An alternate view of the citySteve Hammer

Ah. It"s the time of year where the readers of this fine publication choose their favorite things about this city in a number of categories.

Of course, calling anything the "best" is, by definition, subjective. To me, pork rinds with Tabasco sauce is the best snack. For others, it"s a recipe for nausea. Some would say this column evokes the same nauseous reaction, and I have hundreds of pieces of hatemail to prove it. This column was even burned onstage by a local band a few weeks back. Cool.

Yet apparently others disagree. For the fourth consecutive year, I"ve been voted "best local columnist" by the NUVO readers. Of course, it"s a double-edged sword. If I win, well, it"s my own readers who say so. If I lose, it means not even my own readers support me.

I wish to thank the people who voted for me, although I would select Dave Hoppe, Amos Brown, Dave Lindquist, Mike Redmond or James Patterson over me. I"m sure none of them is losing sleep over not winning the NUVO poll, however, and none would be so egotistical to boast about it in print.

And none would be as presumptuous as I am in listing my own counter-picks to the reader"s poll, as I am about to do.

Best Local Nightclub. Any one which plies me with Crown and Cokes or Brady Bunch Punch all night long. I don"t know what the hell goes into a Brady Bunch Punch, but I like it. We need more clubs like that.

Best Local Band. A tie. The Slurs, the Hooligans, the Mudkids, Perfect Nothing and Butterfly Tonguz.

Best Local Politician. No contest. It"s Frank Anderson, a man of unimpeachable integrity and honesty. If he doesn"t win the election for sheriff, look for martial law to be imposed.

Best Place to Buy Clothes. The Value Village on North Keystone. If you like Hawaiian shirts, work uniforms from White Castle or size 52 jeans, this is your place. It"s also a great place to find books.

Best Hamburger. The misleadingly titled Six Dollar Burger from Hardee"s combines a plentiful helping of cow, slabs of tasty cheese and bread and butter pickles for a deliciously heart-clogging concoction. If Orson Welles still walked the earth, this would be his favorite sandwich, too.

Best French Fries. The cheese fries at Steak "n" Shake, which can raise your cholesterol level just by looking at them. Best experienced at 3 a.m. while drunk and hitting on the waitress.

Best Party. The people who live across from me are out on their balcony just about every night. They like to play the Notorious B.I.G. and swill alcohol until 4 a.m. every night, which qualifies them as the coolest partiers I know, even if they"ve never invited me over.

Best Place to Shop at 3 a.m. The Wal-Mart on 96th Street. If you need some left-hand scissors, a bottle of Tide and some fishing tackle in the middle of the night, you really have no other choice. As a bonus, you get to observe Appalachian anthropology without having to travel outside the county.

Coolest Fashion Statement. The trendiest people in town are the ones you see on Rural Street during the summer. The combination of 300-pound women in spandex pants and their 125-pound shirtless husbands is fashionable enough, but watching their children running around with grape jelly on their diapers is the definition of cool. Trust me. You"ll see this look on the runways of Milan soon enough.

Best Soft Drink. Although I hold a soft spot in my heart for Choc-Ola, the refreshing dairy-like beverage, nothing beats good old-fashioned Coca-Cola. It can strip the rust off a bolt, the meat off a chicken bone and quench your thirst all at once.

Best Local TV Show. Without a doubt, it has to be Indiana Week in Review, where overweight, unattractive people discuss the leading news events of the past seven days. It"s the opposite of eye candy.

Best Local Radio Show. It"s got to be the Dave Wilson Show on WIBC. Imagine what would happen if the guys from Deliverance did drive-time radio. It"s just like that.

Most Slippery Dance Floor. The tile floor in front of the Melody Inn stage takes on a glass-like consistency once beer gets poured on it, which it does every Saturday night. I"ve seen dozens of extremely scary-looking floor dives in the past year.

Best Advertisement for Locating Your Convention in Chicago. The treatment of visitors to our city during Indiana Black Expo this year. I think the Indianapolis Police Department got a bad rap on this one, however; few people realized it was actually a historic program to relive the glory days of Selma and Birmingham, circa 1965.

Best Pleading of Poverty. The hat-in-hand routine of the Indianapolis Colts to convince our civic leaders that they need to build a new stadium so the team can make more money. Hey, if they could win a playoff game, they"d start making money. And I fail to see how they can"t make a profit off a $7 beer.

The list of potential winners goes on and on. For an expanded list, go to my Web site at And thanks again for voting for me, those of you who did. I sincerely appreciate it and I hope to justify your votes over the next 52 weeks.