Scene & Herd - Meet Bastille Day's

loud American cousin

By Andisheh Nouraee?
Wanna hear my Andy Rooney impression? Here goes. Why is it that Americans celebrate Labor Day by not working and Independence Day by gathering in densely packed, large groups that are typically surrounded by crowd-control metal fencing and police?

If you like that, you should hear my Larry King!

My Independence Day celebrating was supposed to start at about 7:30 a.m. with me photographing and cheerin' on the participants in the Peachtree Road Race. Instead, it started around seven hours earlier, when a neighbor two streets behind my house started shooting off dozens of whistling and exploding rockets. After 45 minutes or so of basking in someone else's freedom, I got out of bed, got dressed, walked down the street and politely asked him to stop.

Politeness didn't help. "It's the Fourth of Jooo-LIE," he helpfully pointed out before saying that, no, he wasn't going to stop because his teenage niece really wanted to hear fireworks. A brief shouting match ensued. He won it and continued to shoot off rockets for another hour. It wasn't all bad, though. The incident reminded me of my long dormant desire to start an amateur marching band. Contact me if you're interested. Rehearsals will be held twice a week, at 4 a.m., on a sidewalk two streets behind my house.

A few hours later, I indeed dragged myself out of bed and onto MARTA to go catch the world's largest 10K ugly T-shirt giveaway, the Peachtree Road Race. The overall winner was Kenya's Gilbert Okari, who finished in 28 minutes, 19 seconds. That's an average speed of more than 13 mph. The fastest local runner was Atlanta's Michael S. Green, who finished the race in exactly 31 minutes.

The Peachtree, however, is about a lot more than just watching great athletes and feeling ashamed about how I've totally let myself go. It's also a moving party. It's about reaching out onto the course and letting the runners slap your perfectly dry and clean hands with their nasty, sweaty ones. It's about standing at the corner of 10th and Peachtree and wondering where the smell of frying Chinese food was emanating from at 8:30 in the freakin' morning.

It's also about silly outfits. There was a good amount of red, white and blue grease paint in the crowd as well as countless people dressed like Captain America and Wonder Woman on a casual Friday. Like last year, I say a guy running in a suit and tie and another in a grass skirt with a shell bikini top. Some people ran in diapers. I saw one runner wearing an actual bra (I'm pretty sure it was a bra, as opposed to a mansierre or a bro).

Of course, the silliest outfit of all was the official Peachtree Road Race T-shirt given to participants after the race. As usual, it looks like the work of a committee whose first meeting began with the words, "How can we make it uglier than last year's?" This year's shirt features - surprise, surprise - a giant peach. Only the peach has a road on it as well as a silhouette of the skyline. Ugly as the shirt is, people are still happy to get it, and understandably so. In this era of chronic lazyitis, completing the race is more impressive than ever.

After a break for some family get-togethering, my private Americafest 2005 continued that evening with a stop by Lenox Square (A Simon Mall!) for one of the three fireworks shows in the city claiming to be the Southeast's biggest (the other two are Centennial Olympic Park and Gwinnett County).

The pre-fireworks entertainment included funslides for the kiddies, beer for the adults, and happy live music.

America's pokermania was also on display, with several groups of people perched on picnic blankets and folding chairs passing the time with a little No Limit Lenox Hold'em.

What can I say about the fireworks, really? Big, loud, impressive. One thing that was different this year was that I was standing on Lenox Road when they went off and therefore out of range from the speakers playing patriotic music. I'll never do that again.

Without the music to put the sound of the explosions in context, I kept listening to the sound and thinking how terrifying it must be to be in Iraq or Afghanistan with people shooting at you.

I guess I was just in one of those moods.

Parking deck, please: Last Thursday, this year's Screen on the Green series closed with a massive audience camped on picnic blankets and high-backed chairs (even though high-backed chairs are not allowed, jerks) for Grease.The show was so popular that traffic was actually backed up at the 10th Street exit on the northbound Connector because of people heading to the park. I showed up an hour before the movie started, but the closest parking spot I could find was at Charles Allen and Ponce.

Strangely, even though the crowd seemed about three times as large as it was a few weeks earlier for To Kill A Mockingbird, the crowd talked less during Grease. I guess John Travolta commands more respect than Gregory Peck.

Or perhaps there was less talking because people got to satisfy their vocal urges by singing along. Maybe someone needs to remake To Kill A Mockingbird into a musical. Let's start: "Boo Radley, the freak next door, came out to save his neighbors, Jem and Scout."

It practically writes itself!

For more of Andisheh's patriotic adventures, visit andy2000.org at atlanta.creativeloafing.com.??

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