THE MYSTERIOUS CASTLE OF ALPHARETTA

Many of you know that my sister – and then parents – relocated to Atlanta several years ago.  There is a rumor floating around that I was NONE TOO PLEASED about this decision.  Regardless, we paid our first of several visits to the city in the summer of 2007.

On our first trip to Atlanta, we saw many interesting things.  The Georgia Aquarium, Zoo Atlanta, and the Carter Center for starters.  But slightly off the beaten path, just north of the city in the suburb of Alpharetta, we found something which topped them all – at least in terms of its uniqueness.

BEHOLD, my friends!  THE MYSTERIOUS CASTLE OF ALPHARETTA

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Believe it or not, this is no theme park sideshow.  This building stands as one of the most unusual living spaces ever. I myself have seen the owners, a gentle-looking older couple, out lovingly tending the grounds. The property lies (trust me on this) WAY OUT IN THE OPEN, at the corner of Arnold Mill and Cagle Roads, in either Roswell or Alpharetta (now the city of Milton). [As the dividing line is (for an outsider at least) too close to call, I am of course giving it to my parents who live in (you guessed it) Alpharetta (_now Milton_). But enough about Georgia politics!]

The house has a certain aura of MYSTERY about it. Likely b/c it is the only thing even semi-interesting and/or remotely Disney-esque for miles. and MILES. And of course, as any good mystery junkie, I HAD to get to the bottom of it.

Coming home from dinner one night, my father related the facts as he knew them. The owner, a former truck driver, built the castle years ago. Although it looks uninhabited from the road, with windows made of reflective yellow glass, most of the living quarters – ACCORDING TO MY FATHER’S SOURCE – are actually (hold your breath) subterranean. WOW. As if the exterior wasn’t captivating enough, rumor has it the house is actually a front for some sort of neolithic man cave dug deep inside the earth. Could it get any better??!!

Well, YES.

Although our paltry photos do their best to describe the actual home, they leave out some VERY juicy details. Such as The Moat. Yes, You heard me. The perimeter of the castle is surrounded by a (I do not know how deep) moat, dug into the ground and made into part of a swimming pool. It appears the moat widens at the rear of the house and becomes more conventionally pool-like. As you can see from the photo below, there is a small adjacent pool castle building, complete w. diving board. You cannot actually see said diving board in the photo, but it is there in reality, sticking out. I am not lying.

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Having done some research, I have read conflicting reports of the actual square footage of The Castle. Ranging from 1,400 to 6,600. QUITE A BIT OF DIFFERENCE, wouldn’t you say?? Me too. And as the above ground portion of building is truly tiny, I can only hold w/ the man cave theory. And speaking of a dream house, can you imagine anything better than thwarting pesky Avon Ladies and Jehovah’s Witnesses with your very own DRAWBRIDGE???! (No offense intended of course to those selling cosmetics and/or God.) But it seems as though the lucky owners made – as if part of their plan – not one but TWO drawbridges. I have read (second hand) that these lower into garage door openings. But again, I cannot attest to the factuality of this statement.

The entire perimeter of the property itself is (as you can see) girded by a wrought-iron fence, topped at points by sweet (British?) garden gnomes.

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In writing this post, I mean no disrespect to the owners, Rudy and Ruth McLaughlin.  To the contrary, I too believe every man’s house is his castle.  They just took the phrase slightly more literally than the rest of us.  And in doing so, provided us all with a little interest, a little mystery, a little something DIFFERENT. I thank them for doing so.  Certainly, my parents – who live just minutes away from the castle, must have a smile on their faces each time they drive by.  And the countless denizens of the adjacent affluent housing developments, when they’ve had “one too many” at the [insert club] dinner, never have to wonder IS THISHH ONE MIINE? when they pull up in the drive.

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Looking for MORE information w/out making the actual trip? See:

Roadside Georgia’s entry on THE CASTLE
Milton’s ASK YOUR NEIGHBOR
Way Marking’s entry on THE CASTLE
Will Roswell or Milton get Ted’s Spread?
And perhaps, the most encompassing entry yet on The Castle.

ATLANTA, or why I love Target Brand Box Riesling.

When my sister moved to Atlanta for graduate school, I was happy for her. The separation was sad, but she was making a success of her life, and it wasn’t forever. I understood.

But when my parents decided to join her down south in Atlanta, well…..
that was just a bit too much. I felt slightly.. abandoned. Hey I know I’m way out of diapers, but I STILL WANT MY MOMMY. Atlanta is far. Far enough to make a one-day drive with 2 kids nearly intolerable, and other than freshman year of college I’d never lived more than an hour away from my folks my whole life. So when they made the move – to ATLANTA of all places, I was more than peeved. I was hurt. And angry. And not a little bit PISSED OFF, especially AT ATLANTA. What was so freaking great about Atlanta?

Man, I really hated that town. They did it right, burning it down like that. What did Atlanta think it was, luring my family away from me?

And so, for many months, I resented Atlanta like no other place in the world. It didn’t help that my family were constantly singing the praises of their new and glamorous city like fevered zealots. “ATLANTA this, and ATLANTA that.” “Wait till you see blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

SCREW COKE WORLD, I thought. At least here we have drinking water and can flush our toilets. I am NEVER going to set foot in effing Atlanta. NEVER!
That’ll show ’em!

But like sands through the hour glass….after a few months of not seeing my parents, and speaking to them less and less frequently, I caved like a sinkhole. Time apart from my loved ones had made me think differently. If Atlanta had taken them, I would just have to see why.

And so, this summer, we visited twice. And Hey Mikey! I liked it. Sure it wasn’t dirty dangerous Philly, but it had appeal. It wasn’t interesting in that old historic way, but it was BLING!BLING! like a newly-minted penny. My parents have a gorgeous home. They are happy there, except for missing us. So.. it’s different than we’re used to, but things down there are nice. AND CLEAN. And the People are pleasant. They let you in in traffic. They don’t try to run you over when you’re crossing the street. You can walk the hell out in front of their cars in a parking lot, and they STOP AND SMILE and wave you on. WOW. I DO still hate the fact that you have to drive absolutely everywhere in Atlanta, and it is hot as b*lls in the summer, but summers here in Philly are humid and disgusting too. And my parents have central air and A POOL.

So, yes, I have officially come around. And being the way I am, when I “come around” I REALLY come around. The place I once hated, now I can’t wait to visit again. And not just for my family. But for the STUFF. Atlanta has stuff we don’t have here. STUFF THAT I LIKE. On our visit during the holidays, I came to appreciate even more the charm of the place – or maybe just the charm of the shopping. It’s everywhere. Miles and miles of stores. Sure, they’re mostly the same stores we have here, but they’re like our stores on STEROIDS. The brand new Target here is like their SUPER TARGET’S shrimpy homely cousin. Their Trader Joe’s is awesome and it SELLS WINE AND BEER!!! No wonder people there are so nice. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT SORT OF CHEAP CONVENIENCE?!

I must have gone to the Super Target by my parents house 3 times in 4 days. I just never wanted to leave. I wanted to LIVE THERE. And I am not joking. I felt like some poor deprived third-worlder having stumbled upon paradise. AND I AM NOT THAT INTO SHOPPING, PEOPLE! It’s just THAT GOOD. During one of the Target shopping trips, I came upon something which stopped me in my tracks. You know how great Target is? How every single thing they make is just so irresistably cute/cool/hip and unbelievably inexpensive, that you think surely this corporation has sold its soul to the devil? Well, you will then understand what I have to say. You see, I like wine. I love wine. If I didn’t have kids, I would probably be a full-fledged wino. Well. ATLANTA TARGETS SELL THEIR OWN BRAND OF BOX WINE – but they are CUTE!! AND COLORFUL!! AND FILLED WITH WINE!! AND WHY AM I STILL LIVING HERE IN PHILLY???!! I don’t even like box wine, but now I do because it’s like everything else at Target. IRRESISTIBLE.

I bought the above box of Riesling as a souvenir to bring home, and I don’t even like Riesling. Not even a little. But I thought I WILL LIKE TARGET BRAND BOX RIESLING, I just know it! So we stuck it in the fridge when we got home, and didn’t open it all last week b/c I was so sick, but night before last we each poured a glass and I thought YES! TARGET BRAND BOX RIESLING! DELICIOUSNESS ITSELF!! But then I drank it and thought NO! DEAR LORD, NO!!!

You see, Target branding cannot make up for the fact that I hate the cloying sweetness of Riesling wine. HOWEVER, just because I hate the taste of this wine, DOES NOT MEAN I HATE TARGET BRAND BOX RIESLING> oh Contraire! SIMPLY BECAUSE I hate its taste, it means I will drink less of it. And that’s a good thing, right? After the first glass, the second goes down easy. And who can bear wasting wine, after all?