A Night in Peachtree Battle

A blurry night from the west side of Atlanta. Photo by me, 2011.


It was likely fifteen years ago that a friend and I gave three women in their early twenties a ride home at the end of the night as Swinging Richards pushed us out the door into the parking lot on Northside Drive. This was well before that neighborhood began to gentrify and like every place from urban to rural, there are potential dangers in the darkness. The women waited on a taxi that was never coming in the chilly hours of an early spring morning. We offered them a ride and they accepted without hesitation – maybe it was the alcohol or we looked like two harmless skinny gay guys that they outnumbered.

When we arrived at their small apartment building, tucked down a street somewhere in Peachtree Battle, they invited us in for drinks. It was after three in the morning and this was not uncommon for us to either host an after hours drink for friends and strangers or to be invited to an after hours party that might go past sunrise. These gatherings were unpredictable and it was impossible tell in advance how these things might go or spin out of control as many had. The later and more intoxicated people became it increased the chances of a girl named Britney grabbing you by the arm and attempting to drag you into a pink tiled bathroom of a brick ranch in Scottdale to make out, even if you are gay guy - true story, but I did escape before she closed the door.

Drinks were poured that night in Peachtree Battle and the standard introductions made. It was a large, open studio apartment with exposed brick walls, moody lighting and furniture purchased on credit cards at Pottery Barn. The decor was very of-the-moment and the apartment smelled like a candle shop at the mall. I remember none of the names the women gave, but I had tossed out my regular fake name of Eric. It was believable, I thought I kind of resembled my idea of what an Eric should look like with dark brown bangs, blue eyes and a thirty inch waist. I was one of those people that blended in with the furniture at any type of event or place from coffee shops to hotel lobbies or buying a fishing license at an Alabama Walmart.

Conversation pitched back and forth like a row boat on a windy day and one of the women and I had the oars. We had hit it off and not too long after she said she had something to show me. She was excited and I was nervous about what she meant. She stood and motioned for me to come with her. I rose and she grabbed my hand, intertwining her fingers in mine. I was nervous like I was as a young boy on a date in junior high seeing a movie at the Paulding Plaza. She pulled me to the bedroom area of the place behind a shoji screen and turned on a lamp. None of the others talked behind us as they became spectators or at least the eyes in the back of my head assumed they watched.

She and I faced a wall from the foot of her bed. She raised her left and arm and pointed. With pride she asked me what I thought. Relief glistened on my forehead as I stared at a modern art painting. It was a swirl of colors from every flavor of Ben & Jerry's or the condiment aisle at Publix. I did that move that I do when I do not know what I am looking at or what to say: I tilt my head to the side, un-focus my eyes and bite my lower lip - the built-in thesaurus for adjectives in my head works better in that transcendental state.

Before I could settle on a specific word she said it was a certain painter from Atlanta that I did not know at the time. She was proud of her purchase and probably paid a lot of money for it. The name was spoken like I was supposed to know this painter and should be jealous and honored to be so close to one of his paintings.

Pages flipped in my mind and the best I could do was to say that the painting was beautiful. I gave the most generic response and even my Eric-fake-name-generated-enthusiasm could not achieve the tone of believability.

She released my hand. The budding bond of after hours kinship fueled on the vapors of alcohol evaporated.

She must have expected a different reaction like I was to get on my knees and tears were to stream down my cheeks. It was only a few minutes ago that all of us were giving dollars bills to male strippers pretending to be firemen, cowboys and fantasies of flesh that could be rented in the back if you had enough cash or remembered your ATM pin number. My mind had not transitioned from that scene to the art scene with delicate brushstrokes.

I again said it was very nice, thanked her for showing it to me and returned to the group.

The conversation lost its momentum and we made our exit from the artificial pear and cinnamon candle scented Peachtree Battle apartment.

Beauty in all its forms from the arts or the natural environment to naked strippers is personal and subjective. Offense taken when someone disagrees or politely declines to share your enthusiasm is immature. I love the most distorted and twisted paintings of Kandinsky, but I can surely understand if someone thinks it is a joke or depicting the great battle of the jellyfish versus the emaciated storks. Many may not share my love for Goldfrapp's Felt Mountain either or get as excited about the films of Tarkovsky and that is perfectly okay. The world would be a boring and humorless dystopia if we were all in lockstep, drove Volvos and hummed along to the latest computer generated number one pop hit.