Chattanooga, 2004
Part 2

This is an excerpt from our ezine Degeneration Excerpt, a semi-weekly and semi-weakly ezine on Atlanta's music scene, random travel tales, blasphemy and prophesy. If you want to subscribe to that broadcast just contact us!

If you enjoy this tale you'll probably love our lengthy tale from our trip to Italy:

We got up to meet some other degenerates at Taqueria la Alteña, just off Broad Street south of downtown. SW was looking more than a little green but we were determined to get to the World's Longest Yard Sale, a 450-mile stretch of highways from Ohio to Alabama on which people converge to buy and sell junk. It was the excuse for our whole trip.

We got some food and headed north to catch the Southern Tennessee leg of the sale. We stopped by the first roadside group of folks, just three or four haphazard tents and tarps spread out covered in junk. The selection wasn't much to speak of, though I did spot a box full of 8-track tapes. I asked the little old lady how much they were before I dug through them. "A dollar each, or I'll sell ya the whole box for $10."
I poked around and found the whole box full of TV evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart. I only found one I wanted and handed a dollar over.
"Which one did you get?"
"Well, I'm not much of a Swaggart fan so I went with one of your secular choices."
"Which one?"
"AC/DC, Highway to Hell."
She paused for a moment, then looked up and said, "Well, that's a highway we don't want to be on anyhow."

Further up the road we found whole pastures full of tents and booths.

Cars parked in the ditch for a mile, people selling hotdogs and cokes, and all the little glass and ceramic trinkets you could EVER want. But not much else. They spread the event over two weekends this year for the first time and we were there the second weekend. Most of the vendors I talked to seemed to think it was a mistake. "I had more business when it was just four days than this whole week."

I didn't find much I wanted. Either the good stuff was already gone or the southern Tennessee leg doesn't attract the right kind of kitsch I was shopping for. On the other hand, if you could find something you wanted you could get a heck of a deal since the sale was drawing to a close. But here's a sampling of some of the funnier items I spotted:

Rebel roosters!

Morbid salt and pepper shakers.

A pink and yellow half hippo.

And yes, condom machines with labels from random decades!

We cruised past single-family yard sales in favor of the bigger gatherings. It just wasn't worth stopping for a driveway full of stuff when you could go a few hundred yards farther down the road and find whole pastures full of stuff.

People started packing up around 5 or 6, so we admitted defeat and headed back down the hill to Chattanooga. We changed for dinner and headed out for a night on the town.

We dined at Sticky Fingers right on the strip. There's probably better 'cue in Chattanooga but we were hungry and didn't feel like wandering all over town.

I've had better, cheaper, but it was still pretty tasty. SW got a smoked turkey salad that was good as well.

We wandered around the corner in search of a bar and stepped into Big Chill & Grill. The funky decor and room full of comparatively well dressed men inspired SVA to ask our waitress, "Is this a gay bar?"
"Um..." she hesitated.
"We're not judging , just curious," I added.
"It's... friendly," she answered.

Big Chill & Grill offers a couple dozen frozen drinks from a row of slushee machines a la Fat Tuesdays, as well as a long list of martinis to choose from. I couldn't figure out how they'd managed to keep my drink frozen with the alcohol content packed into the glass. One drink and I was buzzing already.

We chatted with the waitress for leads on other bars. She rattled off a list and we found we'd been to every one she could name, until she got to Lamar's.
"It's in the basement of Lamar's Hotel on MLK. Good fried chicken, if you haven't eaten. They're famous for it. Great jukebox too."
We told her we'd already eaten but we were ready for a change of venue so we followed her directions down MLK to just before the bridge. On the right is a big sign for Lamar's Hotel.
We climbed the stairs and stepped into a small, empty, half-lit restaurant - just a few booths, a vacant counter, and a dark hallway leading back into the building.
"Uh... I'm not sure this is open..." one of our gang said.
Then a voice came from the dark hall, "Can I help you?"
Peering through the darkness, we spotted a friendly looking black guy in an apron, white shirt and bowtie.
"Yeah... we heard there's... a bar... here?" I said.
"Yes sir, right here," he said, stepping aside to reveal a doorway with a little light spilling from it at the end of the hall.
I had the same feeling of "This might be a bad idea" that I had when we jumped into a battered gypsy cab in Rome a couple of years back.

But we followed him into the room and found a small bar lit by a few Christmas lights, walls covered in gold wallpaper flocked in burgundy velvet, a jukebox at one end of the room. A couple of guys sat at the bar eating fried chicken, otherwise the place was deserted.
"Oh my god, I love it!" SVA said.
"It's like something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie," I noted.

We pulled up stools and ordered. The bartender mixed drinks so stiff we had to sip them like little old ladies.

After a while a few more people trickled in. Someone put a couple dollars in the jukebox and got so many songs they couldn't even pick them all so I wandered over to help. All old soul, blues and R&B classics - James Brown, Otis Redding, BB King.


We had a drink or two (we couldn't have taken much more, even with a designated driver) before stumbling out the door. We wanted to show our other friends the Stone Lion so we trekked back across town and settled in for a nightcap. I found the same folks there that had been there the night before and picked up on the drunken conversation thread we'd left off on as if I'd only stepped into the can for a moment.

But after a long day of yard sailing some of our party were ready to hit the sack. In the morning, a couple of the ladies didn't have the motivation to return to the yard sale so they headed back to civilization while SW and I headed for the Alabama leg of the journey. We hadn't brought a map of the route and had to do some wandering before we found where things picked up again (there's a large gap as it goes from Chattanooga over to NE Alabama), but eventually we got on track and found the southern end of the World's Longest Yard Sale to be pretty sparse. Maybe it was because it was the last half of the final day, or maybe it's because the backwaters of Alabama aren't as densely populated as the burbs of Chattanooga, but we drove for miles and miles between the few sales we could find. Eventually we had to give in and find our way back east toward Atlanta and home with only a few backs of loot to show for the journey.

But hey, any excuse to get out of town and find new dive bars!

"These people could put us out of business!"
Photo Editor, Creative Loafing

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