Thursday, December 16, 2010

Organized Chaos

I have a lot of friends. And not just in the Facebook sense of “I once shared an elevator with this person, found out that we both play Farmville, and now we’re ‘friends’-slash-‘neighbors’.” No, I actually know a lot of people. And a lot of the people I know also know a lot of people. This means that I meet a lot of the people that they know. And that means I end up knowing a lot more people.

And with all of that, you would think I’d have a much more exciting dating life. But that’s neither here nor…anywhere, frankly.

I say none of this to brag, of course (especially not that last part). Instead, I bring it up as evidence that I’ve been exposed to many types of people. And I think most can be narrowed down into one of two styles of friendship:
  1. There are those who refuse to leave a man behind. If they walked into the club with six other people, you better damn well believe they’re leaving with those same six (or they will at least have a reasonable amount of confidence that any buddy left to go his own way is going to end up someplace safe and/or advantageous…and/or disease-free). 
  2. On the other side of the coin you have those guys who don’t really give a fizzle where or how anyone gets anywhere at the end of the night. This doesn’t mean that they’re less of friends; if they feel you’re in any real danger, then they’re in the saddle, guns blazing. But short of seeing you blacked out and walking down the middle of a busy freeway, they’re going to leave you to your survival instincts after a long night of boozing—typically because they, themselves, are relying on their own survival instincts.
I’m tempted to say that there’s a third group, one comprised of people who straddle the line dividing the first two. People who, on some days, will fight for the good of the team; and who, on other days, will do for self, and worry about sorting out the details of everyone else’s well-being in the morning. People like…me. But the more I think about it, the harder I find it to put myself anywhere but in that second category above. The truth of the matter is, 95% of the time I’ve got only my survival in mind. I love my real friends, and will fight for them against any adversary. But I’m also what they call a “grown ass man”; all things being equal, if I associate with you on a friendship level, then I expect you to handle yourself as competently as I do. If you’re in true peril I’ll assist; but if you’re just acting a fool, I’ll catch you on the next one.

If you’re wondering where all of this is coming from, let me get to the point: Tank’s bachelor party took place last month.

Ahhhh…all starting to make sense now, isn’t it?

Ladies, you may not quite be up to speed, but I know that the fellas reading this are already with me. [Feel free to skip ahead a couple of paragraphs to get to the action, guys; I’m going to take a moment to assist the women.] I think most of the fairer sex is somewhat misinformed as to what goes on when guys get together for bachelor parties. In telling the tale of GG’s stag party last year, I explained how the party’s traditional involvement with exotic dancers isn’t quite as scandalous as you might have pictured. But with or without ladies of the pole-spinning arts, there’s a fundamental rule about bachelor parties that guys tend to accept as unspoken law: Coordination is a fool’s errand.

Sure, you can expertly lay out plans for the night’s start; but the levels of booze and testosterone are each steadily building in everyone’s bloodstreams throughout the event. Each is strong enough on its own; when mixed together, you have an incredibly powerful hallucinogenic. 15+ deranged guys are not going to stick to an itinerary. No, they’re like a rack of billiard balls. And anything—be it woman, whim, or other distraction—can come rocketing in like a cue ball at any moment.

Tank’s little brother, BAL, was in charge of putting the party together. Around 20 or so of us gathered at Tank’s house in Dormont that afternoon for beer, food, and college football. Tank’s kitchen and dining room were overrun by snacks and hors d'oeuvres, as well as burgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill; his game room was equipped with two large flatscreen TVs and fine Cuban cigars; his laundry room was converted into a beer pong arena and stocked with Irish Car Bomb ingredients; and his patio, where the kegs were located, became a beer garden/smoker’s shelter. A table for beer pong—complete with pong balls, cups, and pitchers—had also been set up on the patio; but with temperatures in the upper 40s, it remained dormant. The man of honor drank from his very own black chalice with the word “PIMP” spelled out in glittering (albeit fake) diamonds. A DD limo would be coming after 8 pm to take people to Station Square. With that, a loose framework was created for the day’s shenanigans.

Breitling arrived in a new, all-black International MXT. As he parked on the street in front of Tank’s house, he blew the horn; the blast that resulted boomed through the quiet neighborhood and rattled windows up and down the street. An elderly woman came out of her house yelling “fucking asshole!”, and was intercepted by Chief.

Chief: “I’m sorry about that, ma’am! He was just having a little fun.”
Woman: “Well tell him he’s an asshole! What is that thing?”
Chief: “I think it’s a train!”

While every guy in my alcoholic family adds a distinctive and pleasing flavor to a gathering, it’s my W&J brothers that always deliver the best return on my drinking investment. This is true down to the smallest of interactions. For instance: As I stood on the patio with Chief and Finn trading all of the familiar insults, degradations, and aspersions that are by now customary and as warm as a brotherly embrace, a pause eventually came to our banter. Chief, never to leave a moment free of mischief, reached over and picked up a pong ball from the table. He then sized up Finn’s cup—sitting on the table less than two feet away—and fired a shot directly into it with a playful chuckle. Finn, unfazed, picked the ball out of his beer, shook it off, and began taking the measure on the cup in Chief’s hand, again less than two feet away. Cocking back his hand, he snapped off a shot with everything he could muster—directly at Chief’s forehead.

That was likely the last time that day that a pong ball was thrown in jest, though. The games inside quickly took on more and more importance, as the competitiveness in the air was ratcheted up by the sudden (but not unexpected) introduction of cash to the table. Ten, twenty, fifty, and even one hundred dollar bills were soon being tossed on the table by gladiators and spectators alike (which for me quickly brought to mind my experience at the W&J frat party several years ago). Being low on funds, I only made one bet, putting $20 on Esq and Baby Joey to beat Chief and our buddy, “Sloku” [for those of you curious about the genesis of that alias: his spiked hair reminds me of the DragonBall Z character, Goku—he even dressed as him one Halloween—and he speaks with a slow, deliberate tone]. When I lost that to Butters, I thought better of risking anything further. At its peak, the day’s wagering featured a battle in which each of the four men on the table put up $100 of his own money—small change for a Vegas craps table, but nearly unheard of in middle class Pittsburgh beer pong. Baby Joey has long maintained a much more modest income than his older brother Esq, a young hotshot lawyer. But having recently found a lucrative new career path, Joey was unexpectedly covering his sibling with the laundry room’s impromptu beer sportsbook. “I’m into Joey for $150,” Esq said incredulously. “The world’s coming to an end.”

Though two limos were supposed to move the party to Station Square at 8, it was after 10 by the time we were ready to be moved. I had intended to only attend the first half of the day’s events, and to therefore go easy on my bank account by skipping the club-hopping. By this point in the night, however, Chief and others were well lubricated by the high of beer pong glories and the…beer…of beer pong defeats (not to mention by a few rounds of Irish Car Bombs done in toast to the groom-to-be), and I was told that I would be insulting them by not staying out at their cost.

So my choices are (1.) go home and fall asleep on my couch watching Chappelle Show reruns, or (2.) smoke cigars in a limo ride to Station Square and party with my boys…for free? Well, I guess I could stay out a little longer—for Tank’s sake.

We hit Steel House a mangled, slow-moving, low-laying cloud of 15 or so drunks, speaking loudly in coarse terms, ordering rounds of shots and apologizing to anyone nearby who wasn’t as inebriated as us—which was everyone. I’m quite certain that by this point I was no longer standing and/or walking, but instead floating; I was being carried along by my own piece of the cloud, a cushy haze that enveloped my comprehension and speech patterns. Soon we had spread into Barroom, onto the dance floor and throughout the surrounding lounge areas. Then there were kielbasa sandwiches from the vendor on Barroom’s deck, and then…well, somehow I was walking through the front doors of Rivers Casino with Butters, our friend Dirty, and Joey.

I really don’t remember how we got there, though I think it was via limo. We found Breitling and another guy from the party at a Pai Gow table. After some further searching we found Esq alone at a blackjack table. And after talking to other various party refugees found strewn around the casino floor, we learned that Tank and BAL were in the poker room. Chief was first said to be somewhere at a craps table, but subsequent reports placed him heading for the doors and—hopefully—a cab to Tank’s house.

Rivers being a PA casino, last call for alcohol comes around 1:30 am. Great; dry and broke in a casino. Now that’s living. The next few hours were spent touring the floor with Butters and Joey, watching our scattered crew play their chosen games of chance.
  • Blackjack: Esq was losing badly, but stubbornly kept throwing more money on the table, against our advice. 
  • Pai Gow: Breitling spoke in loud, obnoxious streams of profanity and bravado (standard) as he built up a $5000 stack of chips in front of him. While walking past this vivid display of the rich getting richer, Butters paused, looked at me, and said, “I hate him.”
  • Poker: On our second stop to the poker room, we found a Tank-less BAL. The groom-to-be had, it was theorized, headed home. The younger of the two brothers was committed to staying on the table for the long haul, having just invested another $200 buy-in. The early end to drink service didn’t seem to have hindered his inebriation much, as he looked as though he could pass out in his chair at any moment. Sometimes you simply leave a man to die the death that his dignity desires.
We found Dirty and, all four of us being sober and exhausted, grabbed a cab back to Tank’s house at 4:30 am. His drained fiancée, Katie (a saint of a woman, really), opened the door for us. She assured us that Tank had, indeed, found his way home, and was sleeping it off in their bedroom.

Just like we’d planned.

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