Do I have to sacrifice my seat?

As it was I didn’t get the seat I wanted, I wanted to leave on the 11:45, but that plane sold out before the travel agent could jump on it. So here I am flying two hours later and the fortysomething mother implores me to give up my aisle seat so she and her ten year old daughter can sit together.

That’s right. She wants me to give up the aisle for the back row, where the seat doesn’t go back and I’m up against the wall so she can get what she wants. Meanwhile, this was not an upgrade, I paid full price. Am I supposed to cave?

Ethical dilemmas. We hit them all day long.

Or maybe it’s just an issue of standing up for yourself. I mean I consider myself a nice guy, but I’m flying four hours in one direction to spend less than a day to return in the tube for five and I’ve got an ancient prostate and I’ve got to pee and there’s no way I’m gonna do it.

And when I told her I was on business and I wouldn’t she refused to let her daughter sit next to me in her assigned seat and this mother plopped her ass right down next to me. Talk about uncomfortable…

And then I spilled Sierra Mist all over myself during the bumpiest flight of my life and I wondered if karma had bit me in the ass.

That’s right, I went to Charlotte for the day. Landed at 9 PM and was out at 4:40 the next day. And I had a WONDERFUL time!

How can that be?

Well, at first I felt like Neal Preston, who told me he’d flown around the world shooting Led Zeppelin and seen nothing. That he’d like to go back without his camera and soak it all in. I mean I’ve never been to North Carolina before. Exactly where is Charlotte? Is that where the Panthers play?

Turns out it is. The stadium is right downtown, by L.A. standards anyway.

So it’s pouring rain when we touch down.

And by time we get to the hotel I’m rearing for action. How about some BBQ?

That’s right, at least let me make the most of my time.

And Tiffany’s driving me around pointing out the sights, answering my questions.

Exactly why is Charlotte here?

That stumped her. She had to go to Wikipedia for that one.

And then she told me about the banks, that Charlotte was a financial center, and then we made it to Mac’s, a barbecue joint/biker bar/sports bar.

Sunday night football was on, it was funny hearing Al Michaels after he spilled his guts on Stern last week, and what stunned me most was they had the audio in the bathroom, so you wouldn’t miss a play.

And then we had to order.

We didn’t have barbecue in Connecticut. Oh, occasionally we got “ribs,” from King Cole, the upscale market, but they were beef and I didn’t know the difference until I lived on the west coast and we were not kosher.

And I’m like a kid in a candy store. I want to try everything.

And the waitress with the tattooed chest and knuckles, with a boob job, I thought they were limited to L.A., recommended the combo platter.

So we ended up with pork ribs, brisket, pulled pork and sausage.

Even better was the sauces.

You see if you read Calvin Trillin enough, you get intrigued by BBQ , which supposedly is best at his hometown Kansas City eatery, Arthur Bryant’s.

And I always heard that North Carolina was vinegar-based.

And the food came and it was scrumptious. Other than the fact that I was overeating at midnight when I had to soon go to sleep, it was a fantasy come true. I’m mixing the multiple sauces, the vinegar, the mustard, the Carolina and the Red, and my fingers are sticky and I just can’t stop. The green beans, the cole slaw…MMM!

And then I was done.

But the waitress implored me to get banana pudding.

What is it about human beings that we can’t say no to food? Sure, there’s the skinny-minnie woman with no body fat who lies to herself that she’s never hungry, but most of us are glorified Homer Simpsons, unable to push our bellies back from the table.

And I’m partial to banana. Don’t ask me why. And Tiffany asks the waitress if she can make it to go, as if I’m gonna have somewhere to stash it in my hotel room if I don’t finish it at the restaurant.

I say yes.

And what comes in the giant styrofoam cup is an elixir that could create world peace. Everybody would be licking their lips, thinking of tire swings and sweet tea.

Actually, I had the lemonade.

And there are vanilla wafers in the pudding. And it reminded me of nothing so much as my old Tallahassee lassie, cooking the recipes of the south. I’ll never forget her making pimento cheese sandwiches to take to the beach.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, we had those the next day for lunch.

You see the south is different. The same, but not. Everybody has an accent, but they’re not stupid. Turns out the BMW factory is just over the line in South Carolina, where the taxes are tiny. And sure, there’s racism, but there’s racism everywhere.

And Doug told me life was about intersecting with other people, especially those unalike, that that’s how we learn.

And he told me most of the racism came from deep southerners who inherited their land and had never strayed far from it.

And after eating our Q, Tiffany took me by the theatres, and the art museum, we even went up to hipsterland, NoDa, North Davidson, where there was a 24 hour French bakery, Amelie’s, that was packed long past midnight.

And that’s what I learned.

Oh, I also had Cheerwine. A cherry soda that reminded me of the Cott of my youth. I love the flavors.

And the airport had a guy at a piano playing Elton and Billy, as if I was in Nordstroms.

And I’d be lying if I told you all that travel had no effect on my body.

But I can’t wait to go back. We Northerners know little of the South.

I wanna know more.




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