Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What I Learned This Summer (2011)

[Note: I started writing this collection of tales in September, but was soon distracted by life’s various other comings and goings. These anecdotes—and the collection as a whole—were something I really wanted to get published, and as such I made sure to complete this write as soon as I found some free time. So even though it is now nearly Winter 2011, I am publishing this in full. Hell, I’m just happy I got it up before Summer 2012. Brace yourselves, this is a long one.]

Summer of 2011…I barely knew thee.

Time is cruel—this is well-known and well-documented. But, for my money, its most sinister trick is this: The older you get, the slower your internal clock moves. When I was a kid and my mother told me to wait 20 minutes, I endured what felt like two weeks before those 20 minutes expired. A day was a year. A year equaled a lifetime. But, now that I’m an adult, everything has turned around. A year goes by in a day, and a day is merely a blink of the eye.

Two years ago—though it feels like a week—I wrote a post about the Summer of 2009’s various episodes and shenanigans. It served two purposes for me: It helped me cope with the heartache I was feeling over The Ex, fresh as our breakup was; and it gave me a fairly simple and clean way of dumping all of the various untold drunken stories from the previous three months on you, the reader. A summer’s worth of alcohol-fueled absurdity wrapped up neatly into one narrative. Easy.

The Summer of 2011, thankfully, didn’t feature a tortuous love story. But once again it was full of small tales and anecdotes that have yet to be shared here at On the Rocks. While I saved my heart the anguish of a doomed romance, I wasn’t nearly as kind to my liver. Or to my pride. But life still happens; as such, there is one note in particular from this summer that plays more “Landslide” than “Where the Party At?” And so, in no particular order, I give you the various lessons on life and the pursuit of alcoholic perfection that I gathered through the fleeting days of my favorite season.

  • If you’re drinking a milkshake that isn’t 75% alcohol, you’re just not doing it right. One humid night in August, TJ introduced me to a crew of beautiful sluts: BRGR’s “spiked shakes”—most notably the Salty Caramel. The combination of the juvenile glee you feel when drinking a milkshake and the juvenile behavior you exhibit when three sheets to the wind is life-affirming. Stated. 
  • Don’t let the fact that it’s not your pool stop you from throwing a great pool party. One Friday in July, Armo and I talked about the weekend ahead. Neither of us had much of anything planned, though our buddy Tea Bags would be in town and hanging out at Armo’s house the next day. Owning nothing but my balls and my word, I suggested to Armo that he turn his Saturday of quiet relaxation into a full-fledged pool party. Surprisingly, no further convincing was needed. Each of us shot texts and phone calls around the Pittsburgh area, and the next day a bevy of guests rocked out in his backyard with food, drinks, sun and fun.
  • Lemonade-vodka is the debbil. This one is more of TJ’s lesson than my own. On that bright summer day at Armo’s, the vast majority of the party was drinking Landshark and various other beers; since he doesn’t drink beer, TJ brought a bottle of Sweet Carolina Lemonade Vodka. By about 8 pm, he was a lost soul. He fell asleep at the table on the deck. He slurred words as though his tongue was glued to his cheek. And, when Rackt tried to gather him up to go home, he took off running into the house, making ungodly noises from the bathroom as he emptied his stomach of any food he’d eaten since high school.
  • Stairs are bad for your back. More specifically, sliding down a flight of stairs is bad for your back. Full of beer and cheer, I managed to slip while heading down Armo’s basement stairs on a bathroom break at the same pool party. Each step hit me like a bag of bricks as I fell for what felt like an hour. Gooney goo-goo.
  • Know how to leave anything in 30 seconds when you feel the heat coming. TK decided to make a better life for himself by moving to Tampa, FL. So on the Friday of Fourth of July Weekend, some of his coworkers held a going-away happy hour for him at Sammy's on Liberty and 9th. After getting confirmation from TK that The Ex wouldn’t be there (ironically), I stopped by to share a few cold ones in celebration. Of the coworkers who were in attendance, one in particular stuck out of the crowd; she was middle-aged (whereas everyone else was no older than their early 30s), overweight, frumpy, and had that look of being slightly “off”. I could almost sense the story approaching. Sure enough, I was soon informed by TK and the others that she was “that” woman in their office, the strange bird who was always saying or doing something to make them mouth the letters “w”, “t”, and “f”. And, as if to help initiate me into this circle of work friends, she soon provided a glaring example of this insanity.
    She found a moment to pull TK aside for a one-on-one conversation, and minutes later we saw him abruptly turn and head out the door of the bar. We asked the crazy coworker what had happened, but she was as shocked as the rest of us to see him go. When he hadn’t returned 15 minutes later, she left for the night. TK finally reappeared a good half hour after that, at which point he explained why he had bolted. “She told me, ‘You don’t know how many internal orgasms I’ve had sitting next to you for the last few years.’”
  • Life is a highway, especially when you’re drunk at 3 a.m. Later that night, I found myself on Mt. Washington with Jay Swag and others. And I was obliterated. Like my father’s fond of saying, I “couldn’t find my ass with two hands and a flashlight.” Pak had been involved in the night; as I’ve explained on numerous occasions, his presence means shots. And, as I’ve also made abundantly clear in the past, hiking is one of my favorite drunken pastimes. Something inside of me decided I needed to get to my car. It was, however, parked in the lot of Esq’s apartment building downtown [parking during nights and weekends is free, and it’s near Sammy’s], which was two miles of steep hillside, bridges, and city streets away. I didn’t give this much serious consideration however, because…well, because I wasn’t giving anything serious consideration (see the word “obliterated” above).
    The first thing I remember clearly is finding my path obstructed by a concrete structure. I climbed over it, and proceeded on. I was then in a valley of concrete. It was everywhere. The hills that surrounded the valley, the valley floor…everything was concrete. “What a strange land. Though I feel like I’ve seen it before…”
    Yup, I was standing in the middle of Interstate 579. I’m infinitely grateful that no cars or semis were on that stretch of highway at that moment—although I’m sure it would’ve clued me in a little faster. As you might imagine, I wasted little time scurrying the rest of the way across the highway and up over the embankment.
  • The house party didn’t die with Kid ‘n Play’s careers. I had the pleasure of being introduced to a previously-unchartered group of TD’s friends, and these people understand how to party. I attended two of their house parties: the first featured beer pong rules diligently explained in chalk on the driveway—including one involving streaking; the second, a “Xmas in July” party, featured a pope hat made out of a Miller Lite case, and a nativity scene that would make a West Boro Baptist freak’s head explode.
    They held at least four or five parties over the course of the summer; the invitation for one even led to a “Wifey Material” post. These are some new friends that I definitely cherish.
  • Sometimes you’ve gotta make your own fun. I awoke on my living room couch the day after the Xmas in July party. TD had dropped me off the night before, and that’s pretty much all I remembered. Due to water damage that my landlord did such a wonderful job of fixing, paint on my bedroom ceiling had been peeling off in large swaths for the previous couple of months. But on this particular morning, when I walked into my bedroom, I found that the paint was no longer hanging from the ceiling; it had now been relocated to the floor. And my bed. And my dresser. And any other horizontal surface in the room. Paint chips littered the landscape of the room for as far as the eye could see.
    I fought through my cloudy recollection of the previous 12 hours, searching for an explanation. Finally, I managed to recall the memory I was looking for: In my drunken stupor, I had decided to play a new game called “Swat the Paint”. And when I play, I play to win.
  • Boobs are better than Visa cards. On the Sunday of Fourth of July Weekend, TJ, Dupa, and I attended a small barbecue at our friend’s house. “Enzie”—as she and her siblings have nicknamed her drunken alter ego—was preparing pitchers of mojitos all day, and they were disappearing just as rapidly as she was making them. As the night set in, though, a day of drinking outside in the heat was beginning to overwhelm her. She wanted to go swimming, but the fact that she doesn’t own a pool was a bit of a setback. When we mentioned that Armo has one, Enzie implored us to ask him if we could all come over to swim. I texted him to see if he was home; he was, but he said that he had been drinking all day, and was going to call it an early night.
    I relayed this information to the group, but Enzie struck upon an idea. Squeezing together her ample chest in her tank top, she told me to snap a picture of her cleavage and send it to him. A few minutes after I’d hit “send”, Armo responded with, “Well, I guess I can stay up for a little while longer. How long ‘til you guys get here?”
  • If you don’t have boobs, pay with vodka. TD wanted to pregame at my place and then hang out in Shadyside one Friday in August, but I was reluctant to host people since my apartment was in serious need of a thorough cleaning. She then offered to act as my maid that afternoon, and to help prepare my place for guests. All she asked for in return was to drink. The price was right; I picked up two bottles of Clique on my way home from work, and TD soon arrived with a bag of Wendy’s with which to fortify her bloodstream. My little blonde friend then dusted and vacuumed in a black and white dress until my place was sparkling clean, all while tossing back drinks.
  • Too much success can go to your head…especially when you’re being paid in vodka. TD and I were both annihilated later that night. As she and I sat with Pakistanimal and others at Le Mardi Gras, I found myself desiring a little stroll. I ducked out—under the pretense of taking a phone call—and was soon back at my apartment, in my bathroom with the lights turned off, hurling into my sink. Not long after that, the little blonde Tasmanian devil came looking for me with Pak in tow. They were, of course, locked out of the building; and, since my phone was in the other room, I wasn’t answering it. TD’s keys were on my dining room table though, which launched her into a furious rage. She circled outside of my basement apartment shouting and cursing at me, she kicked at the metal bars on my windows, and she screamed at my neighbors when they stuck their heads out of their windows—all while using hurtful language that’s quite unbecoming of a lady.
    When I was finally able to clean myself up a little and get to my phone, I texted Pak to let him know I’d open the door if they were still there. Fuming, TD stormed into my apartment, pushed past me, grabbed her keys, and then marched back out the door. She later told me that, as she drove home, she decided she wanted pizza. She stopped at a place in Oakland—by herself—and bought a whole pie. Halfway between there and home she pulled over to the side of the road to talk on the phone with her friend and have a slice. She woke up the next morning with a headache, a half of a pizza sitting in a box on her coffee table, and a laundry list of questions.
  • You don’t have to be the VIP to party in VIP. One Saturday found me at Hofbrauhaus with BlahBlahBlah to celebrate his birthday. We drank litre stein after litre stein of beer with his cousins Joel and Jay, retelling for their enjoyment (and ours) some of our more treasured drunken tales (like the Virginia crackhouse story)—though only while safely out of earshot of Mrs. BBB. One of his cousins, Jay’s little brother, couldn’t make it out that night because he had to work at Diesel. He told BBB to bring the party down to the South Side nightclub; he would make sure the birthday boy and all of his guests had a table and complimentary bottle service. But BBB is a parent of two young kids, and is—by definition—lame. So around 11 p.m. he and his wife called it a night, heading straight home from Hofbrauhaus. Joel, Jay and I, however, are not lame; we also are not too bashful to make use of the generous VIP gift that had been offered to BBB. We found our way to Diesel, were escorted to our table by the club’s hottest young hostess, and partied as though it was our birthday.
  • Tailgating ain’t just for sports and concerts. When Rackt made plans to fly up from Tampa for a visit, TJ came up with a masterful plan. She would be going from work to the airport to Pittsburgh on Friday, July 8th, which also happens to be her birthday. Due to the fact that she wouldn’t be landing until about 11 p.m. and the amount of time that it takes to pick up baggage and drive into town, she wouldn’t be left with any real time to get to the bar for a drink on her special day. For Rackt, who is as big of a boozehound as the rest of us, this was depressing news.
    TJ, dedicated boyfriend that he is, then decided to bring the drink—and party—to her. He gathered Chappy, Dupa, TD, Belle, and I, filled up a cooler with beer, and set up shop in the Pittsburgh International Airport’s short-term parking lot. While the rest of us drank beers in the parking lot, he went inside to greet the birthday girl, and signaled us via text to hide when they were heading out. When we jumped out from behind our parked cars yelling “Surprise!”, Rackt dropped her suitcase and ran in terror, TJ fell over laughing, and families loading cars nearby looked on in complete confusion.
  • If you spent money on a ticket, you probably shouldn’t blackout during the movie. Tony, Dupa, Chappy, and I caught the midnight release of “The Hangover 2” on the Thursday night before Memorial Day Weekend. We had dinner—though it was mostly an excuse to enjoy a few drinks—at Bar Louie Waterfront before heading over to the theater. As charged as we were, a table of ladies near us on the patio was above and beyond that. Well, at least one gal in particular was. She was unequivocally shitfaced, in fact. She frequently burst out in song, wailing horribly off key as her friends tried to muzzle her. She couldn’t stay seated, often getting up and stumbling around their table. And sure enough, as we walked into the Loews, we saw the four girls heading towards a theater showing Hangover 2. I wish I’d looked for her when the lights came up after the movie; I would’ve been shocked if she was still awake by then.
  • There’s a reason they don’t call it “Bangkunt”. *shivers*
  • Gravity is not your friend. The next day TJ and some fellow young professionals with whom he works met for happy hour at Kelly’s in Shadyside. He sent out the bat signal, and was soon joined by Pakistanimal and yours truly on the patio with mojitos. Kelly’s is an older bar, and their deck furniture is what you might call “vintage”; it seems that people of the early 1940s weren’t quite of Pak’s proportions. As we all sat around talking, he leaned back with a cigarette. He leaned…WAY back. Hearing a crash, we looked over to see the back of his chair resting on the ground, parallel to the base of the chair. And still seated in it—as though the world had shifted and not his seat—was Pak, who casually lit his cigarette and stared up at the sky.
  • Sometimes you really do need an excuse to go to a strip club. And Tony and I stumbled onto a pretty good one on a Friday night in August. As we rode in a cab to Villa to get down for Dr. Kelly’s birthday, an unfamiliar song came over the radio. A female emcee began spitting what, to be honest, sounded like very amateur rhymes. The cabbie said that the song was by a local group, and that the emcee’s “day job” was dancing at Cricket, a strip club in Oakland. As you might imagine, this tidbit caught our attention. Later in the night Tony and I decided to leave Villa early, and caught a cab to Cricket in search of a naked lyricist. We had no luck, however; she wasn’t working that night (if she even works there at all). We reluctantly accepted the consolation prize: watching the naked girls who were working while we drank a few beers. It’s a tough life.
  • There’s “sloppy-drunk”, and then there’s “Enzie-drunk”. Enzie’s birthday party was a one-woman clusterfuck. I met up with her and her crew around 10 pm on a Saturday in July, as they walked from Bar Louie Station Square to Barroom. She was already slurring her words, which were forming sentences that rapidly sped off on random tangents. Once inside Barroom, she kicked it up a notch. She pounded Captain & Cokes like a poisoning victim being given cups of the antidote; she was barefoot before midnight, her red pumps relegated to a bar stool; and she darted back and forth between the dance floor and the bar, under the watchful eye of her friend, Kara. Entertainer, Russ, and I drank and watched with wonder as she careened towards a bad end.
    Then, while next door at Saddle Ridge (…fight me), that end finally came. Enzie wanted to dance again, and again dragged Kara out to the dance floor. I turned my attention towards the bar, trying to find Russ, who had walked over there a few minutes prior. Then I heard a thud. I spun around to find Enzie sitting on the floor in a heap near my feet. She had come running over to where I was—still barefoot—and slipped in the process, going down hard [the following week a doctor would diagnose her with a separated shoulder, caused by bracing herself as she fell]. In running from the dance floor, she had somehow managed to elude Kara’s observation, and I now had to signal her to come over and assist our drunken Italian friend. I helped her get back up on her bare feet; Kara decided it was best to quit while Enzie wasn’t ahead, and to take her back to her house in Mt. Washington for the night. I agreed, saying goodbye to them and finishing out the night at the bar with Russ and a group of bachelorettes.
    A half hour later, as I walked to my car, I got a call from Enzie’s phone. She wanted me to come pick her up from Kara’s, and to take her back to her own house. I agreed to help, and when I pulled up in front of Kara’s place, Enzie was lying on her back on the sidewalk, looking up at the stars.
  • A pwning is always in the last place you look for it. Early in June we all descended upon Hofbrauhaus, this time to celebrate Pak’s birthday. I arrived with TJ, but when we reached the front doors he was turned back for not having his ID. And while I’ve noted before that this is a fairly rookie mistake, TJ had actually physically lost his license a week earlier. He figured it wouldn’t affect his bar night, though, since he’s well past the years of being confused for 20. The Hofbrau bouncers were not, however, in a generous mood; they flatly denied his entrance, despite our appeals to their common sense. Flustered and angry, TJ caught a cab home, cursing out the German restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.
    A week or two later, I received a text from him saying that he’d found his license. When I asked where, he paused and sheepishly replied, “In a different part of my wallet.”
  • Sometimes life is like a beer commercial. One Friday in June, several of us decided to meet up at Redbeard’s for happy hour to start the night. I arrived shortly after TD and a few of her girlfriends, who were seated at a table on the patio, and was followed thereafter by a steady stream of familiar faces. Our party eventually featured nearly 20 people, including a bevy of crew members like Pak, TJ, Tony, Dupa, Smashley, Jay Swag, Mitch Canada, and TK. Surrounded by my peoples, and with both booze and heavy laughter flowing in the warm night air, the scene was as perfect of one as you can experience in a random and impromptu moment of your youth.
  • A drunk Dupa = a sadomasochistic Dupa. Unfortunately, our buddy was a little too full of liquid mirth to fully appreciate the abstract beauty of that night. In the short hour or so that he was hanging with us, he managed to: (1.) Smash his toe, leading to a steady river of blood from a broken toenail, which then stained both his sandals and the patio concrete; and (2.) pose for pictures in which he first used his belt to choke himself, and then used it to choke his boy “Tennessee”.
  • Time not only leaves quickly, but it takes people with it. Despite the cheery picture that my various tales about this past July may have painted, it was a tough month for me. I lost my Aunt Barbara, who had been my godmother and a pillar of my mom’s family; Mrs. T.C. lost her cousin Michael, who I had also known from our time at W&J together; and Tony lost one of his closest friends, Jeff G., who I had been friends with for the last ten years.

    Aunt Barbara and I were close at times, and at other times butted heads, but the love and respect between us never diminished. Her death was difficult, but I was at least comforted by knowing that she had enjoyed the luxury of living a long and eventful 80 years of life. The same could not be said for Mike (29) and Jeff (37), though, and that made their deaths that much more difficult. Both were outgoing guys who had accumulated many more friends than enemies in this world, and the families of each are both still feeling the sting. Jeff left behind a daughter who will never know firsthand just how much fun her old man was to be around. May they all rest in peace, and have a cold drink waiting for me when it’s my turn to join them. R.I.P.
Appreciate the people around you who appreciate you back. Drink responsibly—as in, get sloppy and take a cab. And always tip your bartenders and waitresses. If I’m around come Summer 2012, I’m meeting it with shades and a caipirinha.


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