Sleeping With Fonzie & Dr. Ruth
While the bed in the Presidential Suite at Chattanooga’s sumptuous Adams Hilborne Mansion is commodious, I was nonetheless concerned. I’d never met Mr. Winkler before, but I assumed him to be a man of standard proportions. I’m a bit larger than life myself, though I’ve heard that Dr. Ruth is diminutive, pleasant and Germanic, not necessarily in that order.
It just seemed strange that such a nice place would sleep three to a bed like this, but since I was a guest I decided not to be pedestrian about it. “When in Chattanooga.” So I sat back and waited for my roomies to show.
I frowned at the spot on the wall next to the bed and wondered why nobody had added the brass plaque engraved with my name to the other two. I was going to call down to tell them they’d forgotten, but I didn’t want to get anybody into trouble. I figured mine would be along.
I decided to investigate the rest of the suite.
The bathroom was large enough to handle us all. There was a great elevated, oval tub with mountains of fluffy towels rolled and folded in swell shapes. It seemed every kind of shampoo and lotion had been stockpiled here as well.
There was also a large shower. Since Dr. Ruth is said to only stand about 4-10 we could all get wet in the event of a bathing crisis. Though if she and I got in a shower together I don’t think she’d get very wet unless I held her aloft.
When the maid came I asked when my roomies were expected. She explained that I had gotten the wrong idea and would have the suite to myself.
Turns out each of them had spent an evening there on a previous date. I asked her if they would be putting a “Jim Richards” plaque on the wall after I left, and she confused me by asking me if I was anybody.
After a brief discussion about that we decided that I wasn’t, and she said I shouldn’t count on a plaque, and I said I wouldn’t.
I remembered then that David Adams who, with wife Wendy, owns and operates Adams Hilborne Mansion, was waiting for me downstairs in the restaurant, so I showered alone and sashayed down the grand staircase.
Did I say restaurant? It felt much more as though I’d been received by a Southern gentleman of considerable influence in his dining room. I suppose that I had been.
Upon entering, I was approached by George, the Major D. George was a very pleasant, well-spoken gentleman who wanted to know if I cared for a drink before dinner. I said that I would like a scotch and water. George asked if I had a preference, and I showed my lack of breeding by telling him whatever they kept in the well would be fine.
George smiled and withdrew. No really! He withdrew! I said my hellos to Mr. Adams and soon George reappeared with a tinkling glass of scotch and water. He smiled and told me that their “well scotch” was Dewar’s and wanted to know if that would do. It would. What I meant by well scotch was the stuff I usually drink. You know, the kind with a twist top cap and the ballpoint pen offer on the label.
I suppose I faux pas’d a number of times that night, but my hosts were gracious enough not to notice. David and I perused the menu for a few minutes. There is no feeling of confidence like the one you get when you dine with the owner of the restaurant. You can pretty much rest assured you will get the best of everything. Though I got the impression that all guests are treated like VIPs.
Hold your taste buds close to the page while I tell you what I ordered starting with baby brie, served dripping with warm hazelnut bourbon sauce and sliced apples followed by the Fortwood salad: young spinach, chopped egg and toasted almonds wilted with a hot applewood-smoked
bacon dressing — I pressed on.
For my main course I ordered roasted young duckling glazed with a port wine and bing cherry sauce, wild rice and garden vegetable while casually wondering what the poor people were doing and giggling shamelessly when I realized I didn’t care.
David Adams was a delightful dinner companion. We laughed as he told me about his days as a political operative, first in the 1968 Richard Nixon camp followed by a mid-campaign shift to the left after being somewhat steamrolled by the Haldeman-Ehrlichman staff machine.
Wendy Adams, David’s wife and co-owner of the mansion, was a world-class ballerina when the two met. Her father was a U.S. ambassador, and the Adamses feel they have created an embassy of sorts with Adams Hilborne Mansion. They have succeeded admirably.
If you want to experience a sample of the very best Chattanooga has to offer, then you need to listen to Fonzie, Dr. Ruth and me.
Forget the Chattanooga Choo Choo, and let George get you a Dewar’s and water.
You can take a virtual tour of the place on the Internet at www.innjoy.com or give them a toll-free call at 1 888 I-INNJOY.
But unless you are somebody, you’ll have to bring your own plaque.