Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Older And Wiser...But Still Bad-Ass (Short Story)

I got out of work at 10:30 PM last Thursday night, and went immediately over to Chris's house. You might imagine that I got out late that night, but on the contrary. I work until 1 AM so this was actually a reprieve for me. I had stored in my trunk a bottle of Jameson's 12-year. Back in the day, under the same circumstances this bottle would have been 100-proof Southern Comfort that I probably would have poured w/ some OJ, guzzling all while I made the drive south. But the days of manic, booze-induced speed trips down I-35 are done permanently, thank God.

But some things remain. And when Brad's in Austin, time doesn't necessarily reverse itself. We just add a little bit more to the clock.

I arrived at Chris's a half-hour later. I pulled up a chair and a glass of ice, and poured myself a little Jameson's 12-year on the rocks. Brad was in town from Los Angeles partly for Saturday's Texas-Nebraska game, but more for a job interview in Houston the next day. In years' past, we would have greeted each other at the door w/ a salutation more appropriate for Flounder and Blutarsky. Instead, he was discussing the recent passing of his father. Kevin chimed in about how he just became a father. I discussed how my father and mother just got divorced. And Chris countered, even while all of us were being unusually maudlin, about how he was still one bad mother. We laughed, but not hilariously. I poured another Jameson's for me, and made sure the rest of the crue's glass was full.

I woke up Friday morning feeling like a Bukowski novel, and smelling like the gastric innards of a Dublin distillery. I'm getting older, and in this case, definitely not wiser. I staggered like a punched-out welterweight through my kitchen and slammed some Advil back w/ an Austin water chaser. Jim Rome was on my radio ranting about the Yankees or the Red Sox or college football or something. Maybe he was reading emails, maybe he was venting about how we need a college football playoff, maybe he was interviewing my father taking the third string QB gig w/ the Rams. Whatever. It was irrelevent. Even my ears were bloodshot, nauseous, and on the verge of puking. I went to work eventually.

Saturday morning, I woke up booze-free, but my cell phone was buzzing around 10:30 AM. Brad was already on the 40 Acres, and was a few beers down to boot. God Bless Him. Tailgating on a Saturday afternoon during the college football season is a Southern artform. The canvas is typically an asphalt lot against a blue sky filled w/ mesquite smoke. The colors can vary but typically our Southern Picassos paint w/ rich, pecan whiffs of brisket and a spill of Stubb's spicy BBQ sauce. Jack Daniel's, Shiner Bock and Bloody Mary's are used liberally by the swirls of elder alums, and scantily clad sorority hotties alike.

We weren't scheduled to beat the hell out of Nebraska for at least another four hours. "Get your ass down here," Brad said. I showered up and arrived in the shadows of our alma mater and Royal Texas Memorial Stadium around 12 noon. Kevin and Brad met me in the Shiner Bock tent. Kevin's originally from Shiner, TX, the little town that bears the name of my favorite beer. He knows a few people that could get us into their tent for all their fixings. And their beer. Lots of their beer. The brisket was cooking, ready for consumption, and they had at least seven more cows worth of meat, so skimping on the grub wasn't necessary. I grabbed a Shiner, and a plate full of meat, slathered it in BBQ sauce and began to coat myself into a greasy frenzy. College football Saturdays in TX rock, no matter where you go, unless you go to College Station where I'm not even sure the Aggies allow anyone to eat or booze until they get their jihad chants just right. But I don't think anyone would argue that there is nowhere else better in TX than a Longhorn tailgate. The band next to us was playing a revved-up, punk cover of Folsom Prison Blues. The tipsy girls were walking by, yelling "Hook 'em" to no one and everyone in particular, including the band. Nebraska was about to get killed. I sipped my beer, took another bite of my brisket and grinned. And then Domingo showed up...

Domingo was one of my ex-roommates from college, now living out in the Bay Area. We were notorious troublemakers in school, perhaps our most famous moment being down in South Padre Island, where we spent approximately a whole week drunk, and mated w/ more women than Gene Simmons. And apparently, SPI wasn't nearly enough for him b/c the minute he touched down in Austin, Hooters' waitresses were giving him their numbers. Seriously. He has pictures to go w/ their numbers and everything. It must be his accent b/c Lord knows I can't figure out what else it might be.

Domingo was going to the game, but Brad and I weren't. Eventually, after gawking at his pictures, we parted ways. He was going to Houston after the game. Brad and I needed to go downtown, and assault our liver w/ gin. In fact, we needed to go to the nearest sports bar, and assault our livers w/ gin now. We had a glorious number of games to choose from including our Longhorns. We ordered up some grub, grabbed our gin, and Brad presented me w/ some big news: He got the gig in Houston. Mad love to him. His first drink was on me. And since he'll be a two-hour car ride a month from right now, I figure this won't be the last drink on me either.

Halftime rolled around, and Kevin called us. The game sucked, and not b/c we were beating them so badly. They were actually up by two touchdowns. He said he wanted to meet us up at the bar. We weren't going to deny the man a seat as long as he paid for the round of drinks. Somewhere around the 3rd quarter, Kevin showed up, and whipped out his cash. If memory serves me right, this was Kevin's first round, my seventh, and Brad's 22nd. He had some catching up to do.

Eventually, we won. We certainly didn't beat the hell out of them, although we should have. 28-25 was the final score. Still enough, I still live here in Austin, Brad will live in Houston, and those fat slobs HAD to go back to Lincoln. Sucks to be them.

We meandered down to Chris's place after the game for more gin, victory cigars, and to lay out the plans as to how we were going to lay waste and conquer downtown Austin that night. First stop: Cedar Street Courtyard.

I don't know who told Brad this, or sold him on this idea, but he was told that Cedar Street Courtyard in the heart of Austin's Warehouse District was this supple land where MILF's grew on aspen trees, and the booze flowed like lapping tongues of ocean. All I know is that we showed up, and there were a bunch of women shaking their asses to a band playing Bon Jovi covers. They were screaming at these middle-aged jackholes like they really were Jon and Richie. They were throwing panties at them. Not us. Fuck 'em, I said. I wasn't really in the mood to deal w/ some chick who gets out once a month and was going to throw her goods at a guy pretending to rock. Chris and his girlfriend, Mandy, were w/ us, and they wanted to grab a bite to eat next door at Saba. It's this cool tapas bar, that's always playing chill house music from Sasha, Digweed and the ilk. I couldn't wait to split fast enough.

Brad and I ordered more booze; they ordered up grub. Slackers. Saba actually sits directly on top of Cedar Street Courtyard and just to the east. We could look down at the fray and make fun of everyone dancing like an idiot to You Give Love A Bad Name while we jived to Digweed. Somewhere around my second Saba drink, Brad and Chris were talking about the last time they were boozing this close to a window. You know, as opposed to the last time they were boozing next to a Guatemalan hooker or a three-assed giraffe. Whatever. They concurred that the last time they were swilling it up w/ this kind of view would have been at a 2004 wedding in Fort Worth where Kevin first hooked up w/ his future wife. They pressed their ball sacs up against a window to taunt him while he was making out w/ her. Kevin saw what was going on, saw their walrus-sized nads, and couldn't stop laughing while he was tongue wrestling w/ his soon-to-be spouse. Brad declared that this must be done again. Again, I say, whatever. I wasn't at that wedding, and frankly, I like my gonads where they belong. But Brad believed this is a task that must be followed through after Chris and Mandy were done w/ their food. And he's preached to Chris w/ the fervor of Billy Graham and Joel Osteen that he must do this too. Brad became the Oral Roberts of ball sac showing, preaching to our intimate congregation that Chris MUST show his lordly goods to the masses below or God would call him Home.

After the tab was paid and the dishes were cleared, Brad pushed the table out slightly, and stared down at the Bon Jovi-loving masses like he was tucking in his shirt. He wasn't tucking in his shirt. He gave the crowd what they should have wanted to see, but they never stared back in appreciation. Or even wanting. And unlike crusaders of the past, Brad went on this pilgrimage alone. Neither Chris nor I joined him. Mandy has no balls so she was clearing on the outs. He walked away from the window w/ his junk in tact and left the window unstained. But permanently scarred.

Last up on the night was the Belmont. It's on 6th Street, but it's not where the massive string of collegiate dive bars are. It's further up the way, pocketed next to a sushi restaurant. We were greeted by a concrete courtyard, bebop jazz and a swoon of bourbon-glazed female eyes. We stepped inside past the courtyard, and found ourselves a sleek, black booth hidden in a wooden enclave. If you've seen Swingers it looked like the Dresden--a place where Double Down Trent and Sue took Mikey to down martinis and get him out of his woman funk. Brad and I looked at each other immediately and started reciting lines from the flick. We were two big bears w/ claws and fangs just trying to kill the bunnies. But the booze still took center stage over the bunnies.

We were drinking, we were chuckling, we were mellow and cool to the stylings of Miles and Monk. Our booze consumption at this point was rivaling the legendary tales of Modern Drunkard. Brad, himself, had been drinking since 9:30 AM Saturday morning. I admit our prowess isn't immortal, but we wondered aloud if a Zen-like space exists between the mere mortals and the Rat Pack.

However, I doubt that Dean and Frank would have laughed as hard as we did when we saw the Belmont's table top advertisement for their happy hour appetizers. They were passed appetizers. Yes, you heard me. Passed.

Brad and I laughed not like Dean and Frank, a hearty, man-like, Jack Daniel's induced howl. Rather, we were the gin-spitting Beavis and Butthead, a maddened cackle without any sort of suppression. "Passed appetizers?" Brad bleated. "Seriously, does the waiter come up to you shit in a bowl and tell you to share?" "What about passed pate?" I asked. We collectively roared at that. The bourbon-glazed female eyes that were originally staring us down were now shifting away in uncomfortable disgust. Not that we cared or even noticed. We were the Demigods of Swill ruling Austin w/ a mighty fistful of ninety-proof power. Houston will be conquered next month. But as the lights came on to kick us out of the Belmont, we stood wobbly but strong overseeing our booze-soaked kingdom. Coltrane played our coronation music while we sauntered out into the streets. The jubilent drunks filed out on to 6th Street and into their cars that they shouldn't have been operating but did anyway. Our taxi was there to take us away from the masses. We sped away in our yellow car chauffeur. Far from the people that wished they were us.

I woke up late the next day and watched football for most of it. I met up w/ Brad over at Kevin's place and we played w/ his kid, trying to help her crawl amongst her blocks. It was like we picked up where we left off on Thursday night. Brad's father had passed. Kevin is a father. But, no matter how many responsibilities we share or grievances we carry, we still proved w/out question that we were still a collective one bad mother. It's refreshing still to know that even after all these years, after all the crap that's happened in our lives, we can still bring it.

Kevin's daughter fell asleep w/ her busy blocks all around her. He put her in the crib, came back downstairs and flipped on the Patriots. He poured us some Jack, and we quietly watched Tom Brady decimate the Redskins. Like Brady, we had our championships.

Just like him, we're looking for more.

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