Still here, still queer 

Choices have changed, but Atlanta's gay scene evolves

Forget the stupid phoenix. If gay Atlanta got to choose its own official mascot, that parched parakeet would get a makeover faster than you can say "Carson Kressley."

Perhaps Midtown could copy Marietta and erect a giant bird statue somewhere along 10th Street. Instead of the Big Chicken, this one would be affectionately named "Chicken Little." It's a nod to the Gay-TL's two favorite pastimes: chasing "chicken" (guys in their early 20s) and screaming that the sky is falling.

The past year has been rough for local queers. Two of Atlanta's favorite nightspots, Backstreet and Blü, abruptly closed last summer. Then came November's heartbreak, when rural voters reaffirmed Georgia's red roots with that nasty referendum on gay marriage. The Chicken Littles decided then that the gays were done for.

But the arrival of summer finds the scene intact, with plenty to keep the pretty boys occupied. Here's an itinerary of places where you can find your queer, still here.

Thursday

8 p.m.: Be prepared to call in sick tomorrow, because Thursdays are the new Saturdays. Start with dinner at Little Azio on Peachtree - if you can elbow your way through all the clean-cut dudes on dates. Sit outside to maximize cruising potential.

Next, pop into Universal Gear a half-block north. You're going to need a shirt that says "attitude" this weekend, and here's the place to find it.

11 p.m.: Because you had the forethought to park near the Biltmore, you can now easily walk (or stumble, or skip) to Halo Lounge. The mixed bar's Thursday gay night has managed to weather the storms of nightlife woes, due to a dedicated clique of label queens and the popularity of hottie DJ Brandon Sutton.

For a different outlook, venture over to WETbar for its weekly College Night. Remember, though: Those Tech boys bite.

Friday

11 a.m.: Sleep late. Then, make an appointment at JOQ Day Spa, a palace of rejuvenation that caters only to men. Nothing like a little algae body wrap to make you remember your name.

Then scoot over to Piedmont Avenue for some weekend essentials. The studly salesmen at Boy Next Door will gladly get you tucked into some sassy new duds. Make a dash through nearby Brushstrokes for, um, personal moisturizers, and hit up Robin at the music desk for the soundtrack of your weekend.

9 p.m.: Gather the troops and storm the lower end of Buckhead. Friday nights at Casa Grande were once Boy Central. These days you'll find more families than family, but the margarita swirls are worth the drive.

Hurry back to the gayborhood to catch bingo at Blake's on the Park, hosted by Atlanta drag legend Bubba D. Licious. (You can also catch Bubba on Monday nights next door at Nickiemoto's.) Your night should end at Red Chair. Arrive early to watch the cattle herd by.

Saturday

11 a.m.: Unless you rose before dawn, your chances of getting breakfast quickly in Midtown are slim. Trek up to Pot & Pan, which is cheap and can be gayer than a Pride weekend bath house.

1 p.m.: The muggy afternoon sunshine screams for a trip to Piedmont Park. It's not nearly as cruisy as some folks claim, though there are still plenty of glancing games on Oak Hill. For a break from the UV rays, duck into Outwrite Bookstore on 10th Street. This oasis of queer culture deserves its rep as one of the premier gay book shops on the East Coast. You'll see why.

Suck down some homemade ice cream across the street at Jake's Ice Cream, being careful to show the cutie scooper boy your astounding tongue skills.

5 p.m.: End the afternoon with a well-deserved disco nap.

11 p.m.: Get ready to brave the wilds of Jungle, the city's largest gay discotheque. For a more intimate dancefloor experience, check your inhibitions at the door and descend into the Heretic. You may have heard sometoe-curling stories of what goes on in this Atlanta institution's darkened hallways, but those rumors mostly date back to a different era. Mostly.

Sunday

Noon: Jackie Onassis shades? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Now you're prepared for brunch, on a sunny patio. Either Einstein's or its sister restaurant, Joe's On Juniper, will offer ample eye-candy and stiff drinks.

2 p.m.: Set up camp at Starbucks at Ansley Mall. It's a burly favorite, but a great spot to see who's actually going to the gym on a Sunday.

10 p.m.: End your adventure around the corner at Burkhart's with the Armorettes. The camp queens of the South still know how to fill a tip jar, though the antics of gross-out specialist Mary Edith Pitts may well make you doubt the existence of God.

After the go-go-go of such a gay weekend, you're probably ready to crash and burn by now. Don't worry: By next weekend, the phoenix will be flying again.

JUST THE FACTS

BLAKE'S ON THE PARK 227 10th St. 404-892-5786. www.blakesontheparkatlanta.com.

BOY NEXT DOOR 1447 Piedmont Ave. 404-873-2664.

BRUSHSTROKES 1510-J Piedmont Ave. 404-876-6567. www.brushstrokesatlanta.com.

EINSTEIN'S 1077 Juniper St. 404-876-7925. www.einsteinsatlanta.com.

HALO LOUNGE 817 W. Peachtree St., Suite E-100. 404-962-7333. www.halolounge.com.

THE HERETIC 2069 Cheshire Bridge Road. 404-325-3061. www.hereticatlanta.com.

JAKE'S ICE CREAM 970 Piedmont Ave. 404-685-3101. www.jakesicecream.com.

JOE'S ON JUNIPER 1049 Juniper St. 404-875-6634. www.joesatlanta.com.

JOQ DAY SPA 1545 Peachtree St. 404-892-7771. www.joq.com.

JUNGLE 215 Faulkner Road. 404.844.8800. www.jungleclub.net

LITTLE AZIO 903-B Peachtree St. 404-876-7711. www.littleazio.com.

NICKIEMOTO'S 990 Piedmont Ave. 404-253-2010.

OUTWRITE BOOKSTORE & COFFEESHOP 991 Piedmont Ave. 404-607-0082. www.outwritebooks.com.

POT & PAN 1865 Piedmont Ave. 404-874-0340.

RED CHAIR RESTAURANT & VIDEO LOUNGE 550-C Amsterdam Ave. 404-870-0532. www.redchairatlanta.com.

STARBUCKS 1544 Piedmont Road. 404-876-0629. www.starbucks.com.

UNCLE JULIO'S CASA GRANDE 1860 Peachtree Road. 404-350-6767. www.unclejulios.com.

UNIVERSAL GEAR 935 Peachtree St. 404-872-5700. www.universalgear.com.

WETBAR 960 Spring St. 404-745-9494.

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