How to get Killed and/or Lose Your Sense of Identity in Atlanta

When I was a tiny person who lived in Atlanta and hunched around in huge thrift store men's jackets that smelled like musty cat pee with wretched acid washed jeans (and whose terrible idea was that?) and T Shirts that said things like, "I heart Gloria Steinem" and "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle," I used to hang out in Little Five Points. LFP had a vegetarian restaurant, a crystal shop, clothing stores full of tiny stretchy clothes or baggy vintage clothes, and junk stores. Everyone there had some sort of mystic affiliation with a band. They were in the band, following the band, toting the band's stuff around, or stalking the lead singer.

My band was the Indigo Girls. They were, at this point, a bar band that no one had heard of outside of Atlanta. I was a full-blown groupie ---Amy Ray once touched my sleeve and I didn't wash the shirt for months. They played in this eentsy LFP dive every living minute, and I was there all the time, feverishly chaining Marlboro Reds and flaunting my fake ID. I was mightily impressed with my rampant coolness. It was okay though, because everyone around me was lovingly stroking and cooing over their very own coolness, so I fit right in. Half of everyone there was underage, and the other half were so newly legal that their legit ID's squeaked. We all pranced around and flirted with each other and we did mild, recreational drugs and had tame, pleasant sexual encounters that we thought were risque.

Everyone in LFP was either pretending to be a hard core badass (me), on the road to becoming a hard core badass, or an actual scary hard core badass. Some of them did terrible crimes. Some of them only had unforgivable haircuts. Some of them got killed or even killed other people and went away. Some of them never even killed flies. I in my immortal baby mind could absolutely not tell the difference. I scampered all over bar hopping at 1 am, talking with equal vim to killer motorcycle gangs and perfectly nice lesbians walking their trick-bladder dogs. I gave cheerful waves to slavering criminals and innocuous groupies, junkies and vegetarians. I was completely unaware that I was cheating death and torture every other minute.

I went north for graduate school, and after almost six years in the frozen wastelands of Chicago, I decided I had to get home to the south. My Yankee friend Lily escorted me, and after an overnight misery of a drive we finally saw Atlanta appear like the promised land before us. We slept all day and then set out in search of "that really good crab place I remember." I had no map, no street address, and no clear idea of the restaurant name, but I felt that I could instinctively find the good crab place through Divine Southern Intervention.

Lily reminded me that I often got lost trying to drive to her house, which I visited about four times a day. I waved my hand blithely and said, "But this is ATLANTA!" as if the law of gravity and north being always north and my inability to tell my left from my right somehow did not apply within city limits. We were driving down a vaguely familiar highway, and I saw an exit that rang a bell deep in the bowels of my mind, and I decided to pull off. And we landed smack dab in the middle of LFP.

I was chirpy and enthused. "OH! We can get a Creative Loafing Newspaper here and it will tell us what all bands are playing and when the museums are open and everything! YAY!" So we parked and started hoofing around in our big, tottery shoes. The vegetarian restaurant was gone. In its place was a giant skull with glowing red eyes and a door in its mouth. Lots of little homeless girls with track marks and purple hair were panhandling in front of it.

As we trooped around from one empty Creative Loafing box to the next, I noticed that we weren't exactly fitting in. Lily had on this little black fluff dress with spanking new heeled loafers, and I had on a mint green mini made out of scarf material. Everyone else was wearing denim and tattoos. We had little purses stuffed with fat wallets of travel money. Everyone else had change cups. It was all instantly very scary. We reacted by removing ourselves into the haven of intellectual distance, reasoning that we could avoid wetting ourselves if we inspected our own navels long enough.

Sample Blathering:
Me - Of course we might as well be naked with Victim written on one butt cheek and Tourist written on the other, but I can't help wondering if the place has changed or if it is just that I have changed.
Her - I think it's us. I would have been perfectly happy here in college.
Me - Maybe if we were five years younger and changed our clothes....
Her - We don't HAVE any correct clothes left. We traded grunge for glam at least four years ago.
Me - Grunge for Glam would be a good band name.
Her - If it was a girl band.

We made it back to the car and leapt in and screeched away. We were feeling bitter and old and nervous and not at all like us. We were at a traffic light, wondering just when it was we had lost our youthful idealism, sold out, and became the establishment, when a carload of twenty-something Emory bad boys pulled up next to us in a shiny new mustang. These boys were the anti-LFPers. They were preppy boys, stinking of money and beer. The driver boy looked over my vast and ancient Buick, leaned out of his window, and said, "I know you wish you had a car like mine. Maybe one day you will."

Lily and I looked at him, his smug grin, and then gave him brilliant smiles. Lily said, "And I know you wish you could have sex with me. But you never, never will." And then I noticed the light changed and we roared off and let him eat Buick dust, feeling on top of the world. Maybe we had outgrown LFP, but we hadn't yet turned into those guys. Faith and hope renewed, we went crashing around Atlanta on a giddy and wretched lost crab hunt down memory lane, screaming with joy and sheer animal will. But that's another story.