Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Slash and Burn

“So, were you at Chesney?” The ER nurse didn’t even look up from her paperwork while saying it.

And, in fairness, I really didn’t have to answer. My bloody cargo shorts, body smelling of sweated alcohol, and 10:30 p.m. visit to UPMC Mercy spoke for me. It was more of a rhetorical question, anyways. Kind of like when you stumble while walking with someone, and they ask, “Walk much?” Sarcasm is the one luxury afforded to those who must suffer the fools.


It was a little after 11 a.m. when I parked in front of Jay Swag’s house, but I instantly—and, hindsight being 20/20, prematurely—chalked the day in the “Win” category. Four beautiful 20-somethings with tight, revealing tops and even tighter, even more revealing shorts were gathered on his porch. One—tall, mixed, and of King Magazine cover proportions—I quickly recognized as Liz, a friend of Swag’s that I had met once or twice. The other three were faces I wasn’t acquainted with, though none were making it easy to maintain eye contact long enough to know for sure.

Swag: “Sup dude.”
Me: *In my head, while beaming like a kid who had just walked through the doors of Toys ‘R’ Us* “…Wow.”

This, of course, was the one thing I had been consistently hit over the head with each and every time friends tried, in years past, to convince me to go to the Kenny Chesney concert: You’ve never seen as many hot, nearly naked women as you will at this tailgate. Last year, that stream of relentless hyperbole was finally validated when I attended my first Chesney tailgate. I walked through parking lots so chock full of tanned, toned female flesh that you could’ve mistaken the entire scene for a Michael Bay remake of Bikini Beach. You literally could create a “Chesney Concert Girls” Tumblr page and stock it with a year’s worth of material from just that one day every June.

Liz and her friends—a slender stunner with dark eyes and hair; a smoldering redhead with great curves and girl-next-door beauty; and an energetic, Italian brunette who looked like she belonged in party pictures from the Playboy Mansion—had begun dipping into their cooler bag, which was filled with cans of Bud Light Lime. Swag invited me to grab myself a beer from the fridge. I returned to the porch with two stacked Miller Lites in my right hand and confessed, “I got two.”

After some discussion between Swag and I about auto body repair, and between the girls about anal suction (ask Liz, not me), we all headed for the T. The train was already nearing capacity when we stepped on board, and we still had to pass through five more stops teeming with guys and gals giddy on the one day a year they wear their cowboy hats. We were crammed together, and surrounded by overgrown frat bros who alternated between repeatedly trying—and repeatedly failing—to get “Let’s go Bucs!” chants going, and not-so-subtly nodding and making reference to Liz and her girls (…and their “girls”). Oh well, at least there was cold beer from the cooler bag.

In the year since my last Chesney tailgate, I’ve become a regular on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. Every morning, Monday through Friday, I park in a garage down the street from PNC Park, walk over to North Side Station, and take the escalator down into the city’s underground. And every evening, on my way home, I drag myself in the opposite direction up the towering incline, towards daylight. But arriving at the top of that escalator on Chesney Saturday bore no resemblance to any other time I’ve done it over the past seven months. It’s like your attention span is a Marine standing on a WWII landing craft as the gate comes down. Suddenly sensory impulses are flying at you from every angle: music, noise, skin, pickup trucks, cowboy hats, heat, smells of food, smells of booze, bikini tops, and frenetic bustle covers every square foot of concrete as far as the eye can see. Making it to the beach Gold Lot 2 is a victory in itself.

We found Bill’s annual tailgate party, and got down to business. Swag and I handed over our cover fees and grabbed drinks. The girls had another party they wanted to stop by, so they asked us to wait there for them and headed off. I sipped from my cup of alcoholic lemonade (there was a whole Gatorade cooler of it there; Bill is apparently a fellow student of Ron White), while surveying the landscape in and beyond the party. The scene may be the closest to the definition of “bacchanalia” that any non-swinger will ever know. When Swag mentioned that his girlfriend, Skeets, would be joining us later that afternoon, I expressed pity for him—and I like Skeets. But a Chesney tailgate is no place to endure the limitations of monogamy.

During a brief lull in conversation, Swag suddenly pivoted and headed off towards the port-o-johns. I didn’t think much about it, other than to note that the need to urinate would have to be particularly strong to convince anyone to wait in the lines that stretched around the block. I continued schmoozing with Bill and other guests (including one friend who carried with him a Mason jar filled with a much stronger lemonade mix). Our host expressed gratitude for the visual delights that I had brought to the party, even if they had only been there briefly. Sadly though, his girlfriend, too, was due to arrive soon—and I like Janna. When Swag finally returned to the party, he succinctly explained to me why he had left so suddenly: “Thought I sharted. Had to go deal with it.”

We were far from the only members of our crew who were roaming the wilds of the North Shore Thunderdome that afternoon. Alex, Shannon, and others were a half mile away, camped out closer to PNC Park (Alex had tweeted—while I was still on the train—that she was on her way to being “looped”; she would be in bed by 6 p.m.). LRG, to my amazement, was also tweeting from some unidentified parking lot near us; all attempts at coordinating a meeting with him failed. Entertainer seemed to be the nearest to our position: He was over by the Clark Building, drinking shirtless—that part was a guess, but a pretty odds-on one.

The girls returned, as I worked on my second—third?—third cup of alcoholmonade. We journeyed off with them in search of one of their friends’ parties. All Liz knew was that the party was “by the Clark Building.” This superior field intelligence resulted in the six of us trekking through every foot of parking lot around the building. While walking through the tailgate tent city that stood under the overpass, I couldn’t help but note the feel of a rowdy refugee camp in the air. The air was thicker; the tone was darker, tenser. Dark Eyes grabbed me a Bud Light Lime from the bag; I gulped it down as a coping mechanism as we soldiered on towards brighter terrain. In a small lot located at the base of a cliff, we found both Entertainer’s and Liz’s friends’ parties. And Entertainer was shirtless. I suddenly wished I’d bet someone on that.

While Entertainer was called away by some minor event, Swag and I grabbed beers from his cooler and took cover in the shade at the foot of the cliff. As we stood there bullshitting, I casually turned and looked up the steep hillside…to find a girl halfway up it with her pants around her knees, hovering on a small ledge, pissing. I turned back around and took another sip. Chesney, man.

Down at our altitude, two cute girls—a blonde and an Asian girl—were nervously circling the area. Finally they explained their problem: They had to pee, but didn’t want people watching them as they did. Prudes. I told them to squat behind one of the cars parked in the spots at the base of the hill, and that we would turn around while they did. Out of better options, they dipped down behind a Nissan to our right. After a few minutes, I noticed the blonde walking back out into the parking lot, alone. I turned to find the Asian girl still squatting, looking frustrated.

Me: “You’re still pissing?!”
Asian Girl: “I have a shy bladder!”

Swag and I headed back to Bill’s party to meet up with Skeets, who was finally arriving. Shortly after we got back, Janna passed out Jell-O shots to go with our alcholmonade. Yeah, I could feel all of this going to a good place. We decided to investigate some of the parties that stretched out closer to Heinz Field, in search of…someone. By this point in the day, I’m more amazed that I was standing than disappointed in my recordkeeping. I know we found Rushel Shell for the second time (Swag had spotted him walking past during our first stop at Bill’s party), who informed us that he was trying to return to Pitt. [That, of course, was a failed venture, as would be announced a couple of days later.]

From there, my next clear memory, after walking through various North Shore tailgate parties, is the three of us being on the South Side. For those unfamiliar with Pittsburgh and its geography, at a minimum that transition is typically a solid cab ride spanning two different rivers. And I have no idea how it all happened, and if a cab was even involved. Damn alcoholmonade.

What I’ve since learned from Skeets, however, is that before we ever left the North Shore, we walked over to Rivers to eat dinner. Swag even found photographic evidence on his iPhone; the three of us are gathered at a table full of food in Wheelhouse. To this day I have absolutely zero recollection of this, though I clearly remember the events that followed it in the South Side. …Chesney alcoholmonade.

We went to Mario’s South Side to catch up with TD at Jenn’s bachelorette party. And, as an unforeseen consequence, that resulted in me having to see and speak to BIO for the first time since August. [Guilty of whore crimes, all personal and public record of her was subsequently napalmed. And yet, that persistent, hot ass fought its way through the debris to get in my face, quite literally. Fun.] We moved on to Rumshakers; and then, sometime later…

We were heading elsewhere when Swag, who had decided he wanted a tattoo, broke loose. Skeets spoke the words that were already in my head: “Go get him!” I took off down the sidewalk of Carson St. in pursuit. And then I crumpled to the ground. And strangers on the sidewalk around me had recoiled in disgust. Fun fact: Fire hose fittings protruding from the sides of buildings are impervious to human flesh. Who knew? A girl walking past with her boyfriend was Johnny-on-the-spot with a rag to apply pressure. Though I’m grateful to her for her kindness, concern, and assistance [Seriously, if you’re reading this, Miss, I owe you and your man each a drink; click on my profile name below to contact me by email.] she kept overreacting by saying that the cut was so deep that my bone was showing. It was not. But I was going to need stitches, at a minimum.

As I sat on the ground talking to Skeets and the strangers about my next move, Swag randomly came jogging back past, headed in the opposite direction. When I yelled at him, he strolled back over and said, incredulously, “What? What happened?” Thankfully, our buddy Jay—a bartender at Rumshakers—also happened past, his shift just having ended. He ran and got his car, we hopped in, and he zipped us to Mercy.

I never wanted to watch S.W.A.T., but I caught the bulk of it while laid up in the emergency room. Skeets and a remorseful Swag waited patiently for me in the waiting room while a doctor stapled me together, and I freaked out people on Facebook with a picture of the open wound. As bad as it looked, though, I never really felt much pain. Thank you, alcoholmonade. After my leg had been bandaged up and I was released, I rejoined my friends, and we joked around on the sidewalk outside the hospital as we awaited our cab at 2 a.m.

Me: “Call Liz.”
Swag: “Why?”
Me: “I want one of her friends to come be my private nurse tonight.”

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