A Story About Breakfast and Bail Bonds

He had not had breakfast.

He sat in a Waffle House booth on a Saturday morning, dressed in a white t-shirt under a denim jacket. He ordered an omelet with cheese, tomatoes and ham, a double order of hash browns, bacon (a little crispy), and two toasted slices of white bread.

The waitress forgot the tomatoes, and he told her so she would not charge him for them.

Breakfast is his favorite meal of the day. He is a diabetic, so he makes sure he eats.

“But not too healthy,” he laughed.

As he ate, he talked about his stubborn momma, and how he did not know what he would do without her. He talked about his grandmother, and relying on her recipes. He told of his daughter, how she made the honor roll last year, and when had she gotten so tall?

Reggie Davis was arrested two days later in his neighborhood in Autauga County for trafficking drugs. His bond was set to $45,000.

Davis had lost his job before Christmas, and his ex-wife wanted to know how he would buy the kids’ presents.

He was 45 years old, living with his mother, his youngest sister, and her four children.

“It hurts.”

He was desperate. He could not pay his bills, or his traffic tickets.

“I was in survival mode.”

Davis was indicted on a grand jury charge for being a middleman. He said he brought the two parties together, but did not touch any drugs or money.

“But I was there. I put it in motion,” Davis said.

He wanted to make sure his children had what they wanted, even if it was just a little bit.

Davis started with his omelet, and talked about being 16. He grew up in Prattville, Ala., with three younger sisters. His parents divorced when he was three, after a marriage of 15 years. He went to Prattville High School, and “played every sport.”

“I hung out with a lot of white people,” Davis laughed.

He graduated in 1986 and entered the military. He worked and traveled everywhere from California to Germany for 18 years. He married a woman who was also in the military, and the two lived in Germany. They had two children, and separated in 2004.

“She told me to move back to Alabama, and save us some money. I told her if I moved, we weren’t going to make it,” Davis said.

He moved back to Alabama. They were divorced in 2008, and he married a woman named Tamie, whom he had met when he was 16. But Davis was too settled for Tamie, and they filed for divorce in January.

He lives “from here to McDonald’s” next to Tamie. The Waffle House and the McDonald’s sit side by side.

Davis’s mother has lived in the same house since he was three, and he moved back in when he and Tamie separated. Davis said it isn’t so bad, but he and his sister argue a lot. She dropped out of high school and never moved out.

“That’s why I work so much. I’m trying to get something to get out,” Reggie said.

He salts his hash browns, and says being in Prattville has reminded him much of his past.

He recalls a bonfire with his friends when he was 18. He was the only black man there, a circle of teenagers on private property that was buried deep in the Autauga woods. They laughed and drank until the police showed up.

Two officers cornered Davis, and threatened to drag him into the pond.

“Do you have any parents?” the cops asked. “Do you even have parents?”

Davis had never met racial hostility so frankly before. His friends stood back with wide eyes, and tried to laugh it off once the officers left.

“I just told them to take me home,” Davis said. “I wasn’t in the mood after that.”

He has never told his mom of the night, even 27 years later.

He left many of those hometown friends as he traveled with the military.

Jackie was his best friend, and the two reconnected once he was back. She passed away in December after being diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy. He stops chewing his hash browns, and the look in his eyes shows his mind is not on the cooling breakfast in front of him, or where he will get the money for next month’s bills. It is in another time, one of memories.

“I don’t talk about her a lot,” Davis said.

He eyes a greasy slice of bacon and says he regrets leaving the military.

He works for Amcom Home Theatre L.L.C. in Wetumpka, Ala.  He gets up Monday through Friday and injects himself with a shot of insulin and arrives at work by 8:00. When he first started with Amcom, Davis made $350 a week. He makes a little more now that he installs three or four satellite dishes a day.

His pay scale has changed a lot since the military. He said it is hard to get a good paying job, and that he is always looking for better pay.

“I thought, ‘I’m finally going to get that job.’ I still haven’t gotten that job.”

The military had comforted him with security. He knew his bills would be paid whether he went to work or not.

Now, his electricity or hot water will get cut off.

“I live check to check. And it hurts.”

He said when his son Kimone came home from Auburn, Ala., last week he was able to give him $40.

“That felt good. But it didn’t feel good when I needed it the next week,” Davis said.

Kimone was an offensive lineman at Huntingdon for two years after high school graduation. He is 6’3” and 298 pounds. Davis thought his son would play professional football and take care of the family for the rest of their lives.

Davis said many people dream of being rich, but not him.

“I want something better,” Davis said. “I want to be able to pay my bills and live comfortably.”

He butters his toast, and covers the top with purple jelly.

On Saturdays, he cranks a white Ford-150 truck, turns left off Cosby Court, and heads towards Chip Cleveland’s farm. He does whatever the Clevelands need doing. He will wash cars, clean tractors, repair fence boards, or cut the grass when it is too tall.

Cleveland is a lawyer in Prattville, and met Davis the first time he was in jail for writing bad checks. Davis was part of a work release program on Saturdays at Cleveland’s farm. He has continued to work on Cleveland’s farm since leaving jail.

“I think Reggie has had a hard time,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland said the structured environment in the military suited him more. He thinks Davis is happier without the military’s control, but the financial means are not enough.

Cleveland bought Davis a truck when he watched him struggle to survive. He helps Davis because he knows Davis has a good heart.

“I trust him,” Cleveland said. “He puts his feet under my table and eats sitting next to me.”

But he said Davis must grow up. If Davis is convicted of his charges he’ll spend 10 to 20 years in prison.

“Our relationship will be severely strained if he is convicted, and greatly diminished,” Cleveland said.

If Davis is not convicted, he will still pay him to work on his farm, but he will have to wean Davis from his financial support.

“It is a fault of mine. I can’t keep doing this forever,” Cleveland said.

Reggie Davis had gone to reinstate his license on Monday morning when the DMV told him there was a warrant for him. He was arrested immediately.

He had not had breakfast.


Bo Hicks is Brewing Beer

It is the story of an argyle octopus.

Two Southern California dads created the Yo Gabba Gabba network, which features the clip. He is Argyle the Octopus, bullied by other sea goers because his skin is, well, argyle patterned. A toddler tells Argyle’s story, how a timid octopus shrouds himself in black ink to hide his skin, becoming a loner of the sea.

“Some say his color was a strange mistake, and others thought his skin looked really quite fake,” the child reads.

But Argyle realized he did not care what the other fish said; his skin was a present, from his mom and his dad.

It ends with Argyle swimming merrily in the blue water, comfortable in his unusual skin.

Bo Hicks is Tuscaloosa’s argyle octopus, swimming in a sea of Patagonia jackets, black leggings, and mediocre beer.

Except Hicks does not shroud himself in black ink. He has Argyle the Octopus tattooed on his left forearm.

He does not have eight arms either, but he works a myriad of jobs. He is a buyer for Manna Grocery and Deli, bartender at Egan’s bar on the strip, bar manager at The Bama theatre, founder of Well That’s Cool, and most recently, co-owner of the Druid City Brewing Company.

Rather than bully him, Tuscaloosa seems to favor its argyle octopus. Hicks was voted runner-up for the “best known person in Tuscaloosa.” Nick Saban was the winner. Yeah, that is one hell of an octopus.

Hicks was born in Birmingham, Ala., but grew up in Abernant, Al., a town of about 8,000 people. He lived on a stretch of road by a little league baseball field in a house with no television, a mom, a stepdad, and two stepsisters.

“I got really hungry for what I couldn’t get out there,” Hicks said.

So his mom would bring him to Vinyl Solutions in Tuscaloosa about once a month. That’s what he saved his money for. Initially, Hicks was hesitant to talk to the “demigods” who ran the record store.

“I knew just enough to think I didn’t know anything,” Hicks said.

The trips helped him get away from the pop country and rap that is all too familiar to rural Alabama residents. He remembers sitting on his mom’s porch listening to Smashing Pumpkin songs. Hicks said Pavement, an initially underground, indie-rock band hailing from California, probably influenced him the most. He was drawn to their silly quirkiness.

His first concert was New Kids on the Block when he was eight years old.

“I made up for it though.”

Nirvana was his second.

Hicks came to Egan’s bar 13 years later. When he was 25, working at 15th Street Diner, he applied to be a bartender at Egan’s. They hired someone else, but the other guy didn’t pan out, so Hicks landed the job.

“Egan’s was this bastion of non-cover bands, where the freaky, interesting people hung out,” Hicks said.

Eight years later, much has changed for Hicks. He sits on a stool at Egan’s, watching the Super Bowl pregame on ESPN while sipping a special batch of beer, Red Dust Rising from Druid City Brewing Company. He knows everyone in the bar, and buys two newcomers a beer.

His last eight years have had a lot of beginnings, and a few endings.

Working at Egan’s led Hicks to create something that would fill the void of Tuscaloosa’s redundant, mediocre nightlife. Bartending showed him what people craved. He founded Well That’s Cool, a community group dedicated to improving Tuscaloosa. The undertaking came to fruition about five years ago, when Hicks realized the entertainment life was lacking.

“There is no support of the artistic, intelligent community, which is why people move after they graduate,” Hick said.

Well That’s Cool promotes affairs in Tuscaloosa and directly sponsors a multitude of local events, ranging from a Southern beer fest to a chili cook-off.

Hicks said WTC’s crowning achievement was the Tuscaloosa Get Up! benefit concert, an event that fundraised for Habitat for Humanity in lieu of the April 27th tornadoes. Get Up showcased the Alabama Shakes, Tuscaloosa’s own The Dexateens, and Lee Baines III and the Glory Fires. The event raised $20,000 and helped a local family piece their disaster-stricken lives back together.

Hicks was aging out of bands he played in, and found Well That’s Cool as a way to stay connected to Tuscaloosa.

He was not done yet. Hicks then led a crusade that took what Tuscaloosa thought was local and turned it on its ear. He created the Druid City Brewing Company, Tuscaloosa’s first brewery since Barrett’s Brewpub closed in 1999. For Hicks, the brewery was more than just beer.

“Making the beer is a lot like making music. When I see someone enjoying a beer, it’s like seeing them enjoy your music.”

Hicks was introduced to his business partner, Elliot Roberts, by Adam Klein, the assistant brewmaster at Good People Brewing Company in Birmingham, Ala. Hicks feared that if he and Roberts did not open a brewery, someone would move in and capitalize on it.

“We are confirmed locals,” Hicks said.

Hicks and Roberts visited Blue Pants Brewery and Straight to Ale in Huntsville, Ala. Hicks said they realized it would be a lot of work, but it could also be something they could do for a living, something they could stand up and be proud of—something tangible.

“It’s something you can hold in your hands, but hopefully it’s gone soon,” Hicks laughed.

There were a lot of unexpected aspects that came with the brewery, like buying a $14,000 piece of equipment, and then realizing it also needs an air compressor or water separator—or having consistency issues with a 180-gallon batch of beer. Hicks said he would do-over some structural aspects, like floor drains, but for the most part, they got lucky.

Tuscaloosa was not prepared for the Druid City Brewing Company. There was no zoning or tax plan for a brewery, and the council had to approve it as they went along. But the brewery finally found its home in Parkview Center, across from the parking lot of Oz Music.

Tuscaloosa proved it had been thirsting for something local—a thirst waiting to be quenched.

Hicks squints one eye and counts on his hands as he tries to remember all the places DCBC provides beer. He makes it to sixteen or so when he settles on a definitive number.

“A lot.”

Hicks said pale ale sells the most, but the vanilla bourbon brew is the most asked about. Today, Hicks drinks the Red Dust Rising brew, named after The Dexateens’ best album. The naming is no accident—The Dexateens are a great local band that can succeed, and Red Dust Rising is a local beer that can do the same.

The toughest demographic for DCBC to reach has been the older crowd; those that have drank the same beer for 30 years. Hicks said people are becoming adventurous with their beer selection, and mentioned how a few fraternity men asked him about the pale ale because they tried it recently. Hicks said he aims to appeal to everybody with his beer.

His dad taught him how to drink beer, but Klein taught him how to brew it.

Hicks said they brew whenever they can find time. Sometimes he gets off work at Manna Grocery and Deli and brews until midnight, or he’ll go in on weekends at 7 in the morning and brew all day.

Hicks said the brewery’s time commitment surprised him. The guy has a lot that must be done now, immediately, yesterday. But his wife, Becky, works with him at Manna Grocery and Deli, and he wakes up and snuggles with his three and a half year old daughter.

Becky Hicks knows that DCBC is a time investment. They met when Hicks was working at 15th Street Diner, and his coworker was her roommate. She said she noticed Hicks was someone who could strike up a conversation with anyone, and they all liked him instantly.

Hicks was scared to pull the trigger.

“We were playing the juke box at the Back Porch, and she just laid one on me,” Hicks said.

They were married eight years later.

The newlyweds had a short wedding in the courthouse, followed by a long party at The Lodge on Bee Branch Road, an old hangout for F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tallulah Bankhead, Hudson Strode and Johnny Mack Brown. The big lodge burnt down in 1988 because of a lack of rain that is characteristic of Alabama summers, but owners Lynn and Tommy Stevenson still use it as a pavilion to host parties. Becky said they asked friends in local bands Sweetdog Experience and the Grenadines to come play, bought a few kegs, and invited everyone they knew.

“Becky got chiggers, and I had moonshine on my shirt. It was an awesome wedding,” Hicks said.

Becky said she loves how the brewery combines what Hicks is passionate about—the creative science that is brewing, meeting people, and doing something positive for Tuscaloosa.

“Being a taste tester isn’t so bad, either,” Becky said.

Audrey Tallulah Hicks is three and half years old. She goes by Pistol.

Her nickname was not planned. Becky said Hicks’s mom kept asking what her name would be, so Hicks blurted out “Pistol”. His mom took it seriously. Soon they received monogrammed bibs and towels, and the name stuck.

It fits. Pistol is opinionated.

“She wants to wear the stuff that doesn’t match, but I think if you believe enough it goes back to matching,” Hicks said.

About six months after she was born, Hicks and his wife got matching green water pistol tattoos.

Beneath the pistol tattoo is an argyle octopus.

It’s the octopus with skin that doesn’t quite match; skin that is a present from his mom and his dad. He could have hidden it in a cloud of ink. Instead, he’s brewing beer and making waves in Tuscaloosa.

Druid City Garden Project Spreads Its Roots

*Published in The Tuscaloosa News


TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—The Druid City Garden Project is unearthing opportunities in the Tuscaloosa area and will soon to reach a very different group than its usual students at local schools—residents at the Juvenile Detention Center in Tuscaloosa.

The DCGP is a non-profit with a mission to educate people about making smart, sustainable food choices. The project was created in 2010 by Andrew Beck Grace after he and his wife, Rashmi, pledged to eat strictly locally grown food for a year. Grace is the president of the board for DCGP and his wife is the education director.

Students ranging from grades kindergarten to fifth come out to their respective locations at University Place and Stillman Heights Elementary schools twice a week, where they gain experience in the garden while also building math, science, and nutrition skills.

Cathy Wood, Education Director and Assistant Director of the Tuscaloosa Co. Juvenile Detention Facility, said the project’s mission is rehabilitation.

“We try to expose them to new experiences and help them find strengths they didn’t know they had,” Wood said.

The facility’s curriculum incorporates other forms of therapy, too—ranging from equine therapy, welding, and teaching residents basic electrical and plumbing skills. Wood said anything traditional doesn’t work, so she tries to think out of the box.

“Some of them are great kids that just made a bad decision or two. They have so much hope,” Wood said.

Lindsay Turner, director of the DCGP, said she gets excited when she thinks about the opportunities in the project’s grasp.

Turner said the facility approached her in September about partnering with them, and she is excited to utilize gardening with the children.

“We will be working on education, but more importantly rehabilitation,” Turner said.

Horticultural therapy will be the focus of the garden.

The DCGP will hire a part-time garden teacher for the center’s garden. The chosen candidate will work five hours a week, and DCGP is looking for someone with a background in education who works well with people.

Turner said they are working with the art teacher at the center so juveniles can help design the garden beds that will be constructed.

But this isn’t the only opportunity that DCGP has dug up.

The DCGP will be at four more schools by next August—two in Alberta, one in Woodland Forest Elementary, and a fourth that hasn’t been selected yet.

Turner said school gardens accomplish so much. Teaching gardening skills in schools has proven to raise test scores and increase parental involvement. She said it’s important for students to be cognizant of food choices they’re making.

Multiple education officials have asked for DCGP to come to their schools.

“We’ve had far more requests than we can facilitate,” Turner said.

Schools must meet criteria to be selected for the garden incubation program.

Turner said the schools “have to want them” and the principal must be supportive, otherwise the project won’t work. The school forms a garden committee, which consists of school officials and teachers. The committee acts as DCGP’s liaison to the garden.

DCGP has a three-year model. They stay at the school for three years, and then turn the garden over to the school.

But DCGP’s path hasn’t been entirely peachy. Turner said her biggest issue as director is finding funding.

The project charges the selected school a monetary fee after it is chosen.

“Being a 501(c)(3) [non-profit organization], money is tight all around,” Turner said.

DCGP is applying for a community development grant, and holds fundraisers, to support the project. Turner said Tuscaloosa has few large corporations to act as sponsors, and with the University of Alabama’s presence in Tuscaloosa there is a disproportionate amount of non-profits for the number of citizens. She said she hopes that DCGP will be a model program for the state of Alabama and that in turn will increase funding.

Turner said her favorite thing about her job is the students.

With the four additional schools, DCGP will be reaching more than 2,000 students per week. Her favorite days are when she goes to the gardens with the children.

“It’s fantastic to see fourth graders eating kohlrabi,” Turner said.

Tuscaloosa has a project that empowers its citizens to make smarter food choices. All it took to find was a little digging.

EPA to Test Soil in North Birmingham Neighborhoods

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—The Environmental Protection Agency has made its way south to test soil and water in North Birmingham area—that is, if the residents will let them.

Joseph Bryant, Birmingham News, said this problem dates back several years. Bryant said the affected neighborhoods (Harriman, Collegeville, and Fairmont) are a mix of residential and industrial. The industries are said to be causing contamination in the soil and water of the area. The EPA has set up an office in Birmingham to determine the extent of the contamination.

“For years people complained about the air and the soil. So after all this time, the EPA has come in,” Bryant said.

The area has been declared a Superfund area, which allows the EPA to force those responsible for the contamination to clean it up or pay the agency to do so. Bryant said Superfund areas are rare. At the end of 2010, there were just over 1200 in the nation.

Vivian Starks, president of the neighborhood, was born in Collegeville and returned to the area around 20 years ago. Starks said residents just want a healthy place to live.

“I can’t say that it’s worse than what it’s been, because you get used to it,” Starks said.

Picture courtesy of abc3340.com

Picture courtesy of abc3340.com

Starks said black soot lands on her property daily, and she is constantly cleaning because it gets in the house. She said it’s a hazard living in the area.

“It seems like a small thing to other people, but if you’re living in it every day, it becomes a big thing,” Starks said.

Starks said her breathing suffers, and when she goes outside the air causes her eyes to burn. She said almost everyone in the area has some type of allergies. Starks said the area has a high cancer rate, and that most of the children have asthma.

“That’s saying a lot by itself,” Starks said.

Residents must fill out forms to authorize EPA officials to test soil on their private property. Starks said residents don’t have issues filling out the forms, but lawyers have visited the area and told residents to file lawsuits, and not to send their testing authorization forms to the EPA.

“But they should be sending them to the EPA so they can come to the property and test,” Starks said.

Starks said residents are being given the wrong information, and that some law offices are sending misleading letters that are the same color as the EPA forms and mention the EPA. She said the letters are especially misleading for older residents, which make up a lot of the community in the neighborhoods.

Starks said when she realized how serious the contamination was, she transformed her garden to a raised bed. She said few people in the area can afford raised gardens, and residents with gardens in the ground are finding deformed vegetables in their gardens.

“People don’t realize that in our area we used to have fruit trees. We can’t have fruit trees,” Starks said.

Bryant said for years residents have lobbied for help and called for attention to their plight.

Federal officials are set to test more than 1200 properties for pollution in the water and soil caused by nearby industries. Walter Coke, a baked coal company, has agreed to clean up five of its industrial properties.

Bryant said if the residents don’t allow the EPA to run tests “it would be a long effort that ended in a single failure.”

Bryant said not allowing the EPA to run tests is like calling the cops, but not opening the door when they show up. He said the EPA can handle industries like Walter Coke, but private properties require cooperation from the owners.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell visited the area in the beginning of November with EPA officials.

The Druid City Garden Project

Photo credit: Druidcitygardenproject.org

TUSCALOOSA, ALA— You know when you drop your child off at school, they’re probably going to learn to multiply, or where to place commas in a sentence, or even which bully to avoid on the playground.

But what about gardening?

That’s right, gardening.

As in digging your hands in the fresh dark soil and putting that small seed in, and seeing the green sprout after a couple days of sunshine.

That’s what the kids at University Place Elementary school are learning about during their school days.

It’s called the Druid City Garden Project. And it’s here to crusade for the long forgotten days of growing your own food.

The project’s mission is to educate people about making smart, sustainable food choices.

Photo credit: Druidcitygardenproject.org

Students ranging from grades kindergarten to fifth come out to their respective locations at University Place and Stillman Heights Elementary schools twice a week, where they gain experience in the garden while also building math, science, and nutrition skills.

Lindsay Turner, executive director of the Druid City Garden Project, said one of the project’s pillars is to “provide accessible food”. Turner said that DCGP subsidizes the produce at an on-site Farm Stand, so when parents come to pick up their children they can roll down their car window and buy what their kids have been growing.

Turner said there is quite a demand for the project.

“Every local school principal has contacted me about doing it. We just need the funding,” Turner said.

The DCGP hosted its own Garden Party Sunday at the L&N Train Station. The fundraiser was followed by the first screening in Tuscaloosa of the film “Eating Alabama,” which depicts the struggle narrator Andy Grace and his wife, Rashmi, faced as they ate strictly locally-grown food for a year.

The Garden Party brought together restaurants and farmers in a collaboration where the chefs used produce from the farmers to create their dishes.

The event had one rule about who could bring food: you had to be local.

The businesses in attendance ranged from grocers like Bo Hicks at Manna Grocery to restaurants such as Jim N’ Nicks and catering companies, like Mary’s Cakes and Pastries and Snap Decisions Catering.

Good People Brewing supplied the beer and Carpe Vino held a wine tasting in the VIP section of the event.

Good people and good food? The only thing missing was music.

Which is where Red Mountain White Trash came in. An old-time string band jammed barefoot on the wood floor in the corner of the packed room while event-goers chatted and ate off of full plates.

The party attracted people from all walks of life. Some wore “I Know Andy” shirts while others found out about the fundraiser from Facebook posts.

Alisha Gaines, who is in her fourth semester as a teacher’s assistant in the college of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Alabama, took part in the event.

“I came to support local produce,” Gaines said.

Gaines said the DCGP takes compost from the HES college and uses it in their gardens.

U.S. Congressional candidate Don Chamberlain attended the party with business on the brain.

Chamberlain said his support for healthier food choices brought him to the event. Alabama is ranked number four in the nation in obesity.

“They aren’t eating right in schools and 32 percent of people walking around are obese.”

Chamberlain also said believes that Alabama has one of the best natural resources for farming.

“There is no reason we should be buying $1 million in fruits and vegetables from Mexico when we can grow them right here in the Black Belt.”

There was a prime example of that in the crowd as well.

Ann Gibson, owner of Snap Decisions Catering, has been growing blueberries at her home for seven years.

Turner found her at the Homegrown Alabama Farmers Market. Gibson used blueberries from a local farmer to make her blueberry and peach bread pudding.

“You can make bread pudding out of anything, as long as you put enough sugar in it,” Gibson said.

Gibson has lived in Tuscaloosa her whole life. She tells the story of how after the April 27th tornados hit in 2011 her and her business associate, Marla Moss, went and got the donated food from the Salvation Army and cooked it for tornado victims in her shop on Highway 69.

“You’ve gotta give back to your community.”

The Garden Party and its supporters agree they are dedicated to one thing: locality.

Everyone at the event may have had different names, different jobs, and different goals, but they all support the same thing: their community, Tuscaloosa.

Hidden Tuscaloosa

Photo provided by WellThatsCool.com

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.— They could have fled.

They could have loaded up their cars and headed for the Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta, Ga. They could have escaped to New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago.

But they didn’t.

They stayed in Tuscaloosa and devoted themselves to giving the people of the city more than just Saturday football and $20 cover at Gallettes.

They created Well That’s Cool, a community group dedicated to improving Tuscaloosa. The group finds and creates new entertainment in Tuscaloosa for residents who have outgrown the college lifestyle.

The undertaking came to fruition four years ago when four post-college age residents decided the entertainment life was inadequate and redundant.

The problem is students tend to graduate from the University of Alabama – and flee.

The entertainment scene often resembles the directions on the back of a shampoo bottle. Drink mediocre beer. Listen to mediocre bands. Repeat.

Something was needed, someone; a crusade against the pedestrian lifestyle too often attributed to Tuscaloosa.

This is where Well That’s Cool comes in. They promote awesome affairs in Tuscaloosa and directly sponsor a multitude of local events, ranging from a Southern beer fest to a chili cook-off.

Bo Hicks, dubbed the loquacious one of the group, was familiar with Tuscaloosa after he moved to the area for school.

“People here need something to do after college,” Hicks said.

And Well That’s Cool has given the people of Tuscaloosa plenty.

Their most recent triumph was the Tuscaloosa Get Up! tornado benefit concert, an event that fundraised for Habitat for Humanity in lieu of the April 27, 2011 tornados. Get Up showcased The Alabama Shakes, Tuscaloosa’s own The Dexateens, and Lee Baines III and the Glory Fires.

The event raised $20,000 and helped a local family piece their disaster-stricken lives back together.

“Get Up was our crowning achievement,” Hicks said.

They held their 3rd annual Brews Cruise in August 2011. Bands play aboard the top deck of the Bama Belle River Boat as patrons float down the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa. Local breweries provide craft beer “good enough to bring a tear to a glass eye,” according to WellThatsCool.com.

The wildly popular Suds of the South Beerfest is another event the group hosts to attract craft beer aficionados by featuring Southern breweries. The event’s purpose is to show beer consumers that a good cold one can indeed come from the South, not just breweries on the West Coast. Only one non-Southern brewery is allowed and is deemed the “sympathizer”. Think wine tasting gone right.

Eric St. Clair, founding member, said the goal of Well That’s Cool is not to get bigger, but better.

“Our influences are the voids of town,” St. Clair said.

Their vision was something akin to Wayne’s World, a 1992 comedy about two guys and their local-access cable TV show.

But unlike a scripted show, the group met problems that couldn’t be rewritten.

Well That’s Cool met much “toiling and obscurity” in its dawning ages. Shortly after founding member Nick Rymer moved to New York, St. Clair doubted the longevity of the group.

“To be honest, I thought we would fold. Bo [Hicks] definitely stepped up. He kept it going.”

Photo provided by WellThatsCool.com

Hicks, aging out of bands he played in, found Well That’s Cool as a way to stay connected to Tuscaloosa. He said the group learns with every event they do.

Similarly to the aforementioned Wayne’s World, Well That’s Cool films a podcast laced with humor in front of a live studio audience each Friday night, which is then posted to their website and Facebook page. The podcast announces the week’s upcoming events in Tuscaloosa.

The local music scene was a shrouded abyss of cover bands but, like a drink of cold water, Well That’s Cool appeared to quench the residents’ thirst; to give them a taste of the originality they’d been craving.

Well That’s Cool showcases indigenous and original music at their events.

The group befriended The Alabama Shakes, a Southern soul band from Athens, Ala., before the band’s debut on the music scene.

“Tuscaloosa is like a second home to them,” Hicks said.

The Alabama Shakes have appeared at numerous events put on by Well That’s Cool and never fail to attract quite the crowd.

Hicks said the scene of cover bands bogs down Tuscaloosa and Well That’s Cool is their way to endorse original music.

“If I hear Brown-Eyed Girl one more time, you can kick me in the taint,” Hicks said.

Music isn’t the only thing Well That’s Cool likes to keep local. The group has strictly local sponsors as well.

The most prevalent are Manna Grocery and Deli, three bars –Wilhagans, Alcove, Green Bar, the Pink Box Burlesque, and The Left Hand, a handmade herbal soaps company.

Team member Erin Phillips said national sponsors have approached the group before, only to leave disappointed.

The Well That’s Cooligans and their friends gather in a small room above the Oak City barbershop in downtown Tuscaloosa. A couch that has seen better days is the focal point of the room. It’s surrounded by mismatched chairs that circle around a worn coffee table littered with ashtrays and an issue of BeerAdvocate.

A stuffed cat nicknamed “Moxie” is the finishing touch on a room that signifies the true collaboration of teamwork and camaraderie.

As far as progress goes, “We plan on doing this until we get lame,” St.Clair said.

“We have mortgages. We aren’t going anywhere.”

Tuscaloosa may not have New York’s Times Square, or Los Angeles’ lush palm trees, or even a Chicago-size skyline worth bragging about, but the city does have true, homegrown character.

All it needed to come out of hiding was a little coaxing and a team willing to fill the void.

And well, that’s pretty cool.