Oh, no. Atlanta also has the greatest fast-food place in the world: The Varsity, on North Avenue right across from the Olympic Village. I have traveled the world over and never found a chili dog that approaches the excellence of a Varsity chili dog. My stepfather used to deliver hot-dog buns to the Varsity, and he said the Varsity would accept no bun whose surface would crack if you wrapped the bun around your finger. And I have never seen french fries anywhere else that showed such undeniable signs of having come, within the last few minutes, from actual potatoes. And the onion rings! If I were to see a set of Olympic rings that were five interlocking Varsity onion rings, I would believe.
Also if I were to see five interlocking Krispy Kreme doughnuts. There is no more delightful fattening experience than pulling up to the Krispy Kreme on Ponce de Leon Avenue late at night and smelling the fresh hot doughnuts as they come off the assembly line in the back. I went into the Krispy Kreme not long ago and sat down next to a man who had tears in his eyes. He turned to me and said, "My mama used to bring me here."
Isn't this getting awfully personal?
Embarrassing, isn't it? But there is something awfully personal about Atlanta. Dig down under the "We're just amiable businessfolk" surface, and you find a volatile mixture of "This is one town where a black person can do well, and I'll be damned if I'm missing out on that action" and "Unless you count St. Louis, which is in a border state, no town ever represented by Sherman's army ever had a Summer Olympics, by god!"
Furthermore, has anyone noticed the similarities between Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games head Billy Payne (who takes a bottle of Jack Daniels and a loaf of white bread with him to Europe) and the wildly eccentric Georgia folk artist Howard Finster (who paints portraits of people with messages written on their foreheads Such as ONLY GOD OF ABRAHAM COULD CREATE A BRAINE OF POWER. AND WISDOM TO CARRY ON IN A WORLD LIKE THIS ONE)? Both men are outspokenly religious. Until they became world-famous, neither of them had ever spent much time outside of Georgia. Both of them are self-appointed and boundlessly enthusiastic. Both of them write strange verse. People say both are crazy. It came to Billy Payne out of the blue one day that he should bring the Olympics to Atlanta, just as it came to Howard Finster out of the blue one day (he thought he saw a face in a dab of paint on his finger) that he should paint portraits of Elvis and Jesus and Coke bottles and himself.
Finster was on the Tonight Show once. Johnny Carson asked him what inspired his art. Finster put his hand to his head and replied, "If you had a place itching up here, Johnny, you'd reach right up to scratch it, like you know right where it is. If you was to ask me to scratch it, I wouldn't know where to look."
Ask Atlantans where their civic there is, and they may shrug. But then some little personal thing will crop up, like the fact that their mama and Deion Sanders belong to the same congregation, and...well, it's hard to put your finger on the principle involved, but somehow, collectively, Atlanta has an itch and knows where to scratch it.