Wednesday, February 4, 2015

We're Not For Everyone (Days 3 and 4)

[Click here for Day 2]

Sunday, March 23rd
I didn’t—and still don’t—remember much from the tail end of Saturday night, but I quickly knew food had played a central role. A box from a pizza Hurley had ordered sat on the dresser, two still-wrapped kielbasa sandwiches sat on the floor where MoFo had slept (next to the towel he’d used for warmth), and the Hurley-eating-someone’s-room-service-leftovers story was getting full play in the morning briefing.

Trip informed us that we were each up $150 from betting on tourney games, with Sunday’s games yet to come. You mean I could potentially spend three days drinking myself stupid in Raleigh, and come home richer than I’d left? I felt like Shoeless Joe Jackson emerging from the corn on Ray Kinsella’s farm.

Is this heaven?
No. It’s Raleigh.

Like the day before, MoFo had left before any of us awoke. But this time, he wouldn’t be striding triumphantly through the door with pizzas. We were left to handle Raleigh without a host for a while. So what do four hungover guys from out of town do on the Sunday morning of a four-day roadtrip/bender? They go to brunch, of course.

We shuffled down the street and into The Oxford, where a cute redheaded hostess looked at us and did her best to stifle a laugh. How dare she? We got ourselves a table and drinks, and then headed toward the buffet to avenge her disrespect with waffles and bacon. And barbecue—sweet, sweet, North Carolina barbecue. Vengeance is delicious.

We also met our waitress, a buxom lass of dark brown curls named Tanya, who had no idea what she was in for when she strapped on her (overworked) suspenders that morning. She was two D-cupped scoops of cuteness, and gave us something to look at and bounce jokes off of as a means of distracting ourselves from our hangovers.

Tanya: “So what are you guys celebrating?”
Me: “Friendship.”

By then MoFo had caught up with us, and all five of us watched Kansas go down in flames, along with our winning streak. So much for going home up on the weekend. Might as well drink it off.

I’d started with mimosas—it was brunch, after all—but had switched to Vodka Red Bulls. Hurley tried to find himself with Captain & Cokes. MoFo and T.C. pounded beers. Sitting to my left, Trip may have looked like he was ahead of all of us, but it was mostly an attempt to rehydrate. In the first 45 minutes that we were there, he seemed to order every drink available on and off their menu, most of them non-alcoholic.

Tanya loved us. Her phone number would be MoFo’s trophy.

We went back to the hotel room to regroup. We knew we wanted to go to the Mercer/Tennessee game that afternoon. We didn’t have tickets, but we’d figure that out once we got to PNC Arena. While we meditated on it all, MoFo ate the two leftover street meat sandwiches.

We hopped into a hotel van, and pointed the driver towards Backyard Bistro. It’s a happy little sports bar & grill, situated (literally) across the street from the arena. We made our way to the bar in the center of the establishment, which was a bigger accomplishment than it may sound. The building was packed with Mercer and Tennessee fans, with a few University of Virginia folks sprinkled about. Each of us ordered a Vodka Red Bull double. The time for fucking around had passed.

Hurley, T.C. and I negotiated tabs and multiple drink orders. While we did, MoFo and Trip found two new blonde friends: Barb and Whitney were two dots of Mercer pride in a sea of U of T illiteracy. Whitney had caught our eyes, and her engagement ring came along for the ride—as did Barb. But fun is fun, and these two southern ladies were fun. They played Heads Up with Trip and MoFo, did shots with us, chanted Mercer fight songs, and kicked it with us for hours.

Eventually, someone amongst us who wasn’t petite, female, and from Georgia made the executive decision that attending the game wasn’t going to happen for those of us who weren’t petite, female, and from Georgia. It might’ve had something to do with us still not having tickets 30 minutes before game time. Or maybe it was because MoFo started beef with Tennessee fans by chanting taunts in response to their fight songs. Maybe.

When Barb and Whitney left us to go witness their alma mater’s moment in the spotlight, we called the hotel van. Did we ask the driver to take us to the Marriott? Never! We had him take us back to Big Mike’s BBQ, and our cute Saturday pal, Jacqui.

We got ourselves a table and some drinks, and fell back into old habits. Drinks, drinks, drinks, shots, drinks, shots, drinks. Standard. Jacqui wasn’t working tables that night, though, and appeared to be off-duty. Eventually, a few of us sat down at the bar, and began BS’ing with the cute blonde bartender. We offered to buy her a shot.

Cute Blonde Bartender: “Thanks, but I’ll pass. We just had a waitress get fired last night for that. She came into work drunk, and then this table full of guys from out of town started buying her shots. She was hammered. She told off the manager, and he fired her ass on the spot.”
Us: “Wha…” *looking at each other*
Cute Blonde Bartender: *looks at us* “…it was you guys, wasn’t it?”

Well, that’s awkward.

I’ve often thought that the whole “the customer’s always right” reasoning was unfair, and here was a sterling example. We offered her free shots, but she got punished, for making us—her customers—happy. That just feels sadistic. [If, by any strange chance, you’re reading this, Jacqui, allow me to apologize for whatever role we played in your change of employment. I hope you landed on your feet. I’ll be happy to cover you for a night of drinking with us if you hit me up in the comments.]

We mourned Jacqui’s career at Big Mike’s by…continuing to drink at Big Mike’s (sorry Jacqui). And before long we had two new party guests: Tanya and her roommate. Our favorite brunch waitress had taken up MoFo on his offer to have a few drinks and let her hair down. She had also let her suspenders down. So, really, I guess that made four new party guests.

Tanya’s roommate was attractive—and insane. I mean, really insane. I tried to listen to one of her stories, and found myself spinning through time like a Twilight Zone inhabitant. She was one of the prettiest women from whom I’ve ever actively tried to distance myself.

I’ll be honest; I started browning out around this point. Sometimes it’s best to just let the good times carry you. The memories I do have play like a soundtrack-fueled movie montage, full of scenes like sitting at the bar, and talking to Cute Blonde Bartender; an old drunk mouthing off, to the point where Trip—Drunk Trip, who’s one of the friendliest and most affable people on the planet—raised up and made him leave the bar; and laughing with friends while debating things loudly.

…I don’t know how we got to a strip club, though. Fucking brown outs.

I came back to consciousness as we walked into a club of stripping, the familiar tones of darkened rooms, pulsating music, and soft, neon blue lighting greeting me like I’d stumbled into an old friend in a new town. I was with T.C. and Hurley; we’d left MoFo and Trip with Tanya and her crazy ass roommate. As we found chairs in a giant room filled with small stages and comfortable seating, all I could truly understand was that I didn’t want to be there.

My DGAF had returned.

I’d like to offer some deeply thought out treatise on why I wasn’t the slightest bit enthused about being in a club full of beautiful, naked women. I don’t have one. My boys were into the moment, and eager to watch Raleigh’s finest ply their trade. But all I could focus on was being somewhere else.

I walked out to the front door, and asked the bouncers to call me a cab. Like true homies, Hurley and T.C. were right behind me, sacrificing their night to make sure I wasn’t voyaging off alone in my (obviously) inebriated state. They’re great friends. They’re also stupid. But they’re great (stupid) friends. We cabbed back to the hotel, and I passed out before my head hit the pillow.

Monday, March 24th
If there’s one thing that sucks about a road trip, it’s the last day. Every part of it is a kick to your psyche’s crotch. That’s especially true if a hangover is involved, because it doesn’t really hit full stride until you’re on the road; so, as a result, the anticipation torments you while you’re getting yourself ready to go home that morning. You’d swear you could hear the firing squad load their rifles.

I hated every moment of showering and packing. I didn’t want to say goodbye to Raleigh. It is, after all, part of my family’s heritage. My father was born just down the road in Rhamkatte, and I’ve spent numerous family reunions in the area, taking in the Carolina hospitality and running rampant through the red clay woodlands. Ironically, my pops had called me on Friday afternoon, when we had just reached the city limits. When I told him where I was, he asked if I’d be checking in with any of our family members who live in the area.

Me: “…No.”
Dad: “…Okay then.”

I love my family, but this wasn’t a weekend for anything as responsible as reconnecting with relatives. This was a guys’ weekend: four men on a road trip, casting aside every worry and responsibility that saddles them the other 361 days of the year. Five friends with varying relationship statuses and claims on their personal time, taking hold of one of the few chances we’re given to be young(-ish) and stupid again. This was a time to be selfish, and to revel in that selfishness.

And revel we had.

But oh, that return leg of a road trip. It’s nauseating, even without the hangover. With the hangover, it’s pure hell. No amount of McDonalds, Gatorade, snacks, bottles of water, or reassessments of past decisions can get you to where you’re going faster. The only thing that takes your mind off the travel, for brief moments of respite, is rehashing the tales you’ve just lived in the previous 80 hours. It tricks the mind—however briefly—into thinking the good times are still rolling, that you’re not trapped in an SUV hundreds of miles from your couch and TV.

During one of those moments of postgame analysis, somewhere in Hour Four of the drive, I hit upon a realization: We’d heavily impacted the service industry in Raleigh, for better or worse. Bartenders charmed. Waitresses fired. Pockets fattened. Wet Pussies tasted. Boobs creep-shot. Lives shared. Nerves tested.

With a shake of his head, and a brief pause of self-reflection, T.C. wrapped a bow on it: “We’re not for everyone.”