The three of us went on a very memorable trip to Myrtle Beach. They say, two's company but three's a crowd. But, that never applied when Gerry was in the mix.
He was a mountain of a man, standing six feet five inches, and weighing in somewhere over three hundred pounds. He had hands like frying pans, and he was quite able to use them if required. But, given his size, and his capacity for fun, he was seldom called upon to demonstrate exactly why it was a good idea to stay on his good side.
We both worked in the Penitentiary Service. In fact, that's how me met. We joined the same day. It was April 1st, 1981, and we liked to say it was the longest April Fools joke ever played on us. There are many stories about "the pen," but that would entail writing a book, so I'll stick to our trip to Myrtle Beach.
While still working, we had our yearly trips to Myrtle Beach in the winter. Sometimes we managed more than one trip, but we generally always found a way to make at least one jaunt. We set off, probably in a snow storm, which was generally the case heading from Kingston, Ontario down 81 through Watertown and Syracuse, New York. On that stretch through New York State in the winter, if it wasn't snowing, you simply had to wait five minutes and it would be.
We stayed at the Sea Mist in Myrtle Beach on one of their golf packages. I haven't stayed there in years, but in those days, it couldn't be beat. We had a great room across the road from the ocean, with a hot tub conveniently situated just outside the door.
Every morning we enjoyed a complimentary breakfast--at least we considered it complimentary, since it was included in the package--which included the whole nine yards, even catfish. I'm not really a breakfast eater, but Gerry would tuck in with abandon, particularly taking a shine to the grits, which he would slather with butter. He loved them.
Now, I guess you are either a grit person, or you're not. I'm not. Brian, as I recall, could take them or leave them, but Gerry just loved them. They were right up there with Mac and cheese in his books. Being Canadians, we hadn't been raised on them, so Gerry considered grits to be some sort of exotic southern delicacy. Now, don't get me wrong, Gerry loved good food. He could cook as well. In fact, at night, rather than head out to eat, we made a variety of curries that we consumed with suitable quantities of beer. But this trip, Gerry fell in love with grits.
On the drive home, we found ourselves in a little grocery store in some small town in North Carolina. How we ended up there, I'm not quite sure, but Gerry was grit shopping. He was standing in the aisle looking at the assortment of grits for sale, when he noticed a little African American girl, who obviously worked there.
He said to her, "I'm looking to buy some grits to take home with me. Could you recommend the best kind to buy?"
She looked up at this strange, gigantic foreigner and uttered words we have since come to live by.
She said, "Grits is grits."
That's so true. No matter how you cut it, at the end of the day, grits is just grits. But, they're better with salt and butter; and maybe a little hot sauce. We miss you, Big Man.