There are hundreds—if not thousands—of drinking stories involving my friends and me. But few hold a place as dear in our hearts as the tale of a night in Charlottesville, VA in February 2002. It is frequently repeated and discussed whenever more than two of the seven key players are gathered together; especially when we’re assembled because one of those individuals is getting married. The contrast between “drunken idiot yelling/ shoving/ eating/ hunting/ slamming/ disappearing/ escaping/ etc...” and “mature man marrying” is too sharp not to inspire awe and retellings of the great adventure.
The trip arose from very basic origins: Esq was in his first year of law school at the University of Virginia, and wanted his boys to come hang out for a night on the town. Nearing Charlottesville, BlahBlahBlah and I wondered which highway exit we were supposed to take to get to Esq’s apartment. That question was answered, however, when a towering, glowing Hardee's star appeared over the trees that lined an upcoming exit ramp. Any Washington & Jefferson grad (pre Class of ’06) worth his salt has taken an intoxicated 3 a.m. trip to the Hardee's drive-thru, and subsequently inhaled the greasiest—and most satisfying—patties of ground meat to ever get adorned with bacon, cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles, and buns. When we took the exit and found Esq’s apartment building to be a parking lot away from the giant star that had guided us, it just felt…right.
The five of us—Chief, Baby Joey, Butters, BBB, and I—knocked on Esq’s door, and were greeted by the man himself, who was holding an open 30 pack of Milwaukee’s Best (Beast) Light. We were each handed a cold can as we filed past him. Court was in session.
Our buddy Motown and his wife (“Mrs. Motown,” though at the time she was still just his girlfriend) arrived a short while later, having driven from their home in a nearby Virginia town where Motown worked as a corrections officer at a prison. His new career path was hilarious to those of us who knew Motown. A generally jovial guy, he was ever so quick to settle disputes with his fists and muscles, which are as big as his near constant grin. Hours after I first met Motown, back in college, I watched him dish out a thorough beatdown to a guy behind a dorm building. Motown wasn’t a student at W&J, but his best friend was, as was a Phi Si with whom he had beefed the previous summer. Motown had decided, therefore, to kill two birds with one stone by visiting his buddy and taking care of his unfinished business all in the same night. His best friend (who is also a friend of mine) and I, along with 3 or 4 others, stood guard to be sure the fight stayed one-on-one (Phi Sis typically preferred 20-vs.-1 odds than to shoot a fair one). For approximately three minutes, Motown manhandled his opponent, delivering punches, body slams, and a few rib kicks—before we finally stepped in and pulled him off the poor sap—with childlike enthusiasm, grinning and playfully talking trash. As his friend walked the beaten guy back to the Phi Si house, I joined the others in laughingly congratulating Motown, all while thinking to myself, “Thank god he’s on my side.”
The eight of us at Esq’s apartment spent the next few hours trading stories, playing games, and annihilating the better part of four Beast 30 packs. I believe the final tally as we were leaving for the bars was around 96 cans of beer that had been sent to their final resting place. That’s 12 beers per person. Yessir. And now it was time to unleash ourselves upon Charlottesville.
Our first stop was a large, crowded sports bar [I cannot remember the name, but if one of my friends does, I will update the blog later]. As we reached the door and the bouncer who was checking IDs, Chief suddenly realized that he had left behind his driver’s license…in Pittsburgh. He explained this to the doorman, who was far from sympathetic. Motown, thinking fast, stepped forward and flashed his corrections officer badge. “Don’t worry,” he assured the bouncer, “I’ll keep an eye on him.” It was nothing short of ironic to see one of my friends taken into a bar by a badge.
As we filed up the steps into the bar, Chief began a “Hear we go, Steelers” chant—the same nauseating, slack-jawed chorus typically heard in and around Heinz Field in the fall. Only we were in central Virginia. In February. For Yinzers, logic is rarely an option.
Despite his conspicuous introduction to Charlottesville’s nightlife, Chief was far from being our biggest problem child. Not long after getting ourselves drinks, BBB decided he was going to try out the pool tables. But when he walked over to a busy table and placed a dollar bill down on the railing, one of the guys playing on the table informed him that this bar had a different policy regarding their billiards tables. Instead of them being pay-per-play, bar patrons had to put down a credit card and “rent” a table for a set amount of time. Unfortunately, BBB had long ago drunk himself past the point of comprehending this adjustment to his plan to secure a pool table. Seeing a confused look on his face, the other guy picked up BBB’s dollar and handed it back to him, while trying to explain the rules once again. BBB looked at him, and then slammed his dollar bill back down on the railing. The guy once again picked up the bill and handed it back to BBB, who once again slammed it down on the table. Negotiations were at an impasse.
All of this caught the attention of a bouncer, who pulled BBB over to where the rest of us were located. The owner and another bouncer came over as well, and I found myself standing between them and my boys, playing “Sober Representative” for BBB. The owner wanted to remove him (and probably the rest of us as well), but I did my best to reason with him. It didn’t help, of course, that while I talked to him Chief stood behind me calling one of the bouncers “Flava Flav.” Shouts of “Hey Flav, where’s your giant clock?” bellowed from over my right shoulder while I tried to convince the bar owner that my other friend wasn’t too drunk to be in the establishment. ‘Tis my life.
Somehow, I managed to persuade the owner that I could control BBB. As he began to relent, however, I glanced past him to the pool table where all of the fun had started. I had not realized it, but BBB had snuck away from the fray, and was back at the table. Giggling yet methodic, he lined the pool table's railing with empty beer bottles from around the bar. My mouth-agape gaze finally cued the owner to turn around, and after seeing BBB’s work, he glared back at me with anger. I’m not sure he even needed to say the words “get out” for us to know that our visit to his bar had ended.
We walked down the street to a smaller, less-populated bar. We got ourselves beers, and things were going swimmingly…for about five minutes. Chief had reached his rambunctious stage of heavy drinking—known amongst our circle of friends as “Chief Drunk”—and decided that some of the random people near him were in need of some playful shoves. The bartender, seeing a crew made up mostly of large gentlemen (Butters, at about 6’0” 230lbs was the smallest male in our group), decided to nip things in the proverbial bud. My drunk had finally caught up with me, so Esq took over all negotiation duties. The bartender made Esq see the wisdom in our leaving; but, law student that he was, my friend decided to reach a compromise. Behind the bar was a large bell (I’m not sure why it was there; maybe it’s just a Virginia thing?), and Esq said he needed to ring it in exchange for us cutting our stay short. The bartender conceded, and the bar was quickly filled with the piercing clanging of Esq’s parting gift. Finished with the bell, and grinning from ear to ear, he turned to the rest of us and said, “Okay, let’s go!”