Part I: Friday
Life is cruel. To be more succinct, aging is cruel. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, even the best players eventually lose a step. There are just certain things you can push your body and psyche to withstand when you’re 21 that feel downright insane when you’re 31. But what separates the former all-pro from the future hall-of-famer is this: when age begins to take away the physical blessings that made him so great, the former all-pro never comes to grips with it. He falters, and eventually fades away. But the future hall-of-famer, when faced with the same deterioration of his raw abilities, adjusts his game. He practices harder, he works on his technique and his reads, and he plays the angles that allow him to compensate for his suddenly insufficient body. It’s why Jerry Rice will always be looked at as the benchmark for outstanding wide receivers, and Andre Rison will always be looked at as that guy who had his house burned down by a crazy girlfriend (R.I.P., Left Eye).
And that brings me to this past weekend. On Friday, Steph (no, I’m not insinuating that she burned down any buildings…that I know of) picked me up in her Pittsburgh-sky-gray Hummer H3, and we sped towards Washington, D.C. and the annual love letter to boozing that is Chief’s birthday celebration—or Chiefapalooza, to which it is now commonly referred. Thanks to yours truly, she and I got off to a very late start (she had hoped to leave around 3:30 pm; 2½ hours later we were finally heading towards the highway onramp), and had only reached the edge of Alexandria, VA by about a quarter after ten. A long week of snow, ice, and work stresses had us both eager to blow off some steam (especially Steph, whose road rage was flaring up more and more with every passing second that a drink wasn’t in her hand; there are several people out in the world who don’t know just how close they came to having a 5’4” sorority girl run them off of I-270 with her Hummer). And, booze fiends that we are, we soon began speculating about our first sips of spirits with addict-like enthusiasm. “Maybe I’ll start with a double Red Bull & vodka,” I said wistfully as our eyes scanned street signs, looking for the next turn. “Whatever it is,” I assured, “it’ll be a double.”
After she dropped me off in front of my hotel, Steph sped off towards her own itinerary of adventures in D.C. and I raced to meet up with Chief and everyone else at Theismann’s. I checked in, washed up quickly, changed my clothes, and was walking purposefully towards the hotel elevator as I texted to Chief, “Order daddy a double vodka-Red Bull.”
I arrived to a well-lubricated crowd (Chief, Kim, Esq, Shock B, Esq’s buddy Drew, CJ, Finn, Genoa, Cat, Sam, and Cat’s friend Christy) who were splitting their attention between the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, the Pitt – WVU men’s basketball game (Go Pitt!), and the various glasses and bottles of alcohol littered around their annexed section of bar real estate. After hugging it out, Chief told me that the bar was out of Red Bull.
Chief: “I was going to get you some Hennessy instead, but I didn’t want to be stereotypical.”
Me: “Psshh, do it up. Double Henny on the rocks!”
Taking the glass in my left hand, I toasted with Chief and had half of the Henny down before my right hand could send Steph a text informing her of what my first libation was. A few rounds of Miller Lite later, our crew—minus the wifeys—moved to Murphy’s, an Irish pub in the middle of Old Town Alexandria. [For one reason or another, I began drinking Coronas shortly after getting there, and the irony just hit me that I switched to a Mexican beer instead of a beer called “Miller” when I got to an Irish pub.] Cat bought Chief a glass of 16 year old Bushmills for his birthday, and when I had a sip it made me rethink my life’s experiences for never having tasted it before that moment. Here I thought I was a man of the world when it came to whiskey; then along came that little tumbler glass of bronze beauty to make me feel like a virgin all over again.
Being that we were in an Irish pub, we decided to get a round of Car Bombs. I could almost hear my liver whimper. More beers, more shots. My liver began sobbing. As the lights came up and the bouncer started pushing us towards the door, I downed the last of my beer, and then had another one shoved in my face by Cat, who didn’t want it to go to waste. My liver began preparing a hara-kiri ceremony.
Standing on the sidewalk outside of the bar, everyone debated their next moves. Esq, CJ, and Finn decided to go back to Chief’s place to drink and play Xbox. I, on the other hand, understood 3 crucial pieces of information:
1. I am 30 years old.
2. It was already 2:30 a.m., and we had a full day of celebration on Saturday.
3. I paid good money for a nice hotel room with a king-sized bed.
While the Andre Risons tried to hail a cab, Jerry Rice peaced out and strolled down King Street to his hotel.
[To be continued...]