Warning! Long story alert!Chef Kevin
and I have started a "BBQ" conversation in the comments section of one of my posts. He mentioned Memphis BBQ and it reminded me (I bet this'll teach him to never "remind" me about something again...heh) of the one and only time I've ever had the pleasure...ok, it was a dubious
pleasure...to visit that particular city.
Lotsa years ago, my ex and I joined a group of 11 other people to travel to Memphis for a men's bowling tournament. None of us had ever been to the city before, but several of the other group members had a friend that lived there. He and his wife wanted to show us the town when we got there.
We stayed right downtown, somewhere..don't remember the name of the place, which is kind of amazing, considering our little...ah...adventure
there. Anywho, like I said, it was
right downtown. Fairly close to the hotel where MLK was assassinated.
Our little caravan of country hicks eventually found our way to the hotel after driving through some really
scary parts of town. We got checked in and found that all our rooms were on the 15th floor. Remember this little fact. It'll be important later.
So, we get checked in and one of the group calls this friend and his wife. They meet us in the hotel lobby and tell us that they wanna take us to The Rendezvous
...a local 'hotspot' for BBQ. We all load up...13 of us...15 counting the Memphis friends...and drive a few blocks and park. They start to lead us down this DARK alley.
Uh...excuse me? We're in the damn MIDDLE of downtown Memphis. It's dark. It's scary. And they wanna take us on a shortcut DOWN AN ALLEY??
No, no, they explain...The Rendezvous is IN the alley.
I'll be damned if it wasn't. A bare lightbulb hung over the sign that hung over the doorway. That's it. Just not much in the way of fanfare.
We walked through the door, down a flight of stairs (if I recall right) and entered this big room just crammed
with people...and stuff
. Stuff hung on the walls. Stuff hung from the rafters. Antiques, pieces of junk, old signs...all
kinds of stuff. It was hot, but ooooo, my gawd! The smell
! It was the most amazing smell. Spicy and smokey and sweet.
We got a few tables pushed together and our waiter, Albert (check out the website...he's STILL THERE!), came over to take our drink order. Beer. Lotsa pitchers of beer. After everyone was settled and had a nice, cold glass of beer in front of 'em, Albert came back to take our order...all 15 of 'em...WITHOUT a pen. WITHOUT a pad. He took our orders, remembered them all and didn't miss a thing. NOT ONE THING. I was amazed.
"Don't you need to write this down? I mean, there ARE 15 of us." I asked Albert.
"Honey, I been doin this fo' (I forget how many years he said). If Ah cain't remembah, Ah bettah be a quittin." he replied in his deeeeep baritone.
After a short wait, he starts bringin out the food. I had ordered pork chops...I swear ta' gawd, they were 2 inches thick. TWO of 'em. A big helping of baked beans and another equally humongous helping of coleslaw accompanied the meal...which was served on FOAM plates...with PLASTIC silverware.
Those plastic knives cut through those chops like buttah
, I tell ya. I'd never tasted anything quite like 'em...and haven't since. They were awesome. Spicy without being TOO hot. They had a 'rub' rather than the goopy sauce I was used to. The beans were excellent and the cole slaw...well...it was different. It was downright SPICY...horseradish-y...not at all like what I'm used to, but it was great.
So anywho, all 15 of us are just chowin down, drinkin beer and it's gettin hotter and hotter. A combination of the beer, the spicy food and the general crowdedness
of the joint started gettin to one guy, in particular. As I looked at him across the table, I noticed that his face was beet red and the sweat was just beading
across his forehead. He looked up at me, wiped his brow with his napkin and said...loudly....
"I'm sweatin like a N#$%#R!"
The table, which had been quite noisy, went dead silent. I mean DEAD silent. And we all gaped at him like he'd just grown another head.
Now, ya gotta remember...we were a buncha hicks from the sticks. NONE of us were used to being around anyone
of a different ethnicity. And we're in the freakin MIDDLE of downtown Memphis. At night. With LOTS of people of a different ethnicity.
Ya know, they say that God protects idiots and drunks. I guess he was lookin out for ole Red that night, cause he fit into both categories, right then. Honest ta gawd, his beet-red face went dead white and he clapped his mouth shut so fast that his teeth clacked together.
We all started talkin LOUDLY. Tryin to cover his shocking faux pas, I suppose. After the shock wore off a bit...and we saw that no one was comin over to kick his ass...we all went into hysterics. Kinda like when you just miss gettin into a horrific accident or somethin.
When Albert came back to give us our checks, we chatted with him a bit. This trip wasn't too
awfully long after Elvis keeled over on the shitter and we'd been discussin the whole "is Elvis REALLY dead?" thing and he overheard one of the group opine that she didn't think he was dead...he was just hidin out somewhere.
"I tell ya what, Missy", said Albert in that deep voice. "Elvis been heah lotsa times befo'. He loooved him some Rendezvous bahbeque. But if I sees Elvis a comin in that front do', I'm a headin out the back do'. And they AIN'T no back do' heah."
We all finish our totally awesome BBQ "experience" and the Memphis couple say they wanna take us to this other place, somewhere across town. I can't remember the name of it, but it was a huge, famous cowboy joint, complete with the mechanical bull. Swear ta gawd, it looked like somethin outa "Urban Cowboy". We have a few drinks there and decide that we're all pooped and it might be a nice idea to head back to the hotel.
A coupla guys stick cans of beer into their pockets...for later...and we head back.
Just as an aside, the next day, we found out that that particular place was infamous
for it's nightly knifings and shootings. And someone had, indeed, been knifed that very night. Sweet. Given the nature of our trip so far, just how
we managed to miss out on that
, I'll never know.
We get back to the hotel, say our goodbyes and thank-yous to our Memphis hosts...and proceed to pile into an elevator. All 13 of us. Most of us with more than a good snootful.
The elevator goes up...and up...and up...and comes to a screeching, squalling STOP. Right between the 13th and 14th floor. Which are office spaces. Which means that there's NO ONE THERE TO HEAR OUR SCREAMS. We're stuck. And I do mean stuck. Big-time stuck. Horribly, terribly stuck.
Six women. Seven men. Most drunk. Stuck in an elevator. On the empty 13th floor of a high-rise hotel. At 1 a.m. The idea of being stuck wasn't nearly
as bad as the thought of the damn thing falling
. "Stuck", I can deal with. "Falling"...well...the only thing that saved me from going into a complete panic at that
thought was that if it DID fall, at least there'd be 12 other bodies to cushion me. Yea, it's kinda self-serving. YOU try it sometime and see if you don't think the same way. heh
One woman decides she wants to faint. You go right ahead, sister. But you ain't lyin down. No way, no how. You wanna faint, you stand up and do it cause there ain't no room for your fat ass to lie down. Besides that, if we've
all gotta be conscious for this clusterfuck, so do you. You can damn well faint when (and if) we get outa this mess.
'Course, lotsa beer means lotsa peeing. Well, there wasn't gonna be much of that
. Not for a while, anyway. Not for us girls, for sure. But remember they guys who stuck cans of beer in their pockets? Uh huh. Those cans got sucked up pretty fast. And it wasn't because they were thirsty.
It took a little over two hours, a guy from the elevator company, the Memphis Fire Department, the Jaws of friggin Life and a ladder to get us outa there.
Lemme tell ya...stuck in an elevator on the 13/14th floor for over two hours with 12 other drunk people and a bladder that feels like it's the size of the Hindenburg just AIN'T an experience I care to repeat. EVER again.
But, boy-howdy...would I ever like to visit the Rendezvous again.
Oh, and the bowling tournament? I don't even remember that part. I know we visited Graceland at some point, too. I've got the photos to prove it. But I don't remember much about that