Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Sunshine State [Day 4 and Outro]

Sunday, May 28

I had once again awoken before my roommate, and once again posted up on the couch in the living room with River Monsters. Why fix what ain’t broken?

And I wasn’t broken—not quite. Close, but not quite. Tall pina coladas, seven or eight margaritas, two cigars, and an untold number of beers had given it their best shot. There was even a swig or two of Hypnotiq in there somewhere. But other than the cigar residue in my mouth and mild thumping in my head, I’d survived.

I wasn’t entirely sure my homie had until I got a text at 11:15.

Dupa: “There’s food in the fridge, playboy.”
Me: “The hell you say”
Dupa: “Yeah, you’re welcome.”

I opened the refrigerator to find most of an extra-large pizza and a calzone. There are worse ways to get the taste of cigars and hangover out of your mouth.

We strolled down the street to the newlyweds’ apartment, stopping to buy bottles of Gatorade that we had each drained into our depleted bodies by the time we knocked on their door a few minutes later. Inside we found our disheveled crew, each looking like they’d been beat about the head by alcohol (Tide even looked a little shorter). Ton, to his credit, was fighting back, taking swigs of vodka and Sprite out of a large wine glass.

The updates about the prior night were many. Tiger Blood had outlasted Shafe in their battle for the alone time that Tide’s sister wasn’t offering; he walked her back to her hotel, but didn’t quite get the hint until she literally pushed him back onto the elevator. Tide recounted a story about Grunts, and in doing so dropped a flawless impression of him, noting that he rarely seemed to string together more than a few intelligible words. Shafe had nearly vomited in the bed of a random pickup truck in the Daq Shak parking lot, long before he'd pursued his love jones.

Ton’s postscript, however, topped them all. He had come back from the bathroom at the bar to find that everyone—even his wife—had left to go to the strip club. His phone had died, which made ordering an Uber impossible. Reminiscent of his days in Shadyside, he then walked two miles back to his hotel. Along the way he took a wrong turn at a fork in the road; he then “accidentally” kicked open a hole in the fence separating him from the stretch of highway that led back to his hotel, and crawled through it.

We hit the beach (minus Ton and Mrs. Ton, who had to get on the road), enjoying cold Coronas and the warm Gulf waters. Standing on a sandbar about 200 yards out, drinking a beer and staring out into the endless expanse of water, I found peace. At least until I remembered all the episodes of River Monsters that I had watched in the previous 48 hours.

A relaxing day of sun, friends, and laughter, our Sunday Funday tied a perfect bow on the weekend. I didn’t get drunk—really, I don’t think it would’ve been possible by that point in time; I was drinking beers for much the same reason Greenpeace pours buckets of water on a beached whale. But recuperating with ocean air and stories (and the pizzas TK’s mom brought down to the apartment after we’d packed up and moved back inside at sunset) was what the soul needed, after three straight days of celebration. Three straight days of indulging in food, drink, and fun without repercussion. Three straight days of Florida.

I needed a day to run a diagnostic check on my sanity. I had to make sure I hadn’t gone full Florida. I had breathed the air for three days. I needed a measured day of calm to reassure myself that I hadn’t succumbed to the contagion, that I wasn’t walking nude through a liquor store or chewing on someone’s face.

Of course, if I did either of those things within the first 24 hours of returning to Pittsburgh, I’d have an excuse. 


Weeks before the wedding, Tide and I were talking about the planning, and I noted that she didn’t seem to be suffering the stresses that normally come with the task. She replied, “I honestly am more concerned about everyone being like ‘that was fuckin fun/ awesome’.” It’s safe to say she surpassed that goal.

Most weddings are fun. The good ones are awesome. This one sits in the upper echelon of legendary.

Tide and TK treated their friends and family to 72 hours of blissful mayhem. Lots of us hadn’t seen each other in years, even some among those who still lived in Pittsburgh. The simple act of getting everyone together in one room was, itself, worthy of praise. Making sure we were drunk, fed, and happy while it happened was just the whipped cream on top.

Strip clubs, beer, Hooters girls, the beach, cigars at sunset, tequila, dancing fools, grouper sandwiches, bachelorette parties, and calculated hits using Smirnoff Ice. Life comes at you fast. But it slows down for brief stretches. When you pack the present full of laughter and freedom of spirit, every second resonates. And those stretches of time, saturated with joy, become a part of you, something that you carry forever.

It’s customary at a wedding to wish a lifetime of happiness to the bride and groom. In a small way, the bride and groom had bestowed a lifetime of happiness upon the rest of us.

They even got me to blog again. Florida's air is no joke.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Party Hard

I've heard it said that "to the victor go the spoils." Rarely has that been more true than during the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup Championship parade last week.

If you're not a hockey fan, or just live outside of the 412 and weren't privy to the extended coverage that local media gave the event, then you probably don't understand just how much celebrating this team did. Most of them, especially the younger guys like Jake Guentzel (22-years-old) and Connor Sheary (25-years-old) spent a few hours of a steamy, 80+ degree Southwestern PA day pounding beers on the back of pickup trucks that crawled along the parade route. Their resulting dehydration levels were a thing of beauty.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Sean Gentille did a masterful job the next day of documenting the highlights of the day.
A year after he was caught on camera with a fistful of aluminum Bud Light bottles crammed into his face, Dumoulin had another solid beer-related moment. He bit a can that someone tossed him along the route — Bud Light again — and shotgunned it in the middle of the street.

The best performance was, by far, defenseman Olli Maatta. The pictures and clips cataloging Maatta's day in Gentille's piece are each more spectacular than the one that came before it. And the photo of him being held up on his feet on back of the truck, wearing shades and a sloppy childlike grin that make him look like Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club [right], is destined to be a new avi or poster or something that I can keep in my life forever.

Though the parade passed less than a block away from my office building, I was feeling under the weather and declined to go out and watch firsthand. Instead, I watched on the 65in flat screen tv in our boardroom. Now I regret that decision. If, FSM willing, the Pens get the threepeat next year, I'm calling off from work, buying a case, and splitting it with the team as they pass by.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Sunshine State [Day 3]

Saturday, May 27

I stumbled out to the couch and turned on the tv. An hour or so later Dupa experienced déjà vu, as again he shuffled out to the living room to find me watching River Monsters (*shrug* was a marathon weekend).

After watching Jeremy Wade swim with tigerfish in the Okavango Delta, we strolled down the street to Screwie Louie’s for lunch. Sipping Coronas on their deck, watching tourists and locals pass by in various states of dress and consciousness, was the purest expression of beach life that you can find.

There’s something intoxicating about it. Even with all my objections to living in Florida—and there are many—I can fully appreciate the appeal, living at your own pace and holding onto each gust of warm ocean air. It was just this siren call that lured TK away from the life of a corporate drone in Pittsburgh. And it led him to the love of his life, who he’d be marrying a few hours later. Hard to argue with those results.

Ah yes, there was a wedding to get to. The open-ended dress code led me to an easy decision: a 90-degree day on a Florida beach? Shorts, short-sleeved button down, and boat shoes, baby. Watching my friends sweat in suits, dress pants, and long-sleeved shirts, I patted myself on my back all day [much credit is also due to my personal stylist, Alex, who helped me in shopping for my wardrobe prior to the trip].

Beauty like this is perfect...for drinking.
My esteemed associate, Dupa, however, chose a tailored white linen suit, blue pinstriped shirt, and sandals. I cannot, in good conscience, hate on that decision.

The location for the ceremony was beautiful, with blue skies and blue-green waters serving as a backdrop. The one thing it lacked was alcohol, and I kicked myself for not following through on my idea to bring a cooler full of beer.

A grounds crew hastily assembled the archway that would serve as the altar; while we stood watching, someone pointed out that there was a beachside bar about 500 yards away that sold drinks in large, reusable cups. Dupa and I looked at each other, nodded, and headed off in that direction. We returned just before groomsmen began ushering parents and others down the aisle. I sipped on a tall cup of piña colada, while snapping pictures of groomsmen sweating out booze and a beautiful bride joyously striding across the sand towards her destiny.

The parents and the bridal party formed a receiving line afterwards, leading up to the edge of the beach. I told Tide’s parents how lucky we all felt TK was. I told TK’s parents I was friends with Dupa, but I was the good one. “That’s what we’ve heard,” his mom confirmed.

I complimented Tide on the silver and blue color scheme she’d chosen for the groom and groomsmen, but suggested one change. “The ties,” I explained while tracing my finger across TK’s navy-blue neckpiece. “They should have orange stripes running across them.” The bride lunged at me, connecting her tiny fist hard on my arm (and I really think she was aiming for my face, but was just too short to reach it).

War Eagle.

Our buddy “Grunts,” was following me in the line. After he congratulated TK, he pulled back from their hug to add, “I’ve got a present for you in my back pocket.” He leaned forward to reveal a bottle of Smirnoff Ice.

TK: *incredulous* “Did you just Ice me?” *grabs the bottle, cracks it open, takes a knee, chugs it down*

The wedding photographer was Johnny-on-the-spot, kneeling opposite TK to get an action shot of the icing.

Shafe was several people back from us in the line. When he got to the end and gave the bride a hug, he added, “I’ve got something in my pocket for you.” Then he leaned forward and revealed a bottle of Smirnoff Ice. Badass bride that she is, Tide took the bottle, cracked it open, took a knee, and chugged.

Have I mentioned that these two were made for each other?

While the wedding party did the photography portion of the day, the W&J demographic of the guest list piled under deck umbrellas at the beachside bar where Dupa and I had gotten the pre-ceremony drinks. Shafe yelled “Play Hall & Oates!” at the musician playing live on the deck, Billy’s girlfriend explained to me the difficulties of being a young teacher on the beach in the age of social media [“I can’t be out here with my tits out.”], rounds of drinks were bought and drank, and Mrs. Ton [“I’m allowed to look—I’m married, I’m not dead.”] and I scoped out the talent coming in off the sand.

Just as we were preparing to leave for the reception, Dupa struck upon an idea. He asked the bartender if they sold six packs. They did. He looked back at us with a grin, then ordered up a sixer of Smirnoff Ice to go. In one swift moment, he had just turned the wedding reception into a warzone.

The wedding’s second stage was held at the local Elks Lodge. Located right on the bay, the hall featured a deck with a beautiful view of waterside mansions, perfect for smoking the hand-rolled cigars that were available to all guests. The space was beautiful and yet still unpretentious.

And when the groom made it to his seat after his first dance with his bride and a dance with his mom, he found a cold bottle of Smirnoff Ice waiting for him. He sighed, cracked it, kneeled, and chugged.

A friend’s fiancée came back to our table with a margarita in a large glass, and I knew what my next order would be. Dupa got one as well, but soon decided he needed to be mobile, which could be awkward and troublesome with a large, heavy glass. He grabbed his large plastic cup from the beachside bar, poured his margarita into it, screwed on the lid, and began circulating. When he was due for a refill, he asked the bartender if she’d make a margarita directly in his travel cup. She happily accommodated him, and I wanted to hug her. But instead I restrained myself and handed my own travel cup forward for my next margarita.

Meanwhile, Grunts returned to his table after visiting the buffet. A Smirnoff Ice was on his chair. Another victim.

I filled myself up with delicious chicken parm, roast beef, veggies, potatoes, and more. It felt less like indulging in fine dining and more like packing sandbags against the rising river of margaritas flowing through me. It was needed fortification.

During his best man speech, Ton recalled a story from their college days, when TK had insisted they buy a bottle of Hypnotiq for a party. So, to christen the occasion, Ton motioned to TK’s sister, who walked a bucket of ice with two bottles of Hypno up to the front of the room and sat it in front of the bride and groom. Ton cracked open a bottle, and they each took a swig of the awful fruit juice/cognac mixture.

Wanting revenge later, TK called Shafe over and said two words: “Get Ton.” So, as we all stood at the bar talking, Shafe walked up, tapped Ton on his shoulder, and pointed down to his hunting boot. Ton found a bottle of Smirnoff Ice looking up at him. Crack, kneel, chug.

The dancefloor was active all night, whether Billy was performing N’Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye” routine, which he’d learned in middle school, or Dupa was posing in the middle of it with his shades on, his shirt mostly unbuttoned, and his arms outstretched like a bird of prey swooping down from the heavens. And when Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” came over the speakers, Grunts looked at me and lost himself in the tune.

Me: “You’re so white.”
Grunts: *laughs* “I may be a white guy, but I still hate Trump!”

One of TK’s groomsmen, “Insider,” was a former Super Bowl champion, a hulking man with arms like bridge support beams. He was the sage, measured voice of wisdom most of the weekend, the old head offering advice from someone who has seen and done it all. But even sage Super Bowl champs can get Iced, especially when the groom orders the hit. Another chug.

The reception wrapped at 10 pm; TK and Tide said goodnight to the parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, as one after another Ubers pulled up to the Elks Lodge like choppers to a Saigon rooftop. Everyone was instructed to head back to Daiquiri Shak.

When we got there, though, I helped the bride and groom drop off some things at their apartment, which was walking distance from the bar. I gazed out over the Gulf from their beachfront balcony, while Tide took a moment to relax and TK put away the items we’d brought back. They were both ready to cut loose and truly celebrate the day without pretense. Or, as TK put it when Tide paused to ask if she should take her ID: “If they ask for my ID, I’m gonna whip my dick out. *nodding to me* And you can quote me.”

There’s something amazing about watching a bride walk into a bar in her wedding gown. The looks on people’s faces were somewhere between shock and joy. Everyone congratulated her, as heads snapped around from every direction. Tide had to feel like a celebrity; I felt like part of her entourage.

We headed for the deck, and were soon joined by various wedding guests who had been drinking inside. As I stood at the bar ordering us a round, I struck up a conversation with three strangers: a couple and a cute friend of the wife. [It’s really amazing how frequently this happens, and each time it begins with some unsolicited question/comment about my height.] Before my beers had even been served, I was posing for a picture with them. Later in the night they would get Ton in on the act, too, as the cute friend requested that my buddy pick her up for a photo.

The bride, too, was beloved by cameras. My favorite picture of the weekend came while she stood at the railing of the deck, a lit cigar dangling between her fingers, a Bud Light within arm’s reach, and an air of confidence radiating from her as her eyes lock on something in the distance. In another picture, she leisure poses while being held aloft by the arms of TK, Ton, and me.

Inside the bar, madness reigned.
  • Tiger Blood and Shafe were vying for the attention of the maid of honor, Tide’s sister, who wasn’t interested in either of them. It was like watching two salmon race each other up a frozen stream.
  • Insider was dying to break free from the confines of his tuxedo, and removed everything but his pants and the Nike Pro tank top he was using as an undershirt.
  • Balls’ bachelorette party friend had come out yet again, and she seemed entertained watching the chaos around her.
  • Tiger Blood got a lead on someone who could sell him some coke, and asked me if I “party.”
  • Grunts’ wife, all of 5’5” and 100 lbs, put on Insider’s tux vest—which fit her like a dress—and danced around.
  • Insider, meanwhile, arm-wrestled all comers, including Tiger Blood and the maid of honor.
  • Tiger Blood explained, "You've never really done coke until you've done it off a stripper's ass."
  • Grunts’ wife climbed up on a pool table to dance around, to the horror of her husband, who pulled her back down.
  • Tide and TK made an early exit, to get to the final wedding tradition. Or, as the groom so finely put it, “She’s gonna be shorter in the morning.”
Absent from all of this was Dupa. By all accounts he had been in the bar when everyone first arrived, and Mrs. Ton even managed to get a picture of him standing near the pool tables with his pants around his ankles. But not long after, he pulled an Irish goodbye. Gone without a trace, before the bride and groom had even appeared.

In the end, it seemed like a perfect tribute to the day. There really can’t be a better gift for the bride and groom than the knowledge that their wedding was too much for Dupa to handle.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Sunshine State [Day 2]

Friday, May 26

I awoke in a panic, as I wandered from room to room in the dark, looking for a bathroom. I opened a door and found a closet. Behind another door and I found Dupa snoring in his bed. After what felt like hours, I realized I was in our condo. In Florida. And I was really, really hungover.

Lucidity was slowly reacquainting itself with me. I was missing my left sock. A wad of ones sat on my dresser. I vaguely remembered vomiting in a parking lot. I made a mental note to check my shoes and shorts later for collateral damage. [Note: Not a spot on them! It’s almost as if I’ve done this before.]

I felt a tinge of embarrassment. Any guy does when he’s thrown up in front of his buddies. When you’re that guy, you feel like you’ve let everyone down. I found the bathroom, flipped up the seat, and as I pissed I realized that there were flecks of something all around the bowl.

Dupa hurled, too.” Then my struggling brain fully processed this information. “I’m not the only one.” A sizeable grin spread across my face as I washed my hands and hobbled back to bed.

A couple of hours later, I was still the only one in the condo awake. I’d showered and shaved before Dupa shuffled into the living room, plopped down in the leather armchair, and joined me in watching tv.

Me: “Did you vomit last night?”
Dupa: “I’ll clean it up.”
Me: “I did too, in the parking lot outside the strip club.”
Dupa: “Ha! I didn’t even make it inside. As soon as I got out of the Uber I ordered one of my own.”

The same driver who had dropped us off had taken the request, and swung back around to pick him up. Then he had to talk to Dupa the whole way to the condo to keep my Polish comrade from throwing up right there in the car.

We’re both adults, by the way.

Ton had texted me around 9 a.m. to ask if we wanted to go fishing with the rest of the boys. It took me until 12:30 to respond, but I’d wager he knew my answer well before that. It hardly mattered anyways, since their fishing boat encountered engine trouble shortly into the trip, and they had to head back for land. A Snapchat video of Ton, TK, Balls, and Tiger Blood smiling and partying as the boat charged out into the Gulf was immediately followed by a subdued one of them puttering back shortly thereafter.

About an hour later Dupa and I were meeting up with the guys at Bubba Gump’s. Just being out in the sunshine on a deck overlooking the bay was doing wonders for me. I couldn’t say the same for TK, who sat opposite me at the table, looking shell-shocked. Our waitress, upon first seating him, had unabashedly commented, “You look terrible.” It was an astute observation.

Hemsworth, for the record, hadn’t even made it out of his hotel bed. When Ton texted him about lunch, his full response was, “No.”

Catching up on how everyone else’s night had ended was a therapy session in and of itself.
  • TK gave the full account of making it rain:

    Tiger Blood handed him $100 in ones and they walked over to the edge of a stage. He then told the dancer to spin on the pole.

    Dancer: “No.”
    Tiger Blood: “I’m paying you money. Get on the pole so we can make it rain on you.”
    Dancer: “No.”
    Tiger Blood: *to TK* “Fuck this bitch, we’re not giving her shit. We’ll spend our money on the next dancer. *a moment passes* Fuck it. *tosses dollars in the air and walks away*”

  • Ton, meanwhile, had a different kind of difficulty with a woman.

    Me: “Did I imagine it, or was Mrs. Ton there?”
    Ton: “She was there. I didn’t want her to come out, because I knew we’d end up getting into a fight. And I was right.”

  • Tiger Blood called an escort service when he got back to his hotel room. But he got tired of trying to negotiate a reasonable price, so he gave up on it and went to bed.

We inhaled tall drinks, fried seafood platters, sandwiches, and burgers. Dupa and I had arrived later, and our food orders were about 10 minutes behind everyone else’s. I claimed Ton’s burger for myself as it was delivered to the table, without a second thought or a shred of a fuck given. Bachelor party hangovers are an every-man-for-himself blood sport.

After lunch Tiger Blood and I were talking to a cashier and the manager. When we told them that we’d been out for our friend’s bachelor party the prior night, the manager said, “Ah, so you guys went hard last night.” Then, pointing at me, she added, “I can tell.”

Still, we were the only two interested in doing a bit more day drinking, and we walked to Hooters for a beer […and maybe in futile hopes of running into Svana again]. The groom, Ton, and Balls left to prepare for the rehearsal dinner. Dupa went back to the condo to sleep more.

He awoke a couple of hours later, ambling out to the living room to find me watching River Monsters. Our friend Shafe arrived in town and had immediately begun texting Dupa, who told him we’d meet him at the bar in 30 minutes. Two hours later we strolled into The Hut Bar and Grill, and found Shafe pounding Bud Heavies with a chip on his shoulder.

The Hut was my kind of place. Right on the water, live music, an engaging bartender, and hard-hitting Hurricanes. I put back four with dinner, while Dupa did five and a LandShark, and Shafe drained Bud bottles like an ancient Aztec priest performing sacrifices on the steps of a temple. In other words, things were just like you’d expect them to be.

When the rehearsal dinner ended, the participants headed for Daiquiri Shak and instructed us to do the same. When we got there, we found them to have largely taken over the deck in front of the building. We grabbed seats at a nearby table, ordered ourselves beers, and jumped right into the flow. And I got some face time with my favorite University of Alabama alum (sorry Amari, you’ll have to settle for second).

Tide was tipsy, and had the look of a woman both relieved everything was finally happening and stressed that it wasn’t all over yet. Still, relief seemed to be her dominating emotion, as she kicked back with some beers and entertained us. Inevitably, she delivered the quote of the night.

Tide: “I told my mom, ‘I can’t wait to finally have sex!’ She rolled her eyes and said, ‘Oh shut up.’ I have a past life; I used to be a bit of a hoe…”

A random local from a table near ours made her presence known. Blonde, 40+, and wearing her standard-issue Florida jorts, she jumped up and did her best embarrassing-aunt-at-the-family-picnic dance. Not the least bit apologetic, she explained to us, “It’s Friday. You’ve gotta let loose!”

My immediate reaction was, “She’s the female version of Dupa.” I can’t honestly remember if I was the first one of us to say it, though, because Mrs. Ton and Tide both made the same observation. We may have all said it simultaneously. Dupa saw it too. He stared in awe, occasionally putting the corner of his phone in his mouth for lack of a verbal reaction. I know the man well, and those are the telltale signs of him being flummoxed.

Our group was soon joined by four of the girls from the bachelorette party we’d met at CJ’s the night prior. Balls had made a connection with one of the bridesmaids, and invited her and her friends to come hang. It occurred to me for the first time that they were all blonde. And hot. And, as often happens when you have four beautiful young blondes at your table, we suddenly had a douchey pest hovering around us.

Looking like the least popular member of a boy band [“JC Nahsez?” “FuckBoy?” Yeah, let’s go with FuckBoy.], he interjected himself into our consciousness by making an unsolicited response to one of our comments. As we paused to ask ourselves “Who the fuck is this guy?” he zeroed in on the blondes, grabbing a chair and pulling it over close to two of them.

We shrugged off the intrusion, figuring he was the girls’ burden to bear. But when he disappeared for a moment, we asked them what his deal was. “I don’t know,” one of them said. “He’s annoying.” When he came back around, the ladies gave him a cold shoulder. He tried to save face by buddying up to my boy Billy, who in turn told him, “You should probably just walk away.” FuckBoy reluctantly accepted his fate, and extended his hand in my direction, looking for a handshake. I just stared at him.

FuckBoy: “You’re not going to shake my hand?”
Me: “Nah.”

I think he yelled “fuck you” or something as he walked away, I don’t know. He didn’t matter.

We resumed our various conversations and drinking. With the next day being a big one, though, most of us started clearing out around 1 a.m. I was one of them, strolling off down the street—our condo was only a block away. And I hummed a tune as I did.

After all, it was Friday. You’ve gotta let loose.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Sunshine State [Intro and Day 1]

I’ve come to learn that, in life, a little success is a dangerous thing.

Five years ago, I attended the wedding of my friends Ton and Mrs. Ton. The occasion, as I said in the ensuing blog, was as close to perfect as I’d ever seen a wedding get. The presence of an insane amount of alcohol and zero amount of dress code, in a barn deep in Ohio farmland, meant the dial was cranked to “lit”—maybe the only time that’s ever been true of a barn.

That blog enjoyed a brief moment of fame. The happy couple shared it with their relatives and friends, and On the Rocks’ page hits soared to a level rarely seen without the involvement of a half-naked Playboy Playmate.

The best man at that wedding was TK. The following year he met a beautiful, charismatic little maniac of his own. He brought her to Pittsburgh that summer, and seconds after being introduced to “Tide,” she and I were best friends. Despite her being an Alabama grad, and me a lifelong Auburn fan. Despite us not being in the same location again until the night before their wedding, four years later. Homies. 4. Life.

In planning her wedding, Tide took cues from the stories she had heard about Ton’s. The location would be unconventional: on the beach in St. Pete, where the couple met and lived. The abundance of alcohol would be measured, targeted, and then intentionally exceeded. The dress code would be non-existent, and she encouraged Dupa to let his creativity take the wheel. And she ever-so-subtly hinted that she wanted me to blog about the event.

I did my best to casually dissuade her from expecting the dust to be blown off my keyboard. Life had moved me away from the carefree days of scribing tales of drunken adventures. Respectability had crept up my walls and rendered me unrecognizable behind tangled, ivy-like swaths of adulthood. I spent my workday combing through business plans, not internet articles about blotto Rummy Award candidates. I was out of the game. A ghost. A minor footnote on a long-forgotten page of a book buried in a time capsule.

Then, as TK and I tossed back shots at his bachelor party, he said he wanted my wedding gift to be a blog about his nuptials.


Thursday, May 25

I landed in Tampa for the first time since 2012 (ironically, the year of Ton’s wedding). A couple from my flight, who had seemed perfectly calm until that point, took five steps out into the humid air outside of baggage claim and began yelling at each other, while strangers like me watched. Florida’s crazy is an airborne virus.

I texted Dupa, my roommate for the weekend, as my Lyft ride cruised away from the airport. He had landed an hour or so before me and was, of course, already at the bar. So, when I got to the condo we had rented on Airbnb, I dropped my bag, changed into a pair of shorts, and headed out to catch up. A frozen margarita with a Modelo Especial floater was waiting for me when I arrived at the waterfront location.

After dinner, we found Ton—who was returning the favor by serving as TK’s best man—and two other groomsmen at Hooters, just up the boardwalk. Before long the man of honor and Balls, another groomsman, arrived to officially kick off the bachelor party. We caught up in the way old friends with new lives do, cold beer and big laughs punctuating each sentence. A beautiful brunette by the name of Svana, wearing innocent glasses over I-might-be-crazier-than-you-think eyes, was our beer concierge. She provided us with a steady supply of Corona and Modelo buckets, walking up to our table seemingly each time someone in our group was finishing a highly contextualized sentence.

One of us: “…and I get a text from him saying, ‘Be right back. Just tore my ass.’”
Svana: *stands there blinking*

Some members of the party were Cavs fans, intently watching Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. Others, such as myself, were Pens fans, intently watching Game 7 of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals. With the latter headed towards a late finish and Hooters closing, we moved our collective to a bar called CJ’s on the Island.

The Pens fans gravitated towards a giant projection screen in the back of the bar. There we found that the game was being closely followed by a bachelorette party, a lively group of 20-something gals from Pittsburgh. One of them had even graduated from the same high school as I did—albeit 10 years later. *sigh*

I’d reached that special stage of the night, when you’re never without a drink in your hand, but you have little to no idea what you’re drinking, or how you obtained it. I do know that at one point, as my head swam with (beer and) euphoria and relief from the Pens’ overtime win, I stood at the bar talking to someone when a voice called out over the speaker system.

“♫Defi’s a bitch…♫”

I turned to find Dupa smiling at me from a nearby stage, with a mic in his hand and five bachelorettes in pink shirts crammed around him and a karaoke machine.

I shook my head and returned to my regularly-scheduled drunk.

I took comfort in not being the drunkest among us, though. Our boy “Hemsworth” had been rocked from about an hour into our stay at Hooters. At one point, he appeared before Ton with a lollipop in his mouth.

Ton: “Where’d you get the sucker, buddy?”
Hemsworth: “The nice man in the bathroom gave me this.”

CJ’s doesn’t have a bathroom attendant.

Our next stop was Mermaids, a strip club (because of course). But how we transitioned there is a question I can’t answer, since I remember none of it. Not the conversation about going, not leaving CJ’s, not the Uber ride. And I don’t remember feeling queasy upon arrival. But I do remember unceremoniously hunching over and hurling in the club’s parking lot.

It was as though I’d stepped out of the car and found God waiting there to sucker punch me in the stomach. Ton patted me on the back while beer, margarita, shots, and my self-respect evacuated me under the dim street lights. Then I stood up, took a breath, and into the club we went.

I was, as one might imagine, not in the best frame of mind for a strip club. I tried my best to participate, swigging back a few beers while trying to shake off my advanced state of “wrecked.” Mrs. Ton seemed to materialize from out of nowhere, and she and others tried to nurse me back to health. Our buddy, “Tiger Blood” [he was the Charlie Sheen-est thing since Charlie Sheen that weekend, as you’ll soon see], handed me a wad of 20 fresh $1 bills to make it rain on a dancer. I threw them without loosening the wad first, and the bulk of the bills smacked her in the rib with a thud. I think that was the moment when I decided I needed to leave.

As my Uber pulled away from Mermaids, I got a text from TK. “I just made it rain!”

It’s a minor miracle I guided the driver back to the correct location. And another one that I remembered the security code to the front door. Dupa had disappeared while we were at Mermaids; as I stumbled through the condo in the direction of my bedroom, I saw his closed bedroom door and let out a “Ha!” Then I crashed into my bed and gave in to the darkness. Day One in Florida was a wrap.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Always Rummy in Philadelphia

From Philadelphia Magazine:
You know that feeling you get after you do something really, really stupid, when you wish that you’d wake up and realize that it was all just a bad dream? Well, we’re pretty sure that’s exactly what PHL 17 on-air talent Colleen Campbell is feeling today.

According to New York City comic Wil Sylvince, who was also at Helium on Sunday, Campbell was asked to leave the club because she was being loud during the show. (Helium wouldn’t comment on what happened.) And it was once she left the club that her problems really began.

As Sylvince’s video shows, an incredibly even-tempered Philadelphia police officer shows up and tries to get her to just go home. Instead, she attempts to spit in someone’s face and then goes off in a big way on the cop.

When viewing this footage on TJ's Facebook page, I had three thoughts:

1. I'm glad I don't date anymore. Because this is exactly the kind of trainwreck I'd tie myself to.
2. Dupa and I were just talking about hanging out in Philly; maybe we should look her up if we do...
2a. No! Stop it! No. NO.
3. White privilege.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Strike up the Band?

I need a whiskey stipend. I get paid well enough and all, but… What’s wrong with getting an extra $100—after taxes—each paycheck, that's devoted specifically to a good bottle of whiskey? Not a damn thing that I can see.

*blows dust off bar stool*

*pulls it out and plops down*

If anyone out there is reading this; no, you’re not seeing a ghost. I’m still around. I miss this place. TJ mentioned our old Rummy awards the other day, and my mind traced way back to 10 months ago when those were still a thing. Good times.

I think you can actually guess what happened [Well, if you’re over 30 you can; if you’re younger than that…god bless. You have no idea how things both simultaneously speed up and slow down in the years ahead. It really, really sucks a rhino’s ass.]: Life got me.

No, I’m not married. Or engaged. Or in a relationship. And no, no kids. I always thought those were the harbingers of the misery people older than me seemed to be in. But they’re just accessories to the crime. The real villain? Complacency.

I’ve grown accustomed to everything in my daily life. Wake up. Play Angry Birds. Get showered. Brush teeth. Shave (maybe). Go to work. Work. Yell at a computer screen. Work. Hate life. Come home. TV/video games. Brush teeth. Go to bed. Repeat.

Notice that writing isn’t nestled anywhere in there?

Writing is my true love. If life were a movie, writing would be the girl next door who I was cool with my whole life, messed around with in college, and then didn’t realize until my early adulthood that I truly had feelings for. We never really could find a way to put our differences aside and make it official between us. She stood by me through good times and bad; but, as time marched on and life—as it always does—got more complicated, I neglected her. And, heartbroken, she left.

I want us to be together, writing. Forever, and truly. But I’ve got to get my shit together. We both know it. And holding you back while I do that, it’s just not fair to you. So here we are, standing in the rain. Me with my 2010 Dell Insperion keyboard. You with your empty blog fields. Why can’t we just make it all right? Why can’t we make it happen?

…By the way, if you’re wondering where all of this is going, and why it’s gone where it has, then just let me say I’m in the same boat. Where are we? What day is it?

Okay, I’ll stop f’ing around with you now. The bottom line is that my drinking stories have stopped because I’m too tired/lazy/malcontent to type and publish them. The blog, as a whole, has stopped, because I can’t be bothered to squeeze time into my daily schedule to post things.

Look, I don’t want this site to die. Maybe it’s just my penchant for holding onto the past (don’t know if you’ve picked up on that from my having a blog specifically dedicated to my drinking stories…), but this site has been a big part of my life for eight plus years. When it first started in 2007, I thought that by 2016 we’d be the next BuzzFeed. We were SO close. I blame TJ, really.

TJ. He made an offhand remark months ago about me dragging out this site’s life for longer than I should have. Well, contrary to his understanding of the world, I don’t have to conform to his personal qualms with the world around him. The fact that his social and economic dynamics don’t allow him to allow himself expression through written word, and through sharing stories about his past/present, is a sad one. But it has no bearing on whether my social and economic dynamics do the same to me. So, as much as I love the man like a Jewish brother neither of my parents can comfortably explain, his opinion on this particular matter means jack shit to me.

And let no one think that it caused my withdrawal from Crooked Straight. I read it, brushed it off, and kept moving. But life… Life got me.

Maybe I’ll find my way back. Over a year ago, The Hero basically bequeathed the site to me. So it’s future, if there is one, is in my hands. And all I can tell you at this moment is: I don’t know. The first step would have to involve quitting my job. At a minimum, a change in the management structure at said job would have to happen. The second step might have to involve a winning PowerBall ticket. Of course, then I’d probably be too busy cruising the Mediterranean with my wife, Hiromi Oshima, on our mega yacht…

I’d probably hire TJ to type up blog posts for me, though.