Once we wrapped up, I wandered around the office saying 'Hello' to everyone before venturing down the street for an early lunch. My former neighbor, Tristan, is the owner/head chef/ring master of Mimi's. When he first opened the place six years ago, he was dating my roommate Renata and the three of us spent most of our free time together in some configuration or another.
The interior of Mimi's is my second favorite thing about the place, behind the food. Tristan hired a local artist to paint a mural across the façade over the counter and most of the rest of the walls are dark blue. The exception being the wall behind the counter which is bright orange, which I spent an entire weekend helping Tristan and his Weimaraner paint.
"Hey Loser! Didn't we get rid of you!?" greeted me from behind the counter.
"You wish dumb ass!" I bellowed back. Loser and dumb ass have been our pet names for each other since we met. No real reason behind it; it is just fun to be able to call someone names with no repercussions.
By the time I had reached the counter, Tristan had walked around and immediately pulled me into a giant hug.
"You look great,” he said low in my ear. "You need to eat," he added loud enough for everyone to hear.
I grabbed a tray, ordered a plate of chicken and dumplings, green beans, peach cobbler and sweet tea. Since it was only 11:15, there was no shortage of tables and I chose one by the windows so I could entertain myself with the passers-by. Just as I shoveled the first fork full into my mouth, Tristan sat down across from me.
"Did I catch you at a bad moment?" he asked through a sly grin.
"Damn you Cadwaladr!" I replied as soon as I was able to swallow. "I really do hate you!"
"No you don't. You only hate that you can't have me."
Tristan sat with me trading quips, making me alternately scowl and roll with laughter, as usual. Apparently, there is some face I make when I am pissed/offended that he finds infinitely amusing and takes great pleasure in eliciting from me. Once he went back in the kitchen, I finished my lunch, making sure to savor every bite of cobbler. Mmm peaches! I sat there awhile enjoying the warm October breeze before getting up to leave just as the lunch crowd started streaming in.
Janey had taken a half day, so I wandered back to meet her at the office and head for the house to start the pork "booty" (as all of my friends have come to refer to it). Really it is just a Boston Butt that I slow roast, but one drunken tailgate, after learning what cut of meat he was eating, Olie started singing "Show me the booty, give me the booty, I want the booty…" needless to say it has become a bit of a tradition now.
I took me about an hour to get the meat cleaned, seasoned and in the oven, where it would stay for the next seven hours. Janey and I decided to walk down to Beth's for some girl chat before Olie and Janey's fiance Luke got off work.
When the guys showed up, we all loaded into Olie's Tahoe and headed over to Red Rocks for dinner. Red Rocks is my favorite restaurant in town, after Mimi's of course, and in the middle of Birkdale Village, an open-air shopping district. It was still 76˚, so we got a table out on the patio where we could properly enjoy Indian Summer. While walking through the bar to our table, "Oh my God!" boomed from behind the bar.
It was Beverly, my Monday night pal/bartender. Nearly every Monday night I would sit at the bar, order a rare burger and a few pints of Guinness and chat with random patrons while watching whatever was on ESPN that night.
"Hey Bev," I said leaning across the bar to give her a hug. "How have you been?"
"Mondays' just aren't the same. Back for the race?"
"You know it!"
"Well enjoy your dinner. Stop back by on your way out if you can."
Our table was in the perfect spot. Close enough to the sidewalk to see and hear all the teenagers, families and couple wandering by. As we were finishing our calamari steaks a light rain started, but under the patio canopy we were able to enjoy the rainy sunset, perfectly dry. We all relaxed and decompressed from the week, granted Beth and I had less to decompress from, but we needed it too. Olie and Luke started debating driver virtues; Dale, Jr. vs. Jimmie Johnson. Eventually, after Janey had to break it up, conversation shifted to the race plans.
"So, is your booty going to be ready for me tomorrow?" Olie asked. We all fell apart laughing as the older couple next to us turned crimson as they scowled and shook their heads.
"My booty will be ready for you when it is good and ready," I croaked in between laughs. "Seriously though," I continued once I had regained some of my composure, "it should be ready in plenty of time to head over to the track."
"We are leaving at 9am."
"Olie! This isn't the first time I have tailgated with you. I know how it works."
Charlotte races are always night races. Regardless, Olie always headed for the track by 9am to set-up the tailgate. A couple of easy-up tents, gas grill, smoker, folding table, coolers, kegs, the works. Even though we all know the routine inside out, Olie insisted on going over the plan while we ate dinner.
While Olie continued to instruct us all on our jobs for the morning, a familiar shadow loomed over me. Just as it’s owners’ hand reach my shoulder, Olie suddenly jumped up.
“What are you doing here? Down for the race?”
“You know I never miss it,” Ben replied. “How did you get suckered in by this crew? I thought you had class?” He asked me, obviously trying to incite Olie.
"These are the friends I told you about on the plane." I replied.
Janey jumped in at this point, "What!? Are you two dating?"
"No," I retorted, "I have class."
"That hurts! And after I let you sit in first class with me. Ingrate!"
Completely ignoring him, I continued, "Actually, Ben is my new stalker."
Olie asked, "Do you know what happened to her last stalker?"
"No. What? Did you run him off?"
"Beat him up?"
"Do I look stupid? I couldn't survive in jail! Not with this sweetness here," Olie replied smacking his rear. "I duct taped the creep naked to a flag pole!"
The entire table erupted at this. When we all finally caught our breath, Janey said, "Don't you normally have a posse or something following you around Ben?"
"Yeah man, where's your entourage?" Luke asked.
"They're in the "VIP" room, of course. You know we can't hang with the common people. We would be mobbed, " Ben teased.
"Then what are you doing out here by yourself? Aren't you afraid for your safety?" Luke replied.
"I just wanted to make sure Thisby here wasn't being abused by you ruffians."
"I thought you were past the cheesy come-ons?" I glared
"Sorry, sorry, mia culpa, mia culpa. My real reason for coming over was to see if you guys wanted to meet us over at the hooker. I'm getting ready to head over there with Seb and Sadie and the twins," said Ben.
We all looked at Olie, eagerly awaiting "father's" approval. He seemed to seriously consider the impact this would have on the tailgating program before saying, "We can go for a little while, but just so we are clear…we are still leaving for the track at 9am. No excuses."