Monday, May 26, 2014

Free Wheeling

Typically, a bachelor party’s potential is based on the personality of the bachelor himself. The more charismatic and larger-than-life the man of honor is, the more likely the party will be worthy of attending. That’s why I can’t wait for the time to come when TJ and Dupa have their respective bachelor parties. Or for when they each eventually have their second, third, and fourth bachelor parties.

When T.C. informed me that he was planning our buddy Trip’s bachelor party, I found myself with a goofy smile on my face, and no words on my tongue. None were needed. Trip is a legend amongst those who know and have partied with him. To what exotic locale would this ode to the Clooney of Western PA take us? Vegas? Montreal? Rio?

Wheeling Island, West Virginia.

There was, however, logic behind this choice. Trip is having a big destination wedding, and knows that means only a limited number of his friends can attend. So to offset that, he wanted to make his bachelor party as accessible as possible. The party would actually span two days, with events on the first day taking place all around Pittsburgh. And T.C., the best man, has been a part of at least two prior bachelor parties held at Wheeling Island, neither of which was short on good times and laughter.

But…Wheeling? To grow up in Western PA is to know that no matter how shitty it is to live here, you always have West Virginia there to remind you that it could be worse. This was not going to be a night of flashy decadence, so much as a night of drunken hootin’ & hollerin’.

I’d planned to catch up with the celebration at the bar on Friday night, but a hard few weeks of work had me backing out of that plan by Friday afternoon. Instead I saved all of my strength for Saturday, and stepped into the casino ready for action about 5 that evening. T.C. met me at the front desk and escorted me up to one of the three rooms he’d booked, where IC Light, Miller Lite, and Shock Top cases were iced and waiting.

Most of the party participants, including the bachelor himself, were still at the golf outing portion of the day. That left T.C., Trip’s college roommate Rex, Trip’s brother-in-law Vince, and I to get the boozing and gambling started. After pounding a few IC Lights in the room, I found myself the first of many Beam & Ginger Ales at the casino’s central bar, where we watched the Belmont Stakes (eight of the guys had each thrown $20 on one horse in the hopes of cashing in on the 20/1 odds; sadly, those odds don’t pay out on a fourth place finish). Then we found ourselves the blackjack tables and got to it.

I’m no stranger to the inside of a casino, but I’m still a relative novice when it comes to blackjack. So there was hesitation in me as I laid down $100 at the $10 table, wading into the kiddie pool with T.C. and Rex. I quickly, though, found myself recounting some of the wisdom Dupa taught me in Vegas, when I made $100 last over four hours. Once again I managed a fluctuating stack, never busting but never going more than $10 over. I’ve realized that while others play blackjack to shoot for the moon, I’m simply at the table to float softly in the air, five feet off the ground like a kid on a seesaw.

Besides, I was content with pounding through the Beam & Gingers they were bringing me every 15 minutes. And I found more than enough entertainment in the guy at the other end of the table. He was an old-timer, well into his sixties, who somehow still hadn’t mastered social interaction. He seemed like a nice guy, but…

He was seated in first position at the table, but was always the slowest to act. He made poorly-thought-out jokes to the pit boss about cheating. After a short while, Trip arrived from the golf outing and joined us at our table; when Awkward Grandpa learned it was our buddy’s bachelor party, he called over one of the chair massage girls walking the casino floor. But, as he bought a massage for Trip, he blurted out, “And give him one of those—what are they called? Happy endings?” A few minutes later, he asked her, “How much does it cost to massage you?”

At one point, I was sipping a Beam & Ginger and weighing the pros and cons of seeing an old man get his ass whooped by security on a casino floor. I mean, I really wanted it to happen, but I knew I’d kind of feel bad afterwards, for at least a few minutes. (Especially since I’d probably try to get a few kicks in myself.)

I cashed out at $60 and joined the rest of the guys at the café just off the floor, where I ate the greasiest double burger ever. By the time I got from the food counter to our table, the bun was soaked through and clear. Mmmmm. One of the guys (“Baby J”) made a trip to the room and came back with cans of Miller Lite in his pockets. It helped to wash some of the grease from my palate, but I still felt like I’d drunk a can of WD40. Thinking about the mixture of ground meat, crude oil, cheap beer, Jim Beam and ginger ale that was in my bloodstream that night makes my skin crawl. I’m fairly certain it’s the chemical compound to pink slime.

It’s always best not to think about things like that in the moment, though. So…#TurnDown4What? Our swarm of tipsy, grease-addled 30-year-olds moved to Wheeling Island’s dog track, where we promptly overtook the bar. I made one bet, while pushing my Beam & Ginger Ale total near double digits; it was on a dog named “Whisky”-something-or-other. It just felt right.

My deeply scientific method for picking a winning dog didn’t pay off. One of the guys in our group, though, won $300+ on a trifecta bet, on a race at another dog track. And none of those mutts were named after what he was drinking at the moment. How does that even happen? I drank more whiskey to cope.

After enough whiskey and gambling—and gambling on Whiskey—it was time for the third side of the bachelor party pyramid: strippers. The thing about Wheeling Island is, it’s very “West Virginia” everywhere but on the small patch of land where Godfathers sits. Inside that oasis, the girls are all cute (at a minimum), the staff is relaxed, the clientele is civilized, and the bar is always well-stocked. In a lot of ways, it’s actually one of the nicest strip clubs in the area. It’s an even better coffee shop and steakhouse.

As cute as all of the dancers were, I quickly detected a theme: None were bigger than a B cup. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m a lover of women, no matter what size their feminine wiles come in. But one of the underrated perks of a strip club is that you (normally) get to see the whole range of sizes. It’s something a lot of women don’t really seem to understand: Your man isn’t looking at other women naked because he doesn’t want to see you naked. He’s looking at other women naked because they are other kinds of naked women. The more, the merrier, and the inevitable variety of body types and sizes is an ingrained part of that. But at Godfathers on this Saturday night, it was all bee sting everything.

I ordered up drinks for myself and a few others, while I watched our buddy “Play-By-Play” talk up two dancers that looked barely 18, one of whom was wearing braces on her teeth and little black socks in her clear heels. When Play teased her about her socks, she said, “I don’t like walking on that stage in my bare feet!” “But,” he responded, “…you’re a stripper.”

Someone had just sent Trip off to the lap dance room with a dancer when he got called to go up onstage; Baby J had arranged for him to receive the ceremonial beating. The last time I saw this happen at Godfathers, two dancers beat GG’s bottom like he stole their tip money. Baby J had arranged for four dancers to take out their daddy issue-fueled rage on Trip. Ruh roh…

Those four modestly-chested women absolutely destroyed our buddy. And we rained dollar bills all over the stage while they did it. 5’3” girls took belts from seemingly nine feet up in the air and brought them the full nine feet down to Trip’s ass, where it laid prone on the stage, unable to stop the massacre. One dancer grabbed the waistband of his boxers and yanked like she was trying to save them from a burning car. When the band had been completely separated from the rest of the shorts, she relented and moved onto other means of torture.

When his five minutes of hell were over, Trip slowly picked himself up, paused, and then began dancing around the stage, even taking a twirl around the pole.

When he walked down off the stage, the dancer who had been trying to take Trip back to the lap dance room earlier came and collected him to finish that task. The rest of us fell back into our standard bar demeanor and, honestly, I don’t think anyone paid any attention to naked girls on the stage for the rest of night. As I ordered up another Beam & Ginger at one side of the bar, Vince called me over to his side to collect one of the shots he was pouring out. Play renewed his pursuit of Socks. I looked through the DJ booth and noticed I could see into a mirror in the dancers’ dressing room behind it. Then the thought occurred to me that I was spying on naked girls…at a strip club. I turned back to the booze and fun around me.

At one point, while talking to T.C., I heard the sound of glass crashing at my feet. Looking down, I realized I was holding only the top tenth of the Collins glass that I’d been drinking from. I checked my hands for cuts. Nothing. I checked my torso for bullet holes, thinking maybe someone had sniped me. Nothing. No explanation. My glass had seemingly spontaneously combusted. “At least you’ll get a free drink out of it,” offered Vince, as a bouncer swept up the Beam & Ginger murder scene.

When I stepped up to the bar, though, they wanted payment for my new drink. Dammit. I wasn’t the only one who was feeling shortchanged, though. Trip came back from the lap dance with a confused look on his face. “She didn’t get naked. She said they aren’t even allowed to take their tops off during dances.” I guess, even in an oasis, a little West Virginia can find its way in.

From there, the night wound down in pretty timid fashion. We headed back to the casino, where Trip and Vince sat down to play at a $25 blackjack table. (Vince’s gambling that day, where he broke even while probably putting about $50k in play overall, would get our rooms comped.) Some of the guys went to bed, some stood around watching the blackjack action. T.C., Bear Cub, Baby J, and I sat down at a nearby video roulette table, where I turned $10 into $28. Grinding is my life. I finally called “No mas” around 3:30, finding the room I’d been in earlier that night and passing out on a bed next to T.C.

And, really, that’s the best outcome you can hope for when you’re partying in West Virginia.


Blogger said...

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alex amarxon said...

I would keep pulling that lever until I hit $80, because losing $20 after a few hours of stupid fun felt justified. But then I just kept winning!