Monday, June 13, 2011

Charleston, Chewed - Part 4

Click Here to read this story from the beginning…

The shameless gluttony continued at Hyman’s for a considerable amount of time, until basically we could no longer get up from the table without the assistance of overhead cranes. We rolled our way back down the stairs and levels of the establishment, briefly fingered things in the gift shop (“A tiny bottle of genuine sea-salt face scrub for 30 bucks. Woohoo!”), and eventually staggered out into the sunshine.

It’s always a glorious thing to be slightly tipsy in the afternoon in a city that is not your own. You can basically do whatever you want without fear of too much humiliation, because you’ll be leaving town in a few days and none of this will matter.

If things do get a bit out of hand, because you’ve crossed the line from giggly-and-only-slightly-obnoxious to complete-dumbass, and a rowdy mob of native citizenry is headed your way wearing unpleased expressions, just wave your camera, the international symbol of irritating tourists everywhere. This should be a sufficient explanation and they will generally leave you alone, unless you manage to actually kill somebody and/or verbally malign a famous local sports figure.

But don’t push it. Golden Rule About Mid-Afternoon Drinking: When you’ve got four margaritas under your belt, things that seem amusing and hysterical to you are not nearly as impressive to those folks around you that are still in the midst of their work day. Yes, they can be jealous of you and your temporary lack of employment responsibilities, that’s fine, but you don’t want them to reach the point of actual hatred or things can go terribly awry and suddenly police cars are arriving and nobody is laughing any more. Show your ass with some degree of moderation.

So there we were, wandering about the streets of downtown Charleston, talking louder than usually required, pointing with only minimal accuracy at fascinating things that we would normally walk right past back home, and taking pictures with a frenzy. Tiffany was especially worked up about the photography, setting off her flash with such disco-rhythm frequency that I swear I heard Gloria Gaynor wailing in the background that somebody needed to leave their key and get the hell out.

There are tons of restaurants in this part of town, most of them charming homegrown things that sprouted up in old homes or buildings, dripping with character and individuality. I especially like the bit about most of them placing their menus in a highly visible location outside the doors, so you can peruse and decide if the place is worth a try, without having to actually stroll inside first and thus become potentially trapped into eating there, even though your sixth sense is now sending a warning that you have made a serious food-selection faux pas. (The fact that Enya is playing on the restaurant sound system always makes me regret decisions in my life.)

Tiffany and I now became invested in racing up to these posted menus and excitedly taking inventory. (Never mind that we were still completely stuffed from our trough-abuse at Hyman’s and couldn’t possibly eat another bite without requiring medical assistance.) Most of the time, we would squeal over something or other that was listed and swear that we had to come back and eat at this place as soon as humanly possible. Then we would completely forget the name of the restaurant within the next two seconds, because there had been drinking at Hyman’s as well, and we never made it back to any of these places.

Eventually, we strolled up to the parking garage, and a short time later the four of us were finally headed to our hotel, since it was getting later in the day and we’d best secure our rooms before some fool guest-services person cancelled our reservation because he was a stickler for annoying things like check-in deadlines. Besides, we were actually very excited about just seeing the hotel.

Terry had convinced us to stay at a hotel called The Tides, way out on Folly Beach. He’d been there before and had glowing reviews of his experience. I was a little nervous that this supposed experience had taken place in the 1800’s, and things may have changed a bit since then, but hopefully it was worth the risk. And as far as Tiffany was concerned, as long as she could see a piece of beach from a window, she would go anywhere she was told.

So off we go, first over a large bridge that whisked us out of Charleston proper, and then maneuvering a pleasant-enough road that had us hopping over patches of water and tiny little towns. Or maybe it was one town, not really sure, but it did seem like the designs on the street signs were changing. We were also supposedly driving across several minor islands, but it was hard to tell. Especially with the back-seat drivers hollering out every time they saw a gas station or a crouton.

What I do know is that there were some pretty nifty ordinances around here, where strong attempts were made to force even the most retail of establishments to have a charming exterior. For example, we shot by a Wal-Mart and almost didn’t notice it was there. Now, nothing against Wal-Mart, I’ve been in hundreds in my day, but you have to admit they have some butt-ugly buildings, made further unappealing by those vast parking lots and hordes of questionably-attired people mucking about.

This Wal-Mart? Shoved behind a grove of trees. A serious grove. As in, if it hadn’t been for the brief gap in the trees caused by the entrance to the parking lot, I never would have even noticed it was there. This completely fascinated me.

I whipped open my notepad and jotted down “They hide ugly buildings in this town. Two points.”

As we supposedly neared our destination (Terry was providing running commentary), we could see discreet billboards advertising housing options in the vicinity. The purchase prices rose until it became clear that if you wanted a cozy little condo at the Something-Something Enclave, it would cost you half a million dollars.

Oh my. Apparently I wouldn’t be able to afford a doghouse around here. Oh well. Not the first time that there has been an insurmountable variance between the cost of the rewards I feel I deserve in life and the cold, hard facts of my paycheck.

Suddenly we were in downtown Folly Beach, which is really only a few blocks, and the main drag ends abruptly right at the entrance to The Tides. Gee, that wasn’t very hard to find. We pile out of the car, very anxious, because we can hear the beach but we can’t see it yet, with the hotel buildings blocking our view. We tromp up a few stairs and enter the main lobby.

Tiffany and I came to a complete halt, suitcases and whatnot being instantly forgotten and dropped to the floor.

The entire back wall of the lobby was solid glass, showcasing an expanse of beach just a few steps away, the golden sunshine, the tanned people dashing and laying about, and the gently-rolling water that stretched into infinity. Oh. My. God.

Numbly, we followed Terry and Nina to the desk, and proceeded to answer questions and sign forms, but we weren’t really paying attention. We kept staring out the window, something primal having been stirred within. We had to get on that beach as soon as possible. Sooner.

Terry was saying something. It took me a bit to realize this and respond. “What?”

“I said, let’s get our things to the room, then we can change and go have a drink on the beach.”

Tiffany and I felt our hearts leap with joy and praise for this magnificent plan. Then we paused. If we got on the indicated elevator, then we would lose sight of the beach, even if only temporarily, and we didn’t know if we could bear that. What to do?

Terry and Nina shoved us into the elevator and punched buttons. Okay, that’s what to do.

Once in our room, Terry commenced arranging his things while I scrambled to the back wall of our little nest, which was also solid glass, offering up that magnificent view and a tiny little balcony. I nearly broke my hand unlocking and ripping the sliding-door open. As I stepped out on to the narrow balcony, I heard someone in the neighboring room thrust the door aside as well. It was Tiffany.

We stared out at the water for a few minutes, an unholy lust burning in our psyches.

Then Tiffany issued a proclamation: “I am never leaving here. Never. Call people. Tell them that if they ever want to see me again they will have to buy a plane ticket. Go forth and spread the word. Send the pigeons up, light the fires. GO!”

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series…

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