At long last, all six Trailheads rallied for a hike. Trail Master Guy selected an in-city stroll through Historic Oakland Cemetery. Brad wondered if it was a good idea for six old guys to hike in a graveyard. Steve seconded that sentiment. Roy said we would be window shopping. Patrick was excited and thought Oakland was an incredible place to enjoy--with a beating heart. So game on!
Oakland Cemetery was established in 1850 as a public cemetery for residents, travelers, and paupers and is the oldest landmark in continuous use in Atlanta. Cemeteries back in the day were social hubs and popular gathering spots. We're guessing that instead of "clubbing," people went "cemeterying." Victorian cemeteries were called rural gardens where people visited, picnicked, and remembered those who passed—it was quite the social scene. And always better to be seen there while above the ground.
These meeting spots of the living and dead became the forerunners of today's public parks. Oakland Cemetery is one of the largest and most beautiful green spaces in Atlanta, with impressive vistas of downtown, and it hosts several popular special events throughout the year. Learn more here. Roy has been to one of the Tree Tours and said it was fascinating. Really––he rarely lies (except when he does).
Over 70,000 'residents' from all walks of life (while they were living) reside on the 48 acres. Oakland offers a disturbing history lesson. There are old-time segregated sections for African Americans. The first black man buried here was in 1853 and named "John." No last name, just John. Jewish graves are in a separate area for special consecration of their burial grounds. There's even a Potter's field for those who couldn't afford burial, and approximately 7,000 Union and Confederate soldiers are here.
In 1870, the cornerstone was laid for a Confederate Obelisk. When the 65-foot-tall structure made of Stone Mountain (no surprise) granite was dedicated on Confederate Memorial Day in 1874, almost half of Atlanta's population (approx. 15,000 people) attended the ceremony. We're guessing the Black population passed.
Famous residents of Oakland include Margaret Mitchell, Bobby Jones, Maynard Jackson (and 26 other Atlanta mayors), five Georgia governors, five Confederate generals, and the gambler himself, Kenny Rogers (the man knew when to fold 'em).
In 1976, Oakland Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you've never been, plan a visit soon and enjoy the sights. Call yourself a history expert. You deserve it.
Six men (George, Guy, Roy, Brad, Steve, and Patrick) and three dogs (Elvis, Fio, and newcomer Nilla) entered Oakland and began our hike through history. Within ten minutes, Trail Master grew frustrated as his crew disbanded, read headstones, or journeyed to God-knows-where. It was like trying to herd cats in a room of darting laser lights.
But Guy came prepared. When George returned from a side trip somewhere, Trail Master Guy flashed a red card like he was punishing a rambunctious 'fotballer.' George protested, claiming he should have received two yellow cards before the red death.
But Guy didn't care. The red card would go on George's permanent record. That said, he wasn't expelled from the hike but was constantly threatened with a second red card.
There was no need for hiking boots or walking sticks on this journey since the paths were paved or bricked. We also had none of our usual paranoia about nasty germ-ridden ticks or ravenous chiggers feasting on our flesh. However, Potters Field looked like an ideal spot for hiding, hungry insect pests, with its vast expanses of greenery. We were more cautious of evil spirits that might invade our bodies and cause us to sign long-term timeshare contracts. That is spooky stuff.
We came upon several large UHaul U-Box Containers screaming, "RENT ME!" Was this an affordable way to house corpses, or perhaps where people put Uncle Henry's stuff after they cleaned his house? Or is the adage you can't take it with you so true that UHAUL has figured out a way to make a buck on it? Mysteries abound. Brad considered box rentals an excellent way to get into Oakland without making a long-term investment. And no digging's required.
Dark humor seems appropriate in graveyards, and Guy noticed across the train tracks from the cemetery was a "Life Storage" building. We always assumed these were for the apartment dwellers with more stuff than space.
But from where we were standing, it took on a whole new meaning. We'll have to look into that what goes on inside Life Storage. Cryogenics, perhaps? They say Walt Disney was frozen––that's what we call suspended animation.
Some of us talked about our exit plans when we shuffle off this mortal coil (whatever that means.). Roy suggested perhaps it refers to the 80s gothic dream pop collective - This Mortal Coil. Even the dogs didn't buy that one.
George is working on a playlist and pulling pictures of the many good times he’s had. "Everyone always scrambles to find pictures after someone dies," he said. "I want to be prepared."
So far, his music playlist has a Jefferson Airplane song, but it's not "White Rabbit." (It's one Marty Balin said he wrote to try to meet Tony Bennett of all people), Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," and "Ol' 55" by Tom Waits.
That's a good start, and we suspect George's final fanfare will be SRO. Steve suggested "Freebird," but one can't do that for an encore until the Bic lighters are in the air.
A discussion ensued concerning which version of “Freebird” to use––the shorter single one or the seemingly endless album version with guitar solos galore.
Trivia tidbit: in 2014, the most popular song at funerals was Eric Idle's "Always Look on The Bright Side of Life” from the film "Monty Python's Life of Brian." It's been in the top ten funeral requests ever since. What do you think, George? Does that catchy number make your last call? We know how to whistle.
When Patrick exits, he's donating his organs (a Wurlitzer and Hammond B-3) and his brain (like new, rarely used). Whatever's left will be cremated, and the ashes scattered, smothered, and covered at a nearby Waffle House.
In other less morbid conversations, Steve raved about the recent episode of "Ted Lasso" in Amsterdam. Brad agreed it was a killer show. We wonder if Ted is firing up the hash pipe and doing a Van Gogh on his ear. We'll have to tune in and see.
We found the gravesite of Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones, Jr., one of the greatest golfers ever, and his tombstone is piled with golf balls. Pretty ironic, right? Maybe when you lose a ball, this is where they go.
We also saw Margaret Mitchell's headstone, and about 100 feet east of it, the black granite obelisk marking the burial site of legendary Mayor Maynard Jackson.
George and Brad got to know Jackson back when they were involved with the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Games and said he was a larger-than-life character. Maynard still is in death.
The scale and density of structures and monuments are impressive. Not all of them are old. We noticed a couple from the past few years. Some of these families are still around. Or were.
A loud, frightening grumbling was heard. The ground began shaking. Was Maynard coming from the great beyond? Since "The Walking Dead" was shot in Atlanta, could it be returning from syndication? No. It was our stomachs alerting us of their emptiness and anger.
We chatted with friendly Oakland Cemetery volunteer, Walt Haber, who was amused and intrigued by Trailheads' mission of being "On The Path to Truth and Barbecue." The nice guy highly recommended the nearby DAS BBQ. Toot sweet, we exited one boneyard for another, making a beeline for brisket. We've got to live!!!
We had recently sampled the DAS BBQ on Collier Road (read that review here) and were mightily impressed––especially with the innovative sauce udder. But get a load of this, barbecue fans. This location has TWO sauce udders, one dispensing original barbecue sauce and the other giving peach barbecue sauce. They're both available, ready for the squeezing. Get tugging!
We later learned the DAS BBQ owner patented this wonderful gravity-dependent invention. One day, some execs from Chick-fil-A saw the sauce udders and loved them. They wondered why CFA didn't think of that––after all, cows built its brand. The DAS BBQ guys said they'd be happy to sell the patent. They've been waiting for the phone to ring ever since.
Most of us had the famous brisket, and it was incredible. Even the lean cuts were moist and fork-tender, packed with smokey beef flavor. Later, the manager, Bill Carbone, showed us where the smoking magic happens.
Patrick had his iPhone ready, snapping pictures like a hummingbird flapping its wings. The manager opened the custom-made, large, long smoker named "Cledus" and told him to reach inside and get some good shots. Patrick did, worried his companions may give him a quick shove and return tomorrow for some tasty smoked Trailhead. That's not a bad way to go, especially with some good side dishes.
"Hmmm, Patrick was fattier than I imagined," Guy would say. “And more tender.”
"Ouch! I think I chipped a tooth on one of his fake titanium hips," Steve would complain.
Patrick had just returned from Texas and said DAS BBQ was far better than his Lone Star State brisket. Save yourself a trip west and head here–– they have Shiner Bocks iced down and itching to be guzzled. DAS BBQ is the #2 seller of Shiner in Georgia. Impressive.
Rib-Man George got some thick' n meaty St. Louis-style ribs and raved. They were moist and fall-off-the-bone tender. We suggested he Krazy Glue the meat to keep it attached. George Stooge-slapped the wise guys with a clean-picked bone. Brad also loved his ribs and brisket and savory good-to-the-last-leaf collard greens.
Everyone praised the DAS cream corn peppered with jalapeños. The stuff's as tasty as tasty gets. Trailheads agreed this is an all-star side. A don't miss attraction for any visit. The lovely young woman at the counter said it was their most popular side. We know why.
Guy had the chopped chicken breast––he's a healthy-eatin' guy. Trail Master said he liked the smokey flavor with a nice peppery sauce making the bird sing. The slaw eaters liked their jacked-up cabbage with 'tude. And Patrick worked his smoked chicken wings to their bones in no time flat.
Steve was a big fan of the pulled pork sandwich. It's a mound of succulent swine tucked inside a toasted bun. He liked the peach BBQ sauce on his sandwich but didn't care for it as much with the meat alone. We all preferred the original sauce to the peach.
Roy shared his stash of the Hog Mop sauce––vinegary love that smacked everything it touched into a more flavorful shape. It's a thinner consistency and doesn't have an udder for dispensing. You'll find it a syrup dispenser.
As we left, the kind manager gave us a smokehouse tour and told us about the joint. He said it would soon be bustling with cornhole players and other activities. The Grant Park location is ideal, with a dog park across the street and the gold dome of the state Capitol off in the distance.
It was a Lou Reed-perfect day. The weather was ideal, the surroundings enjoyable, the company alive, engaging and entertaining, and the barbecue first-rate.
If you want a fun time, walk Oakland Cemetery, then hit DAS BBQ. And if you choke on a chunk of brisket and no one knows the Heimlich or ignores you, have your pals dump you in a U-Box container.
Rating: Four Ribs*
350 Memorial Dr. SE
Atlanta, GA 30312
*About Our Barbecue Rating System
Trailheads do not claim to be food experts, epicureans, or sophisticated palettes. We are hungry hikers who attack a selected barbecue venue and ravage our way through whatever smoked fare and fixings they're dishing.
Our reviews feature what we believe are the highlights of the menu we sampled. So our intent is not to trash talk the saintly folks who tend to smoldering smokers on hot, humid summer days. They are sacrificing themselves in the noble art of smoking meats and feeding the drooling masses. Many are independent entrepreneurs who are the backbone of this humming American economy.
Now that you know our standards, you may wonder why every barbecue place gets a four ribs rating. The answer is easy: our group has acclaimed designers, and they think the ribs graphic looks cool.
Who are we to argue? Enjoy.