Friday, April 25, 2008
Several friends and I will be making the pilgrimage again this year. Dupa and I first learned about the event in 2006; we immediately ordered tickets and spread the word. But, because most of our friends were reluctant to give it a shot, there was a grand total of five of us in attendance. We were the intrepid explorers. And the sloshed text and voice messages that we sent out around the tri-state area that night served as trusted field reports.
Last year, our legion grew to 12 people; this was mostly because tickets for the event sell out rather quickly, and getting some of my friends to do anything a second before the very last one is similar to asking a dog to speak Spanish. This year we are up to about 17 soldiers. Still short of my goal (there are at least 6 people I can name off the top of my head that could have chosen to come, but…they’re determined to be unenlightened), but progress nonetheless.
*straps on helmet*
Let’s do this. (More to come next week...)
Monday, April 21, 2008
I laid low this past weekend (not entirely by my choosing, but oh well), so there’s no got-drunk-and-streaked-through-city-hall stories for you to shake your heads at; not this week, at least. I thought I’d take this opportunity to catch up on some small stories and postscripts related to recent blogs of mine that haven’t been reported yet.
- The St. Patrick's Day Massacre – I had thought that I left the Irish cap from the picture behind before we left Shannon’s apartment that afternoon; I distinctly remembered leaving it on a doorknob in her place. But, apparently, I was wearing it all day. I know this now because:outside and walked off to my car. So some of my friends, upon returning to her place and finding the scene, assumed it was me who kicked in the door. Let’s be real, though; I’m not saying I would never kick a door in, but I definitely would never leave incriminating evidence behind. Even when I’m drunk, I’m not that stupid.
- B-Day – When Tony saw me heading for the bathroom, he rushed in and found me at the sink and the random victim of my digestive acrobatics standing there in shock. Looking to keep the guy calm, he said, “I’m sorry man; it’s his birthday.” Then, as he was turning to leave behind me (I was getting kicked out, of course), he pointed to the stack of white t-shirts that the bathroom attendant was selling, and suggested, “You should probably grab a shirt off him.”
- 5 Nights in Tampa – One of our customers (“L-Boogie”), who I usually only see at the conference, is a tall, leggy blonde with large breasts who is a lot of fun to hang out with—not like that, you heathens; she’s a married woman (shut up TJ). Last year, my birthday was the last day of the conference. So that night she and some other friends of ours took me out on the town in Austin, TX. At one bar, I was talking to one of my coworkers when I felt a tap on my shoulder. When I turned around, I saw that L-Boogie had a shot glass full of liquor sitting neatly in the cleavage of her tank-top. And all she said was, “Let’s go.” When I said she was fun, you had no idea, right? Fast-forward to this past March, and the St. Patrick’s Day reception on the first day of the conference. She was wearing a business suit, the skirt of which was blissfully short. “Long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting” was how one of my friends put it. My department manager was talking with her; he called me over and asked, “Have you met [L-Boogie]?” The green beer told me to glance down at her chest and say, “You better BELIEVE it!” But I remembered that this was the man who authorizes my paycheck, so I bit my lip, smiled at her, and said, “Yes, we’ve met.”
- 5 Nights in Tampa – The favorite pastime at “The Club” was a touch screen game called “Wordster” (I know this sounds odd in an establishment that features dancing, nearly-naked women, but don’t underestimate the addictiveness of video puzzle games). TJ, the manager (what’s good “Big Poppa Ike”?), one of the bar regulars, Sage, a few of the other dancers, and I would all sit around the machine scrambling to come up with words that we had learned in 12th grade English class. When I would take a seat in one of the barstools in front of the game, it wouldn't be long before one of the dancers playing would climb up onto my lap. I honestly didn’t notice it while it was going on—partly because of the Makers & Cokes that S-Money was mixing, and partly because I was intently focused on the game (okay, now it’s even sounding a little sad to me, too)—but a majority of the time that I was seated, I had a dancer sitting in my lap. A week or so later, while talking with TJ and looking back on the trip, I came to a realization: “I was like the strip club Santa Claus.” I owe him another bottle of Parrot Bay.
- O.P.P. in V.I.P. – While standing at the bar with my friends, I noticed an attractive girl walk by who I had first met months ago. She gave me her number, but drunken a** that I am, I never called her. Wanting to be sure it was her, but unsure of how she would react to seeing a jerk who never called her, I yelled out her name and then quickly looked in the other direction. She turned around to see who had called her, thus confirming that (a.) I had correctly remembered her name, and (b.) I am a 29 year old child. Later in the night I saw her again, and this time I actually talked to her (novel idea, I know). Luckily for me, she’s a really nice girl (or she took pity on me because she thought I was mentally-challenged) and she gave me her number once again.
‘Tis all for now. Don’t forget to tip your servers.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Two Mondays ago the Pittsburgh Pirates had their Home Opener, an annual holiday for my friends and me. It’s one of those marathons that starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends whenever the cop wakes you up. And if you think 8:30 a.m. is too early to start drinking, consider the fact that we weren’t the first ones to the stadium parking lot. Some other friends of ours had already been there for a solid hour or two by the time we arrived. That, my dear reader, is dedication.
Esq, Chief, Esq’s boy “CJ,” and I piled out of a cab with two 30 packs and went to work. There were already burgers and sausages hot off the grill, awaiting their fate alongside chips, pretzels, and other foods. Slowly but surely fellow known suspects started appearing on the horizon, heading in our direction from across the stadium lot: Tony, Esq’s brother (“Baby Joey”) and his girl, our friend Davis, etc. Around 9 we headed over to 222 (or, unofficially, “The Triple Deuce”), an older bar that is positioned across the street from the parking lot. It’s a typical old Pittsburgh bar: narrow, dark, and dingy, with barstools whose upholstery is often badly cracked, if not stripped altogether. I wouldn’t be surprised if my grandfather had tossed back some glasses of whiskey in there in his heyday. Above all else, though, it’s cheap. Buying a round of Beam shots is much more affordable at the Deuce than at any of the newer, trendier bars and clubs that surround PNC Park.
Much of the Deuce’s patronage has the same gritty, “old-fashioned” feel, with “old-fashioned” views on society. An example: Esq (who is Black) walked out of the mensroom and was stopped by two random guys (both white) who asked if he was scalping tickets to the game. Ah, Pittsburgh. Can’t you just taste it?
Back at base camp, some guys set up a beer pong table about 100 ft from us. Bad idea. Before long, they let Tony and Chief play against a couple of them. Worse idea. Ten minutes later everyone around the table was from our tailgate party; the owners of the table watched from the sidelines and occasionally made a feeble attempt at beating whichever pair of us was the current champion. I felt bad—I did—but I kept playing. They had to be taught a lesson.
As anyone who has ever tailgated will tell you, if you stand in a parking lot drinking beer for long enough, sooner or later you will have to break the seal. My friends were prepared for this, however: they set up a large metal box, approximately 2’ x 2’ x 3’ and lined with garbage bags, alongside one of their SUVs and eloquently christened it the “Piss Box.” We were at the far edge of the lot, and a large concrete wall was stretched out in front of our parking spaces, so you were given quick and sufficient privacy when you needed to release your spent beer. All of the time which would have been wasted on walking to and from restrooms was therefore left for more drinking. Brilliant.
Before long, I found myself in Mullens Bar and Grill, a new bar across the street from PNC Park, with Tony and our friend Cara. I only vaguely remember walking over there, because this was near the bottom of my snowball’s descent (which looked to be headed straight through the gates of Hell; after all, this was my first big drinking session after my birthday, and you already know how that ended). What I do remember, though, is the look on Cara and Tony’s faces as my eyes periodically opened back up and I felt myself jolt back into consciousness. I was fading fast, and luckily they kept me from dropping out altogether. After 15 minutes or so, the episode passed and I was wide awake again. I was treading water, but I was still alive.
Not too long after that, I returned to the Deuce. My friend Nate had showed up, and we headed over for some beers (the base camp was dry by this point). We found Chief, CJ, and some others from our party over there. Early that morning, Chief had laid out his game plan: he had to be at work in D.C. the next afternoon; so he decided he was going to get really drunk really fast and black out early—so that he could get some sleep. Well, sitting at a bar stool obnoxiously spilling beer and shots of Beam around, he was definitely sticking to the script. I got a beer, but it wasn’t going down the hatch like it should. My throat was seizing up involuntarily, and it felt like I was trying to drink peanut butter.
The Deuce, being a solid 20 years behind the curve, didn’t have any Red Bull. CJ had decided that he desperately needed a Red Bull & Vodka, and he must have sensed the same desperation in my eyes. “Come on, we’re going down the street,” he announced. “Red Bull’s are on me.” So Nate and I followed him to Bubba’s Ugly. The RB & Vs were just what I needed; I had to stop myself short of licking the inside of the glass. Bacardi promotions girls were walking through the bar, handing out novelties. They must have been having trouble unloading them, though, because they made three or four passes, and each time they gave us something new. I felt a little ashamed of the other people in that bar; if you’re not greedily accepting free stuff, you’re just not drunk.
Decked out in a Bacardi wristband, a flashing Bacardi pin, and an all-black fitted Bacardi cap, I walked back to the Deuce to check on Chief. This is usually Esq’s duty, but he had already returned home and was in bed for the night. The bartender informed me that Chief had left 20 minutes before that; I called him, but got no answer. Fantastic. After briefly considering calling animal control to report a drunken bear on the loose, I returned to Ugly instead. We called around until we finally hit pay dirt: Davis and he were across the street at SoHo. We found them sitting in a booth, disheveled. A fight had been had (unfortunately, I still have not had an opportunity to get the full details about this from Davis), and afterwards they had come here to recoup. All of the plates, condiments, and utensils, as well as the centerpiece from their table sat on the seat directly across from Chief in the booth. Davis pointed to them and said, “I had to do that to keep Chief from hurling them across the bar.”
CJ and I got him back to Esq’s apartment, where all of us were staying. Esq isn’t the easiest person to awake from a slumber, however; it took approximately 50 calls to both of his phones (cell and home), as well as 10 minutes of pounding on his door before he finally answered it. Chief, who had been sleeping on the floor in the hallway throughout most of this, hopped up, pushed his way past Esq, and belly-flopped onto the couch. Mission accomplished.
As for me, I walked out of Esq’s at around 11:30 p.m. feeling fresh, but still tired enough to head home. I woke up the next day without so much as a hangover. Victory.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Toe told us that he’d be there at 9, but when I showed up at 8:58 the doors were locked and he was nowhere in sight. I decided to kill some time down the street at Jimmy D’s, which is probably my favorite bar in the city. For quite some time, my friends and I considered this to be our “St. Elmo’s Bar.” T.C. and I even worked there as bouncers on a few occasions. I hadn’t been there in nearly two years, and it was odd to look around and feel so much nostalgia. What does it say about me that I can turn wistful over a bar?
We all eventually convened at Diesel. I got to talk to Nick (Toe is his little brother) for the first time since my birthday adventure, and I made sure to buy him a shot as a small “thanks” for his help. He also filled me in on a part of the story that I hadn’t heard before: My…stomach eruption…started while I was sitting at the bar. I had thought I reached the bathroom sink first, but apparently not. I made quite a mess on the bar and floor in front of it. It’s going to be a very long time before I go back to Buckhead.
Some of Toe’s buddies decided to get a table and a couple of bottles upstairs in the V.I.P. area of the club. I joined them, but we quickly realized that we had the makings of a sausage party—four guys, zero chicks. We needed to diversify our crowd. The guys seemed a bit shy, but I was just tipsy enough to step up to the plate. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of smooth words to get girls to come hang out in a V.I.P. section, especially for free. I just walked the length of the velvet rope, inviting the best looking girls to come chill with us. Boom—we suddenly had a nice mix of hotties around our table. MVP of the V.I.P., baby.
The first two girls that I invited actually had a guy in their party, who I didn’t notice until after offering them asylum on our side of the velvet rope. And not just any guy; one of the two was his wife, and the other was his cousin. Great. He was a cool cat, though. We were talking for a few minutes when I looked over and realized that his wife and cousin were aggressively making out on one of the couches. I pointed this out to him, and he just shrugged his shoulders, saying, “Yeah; they do that all the time.”
Women like that make marriage worth the hassle.
They continued the lovefest throughout the rest of the night; at one point, the cousin laid back on the couch, while the wife straddled her (I got a great action shot of it with my camera). While they were taking a break, the wife came over to me and said, “Thank you so much for inviting us over.” “No—thank YOU.” She laughed, and said, “Yeah, I just love mauling his cousin.”
Best. Wife. Ever.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Three weeks ago I flew to Tampa (or as I now refer to it, “My Freak on the Side”) on a business trip. Never before have work, play, alcohol, beautiful women, perfect weather, and financial irresponsibility blended together into such a rich and finely-woven tapestry. Now if only I could lay that fine work of art out before you, and allow you to gaze upon and feel each of the delicate folds…
…But this is the paradox of alcohol. It provides such unequivocal release of stress, tension, and worry, while creating these wonderful experiences for us, its loyal subjects; and, simultaneously, it severely decreases the likelihood that you will be able to save this magic in your memory banks. I know that, for every fantastic story that I can pull from my mental archives, where I and/or my friends have engaged in a nearly cinematic escapade, there are another two tales, as good or better, that have been erased from my mind forever. It’s the sad plight of a novelist who writes his masterpieces with a blowtorch.
Given the limitations of my recollection, as well as the need for appropriate editing (this page, after all, has a specific theme; and, more often than not, things such as conversations with coworkers during a break, or sleeping alongside a beautiful exotic dancer from Wisconsin—hi, Sage—just don’t fit the mold), I have decided to simply give you some of the many smaller episodes that contributed to each of the chapters of this novella.
- The Monday of the conference was St. Patrick’s Day (the official one). The organizers held a reception that evening, and decided to use a St. Patty’s theme. This meant green beer. As a matter of protocol, such events are never open-bar; not only that, but the prices are outstandingly high (ex.: $6 for a Heineken, where as the Tampa average is about $4). Some glorious individual, however, had decided to make the green beer complimentary. It’s enough to make you start humming “Oh Danny Boy.” Many of the conference attendees were from other nations and cultures. They viewed the green beer as a strange novelty, and sipped at their cups cautiously. The large, uncouth Americans such as me, however, tossed them back like Dixie Cups of water along a marathon route.
- At a second reception that night, my ex-boss and his wife were in attendance. His wife is a fun, spirited older woman, who my coworkers and I love to hang out with at these events. We often share innocent jokes, but I was full of green beer and managed to stupefy her with this:
o Her: “So what have you been up to lately besides work?”
o Me: “Drinking.”
o Her: *shocked pause* “Anything besides that?”
o Me: “What else is there?”
- I packed for the trip like a lobotomy patient (I left the day after St. Patty’s in Pittsburgh, sooooo…), and needed TJ to take me to a mall so I could buy myself a pair of jeans. Sage came along, and as we left the mall she jumped on his back for a piggyback ride through the parking lot. I trailed slightly behind them, and suddenly had the notion that her bottom needed a firm reminder of who I was. Telepathy is an amazing thing; just as I stealthily approached to deliver the palm of my hand, TJ instantly stopped in his tracks to add emphasis to the smack. The sound resonated throughout the quiet parking lot like a gunshot.
- That night, TJ took me to his private oasis, i.e. "The Club". The place is full of a cast of characters; and I love all of them like family now. Which would make “S-Money” the hot distant cousin that makes you think, “hmmmm…” She bartends at "The Club," but on this night she was off-duty and had been out celebrating the holiday. Hard. When TJ introduced me to her, she enthusiastically jumped up and hugged me with her legs wrapped around me. The exact thought that went through my head at that moment? “I love this place.”
- The bottoms of a couple more dancers were introduced to my palm as the week went on. The girls seemed to like it, and management didn't care. A girl who can't sit down isn't wasting company time, I guess.
- We ended the night kicking it at TJ’s. Sage prefers herbal stimulation to the kind that comes in fifths, but didn’t have a bowl. Weedheads are always creative, though; a weedhead can make a bong out of a paper clip, a roll of toilet paper, and two onions if need be. But TJ’s apartment didn’t yield any good materials. She decided to knock on the door of his neighbor, who he had never met before. A 20-something, five-foot-nothing girl answered the door. When Sage asked if she had an apple, she said, “No, but I have a bowl you can use.” I guess weedheads always know one of their own.
- Tuesday, one of my company’s larger customers had a large party at Hattricks, an Irish hockey bar. The max capacity of the establishment, however, was about 100 people; the party consisted of about 200 people. I got TJ, Sage, and some others in, and all of us took advantage of the open bar. Makers & Coke doubles, baby. At one point, two waitresses were standing near us at the bar, somewhat bored, when they decided that they needed to do shots. TJ and I were recruited to join them, but he balked because the shots were Irish Car Bombs, and he’s afraid of beer.
- My ex-boss and his wife were at the party, too. Early in the night, she told me she was going to keep count of how many drinks I had, to make sure I behaved myself and didn't have too many. A couple of hours later, when they were leaving, I looked at her from across the bar and held up five fingers; she laughed and shook her head.
- By the end of the night I was hammered, and found myself reclined in the passenger seat of TJ’s car getting a shoulder massage from Sage, who was sitting in the back; next to her was Codi, a fellow dancer, who was ordering McDonalds from a drive-thru window. I thought about this scene as I sat in a business luncheon the next day, and the dichotomy almost made my head explode.
- Thursday was my last night in town, so we did it up to the best of our abilities (and our wallets’ limits). We started with a few pregaming drinks in my hotel room (Makers on the rocks for me, Parrot Bay on the rocks for TJ). Next we hit 5 Guys for a quick dinner, and then moved on to the Hard Rock Casino. I spent a grand total of 20 minutes at the poker table (embarrassing, to say the least), and then we went to "The Club" so I could drown my shame in beautiful women and more Makers. S-Money was behind the bar, so the Makers-to-Coke ratio was righteous. I considered the very real possibility that she was my soulmate.
- One of the dancers, Lexi, has a unique and phenomenal talent. Standing straight on one leg, she can lift the other into the air 180 degrees; while talking to her by the bar, TJ suggested that she put her foot next to my head. She did, with a simple shrug of her shoulders and an evil smile on her face. I considered the very real possibility that a man can have two soulmates.
- As an early birthday gift, TJ bought me a dance from Erin, a beautiful brunette. She waited until a two-for-one special was announced on private dances before she led me by the hand to the private room. I sat with a glass of Makers & Coke, while she plied her trade with graceful perfection. A soulmate harem, perhaps?
- As closing time approached, the club DJ, his girlfriend, S-Money, the manager, and TJ were all trying to convince me to move to Tampa. The DJ’s girlfriend showed me pictures of the apartment that they had just moved into on the beach in Clearwater, noting that there were still a couple of units available in their building; the manager and S-Money told me about “hurricane parties,” when everyone gathered together in one secure location during a storm and drank themselves fearless. By the time I got back to my hotel, I couldn’t remember why I don’t live down there.
Now if only I could get my harem up to Pittsburgh.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
In my defense, it was my birthday. For the average person, having your birthday fall on a Saturday is cause for excitement. For an avid drinker, it’s cause for enthusiastic planning—such as having a 64oz bottle of Gatorade on alert in the refrigerator, instead of the 32oz that he (I) normally stashes. For an avid drinker whose circle of friends is composed almost entirely of other avid drinkers (*raises hand*), it’s cause for alarm—an alarm that I heard, but foolishly chose to ignore.
For the celebration, I decided to follow a tried-and-true format, with one interesting twist. I called on all of my friends to gather at one designated drinking hole, where we would enjoy each other’s raucous behavior, embellished claims of greatness, and proclivity for making poor decisions. And we may even fall down. Who wouldn’t want all of that for his birthday? The twist, however, was this: I set up a birthday party for myself at Buckhead Saloon. This “party” meant that cover was free for me, and that from 10 to 12 all of my drinks—whether they be beer, liquor, or lighter fluid—were 25 cents each. And for each person whose name graced the detailed guest list that I submitted to the event manager at Buckhead, similar rules applied: free cover, and $2 “You-Call-Its” from 10 to 12. God save us. I gave them my finalized list on Saturday afternoon, and hung up the phone feeling I had a better understanding of what it was like for Truman to give the go-ahead on Hiroshima.
I began at Haze’s place for some pregaming in the form of cans of Miller Lite and Beast (Milwaukee’s Best, for the unenlightened). I can sense disapproval coming from some of you, but understand this: if you graduate from Washington and Jefferson College, Beast is your roots. It’s a Southern gentleman’s sweet tea, a Houston playa’s sizzurp. It’s your heritage, your mentor, your fate. It’s Trip McNeely.
When we got inside, we met up with “Tommy College” and some others. After a couple of minutes, T.C. said “Did you see Juli, Jed’s sister? She’s here.” A.K.A., Juli from my Ocean City story. I suddenly realized that she was the brunette who had stared at me in line. I guess she was testing me to see if I recognized her, and I failed. She was standing near where we were, so I walked over and said “hi.” She seemed a little put off by me not remembering her earlier, though, so our convo lasted all of 30 seconds. I’ve seen you all of twice in the past 4½ years, and you’re upset I don’t immediately recognize you? Bump that nonsense. I went back to hanging with my peoples.
However, that may have directly contributed to my downfall. My boy Hurley had shown up, and made the immediate declaration that it was time for me to start my birthday shots. Before I knew it, I had a Jager Bomb in one hand and a Jack & Coke in the other. This was only the beginning. T.C. ordered me his favorite: “a scotch, a bourbon, and a beer.” Haze arrived, and ordered a shot of tequila. Nick arrived, and handed me a shot of whiskey and a beer. And all of this took place in a space of about 20 minutes. My conscience began yelling, “DISENGAGE! DISENGAGE!”
I heard him, but I wasn’t listening. I took a large swig of beer. “MAYDAY! MAYDAY!!” I lifted yet another shot (either tequila or whiskey; I really can’t remember), looked at some of my friends, and said loud and clear, “You realize that this, right here, is the kill shot, right?” Evil grins and nods came back my way. “EJECT YOU MORON, EJECT! GET OUT OF THERE!” Down the hatch. “NNNOOOOOOOOO!!!” Five minutes or so later, down came the lights.
The next flash of memory that comes to me is my last strides towards the men’s room sink, where a torrent was unleashed from my mouth. Next, I remember Nick instructing me, as we walked through a parking lot, to take off the dress shirt that I was wearing. Then I remember Haze laughing as he placed a garbage can next to the couch that I was laying on, while his brother and his bro’s girlfriend laughed from the sofa bed. And then daylight, and the nagging feeling that, for roughly the next 48 hours, I was going to hear nothing good about the night before.
That notion was both supported and refuted (in my mind, at least, because I am by all means an a**hole) by the first story I heard that morning. It came from Tony, who called to see how I was doing. He had been the first of my friends to arrive on the scene in the bathroom, after seeing me dash over there. When he walked in, I was standing at the sink with vomit all over me and it. And to my left was a random guy standing there in total shock, with vomit on his shirt. He’d been hit by a stray shot.
If that guy happens to be out there reading this: My bad. But if I have to go down, I’m taking others with me.