I didn’t go to Savannah in pursuit of the perfect milkshake. But somehow, over the course of 4 days and as many failed attempts to find one, I ended up on the milkshake chase of a lifetime.
It became a whole thing.
But I want it known that it didn’t start out that way.
It all started on a sunny fall day in October, under skies so blue they made me achy for bottled Cokes and my grandmother. I was downtown with my 4 friends, one of whom was about to get into trouble with the law, but hadn’t yet. We were shopping. And eating. And planning to eat. And shop. And glancing at our watches to stay on track for a bus tour of the city we had booked for later that afternoon.
Since my grandmother has been gone since 1991 and bottled Cokes are hard to come by, my next Blue October Sky longing was a milkshake. A chocolate one.
My friends, all more seasoned shoppers than I am, wandered in and out of shops on Julian Street. I found myself standing in front of the Candy Kitchen, next door to River Street Sweets. I wasn’t shopping at the moment. It seemed like the right time to saunter in and order one. But something talked me out of it and I can’t for the life of me remember what that was. It was me talking to me inside my own head. I told myself to wait on it. For a better time. I think I had decided that evening would be better and I was falsely convinced we’d be back in this same spot that evening for our Ghost Tour. Whatever my reasons were, they led me away from my opportunities and I never ordered a shake that first day.
This was my first mistake.
It wouldn’t be my last, or my biggest.
Friday night, after a day at the beach and the outlet mall, we were sitting around an elegant table eating some pretty expensive pork chops, when the other girls asked our waiter, Jackson, where I could find the best tasting milkshake on the planet. They knew I wasn’t going to let it go until I got one.
“Leopold’s,” he answered quickly. “Definitely.”
We had seen the place. We had heard about the place. We hadn’t gone into the place, because you couldn’t get within a square acre of it. There were always 50 people lined up out the door and down the sidewalk. It looked like a line to buy Bruno Mars tickets in Madison Square Garden. I don’t think I’ve ever met a milkshake good enough to justify that.
So we gave up on Leopold’s twice in one day.
But as we got closer to our townhouse on Lafayette Square, Parker’s Kitchen and General Store came into view. This store was like the Vegas strip in Savannah and had everything from crocheted rat figurines to candles to pints of Haagen Daz. They didn’t have fresh handspun milkshakes, but they did have a milkshake machine.
A milkshake vending machine. Done well, that’s a little slice of heaven. What could go wrong?
So I proceeded to fix myself a DIY gas station milkshake. I followed the process without reading any of the prompts. I skipped a couple of fairly important steps. Like picking a cup and placing it in under the spout where the liquid pours out.
I’d like to think this particular mistake was a result of being tired. The only other explanation is harder to swallow. I didn’t even notice I had skipped this step until the “milk” or whatever it was began to spew forcefully from a spout with no cup to catch it. But it amped up to a new level of upheaval when the stirring and shaking began.
Even then, I was still a little bit confused about my part in this fiasco.
“Missy! Did you put the cup in place?” Erin called out. Yeah. No. I didn’t do that. I didn’t know I needed to do that. At this point, I didn’t even know how much I should have known that I needed to do that. An employee was headed my direction in a panic, with a look on her face I couldn’t quite read. Oh man, I’m in trouble. What did I think was going to happen here? The next 2-3 minutes were fairly traumatic and I believe my psyche has blocked them out. There were processed fluids pouring out onto the floor. The mop bucket was brought out. People without higher education passed judgment. And I received a brief and somewhat terse tutorial from the employee about making myself another and what to say to the cashier as I checked out.
The milkshake thing was really going well.
At the end of my catastrophic romp through Parker’s, I walked out to the gas pump and took a sip of that bad boy. Ten seconds later, I threw it away.
I think they put me on a Do Not Serve list in that store and I tried to steer clear for the rest of the weekend. Truthfully, that wasn’t hard to do. I had already purchased a crocheted rat and a bad milkshake. There was nothing else there for me.
At 10:30 that night, in a moment of desperation, I ordered a chocolate shake from McDonalds on Uber Eats. I got made fun of for that, too, because it wasn’t deemed a worthy milkshake. But it was a heap better than the one I vended from a machine.
McDonalds didn’t count, though. And the hunt continued into Saturday.
Saturday was the last full day I had to get this done. In the late afternoon, after meandering all over historic Savannah, I had the good fortune to be facing the Candy Kitchen again on Julian Street. This time I was smart enough to go in.
“I’d like a medium chocolate shake, please,” I said, feeling like it was about to all be worth it. Everything I had suffered to this point would be brought into peaceful alignment with the universe.
“Oh, sorry. We are out of chocolate today,” a girl said through a cotton facemask.
Of course they were. If you’ve run out of chocolate and your name is Candy Kitchen, why are your doors even still open? Turn the light off and come back when you’ve made amends.
“Ok,” I said, hanging my head. “Thanks.”
One of my buddies walked out of a shop.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Out of chocolate,” I answered.
“Out of chocolate? Wow.”
I can’t say for sure that it wasn’t my shoulder popping, but I think I heard my spirit break. So I took a short walk down the block and settled on Ben and Jerry’s, which felt like the biggest sellout in the history of desserts.
They gave me a paper straw.
After several humiliating decisions and 4 days of hotly pursuing any milkshake at all, I was rewarded with a straw that disintegrated like moist toilet paper on my bottom lip.
Where’s a Dairy Queen when you need one?