Monday, August 4, 2014

An Englishman in Atlanta


Quentin Crisp: An Englishman in New York

11st 7 (hideous fat on lower wall of abdominal section after eating way too many hamburgers) cigarettes 10 (have run out of duty free Benson and Hedges) alcohol units 0 (no booze for almost 4 years but tempted by $10 bottles of Old Grand-Dad bourbon and $12.99 cases of Stella Artois in the local liquor store). 


Holy moly, I have been in Atlanta for two years! I used to go bonkers in the USA after one month, at least I used to in the old days when I visited the place as a lonesome traveler. 24 months? I must be stark raving mad by now. What makes an Englishman go mad in America? The lack of good tea for one thing. The absence of Dundee cake (Winston Churchill's favorite) is another. But the local supermarket has vanilla flavored coconut milk. And grotty old Nisa (now Tesco) on Notting Hill Gate never ever stocked anything as glamorous as vanilla flavored coconut milk.


Hotlanta: Reese Witherspoon in da Hood!



I am bloody lucky to be living in sepia tinged Virginia Highlands. The place has all the texture and substance of the neighborhood in the David Lynch film Blue Velvet, the hidden danger of Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives, and the social dysfunctionality of Desperate Housewives (minus the exceedingly hot women). However, life round here does sometimes resemble life back home in Notting Hill. We did have a thespian hottie over the road from my house, actress Reese Witherspoon, making a film in Atlanta, "the Hollywood of the South" (films generate $4 billion a year in revenue for the State of Georgia, you see). I did manage to catch sight of Miss Witherspoon lap dog followed by two trashy blonde women (make up and stylist). Somehow or other, word got out about Miss Witherspoon (probably on a celeb gossip website) and many normal looking people would stop and gawp at the house with acolyte eyes (such a thing would never happen in Notting Hill).



So, two years into life in Atlanta and what have I learned so far? Not much.  I have been cooped up in the house writing. Or cooling off down at the gym. But I do have enough fodder to write about some of the local amenities in my hood.  Being English, having a local pub to go to is a big deal and my boozer is Moe's and Joe's. Established in 1947, it is one of the oldest bars in the city. There is an English pub down the road, The Hand in Hand, and they do $5 fish and chips on a Friday night, but Moe's and Joe's is my rubadub of choice and for more reasons than the beer.  The bar, with its long, black, Formica, crackling, aged neon beer lights, graffiti strewn walls and dilapidated toilets, reeks of historic boozing. And unlike pubs back home (I am excluding fancy gastro pubs) the food at Moe's and Joe's is top notch. In London, a place like this would be expensive and contrived like Lucky 7 in Notting Hill. But here, in Atlanta, it is unselfconscious and atypically American.  


Paolo Dalla Zorza: Creepy Ice Cream Foreign Bloke



I never ate a canoli until I came to live America. A canoli is an Italian pastry desert with a sweet ricotta filling. Up the road from HQ on Virginia Avenue is Atlanta's only genuine Italian ice cream parlor, Paolo's Gelato, run by an Italian bloke called Paolo Dalla Zorza. His image, and life story, are chronicled on the walls of the gelateria. Self marketing, self promotion, and spinning failure to advantage are a big deal in this day and age.  Paolo was a veterinarian, then a pilot, then a magician and now, hey presto, an impromptu gelato salesman with outlets in Atlanta, Georgia and Chareslton, South Carolina.  I have been a frequent visitor. And only once did I ever see Paolo on duty.  He was berating a small child. "Little boy, bambino, when you come into my shop, you say please and thank you and be NICE, you understand? Or next time I do magic trick and make you disappear." It does not help that Paolo looks like a cross between Furio from The Sopranos and the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.



Another place that we frequent is the local tapas bar, Noche. The staff there are in love with my wife and we always get good, cheery service. Fontaine's Oyster House next door is another matter.  We did enjoy dining there for some period of months. But, on a series of visits to the establishment, we deduced that one staff member HATES English people. I can't say that I blame him. I am not too keen on English people myself, the same goes for people in general (enough, I am prevaricating).  But America is meant to be the land of good service. And a foreigner expects better.



The same goes for the gym that I used to belong to.  I have been a member of gyms all over the world. But, back in March, I exploded at an impertinent (and racist) member of staff at Urban Body fitness a supposedly high end gym that is actually a meat market for randy gay men (who are not very good looking and smell of amyl nitrate). Why did I blow up at a staff member like Mount Etna in Sicily? Simple: he was a rude cunt who did not know his place (Americans, eh?)  My new place is X3 Sports down on Inman Park, a "hipster" part of the city that was a den of iniquity less than a decade ago. In other words, if you were white, and in that part of the hood, you were only there to score drugs.  Now the place is full of nail bars, dog spas, tapas joints and coffee houses full of bright young things and single white men who look like serial killers. Not quite Notting Hill. But nearly there.



Another cool place to eat and drink and be merry is Jack's Pizza and Wings which has a mind blowing choice of pizzas.  And the chicken wings, popular with the African-American demographic, are highly addictive.  The great thing about Jack's is that it kind of reminds me of the seedy Student's Union bar at my old University in London. The only difference is a great choice of beer. And meaty pizzas. For these reasons, Jack's attracts a varied clientele. It is popular with tattooed hipsters, African-American nuclear families, Caucasian skateboard trash and old school bikers with scouring pad beards and Falstaffian girths. Colorful patrons aside, this place has the best pizza in the city (it is not marbled with cheese) and there are daily specials on booze so you can get pissed as a newt for a song.  


Two years into being an Englishman in Atlanta and what do I know? Sweet Fanny Adams!  But I would rather be an Englishman here than an Englishman in New York, Los Angeles or any of those other damn places that Englishmen go to in order to reinvent themselves as Americans. No need for any of that as far as I am concerned.  Regardless of location, I am far too ambivalent to change. Here's to another year in the city of trees. May it prove to be a happy one.