Saturday, January 24, 2015

We're Not For Everyone (Day 2)

[Day 1, Pt. 2]

Saturday, March 22nd
I hate sunlight.

When I awoke, there were only four of us still in the room. MoFo had left, and I struggled for a moment to remember if he’d followed the annoying chicks out the door before I’d passed out. Before long he returned—showered, shaved, and carrying two extra large pizzas. Game. The fuck. On.

As we worked through the shower rotation, the first three of us were cleaned and dressed by the time Trip had even gone into the bathroom. To show our displeasure with his holding us up (we wanted to get to a bar to watch Pitt’s tourney game), we employed a tactic that both avenged our suffering and tidied up the room a bit.

After grabbing every open beer bottle we could find in the room—and trust me, there were plenty—one-by-one we walked into the bathroom, announced, “Sorry Trip, gotta get rid of these” and poured the stale brews into the tub as he showered. Have you ever been engulfed by rotten, flat beer fumes heated and carried on the wings of choking plumes of steam? The sounds of cursing and gagging streamed out from behind the shower curtain and echoed through the hotel room, where four assholes laughed hysterically.

Still, that didn’t make Trip move any faster. Hurley volunteered to stay behind with him, so MoFo, T.C., and I marched through the downtown streets to The Raleigh Times. We made our homes on three barstools, and were introduced to one of the true natural wonders of this world: Cass, a brunette bartending angel with beautiful, piercing eyes.

As I charged myself up with a Vodka Red Bull and perused a menu, I made the mistake of speculating loud enough for MoFo and T.C. to hear me. “I’m not real hungry, but I should eat…maybe I’ll just have a salad.” This gave my friends the opening they didn’t need to begin disparaging my manhood, and Cass effortlessly joined in. For an angel, she really knows how to shove a pitchfork up your ass.

In an effort to redeem myself in her eyes, I switched my lunch order to a big sandwich, and my drink order to a whiskey soda. In all honesty, it was partly a plea for Cass’ respect, and partly a coping mechanism to handle Pitt’s thrashing at the hands of Florida. Hurley and Trip had finally joined us, and being ahead in our betting—and drinking—was all that brought us any solace. Well, Cass helped too. Especially her Wet Pussy.

…okay, I may need to explain that.

After a few rounds, Hurley was in search of something new to try. Cass offered up a specialty cocktail she had created. It was sweet and frothy, with a hint of peach, and guaranteed to satisfy. She called it a…okay, I think you’re caught up now.

We all took turns tasting Cass’ Wet Pussy…*pauses…thinking*…as we learned more about her. She was originally from New Jersey. She had a dog. She also worked at Cornerstone. She’d be slangin’ drinks down there that night, in fact. We stored that last tidbit in the back of our minds for future use, and thanked her for her…as we headed out the door.

Next up was Flying Saucer. Between the lively Saturday afternoon crowds, line of taps that stretched across the room, ceiling covered with plates featuring witty comments, and busty bartender whose neighborhood had been robbed of all bras that morning, we found plenty to keep our attention.

I started with a draught, and settled in at the bar. But Saucer was running a special on Moscow Mules, which led to T.C. babbling about them like a vacationing soccer mom. Expert mixology connoisseur that I am (shut up!), I schooled him on the “so yesterday-ness” of the latest drinking trend to hit your local T.G.I.Friday’s. And to give him a tangible example of how passé the Moscow Mule is, I asked Tits McGee to make me its Latin cousin.

The Mexican Mule is basically the same recipe as a Moscow Mule, but the tasteless vodka is replaced with flavorful, full-bodied tequila. The exquisite mixture dazzled my taste buds, but when I let T.C. try a grown man’s drink, he balked at tasting alcohol for the first time in his life. Whatever. I enjoyed the best drink in the house while I watched Hurley try to sneak a creep shot of Tits McGee, who remained so elusive that I’m convinced she knew what he was up to.

Trip had ended up seated at the bar next to a nice—albeit lonely—guy in his late 20s from Montana, named Derrick. And so, for the third time in 24 hours, Trip + booze + talking to strangers = “We are faaammmily…” When we decided to find another bar—which became a 10 minute walk across town—Derrick was along for the ride. Still, he was a lot more fun to talk to than the Clinger Sisters from Hibernian.

We parked ourselves at Big Mike’s BBQ next. A cute brunette named Jacqui came by to take our table’s drink orders, and immediately won our support with her smile and chill attitude. I pounded a few whiskey sodas and MoFo pounded some mouthwatering barbecue, while we held court and watched the comings and goings of this little bar/restaurant just down the street from Cornerstone.

…Why were we near Cornerstone, you ask? Oh, no reason. We weren’t, like, waiting for Cass’ shift to start or anything. *cough*

Besides, who needed Cass, when we had Jacqui taking care of us? A little firecracker, she entertained us with amusing remarks and made sure our glasses stayed full. And when my phone battery had neared its bottom, she took me up to the waitress’ station to plug it in. She was just an all-around cool chick.

Later, while checking my charging phone, I noticed Jacqui was visibly irritated as she totaled up the bill from another table. She said the bartenders and her boss were getting on her nerves. While I may not be a doctor, I do know of one surefire cure for stress. (Well, two, but…) When I offered her a shot…well, she didn’t say no.

The one caveat, she told us, was that waitresses weren’t allowed to drink while on duty. They still did, of course. But when they did shots, they snuck into the DJ booth in the corner, ducked down where the security camera couldn’t see them, and tossed it back. After she came back with a round of shots, we laughingly toasted to our “absent” waitress as we watched her crouch in the booth, several feet away. We did another round or two with her, even bringing in another cute waitress on duty for one; each time the people punching timecards hid in the DJ booth and then emerged looking more relaxed than they had when they walked in.

When we rolled out of there, quite a few hours after we’d rolled in, MoFo had Jacqui’s number saved in his phone and a promise from her that she’d catch up with us once her shift was over.

We piled into Cornerstone—minus Derrick, who had reached his full capacity for alcohol and high jinks in only a few hours of hanging with us (shocking). It didn’t take long to find Cass, who was hunkered down behind the bar on the deck, with thirsty frat bros yelling drink orders at her. My boys felt a little disrespected that she didn’t run up and embrace us. I’m not sure what they expected; personally, I was just happy that she seemed to recognize us, and gave us a quick smile before turning back to the frat bros.

Not that I would have been capable of understanding who was recognizing me at that time. I remember seeing Jacqui, briefly, when she caught up with us. But aside from that, I was browning out badly. By some unsubstantiated accounts (it takes more than four people to substantiate, dammit), yours truly was sleeping on his feet while standing at the bar. I could point to the sleep deprivation to which I’d exposed myself in the previous 48 hours, the six or so hours of sleep I’d countered it with the night before, and the copious amounts of alcohol that Cass, Jacqui, and others had poured for me that day as justification for catching a little shuteye (while not falling over or spilling any drinks, by the way), but I’ll politely digress.

What I do remember is feeling one of those “I need to strike out on my own” moments, and heading out into the North Carolina night. My goal was finding the hotel, but it was going to take the help of Google Maps before I would reach my destination. I think I found every junkyard in Raleigh along the way. I was so lost, in fact, that Hurley left 15 to 20 minutes later than me and was texting me from outside of our hotel room while I worked my way home. Seems I had a room key and he didn’t. Sucks to be him. I had Raleigh junkyards to tour!

At some point I found my way back to the main strip, where our hotel was. When Hurley sent me another text asking where I was, I snapped a picture of a kabob stand and sent it to him. He responded by saying that he’d just eaten the remains of the burger someone had left on their room service tray, outside of their room. Check, and mate.

[To be continued...]

Friday, January 16, 2015

Bombs Away


Of course,considering that I don't have a girlfriend right now, and don't get out most nights of the week, my neighbors would probably be dialing up the FBI before I got this thing from my car to my front door. But it might just be worth the risk.

From Supercompressor:
If you're willing to invest in a top-shelf selection of booze for your house, it's worth showcasing it properly. For instance, inside this eight-foot tall 600 pound cluster bomb from the 1970s.

It's a behemoth of a conversation piece, and there's no reason to freak out about keeping it at home since It's been completely deactivated. It is, however, completely capable of getting you bombed in a different sense altogether.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What I Learned This Summer (2014)

“It’s all up in the air, and we stand still, to see what comes down.”

Yes, there’s a good reason why I’m quoting The Fray lyrics. It’s because they speak of hope. They bound across a field of flowers with the enthusiastic hope that we embrace at the start of each new summer. …Or maybe that’s just me. And maybe I just like The Fray. Temecula. [for those who don't get the reference]

To know me is to know that I hold the summer in high regard. Those months of sun-drenched weather are my best of the year. Maybe I’ve never gotten over the anticipation that permeated every last-day-of-school I’ve lived. Maybe it calls me back to the majority of those early years, when summer meant going back to Los Angeles to live with my dad until the school year was ready to begin again. Or maybe the warm weather just reconnects me with that SoCal heritage. Whatever the reason, late-May through early-September is my spiritual center.

As with the previous four editions, this write serves as my lessons-learned report on the summer that was. The idea was originally borne from a need to cope with love lost, but has since grown into a way to say find closure with one June solstice and move onto my inevitable love affair with the next.

And in retrospect, the Summer of 2014 was, on the whole, rather mild compared to its predecessors. Old age is mellowing me, and I’ve found my dial is more often set to “turn down” than “turn up”. But there’s still fun to be had—and lessons to be instilled—in a summer, even in limited run. After all, if we as human beings aren’t constantly learning and evolving, then we’re sinking.

Sometimes the lessons are obvious, sometimes they’re gut-wrenching. But each one is important, and improves the man or woman who learns it.

  • There’s no way to casually visit a bartender at work. Driving back to my apartment late on a Saturday in July, I decided to stop by Shady Grove to see my boy Jed. He’d just come home from Tales of the Cocktail, and I was eager to hear all about the trouble and drinks he’d gotten himself into. Just one beer, while living vicariously through his stories. That’s it. That was all I’d have, before continuing on my way home. Heck, I might even be in bed before midnight!

    Around 3:30 a.m., I dragged myself through my front door. About 11 hours later, my face was in my toilet, vomiting like it was put on this planet to do just that.

  • There’s no way to casually visit Alex at happy hour. On the previous Monday, my company held a happy hour at Eddie Merlot’s downtown. Not long after I’d arrived, my wine loving homegirl texted to tell me she was doing happy hour at Harris Grill. So after I’d tipped back a couple of free Negronis and bs’ed with coworkers, I headed home with the intention of making a quick stop at Harris along the way, to have a drink and say “hi.” Heck, I’d be home before the sun even went down!

    Around 11:30 p.m., I dragged myself through my front door. About 11 hours later, my head was on my desk at the office, swilling coffee and aspirin like my bosses paid it to do just that.

  • All good things come to an end. Shannon moved into her Mt. Washington apartment pimp pad in 2006. In the time since, she’s hosted countless days and nights of shenanigans: New Years Eves, summer night house parties, her sister’s pre-wedding activities, rainy-night drinking games, and the best St. Patrick’s Day parties in the city. And, sadly, that all came to an end this past August, when she closed the front door behind her for the final time.

    If there had been a camera crew there that day to put together a Real World-final-episode-moving-out montage, every flashback would’ve featured our circle of friends living a fabled moment of our early adulthood. Life goes on, things change. But sometimes memories feel like old friends you’re leaving behind.

  • Jams are international incidents. The summer’s World Cup brought a little bit of the outside world to Shadyside. Standing on the street with Pakistanimal during June’s Jam on Walnut, a flash of bright yellow caught my eye. A crowd of seven or eight Colombians, men and women, were dancing in front of the stage, wearing the soccer jerseys of their nation’s heroes and waving the flag of their homeland.

  • “Schlammered” is the same in every language. Later, as we sat drinking in Shady Grove, one of the Colombianas stumbled upon Pak and me. When the homie raised his glass to Colombia, the wobbly mami happily raised hers as well. When I said I was cheering for Colombia when I wasn’t cheering for the US, she tried to square off with me.

    Crazy, drunk, Latina, and cute. I politely erased her number from my phone the next morning. I’ve already been down that road enough for this lifetime.

  • Furries and supercars aren’t mutually exclusive. While basking in the glory that is our annual Furry Safari in July, the men in our crowd of 20+ were soon distracted by the sight of two new fearsome beasts posted up on the block: A Ferrari 458 and drop-top Lamborghini Aventador parked curbside directly in front of our sidewalk seating. I saw a furry pull out his smartphone and take a picture of the cars, in one of the more ironic moments of my lifetime.

  • Whiskey doesn’t judge you when you cry. When I lost my homie Otis in September, I was broken. It’s been a while since I’ve cried that hard. Or that often. Every day for a week or so, as quickly as I felt like no one could see me at my desk, in my car, in my kitchen, wherever, my eyes would instantly well up with memories. Memories of youth. Memories of promise. Memories of a group of friends ready to take the world by storm, and scheming every minute on how we’d make it happen. I’d frequently find myself reciting old R&B songs as I washed dishes (O loved him some R&B, like any child of the 80s and 90s who grew up singing in a church choir), and choked with tears by the time I reached the chorus.

    Miss you, O.

  • Murica is the land of the free. The Fourth of July was, as usual, a star-spangled orgy of red, white, blue, and alcohol. Participating in the bacchanalia was TD’s friend from work, a pretty, petite brown-haired chick from Philadelphia. And Philly Brown was expertly filling out a patriotic pair of Budweiser leggings. About 10 minutes after meeting us on Swag and Canada’s back porch, she decided to pose for a picture between TJ and I. Doing a handstand. Budweiser-booty shimmering in the sunlight. Yeah, she fit into our crew almost as well as she fit into those leggings.

  • I mean, REALLY free. The festivities hit their highpoint at Bang’s place overlooking the Pittsburgh skyline. While the cool people—and those we allow in our presence—were floating in and out of Bang’s house in particular, every household on the block seemed to be teeming with revelers. And freedom.

    One reveler was a tiny, sandy-haired gal with a bountiful bosom. Swag introduced us to Four-Foot-D’s (no really, that’s his nickname for her), who quickly found a new fan. TD is my Lil Sis from another mother, and we’re a family that appreciates boobs. And shortly after meeting her, Sis looked FFDs in the eye (let’s just pretend she made eye contact) and said, “Can I motorboat you?” The sequence of 20 action shots I still have on my phone tells me that FFDs isn’t afraid to party.

  • I’m 35. I mentioned that I’ve slowed down this year, compared to last year. And last year I’d slowed down compared to the year before it. One weekend in August reminded me why that regression is necessary.

    Over the course of 30 hours, I barhopped, I stalked, I drank afterhours at a bar with the staff, I did lots of shots, I escorted a buddy who’d drank too much, I ducked police, I attended a 40th birthday party, I watched a woman take a selfie while oblivious to everything else around her, I met my wife (pending), I spilled tequila all over Alex, I gave love advice, I followed the party to William Penn Tavern, I worked the door, I did lots of shots, I met a cute girl, I forgot a cute girl’s name, I ditched a cute girl while she was in the bathroom, I walked into a bar solo, I drank afterhours at a bar with the staff (again), I did lots of shots (again), and I—I still don’t know how—came home in one piece.

    I purposely stayed home the next weekend. I’m 35.

  • Pay it forward. I spent the second week of July in Chattanooga, visiting my dad (The Admiral) and stepmother, as well as Sis C, who was stateside for the first time in years. It was probably the driest week of my summer. I expected that, since my stepmother is 23-years-sober, and my pops is diabetic. What I didn’t expect, though, was a bottle of Four Roses waiting for me on their kitchen counter—a gift from Step Bro, who had been there the previous weekend. Nothing takes the edge off Chattanooga like a finger of bourbon after dinner.

  • The party doesn’t stop for the weather. At the summer’s second Jam on Walnut, Tony, FGT, and I were posted up at the bar in Shady Grove, when our resident southern belle decided we should walk to The Ave. Never mind that we were holding prime real estate near the epicenter of the night’s action, or that The Ave was a 10-minute walk to the other side of the neighborhood, or that it was pouring rain outside. Yayy…

    On the other hand, standing at the bar in soaking wet clothing, drinking beers and not giving a fuck does allow you to accurately measure your drunkenness.

  • “I’ve gotta stop hanging out with white girls.” That’s a direct quote from the following Saturday, when I found myself jogging down a sidewalk behind Alex, through a torrential downpour.

  • There’s no gift like the gift of blackouts sir bourbon. Swag’s birthday was in August, and his girlfriend, Skeets, hosted our crowd of loud and boisterous drunks. I handed the birthday boy a bottle of Woodford Reserve, which he once christened “Sir Bourbon” when finding it in my liquor cabinet (a bottle of bourbon being sealed with a cork was a radical concept to him at the time). Things rapidly deteriorated from there, but I do know I woke up back in my own bed the next morning, confused.

Here’s to the next love affair being as memorable as the last. See you in June, summer.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

We're Not For Everyone (Day 1, Pt. 2)

[Day 1, Pt. 1]

Bub’s is the most college thing about this North Carolina “college” town.

Chapel Hill is really just a gated community disguised as a college campus. Lush, green foliage and the smell of lush, green cash dominate the landscape. Bars like Top of the Hill, with its modern, polished oak décor and tie-wearing bartenders, typically aren’t found within spitting distance of college kids—either geographically or economically. Bub’s, on the other hand, is the dirty, smoky corner bar with the cheap, strong drinks and battered arcade games that regular students at regular schools have always gravitated towards. The bar those of us who weren’t born with a college tuition receipt tucked into the pocket of a pair of Louis V. boat shorts have always called home.

I ordered myself a Jack & Coke and settled in. MoFo has spent quite a lot of time at Bub’s, and played up the man-about-town role with aplomb, shaking hands and talking to people like he’d grown up just down the street from them. He BS’d with the owner. He BS’d with locals. He was absolutely relishing this opportunity to show off “his” world.

While we watched all of this from the bar, T.C. pointed down to my drink; it looked small and flaccid next to his. He, Hurley, and Trip had made a similar trip to Raleigh last year. And of all the stories that were repeated and referenced ad nauseam prior to that moment, the one that had gotten the most spins was about how the guys had stopped at Bub’s for “one drink,” and subsequently wiled away an entire day there. “You gotta do a double at Bub’s,” he said, ordering up another Rum & Coke double. Captain, my captain. I tossed back the rest of my drink and ordered myself a double.

That, unfortunately for MoFo, was the last helpful tip T.C. would provide that night. Bub’s has a frequent drinker program, wherein each time you order a different bottle from their ample selection, they punch a little card for you. 50 punches gets you honor, respect, and your name on a plaque on the wall. MoFo’s name appears on that plaque. Twice. At the time, he was working on #3, and at the bottom of a bottle he asked T.C. for a suggestion on what to order next. The bartender gave him a list, and unfamiliar with the name, T.C. called for him to serve a bottle of Crispin to our buddy. Crispin, however, is a “hard” apple cider. MoFo shook his head, drank down the light, fruity beverage like he’d promised, and cursed T.C. the whole way through.

After several rounds, we decided to finish the night back in the Raleigh area, so MoFo could put away his car keys and get as serious as the rest of us about his boozing. I mean, he already drives with reckless abandon when he’s sober, and he’s got the type of career that would disintegrate into dust were the slightest hint of a DUI to show up on his record. And he’d had a few at Bub’s. And—*whoop-whoop*…

Navigating the surface roads on the way out of Chapel Hill, a trooper’s blue lights sprung to life out of the darkness. MoFo dutifully pulled over to the side of the road, and we speculated on his odds. MoFo wasn’t intoxicated, by our less-than-scientific standards of measurement. A cop’s opinion, of course, might differ. To his credit, the homie was calm, and somewhat confused about why he was being stopped at all. “I wasn’t even going that fast!”

The cop walked up to the driver’s window, and began speaking before he’d even shined a light into the truck. “MoFo, what the fuck are you doing?”

MoFo: “[Cop]! What’s up, man?”
Cop: “I spotted your ass doing like 75 in a 40. Slow the fuck down, man!”
MoFo: “I was doing 75?”
Cop: “Man, we’re out here snatching people. Slow it down.”
MoFo: “My bad, man. My boys are in town, I’m just taking them back to Raleigh.”
Cop: “Cool, cool. I’ll catch up with you later.”
MoFo: “Aight. Hey, good lookin’ out, man!”
Cop: “No problem.”

Maybe there was something to MoFo’s feelings of familiarity with the natives of this area, after all. Or, as someone (I think Hurley) put it once MoFo’s window had gone back up: “…are you fucking kidding me?”

Once we’d reached Raleigh, and MoFo had pocketed his keys for the night, the air felt electric. He led us to Natty Greene’s, with a basement bar full of relaxed people drinking and easing into the night. I seem to remember doing a shot at this bar, though what it was—or whether it happened at all—is anything but a firm memory. Then, while T.C., Trip, Hurley, and I jumped on a shuffle hockey table (coolest guys in the bar? *awkward thumbs up*) MoFo found a group of girls.

One of those girls was 5’4” with long brunette hair and a nice bum being cuddled by a short, striped skirt. Realizing that five guys were looking at her made her giggle and shyly turn her head—in other words, she loved it. But since (a.) this particular young woman was standing next to another young woman who looked like Justin Bieber, and (b.) when Bieber noticed us staring at her friend, she grabbed the striped ass and grinned at us, we were less than optimistic.

It didn’t deter MoFo, though. Instead he strolled over to their table and introduced himself. After several minutes of small talk with the lesbian and her lesbian-for-the-time-being girlfriend, MoFo rejoined us—alone. The table of ladies had decided against accompanying us in our move to the next bar. Shocking.

We walked to Hibernian Irish Pub, where pretty people buzzed everywhere in a library-like motif that left the standing room strategically minimized in some places. Shrinking the area around a bar leads to strangers being forced into close proximity. That leads to a shlammered, 5’7” brunette beauty in heels turning to her right, seeing me a foot away from her, and saying bluntly, “I bet you have a huge penis.” That then leads to me being speechless for just long enough for her three girlfriends to drive block her down the stairs and out of dicks’ harm’s way.

MoFo (who had been standing next to me) and I found the others standing out on the deck, and reported the experience. The others, of course, immediately headed back to the scene of the crime, trying to find this gal, despite the futile attempts by MoFo and me to restate the part of the story where she got pulled away by her friends. What we found instead was a different group of women, this one nowhere near as attractive or interesting as the first (granted, “I bet you have a huge penis” are the only words I heard anyone in the first group of girls say; but you can’t deny that that’s pretty damn interesting).

Two of the girls (“Participation Award” and “Eager Beaver”) clamped down like a mousetrap when these five handsome older men came strolling within their reach, and were instantly in our faces with lame conversation. T.C. and Trip were drunk, which meant T.C. and Trip were the friendliest guys in the hot tub bar. They were also the two furthest removed from the game of the five of us. So, not knowing any better, they quickly struck up newfound friendships with these gals. MoFo, Hurley, and I, meanwhile, headed for the exit. The married guys would pay for not doing the same.

A block or two down the street we discovered Cornerstone, a bar built around the concept of the house party. Such a simple idea, yet this was the first I’d ever seen it brought to life. With the layout of a frat house, it was a crowded bar featuring various rooms. Each room had a bar and a crowd, as did the back deck. Fucking. Party. Here MoFo found an old friend who the others had met last year when ____ _______ it __ ___ _____ of the _____ ____ where ____ were all _______, IN FRONT __ _____.

[When I’m a billionaire and can financially compensate my friends for what they’d lose due to awesome stories getting published, I’ll fill in those blanks.]

From Cornerstone, MoFo, Hurley, and I set off in search of food. When we realized that the snack stands and restaurants on the same block as our hotel were closed, Hurley headed back to the room while MoFo and I pressed on. Soon enough we found a guy with a hot dog cart, making a killing on a corner as people lined up for street meat. He soon made four more sales, and my buddy and I were double-fisting kielbasa sandwiches as we strolled back to the hotel.

Any joy I’d gained from cramming food into my drunken vessel on the way back to the room was obliterated, though, by hearing familiar voices coming from inside as I pulled my keycard from my wallet. I looked at MoFo and said, “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.” Sure enough, we opened the door to find the annoying chicks from Hibernian sitting in the room.

This was a foul. A huge one. You don’t bring annoying chicks back to the room you’re sharing with your boys, unless (A.) they’re hot, and/or (B.) you plan on doing god’s work. Neither A. nor B. was going on here. T.C. and Trip tried to claim they had let them come back for MoFo and me. Bullshit. They got stuck talking to two drunk chicks who were giddy from the thought of finally getting a piece, and couldn’t muster up the balls to tell the girls to fuck off.

I looked at Hurley, who was sitting up in his bed looking bothered, and he just shrugged his shoulders. Neither MoFo nor I acknowledged the trespassers. I changed into gym shorts and got into a bed, nearly pushing Eager Beaver off the foot of it in the process. MoFo sat down in a chair and finished his second sandwich. Hurley and I didn’t lower our voices at all as we exchanged various versions of, “This is bullshit!” and "Why the fuck are they here?" Sensing our displeasure, the girls finally left.

Trip and T.C. would get clowned for the rest of the trip. It was only right.

[To be continued...]

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

We're Not For Everyone (Day 1, Pt. 1)


Friday, March 21st
Of the many ways to start a road trip, the best one isn’t getting only three hours of sleep beforehand. T.C. had suggested Hurley, Trip, and I meet him in WashPa at 6:30 a.m.; I started packing about 11:30 p.m. Thursday night. Still, I arrived on time (and somewhat delirious). T.C. and I loaded up the Yukon with our bags, as well as some cases of beer and Red Bull, while Hurley commanded the driver’s seat. We made a quick run to the Krispy Kreme next door—for coffee (…shut up)—while waiting for Trip. A few minutes later he arrived, and we got on our way.

One thing was very clear from the beginning: The guys in the truck with me, all being in committed relationships, could not WAIT to spend the weekend without their significant others hounding them. Maybe it was my delirious, sleep-deprived state, but I was the most sedated of the four of us. The others seemed to be shaking in their leather seats, rambling like sherm heads. While they talked about boobs and butts they used to know in their respective heydays, I melted into the front passenger seat and listened from a distance.

I couldn’t sleep though, which is somewhat of a tortuous thing given those conditions. Trip saw my turnt down state and knew what the situation called for. When we made our first stop for gas somewhere inside of West Virginia, he grabbed a six-pack of Sam Adams out of the convenience store cooler and strutted toward the cash register.

The next leg of the journey would see T.C. driving, Hurley sleeping, and Trip and I casually working our way through five of those beers (one was saved for when T.C. passed off driving responsibility to someone else). Suddenly, I was much more involved in the group’s conversations. Life, in general, seemed brighter. While friends in Pittsburgh complained about having a snowstorm on the second day of spring, I was sipping beer and cruising across Virginia in warm sunshine. I’ve had worse Fridays.

As we neared the outskirts of Raleigh, we listened to the tourney’s first major upset: #14 Mercer – 78, #3 Duke – 71. The game was played in Raleigh; we passed the stadium on our way into town. And we had pooled our money into a bet on Duke. Not only did we miss a chance to see a huge upset live and in person, but we’d lost money on it. Yayy
courtesy of SB Nation
We found the hotel and waded into the lobby. People swirled past in every which direction, as we quickly realized that the University of Memphis and their fans were headquartered there. “I want cheerleaders,” came from someone’s lips. I think it was mine. It may just as well have been a stranger saying those words; after several hours of highways, beer, severe sleep deprivation, and guys-trip euphoria, I’d achieved out-of-body consciousness (and pretty much wouldn’t come back from it until the detox drive home a few days later).

In the room we cracked more beers and began playing a game called “Head’s Up” on Trip’s phone while we waited for MoFo to arrive. Once he got there we began weighing our options for the night ahead. While Trip and T.C. insisted on going to the hotel’s hot tub (where they soon befriended a middle-aged guy named “Dick”; yes, the jokes wrote themselves), Hurley and I opted to stay behind and get cleaned up instead. We then walked down the street to Jimmy V’s with MoFo while waiting for the hot tub boys to catch up. When everyone was finally cleaned up and focused, we hopped into MoFo’s truck and gunned it towards Chapel Hill.

Despite being friends for many years, that drive—to the best of my recollection—was the very first time I’d been a passenger in a vehicle piloted by MoFo. You know how your grandmother reacts when she’s in the passenger seat of your ride and you go over 35 mph? Well MoFo drives like your grandmother thinks you drive. He drives like he’s a protagonist in a Roland Emmerich blockbuster. He drives like he’s out of earplugs, and Nicki Minaj is behind him with a megaphone and her rhyme book. He drives like a rapey velociraptor with an erection is within an inch of his bumper.

A consequence of being in unfamiliar territory in a vehicle traveling at unsafe speeds, is you believe your captain when he tells you the trip will take “20 minutes.” Even when, 20 minutes in, he still says, “20 minutes,” you believe. And 20 minutes later, when you’re still squeezed into an SUV doing 60 in a 15 mph zone on the University of North Carolina campus and you’re told you’re “almost there”? You believe 20 minutes.

We parked and began strolling through Chapel Hill. Part of me wished I was 10 years younger; part of me really didn’t care that I wasn’t. You expect the hub of a major US college to be youth-oriented. Maybe it was. But, while I knew 24-year-old me would’ve felt as though he owned the land on which he walked, 34-year-old me was hardly alienated.

And I felt even more at home when we made it to Top This. It’s a burger bar with a beer habit, and it’s every bit as warm and inviting as a place could be, thanks to the owner, Tom**.

Tom is a saint. Don’t ever let the archdiocese or some other “official” tell you otherwise. When we walked in, thirsty and hungry and distracted by the UNC tourney game, this beautiful man saw no other pursuit more worthy than getting us (1.) a waitress, (2.) beers, (3.) a table, (4.) beers, (5.) beers, (6.) burgers, and (7.) beers. And when I say he got us beers, I don’t just mean he pushed the watered-down light beer on special at us; I mean he encouraged us to taste test the various brews that they had on tap and asked each of us about our personal beer preferences BEFORE expecting us to order anything on our tab.

Tom is a saint.

And, even without the superb customer service—which certainly includes Tom insisting that we all do a shot with him—I would still be singing praise for Top This right now, simply because the food and beer are amazing. That’s not hyperbole for blogging sake; everything was fantastic. I mean, my mouth is watering right now as I type this, and I guarantee it’ll start again each time I proofread before posting. [Ed. Note: Yup.] Absolutely delicious.

After we’d filled up with beer and burgers, and T.C. had pitched Tom on opening a Pittsburgh location, we bid Top This adieu and moved down the road to Top of the Hill. This…was my kind of place (well, one of my kinds of places…I’ll explain in a minute): a swanky second floor bar overlooking the main drag, filled with TVs and good looking people watching the end of the UNC game. I drank a Jack & Coke as we watched the nail-biter, shouting in unison with the natives and high-fiving them at the end of the Tarheel victory. My switch to hard liquor had been a gut decision. As in, it felt like it took up less real estate in my gut than the gallons of beer I’d consumed thus far. That feng shui would be important, as we moved on to our third and final Chapel Hill stop: Bub O’Malley’s.

[Day 1, Part 2 coming soon...]

**I just now learned that Tom Scheidler has sold Top This, and is no longer behind the bar in Chapel Hill, making all feel welcome with fine eats and sumptuous ales. It saddens me to hear this, as I was hoping to make Top This a regular stop when I'm in town. I may yet, and the new ownership may make an honest effort at replicating the red carpet treatment that Tom provided. And though I'm skeptical, my skepticism shouldn't be seen as a mark against these new owners, but instead as testament to the unattainable bar that Tom set. If you're out there reading this, Mr. Scheidler, allow me to say thank you, for your incredible hospitality and fantastic food and drink.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

We're Not For Everyone (Intro)

Some people deal in absolutes. Never wear brown with black. Always wait an hour to swim after eating. Always let the boss win. Never fake the funk on a nasty dunk. I’m more of a realist. And, as a realist, I recognize that nothing’s black-and-white. Sometimes things go one way, sometimes they go the other. So when someone inevitably tells you “No good ideas are thought of when you’re drunk,” pat them on the head and just smirk.

Last Christmas Eve I stopped at William Penn Tavern on a whim, looking to catch up with my boy MoFo, who I hadn’t seen in years. While I was there, he and Jed mentioned a trip that T.C. and Hurley had cooked up for March. A “guys’ trip,” wherein gents from Pittsburgh would descend upon Raleigh, NC—where MoFo lives—to enjoy a weekend of heavy drinking and NCAA tourney games. I considered it somewhat half-heartedly, knowing I had the Chicago trip coming early in that same month, which was going to bite a serious chunk out of my bank account. A couple of nights later, before I blacked out, T.C. and Hurley pitched the trip to me themselves. Nearby Chapel Hill is always packed with booze and coeds, I’d been promising MoFo for years that I’d visit him in NC, the hotel room would be free (T.C. has rewards points out the ass), and nearby Chapel Hill is always packed with booze and coeds…

“Sure… *sips Manhattan* Why not? *gulps Manhattan* It’s only money! *orders another Manhattan*”

When I sobered up a couple of days later, I guarded against disaster by telling T.C. my participation would hinge on how big of a hit my finances took in Chicago. And so, when I somehow made it home alive from the Chi in March, I tallied up what I’d spent. It was about half what I had expected to drop. I quickly texted T.C. “It’s on.”

The last time T.C., Hurley, and I went on a trip together was Buffalo in 2011; before that was San Diego in 2008. So…yeah. This time around we’d be adding Trip and MoFo to the mix [Jed had to bow out due to family issues]. There’s a network sitcom writer out there somewhere who’s kicking himself for not thinking up a pilot with a plotline based on this gathering of guys in their early 30s, all in different places in their love lives. A summary:
  • MoFo – Having married a girl thought at the time to be his soulmate (by him and all around him) in 2005, in the last few years he’s enjoyed the highs of becoming a dad and the lows of a bitter divorce. Now a bachelor, he dotes on his daughter on the daddy weekends and dotes on the ladies on the Who’s yo daddy weekends.
  • T.C. – Happily married for 7+ years, the homie is a consummate family man, with two rambunctious blonde-haired boys, a dog, and a beautiful house in the suburbs. Funding the construction of a new house for his clan at the time, he continues to break his back every day to keep everyone happy, healthy, and fed.
  • Trip – A renowned playboy in his younger years, our goofy friend has finally met the woman for him, and at the time was engaged to be married to her later in the year. And the transition of his private life mirrored that of his professional one: In the year prior to the trip he had given up his dream career in front of cameras for one behind a desk. Once out there living the public (albeit local) glamour life, he’s now dedicated to a quiet existence with his bride-to-be, focused on long-term happiness.
  • Hurley – For quite some time my homie has been a fellow bachelor, doing bachelor things. Several months before that March weekend, however, he’d succumbed to a much younger girl who had locked him down. Newly in love, he had been doing the dance we all do when re-familiarizing ourselves with domestication. You know, avoiding bar sluts, fewer weekend nights unaccounted for… The standard.
  • Me – I just don’t give a fuck. As previously discussed.

Ready to roll. Let's go.
Honestly, you couldn’t imagine five friends with more diverse personal lives. And yet we all fit together like pieces of a puzzle. A GMC Yukon was rented, days were called off from work, I listened to “Raise Up” a few hundred times, and we prepared to unleash ourselves upon the South.

[To be continued...]

Monday, November 17, 2014

Social Drinking Excellence: Johnny Depp

Here's the thing: He's clearly earned a Rummy Award; but I don't have a lot of cute jokes for this one. They just aren't needed. And, really, how many "Captain Jack Sparrow" references can I make here? So Mr. Depp, here's your Rummy. I'll leave the presentation of this esteemed award in your more than capable hands.

From Tastefully Offensive:
The first televised edition of the Hollywood Film Awards got a little cringey last night when a very intoxicated Johnny Depp presented the Hollywood Documentary Award to the legendary talent manager and film agent Shep Gordon.