Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Comfort Level

Can't get enough of this ad. I could shake my ass to this track all day. Granted, I can't shake it as well as this guy. But I could still shake it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Kang like T.I.—But in the Chi? Daffy (Pt. 4)

[The final installment of the series picks up the morning after Part 3 came to a bitter end.]

Sunday, March 2nd
Being stone sober when I went to bed Saturday night was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, not having a severe hangover as you embark on a 7½ drive is always a good thing. On the other, I was sleeping in a recliner, two feet away from a Polish man snoring so loudly, it was as though he was trying to scare away a bear. If I was as drunk as I had been Friday night, I would’ve slept right through Dupa’s snoring without much disruption. Instead I awoke every half hour or so, both fearful I was about to be devoured and aggravated that I couldn’t find a comfortable sleeping position to be in when it happened.

Of course, the one guy who didn’t have to deal with the snoring—Dupa himself—was the first one up and out the door that morning, his flight back to Houston commanding that he leave for O’Hare by 9. The rest of us dragged ourselves out of Fire’s place around 10, thanking our host for his gracious hospitality along the way.

I took one last picture of the Chicago skyline (above), in an attempt to find some peace with a city that had both tantalized and tormented me over the past 48 hours. TJ, Dupa, and I often joke about each other’s preternatural ability to fall for the most mentally and emotionally unstable women we come across. I’ve had enough personal experience with the species to recognize them pretty quickly through the layers of “I’m just a regular gal, the cool-down-to-earth chick you’ve been looking for” camouflage with which they expertly conceal themselves. I see Chicago. I understand why TJ loves her, and why—despite the hell that was Saturday night— I want to visit her again (when it’s above 70°F, though): Chicago is a hot crazy chick. One moment she’s cooking you dinner and pouring you a drink. The next she’s treating you like shit and starting random, pointless fights. Chicago will never give you a healthy relationship. But she’ll never give you a dull moment, either.

And that’s just it; whatever the difficulties and inconveniences that at times befell my friends and/or me during our short stay in town, not a second of any of it was boring. Flat tires, taxi drivers with no navigation skills, frozen body parts, racist bar sluts, verbal confrontation fails, Old Style, vomiting in hotel lobby bathrooms, long waits for cabs in freezing temperatures—all of it was unpleasant, but none of it left us yawning.

With the Chitown skyline steadily retreating in the rearview mirrors, we had one scheduled stop to make before Pittsburgh. TJ’s old man, who lives in northern Indiana, was cleaning out his home in preparation for a move to Arizona. As part of that effort, he had two chainsaws he was handing down to his son. When we pulled up, he greeted us outside of his garage, in which sat three Mercedes. I felt a whimper building up in me, and did my best to suppress it. Then I heard Swag let out one of his own.

After setting off from TJ’s dad’s place, we stopped at a McDonald’s. But they hadn’t started serving lunch yet, so we chose to get back on the highway and press on. We missed an off-ramp, and ended up on a section of I-94 that we hadn’t planned on driving. To correct our error we exited in Chesterton, IN, where there also happened to be a Burger King Kang just off the exit. “Why not just stop here,” we thought, “and get some food in us before making the march towards the Ohio state line?” Yes. Why not.

As we walked into the serpentine crowd management system every Burger King has—and doesn’t need—TJ led, followed by me. No one else was in the restaurant. Behind the register, as TJ stepped up to give his order, was something of majesty.

Either he was 16, or he was 21 and looked 16. The young gentleman, standing all of 5’6” and 95 lbs, wore a perpetual, goofy smile, punctuated by glasses, a peach fuzz soul patch, and a ponytail sticking out from behind his visor. TJ rattled off a simple chicken sandwich meal order; the result was Da Kang’s finest employee slowly searching through the multitude of buttons on his register, in an attempt to find the button with the correct chicken sandwich. While this was going on, the manager on site opened up a second register and took my order. As he did, I saw TJ look back at Swag and make a gesture that suggested there was reason to look at the nametag of the guy struggling to process TJ’s order.

I glanced over; it said “Daffy”.

I got my drink and waited at the pickup counter. Swag, Canada, and some people who had come in behind us walked past with their cups and trays before TJ finally progressed that far. The three of us in our group who had not ordered their food from a walking, breathing cartoon character sat in a booth live-tweeting the whole incident, altering between hysterical laughter and nom-nom-noming, while TJ grew angrier and angrier at the pickup counter. #DaffyKang had arrived.

The four or five people who had come in after us all received their food and found tables, leaving the homie up there all alone. When the manager came over and asked what he’d ordered, TJ glanced up at the order queue and saw it was totally empty. The manager called back to Daffy and asked about TJ’s chicken sandwich meal; Chesterton, Indiana’s most cherished citizen raised his hands to his head and made the Macauley Culkin Home Alone face.

The hardest part about recounting any real life happening via written publication is always separating you-had-to-be-there funny from relatable, tangible funny. It’s a constant struggle for me in writing for this blog, because most of my stories involve a group of people who know each other so well and have so much shared history that nearly every conversation, no matter how trivial, produces laughs between us.

I say this to you now, because I understand there is no way for me to fully explain the aura of Daffy Kang to you. To a large extent, you had to be there, in that Burger Kang, in that the-Sunday-of-a-road-trip mindset, to embrace the levels of mystique that the legend of Daffy has reached in our shared history and syntax. I get that you, in all likelihood, don’t get it—or, at least, not to the same extent that we do. Hell, some of our friends who only witnessed the incident through Twitter don’t quite understand it. But, in that moment? Lawdomercy. TJ unwittingly being brought to a shaking, angry boiling point of frustration by a polite, goofy-looking kid working at a Burger King in a northern Indiana backwater town was one of the top-5 moments of laughter in my lifetime. Swag, who isn’t one to take a lot of photos during trips and parties, even captured a reaction shot of Canada and I doubled over in the booth, dead off the saga as it unfolded. Then he created a Wikipedia entry (right).

Daffy Kang might be the only thing crazier than Chicago.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Driving Angry

Things got a little out of hand last night in Pittsburgh's South Side, an area of the city where many-an-On-The-Rocks-tale has taken place over the years. A gem of a human being, it seems, decided to take out his self-hatred on several cars, street signs, pedestrians, and a night club.

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler said around 2:30 a.m., Maceo Fulmore, 23, crashed into the front of Diesel Club Lounge on East Carson Street near 17th Street, and proceeded to hit seven vehicles, two parking signs, two trees, a fence, a telephone pole and a fire hydrant. He also ran over a white male in his 20s, who was taken to UPMC Mercy for related injuries. Authorities are not releasing the injured man's name.

There were no other reported injuries, Ms. Toler said.

A nearby patrolling officer heard the series of collisions and found witnesses dragging Mr. Fulmore from his car and punching him. The arresting officer broke up the fray, and reported Mr. Fulmore was visibly drunk.
Thankfully the young field reporter in-the-making below was on hand to record "about 90% of it" (and to repeatedly tell people he got about 90% of it).

Not only have a good deal of On The Rocks' stories taken place in the South Side, but a few have even featured Diesel—the club that Fulmore rammed with his Jeep. Here's to being mature enough to keep my old ass from around there last night.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Back Away

Spuds MacKenzie was a pussy compared to this dog.

This was found by my boy Chris, who suggested this pup was his spirit animal. Hard to disagree. Of course, if it had been protecting a bottle of Makers Mark instead, it would've been my spirit animal.

Excuse Me While I Powder My Nose

Game. Changer.

From Kissing Suzy Kober (TJ with the assist):
Attention all tailgaters, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has approved powdered alcohol according to Bevlog, a beverage industry law blog. That’s right, powdered alcohol you can add to your food, your drinks, or you know, just put in your mouth like Pop Rocks and let the magic happen.
Meet Palcohol, the substance that is talking directly to football fans in their copy:

Maybe you’re a college football fan. So many stadiums don’t even serve alcohol. What’s that about; watching football without drinking?! That’s almost criminal. Bring Palcohol in and enjoy the game.

What’s worse than going to a concert, sporting event, etc. and having to pay $10, $15, $20 for a mixed drink with tax and tip. Are you kidding me?! Take Palcohol into the venue and enjoy a mixed drink for a fraction of the cost.
The chances for this invention to be misued by anyone with a hint of an imagination ("Oh hey, boss. Just putting a little sugar in my coffee...") are too numerous to count. I think you can expect to see some kind of regulation brought about pretty quickly. But presuming they don't flat out ban Palcohol, this is big. Easily-concealed, easily-transported booze available anytime you have a Coke at McDonald's or just feel like a bump while you're walking through the store? Dear god.

And, speaking of "bumps"...
And just in case you were worried about snorting it, yes according to the website you can snort Palcohol, but that’s not using the product responsibly.
Well, I guess we all know how this one ends, don't we?

Monday, April 14, 2014

It's Always in the Last Place You Look

This could easily have been me about 20 different times in the past month. I'm not going to bother throwing stones.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kang like T.I.—But in the Chi? Daffy (Pt. 3)

[Continuing on from where we left Part 2...]

Saturday, March 1st
I awoke after 8:30 and rolled over to see TJ lying on the other half of the air mattress, looking through something on his phone. “They may call off the game, because of the [approaching] storm.” I responded with a barely intelligible “Oh yeah?” I’d almost drifted back to sleep when the meaning of what he’d said hit me. “WHAT?”

Since he was the first one up, TJ cleaned up and then headed out to Wrigleyville to catch up with Weatherman while the rest of us slowly pulled ourselves together. Fire, showing true Chirish hospitality, had coffee and doughnuts waiting for us. And though he didn’t have aspirin or Advil, he had vitamin packs that he said would help replenish our systems. I wasn’t going to question it. In the state I was in, he could’ve handed me a rolled up twenty and said the lines of white powder on a small mirror were a healthy aspirin alternative, and I would’ve accepted it without contest.

Before we left I added a can of Mountain Dew Kickstart and a shot of Milagro Tequila. Hashtag: “Chicago Breakfast.” Leggo!

We cabbed it to Goose Island Wrigleyville, where Tennessee and his girl were with some friends of theirs. A waitress showed us to a table upstairs, and before we had even sat down, TJ, Weatherman, and GG walked in. They hadn’t even known we were there; the synchronicity of booze-loving minds is amazing. Our party of 11 ordered up beers and food. When Swag suggested mimosas, Weatherman and I were game. When the waitress came back over to us, he and I each ordered one. Swag ordered two.

As we ate, drank, and loudly debated various ramblings, Alex texted some of us to tell us she and E-Bomb were on their way. Nearly an hour later, they still weren’t there. When I casually looked over my shoulder in the direction of the stairway to see if they’d arrived, I instead saw a familiar stocky blonde guy in a Penguins tee striding towards us. It was Dupa.


…When I glanced around at the tables of bewildered diners staring at us, I abruptly remembered that being in public requires a tad more decorum.

My unfiltered reaction, though, was caused by the fact that our Polish homie had kept his planned attendance a secret from everyone but TJ. He’d played it up brilliantly the day before, repeatedly commenting on all of our Facebook check-ins, pictures, and statuses about the trip with the same one-word response: “Stupid.”

Alex and Ed finally caught up with us, and shared their tales of running around Boystown the night before. Among those accounts was one about Alex getting taken to the wrong hotel by her cab driver. I laughed heartily. (Remember that later…) Dupa worked on getting caught up, asking the waitress for a beer and a menu item named the “Black Earth Burger,” which he instead called a “[D.E.F.I.] Burger.” She gave him a blank stare, since she didn’t know my name, and the joke had sailed over her head. I laughed heartily some more. He also asked for poutine style fries; when we got our bill later, the final entry on our list of damages was, “POUTINE THE FRIES.” At that point, Chicago was starting to feel like my spirit animal.

We moved the party across the street to Sluggers. There we met a cute waitress with a spectacular bottom, Fire’s buddy German, and a phenomenon called Old Style. While the rest of us ordered up various drinks of credible pedigree (Vodka Red Bull for moi) and rounds of shots, Dupa ordered a pounder of the Chicago delight that was—and probably always is—on special just down the road from Wrigley Field. The look of anguish on his face as he tasted it was really brutal, as a friend. I almost didn’t laugh at him. …Heartily.

When Swag returned from the batting cages on the second floor (yes, really), we introduced him to a guy in the bar wearing a University of Miami hat. You see, Swag is an impassioned Florida State fan, who bristles at the mere mention of “The U.” So while this guy meant no harm and jokingly chided him about their differing collegiate affiliations, Swag was seething with rage over someone daring to wear Miami gear. You in Chicago, the land of FSU. (Don’t try to find the logic. The rest of us gave up years ago.)

The NHL officially stated that the game would go on as planned, so those of us staying at Fire’s—including Dupa—cabbed it back to that location, so we could fortify ourselves for the weather we were going to endure in the stands. For me, that meant a thermal shirt, Pens t-shirt and tossle cap, gloves, and heavier socks being added to my standard attire. When someone asked Dupa, who had come from 70 degree temps in Houston, what he had brought in preparation, he said, “Ski tech.” I did not laugh heartily; I muttered jealously.

Fire poured us out shots (more Milagro for me), and the seven of us toasted to the night ahead.

The plan was to use the Hilton Chicago, where TJ and Fire’s boy Kerrigan had a room, as a base camp. It was within walking distance of Soldier Field, making it a perfect place to meet up before and after the game. Those of us who had clothing more comfortable to wear in a bar took our bags to the hotel, so we could change following the game. Everyone squared away their (physical) baggage in Kerrigan’s room, and we hit the hotel bar. …Well, most of us did. Dupa made a quick pit stop in a lobby bathroom to vomit. Old Style’d.

Count this as the first—and, in all likelihood, last—time I ever have to wait in line to get into a hotel bar. The place was packed to the limits of the fire code with Penguin and Blackhawk fans trying to numb themselves up before the Lake Michigan winds could. I downed a couple of Miller Lites in an effort to do the same, but it just wasn’t working. Try as I might, I just couldn’t fight off the effects of soberness. I even switched to a Jack & Coke. Nada. Damn it.

It wasn’t helping that we were standing right next to an emergency exit, which people were regularly using to give themselves a more direct route to the stadium. Each time they did, Chicago’s “Windy City” reputation reached into the bar and punched each of us in the balls. Swag was clearly getting fed up, and when a round middle-aged guy in a Hawks jersey headed for the doors, our buddy asked mockingly, “Where ya goin’?”

“Uhh…the museum,” was the smart ass response he got (and probably deserved), as the guy continued on his way outside and met up with a friend standing on the sidewalk. Unable to handle not getting the best of this stranger, Swag fired one last salvo; he cracked open the door, stuck his bald head out into the pounding winds, and yelled, “FUCK YOUR MUSEUM, BRO!”

TJ and a few others had waited until the last minute to throw on their heavier gear, so while they went upstairs to do that, Canada and I each downed a Jack & Coke at the bar. After the drink we wandered out into the lobby, waiting to meet up with everyone. It seems the hotel was hosting a formal event of some sort, as men in tuxes and women in expensive dresses sauntered past us and up to a ballroom. Maybe it’s a good thing I couldn’t get drunk. Otherwise I might’ve let them have it for thinkin’ they were better’n me.

By this point, the blizzard had moved into the area and had put down about a half foot of snow. Our black, gold, and red battalion marched dutifully toward Soldier Field, with Canada bringing up the rear in boots so worn that they had no tread. Not ideal for the conditions, to say the least.

Kerrigan, his wife, Cap, TJ, Dupa, Swag, Canada, and I were all seated together in the next-to-last row of the stadium. The wind was coming from left to right, pelting us with snow and dragging it across our face like icy razor blades. And we were loving it, thanks to our adrenaline—and the hand warmers that Cap passed out. I probably would’ve loved it even more if I had been drunk and not feeling as much of it as I was, of course. But the atmosphere in the stadium was electric, and unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. People weren’t just excited to see their teams play; they were excited about the game. The moment captivated all. Have you ever attained consciousness during a dream, where you understand that it’s just a dream, and felt the calming peace of knowing nothing can harm you, nothing can be taken from you? For at least a brief moment, 63,000 people dreamt that dream together.

After the first period, we had our first casualties. Dupa announced that he was soaked through, and had to leave. Apparently Mr. I-live-in-the-third-world-heat-of-Houston-now had decided against wearing the outer shell of his ski tech. Stupid.

Swag went with him, as they told us they’d wait for us at the Hilton bar. Canada and I got more beers. At the second intermission, more casualties. Tennessee and his girl abandoned their seats on the other side of the stadium, and Canada abandoned ours. I waited in line for 20 minutes to get into the men’s room, and then got more beer.

As the third period got underway, my lack of thermal underwear (not that I don’t own them, I just didn’t bring them; looking back I have no clue why) meant my thighs were frozen. As was my beer, which had turned into a Bud Light slushy. TJ asked if I wanted to bail, too. Hell no. I was the only one of my Pittsburgh brethren still standing. The Pens were being easily handled on the ice, and I knew I was going to have to hear about it for the rest of the weekend. I would’ve amputated my own frostbitten leg before I would’ve handed Blackhawks fans an opportunity to add material about Pittsburghers not being able to handle Chicago weather to their impending stand-up comedy set list.

With five minutes left, the stadium PA alerted all that the north gates—which we’d come through—would be closed after the final whistle while postgame fireworks were set off. That was all the nudge we needed, and the five of us remaining in our group jumped up and headed down the long staircase to the concourse.

Cap, somehow, assumed the role of our group’s navigator as we walked from the stadium. I didn’t realize it at first, but he had not been our navigator when we walked to the stadium. This would be a bit of a problem; we quickly found ourselves in a part of Grant Park that I hadn’t seen three hours earlier. As we began crossing a field with our sights trained on the distant lights of the Hilton’s block of Michigan Avenue, I suddenly felt my foot slip on a hard surface as I planted it in the snow. “Odd,” I thought. “Why would grass be icy?” After a few more steps, I distinctly heard the sound of ice cracking.

“Wait…what are we walking on?” I got no responses. “AYO! ARE WE WALKING OVER WATER RIGHT NOW?!”

TJ: “I mean…technically it’s not water right now…”

Apparently, these four white Chicagoans found my sudden murderous rage very comical. I failed to agree. (The next day, TJ would explain that we had merely been on a retention pond, and the water below us wasn’t more than four feet deep. But for all I knew that night, I was walking across Lake Michigan.)

Once back at the Hilton, we caught up with Weatherman, GG, and their boys in the lobby. The line to get into the hotel bar had doubled, as had Weatherman and GG’s level of intoxication. Once it thawed some I was able to turn on my phone, which had shut down in the cold of the stadium. Swag and Canada finally responded to our texts, informing us that they had gone back to Tennessee’s room at the Courtyard Marriott instead of the Hilton where we were all supposed to be. Yayy… I went up to Kerrigan’s room and retrieved my bag. When I came back downstairs, Weatherman and GG had already departed for the Marriott. TJ, Fire, and the rest of their people were going to go to dinner in the area. I decided to catch a cab to the Marriott.

As we parted ways, TJ and Fire told me to tell the cabbie I wanted to go to “the Marriott River North.” I recited that phrase over and over in my head, as I stood in a very long and slow-moving line at the cab stand. It took almost 45 minutes for me to finally get into a cab. “Marriott River North,” came out of my mouth aboard a sigh of relief.

The roads in Chicago weren’t exactly clear, and even though my cabbie was driving a small SUV, he slipped and struggled in a few places as he carried me across the city. I could just feel the bemused gods toying with the idea of getting the cab stuck in the snow, and stranding me in the middle of a giant, foreign city. When we got to the Marriott I felt my shoulders relax for the first time in hours, and I started putting together thoughts on how to get myself back on the righteous path to drunkenness.

Swag had texted while I was in the cab, and told me he, Canada, Dupa, and Tennessee were in room 1225. I found my way to the 12th floor, but was at a loss when the door numbers on the odd side of the hallway went from 1219 to 1227. I retraced my steps; the rooms on the even side were all there: 1220, 1222, 1224, 1226… The fuck?

I dialed up Swag.

Swag: “Yo.”
Me: “What room did you say you were in?”
Swag: “1225.”
Me: “Why don’t I see it?”
Swag: “What?”
Me: “Man, I’m looking at these room numbers, and there’s no 1225. The rooms go to like 1219, then there’s nothing on that side again ‘til like 1227.”
Swag: “I’m pretty positive it’s 1225.”
Me: “I’m standing outside of 1224.”
Swag: “Well, I’m standing in the hallway looking at 1224, and I don’t see you, sooo…”

I was in the wrong Marriott.

There’s frustration, and then there’s being sober and alone in a new city you know nothing about, with a phone with a dying battery, barely defrosted from three hours of watching your favorite hockey team get embarrassed in an 8°F snowstorm and another 45 minutes of waiting for a cab in an 8°F snowstorm, carrying a duffel bag like you got lost on your way home from a rec league game, wandering through hotel hallways fantasizing about a magical liquid that eases the pain and makes you forget bad experiences, only to learn that the hotel you were dropped off at isn’t the one you wanted to go to.

There wasn’t a single person or thing on the planet that I didn’t want to strangle the life out of.

Google Maps was the first to get back into my good graces. If only that cabbie had heard of it. It informed me that the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, where I was taken, was only 0.3 miles from the Courtyard (Marriott) Chicago River North, where I was going. I started walking, and along the way shot off a text to TJ: “I hate your city right now.”

My rage subsided when I finally reached Marriott room 1225, and found everyone having a quiet conversation while Dupa slept (*sigh* Houston makes you sofff). Weatherman and GG’s room was just down the hall. I stopped by to share my tale and found GG ready for bed, while Weatherman was making himself Makers & Cokes.

Swag, Canada, Dupa, and I formed a new plan. It was around midnight. We’d cab it back to Fire’s, drop off Dupa and my bag, and go get properly drunk in Old Town. We went out to the street to hail a cab. It would be another hour-plus before one finally stopped for us. All I heard in my head while we waited was, “Man, fuck this town.

Eventually, while we were repeatedly failing to flag down a cab, two cars approaching the intersection collided…somehow. We hadn’t been watching, but they suddenly pulled over across the street from us. A furious young brother hopped out of the trailing car. I can only guess that the other driver had changed lanes into him, maybe. He yelled at the other car as he approached it. I reveled in someone feeling the same anger that I’d felt for most of the night, and waited for a gun to be pulled. Then he yelled for his girlfriend, in the passenger seat, to call the cops. So much for murder. “Man,” I groaned. “I was hoping I’d get to see a homicide. Would’ve made this whole night worth it.”

Back at Fire’s, we shared our various miseries with the Chicago boys, who couldn’t fathom the issues we’d run into with taxi service. They hadn’t had any trouble getting cabs all night. We were all too cold and tired to bother going back out to the bars. I sat in Fire’s recliner sober and angry, and realized I hadn't even had dinner that night.

Man, fuck this town.

[To be continued...]

Friday, April 11, 2014

"Havin' a paarrrttyyy...come on"

There's a right way to do a party, and a wrong way. Alison Brie (*whimpers*) and Adam Scott were enlisted by Smirnoff to help illustrate this point.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kang like T.I.—But in the Chi? Daffy (Pt. 2)

[Before picking up where I left off in Pt. 1, I want to take a moment to thank my good friend Nitschke. A Pens season ticket holder, it was through his generous help that many of us, including TJ, Swag, Canada, and I, were able to buy tickets to attend the Pens/Blackhawks game. And without his assistance, this trip would not have happened. Nitschke knew right away that he wouldn't be able to make the journey himself, due to other personal commitments. But he didn't let that stop him from helping his friends in obtaining tickets. That's just the kind of guy he is. I did a great disservice to him by not including mention of this in Pt 1., and I'm humbled by this blatant oversight. He's a good man and a better friend, and he did a great thing by enabling our participation in this once-in-a-lifetime event. From the bottom of my heart: Thanks homie. I'm eternally grateful.]

By around 5 we were at Fire’s, filing into his one bedroom apartment. His place is a great bachelor pad…when only one bachelor lives there. When you add four more? Not so spacious. But where there are drunks, there’s a way. We moved a dining room table and other furniture out of the way, inflated two air mattresses, and headed to the bar.

We strolled down the street to the Old Town Burger Saloon and grabbed ourselves seats at the bar. Business was quickly gotten down to (Stella draughts for me); after about an hour or so of hanging out, we realized each of us had already bought a round.

Five rounds in about an hour? I guess things just move a little faster in the big city.

Before long, Fire’s sister, Weatherman, and GG each joined us. There may have been shots at some point…okay, who am I fucking kidding? There were definitely shots.

Our growing state of blotto can best be described by two separate anecdotes.
  • The wall behind us was all mirrors. As I sat on a barstool facing that wall, talking to GG and Weatherman, my eyes caught a glimpse of a beautiful woman. Judging by the angle of her reflection, she seemed to be walking right towards our group. Just as I began forming the thought “Who the hell is THAT?” and my eyes began unzipping her jacket, my ears heard TJ and others yell Tennessee’s name. I had been eyeing up his girlfriend.

  • Not much later, Weatherman looked at his watch. “You DO realize it’s only 8:30, and we’re smashed?” “Buddy,” I replied, “You forgot to change your watch to Central time. It’s 7:30.”
Someone—a truly wise individual—reminded all of us that we needed to eat dinner. We moved our gathering down the road to Old Town Pub. Seeing our large collection of mouth-breathing, slurring, drunken ingrates stumble our way into their establishment must’ve been something of a “Come to Jesus” moment for the wait staff.

…But then again, this is Chicago. We probably looked like their weekly Sunday brunch crowd.

I don’t remember what I ate to go along with the beer I guzzled down, but it was miraculous, because it halted my oncoming blackout in its tracks. I was still drunk, of course. But my memories start becoming sharper from about halfway through that meal.

From there we moved on to Declan’s Irish Pub. By this point, it was somewhere in the 10:30 – 10:45 timeframe. On a Friday in Pittsburgh, the bars are just hitting their optimum levels at this point in the night. And, from everything the Chicago natives among us had been saying all night, Declan’s was no hole in the wall. The first four or five of us—being a minute or two ahead of the rest in transitioning, for whatever drunken reason—walked in expecting to see men, women, and rowdy drunkenness as far as the eye could see. Instead we just saw…men.


Maybe 30 people were in the bar, and 98% of them were guys. Weatherman and I looked at each other, and GG voiced our shared thought: “Ohh…I see what’s going on in here.”

It took another 20 minutes before one of us mentioned something to Fire, who looked at us like the idiots we were and said, “What? This isn’t a gay bar!”

And yet…not the dumbest thing I would do at Declan’s.
    (It’s only fair that I give some back-story to help explain my mindset going into this moment. You can judge all you want after that, but at least have all the facts first…
    In recent months, I’ve realized that I’m beyond the games. I don’t mean that in the way a 31-year-old woman with emotional issues who just got dumped by her fiancĂ© because he caught her blowing his brother means it, as she slurps down a mojito at a T.G.I. Friday’s before a 9:30 showing of the latest Katherine Heigl film. What I mean are the “I-don’t-like-you-unless-you-like-me…No-I-really-don’t…What’s-that? …You-like-me? ...But-I-don’t-like…Oh-you-really-like-me-like-me? …Ok-maybe-I-really-do… Nope-just-decided-I-don’t-like-you…unless” games. I’m beyond those. Fuck those games in their ear.
    …I’m aware I sound bitter right now. Let me tell you, this realization wasn’t reached after a bad experience of my own. It was reached while watching two other people interact. So it’s not bitterness, it’s enlightenment.
    In summation, I’m just not in for the cutesy flirtation games with strangers. I don’t care what you’re here to do, I’m doing me. Period.)
It started quickly and subtly. I don’t even remember who noticed it first. But I was being hunted. The waitress saddled with the task of fetching drinks for my crew was a tall, beautiful blonde named Ashley. And Ashley, bless her heart, had her “fuck me” eyes trained on yours truly. The first time I saw it, as she took an order from a few of us, I figured my blotto mind was exaggerating the situation. But, a short while later, she walked past us to attend to another group of bar patrons; Ashley stared me dead in my eyes as she went from one side of the room to the other.

And I felt…well, guilt is too strong of a term. But I def felt like I was leading her on. This beautiful creature—not knowing I was in an advanced state of drunkenness and a very advanced lifestyle of lacking fucks to give—surely expected me to be up for some fun flirtation and possibly a romantic rendezvous. I was not up for either. I wanted to drink in her bar, and then leave there and drink some more in a different bar.

When we called for our tabs, she brought mine with a smile that offered an unspoken invitation to settle it one-on-one someplace quiet. I felt like I’d be a dick if I just flatly ignored the interest in me that she was making painfully obvious. So, in an attempt to give a “Thanks, but no thanks,” I wrote on the bill, “Excellent service.”

*sits back and sips his drink while you—understandably—laugh at him*

In my hazy mind, this was a smooth way of saying, “I think you’re hot, and I’m flattered. But I just don’t give two fucks about chasing tail, or hungry-eyed waitresses who live in cities 500 miles away from my home. So take this compliment and understand that it’s not you, it’s me.”

*takes another sip while he waits for the laughter to die down again*

Everyone dispersed to their various shelters for the night, with Fire leading Canada, Swag, TJ, and I back to his place. The consensus, it seemed, was that Saturday would be a long day of barhopping, sightseeing, tailgating, watching outdoor hockey in arctic temps, and then more barhopping, so resting up would be the best way to go about things. Canada and I still had itches to scratch, though, and called an audible as we got to Fire’s door. He handed me his keys and wished us luck as the two of us turned around and headed back out into the night.

What do two young (shut up) pups do when facing the world alone? They go to what they know. And since neither of us had ever been to Chicago before that day, what we knew was Old Town Saloon. We went back to nearly the very same barstools we had occupied seven hours earlier, and ordered some beers.

By this hour of the night, the bar was a motley crew of dysfunction. Loud music played while a strangely diverse age range milled about. There really weren’t more people than had been there when we left. But they all looked worse, like they’d all collectively given up on life at the same time.

Without warning, a cute chubby brunette was in my face. It seems that she and her friend, a cute blonde, were being pursued on the other side of the bar by a light-skinned brother who looked like a broke Honey Badger (Tyrann Mathieu). To throw him off their scent, they told him that Canada and I were their boyfriends.

Involuntary participation in a cock block. Yayy…

We played along, as the girls seemed cool enough. Chubby Brunette (CB) had chosen me as her fake beau, and while we chatted at the bar, Canada and her friend went outside to burn some cigarettes. CB was good people, and we cracked each other up as we hung out. After a few minutes, though, Canada and the blonde returned, and as soon as they had my homie was tugging at my sleeve. “Let’s fuck off. …Now.”

When we got outside, Canada explained. “That chick might be the most racist garbage I’ve ever met.” Every other word out of her mouth, it seems, had been the n-word. Well then…

We set off in search of another bar, but had some trouble in locating one. We stopped some random guys walking past and asked them where to go, and they pointed up a street, saying that there were several bars up that way. We headed up that way, but soon decided—in our drunken stupors—that there were no bars up that street, and turned around. Never mind that we had only walked about a block and a half; we felt that was more than enough evidence that those strangers had no idea what they were talking about.

After another 10 minutes of wandering down streets we had already walked (and Canada repeatedly suggesting that a closed nail salon was a bar, simply because there were neon lights in the windows—lights which, of course, spelled “N-A-I-L-S”), we renewed our faith in the guidance we’d received from the two guys, and headed back up the suggested street. This time we went two blocks, instead of one and a half; that turned out to be the key. Because after two blocks the street turned into a roiling caldron of drunkenness, with bars lining both sides of the street and hammered people spilling out of each.

We stopped at The Snuggery for a couple of beers. It was a nice enough place, staffed by some very attractive waitresses and bartenders, but it was almost 2 a.m. when we got there, and our full day of travel was catching up to us. By 2:15 we were heading out the door, and back to Fire’s.

[Pt. 3 coming soon...]

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Kang like T.I.—But in the Chi? Daffy (Pt.1)

I’m genuinely surprised to be typing these words right now.

When the NHL announced that the Penguins and Blackhawks would be playing a Stadium Series game at Soldier Field on March 1st, TJ quickly contacted every Pens fan he knew. Here was an opportunity for him to bring together his current world—Pittsburgh—and the one that birthed him—Chicago. This couldn’t possibly end well.

I was immediately onboard with the plan. Tennessee confirmed that he’d be there, along with his girlfriend. Swag and Canada required very little convincing before they were in. Weatherman soon notified us that he, too, would be at the game. He’d be travelling with some of his peoples, and Gaelic Gangsta (GG) would be among them. Alex, who doesn’t know hockey and sports exist, eventually informed us that she had made plans to be in Chicago that same weekend (why, I still don’t know); our buddy E Bomb would be vacationing with her. Also planning to be in the Chi that weekend: a friend of TJ’s from college, who now lives here in Pittsburgh. And a college pal of mine. And a girl from my graduating class in high school. Not to mention a few friends of mine who grew up around here but now live in Chitown. And AIDS, who also now lives there. And all of TJ’s friends and family who still live around greater Chicago…

There’s no WAY this ends well.

One of those friends—“Fire,” who lives in Old Town—agreed to let TJ, Canada, Swag, and me crash at his place. Everyone else found hotel rooms. Game and plane tickets were purchased. The “battle stations” alarm was sounded in Hell. Destiny was handed a shot of whiskey and told to pucker up.

And I thought to myself over and over again, “Yup…I’m gonna die.”

Friday, February 28th
Even if there was no destination to write about, simply putting TJ, Canada, Swag, and me into the same automobile for a 7½ hour stretch would be a story. We’re all assholes by nature, and you’re just not going to set the world in a good direction by putting us in a small space that’s traveling through the boredom of Ohio and Indiana.

Some quick highlights from the drive, since the Chitown activities are the real focus here:
  • About 1:40 into the trip, Swag erupted. Canada was driving, TJ was sleeping, and I was daydreaming from the front passenger seat. From behind me Swag offered, “What if we passed someone, and I was just jacking out a batch?” As he said that, we passed a small van driven by a squirrelly-looking guy in glasses who glanced over at us; that mixture was enough to ignite Swag. Tear-laced, high-pitched sounds came from him as he died from hysterics in the backseat. Canada and I soon laughed ourselves into tears as well, though purely from hearing and watching Swag’s random fit of uncontrollable laughter.

  • At 11:55 a.m. the shuffle on TJ’s iPhone, which we had plugged into the stereo, queued up “Homecoming.” I couldn’t even look at him, but I felt his cheesy grin beaming behind me.

  • An hour and a half later we stopped at a rest stop to gas up and grab lunch. While we stood in line at Burger King—or “Da Kang,” as he calls it—Swag, who had been drinking heavily the night before, looked at me and said, “Gotta go throw up.” And with that, he casually walked off towards the restrooms.

  • The rest of us watched the world’s oldest pimp in action. A woman in her 80s walked towards the soda machine with a coffee cup, when suddenly her equally 80-year-old husband exploded. “THE COFFEE’S RIGHT THERE, GLADYS! WHERE ARE YOU GOING, IT’S RIGHT THERE! FOR GODSAKE! WHERE’S YOUR HEAD AT?!”

    Sharing awkward stares with strangers: What road trips are all about.

  • Swag was legitimately annoyed at me. I’d been an hour late in meeting up with everyone that morning, which meant we were an hour behind schedule—which meant we didn’t have time to stop in South Bend so he could take a dump on a floor/field/desktop on Notre Dame’s campus. …Seriously.

  • As we passed a small SUV, I took in an eyeful of the MILF behind the wheel. After a few seconds of ogling, my eyes glanced over to the passenger seat, and saw her teenage son staring at me.

  • …about ten minutes later they passed us; this time the kid held up a Penguins jersey.

  • Swag’s summation of northern Indiana: “It’s just random piles of shit, everywhere.”

  • Weatherman tweeted me that, within 1/64ths of a mile from their hotel, and within sight of the parking garage, he hit a pothole and blew a tire.

[To be continued...]

Friday, April 4, 2014

Anchors Away

I can't say that I've ever drank a bottle Safe Harbor. I can tell you with absolute certainty, however, that I never want to drink anything but Safe Harbor from now on.