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Cheese and crackers 

A very special Buckhead edition

If you're a regular reader of this column (hi, Richard), you've probably noticed that I don't often go out in Buckhead. I have many reasons. The parking is expensive, the traffic is frequently nightmarish and the restaurants are a bit pricey. There's also the matter of that 65-foot copper fish on Pharr Road.

Primarily, though, I plain don't like the place. Among my friends and acquaintances, Buckhead isn't just a proper noun signifying a geographic location. It's also an adjective signifying a uniquely Atlanta stew of cheesiness, tackiness and college frat party-ness, all made bigger, louder and faster by relative wealth. Used in a sentence, the adjective Buckhead sounds like, "Ugh, that is so Buckhead" or "He's very Buckhead." Snobbish of me, I know.

Nonetheless, I went to the eighth annual Buckhead Fall Bar Tour last weekend figuring I'd embrace my inner-Buckhead for a few hours, devote two-thirds of my column to it and be done with the place for the rest of the year. So here goes.

Stop 1 -- Lulu's Bait Shack: Place of registration and, because of my empty stomach, also site of instant intoxication. The rooftop deck was packed with people wearing those stickers on their shirts with "Hello" and a blank space for their names. Instead of writing their names, the people wearing them wrote things like "I limp because of my third leg," "I like girls, pumping iron and checking myself out," and "Give me a few hours and I'll puke." The bar's sound system was playing Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young," as we walked in, reaffirming my belief that Buckhead manages to be '70s, but somehow never retro.

Stop 2 -- Metropolitan Pizza: Leopard-print furniture and wall-to-wall just-out-of-college yuppie-types are usually effective signals to stay away. But I wanted pizza. I was drunk at this point and don't remember much about the place except that it was loud and the pizza was pretty good. I vaguely remember writing people's names on their official "Bar Tour" cups with a Sharpie.

Stop 3 -- Sweet River Tavern: On the way there, we passed a bar called Uranus, and a drunken verbal tennis match of anus banter broke out between my friends and I. We volleyed faux-witticisms like "Uranus is closed," "I couldn't get into Uranus," and "I peeked in Uranus, but no one was there."

No trip to Buckhead would be complete without cover tunes. Sweet River's Brent Lundy was excellent at it. All afternoon and evening I'd wanted to hear a Buckhead musician play Oasis' "Wonderwall," and Lundy was happy to oblige. Giving credence to my theory that "Wonderwall" is this generation's "Brown-Eyed Girl," (sentimental, strummy, overplayed sing-along), a group of passersby stopped in front of the bar and sang along as he played.

Stop 4 -- BAR Atlanta: Sort of a monochrome Hooters without the Buffalo wings. Generously endowed, midriff-baring T-shirted women served shots to men, at least two of whom saw fit to videotape the proceedings. Behind the bar was a go-go cage where two female bar patrons danced with one another while applying "BAR Atlanta" stickers to each other's clothing. Reinforcing the feeling that BAR is the land that time (and taste) forgot is the bar's mural of NYC's skyline, complete with the Twin Towers. Classy. When the DJ played John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane," and everyone in the bar sang along, I left. See you in 2002.

Life imitates ads: Advertising students from Creative Circus gathered at Manuel's Tavern on North Highland last Friday for The Baddies, a competition to see which student could come up with the worst ads. In a season where real advertisers are tastelessly cloaking themselves in the American flag (e.g., GM's "Keep America Rolling" campaign), it's appropriate that the winner was a tooth-cleaning product whose red, white and blue label got its red from bleeding gums. My personal favorites were ads for a car brake repair shop that depicted a car running down a group of mariachis and a series of ads for Georgia Prosthetics, with mottos like "Helping you get your foot in the door" and "Lending a helping hand."

Unknowingly embracing the spirit of the evening was CNN Headline News, to which some of the bar's TVs were tuned. All evening, the station flashed a graphic labeled "War on Obesity" depicting a camouflaged, battle-ready American soldier superimposed on a bathroom scale.

Like the network, except with a V: I love going to music shows for this column. But frankly I'm running out of ways to describe rock music. I hate having to resort to the "they sound like Joni Mitchell on peyote" method of rock description.

I saw VPN play at Smith's Olde Bar Sunday night. I met them before the show and they were nice. The drummer was stung by a bee before the show, and had to go to the hospital. He still played very well, I thought. The singer is devilishly handsome, in a winsome sort of way. I like them a lot. That's the best I can do for now.

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