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How much for the Italian balls? 

Featuring the best of the rest

Our Best of 2003 issue is a comprehensive look at what's good and great around town. But even the most comprehensive "Best of" issue is bound to leave out some categories. Below is my personal best of the rest.

Best Way to Annoy Food Court Restaurant Owners: No, silly, that wasn't an enormous band of retail-loving gypsies in the Lenox Square parking lot last weekend. That was the second annual Taste of Atlanta, the city's biggest, foodiest food-a-thon, foodfest or something like that. Proceeds benefited the Atlanta Community Food Bank and the March of Dimes.

Inside the tents, dozens (and dozens) of area restaurants served up teaser-sized portions of a few menu items. It was a great opportunity for people like me -- who eat at the same three restaurants over and over again -- to find something new. Of the half-dozen or so things I tried, the pasta dish from The Roasted Garlic was my favorite. Their booth featured a statue with garlic breasts. Wayne's favorite was the cured duck breast from Duluth's Barcelona.Best Organization Whose Name Sounds Like Pez: Bad historians have traced pedestrianism back to 9th-century China. It was there that Tang Dynasty philosopher Ped Xing first expressed the radical idea that people should walk to travel short distances. The idea was met with such huge resistance that women's feet were often ritually bound, rendering them unable to walk.

With Eastern philosophy so trendy these days, it should come as no surprise to learn that disciples of Ped Xing have an organization here in Atlanta. Called PEDS, it's an alliance of downtown/Midtown residents who want to make Atlanta a safer environment for pedestrians. Last Thursday, PEDS held a demonstration on Piedmont Avenue one block south of North Avenue. Members of the group legally crossed Piedmont at a busy crosswalk that has no signals. They carried signs reminding oncoming cars that the law requires them to stop for pedestrians. Many didn't stop, so police issued tickets to some.

Most of the drivers I could see greeted the demonstration with expressions pitched somewhere between annoyance and confusion. Now and then, a driver indicated support with either a yelled comment or honk and wave. One guy, whose car sported an "I brake for lesbians" bumper sticker, even parked and happily chatted with demonstrators.

Best Band Named After a Fictional Sex Toy: Reuniting after a long hiatus and not sucking is a tough act for veteran musicians to pull off (though not quite as tough as not sucking in the first place). Steely Dan's Donald Fagen and Walter Becker have been reunited for about as long as they were originally together back in the '70s. And hip, hip and hooray, they don't suck. Better than not sucking, they're great.

On Friday night, the group played the cream of its late-'70s output (the best bits of albums Aja, The Royal Scam and Gaucho) for an enthused, mostly older audience at The Amphitheater Formerly Known As Lakewood. Other than the absurdly great music (a special Southwest ATL-style shout-out goes to drummer Keith Carlock), there wasn't a ton of stuff to report. I never noticed before, but the urinals there are wall-length, communal troughs. Shy bladder sufferers, beware.

The most Steely Dan-ish non-musical moment of the night happened not to me, but to my girlfriend. While waiting in line for the bathroom, a man 30 years her senior hit her up for weed. If that happened in a Steely Dan song, the older man and the younger woman might have ended up at the beach or cruising in a convertible. In this case, when the man was refused, he started talking to her about his kids, ending the conversation with a final plea for weed that she didn't have.

Best Thing I Did Last Thursday: Instead of drilling for oil or building condos like decent Americans should, the folks at the Piedmont Park Conservancy insist on raising money for the park in weird, non-destructive ways.

Last Thursday, the Conservancy threw an Italian-themed party called A Passion for Piedmont on the shores of formerly mucky, currently rather nice (thanks to pumps that keep the water moving), Lake Clara Meer. After kissing the Godfather's hand and arranging to have horse heads placed in the beds of my enemies, I checked out the party's silent auction. My favorite item was an oversized, novelty chocolate bar (for which I was outbid). For those with more mature tastes and budgets, the hot items were vacations, including a wine-themed trip to Italy. For sport-loving juvenile double- entendre-ists, the most popular auction item was one of Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone's balls. It was autographed, too!

Best Excuse to Make an Ironic Reference to the Film Showgirls: On Saturday night, the West End's Elevation Gallery made its debut in the Candler-Smith warehouse complex with a Las Vegas-themed exhibition and party called Vegas Baby!. FYI: Vegas-style art and partying include over-saturated colors and underdressed people. This party had both. The exhibition featured a heap of art by Denise A. King, my favorite of which was a sculpture of a woman (who, talk about a coincidence, looked an awful lot like Denise A. King) wearing a Jack Daniel's dress sitting on an unmarked bottle of liquor. It was called "Fuck All Yall!" Not far from it was a funny ceramic of Elvis and Jesus by Princess Anne Davis Mulford called "Holy Worship, 2000." (Hey, I think that's social commentary!)

For the underdressed part, the party included a runway "lingerie" show -- the lingerie consisting of flimsy materials covering the goodies of the male and female participants.

A true Vegas-style bash also requires gambling and hookers. The party itself had neither, but both are easily available to anyone by exiting the complex and heading south on Murphy Avenue for about a mile, and then turning left onto Dill.

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