Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Charleston, Chewed - Part 7

Click Here to read this story from the beginning…

So we traipsed out the front doors of The Tides, headed across the parking lot, and began to forage for dining possibilities on the tiny streets of Folly Beach. We all had the fun, slightly-surreal feeling one has after a few hours of sun and cocktails. There was no telling where we might end up. Or if we would ever come back from wherever it was.

Initially, Tiffany and I had our eyes on a place called “Rita’s”, directly across from the hotel. We had spied this establishment from the land-side balcony of our rooms, noted the presence of a live band, heard what appeared to be the exuberant but unfocused singing of several patrons, and decided that we would be right at home in a place which featured beer, musical expression and men in tight muscle-shirts.

We happily pointed out this option as we neared the entrance to Rita’s.

We sighed sadly when the rest of the group marched right past that door, muttering indications that the venue was a bit too loud. Too loud? For our group? The very epicenter of raucous and rowdy behavior, with nuances of screaming and the random throwing of things on the floor? Please. Perhaps our companions just didn’t care for the name “Rita”. Tthat had to be it. I made a mental note to find out later just who had done what at some point in the past to make people hate this Rita woman.

We walked for a bit, with me being momentarily distracted by a large sign outside a “social club” that explained you had to apply for membership and then wait 24 hours. What the hell was up with that? They needed to do a security check? Just what took place inside that required you to fill out paperwork that must be processed before you could enter? Interestingly enough, the door was open, so I peeked inside, relishing the prospect of seeing something decadent, eye-opening and/or deliciously tawdry.

It looked just like any old bar. Except that the occupants were all staring at me like I had just butchered a pack of grandmas on their way to the Crochet Barn. These people clearly did not care for me looking at them. (Then perhaps they should close the door.) I made another mental note to research the sordid details about The Sand Dollar Social Club. (Were there hookers involved, or were these people just bitchy, that sort of thing.) I caught up with the rest of the clan at the next intersection.

They were all standing on a corner, in a flummox. It seems we could see intriguing food profferings in all four directions, and this was entirely too much sensory input. We were at a standstill until somebody made a bold decision, but nobody really knew what they wanted to eat, they were just hungry. (This is the age-old vacation dilemma that has cursed groups of people who stupidly travel together without specific, detailed planning.) The next few minutes would prove crucial. Either we would miraculously find a place that satisfied all, or we would kill each other in a frenzy of frustration.

They just kept standing there.

Fine. I stepped off the curb and marched across one of the streets. (I was nearly killed by a motorist that shot out of nowhere, but I pretended that I had seen them all along, with minimal flinching and only the teensiest bit of wetting myself.) The others, once the death car was far enough away that the threat of surprise slaughter was lessened, followed suit.

Interestingly enough, perhaps even coming as a total shock, we discovered that the restaurant choices were exactly the same as they had been on the other corner. Same stage show, just different seats. So once again we were standing on another corner, glancing around in all directions and not making decisions. And there was no drink in my hand. It was a bleak and trying time in my life.

I picked out a restaurant and marched forth, basing my selection on the mere fact that I liked the slightly-arched doorway. There was a partial menu on a chalk board, with items that sounded very appealing, although mostly seafood in nature. I hesitated to suggest that we go in, since we had just binged on seafood for lunch, and Terry is not a fan of gifts from the sea. Then Tiffany joined me, spied another sign, and proclaimed “They have a fireplace on the patio!”

This did not immediately move me, having been in the sun for a few hours and not really desiring anything with heat or flames. But Tiffany acted as if Jesus had just reached out and anointed her a special disciple. She turned to the others with the joyous news. “They have a fireplace on the patio!”

The others did not offer even the slightest bit of validation. In fact, Tommy, who generally doesn’t pay much attention to the words and ideas of people around him (that special trait has been on his resume for years), turned and went racing across another street to a different corner. He didn’t leave a memo as to where he might be headed. So we plunged into the traffic after him, on the off chance that he had discovered something intriguing or at least pretty.

Tommy stepped up on the next curb, and then apparently received a delayed broadcast of Tiffany’s public address announcement. “They have a fireplace? That’s what I’m talkin’ about.” He abruptly turned around and headed back to the original curb. Our clan was now spread across the street in an odd, semi-tribute to The Beatles crossing Abbey Road, with Terry even wearing flip-flops that made him look barefoot. (If someone had yelled out “Paul is dead!” I would have at least been mildly amused. But they didn’t, and I wasn’t.)

Eventually, we all made it through the restaurant proper and out on to the patio, coagulating at a table near the damn fireplace that everybody was so excited about. Drink orders were taken, menus dispersed, and flames crackled. Initially, it was a tad warm, so I was hoping the beer would be very, very cold. And that I would still have eyebrows left after we finished eating.

Then the sun plinked below the horizon, and it was instantly twenty degrees cooler. Seriously. Within two minutes we were all standing right in front of the fire, waving our bottles about and singing songs expressing the joys of having your butt cheeks caressed by golden heat. I briefly thought of suggesting Tiffany for sainthood, a tribute to her insistent visionary talents concerning the fireplace, but then the delightful food comptroller brought another round and I really didn’t care anymore.

Eventually, our personal crevices were warm and snug, and the lovely Nourishment Attendant gently steered us toward making an actual decision about the whole food-ordering business, and it became necessary that we actually peruse the menus. Doing so proved to be a bit of a challenge, since this place had a rather extensive roster, and we had a day’s worth of alcohol consumption under our belts.

But we persevered, because if you can’t figure out what you want to eat, then there’s really no purpose in your life. We flipped open the plastic-protected menus and began to decipher. The entries were seductive, each of them tempting us in a slightly-erotic way, so the table soon erupted into a chorus of moaning desire and tribulation. I’m sure that strangers passing by on the nearby street were thoroughly convinced that native species had entered the mating season.

I guess we tarried a bit more than the restaurant staff would have preferred, because our Directress of Dining started throwing out suggestions and pointing at things. In a desperate attempt to force us to pick something this century, she even advised that we could probably order sushi, assuming that The Sushi Guy was upstairs and working tonight. Should she check?

Tiffany and I almost couldn’t breathe we were so excited about that possibility. Yes, dear woman, we beg of you to dash upstairs and check the sushi availability status with the speed of winged angels on crack. We shall await your return with quivering hearts.

Off she went, stomping up a set of outside stairs that we hadn’t paid much attention to when we arrived, and disappearing into an entire second floor that we definitely hadn’t noticed at all. Tiff and I paused to briefly consider what other things we had overlooked in life, then we went back to clapping our hands in a most-likely irritating manner and bubbling with appreciation over selecting a restaurant that had both traditional seafood AND sushi. We had totally scored.

It did not once, at any time, cross our minds that we were sitting right next to the ocean, and that therefore most of the restaurants and even gas stations in the area had fresh seafood on their menus. After all, the staff only had to walk three feet and they could snag an entrĂ©e right out of the water. Even better if we wanted sushi, since they wouldn’t even have to fire up the grill, just throw it on our plate as they walked back from the water.

Nevertheless, despite our ignorance concerning the relative ease of local fish procurement, Tiffles and I were quite pleased at the moment, cracking open another round of beers in a mini-celebration. Then I heard footsteps behind me, and I began to turn around, grinning from ear to ear, fully expecting to spy the Matron of Meals descending from sushi heaven, blessing us with rapturous news.

But it wasn’t her. There was no one near the stairs. There was, however, a new entourage entering the patio from the restaurant. My eyes widened in fear.

It was the Children of the Corn.

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