She actually asks this. With a straight face.
OK. So maybe she just got too excited – she is, after all, admittedly, a cigarette smoker or at least used to be when she was on FOX News (now on CNN: defector!), and perhaps she hadn’t had a butt or maybe she’d had eleven too many – or maybe she was looking to ask a really probing, news-breaking, muck-raking, brilliant question to establish herself as a cable Sage, and what came out was…well, not exactly as she had planned it I'm sure.
I don’t know.
For a moment I felt sorry for her for asking such a question. It hung out there over the airwaves, and I waited for one of the financial advisor experts to kind of let out that little nose snicker we do when milk comes out that part of our body as kids at the dinner table when we’re stifling a guffaw. And then I was reminded that whatever pity I felt for her should be counter-balanced with understanding that there are six figures behind every stupid question of hers and a town car that brings her home after the show, probably to Great Neck, Long Island, or if she’s living in CNN’s Atlanta, then Alpharetta or Roswell, two places all the damned Yankees go when they move to the city that Sherman jacked up. And then I didn’t feel sorry.
More importantly, dinner was a bit of a hassle. I’d been steered by the good folks at the Hilton front desk to a “meat-and-three” restaurant called Southern Star (http://southernstarrestaurant.com/). (Readers will refer to my early 2006 entry on this style of southern cuisine, now archived, and you will have to buy it in a future book for a lot of money plus shipping and handling.) It was on Market Street just up the road on the left. So I drove my white Mercedes – yes, friends, Enterprise Rental Car upgraded me to this for $2 extra per day. I didn’t want it at first because it sends the wrong signals to my clients, or so I pleaded to them, but the alternative was a PT Cruiser, and I’d rather be in the Benz than in a Neon-engine American car that drives like an orange crate and, besides, the clients wouldn’t even see me drive up to their fourth floor offices the next morning.
I drove down Market Street and up Market Street…or up and then down. (I still don’t know which way is uptown, as the street numbers (4th Street, 5th Street, etc.) increase as you go south – I think this is intended to royally mess with us Yankees over the Civil War). I pulled over to ask a homeboy where Southern Star was. “Southern Star…?” I asked a bus driver. “Southern Star?” I asked pedestrians who turned out also to be tourists. (I should have known: they were wearing matching T-shirts.) I called the restaurant and the young man who answered tried to give me directions, but he couldn’t remember the cross street. He said, Yankee Boy, go back to Boston or at least move to Alpharetta. No, he didn’t really say that, but he thought it, I’m sure. I finally parked in the vicinity where I thought it was, and started to walk. I got to a corner where I thought it should be and called again. This time a woman answered who was not so exercised about the outcome of the Civil War, bless her soul, and she navigated me by phone to the front door. Reconciliation is so sweet.
I ordered sweet tea, smoked pork chops, cream corn, pinto beans and cole slaw. All good. The entrée and three sides were $8; the tea was $1.50. I was out of there with tax and tip for $13.