Looks like the long version is in the lead and I better post this before the absentee ballots are counted. Hope yall have a few minutes to read it.
My foray into Dixieland
Early January, 2006, a Tuesday night, my cell phone rings. Its my best friend from college, hereafter to be referred to as "Married with Kids Guy", only slightly slurring. He announces that he has unilaterally and preemptively chosen our destination for this year's Big Sports Trip. It will, at a minimum, he emphasizes, include a college football game at the stadium he is now standing inside: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia, to which he has driven to escape the tedium of his wife's creepy work conference (she works for a well known pyramid scheme corporation) in Atlanta. His final words before hanging up are "Wait til you see the Peaches dude. Seriously."
Wednesday, September 20, 2006, 10:15AM: I shuffle meekly through the Albuquerque "international" airport security lines, careful not to give offense to the patriotic souls who are endeavoring to protect our rights and freedoms by forcing new mothers to throw away their bottles of breast milk. I discover that our local Homeland Security budget has included enough money to pay GE for new "puffer" machines which blast you with air and then attempt to detect any particulates of explosives which may have become dislodged. I thank my personal lord and savior Jesus Christ for sending us George W Bush to protect my liberty in such a high tech and expensive manner.
Jesus and/or Bush have also been so kind as to provide us with a non-stop flight to Atlanta, a truly rare luxury for Albuquerque-based travelers. Just two weeks prior I had to stop in El Paso, transforming a 1.5 hour flight into a 3 hour one. Fortunately it was all worth it as my beloved Longhorns dominated then-#1 Ohio State, which has since dropped to #7 in the polls.
Three and a half hours later (five and a half on my watch) we arrived in Atlanta, quickly retrieved the bags we had checked (since toiletries now constitute a threat to national security if carried on), and hopped on the MARTA train towards 5 points, where my friend and I were to have dinner with a friend of his wife and her husband. This was a short and forgettable visit (although they were both pretty cool and he was pretty funny.) We received advice from him on what bars/areas to patronize that evening. They then drove us to Buckhead, a neighborhood near downtown Atlanta, where we checked into our room on the "Hotwire level" (aka basement) of the Sheraton, which we were ecstatic to find was also host to a convention of Korean War veterans.
After watching about 30 minutes of the first half (or as my friend put it, the "good half") of Wedding Crashers on HBO, we went out for the evening, begging for advice from every bartender and waitress we encountered along the way. Eventually we happened upon a place called The Tavern, which is apparently a high-end Hooters catering to the well-paid employees of the nearby buildings. Here was my first taste of Peach, as the waitresses were perhaps the most gorgeous waitresses I've ever encountered. They were also the most gorgeous waitresses who have politely and apologetically delayed my beer intake I've ever encountered. Having first waded through the crowd at the bar for our first pair of beers, we jumped at the chance for a table in a prime location and in the hottest of the four waitresses' section. We then proceeded to watch her jump into the laps of and snuggle with several different patrons in expensive suits, then finally take our order after 10 minutes of waiting. At five minute intervals afterwards, she would return to inform us that the bartender was swamped and even at one point that the "beer machine was broken." After waiting thirty minutes for our beers, we got the hint and left. My mood was sour.
We then cabbed it further into Buckhead, having been recommended a cluster of bars around one called the Red Door Tavern. While the tip was correct, and all these bars were cool dive type bars, they were all practically deserted on a Wednesday night, which in retrospect should not have been surprising. Apparently the ATL had not gotten the memo on our impending arrival. We contented ourselves with playing pool at an imaginatively named bar called "The Pool Hall", quickly squandering our high-altitude drinking advantage by drinking high-octane IPA style brews. The last thing I recall is scratching on the eight ball up three with paying for the table for the night on the line, then discovering that in the ATL, pool tables are charged not only by the half-hour but per-person per-half hour. My mood soured further, and then evaporated into blackness. I was later informed that we took a cab back to the Sheraton, and I have no evidence to the contrary.
Day 1 Most Valuable Stranger (MVS): Albuquerque TSA employee who actually did force a new mother to through her bottle full of breast milk away.
Day 1 Best Lines of the Day:
"I like your pussy!" - Married with Kids Guy's Wife's Friend's Husband, shouted out an open car window to a woman who was inexplicably trying to walk her cat on a leash.
"What did she expect, parading her pussy around in public like that?" -me, in response to the wife's horrified reaction
The sun the next morning was an angry and viscious monster. Above ground anyway. At the "Hotwire" level of the Sheraton, we were mercifully spared its savage rays. We spent the morning drinking water and, briefly, venturing across the street for some Chick-Fil-A in the mall. My hangover was a vicious and hateful midget, forever peeing on my exposed brain. I had failed to buy the universal hangover cure, Gatorade. Around noon, the third of our trio arrived (hereafter referred to as "Location Reset Guy", who now resides in Richmond, VA. His cheerful enthusiasm for drink sickened and repulsed me. We reluctantly agreed to begin the day's festivities at 1:30pm. We returned to The Tavern, hoping for better service and fewer rich guys to distract the waitresses. Unfortunately, the day staff consisted mostly of slack jawed yokel-looking types. On the other hand, without the "gonna find me a rich husband" incentive, we did receive prompt service.
Location Reset Guy (hereafter LRG) is thus named because, on our road trips, he will occasionally verbally re-set the location we are currently in during moments of silence. For example, on our east coast baseball trip last year, as we sat silently on the subway on the way to Shea stadium, he looked outside, looked meaningfully at us, and said "Queens, NYC" while nodding his head. Thus was the reset complete.
At 7:30pm the Virginia Cavaliers were slated to play the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. This was the reason we had chosen this particular weekend, a Thursday home game for GT and a Saturday home game for UGA. It was time for the festivities to begin. We wandered aimlessly for nearly an hour, asking multiple people who were also from out of town and many of whom had a very tentative grasp of English where the closest MARTA station was. Finally, we arrived within two blocks of The Georgia Institute of Technology. It was time to get to work. And by "to work", I mean "drunk". We walked partially across campus, to get the lay of the land and see the sights. We quickly abandoned this dull and seemingly deserted campus in search of a bar.
Surely, we thought, any student will know where all the cool places to sit and drink beer will be. My optimism quickly dwindled when first query was met with an incredulous "Beer?" After many, many more attempts at finding someone that sold this mystifying "beer" substance, we were finally given vague directions towards a place called "Crickets" which was "that way" (a vague finger pointing north.) Having walked "that way" for several blocks, we decided to give up and head towards the Georgia Dome, but eventually stumbled on JR Crickets, three blocks east of the direction we were pointed in. We had literally walked within 30 yards of it on our initial walk into the campus. My soul bemoaned this delay in my alcohol intake, while my liver silently celebrated the extra recovery time.
J.R. Crickets, which I'm almost certain is the only place to get a drink within a mile of the GT campus, is a cool little chicken wing bar about three blocks from campus. They served, to paraphrase The Blues Brothers, "Both kinds" of beer; Bud AND Bud Light. There is little to say about this phase of the day, as we drank as fast as possible while occasionally discussing the decline of the success of American Athletes on the international stage, which was to prove prophetic for the following three days. We finally agreed that Roger Federer and Lance Armstrong are the golden gods of the sports world, and agreed that none of us like Tiger Woods, and that we have no real reason for this dislike. We then adjourned for Bobby Dodd stadium, approximately 72 ounces of watery mass-produced pilsner happier.
Bobby Dodd is a lovely brick façade stadium butting right up against the nerdy GT campus. The building is brand new and everything is fairly nice. Other than that, its one of the most forgettable stadiums I've been in, in that it was neither spectacular nor a craphole. The crowd seemed mostly older, though directly to our right was apparently the Frat/Sorority section, and contained a much higher quality of Peaches than I had expected, having been warned that GT students are nearly 100% nerds.
The game itself was extremely lackluster. Virginia had all kinds of off season trouble, losing about half their talent to graduation, arrest, and other such malfeasance, and having had most of their most talented recruits fail to make academic qualifications. As a result GT mostly played Chan Gailey ball, coasting to a 24-7 win. Virginia didn't get a first down until halfway through the third quarter and I was honestly shocked that they managed to score. The only real upside was seeing the best player in college football, Calvin Johnson, in action. Whomever gets the #1 pick in the NFL draft next year would be crazy not to draft this guy. 6'6, sub-4.4 40, great hands, and he's a quality guy and apparently highly intelligent. Fans around us informed us that he already has a patent for some kind of water treatment device to improve water conditions in poor countries. He scored two long touchdowns, once against the only man coverage he saw all night and the second against a deep zone in which he caught the ball underneath and then juked two defenders to get loose for a 70 yard RAC. We left this game with 2 minutes remaining, bored to tears. After negotiating the crowd around the Christian missionaries spreading Jesus' love (by means of "God Hates Fags" and "Homo Sex is Sin" signs) who had placed themselves right at the funneling point of the stadium exit, we had a couple of burgers at The Varsity (a local grease joint of much renown) and took the MARTA back to Buckhead, somewhere along the way growing vaginas and deciding to retire for the evening instead of going out.
Day 2 Most Valuable Stranger: The guy who gave us the "directions" to (direction to) Crickets.
Day 2 Best Lines of the Day:
"Cold water! Save Money! And it's cold, that's the main thang!" - Guy selling water outside Bobby Dodd Stadium.
"Buckhead, GA" - LRG, during our silent shameful walk back to the Sheraton after the game.
"Harlot!" - Friendly missionary, screamed at girl walking by in front of the stadium.
Our evening gender-switch left us relatively unscathed the following morning. After Married with Kids Guy (MwKG) woke us up at 7:30 for his creepy TV Golf obsession, we laid about watching the US Ryder Cup Team fulfill our expectations, losing 3-1.5 in the morning to a group of filthy Euros I've never even heard of, captained by a midget, and led by a 48 year old woman and the extremely tight-pantsed Sergio Garcia. Eventually we left, mildly disgusted. It was time for the main event: Athens, GA. We piled LRG's rental Rav4 and headed out, discovering for ourselves the famous ATL traffic. Athens is about 50 miles outside of Atlanta, and the drive took about 2 hours. Upon arriving we quickly discovered that our hotel was actually a motel, that it was on the far outskirts of town, and that it was optimistically named "America's Best Inn." We bypassed the ABI in search of food, as we had not eaten at all yet and it was after 2pm. We headed towards campus, ate some pizza, had some beers, then left MwKG at the bar to watch the US's team further humiliation (despite having already seen the day's final, 5-3, on another tv), went to the ABI, checked in, and returned, prepared to tear Athens a new expulsive orifice.
I just wrote "Athens is like Austin" and then deleted it. Athens is not like Austin. Athens is like a whole town full of Sixth street. We settled in for the afternoon warm-up session at a place called the Broad Street Grille, a small sports type bar directly across the street from the UGA campus. The local sports radio station was doing their live pre-gameday radio broadcast from a booth in the front. Here we once again went with pitchers of watery American pilsner, this time by choice rather than necessity. The logic was that we were starting early (around 3pm) and didn't want to get too drunk before the night began in earnest. To keep our minds off the taste of the "beer", we played darts. Or at least, MwKG and LRG played darts while I embarrassed myself publicly, rarely finishing 16s before someone closed out bulls in cricket. Our final game saw me miraculously in the lead (after having hit triple 20 and triple 19 on my first two throws) with 1 bulls, MwKG with 15 closed and 0 bulls, and LRG with one 15 remaining. LRG then stepped up and hit triple 15, single bulls, double bulls to end the match and my dreams of glory. They led me out the door (I was blinded by tears), promising to find somewhere I could redeem myself at billiards.
Redemption was at hand as we entered the Allgood Bar. Surely I would win all my money back and then some, having played pool much more often than MwKG lately and thrashing him last time we played, I would surely be at worst second best. Redemption is a hard mistress. I was unable to make the easiest of shots. I responded by switching to much stronger beers and tossing away the earlier battle plan of drinking weak beer in order to party all night. Eventually the others took mercy upon me, with LRG taking on a local partner and MwKG and I partnering up for a few quick wins, partially salving my bruised ego. By now we were all what the lawmakers and constables would call "publicly intoxicated" and began stumbling about in search of food, finding it in the form of a hot dog vendor. Thence we made a brief sojourn into The Globe Bar, of which I remember almost nothing. Around closing time (I think) we stumbled back down to Broad Street, and MwKG secured us a ride back to the ABI with a local by asking "how much to drive us home?" I later found out that we paid him $30 for the 4 mile drive.
Day 3 MVS: Guy we paid $30 to drive us 4 miles.
Day 3 Lines of the Day:
"Athens, GA" - LRG
"You can always tell you're in a bad part of town if you see an Autozone" - LRG, in a prophetic statement as we passed an Autozone on the way out of Atlanta.
"How tall do you figure that guy is? 6'4, 6'6, something like that?" - LRG, after ABC's Johnny Miller explained that the Swedish guy on the Euro Ryder Cup Team was 6'5 for the third time in 15 minutes.
"My kayak instructor last month told me I had to check out Zaxby's. He's this Native American guy. He said the Cherry Fanta is to die for. He was right." - LRG, upon passing the third Zaxby's resturaunt we saw between Atlanta and Athens.
"You guys are just flashes in the pan. I'm a grinder." -Me, shortly before losing my fifth consecutive cricket game, and after hitting a single 18 on my third dart.
"Boulder is a lot like Athens. The people are cool, they have good bars, and they love football. The only difference is, the women are ugly." -Sports Radio Host in the front of the Broad Street Grille, which at the time contained about dozen CU fans.
"Do you seriously think you're going to make that?" - MwKG, as I took aim on an easy 2 foot side pocket shot to eliminate him in a game of cutthroat (I missed.)
I was again woken by the annoying voice of Johnny Miller at 7:30am, quickly discovering that the US was behind in all but one match. The bad news was compounded when I discovered that I had apparently fallen down at least once the night prior with a huge scrape on my left shin and a raspberry on my right knee, neither of which was discovered prior to the searing pain I experienced when soaping them in the shower. Fortunately, today MwKG couldn't make us lay around watching that Golf very long because it was GAMEDAY BABY. Big 12 laughingstock Colorado was set to take a very, very thorough beating from UGA, who hadn't given up a point yet the whole season. Colorado had a season high score of 10 points... against division 2 Montana State, to whom they had lost. We had a 12:30pm kickoff time. A cab was called. Showers were taken.
Our cab appeared to be a 1983 Chevy Caprice. Its windows did not work, nor did its a/c. Fortunately the windows were stuck in the down position. The cabbie informed us that he just had to pick up a "little wisp of a girl" real quick and then we'd be on our way. As we drove to pick up said wisp, certain signs began to manifest: the signs of a ghetto. LRG picked up on this first, pointing out an Autozone and a liquor store in rapid succession. We arrived at the apparent pick-up point and sat for 20 minutes honking, and finally a guy shuffled out of the building, taking one last hit and then flicking his roach into the grass. It was now that we had our first taste of good old fashioned southern racism, as the cabbie turned to us and said "sorry boys, didn't know it was gonna be a nigger." The rest of the cab ride was silent.
We had the cabbie drop us off a decent walk away from the stadium, to stretch our legs a little bit and see the sights. Apparently the street we were on was Greek row or something, as it seemed that the yards of the buildings all along it had tents with frat tailgate parties going on inside. The first thing I noticed was that UGA girls are really hot (there hadn't been many out at the bars while I was still coherent the night before.) The second thing I noticed is that they all wear formal dresses to the game, literally. It looked like prom night at a school where all the girls have agreed to wear black dresses. The frat guys all seemed to wear silly looking crimson pants, white shirts, and crimson ties. To be honest, I'm still a little creeped out by it.
We quickly ate and bought some universal hangover cure, then headed up to our seats, which were second row. Of the third tier. Behind us sat a group of about ten Colorado fans, already well into their cups in anticipation of the sure thrashing they would receive. Of particular note was a girl we quickly began calling "Annoying Attention Whore," (AAW), a late twenties slightly overweight mediocre looking girl who liked to talk to hear her own voice. Also of note was a couple and their ten or so year old kid, who I will refer to as "Georgia Redneck Stereotype Kid" (GRSK) , who was about four foot 2 and at least 180 pounds. His parents sat on the opposite side of the aisle from us while he sat right next to MwKG and began mercilessly annoying him with his life story and how much he loves UGA football.
Sanford stadium is the single most beautiful football stadium I've ever been in. It puts DKR to shame, seriously. Every detail of the place is meticulously maintained, particularly the field itself and the hedges that enclose it. After all the usual pre-game activities the Buffaloes came out, complete with Ralphie which they proceeded to charge across the field. AAW then spent the next 20 minutes telling everyone around her how much she loves Ralphie. At this point GRSK began interacting with AAW, much to our delight. He chastised CU for daring to bring the Buffalo to Georgia, and also for daring to even play against UGA. AAW was just happy to have the attention and condescendingly explained CU's coaching change, to which GRSK responded "Yeah, I know, Barnett got fired. And you had a girl place kicker."
CU got the ball first, and from the very first play, completely dominated the UGA defense. UGA got a stop but not before CU was in easy field goal range. AAW now gushed endlessly about how great it would be if CU actually scored because she expected them to get blanked. UGA blocked the field goal.
As the game wore on, it became apparent that Mark Richt is a bad football coach. Despite his vastly more talented squad, UGA was completely dominated on offense, defense, and special teams. His gunners interfered with the catch on two consecutive punts. His defense gave up thirteen points in the first half to the fifth worst offense in the country, repeatedly giving up first downs to QB bootlegs with passes to a late releasing tight end. His offense got (by my count) 2 first downs in the first half against a team that lost to Montana State at home. It was a testament to the UGA defense's sheer talent level that the game wasn't 28-0 or worse at half time. That's how badly UGA got outplayed.
After the usual halftime activities, the game resumed with neither team able to move the ball in the third quarter. UGA began covering the trailing tight end and putting a spy on the CU QB. UGA still couldn't move the ball, looking Greg Davis-esque in the sheer conservatism of their play calling. Even when they went for it on 4th down and 3 in the CU red zone, they ran a draw play and got stuffed. Late in the third, UGA freshman five star QB recruit Matt Stafford was replaced with unheralded redshirt freshman Joe Cox. Cox made some nice passes in leading UGA to a TD with 9:11 left in the game. The crowd came alive. GRSK began loudly talking trash to the CU fans.
The UGA defense shut CU down for the rest of the quarter. UGA had two decent drives but lost a fumble on the first and was stopped on 4th and 3 again on another draw play. On UGA's final drive Joe C hit a tight end on a skinny post to score and put UGA up 14-13 for good after the conversion. UGA failed to cover the spread by twenty. Six. Points. The crowd was happy regardless. GRSK finished his performance be informing AAW that "yall played good, I'll give yall that much." He then turned his back on her and ignored her response, which I missed as I was doubled over laughing.
After the game we once again set out in search of all the finest meats and cheeses. We ended up eating and drinking beers in a place called the Blue Moon Tavern, where we watched tOSU let PSU hang with them until the fourth quarter, and also watched the only chubby girls we saw in Athens play beer pong, get ludicrously drunk, sing (shout) along to Sir Mixalot's "Baby Got Back", and ultimately hit on us. From there we went to the Nowhere Bar, and I received another drubbing at darts, this time at the hands of what we afterwards found out where the president and secretary of the Atlanta Darts Association.
At this point we gave up on bar athletics and turned our attention to serious journalism; interviews of local Peaches. I won't bore you with the details, Georgia co-eds are just about as interesting to talk to as co-eds anywhere else. It's just that they're much, much hotter. My interview session was concluded when the Big Lebowski-era Tera Reid look-alike I was just getting to answer the hard, probing questions was interrupted by my her boyfriend, who took the podium to state that the candidate had no further comment.
Saturday was one of those nights. You've been drinking all weekend, practically nonstop, and you've become (seemingly) immune to alcohol. MwKG, who is currently in paramedic school, informed me that this phenomenon is called "alcoholism", and occurs when your brain becomes so accustomed to being drunk that drunk feels normal. I'm not sure if a trainee paramedic is qualified to make this diagnosis, so I'll be seeking a second opinion from the attorney that frequents my neighborhood bar.
Day 4 Most Valuable Stranger: Georgia Redneck Stereotype Kid.
Day 4 Lines of the Day:
"Seriously, where do they keep the fat girls in this town?" - MwKG, walking down frat row just before gametime
"Oh My Gawd, I'm going to take my shirt off if we score a touchdown!" - AAW, on CU's first drive.
"Uh. Ok." - AAW's companion, completely disinterestedly.
"That reminds me of Green Bay's response to Bret Favre's decision to come back to the Packers this off-season." - LRG, in response to the above.
"That Buffalo being on our field is a disgrace." - GRSK, just prior to kickoff.
"In Yall's face. In Yalls faaaaaaace." - GRSK, up in AAW's face after UGA scored to make it 13-7
"Hey kid, look at the scoreboard." - AAW's friend in response.
"Jay-Oh-Eee to the C yo. I got more game than Coleco." -LRG, quoting Kid Rock's departed midget gimmick buddy in reference to Joe Cox's off-the-bench heroics.
"Have you guys ever played darts before?" -Me, to the president of the Atlanta Dart Association, after drilling triple 20 on the first throw.
"Hey dude, I think I found where they keep them." - LRG to MwKG, upon seeing the girls at the Blue Moon.
Day 5 was uninteresting, mostly consisting of negotiating the traffic back into Atlanta on the way to the airport, and killing time there waiting for our flights.
Day 5 Most Valuable Stranger: Chris Simms: hero
Day 5 Lines of the Day:
"Hey look, Autozone." - MwKG as we wandered through the Atlanta Mexican/Asian barrio looking for a Zaxby's to get some Cherry Fanta
"Atlanta, GA" - LRG
* Athens gets the edge over Austin for hottest girls in any college town I've ever been to.
* Austin's nightlife is slightly superior due to the sheer variety of activities.
* Every college football fan should experience an SEC game. A girl I interviewed told me that UGA/CU was tame, and we should come back for the Tennessee game. I considered calling a travel agent on the spot.
* UGA's students and fans have some of the coolest and most charming traditions I've experienced, and they don't go quiet when their team plays poorly like the UT crowd did during the tOSU game.
* Georgia Tech is a nerd school for nerds who hate fun.
* If I could do it all over again, I'd spend at least two (of let's say... 8 total) of my college years at UGA. At least 2 others would be at UT, and the other 4 are TBD. I would major in 100 and 200 level classes and learn nothing whatsoever.
Next year our trip will probably be a baseball one, Rust Belt this time. I have to say though, I'd love to see an in-division matchup between top SEC teams like Auburn-LSU or Florida-Tennessee. Maybe in 2008. On the other hand, I'd really love to experience Madison, WI on gameday as well.