Meetup.com is a website that helps people with common interests communicate and meet one another. If memory serves, the website entered the public consciousness in 2003 when the press figured out that Howard Dean supporters were using the site to organize fundraising events all over the country.
As of today, metro Atlanta has more than 150 Meetup.com groups. The groups seem to fall into three main categories: dogs, politics and everything else. Groups that meet regularly include the Atlanta Democracy for America Meetup Group, Marietta-Roswell Chihuahua Meetup group, Alpharetta Kabbalah Meetup group and the Atlanta Real Vampyre Meetup Group, which should not be confused with the much larger Atlanta Vampires and Non-Conformists Meetup Group.
Last Friday night, my girlfriend, Christi, and I attended the Atlanta New-In-Town Meetup Group's monthly get-together at Fado in Buckhead. At first we intended to go undercover as Atlanta newcomers, but the plan fell apart because A) we couldn't agree on what our fake identities should be and B) we were pretty sure that I would just laugh and smirk the whole time.
When we arrived around 8:30 p.m., the group had two tables in a corner of the bar and a sign announcing who they were. Within minutes of introducing ourselves, we quickly discovered that fully one-third of those present weren't really newcomers at all. One guy has lived here since 1992, and one of the women said she's lived here for 25 years. She said she was at the Meetup with her newcomer friend. "How long has she lived in Atlanta?" I asked. "Two years."
In the end, it was little more than a low-key, friendly happy hour. The only weirdness came around 9:30, when one of the attendees, an exceptionally drunk woman, kissed the side of my head. A few minutes later, she returned and told me a story. For the authentic experience, slur it to yourself. "You see that girl over there," she said, pointing to a woman seated nearby. "I asked her what she's drinking. She said a Cosmopolitan. Well, her drink was brown and Cosmopolitans aren't brown. I used to work as a bartender. So, I stuck my finger in her glass and tasted the drink. The guy next to her said, 'You owe her a drink.' I said, 'Maybe I do, but you need to mind your own business.'"
Hold the mayo: Speaking of clubs, on Sunday afternoon I attended the December meeting of the New York Corned Beef Society of Atlanta. The group was founded by Avondale Estates resident Howard Wurtzel. Its mission: to provide New York deli-style corned beef to Atlanta diners. The NYCBSA meets at 4 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month at Twain's in Decatur. Coincidentally, the bar is owned by Wurtzel's children.
Wurtzel makes his own corned beef by taking pieces of "previously corned brisket" that has been cooking in corned-beef spices for more than three hours. The result smelled and looked so fantastic that I set aside my non-meat-eatingness for an afternoon and devoured one of the sandwiches. As Hollis Gillespie likes to say, "Jesus, God!" It was so rich and tasty that eating it gave me what I can only describe as a meat buzz. My friend, Long Island native Phil Oppenheim, dined with me. He agreed that it was a hell of sandwich. His wife said she liked her sandwich so much that the thought of finishing hers made her feel a little sad. That, dear readers, is a hell of sandwich. Check out www.nycbsa.com for more details.
Dogged: Now, on to some living animals. For the next two weekends, PetSmart on Ponce de Leon is hosting a Santa for pets. Photos with Santa are $9 and proceeds benefit two local animal rescue groups. I went last Sunday and watched as Bud and Stump asked Santa (aka Andrew, who volunteers as a foster dog parent for Animal Action Rescue) for gifts. Stump is a fantastically sweet and mellow rescued puppy who, along with his siblings, wants a home for Christmas. Bud was at the store with his mom. Judging from his squirming, his Christmas wish was to get off Santa's lap as soon as possible.
Happy Day: Last Thursday was the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks' arrest for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. Parks' arrest led to a boycott of the Montgomery bus system and kick-started the Civil Rights Movement.
While some metro Atlantans have decided to honor the recently deceased Parks by trying to have Tara Boulevard renamed Rosa Parks Boulevard (after all, nothing says "thank you" like naming an ugly road after someone), other Atlantans gathered at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church late Saturday morning for a commemorative program titled "Remembering Montgomery: A 50th Anniversary Tribute to the Montgomery Bus Boycott."
The event opened with a performance by the Freedom Singers. The trio sang a capella protest songs (i.e., "I Woke Up this Morning with My Mind on Freedom"). Having those three voices soundtracking my introduction to the building where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached was a wonderful experience. That Park Service pamphlet just ain't the same.
The gathering's centerpiece was a performance by actress Joanna Maddox. In costume, Maddox depicted an elderly Parks recounting the story of her life and the day of her arrest.
Among the most interesting anecdotes about Parks, and one that I did not previously know, was that several years before her arrest, she had a run-in with the same bus driver. Parks apparently walked to her bus seat from the front door of the bus. At the time, black riders were expected to pay their fare at the front, then exit the bus and walk around to the back door.
After Maddox's performance, there were several more speeches, including ones by former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and longtime Civil Rights activist Joseph Lowery. Lowery's speech was all over the place, but because of his good humor and passion, it was never boring. Among other things, he called powerful white church leaders to task for not doing enough to defend the poor. When he made a point he wished to emphasize, he would punctuate it with a rhetorical "Hello?"
Incidentally, both Lowery and Young have pretty lousy Atlanta streets named after them.
For more of Andisheh's weekend outings, visit Scene & Herd at andy2000.org.
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