This post is a week late.
After a rough Thursday night and questionable Friday morning, Cameron and I started our journey to Atlanta to celebrate Alex's 40th birthday. We got to MEM with no problem, I got my boarding pass at the e-ticket kiosk and met Cameron at the credit union. We went outside for one last smoke and made our way to gate B3. According to the gate agent, who was sporting a mustache similar to "Mythbusters" co-host Jamie's, we were delayed. A mechanical. An engine. "They've been working on it all night." This statement unnerves me because I still get nervous about air travel, albeit not as much as I used to. I realize, though, that if this flight is canceled we're screwed -- because all the passengers on this flight will by vying for the same open seats on the next flight -- just like us.
Anyway, after the "run-up" it's determined that the airliner is repaired and we were given my first class seat assignment. Cameron had booked the jumpseat. Once we took off, I was reading the latest issue of NWA. Cameron surprised me when he touched my sleeve -- he'd been moved up to a seat across the aisle and one row behind me. After arriving in ATL, we rode the undergound people mover to the ground transportation stop and walked to the Hertz counter where we were reminded that with a Hertz #1 Gold reservation we needn't stop but go straight to the shuttle. Once we arrived at the Hertz location we should look for our name on the tote board and walk directly to our awaiting car. Much to our surprise, we were in slot #1. We walked up to this:
We threw our luggage in the diminutive trunk, which was ample for our needs, and followed our AAA maps heading for Chamblee to meet our friend and my former (sorely missed) copywriter partner, Jacquie. After two or three phone conversations she instructed us to stay put at Peachtree and Chamblee-Tucker where she would meet us. While we waited I listened to the three voicemails I'd received from the office and was responding to the second when she arrived. It was so good to see her. Once we decided that we'd follow her to a lunch spot she got a call from the office. After she finished the call we headed into Buckhead. Friday lunch traffic around Lenox was hell. We got past that into Buckhead with constant construction-induced lane changes looking for a place to eat. Meanwhile, she was getting texted, called and voice-mailed to death. Finally, there was an emergency (Coca-Cola needed something right now, the guy who covers her when she's out was out sick) and she would have to ditch our loosely cobbled-together plans and return to work.
Getting turned around as we were, she headed back to her office in Chamblee and we started looking for places to eat. There was an Arby's right in front of us, but I just couldn't stomach the thought of fast food. We stopped at the next available place, La Fonda Latina, a locally owned authentic "chain" of Mexican restaurants with some Spanish and Mediterranean overtones. We chose Paella di Mare for two, which came to the table in a large, sizzling hot cast iron skillet loaded with shrimp, mussels, calamari, salmon, peppers with quartered limes. It was fantastic.
After lunch we headed back out on Peachtree toward Downtown hoping to find directions to the new Georgia Aquarium or the World of Coke. We passed the Margaret Mitchell house and Alex and Henry's church, St. Marks, just like we do every time we go to Atlanta. We passed Underground Atlanta and remnants of the 1996 Olympic Games. Detouring just past the underground our surroundings got very bleak, very suddenly. This was obviously a part of Atlanta that hasn't been included in the renaissance. Turning a couple of blocks left to head the other direction, we passed Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves and The Atlanta Civic Center. I used the Georgia Power building as a navigational aide to get us back on Peachtree.
We turned onto Peachtree Battle where we would end up at Alex's. We had a cocktail and waited for some of the other out-of-towners to arrive so we could go to Roxx for dinner. A big storm rolled in and gave the city some much needed rain. Alex had mentioned that there were restrictions on watering lawns/gardens: 9P to 4A, once a week. Power was out. Drinks were on the house and we were told just to take care of our waiters. We were later told that the owner is a young Greek man and his wife, and that the place started out as a "straight" restaurant. Apparently it wasn't doing so well. So the owners decided to hire a couple of gay staff, and shortly it has become what appears to be a very popular queer spot. We had some buffalo wings and Elvis pickles before dinner. I had a burger and Tavern chips for dinner. The homemade potato chips were fantastic.
Alex had previously made arrangements for us to stay at a friend's new house around the corner from his, but the furniture still hadn't arrived. Alternatively, he asked two other friends, Ed and Chris if we could stay with them. Both of them were out of town, so another friend of theirs, Jeff, met us at their house with a key. We had this house, currently on the market for $900,000, all to ourselves. Pool, hot tub, master as large as half of our house. Carpeted garage. Poolhouse. God love him, Cameron was ready to go swimming so I told him to go. I was beat. I went to bed.
I awoke at 6 A.M. and plodded downstairs to make coffee. I grabbed a cup and went outside to sit in the muggy, yet cooler, air by the pool and enjoyed the solitude. After a few minutes, though, I started to get bored and decided to return Thom's call from the previous day. He'd called when we were trying to make our way through the airport so we didn't answer then, and we were too busy until Saturday morning. When Cameron got up and came down, I finished my call with Thom so that Cameron and I could drink coffee and sit by the pool while he woke up. We both got in the pool for a bit and just relaxed until we needed to prepare to meet Alex, Lara, Mark, Terry and Bill at The Clubhouse at Lenox for lunch.
I thought leaving the house at 11:30 would be plenty of time to get to Lenox by noon, and ordinarily it would have, but I was in the wrong lane where Roswell Road splits off of Peachtree, (and if you've ever driven in Atlanta, you'll understand that I had no recourse but to follow the lane I was in). We ended up on Roswell for a mile or two, turning right on some street I was convinced would go through to Peachtree, passing Lenox Road then backtracking and weaving through various parking lots and such until we arrived at Macy's, and on the opposite side of the mall, The Clubhouse. Valet parking (for $6 at a mall, no less) saved us some time and aggravation. We ended up being 12 minutes late. But, mojitos were flowing when we walked in and I guess there were no worries.
Once we were seated the others who'd been there ordered another round of mojitos, Cameron ordered a soft drink and I ordered a bloody mary. It may be tired (according to last month's issue of Out), but I knew I couldn't go wrong.
When it came time to order, I followed Alex's lead and ordered The Clubhouse Garbage Salad: Grilled chicken, egg, cheddar cheese, Roma tomato, artichoke heart, green onion, bacon, green & black olives, with balsamic vinaigrette. Because it was enough salad to feed at least two, I suppose it was well worth the $14. At the very least, it was good and I ate every bite, save a leaf of lettuce and a dice of tomato. Somehow, I think Miss Manners means for me to leave more than that on my plate for good etiquette, but I was hungry. And, it was a salad -- I knew that I'd be hungry again sooner if I didn't stuff myself with the abundance of greens. Cameron, of course, was more sensible. He ordered Signature Turkey Club (for $12) which included roasted turkey, smokehouse bacon, cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, lettuce, tomato and ranch vinaigrette on toasted wheat bread with bleu cheese fries (which were outstanding).
After lunch we shopped at Crate and Barrel, the two-story Target and Filene's Basement on the corner of Peachtree opposite Lenox, Borders a block away for a gift card and a new book, "Loving Frank". We then stopped back at Alex's to help with last minute party details. Later, we headed back to the house where we were staying, and were surprised by Ed who had returned home from his and Chris' cabin in eastern Georgia. We freshened up for the party. Met Judy, Chris' mother, who had arrived while we were changing clothes, then Chris after he returned home. Met Matt and Gary as they arrived, followed by Jeff.
We all left for the party and arrived there by 8. The cake Jim had custom made for Alex was was a 1967 Buick LeSabre convertible. Not a sheet cake cut into the shape of a car -- a 3-foot long three-dimensional convertible with a windshield, bench seat and wheels. A torrential downpour arrived as the party started winding down, and we headed back to Ed and Chris', where we stayed up chatting with some of the others who had been there before the party until well after 1 AM.
The next morning, we got up early to prepare for our trip home. We jumped on I-85 toward the airport but elected to exit at Peachtree to visit Starbucks. We later arrived at Hartsfield. Returned the Crossfire to Hertz and boarded the bus to the terminal. Checked in. Bag check, again. This time it was a belt buckle. We met our neighbor, Lara, who had also come to ATL for Alex's birthday, at Chili's to Go for lunch. Afterward, she made her way to her AirTran gate and we headed to gate D16. We were given First Class seats and had time to go for a quick smoke before boarding. The "smoking room" was a disgustingly yellowed watering hole that charged $8 for a glass of water and a diet Coke. When Cameron asked if I'd like to smoke a second cigarette, I said, "no" and downed my soda. I was ready to get out of there and be on our way.
After we boarded and pushed back, the captain announced that there was a guage malfunction and that we'd experience a slight delay. Forty minutes later we began to taxi out to the runway. The flight was pleasant with some slight turbulence upon decent into Memphis.
It was a great trip, but I'm glad to be home.