Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Wonderful Inn at Evins Mill

It's been nearly two months since our family visited The Inn at Evins Mill and we're still talking about what a wonderful experience it was.

I'll provide some background before attempting to sketch out parts of that experience. It was Aug. 21 and I was looking through some birthday greetings I'd received from Facebook friends and acquaintances. One of the messages was from William Cochran, the inn's owner and general manager. "Evans...I invite you and one other guest to a complimentary night's stay at The Inn at Evins Mill, breakfast included, on any "Enchanted Night," a calendar to which I've linked below. The only request I would make is that you patronize the Inn for dinner rather than an off-site establishment."

That sounded like quite an offer to me, and when I looked on the calendar of available dates, I found that the night of Sept. 3, the eve of Ann's and my 16th wedding anniversary, was available. I called William and made the arrangements.

Our 90-minute drive from Nashville to the Inn was a pleasant one. Our destination was just outside Smithville. After turning onto Evins Mill Road we soon encountered the historic gristmill that gives the Inn its name:

Soon we were parked and ready for check-in. Aiding us through this was Chris Dotson, a very friendly and professional innkeeper who made us feel right at home.

We were soon installed in a wonderful Mountain Laurel room which even included a loft for Katie (although her mom decided to spend some time up there as well!). We were also welcomed by a rather charming feline who apparently likes to visit the property from time to time:

About an hour after our arrival we went to the Grand Lodge for drinks and dinner:

We met some really nice folks who were also spending the night at the inn before settling in for an incredible dinner prepared by the extremely talented executive chef Jason Evans. I've eaten duck all over the world, and I've never had a more melt-in-your mouth selection of that dish than the portion prepared by Chef Evans. The smiles tell the story:

After a great night's sleep it was outside for a stroll and a swing before eating an incredible breakfast prepared by innkeeper and chef Tina Clark. There are plenty of mouthwatering items on offer, but the bacon alone is worth getting up for:

After breakfast it was time to leave. We had been at The Inn at Evins Mill for less than a day, but the atmosphere, food and lodging allowed us to celebrate our marriage and family -- and create some happy longterm memories -- in a truly unique way.

Whether you're celebrating something or just enjoying time away from modern life's cares, I heartily recommend you visit Mr. Cochran's establishment. Drop him a line by clicking here. When you visit you'll find as we did that The Inn at Evins Mill is a slice of life to savor.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House

Elaine Stritch performs during “A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House” in the East Room of the White House, July 19, 2010.
Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

PBS airs the latest installment of the In Performance at the White House series Wednesday night (8 PM Central on Nashville's WNPT station: Channel 8 on Comcast Cable). It's called "A Broadway Celebration" and indeed it is.

I've loved these shows since Washington's WETA started producing them during the Carter Administration; they combine the grandeur of The People's House with the greatness of some of our best performing artists. Recent broadcasts spotlighting the work of Stevie Wonder and a celebration of Civil Rights era music that brought Bob Dylan to the East Room have been among my favorites. After watching an advance copy of this episode, I think "A Broadway Celebration" is one of the best shows this acclaimed series has ever produced.

Why? Well, having the legendary Elaine Stritch declare "I'm Still Here" from Stephen Sondheim's Follies is enough to make this a must-see. But, as TV commercials often say, there's more, much more: Idina Menzel not only doing her signature Wicked tune "Defying Gravity" but heart-rendingly singing "What I Did For Love" accompanied by A Chorus Line composer Marvin Hamlisch on piano is pretty awesome too.

As if those selections weren't enough, the always-great Audra McDonald offers her range of remarkable talents with the funny "Can't Stop Talking About Him" number by Frank Loesser -- it's possibly the best rendition since Betty Hutton did it in the 1950 film "Let's Dance" -- and the love-seared "Happiness is a Thing Called Joe" from Cabin in the Sky. Ethel Waters would be proud.

Nathan Lane hosts with plenty of trademark one-liners and a delightful return to his Tony Award-winning role as Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum via "Free" with Brian d'Arcy James (a Drama Desk winner for his role in "Shrek the Musical"). And there are other highlights in this hour-long show directed by George C. Wolfe which you'll see when you tune in, including boffo appearances by 12-year-old performing sensation Assata Alston and Tony winner Karen Olivo ("West Side Story"). How appropriate that Wolfe helmed this project -- a national treasure directing a show at a national treasure.

What was it like for these Broadway actors to perform at The White House? Watch:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

70 Wonderful Years!

It is hard to believe my mother is 70 today. I like what she had to say on her Facebook profile - 70 is the new 50! It's a privilege to be the son of such a remarkable woman. Her intelligence and the way she gives her best to life's endeavors are just two qualities that make me marvel at mom. Anne Alice Evans Donnell, I love you. Thanks for sharing part of that 70 with me. May God grant us many more years together!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nashville Flood

This film by Michael Deppisch is a short but effective chronicle of this past weekend's devastation. Read Nashville author Ann Patchett's thoughts on the flood in the New York Times. For some incredible photos check out this collection on the Boston Globe's website. To donate online to flood relief efforts visit the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee website.

UPDATE: If you haven't read the post that inspired the "We Are Nashville" response to the flooding click here. It's an inspiring read.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"We did not fear our future. We shaped it."

Cutting Through the B*&^%$#t

It's done. A health care reform measure is finally on its way to President Obama's desk after a 219-212 House vote. A reconciliation bill to rid the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of such controversial Senate add-ons as the "Cornhusker Kickback" also passed on a 220-211 vote and is scheduled for Senate consideration minus the possibility of another filibuster threat from Scott Brown and friends. Jim Cooper (D-TN 6) waited until late Sunday to publicly confirm how he'd vote, but voted yes on the reform measure and no on the reconciliation bill.

After all the shouting and tumult, I thought the following paragraph from a Salon article by Mike Madden summed up why Republicans' vehement, nasty and often childish rhetoric was and is a load of you-know-what when one looks at what actually got passed:

But the legislation that is now heading to Obama to sign into law is chock full of GOP proposals, the product of months of bipartisan negotiations in the Senate -- and beyond that, some progressive priorities were glaringly absent. There's no public option, nothing remotely approaching a single-payer healthcare system. There isn't even a mandate that employers provide insurance for their workers, only a fine charged to companies whose employees get federal subsidies to buy their own coverage. It had the backing of the drug manufacturers, the hospitals, the doctors, all the major industries involved in providing healthcare in America except the insurance companies. And even insurers will wind up making billions of dollars, as millions of Americans suddenly get access to their products.

As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich points out, what passed on Sunday comes closer to the work of previous Republican presidents than many in the GOP would care to admit:

Obama's legislation comes from an alternative idea, begun under the Eisenhower administration and developed under Nixon, of a market for health care based on private insurers and employers. Eisenhower locked in the tax break for employee health benefits; Nixon pushed prepaid, competing health plans, and urged a requirement that employers cover their employees. Obama applies Nixon's idea and takes it a step further by requiring all Americans to carry health insurance, and giving subsidies to those who need it.

So don't believe anyone who says Obama's health care legislation marks a swing of the pendulum back toward the Great Society and the New Deal. Obama's health bill is a very conservative piece of legislation, building on a Republican rather than a New Deal foundation. The New Deal foundation would have offered Medicare to all Americans or, at the very least, featured a public insurance option.

Socialism? Nope. The GOP - who were glad to pass a deficit-enlarging Medicare drug prescription measure when they controlled Congress and the White House six years ago - is just doing what it does best: play the fear card when they know their arguments don't add up (as they've done in the past) and hope it helps them in November. I suspect jobs and the slow recovery will have more of a bearing on poll results this fall, but no matter what happens in the next election, fear lost to hope on Sunday.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Presidential Reunion

First, Ron Howard gets Opie and Andy back together during the 2008 election. Now he directs this. TV history - and timely political points - take me away!