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Sunday, February 17,2013

Uptown Athens: this place never, ever goes to bed

By Anna Moore
Photo Credits: Anna Moore
Photo Caption: Uptown Athens

Editor's note: Anna Moore, a senior news and information major in Ohio University's Scripps School of Journalism, wrote a 24-hour log of a typical day in uptown Athens last November. This is part two of her three-part series. The first part was published on Feb. 14, and the third part will be published on Feb. 18. We are posting each part online as they appear in the paper, then the whole article on Feb. 21.

6 p.m. Court Street

The sun has set, flicking the switch from daytime laziness to nighttime debauchery. Although it's technically dinnertime, the show has already begun. Electric streetlights illuminate the Court Street stage, like they have since 1889, as the Saturday Night cast comes out in full costume, playing their collective role of the American College Student. After all, darkness brings our the darkest parts. People do what they want when they think no one can see.

7 p.m. The Court Street Diner

A classic American joint where everything appears to be dipped in aluminum and from the 1940s, even though the trailer was built in Florida in 1997. The wait staff huddles around the cash register like a family, all in matching black T-shirts. It is a slow Saturday, so they begin to plan their nighttime fun between coffee refills.

"Why aren't you out drinking?" asks the male server to an exhausted looking group of girls in Ohio University sweatshirts.

"We've been out all day, that's why we're here. Oh. My. God. It's only 7 p.m."

Apart from the usual milkshake date and those looking for a pre-drinking stomach liner, there is Harold. He helps out with maintenance around town but somehow finds a way to come to the diner's barstools twice daily for his regular coffee and water order. He mumbles about his medicine in an old-timey auctioneer-like language only select wait staff can comprehend. With a pouted lower lip and concerned brow, he stares at the wall where the Jukebox used to be. "We got a new kind of Jukebox, Harold," explains a kind blond waitress. Harold's empty coffee mug is now a Koozie for his ice water cup. "Heh? Heh? Heh?" he yells at the new MP3 player that sits above the wall's obvious jukebox outline. With a pull-up of the pants and a readjustment of his Auto Parts hat, Herald is out the door.

8 p.m. The Crystal Bar

The Crystal already has a layer of popcorn and beer topping the stained oak tables. Frat boys in bouquets of flower-colored pants are arm-wrestling – wait, real wrestling. A boy who looks like Hercules patrols his territory, shaking his golden locks as he greets his fellow Greek brothers, being careful not to spill Miller Lite on his argyle sweater. Greek goddesses in sky-high heels throw pong balls and pose, hands on their hips, for a soon–to-be-on-Facebook picture. The glow of flatscreen college football gives those who drink alone something to pretend to watch as they gain their liquid courage. Ahhh, the smell of popcorn, cheap cologne and urine.

9 p.m. Casa Nueva, The Cantina

There's still an hour wait for a dinner table at Casa Nueva, The ultra-Athenian locavore restaurant and music venue for a more sophisticated Saturday-night crowd. Members of a band tighten their guitar strings, and "Test one two, test one two." The warmth of dark wood, red-wine walls and the smell of sautéed onions surround trendy ladies, who delicately squeeze lime slivers into their $6 margaritas. Though it is "No Shave November," (the nationwide phenomenon of men refusing their razors during the 11th month of the year for charity, or just for fun), the beards of the bartenders and loyal Casa customers have been in the works for years. Facial hair never goes out of style in Athens.

10 p.m. Casa Nueva, The Cantina

The folks at Casa are too busy tapping their toes to the live gig to notice a shaggy-haired boy who is drinking for free. He unzips his tattered book bag with a bike helmet buckled to the strap and pulls out an entire bottle of rye whiskey. With a goofy smirk, he pours three hefty glugs of whiskey into an empty glass. Sneaking booze makes every hour happy hour. He giggles and says, "Whiskey, best when you drink it heavily."

11 p.m. BP Gas Station

Court Street is a circus. A scene more ridiculous than when the Ringling Brothers brought their feather-crowned horses and bedazzled elephants to town in 1902. Tonight's ringleader is holding his manhood in one hand, his cell-phone in the other as he nonchalantly pees on the back wall of the BP gas station. "Yeah, man, I'm on my way," he says as he zips up and carries on. Let the Saturday night parade begin. Bar to bar. House party to house party.

These in-home gatherings provide a whole other world of educational experiences for the young student population. Teaching many lessons such as how to do a keg stand, how to hit a bowl, or how to deal with the police who come for a noise complaint. Even during Prohibition when downtown saloons were boarded up, in-home bootlegging and speakeasies continued despite the steep fines and punishment. In the 1920s, an Athens man named Jim Bobo was found with five bottles of beer in his basement and fined $200 ($2,000 in today's dollars). Quite the expensive not-even six-pack.

Midnight. Mill Street

Midnight on Mill Street means red Solo cups and underage mistakes. Bass and laughter shake the apartment building walls and brisk night air doesn't stop porch parties from shotgun beer races. The Ohio University Police have slowed their car to a glass-crunching crawl and come to a stop when a little-too-drunk girl is being hauled like a rug on its way to the cleaners by three of her guy friends. If it were any year before 1971, she would have already been back at her dorm by the midnight curfew for young ladies. No doubt her sleeping parents will not be happy about being awakened by an OUPD officer. Beyond grounded.

1 a.m. House Party

The farther away from Court Street, the more unique the bash. Welcome a real American living room hoedown. Banjos are pulled out of their cases like precious cigarettes from a carton. Everyone is spinning with swigs of gin and whiskey shared between Do-Si-Do's. An exchange student from Brazil doesn't quite understand the boot-stomping bluegrass song about some girl named Black Eyed Suzy. The Brazilian asks, "How is this dancing sexy?" To be honest, it never has been and probably never will be. A Pabst Blue Ribbon shares a table with a wooden flute, binoculars and a book about yoga. A puff here, a hit there, and optical illusion posters become extra trippy against walls painted purple with moons and stars.

The third part of this three-part series will appear in the Thursday, Feb. 21, issue of The Athens NEWS. We will add each part of the series to at it gets published, and then post the whole unified piece online on Feb. 21.


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