Scene & Herd - The most shoppingest

Ttime of the year

Unless you wake up early enough on Friday morning to watch Wal-Mart shoppers trample one another for $20 DVD players, which I did not, Thanksgiving weekend is usually pretty mellow event-wise.

I started my weekend after dinner on Thursday. Me and my lady headed to Lenox Square (a Simon mall!) for the 58th annual lighting of the Great Tree. The event began in 1948 at the Rich's store downtown and quickly became a beloved Atlanta tradition. So beloved, in fact, that when Atlantans abandoned downtown and headed north, they took the tradition with them.

Emceeing the event from an enormous stage erected in the parking lot adjacent to Macy's were Star 94's Tom Sullivan and WSB-TV's Monica Kaufman. Entertainment was provided by several musical acts, including Atlanta's Collective Soul and country star Jo Dee Messina. Ms. Messina (or is that Ms. Dee Messina, I can never tell) played the role of cheerful yet easy-going deliverer of musical Christmas spirit. Her hair and makeup's a bit drag-queeny these days, though. Just one man's opinion.

My favorite of the entertainers, by far, was Collective Soul. Seconds after one of the show's announcers paid tribute to the armed forces by asserting that they're overseas "doing a job that has to be done," Collective Soul took the stage and performed John Lennon's protest song-disguised-as-Christmas song, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." In case anyone missed the song's meaning, singer Ed Roland even took the song's backing vocal refrain "War is over, if you want it," and made it the lead vocal at the end of the song.

Shortly before 8 p.m., the tree was illuminated and a miniature Fourth of July's worth of fireworks lit up the sky over the mall.

The following afternoon (in case you've been skimming, Friday), I went to Criminal Records in Little Five Points for what I hope will itself one day be a beloved Christmas tradition: getting my picture taken with Asshole Santa.

With trusty assistant Dookie the Elf by his side and three or four different bottles of booze and beer, Asshole Santa earned the moniker through a unique blend of attitude and aroma. Asshole Santa liked to "goddamit" and boss people around.

For example, my conversation with Asshole Santa went like this. Santa: "Do you know how to sit down?"

Me: "Gimme a second, I need to take a pic--"

Santa: "Sit down, goddamit."

As for the aroma, not only did Asshole Santa stink of Brut cologne, but after standing next to him for several minutes, I did, too. The smell gave me a headache. Now, that's an asshole.

Taking souvenir photos of the event was semi-official Criminal Records photographer Robin Henson. Everyone got their picture taken for free. For a $5 donation to the Atlanta Humane Society, though, Henson printed a 4-by-6-inch glossy on the spot. Mine's on my fridge.

Battle of the Christmas Activities: In order to help you, the busy Atlantan, better figure out how spend your precious free time, I devoted my Saturday afternoon to comparing two of the city's most enjoyable holiday attractions, the Pink Pig ride at the Lenox Square Macy's and the ice skating rink at Centennial Olympic Park downtown. I hope you enjoy. If you don't, then I won't do it anymore.

Cost: The Pink Pig ride at Macy's is $3 for a wait-in-line ticket, and $5 for reserved-time ticket. The ice rink is $6, plus $2 for a skate rental. Winner: pig.

Duration: Your entrance fee gets you 90 minutes of ice time, but only two laps on the Pink Pig. If you count the waiting in line, though, Pink Pigging could last up to an hour. Winner: ice.

Difficulty: The only exertion required for the Pink Pig ride is reaching for your wallet. Ice skating involves moving without the help of a motor and therefore may not be suitable for some Americans. Winner: pig.

Proximity to other stuff: The ice rink is close to the Georgia Aquarium. The Pink Pig is close to the Apple store, home of the new iPod nano. Winner: pig.

Food: The ice rink has a booth selling "Centennial Dogs" for $2.75. The Pink Pig has the food court nearby. Winner: pig.

Music: The Pink Pig is soundtracked by peppy, big band renditions of holiday music. The ice rink's music is middle-of-the-road rock, pop and R&B. There aren't a lot of other places you'll hear Big Country and Michael Jackson consecutively. Winner: ice.

Noises: The grandfather in line behind me at the Pink Pig kept trying to get his grandson psyched for the ride by oinking at him. It was cute at first, then it got annoying, then it lasted so long that it got cute again. The predominant noises at the ice rink are squeals of joy and "Hey Mom, watch this." It's a happy place. Winner: ice.

Cuteness: The woman who took my ticket at the Pink Pig had pigtails and a turned-up nose. Most everyone at the ice rink, however, had a rosy glow exerting themselves in the cold. Winner: tie.

Annoyances: When you wait for the Pink Pig, you're waiting on a covered walkway that smokers use. The covering also creates an echo chamber for the nearby Salvation Army bell. The skating rink's biggest annoyance to me is the city's fault ­-- none of the nearby street spaces allow you to park for more than 30 minutes. Winner: pig.

Multiculturalism: I saw plenty of Middle Eastern- and South Asian-looking people at the mall, but none at the Pink Pig. I wonder if the whole pig thing is off-putting to Muslims. The ice rink, on the other hand, was a veritable United Nations (minus the bickering and corruption, of course). Winner: ice.


For more of Andy's holiday outings, visit Scene & Herd at atlanta.creativeloafing.com.

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