Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fire in the Hole, I'm not seething with jealousy because someone else thought of this, even though I have a friend named Swag who is the world's biggest Fireball connoisseur. Nope. *pounds forehead on desk* Nope not jealous! *throws keyboard*

I also don't know how it took me seven months to finally see this video. *sigh*

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Wifey Material: Alli Alberts

Call me old fashioned, but I just get woozy around a blonde bombshell who can read over the top on a man under Cover-2, and then chug a beer between plays.

From Playboy:
Chicago Bliss’ free-safety Alli Albert grabbed a beer from a fan mid-game and chugged the entire thing right in the middle of the field because she doesn’t give AF!

Now there's a gal you can snuggle up on the couch with and watch Sportscenter.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Wherever I May Reauxm (Part 1)

It took roughly 54 hours before I sipped alcohol again. Keep in mind, I wasn’t hungover that entire time. Sure, I dueled with the common withdrawal symptom of good ol’ incontinence early Friday evening, but I had quickly shaken the beast. And I wasn’t really concerned for my long-term health. (Well, no more than usual. I mean, come on…) Certainly, I had not been lacking options. Swag invited me to a bar crawl in the South Side (St. Practice Day) on Saturday, and I always keep a modest-but-well-stocked liquor cabinet at home.

So what was it? What made me stay home and dry through an entire weekend, drinking nothing but Gatorade, ginger ale, or juice when I felt an urge to wet my whistle?

Alcohol felt boring.

This is what they don’t tell you about going to New Orleans.


Let’s rewind to a Thursday morning in mid-February. As I hurried through my office building’s garage, running late for work yet again, my phone buzzed. It was T.C.

I’ve dreamed about visiting New Orleans for most of my adult life. Its vibrant culture, historic streets, iconic bars, and world famous food have called to me through TV screens and magazine pages. The city is booze, culture, parties, food, and music—basically, everything I love—rolled into one chill, unassuming package. NOLA has long been the girl-next-door pinup model in posters hanging on the walls of my mind.

My flight landed late in the afternoon on March 3rd, and like a good 35-year-old son I called my mom from the cab to let her know I’d arrived safely. “And now you’re going to go drink,” she said in a slightly disappointed tone.

“I mean, first I’m going to get cleaned up, but…”

When I got to the room, T.C. was at a work function. I hopped in the shower and washed public air travel off me [no trip has ever fortified my desire to become private-plane-rich more], and was dressed by the time my homie walked through the door carrying two beers.

Our immediate concern was dinner. One of our friends had suggested Mr. B’s Bistro, and its outstanding barbecued shrimp. Expecting it to be a hurricane shack—or a Hurricane shack—we strolled over for a bite. We were instead greeted by a classy five-star restaurant that was filled to the fire code with guests. The bar seating was also full, and the earliest dinner reservation we could get was for 8:30 pm the next night.

“So that’s a ‘no’ on the barbecued shrimp…” Plan B was to find something on Bourbon St. Not bad, as far as Plan B’s go.

In 2015, it’s not only cliché to say there’s a magical feel to a night in New Orleans, it’s cliché to say that it’s cliché to say there’s a magical feel to a night in New Orleans. And it’s easy to be reductive, and assume the “magic” people feel—that I felt, as I strolled towards the shiny street sign that read “Bourbon”—comes from the more lascivious features of Bourbon Street. Yes, getting drunk and seeing boobs both make me happy (…I think this is well documented). But they don’t cause the magic; they’re an effect of it. As you pass the policemen and sawhorses that turn it from street to playground, your mind dances. The air is light. Every face has a smile. Music is playing. There’s laughter. There’s energy. There’s the moment. It’s everything.

I pulled myself back into consciousness, as we had a dining decision to make. A very scientific and well thought out decision, it involved us strolling past Pier 424 Seafood Market and saying to each other, “This sound good to you?”

We settled in and ordered ourselves some eats—including fried alligator—and some drinks. T.C. called for an IPA, while I chose a house concoction that came in a sling glass and tasted like candy. A poor choice, sure, but at least it had Jim Beam in it. Needing my machismo reaffirmed, I was already plotting out a new drink order when T.C. asked the bartender to bring him something “New Orleans” that had whiskey in it. Barkeep, make that two. We soon had two Sazeracs sitting in front of us.

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

As I finished my shrimp po-boy, T.C. threw his corporate card on the bar and simultaneously ordered a rum & Coke for the road. The man’s a born leader. I fell in line, adding a Makers & Coke (to go) to the final tally, and we were soon back in the warm night air of the French Quarter with cold plastic cups in our hands.

We happened upon Spirits on Bourbon. T.C., a Bar Rescue fan, recognized it immediately. In we went. I haven’t watched much of the show, but I’d assumed the successful business strategy that Jon Taffer imparted to each bar owner was something more shrewd and insightful than “Just talk about how you were on this show once.” TV screens around the room play a 30-second promo clip of the episode on an endless loop. Bar Rescue-themed t-shirts hang behind the bar for sale, along with mugs and other trinkets. Signs saying “As Seen on TV” adorn the taps. It reminds you of that guy who constantly talks about that one touchdown he scored in high school.

The good news: That annoying self-promotion is only born from insecurity, and isn’t a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Spirits is actually a really good bar, with cool staff and a nice vibe. They just need to learn how to be comfortable in their own skin (that is to say, as a bar they need to learn; the beautiful blonde bartender with the low-cut top straining to hold back her blessings is quite—and well-deservingly—comfortable in her own skin). Act like you belong, and people will think you belong. And Spirits belongs.

After a couple of draughts and the piano player tickling “Home Sweet Home” out of the ivories at T.C.’s request, we strolled out in search of the next bar. Maison Bourbon caught our attention, with a big raucous brass band hammering away inside. What better place for a couple of Miller Lites? Unfortunately, the band was going on break right as we arrived. So after one beer, we were off into the night once more.

The next establishment—or, rather, the next I remember visiting—was Tropical Isle.

Now, if you don’t know much about New Orleans, you’ve probably never heard of this fine NOLA institution. Hell, I hadn’t, and I was infatuated with the town. But, it’s quite likely that you’ve heard of another NOLA institution, that being the beloved Hand Grenade. Well Tropical Isle is the home of the Hand Grenade. “And if anyone tries to tell you differently,” the bartender said, “Tell us. We’ll sue ‘em.”

*sips the delicious nectar*

You got it. Fuck ‘em.

I’m fairly certain the Hand Grenade (and the draught) that I drank at Tropical Isle were my kill shot. Not to get ahead of myself, but the night gets a lot dimmer after that stop. But while we were safely within their walls, the world was bright and colorful.

That included the band on the stage that was rocking the house down. They were even better when you consider that the lead singer was an overweight, middle-aged white woman. Which led to this gem from T.C.: “Is that lead singer from Monessen?” [Okay, you probably have to be from Pittsburgh to get it. If you’re not, just picture a hillside white trash community. Or, you know, just move on. But damn it if it wasn’t funny as hell in the moment.]

The next stop was…uh…well…I have no clue. It was dark. The bartender at the back bar was a very cute, light-skinned (possibly Creole?) girl, who served us beers and said a bunch of words that the in-house band, my overwhelmed consciousness, and time conspired to keep me from remembering.

Wanting to switch up from beer, we asked her to make us another Nawlins tradition: Hurricanes. …Not a wise decision. We quickly realized that Creole Shawty wasn’t manning the Tuesday night shift because of her mixology excellence. Her Hurricane was three parts rum, two parts juice, and five parts lighter fluid. We winced as we tried to work our way through them, before T.C. made an executive decision to toss them when she wasn’t looking. Back out into the night we went.

By now, I was on my feet, but I was off my ass. The five hours I’d spent on Bourbon Street had cornered my consciousness in the prison shower, and were going to town. Innocence had surely been lost. I remember T.C. and I being in another dark, sparsely-populated bar, talking to two hot shot girls. I remember the one trying to sell shots to me, and I remember buying on the condition that I get a kiss along with it. That’s right: I had gone full Namath.

Around 1:30, I stumbled down Bourbon and back to the hotel, realizing as I got off the elevator—on what I hoped was the correct floor—that I’d left T.C. behind. I texted my apologies, found the room, and fell on my bed.

Bourbon Street’d.

[To be continued...]

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

We're Not For Everyone (Days 3 and 4)

[Click here for Day 2]

Sunday, March 23rd
I didn’t—and still don’t—remember much from the tail end of Saturday night, but I quickly knew food had played a central role. A box from a pizza Hurley had ordered sat on the dresser, two still-wrapped kielbasa sandwiches sat on the floor where MoFo had slept (next to the towel he’d used for warmth), and the Hurley-eating-someone’s-room-service-leftovers story was getting full play in the morning briefing.

Trip informed us that we were each up $150 from betting on tourney games, with Sunday’s games yet to come. You mean I could potentially spend three days drinking myself stupid in Raleigh, and come home richer than I’d left? I felt like Shoeless Joe Jackson emerging from the corn on Ray Kinsella’s farm.

Is this heaven?
No. It’s Raleigh.

Like the day before, MoFo had left before any of us awoke. But this time, he wouldn’t be striding triumphantly through the door with pizzas. We were left to handle Raleigh without a host for a while. So what do four hungover guys from out of town do on the Sunday morning of a four-day roadtrip/bender? They go to brunch, of course.

We shuffled down the street and into The Oxford, where a cute redheaded hostess looked at us and did her best to stifle a laugh. How dare she? We got ourselves a table and drinks, and then headed toward the buffet to avenge her disrespect with waffles and bacon. And barbecue—sweet, sweet, North Carolina barbecue. Vengeance is delicious.

We also met our waitress, a buxom lass of dark brown curls named Tanya, who had no idea what she was in for when she strapped on her (overworked) suspenders that morning. She was two D-cupped scoops of cuteness, and gave us something to look at and bounce jokes off of as a means of distracting ourselves from our hangovers.

Tanya: “So what are you guys celebrating?”
Me: “Friendship.”

By then MoFo had caught up with us, and all five of us watched Kansas go down in flames, along with our winning streak. So much for going home up on the weekend. Might as well drink it off.

I’d started with mimosas—it was brunch, after all—but had switched to Vodka Red Bulls. Hurley tried to find himself with Captain & Cokes. MoFo and T.C. pounded beers. Sitting to my left, Trip may have looked like he was ahead of all of us, but it was mostly an attempt to rehydrate. In the first 45 minutes that we were there, he seemed to order every drink available on and off their menu, most of them non-alcoholic.

Tanya loved us. Her phone number would be MoFo’s trophy.

We went back to the hotel room to regroup. We knew we wanted to go to the Mercer/Tennessee game that afternoon. We didn’t have tickets, but we’d figure that out once we got to PNC Arena. While we meditated on it all, MoFo ate the two leftover street meat sandwiches.

We hopped into a hotel van, and pointed the driver towards Backyard Bistro. It’s a happy little sports bar & grill, situated (literally) across the street from the arena. We made our way to the bar in the center of the establishment, which was a bigger accomplishment than it may sound. The building was packed with Mercer and Tennessee fans, with a few University of Virginia folks sprinkled about. Each of us ordered a Vodka Red Bull double. The time for fucking around had passed.

Hurley, T.C. and I negotiated tabs and multiple drink orders. While we did, MoFo and Trip found two new blonde friends: Barb and Whitney were two dots of Mercer pride in a sea of U of T illiteracy. Whitney had caught our eyes, and her engagement ring came along for the ride—as did Barb. But fun is fun, and these two southern ladies were fun. They played Heads Up with Trip and MoFo, did shots with us, chanted Mercer fight songs, and kicked it with us for hours.

Eventually, someone amongst us who wasn’t petite, female, and from Georgia made the executive decision that attending the game wasn’t going to happen for those of us who weren’t petite, female, and from Georgia. It might’ve had something to do with us still not having tickets 30 minutes before game time. Or maybe it was because MoFo started beef with Tennessee fans by chanting taunts in response to their fight songs. Maybe.

When Barb and Whitney left us to go witness their alma mater’s moment in the spotlight, we called the hotel van. Did we ask the driver to take us to the Marriott? Never! We had him take us back to Big Mike’s BBQ, and our cute Saturday pal, Jacqui.

We got ourselves a table and some drinks, and fell back into old habits. Drinks, drinks, drinks, shots, drinks, shots, drinks. Standard. Jacqui wasn’t working tables that night, though, and appeared to be off-duty. Eventually, a few of us sat down at the bar, and began BS’ing with the cute blonde bartender. We offered to buy her a shot.

Cute Blonde Bartender: “Thanks, but I’ll pass. We just had a waitress get fired last night for that. She came into work drunk, and then this table full of guys from out of town started buying her shots. She was hammered. She told off the manager, and he fired her ass on the spot.”
Us: “Wha…” *looking at each other*
Cute Blonde Bartender: *looks at us* “…it was you guys, wasn’t it?”

Well, that’s awkward.

I’ve often thought that the whole “the customer’s always right” reasoning was unfair, and here was a sterling example. We offered her free shots, but she got punished, for making us—her customers—happy. That just feels sadistic. [If, by any strange chance, you’re reading this, Jacqui, allow me to apologize for whatever role we played in your change of employment. I hope you landed on your feet. I’ll be happy to cover you for a night of drinking with us if you hit me up in the comments.]

We mourned Jacqui’s career at Big Mike’s by…continuing to drink at Big Mike’s (sorry Jacqui). And before long we had two new party guests: Tanya and her roommate. Our favorite brunch waitress had taken up MoFo on his offer to have a few drinks and let her hair down. She had also let her suspenders down. So, really, I guess that made four new party guests.

Tanya’s roommate was attractive—and insane. I mean, really insane. I tried to listen to one of her stories, and found myself spinning through time like a Twilight Zone inhabitant. She was one of the prettiest women from whom I’ve ever actively tried to distance myself.

I’ll be honest; I started browning out around this point. Sometimes it’s best to just let the good times carry you. The memories I do have play like a soundtrack-fueled movie montage, full of scenes like sitting at the bar, and talking to Cute Blonde Bartender; an old drunk mouthing off, to the point where Trip—Drunk Trip, who’s one of the friendliest and most affable people on the planet—raised up and made him leave the bar; and laughing with friends while debating things loudly.

…I don’t know how we got to a strip club, though. Fucking brown outs.

I came back to consciousness as we walked into a club of stripping, the familiar tones of darkened rooms, pulsating music, and soft, neon blue lighting greeting me like I’d stumbled into an old friend in a new town. I was with T.C. and Hurley; we’d left MoFo and Trip with Tanya and her crazy ass roommate. As we found chairs in a giant room filled with small stages and comfortable seating, all I could truly understand was that I didn’t want to be there.

My DGAF had returned.

I’d like to offer some deeply thought out treatise on why I wasn’t the slightest bit enthused about being in a club full of beautiful, naked women. I don’t have one. My boys were into the moment, and eager to watch Raleigh’s finest ply their trade. But all I could focus on was being somewhere else.

I walked out to the front door, and asked the bouncers to call me a cab. Like true homies, Hurley and T.C. were right behind me, sacrificing their night to make sure I wasn’t voyaging off alone in my (obviously) inebriated state. They’re great friends. They’re also stupid. But they’re great (stupid) friends. We cabbed back to the hotel, and I passed out before my head hit the pillow.

Monday, March 24th
If there’s one thing that sucks about a road trip, it’s the last day. Every part of it is a kick to your psyche’s crotch. That’s especially true if a hangover is involved, because it doesn’t really hit full stride until you’re on the road; so, as a result, the anticipation torments you while you’re getting yourself ready to go home that morning. You’d swear you could hear the firing squad load their rifles.

I hated every moment of showering and packing. I didn’t want to say goodbye to Raleigh. It is, after all, part of my family’s heritage. My father was born just down the road in Rhamkatte, and I’ve spent numerous family reunions in the area, taking in the Carolina hospitality and running rampant through the red clay woodlands. Ironically, my pops had called me on Friday afternoon, when we had just reached the city limits. When I told him where I was, he asked if I’d be checking in with any of our family members who live in the area.

Me: “…No.”
Dad: “…Okay then.”

I love my family, but this wasn’t a weekend for anything as responsible as reconnecting with relatives. This was a guys’ weekend: four men on a road trip, casting aside every worry and responsibility that saddles them the other 361 days of the year. Five friends with varying relationship statuses and claims on their personal time, taking hold of one of the few chances we’re given to be young(-ish) and stupid again. This was a time to be selfish, and to revel in that selfishness.

And revel we had.

But oh, that return leg of a road trip. It’s nauseating, even without the hangover. With the hangover, it’s pure hell. No amount of McDonalds, Gatorade, snacks, bottles of water, or reassessments of past decisions can get you to where you’re going faster. The only thing that takes your mind off the travel, for brief moments of respite, is rehashing the tales you’ve just lived in the previous 80 hours. It tricks the mind—however briefly—into thinking the good times are still rolling, that you’re not trapped in an SUV hundreds of miles from your couch and TV.

During one of those moments of postgame analysis, somewhere in Hour Four of the drive, I hit upon a realization: We’d heavily impacted the service industry in Raleigh, for better or worse. Bartenders charmed. Waitresses fired. Pockets fattened. Wet Pussies tasted. Boobs creep-shot. Lives shared. Nerves tested.

With a shake of his head, and a brief pause of self-reflection, T.C. wrapped a bow on it: “We’re not for everyone.”

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Drunks Say the Darndest Things 7

Do you really need the intro? Can’t we just skip the foreplay, like adults? Okay, not like, you know, adults who still care about things. I mean: like married people.

Look, you’re smart people. You know what this is all about. It’s the end of January—the truly savvy amongst you have probably been wondering how much longer they’d have to wait for this to be posted.

Each year I record the best drunken quotes—that I can remember—that my friends and I have slurred, and package up the crème de la blotto crème for the readers. And I usually throw in one or two that are from years past, that I hadn’t written about—or hadn’t remembered—before that posting. Because there’s nothing better than someone thinking the dumb shit they said is dead and buried, only to have it brought back up several years later and enjoyed by all.

  • The Saturday dedicated to Swag’s birthday celebration in ’13 had gone pretty much how everyone had expected: Everyone got drunk, except for the man of honor, who got really drunk, and had to be taken home by his girlfriend before midnight. He had piled on multiple gin & tonics and shots at the bar, after multiple beers and shots while we all pregamed at his place. “Slow and steady” was not in his skill set that weekend. He was out to sprint the marathon.

    The next morning, the few of us who had crashed at his place sat around his living room, trying to steady ourselves. Swag leapt up from the couch and casually announced, “I’m getting a shot of Fireball.” JL, being the best friend that his hungover state would allow him to be in that moment, called out behind him, “Swag! Water is acceptable, too.”

  • As I’ve stated before, the wild Raleigh weekend that I took part in last March involved five guys in very different places in their social lives. And the one married guy on hand wasn’t making his place look like a place the rest of us really wanted to be in. We were driving back to Raleigh from Chapel Hill, when Trip admitted that his fiancée’s sexual appetite was more than he could handle at times. T.C.’s jealousy boiled over. “Hey,” he cut in from the backseat, “I had to buy a pair of Uggs to get sex the last time!”

  • Later that night, after we’d gotten rid of the two random chicks who tried trolling for out-of-town dick, we all settled in for the night. With five grown men and only two beds, MoFo was the odd man out, and forced to set up camp on the floor. Feeling bad for him, Hurley pulled the comforter off the bed he and Trip were splitting, and tossed it down to MoFo. When Trip protested because he didn’t want to be cold, Hurley countered with impassioned logic. “Trip, we have the sheet!”

  • Christmas Eve, as has become our tradition, saw TD, Boy Toy, and TJ join my cousin, her husband, and I at my mom’s house for dinner, gifts, and lots of wine. While we warmed up with hors d'oeuvres—and lots of wine—in the kitchen, we somehow got onto the topic of pain meds. My mom mentioned that, after all of the cleaning and cooking that she’d done that day, she took a Vicodin to help with her back pain. TD couldn’t hold back her stream of consciousness. “You’re drinking wine and taking Vicodin? You’re a hardass bitch!”

  • In case you were questioning my pedigree, my dear mother got hers later in the night. TD said she was too full to eat dessert, and with a twinkle in her eye Mom replied, “Yeah, ‘cause you’re a skinny little bitch.”

  • Last week, Armo, TJ, one of TJ’s buddies from work, and I were at the Penguins/Blackhawks game, having a drink between periods. A stunning blonde standing at the bar quickly became the subject of our conversation, as she talked to her girlfriend and scrolled through her iPhone. When Armo offered, “She looks healthy,” I countered, “She looks…like she takes dicks to the face.”

  • I missed the first night of Trip’s bachelor party, but from all accounts it was a night of drunken stupidity befitting a party thrown in Trip’s honor. At dinner that night, some of the bridegroom’s closest friends took turns standing in front of the room to tell a few stories about him and sing his praises. Then his old man stood up. “I went out one Saturday, got drunk while playing 36 holes, and then went home. Nine months later, this little bastard was born. The moral of the story: Play 54.”

  • My Lil Sis, TD, has more game than an Xbox. One night, during a recent trip to New York City, she fell in lust with a cute brunette bartender. While telling me about it over text messages the next day, she reported, “I just texted her and said I have Molly in my tits to motorboat.”

  • Under The Porch (UTP) and Four-Foot-D’s (FFDs) hit it off swimmingly at the Fourth of July party, and were all over each other at the end of the night. I was standing on the porch, doing keg stands with some guys, when we looked over and saw the lovebirds making out in a chair. “Haha,” one of the guys—who was one of FFDs’ friends—blurted at UTP, “You’ve got Chlamydia on your face now!”

  • One night during my oft-referenced beach trip to OCMD in 2003, we watched as one girl’s bad decision-making imploded her vacation.

    A group of us had gone to Brass Balls Saloon for their beer pong night. After Armo and I finally got knocked off a table, we sat down at the bar and watched a pretty redhead flirt with our buddy as he played on his table. She was in her early 20s, like us, and she was pleasantly hammered. And she was making it very clear she wanted there to be further hammering.

    After 20 minutes or so of her shameless sloring, a guy in his mid-30s appeared in front of her. Without saying a word, he yanked her purse out of her hand, rifled through it, pulled out a room key, and then threw the purse back at her. Muttering, “Have fun,” he stormed off.

    Our friend and Little Red Riding Slore left the bar together. When the rest of us got back to the house we’d all rented, one of the bedroom doors was shut and familiar noises were coming from the other side. Uncle Paulie had been at another bar that night, and when he got back we filled him in on the story. Giggling like a schoolboy, he ripped his shirt off, flung open the bedroom door, and ran in announcing, “I’m here for the gangbang!
[A bonus postscript: A couple of nights later, a few of us were in line for calzones at the pizza place around the corner from the house. We soon noticed a familiar face behind us in line, a few people back: Little Red Riding Slore. And she was with the older guy from Brass Balls. Seeing us, and the shit-eating grins on our faces that made it obvious we recognized them, they left the line and the pizza place without placing an order. I can only imagine the rest of their trip went just as well.]

Saturday, January 24, 2015

We're Not For Everyone (Day 2)

[Click here for 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...]