Monday, August 11, 2014

Double Up

“You my friend are a legend.”

Praise like that from Pakistanimal doesn’t come cheap. Somewhere along the way you pay with your liver and your ability to give a fuck. It was late afternoon on Sunday, August 3rd, and I was laying on my couch, sucking on a Gatorade bottle. I sure didn’t feel like a legend.

I had started the weekend by not getting out of work until around 6:30 Friday night. Nothing screams “Turn up!” like spreadsheets. Despite that, when Pak called after 7, I think I agreed to go out in Shadyside before the question had even left his mouth.

After a quiet couple of drinks at my place, we walked to The Yard for a few more quiet drinks. And some quiet shots. Fireball Bombs—quiet Fireball Bombs. “This,” I thought, “This is right where I need to stay tonight. Quiet.”

After a couple of rounds—and sharing disgust over the Paul George injury with the bartender and other bargoers—Pak suggested we give in to the inevitable and head over to Shady Grove, where our boy Jed was bartending. We were settled in on Grove barstools by 11:45, and things rapidly went downhill from there. To summarize:
  • My Twitter buddy Lo agreed to come catch up with us. But as soon as she and her friend sat down on the other side of the bar, and before they could come say hi, a group of guys descended upon them.
  • I made whimsical jokes about it on Twitter.
  • Jed decided it was a “Let’s start doing shots of Rumple Minze at 1:30” kind of night.
  • Lo, her friend, and the guys all disappeared.
  • I made less whimsical, increasingly-stalkerish jokes about it on Twitter.
  • Fried Green Tomatoes, out on her own nearby, came over and joined us.
  • Pak got irrationally angry, to the point where he tried to fight people around us for no reason.
  • I awoke Saturday morning with Pak face down on my couch, texts from FGT asking wtf had happened to him, and some tweets that called for an explanation/apology.
After that apology, I asked Lo where she and her friend had gone. “I think the bar was closing?” Welp…

I’d already had plans for Saturday, and they would require a tad more decorum. Alex is good friends with Turbo, one of the Grove’s owners, whose wife was throwing him a 40th birthday party at their home. This would be good food, good drinks, and—most importantly—good behavior. …Okay, slightly better behavior.

Alex and a tray of crabcakes got to my place just as a torrential thunderstorm unloaded on Pittsburgh. If you ever want to see a woman with perfectly done makeup and hair run like a lunatic, drop a million gallons of water from the sky as she heads towards her car.

We went to Grove to catch up with Jerry, Lil Mo, and other friends who were pregaming the party. Jed looked at me like I was a ghost. It had only been about 14 hours since I’d been there last. He helped fill in some of the gaps in my memory, since the last thing I remembered clearly was him pouring the shots of Rumple Minze. Pak’s mood swing, hanging with some of the other Grove regulars, being there ‘til 4 am—all of it was news to me.

When we finally walked into Turbo’s house, the weather’s uncooperative nature had forced a few modifications. The event was catered by a barbecue restaurant, and the whole deck had been set up with grilling equipment and tables. The rain meant that those were now abandoned, with the food and booze relocated to the kitchen and dining room. Guests were handed towels as they walked through the door. Thank god Turbo and his wife have a big, spacious house, because 50 people were now confined to the first floor of it.

Once inside and dry, though, standard rules applied. I got myself a gin & tonic, Alex got a glass of wine, and Lil Mo—the smallest person in the place—filled up a plate with grilled meat. We posted up at one end of the living room, some of us sitting along the wall facing the rest of the party like a firing squad of judgment. Jerry and I placed bets on how many pieces of birthday cake one of the older women at the party was going to have, as she hovered around the table on which it sat. Several of us watched a couple go into the bathroom together, and theorized on whether they were fighting, sexing, snorting, or some combination of the three. A beautiful Indian woman, who was clearly feeling whatever it was she’d drank, walked over and retrieved her phone from her purse. We watched in stunned silence from two feet away as she wobbily took a selfie, with a decorative sticker on her arm strategically positioned in the shot. Then, never having looked at or said a word to any of us, she put her phone away and stumbled back off into the party.

Jerry, Mo, and some of the other guests departed, but Alex and I decided to hang out a little while longer before breaking for the bar. Thank god we did, because it gave me an opportunity to meet my future wife.

Nicole, a longtime friend of Turbo’s wife, is awesome. Greek and Italian, she’s hilarious, pretty, full of life, and can drink with the best of them. And she loves whiskey; she was drinking it on the rocks. She told us the tale of how, when a guy was getting menacingly close in a bar some years ago, she reached behind her, broke a beer bottle on the bar, and threatened to stab him.

I literally got down on one knee in front of her on the porch.

By this point, I was sipping on a wonderful tequila one of Turbo’s friends had brought to the party as a gift. And just when I thought it was time to stop drinking and head to the bar, Alex grabbed my cup and went back inside for refills. A drink at the bar, a few gin & tonics, and now a few glasses of tequila on the rocks. This could only go to good places, right?

Alex and I, as well as Nicole and several people from the party, saddled up and headed to William Penn Tavern. We got a table, we got drinks, and a brilliant strategist among us got a basket of fries for the table. In our group was the pretty Indian selfie connoisseur, who I talked to for a few minutes. I don’t remember what that conversation was about, or what her name is. I don’t even think I remembered a few minutes later, when Alex and I walked off to the bar’s patio area. She seemed like a sweet girl, though.

On the patio we spotted the bouncer, who I’ve seen around Shadyside for years working at different bars, including Grove. We bullshitted about the drunken people and the stupid shit they were doing…rather meta of me, I know. At one point, he had to make a run inside to use the men’s room. So like a good friend, I stood at the entrance, and eyed up an ID or two while he was gone.

Here’s where things get blurry. From what I can remember, Alex ordered a round of shots. At some point, while standing at the bar after the shots, I began chatting up a cute brunette. She was cool and smart, and interested in what I had to say, which just made her cooler and smarter. After 15 minutes or so, I had started browning out (i.e., coming in and out of consciousness). I suddenly “woke up” to find myself talking to this girl, with no clue who she was or what we were talking about. So, when she excused herself so she could go to the ladies' room, I did what anyone would do: I finished my beer and walked straight out of the bar.

Yup. Not a single fuck given.

I walked over to Grove and sat down, for the third time in 24 hours. Who I talked to (other than Jed), what we talked about, etc., I was too blacked out to ever remember. The next thing I know for certain, I was waking up Sunday morning on my couch to the sound of my phone buzzing with texts from Alex.

Being a legend is a good way to die young.

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