One night the week before last, a friend asked me if I had ever been to Alabama. Much to my dismay, I hadn't yet had the occasion to make it to the Yellowhammer State (http://www.50states.com/bio/nickname1.htm), and so I told him. "Me neither," he said, "let's go!"
Alabama is a good 40 miles down the coast--but gas prices nearing $3.00 weren't about to stop us on our eastbound escapade! Besides, it was 10 o'clock on a Friday night, and it's not like either of us had to be up at the crack of dawn for a Saturday morning airport run... of course not. Ever notice how the attractiveness of a potential adventure (at least for the foolhardy) is directly related to its ridiculousness?
So we headed for the state line in Emerald, my sweet little electric-green, second-hand Prius. At the first Alabaman (Alabamite? Alabamian??) rest stop--the one with the Welcome to Alabama sign--we cheered triumphantly, then took pictures of ourselves in front of the sign (they didn't turn out so well, because highway signs are extremely reflective and human beings are not). This antic earned us some honks from passing cars, whose drivers, I'm sure, could only wish they were as classy as we were, taking self-portraits. Ah, the virgin ground of a brand-new state! It's almost as intoxicating as inhaling that new-car smell.
Just knowing I can cross another one of the 50 Nifty United States off my official "Been There, Done That" list gets me high. But we decided it couldn't be an official Visit to a New State without the inclusion of some sort of concrete activity involving at least an hour or so on Alabaman (Alabamish? Alabaster??) soil. What are two twenty-somethings going to find to do at 10:45 on a Friday night, when all the libraries and tea parlors are closed?
...and this is how we ended up at the Blue Bayou Lounge in Grand Bay, Alabama, of which I am now a card-carrying member. (Literally, they required me to fill out a membership form and sign a card before they would let us order, and I now carry that card in my wallet, for want of a better place to keep it.) But my induction into Blue Bayou Barhood was not the most hair-raising part of our visit--for that adjective, it's a toss-up between the Blue Bayou wall décor (a gigantic Confederate flag across the back wall, complemented by several blown-up photographs and table découpages of JFK, a smattering of Elvis paraphernalia, and a portrait of Princess Di) and the locals at the bar, one of whom was so inebriated that he threw quarters at us while we were playing pool. We couldn't make out if he wanted to join our game, or if he wanted us to feed the jukebox for him, or if he thought he was at a different sort of establishment... I've never had quarters thrown at me before, and their meaning is a little difficult to interpret.
Then again, when we pushed open the heavy metal door to the Blue Bayou Lounge and walked in, one of us wearing a crunchy knit-hat and cargo jacket ensemble and the other decked out in a headband color-coordinated to match her racer hoodie, the poor bartender must have asked herself what in the hootenanny we were doing in her establishment.
Mutual culture shock, anyone?