Girl Talk: How Our First Anniversary Was Saved

Two weeks after confessing my worry about surviving my first ever road trip with my husband, I’m happy to report we made it home alive — with our bodies, minds, and marriage all safely intact. The trip wasn’t without a few close calls, though. While driving for the first time in three years — on narrow, winding back roads, no less — was nerve-wracking, it turns out our most anxious moments came before we even picked up our rental car. But what could have turned into a disastrous first anniversary — or, at the very least, a terribly unpleasant evening — quickly became one of the best weekends we’ve ever had together and was another reminder just how important a positive attitude and an open heart — not to mention an adventurous spirit — are in maintaining a happy relationship (with yourself or a significant other). It all started last Friday evening, July 23rd, the day before our first wedding anniversary. We’d arrived bright and early that morning in a lovely but sweltering hot, Memphis, Tennessee, and had already checked into our downtown B&B, toured Graceland, and visited Sun Studio, the “birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.” It was closing in on 7 p.m., which was really 8 for us, and after a long day of sight-seeing in the heat, we were tired and hungry and ready for a nice dinner and a couple drinks. But before we could freshen up and decide on a place to eat, the electricity in our room suddenly went out. Unfortunately, we quickly learned it wasn’t just our room or even our B&B experiencing a power outage; half of Memphis was without electricity. That meant no lights, no refrigeration, and worst of all, no fans or air conditioning. Have I mentioned it was hot out? Like, 102 degrees in the shade.

Well, we stepped out into the muggy Memphis evening and wandered around for a good half hour, trying to find some place we might at least sit and enjoy a cold beer or two. But bars and restaurants were either already packed to capacity or had shut down because they couldn’t use their cash registers and credit card machines without power. We hadn’t eaten since noon, and I was getting crabby. Besides that, we had no idea when or if the power would come back on that night. Where would we sleep? We couldn’t very well stay in a room on such a hot night that didn’t even have a fan we could turn on. Should we just forgo the rest of our weekend in Memphis, rent a car early and drive to a neighboring town with power just to stay cool?

Suddenly, I heard someone on the street mention that not all of Memphis was in the dark as I’d assumed. A few miles uptown there was electricity. I grabbed Drew and said, “Come on!” I was determined to save our night, if not our whole weekend.

“Where are we going?” he shouted.

“Uptown!” I said, hailing the lone cab sitting at the corner of Beale street.

“Can you take us uptown?” I asked the cab driver.

“Where uptown?” he asked.

“Wherever they have lights on,” I replied.

We ended up at a little Italian restaurant in midtown that the lovely couple who took our cab when we got out recommended. There was a 45-minute wait for a table, so we sat at the bar and immediately ordered a couple drinks. We must have sounded like out-of-towners, because within minutes, the patrons around us asked where we were from, what brought us to Memphis, and what we were doing in this decidedly un-touristy part of town. We explained we were from New York, in town celebrating our first wedding anniversary, and that the power had been out downtown for over an hour.

“Well, you came to the right place,” said one woman. And, indeed, it seemed we did. By the end of our meal, we had two new best friends who ended up showing us the epitome of southern hospitality all weekend long. After dinner, they took us to a great little bar Esquire magazine called one of the best dive bars in the country. They introduced us to the owner, a friend of theirs, who gave us free drinks and a tour of the place. We spent the evening sipping G&T’s and listening to stories from an old-timer bartender who’s lived his whole life in Memphis. By the time we finished our last drink, the electricity was back on downtown and we had invitations to a porch party the next evening at a local artist’s home.

The party was so much fun, actually, that we canceled our anniversary dinner reservations so we could stay longer. One of our new friends got wind of that and immediately ran out and bought us a bottle of champagne.

“It’s wrapped in paper,” she said, “for your first anniversary.” And, definitely, it was an anniversary we’ll always remember. We spent the night drinking rum punch (in addition to the bubbly), eating cold fried chicken and deviled eggs, swapping stories with new friends, and even got interviewed by the local paper for an article about the return of the authentic southern porch party.

The road trip, which followed the next day, was icing on the cake. We saw beautiful scenery and had some more fun adventures. And it turns out that cab ride uptown wasn’t the only thing that saved a potential vacation disaster. Your advice about getting a GPS for our trip? Well, let’s just say it came in handy more than once. So, thanks for that.

Photo: iStockphoto