The next morning, I was torn awake by the blazing Memphis sun. I looked up to the ceiling fan twirling above my head and for a second thought I was in the first scene of Apocalypse Now. I looked down to see the same clothes I was wearing last night and around the room to see the empty bottle remnants of an exclusive after-hours party. After dancing all night long on Beale Street I was determined not to let the party stop.
I rolled over to check the time on my iPhone – 6:12am. “Shit,” I cursed. According to my last legible text records, I had passed out approximately two hours earlier. The only thing that could make this situation better would be a double Caesar or a SnapChat from Habibi. (Exposition: Habibi is this totally-hot straight boy from Van who occasionally sends selfies of his eight-pack in between shots of night-clubs and stray dogs.) I will give you this sentence to judge me before we carry on.
I debated going back to sleep but I knew that I had a big day ahead of me and it was going to take me at least five hours to get out of bed. The most pressing item on the day’s agenda was to find an outfit for the wedding’s kick-off event: a classic Southern Barbecue/cocktail mixer happening later in the night. The invitation described the dress code as “country casual” which I envisioned as designer cowboy boots, Levi 401 jeans and a trendy plaid collar shirt that could work on a farm or at gay bar.
So far, I had managed to put together zero items on my list which gave me a deadline of 12 hours to shop minus 1 hour to brunch, 3 hours to drive back to Nashville and 6 hours to check myself out in the mirror. I knew I had to get out of bed now or else I would be a bitch without a dress. Sitting up straight, I immediately regretted my decision to move.
I was a population of one sixty kilometres south of Sober and two miles North of Still Totally Drunk.
Like an eight-year-old boy in an IMAX theatre, I held my head between my legs until the feeling of doom stopped and the room came to a stand-still.
There was no question I was going to have to proceed with caution when completing the six-foot trek to the washroom. Standing up, I began to recite my daily morning mantra, “one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other.” My mind was in the right place but unfortunately my basic motor skills were not. After falling in to the wall, I made the executive decision to complete the rest of the trip on all fours.
Using the bathroom counter to hoist myself up, I reached over to flick the light switch and screamed bloody murder when it turned on. Natural light is painful enough for an alcoholic; but fluorescent light will turn a gay man in to dust. When my vision came back in to focus I assessed the damage of my night on Beale Street to be extreme. I could have blamed my blood-shot eyes and sawdust throat on the American art of free-pouring; but let’s be real, this is one of my favourite parts of visiting the States.
Thankfully, there was a coffee machine in the washroom and so I didn’t have to get back down on my hands and knees. Fumbling to get the white coffee mug out of the plastic wrap, I filled the machine with water, inserted a Colombian pod, and pressed start. The sound of the water boiling and the coffee dripping soothed my troubled mind. Careful not to fall in the bathtub, I turned on the shower and peeled off my clothes. Once the coffee finished brewing, I took the mug in the shower and did not come out until I finished the last drop.
When I returned to the bedroom, the birds outside were chirping, the sky was bright blue and I was ready to greet the day. I put on a change of clothes, sprayed a mist of Burberry Brit, and woke up three hours later to the 7th call from my mother.
“Rugged,” she exclaimed over the phone. It was clear from her tone that she was not a happy Mama Fox. Sometimes too much White Zinfandel can make her quite hard to work with. “I have been trying to call you for the last of hour. Do you have any clue what time it is?”
“Huh?” I replied. It appeared that in exchange for control of my legs, I had lost all conversational skills.
“It is 10:47AM which gives you approximately ten minutes to get your ass out of bed and downstairs. Your father is already waiting in the lobby with Lachlan and Sister Fox. We are going for brunch.”
“Bloody Mary?” my voice perked up with promise.
“Only if you make it down within -”
I was too busy packing to carry on the conversation.
After we checked out, I was tasked with finding the best brunch in all of downtown Memphis. After consulting with Google, I verified with TripAdvisor that Arcade Restaurant was the place to be and so I set the GPS to South Main Street and we were on our way.
Unbeknownst to me, Arcade Restaurant turned out to be Memphis’ oldest restaurant and the setting for a number of movies including my personal favourite, The Client. Built in 1919 (and clearly not redecorated since 1959) the diner/café turned out to be an experience in and of it self. The walls were painted stop light red and covered in old movie posters and memorabilia from the last century. Random shelves hung up here and there featured vintage coke bottles and mustard jars from the past. The real attraction, however, was the 3,000lb steel Milkshake machine that, against all odds, still managed to churn out vanilla and chocolate.
After a brief wait at the door, the five of us were sat. Exchanging my sunglasses for actual prescription, it became clear to me how much we all resembled death. If there was ever a time for a memorable family mug-shot it was right now. All I needed was two ounces of vodka and a celery stick to really sort myself out. The rest of the family required an intravenous coffee drip.
Two minutes later, the bubbliest waitress in the history of bubbly waitresses showed up at our table.
“Hi y’all, how’ll we are all doing today? My name is Betty-Mae and I will be taking care of ya’ll’s so you’se got nothing to worry about.”
Maybe it was just the hangover reeling but this girl came across like an Energizer bunny on crack. I could see the look of pain on my beloved family members faces at the pitch of her high voice and knew I had to do something to slow her drum down. Luckily, I was classically trained in customer service combat and knew exactly what to do.
“Heeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy,” I said in my gayest voice possible matching her energy and then some. If you can’t beat em then join em. “Two words ok pop-tart? Bloody Mary. Kiss, kiss, love you forever, k thanks bye.”
“Actually,” she paused. “We uh…”
I sensed something was terribly wrong and felt the blood begin to drain from my face.
“You uh … " I waited out each ellipse. "The answer is yes I would like a double thank you very much.”
“I am so sorry hun but we don’t serve booze here, but I can get you a virgin one, with an extra piece of celery!”
I was in a state of shock, followed promptly by a state of anger.
“An extra piece of celery? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” I threw my glasses on the table in disbelief and raised my menu as if to attack her with the breakfast specials.
“Rugged Alexander Fox!” my mother shrieked as my father ripped the menu out of my hand. Before I could say another word, my sister had muzzled me with her right hand.
“I am so sorry!” my sister exclaimed to poor Betty-Mae. “My brother is an addict and a homosexual” she whispered in a hushed tone before raising her voice to a normal decibel level. “We are doing everything we can to support him but as you can imagine sometimes it can be incredibly difficult. Whenever you have time, and I mean, w-h-e-n-e-v-e-r, we will take a round of coffees and water for the table.”
My sister didn’t release her grip on my mouth until Betty-Mae was far gone.
“An addict and a homosexual?” I repeated back to her. "That is what you came up with?"
She shrugged her shoulders in response and I, in turn, let my eyebrows drop.
“Fair enough,” I said.
As you can imagine, I was kept on a pretty tight leash for the rest of the meal. When the bill arrived, I slipped another $40 in the bill-fold on top of the 20% tip that my dad had already left. In restaurants, apologies carry zero value. Money is the only gesture you can make that carries any kind of meaning. In truth, I really was quite sorry. I was sorry and still in search of a Bloody Mary.
to be continued.