21
Mar 05

Mike’s Pop Pilgrimages No.3 – Athens, Georgia

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REM of course. And the B52’s. And Pylon I suppose, but REM mostly. I’ve wanted to visit for years. I remember old interviews with the band where they raved about the city. I grew up on REM and I stick by them even now, in their run-out-of-tunes twilight.

Athens is technically a city, but with the feel of a town. The vast campus of the University of Georgia sits downtown and the place fans out around it. I could tell it was a university town because I was the only one about at eleven in the morning and, sadly, the only one getting ready for bed come eleven at night.

In Starbucks the barista asked my name. I was caught off-guard and (in typical English reserved formality), I said, ‘Mr Gregory’. This produced behind the counter mirth, “Can I get, ahem, Mr Gregory a tall latte to go, please?” He bowed stiffly as he handed over my coffee and I left in red-faced embarrassment.

Athens has attractive suburbs. Away from the buzz of the university, hilly residential districts hide wonderful homes. I discovered pristine antebellum houses framed by manicured lawns and arcaded porches. There was a tree that owned itself and a great vegetarian grocery, and behind the cash register, the prettiest girl.

I did the REM sites. Weaver D’s Café with its Automatic for the People sign (now placed well out of nicking it reach), Peter Buck’s old house, the 40 Watt club. Outside the club a guy stopped me and introduced himself, “I’m DJ Zee” He was handing out flyers for the weekend with his buddy. He asked if I had heard of him and I said I hadn’t. He looked upset, so I told him I was from England. He relayed this data to his mate who looked thoughtful for a moment, then asked me if I knew someone in Swindon called Kenny.

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