Elevation Leg 1: 2001, North America

Nov
25
1997

Athens, Georgia - R.E.M. hospitality.

Athens, Georgia - R.E.M. hospitality. Wining, dining and dodgy home videos provide a warm welcome for Willie and Joe.

Joe & I took a flight from San Antonio to Atlanta, where Bruce met us in a rented car. We headed out to Athens, Georgia, home of R.E.M., where we planned to stay the night. Bertis Downs, the band's manager, had invited us for dinner which sounded like a great plan. On arrival at the picturesque little Bed & Breakfast place where we were staying, we got a call from Bertis saying that Michael Stipe and a few friends were in town and keen to see us, so could we meet at his house first. So, over to Bertis's house, where he & his wife Katherine proudly showed us their new baby daughter before we descended into the wine cellar. The Downs wine cellar is a) very large and b) very well stocked with fabulous wines. Not wishing to waste any time we ploughed in and sampled some very fine vintages. And then some more. And then some more. Michael arrived with three friends and we settled into the living room, as Bert continued to bring in more bottles. We were all loving life by the time we finally left to eat.

Dinner was at "The Grit", an Athens landmark low-key veggie place. Whilst we were there, Lance Bangs, one of the R.E.M. film makers arrived, and we ended up going back to his place. Lance lives in a converted schoolhouse, which looks like a scene from the Young Ones. The place is jammed with video tapes, arcade games, ping pong table, strange art installations, pictures, papers and Polaroids everywhere.

Lance entertained us with stories about a local Nubian religious order who were building pyramids out in the Georgia wilderness, and with highlights from his alternative movie collection, including the epic "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" and the legendary bootlegged home video of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee's honeymoon, which was pretty horrifying. I'd heard rumour that this tape existed - Pam & Tommy's home movie of themselves consummating their marriage. Let me tell you, it leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination.

Rolled back to our B&B in the wee small hours, feeling restored into the heart of Athens life. What wonderful, mad, inspiring and utterly nice people they all are.

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