In 2002, I had a lot of those nights. I had graduated from college the previous year, but still hadn’t found a “real” job yet. To get by, I worked temp stints for the shipping and receiving department of a local university. And in between those stints, when I wasn’t hopelessly seeking full-time employment, I was drinking my face off at bars with my friends. It didn’t help, either, that some of my friends were themselves bartenders. Most were only working bartending jobs for the time being, though. Some of them were just like me, waiting for real life to start; others were doing it to pay for college and a brighter future. Either way, they kept me sloshed, and I loved them for it.
Breitling, Butters, “Swing Low”, and I arrived around 9, ready to get crazy. Tequila Willies, however, wasn’t quite as ready. As we walked through the doors, we quickly calculated that our group of four represented approximately one tenth of the establishment’s clientele for the night. Normally that might be cause for making a change of venue; but, with Steph pouring us liberal servings of booze, we decided to tough it out. You know, for her sake. Yep. *cough*
Butters was newly separated from his first wife, and eager to find any feminine comfort he could (what better place than a nightclub on a Monday night, right?). Breitling was DD, and therefore kept his imbibing to a respectful minimum. As for me, I wasn’t necessarily minimizing my intake, but I didn’t have the pedal to the floor, either. This was because I understood the circumstances in which we found ourselves: Swing Low’s drinking sometimes kicked into a special gear, wherein the police and/or knuckles could be involved. As so, the more aware I was of what was going on around us, the better. And it didn’t take long for this strategy to prove sensible.
Halfway through the night, Swing found himself in a heated confrontation with another bar-going gent. I was a few feet away talking to someone at the time, and missed what had sparked all of the animosity. When the raised voices and commotion caught my attention, a guy of hardened facial features was face-to-face with Swing, with his friends assembling behind him. As the two of them jawed back and forth, I took off my watch and my chain and put them in my pocket, thinking, “Here we go.” But Swing wasn’t quite “Swing Drunk” yet, and therefore still had his charm about him.
Swing: “What’re you gonna do?”
Guy: “Motherfucker, I don’t play that shit—I’m from Clairton! I’ll—”
Swing: *interrupting* “Wait, you’re from Clairton?”
Guy: “Hell yeah!”
Swing: “You know Jaron [M.]?”
Guy: “Yeah, he’s a friend of mine.”
Swing: “That’s my boy!”
A few minutes later, Swing’s adversary was buying us shots. I kid you not.
This man-of-the-people version of Swing wouldn’t last forever, unfortunately. As we neared closing time, I found myself standing alone while watching Butters’, completely riveted by his actions. He had found a girl, and was now behind her, enthusiastically grinding on her booty. Not that this girl was, how you say, chaste. In fact, she was a certified dirt bag. The whole scene was hilarious. But something I spotted off in the distance quickly distracted me—Swing was surrounded by a posse of bouncers.
I walked over to find out what the problem was. Swing, standing in the raised section of the club, had leaned over the railing and poured beer onto some of the people below on the dance floor. “Well, shit…” Typically, I will argue my friends’ case for staying in the bar until I’m blue in the face. But there really wasn’t much defending this one. I could say he did it by accident, but Swing’s childlike giggling clued me in that it was anything but accidental. The boys in dress pants and tight black shirts were determined to remove Swing from the premises, and all we could do was acquiesce. Breitling went off to the parking lot to get his truck; I called Butters over and told him what the situation was. Now you, like I in that moment, might expect him to have abandoned his chase of the aforementioned skank and come to his friend’s aid. But, drunk and newly single, Butters chose instead to return to said skank and petition her for her phone number—ignoring the fact that she was now being grinded on by some other guy dancing behind her. Telling him to “hurry the fuck up,” I returned to Swing, as he was being escorted out.
One bouncer in particular, who was a 5’8” douche bag, had run his mouth and gotten Swing charged up. My boy unleashed a “fuck your mother!” The next thing I knew, fists were flying. D-bag Bouncer launched a right into Swing’s jaw while he was still being restrained by other bouncers; I lunged at D-bag Bouncer, but quickly crashed down onto the Boardwalk steps, under the weight of two other bouncers. Seeing the melee move out into the parking lot, I threw an elbow into one of the bouncers on top of me, and struggled my way free. When I got to Swing, some of the bouncers had pulled him away from the fray, while another one held back D-bag. Breitling had arrived, and together we gathered Swing into the back of his Escalade, as Butters came running out to the parking lot. Hopping into the back next to Swing, Butters showed us the new number in his phone and asked, “So what happened?”
Breitling dropped the rest of us off at Butters’ house in Beechview, where Swing Low lived at the time. Before he made it inside, however, Swing decided that he wanted to drunk dial his girlfriend. He was, however, rather sleepy. The happy compromise, therefore, was for him to lie on the sidewalk in front of Butters’ house as he talked. And of course he did this directly next to a drainage grate. And of course, as he wrapped up his conversation, he closed his phone and dropped it right down the grate. Unconcerned, he climbed to his feet and stumbled off into the house and up the stairs to his bed. Butters and I then set about trying to get the phone out of the grate, which he finally accomplished (rather impressively) after fashioning a hook out of a wire clothes hanger. The phone, however, had landed in a puddle, and was ruined.
The next morning I awoke on the living room couch. When I passed his bedroom on the way to the bathroom, I found Swing lying in his bed awake.
Me: “Good morning, asshole.”
Swing: “Hey. *feeling his face* Why does my jaw hurt?”