Scene & Herd - Cranesitting

Now that's creative loafing by Andisheh Nouraee

Last Friday night, I joined a dozen or so people outside Nava in Buckhead for an evening of what's turning out to be Atlanta's most popular new pastime - cranesitterwatching.

Cranesitterwatching is a lot like baseball. The matches go on for what seems like forever, the beer is expensive, and the biggest stars from both sports (Carl Roland and Barry Bonds), are thoroughly unlikable.

I joined my particular group of cranesitterwatchers shortly before sundown on Friday evening. The group included two types of watchers. Some, like me, came specifically to watch the (in)action on top the crane. Most, however, were people going about other Buckhead-related business who decided to pause and look skyward for a few minutes. There was even a tourist in the crowd - a woman from Tennessee visiting her brother. I heard him say something like, "This is what she wanted to see."

Within moments of arriving, it was evident that a social hierarchy had developed among the spectators. People who'd been standing and watching the longest were wise elders, prized for their knowledge. The first bit of knowledge that they shared was Roland's location. During most of the time I was there, Roland was sitting in a spot where he was hard to see. The wise elders of the group helped newcomers figure out where to look ("Those are his feet dangling from the platform"). One of the elders even brought a pair of binoculars that she shared with the other onlookers. It was a generous gesture, although she did nag a little when I chose to photograph someone else looking through the binoculars instead of her.

Cranesitterwatching is a largely uneventful pastime. Most of the time spent doing it is spent standing in one spot, looking up at the sky, and talking with the person next to you about cranesitterwatching. "I wonder what he's doing up there." "Playing backgammon." "Jerking off." "Does he have a phone?" "He's probably got a parachute." "My parents in Peru are following this." "One of the cops told me they were measuring the splatter zone." "Let's send him smoke signals." Only one person, a polo-shirted frat boy leaving Nava, yelled, "Jump!" One of his drinking mates was clearly embarrassed by her friend's outburst. "We only had two drinks," she muttered.

The only real action I saw was when a police helicopter closely circled the crane a few times. According to one of the wise elders, the cops would fly by every once in a while to intimidate Roland. After the chopper did its first lap around the crane, Roland left his safe perch (the grate where police eventually tasered him) and started climbing around the crane arm's scaffolding. It was scary to see - much more so than the close-up images I'd seen on TV and online. Then one of the wise elders chimed in with something like, "He pretends he's gonna jump to make the helicopter go away."

Monkeez: Last Wednesday evening, the best cartoon rock band since the Archies dropped by Criminal Records in Little Five Points to bask in fan adoration and sign stuff. I'm talking, of course, about Jem and the Holograms, I mean Gorillaz.Gorillaz is a collaboration between animator/ilustrator Jamie Hewlett, Blur's Damon Albarn, and a stellar musical supporting cast that changes from song to song. One of those supporting cast members, Danger Mouse, was also there meeting, greeting and signing. He co-produced Gorillaz's new album, Demon Days, the album whose song "Feel Good Inc." is the soundtrack for the dancing silhouettes in the current iPod ads.

The signing had some emotional resonance that most of the events I cover don't. That's because I'm a humongous fan of Albarn. Albarn is one of my all-time favorite musicians. I still vividly remember the first time I listened to Blur (summer 1995, stuck in traffic on I-270 in Maryland, exit 11). It made me want to be in a band very, very badly (note: The fantasy eventually came true. In 1998, I was, in fact, in a band very, very badly).

The signing generated a line that stretched around the building. As someone I chatted with astutely observed, Gorillaz draws a large crowd in part because it brings together several devoted subcultures. Brit-pop lovers are into it for Albarn. Comics people are into it for Hewlett. Then there's all the people who are in awe of Danger Mouse for taking stoner logic ("Dude, what if someone took the Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album, mixed them together, and made a Grey Album?") and turning it into a great album.

Festival Run Down: Memorial Day weekend in Atlanta was a festival of festivals. The one I wanted to go to, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, was canceled on Monday, the day I was planning to go. I did manage a visit to two of the others, though.On Saturday, I stopped by Decatur Square for the Decatur Arts Festival. Like the city of Decatur itself, the festival was crowded but pleasant and polite. When I arrived late in the afternoon, the families were mostly gathered around the gazebo by the courthouse while the childless adults were mostly in and around the Square's numerous bars. I divided my time between both spots - drinking some beer in front of Brick Store Pub, and wandering over to see the band Contagious play spirited versions pop-funk classics. If you've never seen hordes of children and parents singing, clapping and dancing to Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl," then you haven't lived.

Monday's Atlanta Caribbean Festival in the parking lot at Turner Field was a less lively affair. The chilly, overcast weather depressed turnout (as did, I'm sure, the fact that the event's website was down every time I checked it), but there was still plenty of Caribbean-ness to enjoy. There was good music, a guy cutting coconuts and sugarcane with a machete, the pleasant aroma of jerk seasoning everywhere, T-shirts featuring Caribbean icons such as Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley, and, uh, Jimmie "J.J." Walker, and, even more puzzling than J.J., a Falun Dofa information booth.

andisheh@creativeloafing.comFor more of Andy's Memorial Day weekend hijinks, visit Scene & Herd at atlanta.creativeloafing.com.??

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