Scene & Herd - Pucks Before New Year's

Scene & Herd with a little sugar

Last Wednesday night, me and my special lady thought it'd be a great idea to go to an Atlanta Thrashers game. We figured that with so many people occupied with family stuff that we'd be able to walk (perhaps even stroll) up to the box office just before the face-off and get some cheap seats.

Wouldn't you know it — approximately 18,543 other people had the same idea that night. The game was a sell-out. Lucky us, we still got to see the game because two of our friends had extra tickets that they kindly offered to us.

The Thrashers' opponent that evening was one of best teams in the NHL, the Philadelphia Flyers. Though they're no longer worthy of the nickname the Broad Street Bullies, the Flyers still play a much more physical game than the Thrashers. It prompted plenty of booing. Despite the Flyers' rough play, it was actually the Thrashers who racked up the most penalties, including three for hooking. As much money as hockey players make, you'd think they wouldn't have stoop to that.

I only spent about half my time paying attention to the game. The other half, I spent being happily distracted by the spectacle. Listening to the arena organists' choice of music is probably the second best thing about the game. Among the organists' finer moments: soundtracking one of the games several fights with "Kung Fu Fighting," and, puzzlingly, playing "Hava Nagila" after a second period penalty call.

Another one of the evening's unexpected pleasures: the proximity of my seat to a very vocal and very knowledgeable hockey fan. He must be a hockey coach, because he spent the game offering expert advice to the Thrashers, free of charge. Among his helpful tips were "Quit playing and shoot the puck," "Get it in the net," "God dang it, control the puck," and my personal favorite, "Skate!"

And just out of curiosity, does anyone else think its funny that the arena's "Kiss Cam" feature (the part of the game where arena cameras zoom in on couples, prompting them to kiss on-screen) is a sponsored by, of all companies, Hummer?

Pre-celebration: Early New Year's Eve evening, I stopped by the Apex Museum on Auburn Avenue to check out its Kwanzaa festival. Kwanzaa celebrates the African heritage of African-Americans. It begins Dec. 26 each year and runs for seven days.

The first thing I did was have a look around the place. For the occasion, the museum was crammed with vendors selling afrocentric goods including clothing, jewelry, shea butter and some used books. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and I Make My Own Rules by LL Cool J were on top of the stacks.

In keeping the day's Kwanzaa principal Kuumba (Swahili for creativity), the festival's main evening program included a series of artistic performances. Children from the Tiffany E. Maxwell School of Dance in Snellville did a great African dance performance. Another group of children recited poetry and historically significant speeches while standing in front of a banner painted with pictures of significant African-American figures. Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X were depicted. Sorry, LL, you're not quite in the pantheon yet.

Speaking of rappers, one of the evening's main performances was a three-song gospel hip-hop set by Nova4Jehovah. Nova4Jehovah is a guy from Lithonia named Richard Neal. His specialty is Christian rap. Dressed in red with a large medallion hanging from his neck, Nova4Jehovah performed songs that, in his words, were designed to get us all "crunk for Christ." Among the songs he performed were "Get Yo Praise On" and the title track from his recent EP, "G.O.D. Til I D.I.E."

After trying and (not unexpectedly) failing to get crunk for Christ, I left Apex and walked up the hill to Peachtree Street to watch the the Mobile Phone Manufacturer Sugar Bowl Parade (sorry, Nokia, but you didn't buy naming rights from me). The parade and game were moved to Atlanta from New Orleans this year after the man-made catastrophe that followed Hurricane Katrina made playing the game at the Louisiana Superdome impossible.

Location wasn't the only thing different about this year's Sugar Bowl parade. I've never been to a Sugar Bowl parade in New Orleans, but my understanding is that boozing while watching is not only permitted, but quite possibly mandatory. Furthermore, Mardi Gras-style bead-tossing and breast-baring are also commonplace. Atlanta's wise elders made the parade's organizers nix the booze, beads and boobs though. It seems that the city's new slogan "Every day Is An Opening Day" does not apply to booze and women's shirts.

It's not just excessive chastity and sobriety that made the parade a disappointment. It was short and, from where I was watching, too spread out to sustain momentum. That not many people were lining Peachtree certainly contributed to the blah-ness.

The best parts of the parade, by far, were the marching bands. The South Augusta Marching Unit, the UGA and WVU marching bands and Atlanta's own the Seed & Feed Marching Abominable were all terrific.

The parade's celebrity marshal this year was comedian Jeff Foxworthy. Foxworthy, rode atop a float decorated with a giant Baby New Year. The one big advantage of watching the parade from a not-very-populated stretch of Peachtree was that I had Foxworthy all to myself for about 10 seconds. I waved at him and took his picture. He waved at me and smiled. I think we had a connection.

New Years Wishes: At noon on New Year's Day, I returned to Woodruff Park for a press conference. Several members of the local media were invited, but I was the only person who showed up to hear John Randolph Naugle (some of you may know him as his clown alter ego, Johnny D'Farmer) deliver a beautiful speech about peace from a small wood stump in front of Phoenix Rising statue.

Naugle is the co-founder of Friends of Gandhi-King-Carter, a nonprofit dedicated to changing the name of Hartsfield Jackson to Gandhi-King-Carter International Airport. Naugle believes that renaming the airport would not only be a fitting tribute to those three Nobel Peace Prize winners, but also meaningul gesture of support to the millions of people who have worked and died in pursuit of peace.

Naugle's proposal, and his speech, are available at www.gkc-airport.com.

For more of Andisheh's adventures, visit Scene & Herd at andy2000.org.

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