Last night, Ken, my bodyguard, and I arrived back in New Jersey from having attended the festivities sometimes known as “Hysterics at Eric’s.” As in the past, attending this event leaves one completely spent, but looking forward to next year.
Here are some random highlights:
The trip from Jersey to Tennessee is about 775 miles. We always break the trip down to Tennessee into two pieces, staying in Bristol, Virginia, leaving only a couple hours of driving for the following day. I ended up doing most of the driving on Thursday, just about all of which was done in the farookin’ rain. The beltway around Washington D.C. was a nightmare between the massive construction projects and the rain. The construction had the GPS a bit confused and the rain and the GPS had me more than a little confused. Of course, that’s when my bodyguard decided to fall asleep. A few minutes of genuine adventure ensued.
When we finally arrived at the hotel in Bristol, we headed off to a walking-distance-away restaurant for something to eat. More than hungry, I was in dire need of a cocktail. Three Maker’s Marks and two big beers later, my road-jangled nerves started to behave. At that point, the only civilized thing to do was to go back to the hotel and sit at the bar for more cocktails until the place closes, which is precisely what we did. A few more Maker’s Marks and a few more beers later, we had a bit of trouble finding the elevator.
Oh, I almost forgot. While at the hotel bar, we met a guy named Mike, who is from Boston. Turns out that Mike can’t stand Barney Frank or John Kerry, which means that there are at least two people in Massachusetts who are not insane (the other person being Teresa“>Teresa). I promised I would give him props in the blog, so here’s to you, Mike. Congratulations on your mental health, an exceedingly rare thing in the Land of Barney Frank and John Kerry.
The final leg of the trip was not without another minor adventure. Either the GPS did us dirt, or we just screwed up (the latter being more likely, given that we were both a bit ragged around the edges from the night before), causing us to wind up on a forty-mile stretch of Tennessee that looked as if it could be home to Li’l Abner and Mammy Yokum.
When we arrived at Eric’s, it took a while to work myself up to having a beer, but I rose to the occasion, having learned over the years the importance of being able to play hurt.
Bou and Elisson (with other guests pitching in) made an excellent dinner, which included gumbo. A half dozen southern heads spun around when I asked, “What’s gumbo?” I explained that in Jersey we do lots of minestrone, but no farookin’ gumbo. Elisson showed me the proper way to eat gumbo, including the addition of a spice with a strange name (“fahleelee” or some such thing) as a thickening agent. Two helpings later, I decided that I really liked it. Bonus: It goes well with beer, story telling and belly laughing.
Day Two began with what has become a traditional breakfast at a local restaurant, where very few of the cups match, but the hospitality is just fine. The modest buffet boasts, among other things, biscuits and gravy, an absolute fave of mine whenever I go south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Following breakfast, it was back to Eric’s for cocktails, billiards, bullshitting, fire making, fire sitting, stoking a smoker that was big enough in which to smoke a yak and a dinner (again made by Elisson, Bou and helpers) of smoked ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken, baked ‘taters, sweet ‘taters, veggies and more gumbo. It was excellent.
By this time we were all well fed and pretty well oiled (yes, there are a few folks who stick to soft drinks), so Denny (the younger half of the Elderly Brothers) and I commenced to making what might be loosely referred to as music. It was great fun, and it is always easier to play when most members of the audience are a tad zippered.
We finished the night sitting outside around a raging fire and shooting the breeze. We melted a couple beer bottles in the fire. That always seems like a good idea to me.
The folks who were on the case were:
It’s always great to see them and it’s tough to say good-bye. We’ve been together enough times over the years that we’re not just fellow bloggers, but rather we’ve all become genuine friends. and we would remain friends, even if everyone put their respective blogs to bed.