Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What I Learned This Summer (2014)

“It’s all up in the air, and we stand still, to see what comes down.”

Yes, there’s a good reason why I’m quoting The Fray lyrics. It’s because they speak of hope. They bound across a field of flowers with the enthusiastic hope that we embrace at the start of each new summer. …Or maybe that’s just me. And maybe I just like The Fray. Temecula. [for those who don't get the reference]

To know me is to know that I hold the summer in high regard. Those months of sun-drenched weather are my best of the year. Maybe I’ve never gotten over the anticipation that permeated every last-day-of-school I’ve lived. Maybe it calls me back to the majority of those early years, when summer meant going back to Los Angeles to live with my dad until the school year was ready to begin again. Or maybe the warm weather just reconnects me with that SoCal heritage. Whatever the reason, late-May through early-September is my spiritual center.

As with the previous four editions, this write serves as my lessons-learned report on the summer that was. The idea was originally borne from a need to cope with love lost, but has since grown into a way to find closure with one June solstice and move onto my inevitable love affair with the next.

And in retrospect, the Summer of 2014 was, on the whole, rather mild compared to its predecessors. Old age is mellowing me, and I’ve found my dial is more often set to “turn down” than “turn up”. But there’s still fun to be had—and lessons to be instilled—in a summer, even in limited run. After all, if we as human beings aren’t constantly learning and evolving, then we’re sinking.

Sometimes the lessons are obvious, sometimes they’re gut-wrenching. But each one is important, and improves the man or woman who learns it.

  • There’s no way to casually visit a bartender at work. Driving back to my apartment late on a Saturday in July, I decided to stop by Shady Grove to see my boy Jed. He’d just come home from Tales of the Cocktail, and I was eager to hear all about the trouble and drinks he’d gotten himself into. Just one beer, while living vicariously through his stories. That’s it. That was all I’d have, before continuing on my way home. Heck, I might even be in bed before midnight!

    Around 3:30 a.m., I dragged myself through my front door. About 11 hours later, my face was in my toilet, vomiting like it was put on this planet to do just that.

  • There’s no way to casually visit Alex at happy hour. On the previous Monday, my company held a happy hour at Eddie Merlot’s downtown. Not long after I’d arrived, my wine loving homegirl texted to tell me she was doing happy hour at Harris Grill. So after I’d tipped back a couple of free Negronis and bs’ed with coworkers, I headed home with the intention of making a quick stop at Harris along the way, to have a drink and say “hi.” Heck, I’d be home before the sun even went down!

    Around 11:30 p.m., I dragged myself through my front door. About 11 hours later, my head was on my desk at the office, swilling coffee and aspirin like my bosses paid it to do just that.

  • All good things come to an end. Shannon moved into her Mt. Washington apartment pimp pad in 2006. In the time since, she’s hosted countless days and nights of shenanigans: New Years Eves, summer night house parties, her sister’s pre-wedding activities, rainy-night drinking games, and the best St. Patrick’s Day parties in the city. And, sadly, that all came to an end this past August, when she closed the front door behind her for the final time.

    If there had been a camera crew there that day to put together a Real World-final-episode-moving-out montage, every flashback would’ve featured our circle of friends living a fabled moment of our early adulthood. Life goes on, things change. But sometimes memories feel like old friends you’re leaving behind.

  • Jams are international incidents. The summer’s World Cup brought a little bit of the outside world to Shadyside. Standing on the street with Pakistanimal during June’s Jam on Walnut, a flash of bright yellow caught my eye. A crowd of seven or eight Colombians, men and women, were dancing in front of the stage, wearing the soccer jerseys of their nation’s heroes and waving the flag of their homeland.

  • “Schlammered” is the same in every language. Later, as we sat drinking in Shady Grove, one of the Colombianas stumbled upon Pak and me. When the homie raised his glass to Colombia, the wobbly mami happily raised hers as well. When I said I was cheering for Colombia when I wasn’t cheering for the US, she tried to square off with me.

    Crazy, drunk, Latina, and cute. I politely erased her number from my phone the next morning. I’ve already been down that road enough for this lifetime.

  • Furries and supercars aren’t mutually exclusive. While basking in the glory that is our annual Furry Safari in July, the men in our crowd of 20+ were soon distracted by the sight of two new fearsome beasts posted up on the block: A Ferrari 458 and drop-top Lamborghini Aventador parked curbside directly in front of our sidewalk seating. I saw a furry pull out his smartphone and take a picture of the cars, in one of the more ironic moments of my lifetime.

  • Whiskey doesn’t judge you when you cry. When I lost my homie Otis in September, I was broken. It’s been a while since I’ve cried that hard. Or that often. Every day for a week or so, as quickly as I felt like no one could see me at my desk, in my car, in my kitchen, wherever, my eyes would instantly well up with memories. Memories of youth. Memories of promise. Memories of a group of friends ready to take the world by storm, and scheming every minute on how we’d make it happen. I’d frequently find myself reciting old R&B songs as I washed dishes (O loved him some R&B, like any child of the 80s and 90s who grew up singing in a church choir), and choked with tears by the time I reached the chorus.

    Miss you, O.

  • Murica is the land of the free. The Fourth of July was, as usual, a star-spangled orgy of red, white, blue, and alcohol. Participating in the bacchanalia was TD’s friend from work, a pretty, petite brown-haired chick from Philadelphia. And Philly Brown was expertly filling out a patriotic pair of Budweiser leggings. About 10 minutes after meeting us on Swag and Canada’s back porch, she decided to pose for a picture between TJ and I. Doing a handstand. Budweiser-booty shimmering in the sunlight. Yeah, she fit into our crew almost as well as she fit into those leggings.

  • I mean, REALLY free. The festivities hit their highpoint at Bang’s place overlooking the Pittsburgh skyline. While the cool people—and those we allow in our presence—were floating in and out of Bang’s house in particular, every household on the block seemed to be teeming with revelers. And freedom.

    One reveler was a tiny, sandy-haired gal with a bountiful bosom. Swag introduced us to Four-Foot-D’s (no really, that’s his nickname for her), who quickly found a new fan. TD is my Lil Sis from another mother, and we’re a family that appreciates boobs. And shortly after meeting her, Sis looked FFDs in the eye (let’s just pretend she made eye contact) and said, “Can I motorboat you?” The sequence of 20 action shots I still have on my phone tells me that FFDs isn’t afraid to party.

  • I’m 35. I mentioned that I’ve slowed down this year, compared to last year. And last year I’d slowed down compared to the year before it. One weekend in August reminded me why that regression is necessary.

    Over the course of 30 hours, I barhopped, I stalked, I drank afterhours at a bar with the staff, I did lots of shots, I escorted a buddy who’d drank too much, I ducked police, I attended a 40th birthday party, I watched a woman take a selfie while oblivious to everything else around her, I met my wife (pending), I spilled tequila all over Alex, I gave love advice, I followed the party to William Penn Tavern, I worked the door, I did lots of shots, I met a cute girl, I forgot a cute girl’s name, I ditched a cute girl while she was in the bathroom, I walked into a bar solo, I drank afterhours at a bar with the staff (again), I did lots of shots (again), and I—I still don’t know how—came home in one piece.

    I purposely stayed home the next weekend. I’m 35.

  • Pay it forward. I spent the second week of July in Chattanooga, visiting my dad (The Admiral) and stepmother, as well as Sis C, who was stateside for the first time in years. It was probably the driest week of my summer. I expected that, since my stepmother is 23-years-sober, and my pops is diabetic. What I didn’t expect, though, was a bottle of Four Roses waiting for me on their kitchen counter—a gift from Step Bro, who had been there the previous weekend. Nothing takes the edge off Chattanooga like a finger of bourbon after dinner.

  • The party doesn’t stop for the weather. At the summer’s second Jam on Walnut, Tony, FGT, and I were posted up at the bar in Shady Grove, when our resident southern belle decided we should walk to The Ave. Never mind that we were holding prime real estate near the epicenter of the night’s action, or that The Ave was a 10-minute walk to the other side of the neighborhood, or that it was pouring rain outside. Yayy…

    On the other hand, standing at the bar in soaking wet clothing, drinking beers and not giving a fuck does allow you to accurately measure your drunkenness.

  • “I’ve gotta stop hanging out with white girls.” That’s a direct quote from the following Saturday, when I found myself jogging down a sidewalk behind Alex, through a torrential downpour.

  • There’s no gift like the gift of blackouts sir bourbon. Swag’s birthday was in August, and his girlfriend, Skeets, hosted our crowd of loud and boisterous drunks. I handed the birthday boy a bottle of Woodford Reserve, which he once christened “Sir Bourbon” when finding it in my liquor cabinet (a bottle of bourbon being sealed with a cork was a radical concept to him at the time). Things rapidly deteriorated from there, but I do know I woke up back in my own bed the next morning, confused.

Here’s to the next love affair being as memorable as the last. See you in June, summer.

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