Whither the Wings

It wasn’t what you’d call a favourite eatery of mine, but now that it’s gone, I can’t help but feel a bit of the old nostalgia creeping up on me. I’m not sentimental enough to actually feel bad about it, but all the same, it’s another landmark on the map of my personal history…pfft, gone.  

When I was at USC (South Carolina, not Southern California), the Gervais Street Carolina Wings & Rib House was a frat joint. Lots of Greek letters and brightly coloured shirts, a multitude of popped collars and khaki shorts. Young men wearing sun visors and sun glasses, even on a cloudy day and young women wearing roll-hem denim shorts and pastel sorority colours. A veritable faux-Nordic explosion, all bleached hair and teeth and the smell of tanning lotion. Impromptu cheering sections and bellicose buddy-wrestling in front of the self-service iced tea dispenser.

The televisions were permanently tuned to ESPN, and God help you if you went on Game Day–any game day, didn’t matter. The noise rolling out of that place was a solid force, washing over you and shoving you back. I remember popping in for some wings on the wrong Saturday and watching the windows flex with the noise. If the Gamecocks happened to be playing that day, it was so loud the floor tiles would shake loose in smooth, rippling formation expanding outward from beneath the wall-mounted televisions and sounding like the world’s largest keyboard–clat-clat-clat.

Even when it was quiet, it was a loud sort of quiet. That mid-week ‘eye of the hurricane’ quiet, where the echoes of the previous weekend haven’t quite faded and the early stirrings of the coming one are just sort of clinging to the walls. The waitresses all had that ‘first thirty days on the front line’ look, hundred yard stares and exhaustion lines. They’d start work blonde and by end of the week be brunette again.

I don’t remember the food at all. Just the noise.