When Ben and I were living together, we formulated the ultimate revenge plan. We would steal someone's iPod, write down all the tracks on it, delete the iPod and then refill the iPod with nothing but Cher's "Walking in Memphis", but give each track a title from the original iPod playlist. We decided this was one of the cruelest punishments imaginable (The worst punishment being a friend of mine's idea. Every year, she and her best friend would try and give each other the worst possible birthday present, and the receiver of the gift HAD to use it. One year, her friend gave her ONE Celine Dion ticket, so she would have to go see that trainwreck, but wouldn't have anyone to share the horrific experience with).
Having driven from somewhere around Waco, TX to Arkansas, I was tired. So I slept through most of Ben's drive through Arkansas. And when I saw we were hitting the border of Tennessee, naturally, I grabbed the iPod and turned on some Arrested Development. When the song was over, Ben grabbed the iPod and began singing Cher's "Walking in Memphis" just like Cher. Creepily like Cher. Exactly like Cher. I'm not sure that's a talent, but if it is, he is very talented. This was not as creepy as when he sings old Fleetwood Mac songs exactly like Stevie Nicks, but it's close. Creepier was when he started singing Notorious BIG songs in the Cher voice, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Ben and I drove around Memphis for hours. There is no free parking in Memphis, and the hotels are spread out. Sadly, there weren't any hotel rooms available in Memphis because it was Elvis week.
When we decided to get back on the highway, Ben suggested we go to Nashville, and hang out there. "I don't know why you think we'll have any better luck there." I said. "It's also Dolly Parton week."
We found a hotel, ordered a pizza, made plans to hit up a gay bar, and promptly fell asleep.
The next day's plan? Knoxville. Ben would hit up a gay bar (he's opposed to clubs because of the loud music and the fact that most people in clubs are...well, club people), and I would catch a bus home to Boston, so I could be to work on Wednesday night. It was a good plan, so I knew it was going to go awry.
We arrived in Knoxville in the early afternoon, we circled Knoxville over and over looking for hotels, but we only saw a too expensive Raddison that overlooked the Woman's Basketball Hall of Fame. There is almost no parking in Tennessee, apparently, so we parked roughly back in Nashville, and walked to the information center of Knoxville. The really nice woman behind the counter suggested we stay out of town, or at a place called St. Oliver's.
We couldn't find St. Oliver's for a long time, due to construction in the area, and our general inability to read maps. When we did find out, Ben went in to ask how much rooms were.
"We have $55 rooms, $75 rooms, and $200 suites." Said the concierge. "But all of our $55 rooms are full."
"Well, I'm a videoblogger recording a road trip of some of the nicest hotels in the country." Lied Ben, in a stroke of utter brilliance. "If I give your hotel a good review, could we get a $75 room for $55."
When the concierge immediately agreed, I thought he might be really stupid. But when his hot young boyfriend picked him up from work a few hours later, I realized he was just looking out for some fellow queers. God Bless Tennessee.
Hotel St. Oliver is filled with beautiful French furniture, a piano that doesn't quite work, and every cool amenity you can expect in an old hotel, with the exception of a wireless connection.
The concierge gayve (no, it ain't a typo) us a tour of the hotel, showing us plans to build lofts into certain rooms, different wallpapers they were considering during renovations, etc. At some point during our tour, Ben realized that our room keys opened every door on our floor. Stroke of Ben's brilliance #2.
After the tour, we went out in search of food. But it was after seven, when they roll up the streets of Knoxville. We found only one food place open. A brand new bar/restaurant/music venue/art gallery/hair salon/spa called World Grotto that had just opened. The owner made a killer salmon sandwich for Ben, while I scoured the place for inspiration.
At around tennish we headed to the bus station, where I was to pick up my travel stipend to go home, and then...well I was to go home. A 24 hour bus trip. Not nearly as fun as the two day Boston to Dallas trip, I was sure, but close. Now, the stipend was sent at 9:30. It was a check for $150. The ticket home would be about a hundred, giving me plenty of food spending money for the trip. The money was in the computer at the bus station's Western Union "but there's a password on it. You got the password?" I did not. So I called the person who sent the money, who, naturally, did not answer his phone.
He called back at 11:55. Ben was understandably antsy. He had plans to go to a gay karaoke night and go hotel with a nice little TN guy. Being the good friend, he decided to stay with me until I had the money. While we waited, he played video games, and I fretted. There wasn't supposed to be a password on the account, but after I handed Ben's phone (my phone doesn't work in eastern TN or western Virginia, or the Carolinas) to the Western Union lady, she smiled and printed out my ticket. I thanked the sender, and gave the phone to Ben. "You good?" He asked.
"Yeup." I said, without betraying my sense of impending doom. "Thanks for waiting with me." And I hugged Ben goodbye.
I was not good.
The lady behind the counter frowned at me. "So, I just emptied the cash drawer a couple of minutes ago."
I smiled and nodded.
"So I won't have enough money to cash your check for a while."
"A while?" I asked.
"Check back in a half an hour."
I did. They hadn't sold a single ticket. "What time does the next bus that you sell tickets to leave?"
She smiled and said, "Eight thirty tomorrow morning." The bitch smiled. Fucken August.
I called Ben. Collect because my fucken phone still didn't work. He had already met someone, but was going to drive back to the station and pick me up.
"No, don't worry about it." I told him. "I'll just walk back to the hotel, and wait for you there, it should take me about an hour. And I can wait. Don't rush back."
It was a fifteen minute walk. So I decided to kill some time at The World Grotto, where the owner made me a free chicken sandwich and a few Captain and Cokes. I told him I would plug The World Grotto in my blog. Plug, plug.
At around two-thirty Ben and a very cute guy in glasses stumbled toward the hotel. Ben apologized profusely for making me wait, despite the fact that I told him to take his time. The cute boy introduced himself to me and asked "How old are you?"
"Thirty." I said.
"Cool. My last boyfriend was thirty-two, but he told me he was twenty-six."
"Ah ha." I said. Unsure why he was telling me this.
"So I aspreschiate your honesty." And we entered the hotel like the scarecrow, the tin man, and Dorothy. I won't say who was who.
Ben's flash of brilliance #3: our key opened all the rooms on our floor. One of the $200 suites was being renovated, but the bedroom was fine. So he and the boy would take the suite, I would sleep in the room, making sure to wake them up at eight, so they wouldn't get caught by the concierge when his shift started at nine.
Ben went into the bathroom for a few minutes, leaving Boy and I to small talk in the room.
"So...I never do this sort of thing." Boy said. "I'm kinda drunk. I never. I mean. How old is Ben."
"Cool. I'm twenty. So...I...uh...this...are gonna have a threesome?"
No. No. No. No no no. Or as Ben would undoubtedly say "Nooooooooooooo."
For the record, I don't think Boy was hitting on me, he was just drunk and confused. And incredibly lucky he ended up with Ben and not some asshole who was going to take advantage of his drunkenness. Well, I mean, Ben was taking advantage of his drunkenness, but in a way that had been agreed upon before drunkenness ensued.
The next morning, I woke up as Ben and Boy were entering the room. They had not been discovered. And while they crashed in the bed, I made my way to the bus station, blasting a prereleased Jared Paul CD (amazing, amazing, amazing). I took off my headphones when I got to the ticket counter. The station was empty save me, two people chatting on the far side of the station, and the lady behind the counter. I put my discman down. While the lady and I were talking, apparently, a tribe of Knoxville Ninjas entered the bus station and stole my discman. Seriously, there was no one within range to steal it, but during the minute and a half it was on the counter, it disappeared. Poof. Fucken August.