Our conversation was likely a little slurred and our walk down Saint George Street may have been somewhat wobbly while Melanie was still not fully grasping what just happened.
“So, that was the real Hank Williams?” She asked for the umpteenth time.
I let the conversation continue with no real intention of clarifying matters. “He looked real to me. Did he look real to you?”
“But isn’t Hank Williams a singer?”
“Well, he was. But I liked him better as a song writer.”
“And now he owns a wine shop in St. Augustine?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Hank Williams died a long time before we were even born.”
“Then who were we just talking to?”
“Hank Williams.” Keeping her confused may have been my passive aggressive revenge for her failure to mention she’d booked this leg of our trip in a hostel.
I’m a low maintenance traveler, really I am. But try to understand, I was responsible for booking the first half of our trip and we had just enjoyed three nights in the Hyatt Riverfront in Savannah, Georgia. At best, there should be some sort of decompression chamber for transitioning between a Hyatt Regency and a hostel; at the very least, there should have been some sort of, oh, I don’t know – warning.
But, no. When we arrived three hours earlier, I stared up the whimsically painted stairs already being scaled by a medium sized palmetto bug and beheld my first indication that things were different now.
Our room had one king sized and three bunk beds and was icky. Again, I can do icky; I just wasn’t expecting it. I plopped my suitcase onto the plastic-wrapped mattress of one of the bottom bunks, prayed that palmetto bugs hadn’t learned how to unzip things, and set out to explore America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, Florida.
It took us no time at all to stumble upon The Monk’s Vineyard, where the window sign promised sangria. Within minutes of sitting down, we learned that the proprietor has spent all of his summers since the 1960’s back in our home town. He knew familiar people and places, and even had a Peabody’s T-shirt back behind his bar. He asked our family names, and he knew some of my kin. I asked his and he said, “Williams.” As common as it is, I don’t remember any locals with that name.
He is a man who likes to tell stories where the characters say his name a lot.
My teachers always said, “Hank, sit still.”
My lady friend always says, “Hank, don’t spend so much time at work.”
And then Doc said, “Hank, why don’t you just sell your place in Florida?”
Still, it wasn’t until he disappeared behind some boxes to get himself a drink that I put the name together.
“Psssst, Mel,” I whispered, poking her shoulder. “That man is Hank Williams.”
“What? Who? No it’s not.”
“I’ll bet you twenty dollars,” I thought I was going to make some easy money.
“Isn’t Hank Williams famous?”
“Yes.” I wasn’t lying.
“Maybe it just looks like him.”
“No.” I meant, he looks nothing like that Hank Williams. “He actually is Hank Williams.”
As he reemerged with fresh drinks for us, too, I said, “Hey, Hank. Will you tell Melanie what your last name is?”
“Williams.” It was almost a question.
I turned to Melanie, holding out my hand, “Ha! You owe me twenty dollars!”
“I didn’t take the bet.” She was right.
We left after a couple of hours of enjoying his stories about loading his own shotgun shells and how he’s trying to sell the bar, and that’s when we found ourselves in the circular conversation.
“Then how can that be Hank Williams if Hank Williams is dead?”
“Hank Williams had a son, also named Hank Williams. Junior. That’s probably the one you’ve heard of.” She had no way to know that I was simply making a statement of fact, not answering her question.
“Then that was Hank Williams, Jr.?” Honest mistake. Poor girl.
“No. We did not just meet Junior. Weren’t you listening? His father’s name was Hugh.”
“I’m so confused.”
And confused she stayed. I anxiously await her Christmas letter this year to see if meeting Hank Williams rates a mention.
Speaking of sangria and the holidays, which are clearly now upon us, enjoy my Christmas Sangria recipe.
Therapeutic Alternative to the Holidays
1 cup orange juice
1 cup Fireball whiskey
1 bottle of dry, red wine
simple syrup, optional, to taste.
sliced granny smith apples, oranges, lemons, and lime.
*Soak your fruit in the whiskey for several hours, refrigerated. Mix all ingredients together, serve over ice. I prefer no simple syrup, but you may like sweet things more than I do. Remember, sangria is the perfect way to dress up those wines that you don’t enjoy, that somehow end up cluttering your kitchen counter. Or maybe that just happens at my house.