Once upon a time, I was visiting the happiest place on earth. No, not Disney, but an even happier place than the kingdom of the rat. Where is this of which I speak?
It was the land of barbecue, sweet tea and Blue Cups of beer, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
a place where I've dance in fires after emerging victorious over dook.
It was a couple of years ago and I was in town for the University of North Carolina’s football game against the University of Maryland. Joining me in this adventure were some of my bestest friends in the whole world including Sarita (and her hubby, a great guy), my oldest friend from school who I met on the very first day of our freshman year.
Also joining in the fun was JJ who, if neither of my brothers or best friends is available on that day in the future, I would seriously consider asking her to be the “Best Woman” at my nuptials.
Since we were grown-ups, instead of crashing on someone’s floor some where, we were staying at the Carolina Inn. A lovely place to rest your head right on campus and a stone’s throw from the football stadium. More importantly, it was an even shorter walk to the eating and drinking (mostly drinking) establishments of Franklin Street.
Friday evening, before the game, we took advantage of both of these aspects of Franklin. Starting with the barbecue platter at Spanky’s, we then headed to (in order) He’s Not for a Blue Cup, Goodfellas for some more beer and, finally, ended the evening at Linda’s Downstairs.
Following a slight at Goodfellas where the doorman neglected to card the then-late-20-something JJ, I was determined this would not happen again as we entered Linda’s.
“Make sure you check her ID,” I told the guy at this door, “Cause you never know who’s going to try to sneak in.”
“Hey there Foggy,” the other guy at the door said, “How’s it going?”
I looked at the guy, didn’t recognize him, and the only thought going through my mind was this: “Which one of my loser friends is still in Chapel Hill working the door at a bar?”
Turning around and smiling after being carded, JJ looked at my inquisitor, leapt at him wrapping her arms around his neck shouting, “Rutland!”
Turns out the guy I couldn’t remember had lived in the suite next to mine in Morrison Residence Hall for a year and had dated JJ for about six months of that time (she lived in the suite on the other side of me, roommates with my girlfriend that year, just to clear things up).
We take a moment to get re-acquainted and I then I pop the question to Rutland, “So, what’re you up to these days?”
“Oh, I bought the bar.”
Sonofabitch! How cool is that? This guy, who spent hours searching for his frat pin in the bushes nine floors below our suites after JJ threw it off the balcony when they broke up, now owned the third (possibly second) coolest bar in Chapel Hill.
“Hey man, that’s great.”
After a couple rounds of beers and a lap or two along Memory Lane downstairs, JJ and I headed (read: stumbled) back to the Carolina Inn to rest up for the next day. By the time we got there we were kinda leaning on one another to help each other along the way.
After modestly changing for bed – simultaneously she in the bathroom, me in the main room – we lay down for our naps. Together, but in more of a “friends spooning to feel the presence of another human being” kind of way. Nothing happened.
Nothing happened, that is, until the little gnome sitting in the “Digestion Operations Control Room” in my brain was startled from his mid-shift nap about an hour later by the “Massive Abdominal Cramp” warning light blazing a bright red, followed almost instantaneously by the “Holy Shit, Bathroom NOW!” warning siren.
You ever have one of those moments? A moment when, once safely out of bed and in the bathroom in the middle of the night when you just can’t decide what to do? And, especially important, how every action has an equal but opposite reaction?
The brain gnome must have hit both purge buttons within seconds of one another because, just as I started puking my guts into the toilet, the overwhelming force burst through the other end of my digestive tract.
Spectacularly, if I do say so.
A half hour later, after using some of the Inn’s expensive towels to clean up and a quick shower to clean myself up, I slipped back into bed. My own bed, that is, because I didn’t want to take the chance of any accidents in a shared space.
My only lingering question about this whole affair is this: How is it that JJ and I ate and drank the exact same things that night and I’m the only one who ended the evening on the cool tile of the bathroom?
Some mysteries, I guess, aren’t meant to be solved.