[When we last left our grizzled veteran, he'd made the wise and experienced decision to head for his base camp—the Embassy Suites in Alexandria, VA—after a long night of travelling and boozing.]
Part II: Saturday and Sunday
I awoke in my plush hotel bed around 10:30 a.m., refreshed and relaxed. The same can’t be said for my compatriots who had gone back to Chief’s the night before. Genoa called to discuss plans for sightseeing in D.C., and informed me that she had just dropped Esq off at the hotel about a half hour earlier. He, along with CJ, Chief, and Finn, had stayed up until almost 5 in the morning. “There’s a wise move.” Chief and Finn were moving slower than Tiger Woods walking the exhibitors’ hall at the Adult Entertainment Expo; by the time they had gotten themselves together and met me at the King Street Metro station, it was after 2.
Everyone found a different way of handling their hangovers that day: Chief, Finn, their better halves, and I spent the afternoon in Chinatown touring the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. Steph helped her girl put together safe sex education packets containing condoms and “warming lube” for Valentine’s Day, all of which came with the promotional slogan “Protect your cupid!” (*smh* Only Steph…) Shock B voyaged off on her own to shop at a mall in D.C.; Esq, however, didn’t make it any further than their hotel bed. Still, despite the downtime, everyone seemed optimistic for the night ahead. Chief assured we’d find some fun “worthy of getting put into the blog.” Genoa, on her first road trip since giving birth to her and Finn’s daughter last fall, was downright vibrant, laughing, joking, and bouncing around. And she seemed to be breathing life into her husband. When she playfully teased me about something in the gift shop, I warned, “You’re no longer with child—I can hit you now.” Finn chimed in appreciatively, “Oh yeah—thanks for reminding me!”
I got back to the hotel around 6:15, and could start to feel myself drag a bit after several hours on my feet. Luckily, the Embassy Suites’ daily happy hour was in full gear, which meant $2 got me a scotch on the rocks (I texted Esq to see if he and Shock wanted to come downstairs and join me; he still hadn’t moved from his bed, and was in no hurry to do so). That drink, combined with a shower back in my room, was chicken soup for the boozehound’s soul. I was firing on all cylinders again.
We soon collected ourselves at the Union Station Capital City Brewing Co. for a late dinner, meeting up with Rob & K., CJ, our boys “Babyface” and Bobby, and various others in the process. The 14 of us caught up on lives, argued about sports, and discussed urban renewal over ribs, fish, French fries, chicken sandwiches, and lots of beer. It had been several years since I’d seen Babyface, and acting on information recently passed along by one of our many mutual friends, I said, “So I hear you’ve got a girl now. Congrats.”
Babyface: *pauses* “Yeahhhh, we’re not together anymore.”
Me: “Ah, my bad. Didn’t y’all just start?”
Babyface: “It’s cool. Yeah, couple of months. But it’s over now.”
Me: “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
Babyface: “It just wasn’t working out, but, uh…*flashes a big grin* Yeah, it’s a GOOD thing.”
Me: *laughing hard*
Babyface: “Yeah. Put THAT one in the blog!”
While the rest of us did the dinner thing, Steph—who planned to rendezvous with us once we were at a bar—was keeping me apprised of her and her crew’s own activities via text messages. She punctuated the end of one such text with, “Petrons flying!!!” I handed the phone to Babyface, and said, “‘Petron’?”
Babyface: “I guess she means ‘Patron.’”
Me: “Yeah, maybe it’s a typo. I know she knows how to spell ‘Patron’.”
Babyface: “It might depend on how much she’s had.”
Babyface had originally planned on being out with us all night; however, he made a critical error in forgetting to bring his driver’s license with him—and in doing so quite likely became the first person above the age of 24 to ever show up for a night of drinking sans ID. Babyface came up at W&J a couple of years behind me, and I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of failure as a mentor; apparently he’s not quite as up on the Boozing Field Survival Kit as he should be.
When we paid the bill and gathered our things, it was almost 11:30. Unfortunately, due to the effects of Snowpocalypse, the Metro—which normally runs until 3 a.m. on Saturday nights—was shutting down at midnight for track maintenance. We all raced off to the station; but Genoa picked that precise moment to go to the little girls’ room, which meant that she, Kim, Chief, and Finn were a minute or so behind the rest of us. The front-runners just barely hopped on a train before it left the station; the remaining foursome had to wait over twenty minutes before the last train of the night brought them to Dupont Circle to meet up with us at Buffalo Billiards.
A large, sprawling, underground sports bar/pool hall, Buffalo Billiards is every partier’s nirvana. Correction: it was most partiers’ nirvana. For Chief, Esq, and Finn, however, it was the scene of an unforeseen epiphany. Sitting at pushed-together tables amid hundreds of drunken people, big screens, and numerous well-stocked bars, three of my most trusted allies were overwhelmed. Instead of jokes, laughter, and ubiquitous toasts—much like the previous night had seen—there were yawns, unattended beers, and looks of defeat. (By the way, the texts from Steph hadn’t stopped; after I informed her of my allies’ state, she responded with, “Omg buck the fuck up. Partys on the way”.) They suddenly seemed to grasp why I’d gone to bed at 2:30 the night before, instead of paying homage to our illustrious past by staying up after 3 to drink and carouse. What you find normal in your 20s….well, in your 30s, it’s a different story.
As for me, I had used my training to my advantage. I’d started with a beer when we got to the bar, but began feeling worn and switched to a Red Bull and vodka to wake me up. I switched back to another beer, but spotted Shock drinking a Long Island Iced Tea, which was beating her ass like she’d tried to steal an ice cube from it. After a sip of it, I winced. “See?” she said, vindicated in her hammered state, “This is no joke.” I quickly put in my first of many orders for one of my own.
Our party crew gradually grew in numbers. Sam, Cat, and two friends of theirs caught up with us. Then, as I stood talking to the guys, I suddenly felt my entire upper body get yanked back and downwards; Steph had arrived, and had jumped on my back to announce such. I turned and said “Hi” to her and her three friends. But before I could be introduced, Friend #2 was making a hurried departure to the bathroom, with Friend #1 in close pursuit. A night of Patron and champagne had caught up to Friend #2, and she was taking it out on a stall in Buffalo Billiards’ ladies’ room. Friend #3 was her gentleman friend, an obvious sugar daddy. Twice Friend #2’s age, and half her level in attractiveness, he monitored her condition like someone watching stock he’d invested in as it took a sudden, but temporary, dive. Once Friend #2 had collected herself, Sugar Daddy was eagerly sweeping her off to his house/adultery hideaway.
Before Friend #2 and Sugar Daddy could get out the door, however, Chief, Esq, Finn, and their significant others all bid adieu. Not even the glass of Jim Beam (his personal ambrosia) that I’d bought for him could revive Chief. The remaining soldiers resigned to closing the bar down. Steph told me how a round of three shots that she’d bought at her first bar of the night had cost her $53 (followed by an impolite comment about D.C.); I countered by buying a round of Grape Bombs for her, Friend #1 and I that cost me about $30. CJ then helped me in drinking every last bit of Long Island Iced Tea that we could squeeze from the bar until the lights came up.
As we all hit the street and parted ways, we weren’t prepared for the frenzy that we were about to walk into. Washington D.C., while having a metropolitan population more than twice that of Pittsburgh, has roughly the same amount of taxis (it would seem). This normally isn’t much of a problem, because they also have the extensive Metro system, which aids in moving said metropolitan population at the end of a long night of boozing. But with the Metro shut down early on this night, and millions of people pouring out of the bars at 3 a.m., the scene could only be described with the words “cluster” and “fuck.” People were on each and every corner and stretch of road in Dupont Circle trying to hail cabs that, more often than not, flew right past them. I slowly moved up the road, scanning the distance for approaching cabs. But almost every time one appeared, there were people already in the back seat, warm and thrilled that their wait had ended.
After about a half hour of this frozen torture, I looked down the road and spotted a familiar face: CJ was standing a hundred feet away, stuck in the same misery as I was. And he only lived a couple of miles away near Chinatown; he likely could have walked home straight from the bar and been there by then. I know that because Steph and her friend, who were going about the same distance, made that very decision. Steph was enjoying a nightcap in her friend’s warm apartment, and laughing at me as I texted my frustrations and drunken hatred of all things taxi. I finally was able to flag down a cab at around 3:45 a.m., and tried to negotiate for him to take CJ to his place first. The driver was having none of it, and as I was finally whisked off to northern Virginia, my friend was left in the battle zone, still trying to get to his relatively-nearby apartment.
The next day was the typical road-trip closing ceremony: buzzing—while still buzzed—along the highway, half-delirious from a mind awash in the previous 48 hours’ anecdotes and the looming responsibilities that await in the upcoming workweek. Add to that fast food, top-40 hip hop from the last two decades, and Steph and I discussing our mutual loathing of Valentine’s Day (this was February 14th, after all). When we stopped at a Wendy’s in Frederick, MD, Steph found herself in a minor quarrel with the woman taking orders in the drive thru. As we pulled off and she asked rhetorically why some of the world’s more “WTF?” moments tend to happen to her, I answered by summing up the weekend as a whole.
“Shit’s crazy, son!”