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When in Rome ...

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I've been in Rome for the last week, and let me tell you, the rumors are true: You can't go five feet without tripping over some ancient shit, and there's wine and beautiful women everywhere. Thanks to that deadly combination, I had my own personal toga party -- if you consider drinking too much and passing out in a hotel bathroom wearing a bathrobe a "toga party."

On that fateful night, was it the ravishing bartender's eyes I kept trying to drink in or thoughts of home I kept trying to drink away? I think a little of both. Though I hit things full on, the city actually moves at a pretty leisurely pace. On an average evening, it's like a challenge to see who can be the last in the restaurant, after an aperitivo, antipasto, your primi piatti (first, pasta course), secondi piatti (meat course), two bottles of wine and a digestif. And let's not forget dolci (dessert). Italian nightlife seemed to proceed much the same way. You start at a friend's house for drinks, or head to a local cafe or osteria (neighborhood tavern). 'Round 11:30 p.m. or midnight, you're forced to hit the streets -- very manageable, or let a radio cab take you on a haphazard dash to one of the two main clubbing areas. And that's when you really get to start savoring the flavor.

Let's put aside our designer label delusion. Compared to the Italians, we don't dress up when we go out. These people, they have themes. They come with their girlfriends and perform dance routines. Or they just congregate in statuesque huddles. Their clothes would make your mom hot.

Clubs are roughly carved from stables and carpenter's sheds hundreds of years old; in contrast, our fascination with renovating seems really self-absorbed. But it's OK that we aren't as dressed in comparison, because we've got our own, admittedly highly pervasive, culture.

We worship their clothes, they worship our funk -- our music and streetwise attitude. After all, we have Eminem, whose new single had everybody talking last week. And we party so singularly that we need to make up words like "crunk" to describe it.

Not everything in Rome was so different from Hotlanta, though. I was there covering the Red Bull Dance Academy (featuring local producer Rasta Root), so there was no shortage of hip-hop breaks and energy drinks, staples 'round my edge-of-Inman Park digs. Red Bull got me up in the morning and kept me up all night, watching political coverage on CNN and the BBC, which just made me want to go out and drink more. I hope that next week I don't have to report on myself ending up on another bathroom floor in a bathrobe, hugging an empty wine bottle in disgust.

Keep one RedEye open. And send all comments, questions, observations and invitations to redeye@creativeloafing.com.

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