In the movies and on TV, Heaven is portrayed a lot of different ways. There is, of course, the classic white clouds and pearly gates that show up in any number of films, sometimes with a Backstreet Boys concert because fuck it, right? As if those guys didn’t plow so much 17-year-old ass in the late 90s that they would be able to get into Heaven. When you’re railing lines backstage with a half-dressed girl whose primary income is earned from babysitting, Jesus is probably pissed. Then there are more artsy, liberal interpretations, such as in What Dreams May Come, which, for lack of a better or more apt adjective, was SO gay. And there’s whatever the fuck happened in the last season of Lost. Why do you have to get punched in the face to realize you’re in Heaven!?! That doesn’t sound like ANYTHING that would happen in Heaven. And why didn’t Charlie just swim out the broken porthole at the end of Season 3 instead of sit there and drown? I can’t open this can of worms right now…
My point is, despite all the descriptions I’ve seen and heard about Heaven, be it in movies, TV, books, or when I Google “near death experience accounts” because porn just isn’t cutting it anymore, I don’t actually know what Heaven is like. That’s what The Grove is like for me as well. The Grove sounds like Heaven. Fuck it, the Grove probably is the closest thing to Heaven on Earth. The Grove is, obviously, better documented than Heaven, but I haven’t been there, so I don’t really know what to believe despite all I’ve heard. I’ve heard wonderful, fanciful, loin tingling tales of what The Grove is like, and because of that I have some pretty unrealistic expectations. Those expectations are probably more unrealistic than the ones I have for Heaven itself, because if I’m being honest, I know exactly what Heaven will be like, or at least what it will be like when I try to get in.
As Geoffrey and I follow our Missouri Tigers to Mississippi this weekend, I expect to walk into The Grove, my bright yellow pants glowing like the beautiful Mississippi day, and a greeting of thousands of welcoming smiles.
“Hey y’all,” they’ll say cheerfully as they warmly wave us towards their chandelier-ed tents. “Welcome to Mississippi! Come on in and have some food. Would y’all like a drink? Best bourbon this side of Kentucky. And how about a nice, unspoiled doting southern wife? We have several daughters to choose from!”
After I pour myself a whiskey and peruse both the food and wife buffet, I’ll wander deeper into The Grove, the enchantment growing with each step. Every tent I walk into will, as if by some benevolent and deeply good southern magic, expand exponentially once I go inside. The chandeliers will sparkle like a thousand diamond stars above my head as the people introduce themselves and hand me even more food and drink. I oblige because, inexplicably, I will still not be full.
Deeper still I’ll wander, past whiskey rivers, next to which nude Ole Miss girls sun themselves on large rocks as they laugh and splash each other, only stopping to pull out the assortment of desserts they’ve baked inside the stone ovens carved into the rocks.
“Well, well, well,” a portly gentleman in a bright red suit will exclaim upon seeing me. “What do we have here. A Missouri fella, huh?”
“Y-y-yes,” I’ll stammer, unsure of his motives.
“Well welcome to Mississippi! Why, I declare! We have tuh take ya to the mayor!”
“The mayor! The mayor!” The crowd clamors behind him.
I’m whisked away, deeper still into The Grove. I have no time to stop and enjoy the trees, whose vibrant leaves are bows, which sorority girls pluck from the branches and put in their hair. At some point I drink another gallon of whiskey. There’s just a whole lot of whiskey.
Finally we arrive at the Mayor’s castle, which is made of tents. I am escorted inside. An old, dignified southern man walks down a stairway and presents me with the key to The Grove. I’m flooded by women who only want to feed me, serve me drinks, and please me sexually in ways that, while pretty traditional, I don’t really mind because they’re just so damn hot.
I expect to experience all of that this weekend, but to be fair I actually expect to experience that in a dream I’m having while passed out in a lawn chair in The Grove, after drinking myself into a coma by 2pm. Whatever, it counts.