Michael Dear Atkin was born in 1964 in New York City and raised there, as well. His middle name is his British mother’s maiden name. He moved to Savannah on New Year’s Eve 1998 with a woman who was native to here. According to Atkin, this area made perfect sense to him, and still does. “Savannah seemed like a place that a New Yorker could fit in because it was walkable, and near the ocean – and I was used to working at beach resorts in the summertime.”

A naturally gregarious and verbal fellow, Atkin soon fell in with the local food and beverage industry and ultimately became a memorable employee at a number of different area establishments. “I was always comfortable dealing with people, but that went to a new level when I started working in restaurants,” he recalled. “I started out as a busboy and service bartender when I was a senior in college, but when I began waiting tables I became really comfortable at talking to large groups of people. It was just a natural fit for me, and I love the service industry in general.”

Over the years, he’s worked as a server at Garibaldi’s, Belford’s, George’s of Tybee and 17Hundred90 Inn & Restaurant. He’s also tended bar st Sage Restaurant and at the old Velvet Elvis music club (now The Jinx), as well as worked private functions with the esteemed Susan Mason Catering. However, back in June of 2015, he shifted gears and parlayed his love for bicycling into a full-time job working as a driver for Savannah Pedicab, downtown’s pioneering, human-powered, eco-friendly transportation service which recently celebrated its 25th Anniversary.

“Bike riding is my favorite pastime, so I absolutely love getting paid to ride a bike!” explained Atkin. “I’d never driven a pedicab before, but back in the early ’80s I was a professional bike messenger in New York City. I loved that job, but it was extremely dangerous. A few people I worked with at the time actually got hit by cars, since you had to basically ride between buses and trucks in the thick of Manhattan traffic. I wouldn’t do it now, but back then I was young…”

These days he works an average of 45 hours a week in the busy tourist seasons and 35 hours a week during the slower times of the year. However, Atkin said while he has no plans to stop pedaling and illuminating fares with his well-rounded knowledge of local history and current entertainment and educational options in the nation’s first planned city, he does have long-term goals which don’t center around two-wheeled vehicles and hard physical exertion.

“I’ve been trying to put my nose to the grindstone at studying wine, ales and spirits,” he admitted. “I would like to finish my working years as some sort of sommelier or specialist in beers or liquors, perhaps in a restaurant.” While he described himself as “too old-school” to use, let alone know much about social media, he encouraged visitors and locals alike to stop him on the streets when they see him on the job. “Just come by and say hello when I’m on the bike,” he said. “If you want to hop in the cab, I’d love to show you around town.”

Have any phobias? “Dirty hands.”

Ketchup on hot dogs: yes or no? “New York-style: spicy brown or Dijon mustard.”

Longest period of time you’ve ever gone without sleep, and why? “My attorney says not to answer that one.”

Most disappointing musical concert you’ve ever seen by an established artist? “The Jerry Garcia Band in 1982 at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, N.J. I slept through it. But I still love the Grateful Dead!”

Ice cream sandwiches or popsicles? “Ice cream sandwiches.”

Favorite type of pet? “Outdoor cats are the best. My childhood cat was named Fritz the Cat, after the X-Rated movie. My mother had no idea.”

Savannah restaurant you routinely recommend to tourists because it’s off their radar? “17Hundred90 Inn & Restaurant.”

As a New Yorker, two terms which described Donald Trump before he ran for President? “Huckster and carnival barker.”

Two terms which describe Donald Trump now that he is President? “Huckster and carnival barker.”

Single most difficult aspect of driving a Pedicab? “Convincing people, especially tourists, that we are a much more fun and better service than Uber.”

SNL or SCTV? “SNL.”

Three LPs everyone should listen to carefully at least once? “The Rolling Stones’ ‘Some Girls,’ Talking Heads’ ‘Stop Making Sense,’ The Smiths’ ‘The Queen is Dead.’”

Automatic, go-to pizza toppings? “Italian sausage, sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes.”

Pinball or Foosball? “Pinball.”

Last thing in the news that made you cry? “Children dying in their parents’ arms in El Paso.”

Alcoholic beverage you absolutely cannot stand? “Hoppy IPAs – especially fruity ones.”

One negative trait you struggle with? “Talking too much.”

Your two favorite dishes to cook for yourself? “Seared New York strip steak with a nice demi-glace or red wine sauce – or pork tenderloin.”

Tied down and tickled for an hour or having your chest burned three times with a cigarette? “I’ll take the burn.”

First thing you’d do as mayor of Savannah? “Help to create affordable housing for the regular guy and gal.”

 

Each week, 20 Questions features a different noteworthy figure of the local arts community in a quick Q&A session curated by veteran writer Jim Reed. Read more at dosavannah.com.