planets are in the galaxy.

Tell me about your new book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.
It’s a very short book, but it touches on all the key things that can make you fluent in the headlines that are coming down the pipe. People want to know: Is there life on a planet? Your telescope isn’t good enough to see anything crawling around on the surface, but you can study the atmosphere of the planet and look for gasses that are the influencers of life itself. It’s the kind of book where, the next time someone discovers a bunch of planets, I can say, “Just read the book,” and go home. [Laughs.]

You’ve performed in Atlanta several times. What’s your impression of the city?
I’m always enchanted by the depth and breadth of interest that people express in the universe as I go around the country. Atlanta’s been sort of a regular in this annual [tour] thing, so I look forward to it. I do have one sad bit of news to report. While the universe is indeed expanding, unfortunately that has no impact on Atlanta traffic.

June 15, 7:30 p.m., tickets $49-$99, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, 770-916-2800, cobbenergycentre.com.

A version of this article originally appeared in our June 2017 issue.

Three new indie book stores you should shop at in Atlanta

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Atlanta bookstores
Read Shop

Photograph by LuAnne DeMeo

Sorry, Kindle—there’s nothing like cozying up with a real book. It seems others agree, as indie bookstores keep popping up around town. Our favorites offer a shopping experience that’s way more charming than Amazon, with reading nooks, cute trinkets, international publications, and limited editions.

Cover Books
Cover opened on the Westside last fall, specializing in gallery-worthy coffee table books, rare vintage finds, and periodicals focused on art, travel, and food. Sign up for the newsletter to learn about cool events like artist-themed dinners.

Read Shop
Dan Collier—who’s also behind perfectly appointed local shops like the Merchant—recently opened Read Shop in Vinings Jubilee. Relax with a novel on a retro leather couch, or bring the kids for story time twice a month.

Posman Books
Family-owned Posman Books has picked Atlanta for its third location (the first outside of NYC), which just landed at Ponce City Market. You’ll find fiction, nonfiction, and children’s lit, plus a stellar selection of gifts and greeting cards.

This article originally appeared in our November 2016 issue.

Bringing Pasaquan back to life

Pasaquan
Photograph by Mike Colletta

Nestled in the pines of Marion County two hours south of Atlanta is an architectural oddity called Pasaquan. Artist Eddie Owens Martin started building the seven-acre property as a home and workspace in 1957 and ended up with six major structures. After Martin’s suicide in 1986, the site deteriorated until 2014, when art preservation group the Kohler Foundation teamed up with Columbus State University to bring Pasaquan back to life. “To visit Pasaquan is a total immersion experience,” says Kohler executive director Terri Yoho. “You’re surrounded in otherworldliness.”

The restoration
Reviving Pasaquan has taken two years. Using archival photos, conservators from all over the country filled in cracks and reproduced patterned floors to bring back what’s been described as Martin’s “psychedelic Assisi in the Southern pines.”

Fever dream
The name “Pasaquan” comes from a fever-fueled vision Martin had, in which he was directed to depict a peaceful future for humanity. Soon after, he became a paid fortune teller to continue funding the project.

Melange
Pasaquan fuses African, Native American, and pre-Columbian cultural and religious symbols and designs. The property also features mandala murals and more than 900 feet of painted masonry walls.

Caretakers
Kohler officially gifted Pasaquan to Columbus State University, and an artist will live at Pasaquan full time to provide security and maintenance and, presumably, gain inspiration from Martin’s work.

This article originally appeared in our November 2016 issue.

Hipster Lifters: The East Atlanta Barbell Club

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East Atlanta Barbell ClubAmid high-end fusion classes and fancy workout studios, the humble barbell is making a comeback. Around the time Atlanta Barbell reopened in a sleek new space in Decatur, the retro East Atlanta Barbell Club landed nearby, indicating that simple black iron is back in style.

What EABC offers
Choose from two old-school programs: Olympic-style weightlifting and powerlifting.

Who’s in charge
Lis Saunders is the one-time owner of CrossFit Midtown and a current state record holder in the squat. Cofounder Jim Chambers, also a former gym owner, brings hipster cred as the co-owner of Virginia-Highland boutique Henry & June.

Membership 411
Newbie? No problem. A $100 intro package includes three sessions with an instructor. If you’re just looking for access to iron, general membership is $60 a month.

This article originally appeared in our August 2016 issue.

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