Thursday, June 9, 2011

Charleston, Chewed - Part 3

Click Here to read this story from the beginning…

As we flew from Dallas to our connecting flight in Atlanta, it soon became evident that the Harping Hag in front of me did not have an off button or a gear lower than fourth. Therefore, I had no choice but to withdraw from the world and retreat into the cryptic caverns of my mind, conversing with my imaginary friend, Hexom Breen.

We laughed, we drank, we made fun of everybody and everything. Hexom convinced me that it would be a bit rude to take Hagatha’s life, especially since there was the miniscule possibility that there might actually be someone out there that would miss her when she was gone. I doubted it, but Hagatha survived, and peanuts were served.

Eventually we plopped down in Atlanta, learning upon arrival that we had roughly 7 minutes until our next flight left. A quick check of things revealed that our departing gate was in a neighboring state. Figures. We grabbed things and ran.

As we hurtled down people-crammed hallways and broad-jumped over stationary country folk bewildered by things like bright lights and public-address systems (“Is that Jesus?”), I reflected on the people who plan these gate assignment things. Why would they do this? Why would they arrange for you to arrive at one end of the airport and depart from the other end, with mere seconds to bridge the gap? Special place in Hell, that’s all I’m sayin.

But we made it, luckily, and were soon airborne once again. This was a much shorter flight, with the plane basically climbing and descending, not having enough time to actually remain at a steady altitude. The flight attendants were hurriedly shoving cheap snacks at us like Linda Blair serving soup. We weren’t in the plane long enough for me to actually hate anybody, and this was a blessed thing for all concerned.

Touching down in Charleston, finally wandering out of the odd, placeless and clinical environment that exists beyond the security gates of airports, we wandered out into the sunshine and finally relaxed. Tiffany and I were immediately enraptured by the air and light of that part of the country. It’s just different. And good. Surprisingly, I felt the first stirrings of a desire to actually live here, a place where the air smelled like that.

This nesting sensation that was all the more amazing because I’m the kind of person who must carefully analyze everything for years on end before I make a decision. And we were still in the rental-car parking lot. Interesting.

We pile in said rental car, and off we go. Terry drove while I was given the odious task of interpreting the map. Granted, the driving angle sucks in a new city and I had no desire to assume that position, but map-scouring is no picnic either. After all, most maps only have meaning if you are vaguely aware of your surroundings. I had never been here before, so you might as well have handed me a recipe for bok choy souffle.

But I persevered, constantly perusing the increasingly-wrinkled map and swiveling my head to read all highway signs, street signs, startling road-construction signs that made the map even more obsolete, and distracting signs announcing the obvious abundance of fresh and local seafood. (A personal addiction.) This lovely scenario was further complicated by back-seat drivers hollering out random names of pointless streets that nothing to do with anything.

The official purpose of this trip is that we were here to witness the graduation ceremonies of Nina and Terry’s nephew, who had completed his training at The Citadel. That being the case, our first destination was the nephew’s dwelling that he shared with his school buddies. I assume that we were headed to some type of modified student housing, those converted houses and apartment complexes that surround typical universities.

I was completely wrong in my mental imagery.

We exited the highway and were instantly plunged into another place and time. The Citadel has been there forever. Charleston has been there even longer. We were now meandering our way through completely charming neighborhoods filled with French-influenced housing built centuries ago. It was amazing. Tiffany and I were having small orgasms over every third house.

We eventually park in front of the nephew’s shared abode, and as we are given the grand tour, I start to hate the nephew a wee little bit. It’s a house with incredible Charleston charm. My own college experiences at the University of Tulsa paled miserably. Back in those covered-wagon years, we lived in boring, utilitarian cubes. Not townhouses with French doors leading to patios with Spanish moss growing artfully in just the right places. I clearly chose the wrong school. And the wrong city.

An announcement is made that we are headed to Hyman’s for some grub. The natives and the nephew’s immediate family members all cheer as if the Pope has been spotted nearby. Apparently, dining at this eatery is a religious experience, and we’d best hurry or we’re going to miss the Rapture.

Back in to the car, following another car that hopefully knows the way. This trek takes us into Ye Olde Downtown Charleston, crammed as it is with French architecture and antebellum influences. Every building in that area is alive with character, and we were whizzing past hundreds. I had the second pang of a possible relocation in my future. Tiffany confirmed that we were on the same wavelength, briefly gripping my arm, unable to speak, possible tears in her eyes.

There was a small quibble with parking, in that there really wasn’t anywhere to do that. The few lots near our destination were full, so we had to roam a bit before we found a place to ditch the vehicles. (I made a mental note: Do not live in Old Downtown if you own a car. Partake of Downtown‘s pleasures, yes, but live in another part of the city or insanity is nigh.) Then we tromped several blocks to Hyman’s, slamming into unseen obstacles the entire way, entranced as we were with looking up at the buildings and not noticing things like other people and bicycle racks.

At Hyman’s, perky staff people led our entourage into the building, taking us on a meandering journey through various rooms and up several levels. The walls were filled with famous diners from the past. (OMG! Jodie Foster AND Anthony Hopkins have both been here? An impromptu, twisted movie title popped into my head: The Silence of the Hyman’s - Saturday Night at Our Lady of Perpetual Virginity’s School for Tempted Girls.)

They found us a massive table to invade on the upper level, and we proceeded to gather round in a scraping of chairs and jostling of elbows. Tommy, proud father of the graduating nephew, quickly signaled for one of the serving wenches to run fetch an assortment of appetizers while another staffer efficiently gathered our requests for alcohol and delighted us with her ability to speak in that hypnotizing South Carolina way.

We were presented with menus, a compendium that was mostly seafood with random bits of other things. Nearly everything was fried or involved cream-based sauces, so I was already inching toward another round of sexual release. I consulted with Tiffany, both of us already sweating from the gastronomic foreplay.

We had both been instructed by loving friends that we absolutely MUST try the grits in Charleston. So that was a given, we had to do so. But when Tiffany read aloud the description for the grits in this establishment, a drool-inducing cluster of words that included shrimp, cheese and bacon, both of us trembled at what might be passing between our lips within minutes.

So they started bringing the food, appetizers first, natch. Everything was dee-lish, and there was a dipping sauce with a few of the offerings that made my toes curl with delight, but the thing that took our breath away was the fried calamari. Lightly-breaded, succulent, and worthy of worship. I couldn’t cram enough of them in my mouth. I constantly had a fork poised to stab anyone who took more than their fair share.

There was a lobster bisque that made us see Jesus, fried green tomatoes that would make anyone rethink the purpose of their lives, and an array of other nibbles that could cause bitter wars among neighboring countries for centuries. I am not kidding in any way, it was THAT good.

And then they brought the grits out. Tiffany and I, already on the verge of utter salivating madness, dove in with relish. Utensils sparkled in the Charleston sun as we attacked our plates with maniacal force. The combination of flavors in this exquisite dish caused us to cast aside any thought of social decorum or public decency.

Tiffany paused in her plunging, briefly took a swig of an adult beverage, then turned to me with her crazy eyes and lust-drenched air and exclaimed: “Oh my GOD I could have sex with this stuff right now! Make some room on the table so I can lay down!”

Heads at neighboring tables turned.

I politely waved a friendly greeting at the curious faces, then lovingly but forcefully knocked Tiffany out of the way to get on the table first. Them grits was MINE.

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series…

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