Scene & Herd - Park & wreck

Oh ... and puppets

Atlanta's Center for Puppetry Arts puts on some great shows, both for kids and adults. Friday I checked out Xperimental Puppetry Theater, one of the R-rated events. It's not that there was anything all that obscene or explicit, but there was language that most folks wouldn't expect at a puppet show. Oh, and the penis puppet might've disturbed youngsters. Heck, it disturbed me a little bit.

But that's the fun of XPT — it's not just the puppets themselves that are atypical, but the show's content also pushes the boundaries of what you'd expect at any show with the word "puppetry" in it. Sock puppets gave us solutions to the world's problems while an accompanying go-go dancer sexed up the message. Samurai with Jewish names battled a fire-breathing dragon. A man's pudgy belly with a smiley face painted across it served as group therapy counselor to a collection of body parts. A ventriloquist was electrocuted and a marionette dropped dead after playing with the Triangle of Death. Some of the acts were funny, some surreal, but they were all interesting in strange and new ways. The center has other adult performances throughout the year, as well as stuff for the kids. So check out www.puppet.org for details.</
I stopped by Carroll Street Cafe for an afternoon refresher this weekend and sat admiring the series of paintings on the wall by Samuel Parker. The works show Japanese and tattoo influences in their style and feature a mix of strange creatures, such as a carp with an elephant's head swimming through a spiral of bubbles or a Babylonian winged bull with a man's face, blocking the path of a pickup on its way to the McDonald's in the background. Fun stuff to admire over dinner and drinks at the best neighborhood cafe/bar in Cabbagetown.</
I often wonder how a neighborhood's borders are determined. I imagine a cabal-like neighborhood association meeting where members lean over maps and point to various blocks and say, "Oh, that's a nice street these days. Let's include them, but not this one over here. They had that shooting last year and we don't want that in our neighborhood." Take Kirkwood, for example.

When I decided to check out the Kirkwood Spring Fling this weekend, I didn't bother to Google-map the location. I just headed into Cabbagetown, found Kirkwood Avenue and started driving. When I reached Moreland, I figured I'd missed it somehow and circled back around. Two or three trips through the area later, I had to call someone to find out where the festival was actually located. I was surprised to learn Kirkwood extends east of Moreland for miles — or at least it does now. I lived in that neighborhood a few years ago and never realized it was labeled "Kirkwood."</
I assumed the festival would reflect the neighborhood I lived in all those years ago, but judging from the vendors and visitors, the gentrification recently discussed in this paper has changed the area. To put it bluntly, there was hardly a black face in the crowd. Local band Letters to Mary were on stage, with Mary Delaney up front performing chick rock reminiscent of her pal Michelle Malone. A couple dozen booths sold arts and crafts, but most folks seemed occupied watching their kids cavorting around Bessie Branham Park's impressive playground. This was only the third year of the festival, so it still has that fresh, nobody-knows-about-it quality.</
But a few blocks away, it was just another sunny Saturday in a different Kirkwood park absolutely packed with folks grilling and socializing — with hardly a white face in attendance. This self-imposed segregation is one of the things that bothers me about Atlanta and the South — and perhaps much of the country in general. I don't get why the regular visitors at one park wouldn't join the festival at the other, or why the festival wasn't held where they knew folks were already congregating every weekend. This is no Great American Melting Pot; this is a plastic school lunch tray.

Meanwhile, at yet another park, the Southern Comfort Music Experience took over Centennial Olympic Park for a kid-free weekend of bands and bourbon liqueur.</
I missed Saturday's lineup of New Orleans bands but managed to catch Sunday's opening act the Moaners from Chapel Hill. Lead singer and guitarist Melissa Swingle was looking a little Joey Ramone-ish with black hair in her face, tight black jeans and black sunglasses. She and drummer Laura King create music that sounds like backwoods country blues as sung by a heartbroken farmer's wife. Melissa's thin voice eeks out of her thin frame as she plays slide on a distorted guitar while Laura bangs out a steady beat. Good stuff, but there was hardly anyone there to see it.</
There were overpriced food vendors of the usual festival fare — funnel cakes, corn dogs, some decent barbecue — as well as booths serving various mixers with Southern Comfort. I tried one of their prefab frozen drinks, a sticky sweet concoction they were calling a "margarita," though it lacked tequila, obviously. It reminded me of a "Simpsons" episode where Bart gets a squishy that is all syrup.</
Girls in super-short skirts, SoCo shirts and hats handed out free stuff but the crowds were unenergetic early on a hot Sunday afternoon. As this was the first time for the event, it also suffered from the nobody-knows-about-it freshness, as well as a few technical problems (a side stage featured a few local acts but they were on at the same time as the louder acts on the main stage.)</
A couple of hours later, Austin's kings of alt-country, the Gourds, drew a slightly larger crowd of neo-hippies and others who were just waiting on De La Soul and the Flaming Lips. But by then I had flaming skin, as I had sweated off all my SPF. I had a deadline to meet, and the threat of a hot port-a-potty, so I left the festival as more folks trickled out of the MARTA station on their way to the park.</

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