Monday, February 21, 2011

Cheating death has never been so fun: Ours on Ponce

The original plan was that each of us would detail our Ponceyisms within one post. I think. But the type of writer I am, the definition of brevity vacates my brain... which thereby means I'm bereft of soul (or would that be wit?). So, this post is the co-supplement to Kim Ware's supplement to the future award-winning veryshort film, Ours on Ponce.

I've lived in Georgia most of my life. I hang out in Atlanta. It's where my life is. Yet there is still so much territory that remains unexplored, which includes the simple stretch of Ponce de Leon Avenue. It's almost embarrassing. Like the night a few years ago when visiting The Local for the first time. I COULD NOT FIND the damn place. After passing the building four times and making two phonecalls to my patient friends, I finally made it... an hour later.

So, my purpose in this project is not only to learn for myself but also to broadcast to others. Though, in the film, verbally, I'm not certain I conveyed that message clearly (what's up, Blinkety McBlink?!?).

We chose Cameli's Gourmet Pizza as the night's springboard because they've started hosting live music once a month. And since we're all musiclovers, it was a natural choice. Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, we ran into the inimitable Kenny Crucial outside the restaurant. Snagged a few soundbites from him and went inside to grab a slice.

I wasn't prepared for Cameli's WTF?! slices. My eyes popped out of my head when I saw this:

So what, you say? Allow me to lend some perspective:

WTF Cameli's?!

That should hold me for a few beers and until we reach our nightending Krispy Kreme doughnut.

After watching sets by local acts Balkans and The Clap, we crossed the street to The Bookhouse. Or, as I kept saying, "Teh Bookhouse." My group was confused at first, why I insisted on referring to it "Teh." Have you SEEN the restaurant's Facebook page?! I couldn't help myself.

We took in the atmosphere and some cocktails. Half the group ventured to the gay bar around the corner, Friends (another establishment that was news to me), while the rest of us held down the fort at Bookhouse. Once we reconvened, we chatted up some interesting (read: drunk) people on the back deck. Satisfied with the footage we captured, we left Teh Bookhouse for some more excitement.

Nto kidding.

Next, we trekked to the now-familiar-to-me bar, The Local (note: former Local bartender, Grant Henry, now owns Sister Louisa's...) . It was packed, so all we could do was stand against a railing and look like fish-out-of-water idiots even though it's our crowd and we technically "belong," with the exception of the hipster element. We quit that bitch and slid out the back door. There, we found the "my daughter thought 'Ponce' was a fancy way of saying 'pants'" dude. Great stuff.

After that, we Froggered across Ponce to the pièce de résistance of Atlanta nightlife: the Clermont Lounge. We knew we wouldn't be allowed to film inside, on account of the strippers(?), but it didn't matter. We still hit jackpot, three times. 1) DJ legend, Romeo Cologne; 2) a girl puking, which totally captures the essence of this fine establishment; 3) a security guard for the [condemned] hotel portion of the Clermont, who instructed us to return later for a tour.

Meanwhile, we took a quick detour to El Bar, where they wouldn't let us film inside. Too bad. The place was bumpin', and you could hear the music through the walls. We decided to pass time at Righteous Room instead. Not one of my favorite places, as it's smoky-- but the jukebox has excellent music. It was here where we met the film's bookend character, "The Rick Dang of the Righteous Room," as I called him.

Finally, we were ready for our Clermont Hotel tour. The security guard was definitely a little "off," so of course we made jokes about him luring us inside, stealing our money and leaving us for dead (or killing us and then raiding our pockets). The tour was supposed to be for our group only. Unfortunately, a group of fuckwads piggybacked their way inside. Which wouldn't have been so bad if they weren't obnoxious. One girl wanted to pick a fight with Donna, which was actually entertaining.

Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

Mr. Not-Much-of-a-Security Guard stressed that he could get in trouble for allowing us inside the Clermont Hotel, so we had to be fast. He led up up a few flights of stairs. "Where the fuck are we going?" echoed throughout the hallways from one person or another. Finally, we reached, uh, some floor and were taken to some room. It was inconsequential, since the entire hotel had been gutted. Whatever room we were shown, it apparently was Al Capone's, where he contracted some sort of sexually transitted disease. Yeah.

After 15 seconds of gazing at an empty room stripped down to the drywall, our tourguide led us back downstairs to the lobby. I noted his porn magazine strewn across a chair-- a scene that did not strike me as atypical, yet it was still hilarious. Even more hilarious was that a couple of the fuckwads forgot how to follow instructions and thought it best to lag behind the group on the way out. In turn, they were locked inside the hotel and had to break out, literally. Served them right!

What happened after our hotel tour is a bit fuzzy-- not because I was drunk, but because it was... whatever time it was... asdfjk o'clock a.m. We ate at The Majestic, where all the clubbers and barhoppers and freaks and what-not end up. Anxious for another round of food, we attempted to get a doughnut at Krispy Kreme. Little did we know that only the drive-in was open at this hour-- walk-ins opened at 5:30 a.m. Drive-in was not satisfactory-- we wanted to sit inside and enjoy a fresh, hot, delicious doughnut-- so we left.

Artist's rendition of us at the Majestic. Look! You can see the top of Andy's bra! HAHAHAHA!!!

To pass time, we visited what Atlantans lovingly refer to as Murder Kroger. What, just a couple deaths have occurred there. No big deal. It's funny, though. When I lived at GSU, I shopped at that Kroger but had no idea it was Murder Kroger. All I knew about back then was what we called Ghetto Chevron, which sold beer to minors. Not that I took part in it. No, really, I didn't.

Finally, the time had come for us to redeem our prize. Back at the Krispy Kreme, we watched "them" make the doughnuts. Rotating through the racks, plopping into the fryer, floating along the oil river to pass through a waterfall of glaze. And it smelled damn tasty, too. Believe it or not, this is another Atlanta institution I have never stepped foot in... mostly because I do not like Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Yet, even though Krispy Kreme is not my favorite (Donut Pub in Manhattan takes the cake), I am happy to have experienced one of the first doughnuts of the day, unglazed... which tastes better to me that way, actually.

Sitting pie-eyed around a table, barely able to speak intelligibly, 6:00 a.m. approached us. We high-fived each other, exultant over what we'd accomplished, and relieved that we didn't die... or kill each other for that matter. Ultimately, we achieved our goals: Kim likes Atlanta a little bit more than she did before; Andy effectively continues to promote and proclaim her love for the city; and I finally patronized establishments that people rave about. Best of all, I made new friends.

IMPORTANT NEWS: Ours on Ponce has made a shortlist-- so far-- in Creative Loafing's ATL Short Cuts film contest. There will be a screening of the film on Wednesday, March 2, 7:00 p.m., at Hotel Palomar in Midtown (info also found in the hyperlink above).
Viewers' Choice voting begins Friday, March 4, on Creative Loafing's website. We're looking to take it all the way, so please vote! And thank you for everyone's support and kind words. My role is this project is minimal compared to Kim Ware's, so be sure to give her an extra pat on the back... or a bag of money or something.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Our's on Ponce - Spending All Night on Ponce de Leon Avenue

Contributed by: Kim Ware
Director of Ours on Ponce

Ours on Ponce from Ours in Atlanta on Vimeo.

I just finished editing my very first short film, a documentary called “Ours on Ponce,” about the Ponce de Leon area of Atlanta. All total, the editing alone must have taken me 40 hours. I’m never afraid to take on a creative project, but I will say this one really tested my patience, probably more than most any other project I’ve ever done. But I’m also more proud of it than I have been of anything I’ve done in a very long time.
The idea for “Ours on Ponce” was born out of a conversation I had a couple of months ago with my good friend Andy Gish. Andy had started a blog about Atlanta, and mentioned that she hoped the blog would help her “look at Atlanta through new eyes.” She approached me about contributing to the blog, and ironically, I was looking for something to help me also appreciate Atlanta. I had just been to Austin, a place that I love probably more than any other place I’ve ever visited. Every time I go to Austin I leave there thinking, “I want to move there!” But this time, I decided instead that I wanted to seek out the things I love about Austin, in Atlanta.
So I was happy to help and thought the experience would be good for me. Over drinks at our new favorite bar, Sister Louisa’s, Andy and I discussed possible topics for the blog. She mentioned how much she loves Ponce, and I suddenly got the brilliant(?) idea that we should stay out all night (yes, all night) on Ponce and document our adventures. By “document,” I simply meant write and take a few pictures. But a week or so later I saw that Creative Loafing was sponsoring a short film contest. It had to be about Atlanta, about 5 minutes in length, and shot by point-and-shoots, Flips, or phone cams—nothing fancy. Bingo! That’s how we’d document our adventures! We’d get a bunch of footage and I’d edit it all together and submit it for us. Never mind the fact that the only video editing I’d ever done was very simple edits (placing a title slide over a presentation) for work.
So I jumped in head first, recruited a few friends, and on January 29, we stayed out all night on Ponce. We hit some of the regular spots, like The Local, Righteous Room, The Majestic, and Murder Kroger. But we also visited some new (to me) places, like Friends and even the Clermont Hotel. A lucky break that couldn’t have been better even if it had been scripted, the Clermont security guard offered to give us a tour if we came back when his shift was over. Of course, we jumped at the chance.
As sunrise rolled around, Andy and I high-fived each other, celebrating our accomplishment. We did it. We stayed out all night without any casualties, no one got too wasted and annoying, and we didn’t even get the slightest bit grumpy at each other. In fact, we had a wonderful time. We met a cast of characters that again, couldn’t have been better if they had been scripted. We received a sketch of ourselves from a caricature artist at The Majestic. We made new friends, and strengthened the relationships with old ones. It might sound a little cheesy, but I really did feel like the five of us had created a bond that other people just wouldn’t really understand. We did this together, and we loved every minute of it. And for me, our night out did exactly what I hoped it would do. It made me appreciate and even fall in love with Atlanta all over again.
As I worked on the editing of “Ours on Ponce,” my appreciation for Atlanta increased even more. A few days into the editing, I posted something about the project on “Friends of Music,” an active Facebook group that I’m fortunate to be part of. I was hoping to get a few Atlanta-centric songs from Atlanta bands. I was amazed at the response. I must have received 10 songs, just in the span of a few days. That there are so many talented artists finding inspiration from our city is just a testament to how unique it is. And I’m so happy they got to be part of our little film.
I hope you find as much enjoyment in watching “Ours on Ponce” as we did making it. And I hope you find your own little slice of Atlanta to love. All you really have to do is look around.

Check out Kim's blog Pretty New Songs.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Majestic Diner - Food That Pleases, All Kinds Welcome

Contributed by: Andy Gish

The Majestic in 1993 -- Photo by David Henderson 

Location: Poncey Highlands
1031 Ponce De Leon Avenue Northeast 
Atlanta, GA 30306  (404) 875-0276

The Majestic Diner's ever-glowing neon beckons with an offer of "Food that Pleases" day or night since 1929.

I have never been in the Majestic during daylight hours.  In fact, I seem to forget it is open altogether unless it is at least 3 am in the morning.  My favorite memory of being at the Majestic was at the tail-end of my best friends bachelorette party.  We had been escorted around town in a 60's VW Van with flames on it from scandalous venue to venue.  There was a consensus at the last bar we we went to that we were too intoxicated to be in public, so where did we go?  The Majestic.

So there we were, six girls sitting around a table with the Bachelorette's leopard print vibrator twirling in circles on the table.  And we were completely at home.  Treated as if we belonged there.  Where else can you order pork chops, silver dollar pancakes and a milkshake with a leopard vibrator in your hand at 3am without mention of calling the cops?

I have driven by the Majestic in the afternoon to see it full of older nicely dressed ladies filling the tables, completely unaware of the "colorful" characters that were sitting in those very seats the night before.

My friend David tells a story that in 1998 the sign was taken down for repairs, after which the repair guy skipped town.  Apparently the Majestic was without its famous headdress until 2007.  Is this true?  How could I have missed this?  In my head, the Lady Majestic has never been undressed.

In January 2011, the folks of the blog set out to do a film project called "Ours On Ponce" where we spent the entire night until sunrise on Ponce de Leon Avenue (posts from this extravaganza are forthcoming).  Of course, the Majestic was at the top of the list and we found ourselves there at 5am.  Like so many others, we found refuge there after all the bars had closed.  The point being that, especially late at night the Majestic sign is indeed a beacon of refuge;  The dear and patient souls who work at the Majestic put out the welcome mat for just about everyone.

We left with this sketch from a local caricature artist:

The folks from Ours on Ponce at the Majestic 

Me and some scary character. 

Still awake at 5am, well Brittany was at least.

A funny video from 1989 of some Drag Queens excited to visit to the Majestic again.