I kid you not, but the majority of my childhood was spent in the back seat of a Navy Blue Dodge Station Wagon. My dad was a Pilot in the Canadian Air Force, so at a very young age I grew accustomed to moving boxes and tape guns. By the time I was seven, I had lived in Ottawa, Los Angeles, Toronto and Winnipeg. For the longest time I believed a house was not a home unless it had a swimming pool and ice machine.
Fast-forward twenty years later and here I was again, in the back seat of my father’s rental Nissan. The air conditioning was blasting as we pulled on to the I-40 and left Nashville en route to Memphis. In days gone by, I would have been singing show tunes and throwing stuffed animals over the front seat, except I was tired and still hungover from the last four years of my life.
As we meandered in to the backwoods of Tennessee, I was intrigued by the adventure that was coming upon us. Imagining myself to be deep within the pages of a John Grisham novel, I dreamed of all the dead bodies and salacious secrets that were buried in the steady stream of green outside my window. Daydreaming bestsellers and box-office hits, I closed my eyes and drifted in to sleep.
Before I knew it, I opened my eyes to find us cruising down Elvis Presley Boulevard and coming to a complete stop at Graceland. Stepping outside the car, I almost fainted when I got my first taste of real Southern Heat. Without a fedora or parasol to shield myself, I reached in to my bag Hunter and began slathering myself with SPF 45. I had not experienced such warmth since my summers on the prairies.
My lips were dry, my mouth was parched and my eyes were spotted in black. Feigning heat stroke, I knew a cold pint was my only salvation. I look around for a “COLD BEER” sign but all I could see was a hotel named Heartbreak and a jet plane called Lisa Marie. Finally, my eyes rested upon my best bet within walking distance, the Rock N Roll Café.
“Dearest father and most gracious mother,” I beckoned to my parents. Wiping the sweat from my brow, I carried on, “I think it best that we indulge ourselves in a quick bevy before carrying forth in to Mr. Presley’s mansion.”
Fortunately, we were all on the same page and proceeded to make a b-line for the entrance. Placing one suede shoe inside, I felt as if I had just stepped in to a Kid Rock video. The restaurant was furnished by a yard sale and featured a plastic rainforest and make-shift stage with a cardboard cut-out of Elvis. A sign next to him read, “LIVE MUSIC 7 NIGHTS A WEEK.”
Scanning the faces in the room, it occurred to me the men had more ponytails than the women. I led my folks to the most inconspicuous table I could find and tried to downplay the fact I was dressed as a vonTrapp child.
“I knew I should have worn my ripped jeans and Salvation Army shirt” I whispered to my dad.
“Just push down those bloody socks and no one will know the difference,” he said.
We sat for what seemed like hours before the waiter finally arrived at our table. I debated writing a poor review on TripAdvisor but was muzzled by the fact there was no complimentary Wifi. When the server finally came over, however, I realized it was well worth the wait.
With platinum blonde hair, brown roots, and no less than three piercings in each ear, Billy was a breed of homosexual I had not run in to since ordering room service in Vegas. Dressed in a tight black shirt, ripped acid-washed jeans and faded sneakers, he was the pauper to Carson Kressley’s prince. Like him, his wit was also sharper than a Samurai’s sword.
“What?” he asked me, as if he could not be bothered to finish the rest of the question. I loved him already.
“Beer,” I replied. He and I both knew that we spoke the same language so there was no confusion on the matter. I knew our pints would come light, chilled and with just the right amount of head.
I have the deepest respect for Southern gays. They are not spoiled like us Northerners who drink non-fat lattes for breakfast, get divorces and bring their kids to the Gay Pride Parade. These are some of the strongest bitches on the planet earth.
I watched Billy intently for the next three pints we drank at the Café. I watched him walk up to a table with six kids and two adults and ask them if they were a family or daycare centre. I watched him walk right passed any guest who rolled their eyes at him until they realized he was the only person standing between themselves and a drink.
One day I hope to create a character as brilliant as Billy. For now, I will have to log his existence here.
To be continued at a different coffee shop with a different outfit.