Sunday, April 18, 2010

Midnight in the Garden of Shots and Gimlets

I didn’t expect to like Savannah. Let’s be honest: It’s a phonograph kind of town, and I’m an mp3 kind of guy. I’m bright lights, tall buildings, and self-styled fashionistas. Savannah, on the other hand, is long shadows, town squares, and sun hats.

In fact, when my team manager told me in January that he would fully support my attendance of our company’s annual North American conference, I was leaning towards a “thanks, but no thanks” response. Luckily, however, I mentioned it to Dupa first.

Me: “Savannah’s not all that appealing of a destination.”
Dupa: “It’s better than [being in] Pittsburgh in March.”

Such simplistic logic, and yet I couldn’t argue with it.

My connecting flight in Atlanta was delayed by three hours, which didn’t make me any more enthused (though the 22 oz. draughts of Cherry Wheat that I had with dinner at the Sam Adams Brew House near my gate—while watching NCAA tourney games—helped ease me through it), since it meant that I arrived at my hotel after 1 a.m. It was about 2:30 by the time I was finally asleep, and 6:30 when the alarm pried open my eyelids. Monday was a full day of forced smiles, glad-handing, phone calls to relay information back and forth between my team and coworkers back in Pittsburgh, and generally running myself ragged. And on top of it all, the weather was abnormally cold that day, never getting out of the low 50s; Pittsburgh, by contrast, was experiencing an abnormally high stretch in the upper 60s. A reception was held that night, but after drinking one measly vodka tonic (a coworker accidentally outted me with the drink in front of our company’s CEO; I decided against any further drinks during the event as a matter of self-preservation), I returned to my room to check e-mails. At 11:30 I groggily closed my laptop and fell asleep muttering, “Fuck Savannah.”

Tuesday brought a 180 degree spin to that outlook. The day itself was much more subdued, especially since I had gotten a proper night’s sleep and awoke fairly refreshed (coincidentally, it was the only morning that week where I awoke in that state—but I’m getting ahead of myself). That evening a much larger reception was held, and I skillfully maneuvered through it with multiple vodka tonics without ever crossing paths with our CEO. My work friends and I moved from the reception to an annual party thrown by one of our largest customer companies (I jokingly refer to their CEO as “My dear Papa,” because he’s as fond of cold drinks and hot women as I am—so you can understand why the party is something I look forward to). L Boogie was in attendance as usual, and earlier in the night I’d reminded her that my birthday was coming up.

L Boogie: “Well happy birthday!”
Me: “Remember Austin?” *eyes scan down to her blouse and then back up*
L Boogie: *laughing* “There won’t be any of that THIS year!”
Me: “The night is young, [L Boogie]. Never say never!”

Now, as I stood near the bar talking with a coworker, I heard L Boogie call me over. She had two shots in front of her. I cracked a smile, but before I could suggest anything she chimed in “Just a shot! No body shots!” I decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and appreciatively tossed back the glass of “Birthday Cake”. As I prepared to order myself another V&T, a coworker told me about vodka gimlets. [In the event that my unfamiliarity with them was a symptom of me being from a younger generation, and not simply my own personal ignorance, I’ll explain that a gimlet is vodka and lime juice.] I had never tried one before, but liked the prospect of trying something new; I promptly ordered a Grey Goose gimlet—or a “3G,” a shorthand I vaguely remember relying on in the later stages of the party.

Meanwhile, a Buttery Nipple had now appeared on the bar, and my friend “Ms. Purple” was calling me over to toss it back (there is a bit of history to her ordering me that shot, as it was the shot that launched me into a wild night in San Diego five years ago that I’ve referenced here on the page on a couple of occasions). And, as I snapped an ominous picture (that’s my 3G and Buttery Nipple to the right), the rolling snowball that was my night began picking up steam. Some of the people near us had asked L Boogie just what kind of shot she had bought me; when she told them that it was a “Birthday Cake,” it led to discussion about just what a Birthday Cake was. That discussion led to curiosity. That curiosity led to another round being ordered. And then another. And then another. And then…oh god…another. And, as far as I can remember—and from what I’ve been told—I had a new 3G in my right hand for every new shot that I had in my left. I had officially lost control of my night.

I somewhat remember Papa and I walking to another bar, but really my only lasting recollection of the rest of that night was one of our customers helping me into a cab after 2 a.m. And then…

I opened my eyes to a crack of sunlight. It was coming from between the curtains in my hotel room. “Well, at least I’m in my room. But…” My alarm was supposed to go off at 7 a.m., well before the sun would have fully risen. “Fuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…” I looked over at the clock radio. 11:04 a.m. “…ccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk”. My phone had several new text messages on it, including one from a coworker asking me to help with the audio equipment for that day’s keynote speech—at 8 a.m. *sigh*. I showered up and sent her an apologetic text message promising to explain at lunch.

The rest of that workday was, well, interesting. Because I was chugging water at every opportunity, explaining myself to coworkers, and weathering the storm of questions about my condition from people who had seen me the previous night, I found actual work to be a nice distraction from the mental and physical pain I was feeling. By the end of the day I was resigned to just having a quiet final night in the town. Several coworkers were going on a ghost tour of the city (Savannah claims to be the most haunted city in the US), and I readily joined them. After the tour we went to dinner, and two things happened:
  1. When asked for a drink order, the only thing I was capable of saying, it seems, is “vodka gimlet.”
  2. One of my senior team members—who was nearby with Papa—texted me to tell me he was at a target-rich rooftop bar.
It’s like I had no choice in the matter, really.

When I arrived at The Bohemian Hotel’s Rocks on the Roof, Papa and my team member had locked down a corner of the bar. I took a seat next to Papa and pulled out a $20 as a cute brunette bartender approached, but he put his hand on my arm and said, “Wait for the blonde. Trust me.”

Who am I to argue with my dear, sweet Papa? When Alexa finally came around, I thanked Papa for his sage advice. 5’4” with steely green eyes and curves that could make you wish for traction control, her piercing gaze was the only thing stronger than the gimlet she poured me (I’d decided switch to my old friend Ketel One that night—as if it was somehow Grey Goose’s fault that I was a blathering mess the night before). Throwing my arm around his shoulder, I mentioned that I was with my “dear Papa”; Alexa gave us both a look that saved her mouth the wasted energy of saying “Riiiiiiiiigggghhhhhhhtt.” “You don’t believe them?” my coworker smiled at her. “You hear a lot of bullshit working this job,” she countered. I started to think that this was one bartender who I was going to have a hard time winning over. But the more she stared at me, the more I realized that I was already ahead in this game. Giggity.

As I began formulating a plan of attack, Ms. Purple walked into the bar. She quickly struck up a conversation with a young brother near our corner, and soon called me over. I was introduced to Chris and his date, a cute sister. After a few short minutes of conversation with Chris, he gave me his agenda for the night; making a sweeping motion with his arm, he said, “I’m trying to have sex with every single woman in here!” Almost as an afterthought, he motioned towards his date and added, “Maybe even her.”

Me: “Ain’t that your woman, though?”
Chris: “Nah.”
Me: “Oh, I thought you were with her.”
Chris: “I mean, I’m with her, but I’m not with her. It’s not like that. You can get on that if you want. You want her?”
Me:I mean…

Southern hospitality is no joke. Coworker and Papa now wanted to roll to another bar, so I politely turned down Chris’ offer. And I was about to learn a beautiful thing about the city of Savannah: it has no open container law. Coworker grabbed a large plastic cup from a stack of them on the bar and said, “Here. Pour your drink in that and let’s go.” Minutes later I was strolling down the street in the heart of Savannah with a plastic cup full of Alexa’s gimlet mastery.

I guess Savannah's not so bad after all.

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