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Friday, February 29, 2008

Mayor of Ponce dishes Oysterfest at Piedmont Park

The Mayor of Ponce went to Oysterfest last week, and left feeling all clammy about it.

Cresting the hill on 10th Street, I see a mass of people surrounding Park Tavern. Mass as in thousands. Thousands as in plural. I think to myself, this isn’t going to be a day in the park.

Since the exodus from Buckhead, it’s the first Oysterfest held at the crown jewel of Atlanta – Piedmont Park. I figure I better attend the event since it might be the last one for a while at the park. Because of the dire drought conditions, the blue-haired aristocrats who run the Piedmont Park Conservancy have already shooed away the Dogwood Festival, Gay Pride, Screen on the Green and the finish line to the Peachtree Road Race. If the elements don’t ease up, I fear they might do away with actual people. The 186-acre park will just be a wildlife refuge with swing sets.

OK, of course they won’t do that, but they have certainly taken extreme measures to preserve not-so-exotic Bermuda grass.

Inside, the Oysterfest is an oyster-mess. Park Tavern is absolutely slammed with overgrown frat boys wearing North Face jackets. It’s Virginia-Highland on steroids. If you squint, it could easily pass for a Saturday pregame in Athens.

Every turn I take is a dead end. From beer lines to bathroom lines, there’s little room to maneuver. And ironically, the rainy weather isn’t welcomed. The chilled, cramped conditions give me flashbacks of Savannah’s River Street on St. Patrick’s Day.

But I’m a trooper, determined to make the best of it. I spot an adorable brunette double-fisting domestics. With an awkward smile, I deliver a gem, “CLAM you believe how many people are here?”

It was either that or, “Can I give you a CLAM with those?”

The effort is phoned in. She smiles like a bank teller as I sidestep away.

Through the mud and the drunk, moving obstacles, I navigate an exhausting lap around the edge of the crowd near the barriers. After nixing the idea of waiting for a beer, I give in and head for the streets. By the exits, I have a laugh with local garage hippies Gringo Star, who show me a video of their earlier opening performance for Cowboy Mouth.

Leaving Oyster-mess is easy. Leaving Midtown takes effort. With the plural convergence, the tiny, residential side streets off Monroe and Virginia turn into comical chaos. Just like some natural disaster movie set in New York City, people get out of their cars, waving hands in the air with dumb looks on their faces.

If you have a “SAY NO TO THE PARKING DECK” sign planted in your yard, please get over yourself. Just because you live within walking distance of Piedmont doesn’t mean it belongs to you.

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