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A Bourgie Hot Mess & The Sazerac

Two weeks ago I was in the great city of New Orleans for the first time in my life. In the birthplace of jazz I got a chance to relax, soak up the hot sun, suffer in the humidity, ride the Riverboat Natchez along the Mississippi, eat like a four hundred pound man, drink coffee all day long, and live for a few days in a historic apartment located in the French Quarter. I have to thank my wife for taking me. It was my Father's Day present.

We were also in town for the Essence Music Fest as was her cousin and his wife, my mother-in-law and several friends --- a total nine of us.

After a couple days of getting acclimated --- eating and sleeping (in that order) for hours on end, it was time to celebrate the birthday of my wife’s cousin (also an Eric). His only desire for the day was to eat at a restaurant of his choice and to go to Sung Harbor, a jazz club.

The evening got off to a groggy start after an extremely heavy lunch of Po’ Boys at Mother’s Restaurant followed by a round of Cajun Bloody Marys had on a Mississippi River tour aboard the Steamboat Natchez. [Side note: Cajun Bloody Marys are disgusting]. The drink didn't agree with me and before I went out that night I was desperate for something made of dough to soak up the spiked tomato juice.

Problem No. 1: I wound up with a bag of Twizzlers and a slice of apple pie and somehow figured this would do the trick.

Neither the birthday boy nor the rest of us liked our original restaurant choice for the night and were advised by our cabbie (who fell in love with my wife over the course of maybe seven blocks) to try Olivier’s on Decatur --- a New Orleans favorite a few blocks away.

The restaurant was packed and we didn't have a reservation. But we were intent on not expending anymore energy looking for a place to eat. We made a reservation for 8:15 --- a full hour later.

With time to kill, we wandered over to a restaurant halfway down the block and across the street. The restaurant didn’t look very inviting, but the bar was great. It opened out onto the street and the bartender, Elizabeth, was a sprite little nymph with short auburn hair, dressed in a t-shirt dress and cowboy boots. Everyone ordered right away, except for me. Everything on the drink menu looked boring except for one drink I had never heard of: The Sazerac.

A Sazerac was described on the menu as a New Orleans exclusive. It’s described on Wikipedia as one of the oldest known cocktails in existence with pre-Civil War origins in New Orleans, made of cognac and bitters, but updated to absinthe, old rye whiskey and bitters. Pure alcohol.

Problem No. 2: Elizabeth meticulously built my drink in a large martini glass for roughly five minutes.

Problem No. 3: It went down sweetly and smooth as water. So I ordered another one and downed it in two swallows. I no longer remembered I hadn't eaten since lunch.

Eight o’clock came sooner than expected and we went back to Olivier’s for dinner. By that time I knew everything about Elizabeth and she knew everything about us, thanks to my prying and sharing. Eric hadn’t finished his second drink so I helped him out.

The Final Problem: After we were seated at the restaurant, Eric's wife ordered a bottle of champagne for the table.

I loudly begged them not to make me drink it, but after a round of toasts I killed my glass, my wife's and may have even snatched a swig from my mother-in-law.

From there, Eric and I (the only men at the table) laughed at everything we said to each other. After ordering appetizers and settling on dinner, it was time for me to pay a visit to the restroom. When I stood, the room stood with me, then tilted to one side. I walked lightly and happily to restroom. Walking back to the table I noticed I was having a hard time putting one foot in front of the other --- something I haven’t experienced since my freshman year of college (a long time ago).

When I sat down I had a glass of water and got up to go back to the restroom. On my second trip from the restroom I was walking like a ninety year-old, slow and steady, making a pronounced effort to lift my feet off the ground.

A conversation began in my head…

When are we gonna eat?

What’s wrong with me?

Some appetizers came, but I couldn’t taste them. My wife lovingly fed me and we laughed some more. I stood to excuse myself from the table and stumbled quickly to the restroom where I promptly threw up. When I was finished I couldn't see.

I sat on top of the toilet top and waited to get regain my balance, my sight, my sense of taste and my marbles.

Several minutes passed.

Eric came to check on me but I insisted I was fine. I had no idea I wasn’t.

I would make several more trips to the restroom from that point, wondering the entire time, Where is my food?

What none of us knew was that there was a party of 50 in the upstairs dining room. This completely shut down the kitchen and kept us from being served for an hour. It also got our appetizers and drinks comped.

I experienced the rest of my night as patches of consciousness: our waiter assuring us the food was almost ready; me clearing the space in front of me at the table; my head hitting the table; my wife eventually telling me to sit up; my somehow being able to muster the energy to sit up straight; time standing still; briefly glimpsing up to see the waiter place a cup of tonic water and bitters in front of me; my wife urging me to drink; my mother-in-law telling my wife I wouldn’t drink it (I didn’t); everything going black.

I came to before the food came and made a final trip to the restroom. Eric’s wife came to check on me, Eric came to tell me my food was tasty, and my wife finally came into the stall to find me cemented on the toilet as if it were a Lazy-Boy. I heard her apologize to man in the stall next to me. He said he understood.

I insisted I was fine.

My wife told me she was taking me home. I told her I didn’t want to drown in my sleep. She assured me I was empty and promised me I'd live. I vaguely remember everyone in the restaurant having a smile on their face when I was being pushed/dragged out by my group. I was hustled into a cab where I apologized repeatedly for ruining the night (I didn't know then I had been the entertainment). The cab came to a halt, I was pulled from it by my wife and dragged up the stairs of our apartment until I was face first in bed, fully dressed. I was still babbling out an apology.

At some point in the middle of the night my wife returned from the jazz club and flipped me over (I screamed and heard her laugh), stripped me down to my boxers and pulled the covers over me. She also mentioned she had a good time at the jazz club.

I woke up the next morning at 6 a.m., without a hangover, but my stomach was in knots. A couple hours later my wife and I got up without the rest of our group and had breakfast together at an outdoor café. I sat trying to make sense of the night before. I forensically deduced that the Bloody Mary had been the start of my problems, the heat and humidity had probably been a close second. My wife shot me a deadpan look and told me I got drunk --- completely, out-of-control drunk, to the point of alcohol poisoning. But she told me I was due a moment to let go. And that it was okay.

All wasn't lost however. She brought my leftovers home and I held onto them until I was back at my desk in New York. Anxious for the hearty meal I never ate in New Orleans I had to laugh when I found two paltry pieces of beef and a whole lot of pasta. They had eaten my food while I was passed out at the table. I would've done the same.

I wasn't a ghetto hot mess, but I was definitely a drunk, bourgie one, dressed in linen during my dance wtih two Sazeracs, a couple glasses of champagne and who knows what else.

But like a hot ghetto mess, a few days later, I went back to the scene of the crime and got Elizabeth to make me another Sazerac. Even on a full stomach (and without the champagne) it was just as good as they had been the first time I tasted it.

Hardly a control freak, but definitely one who enjoys being in control of my own faculties I had to chalk this one up. It happens to everyone every once in a while.

Has it happened to you?

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