In this throng, it was hard to see if anyone was actually there luggage-less and waiting to pick up an arriving passenger - but a couple of passes through the back of the crowd yielded no B, and by this stage it was nearly two in the morning, and knowing that my hostess had a young daughter in the house I was reluctant to start trying to phone at that hour. So I thought I could find a hotel close by and crash for the night, and then sort it all out in the morning.
I had neglected to take into account those other flights that had been snafued before my plane came down. Need I tell you that all the hotels within a sensible distance to the airport were full to the gills, and it would have taken a $20-30 taxi ride to get to somewhere else...? It didn't seem to be a cost-effective option - all I wanted would have been a few hours' sleep, but a fifteen or twenty minute ride in a taxi just to GET to a hotel, at that hour, would have left me with maybe two or three usable hours in a room. So I decided to tough it out and stay at the airport, and then get hold of B in the morning.
I settled in for the rest of the night next to a young man who was obviously in a similar predicament, and we spent much of the next couple of hours talking to one another across uncomfortable armchairs we had pulled around so that we could stratch out across two of them. At one point I remember watching a short corridor directly in front of me, which led into the restrooms - and I saw one cleaner go in, a little old white-haired WHITE woman, pushing her cleaners' cart, and then emerge some time later, as a little old BLACK *man*, pushing what seemed to be the same cart. "I wouldn't use that particular restrom if I were you," I told my companion, "strange things appear to be happening in it."
But I digress.
At about half past seven the next morning I deemed it to be late enough to call my friend. The daughter picked up the phone, I asked to speak to mommy, and B came on the line.
"Where are you?" she asked, soundign cofised.
"The airport," I said.
There was a short, awful silence. "Oh, My GAWD," she blurted. "You came in LAST night, didn't you? Oh my GAWD, I'm so sorry, I broke every law of Southern hospitality... you just stay put right there, and I'll be right out to get you!"
WHich she did. We went out for breakfast, all through which she kept on apologising, but I digress again.
When we got home, we started planning the next day or so that I'd be in the Area. My only idea of Georgia at the time was the GOne-with-the-wind image. Plantations. White columned houses. WOmen in hooped skirts.
B said she couldn't cough up a hooped skirt but she could take me to a plantation place whose name I now forget - Mount Something - which was set up as a museum, so off we went to that. She didn't have an obviously broad SOuthern accent, but she could do one aboslutely flawlessly, and she quickly had me in stitches reading the placards next to the rooms set up as they would have been back when the place would have been a real plantation (complete with wonmen in hooped skirts) in this utterly perfect Gergian drawl. After I recovered from the effects of this sufficiently to realise that it was lunchtime, we repaired to the main restaurant on the upper verandah-girt floor of the plantation house, and I, looking over the menu, made one fatal observation, and was moved to ask a question.
"What," I said innocently, "IS a Mint Julep, anyway...?"
B gave me a horrified look - "You mean you've never had one?"
I shook my head, and she immediately beckoned over our waiter. WHo happened, just for the record, to eb Bulgarian.
"I want two perfect Mint Juleps, plese," B ordered in her best imperious manner.
"Yes, ma'am", said the hapless Bulgarian, looking hunted, and backed away. The enxt we saw of him, it was sprinting down the majestic curved staircase, presumably in search of someone who knew what a perfecct mint julep was.
When he reappeared, some ten minutes later, it was carrying two whiskey-tumbler type glasses with mint sprigs stuck into the drink inside - and B was shaking her head while he was still halfaway across the room. "Not looking good," she said, and then, when she tasted hers, pronounced it to be a cheap imitation and that we could do better.
The rest of that afternoon and into the evening, we spent hunting the Mint Julep. Every time we cornered one, B would find something just a little bit off with it - just not a Perfect Mint Julep. Until we finally fetched up in a crowded TGIF (that's, Thank God It's Friday, a chain name, for those of us not in the know) restaurant, and the smiling barperson came round with two tall glasses full of ice and mint and mule-ass kick.
"That's more like it," B said, if only because by this stage we had, um, mellowed a little. But whether or not it was the Perfect one, it was really very very good - and the moral of the story seems to be that the ingredients of a Perfect Mint Julep include the laughter of friends.
eneit asked for a recipe, and they're a dime a dozen, everywhere, mostly alike, perhaps always subtly different from the next one - but add that last important ingredient I mentioned above, and you'll do just fine.
Mint Julep recipe
Scale ingredients to servings
4 fresh mint sprigs
2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp water
Muddle mint leaves, powdered sugar, and water in a tall glass. Fill the glass with shaved or crushed ice and add bourbon. Top with more ice and garnish with a mint sprig. Serve with a straw.