I have a terrible habit of starting a story that turns into a story-within-a-story and ends up dragging on forever. It’s like the limbo in Inception without the crumbling buildings and old Japanese men. So yeah, I still have to finish up what happened when I jumped into the dinghy with Ike and we motored over to the boat with the girls dancing in bikinis. I will get to that, but this past weekend made me think of my worst / best first date ever.
It all started on my birthday several years ago. I’m not terribly ambitious so I only have one birthday a year. I had taken the day off from work. No one should ever have to work on their birthday, much less sit in a claustrophobic cubicle and pretend to be doing something.
The morning began with my grabbing a cup of coffee at Peet’s on Main Street and walking over to the beach. My cell rang while I was sitting in the sand and the caller ID read MoneyClip. MoneyClip was not his god-given name, as that would have been a fucking terrible example of parental discretion, but instead was the nickname he picked up somewhere after college. We had been roommates at the university together and from the start the kid was pretty much money at whatever he did. He was a goddamn brilliant writer and when he paddled out for a surf he was the best in the lineup every time.
“Good morning Mr. MoneyClip.”
“Yo dude, happy birthday. Wanna grab lunch today?”
“Yeah, let’s. How about something simple like O’Brien’s?”
We always kept our conversations brief. O’Brien’s is a local watering hole that serves up tasty pub food. A buddy of mine works there and writes a hilarious blog about life behind the bar, which I linked to above, and so it tends to be the place where we congregate. I walked into the place around 1pm and it was empty except for a really pretty and very petite bartender who I had never seen before.
I saddled up to the bar and ordered a Harp. With the bar being empty, the bartender, Sami, and I began to chat. Sami was another aspiring actress. Her real name was Samantha but her persona, the sort of hot girl next door who loves to be outdoors and likes to drink beer, was better suited by the moniker Sami. I liked her instantly.
MoneyClip came striding in a few seconds later, decked out in a sports coat over an old t-shirt that read Thunderbird Hotel. At some point in life he had achieved a level of cool to the extent he could walk into a darkly lit room from the outdoors and never remove his sunglasses and you wouldn’t think it strange. He walked over to me and gave me a man-hug, a hybrid of a hug and a backslap in which your torsos never touch. Once again he wished me happy birthday. Sami was standing right behind us and overheard his birthday wishes and insisted immediately we do a round of shots on the house.
Here’s another Jackson Panic law: When a beautiful woman offers you a shot, you take it, regardless of what is in it. Remember this because it is going to be very important later on.
The three of us did a shot of Jameson together and toasted my birthday. I love bartenders who do a shot with you. Nothing brings people together like pure alcohol consumed rapidly. The bar remained fairly empty throughout lunch and so Sami hung around taking part in our conversation. Her effortless smile and utter lack of pretension combined with two Harps and a shot of Jameson made me think Sami was just about the most perfect woman in the world.
When we left O’Brien’s I told Sami I would see her again. She told me she expected me to come back soon and I felt like her smile indicated that she actually hoped more than expected. My birthday was already packed with promise. It’s funny to think back on it now and realize I asked out her co-worker before I ever asked her out…but I am getting ahead of myself.
MoneyClip had to swing back by his office and I decided to run over to the Third Street Promenade to see about using the gift card my parents had sent me. We made plans to meet back up at O’Brien’s for happy hour and spend the rest of the night celebrating. I sent out a text message to the usual suspects letting them know they were invited to join us for a little informal birthday celebration that evening. I hoped Sami would still be working when we returned but realized I hadn’t asked her before I left.
When I did return to the bar, I was disappointed to see that Sami was gone and someone else was now tending the bar. I did a quick once over around the room and saw MoneyClip, Ike and my long-lost friend Waylon sitting in a booth off to the left.
Waylon was an interesting guy. He was born and raised in Venice by parents who loved country music and so they named him Waylon, after Waylon Jennings. The guy was always wearing a shirt and tie, skinny tie at that, no matter what was going on and he wouldn’t be caught dead in shorts. He had a greased back hairstyle straight out of the 1950’s and drove a white, convertible 1976 Cadillac El Dorado around town. Apparently he had a day job but wouldn’t tell any of us where he worked. He lived on a boat in the Marina and I once described him as the person I would call if I ever needed to dispose of a body. That was the perfect description of Waylon. Just looking at the cast of characters composing our entourage, I knew I was in trouble. It would be a good trouble but it would still be trouble.
Our waitress was another girl I had not seen before. She had wavy black hair and ice blue eyes that almost seemed to glow from across the bar. She walked around playfully flaunting her Hollywood Rubensesque figure, which was just curvier than the average skinny LA gal. Ike motioned for her to come to our table and she smiled back at us. Two beautiful women at our local hangout – it was already quite a birthday.
When she walked up, Ike stood and introduced her to me.
“Rachel this is Jackson. Jackson, Rachel.”
Her smile highlighted the dimples in her cheeks and caused her blue eyes to radiate sparkles.
“You must be the birthday boy. How about I get you a shot?”
I reached out and took her hand in mine, “I will only do a shot if the lady does one with me.”
She demurely refused, “I probably shouldn’t.”
“Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.”
Rachel giggled and asked the table what we were having. Ike ordered Jagerbombs and right then and there I knew we were in for a long night. Rachel disappeared to get our drinks and I sat down with the boys.
We spent a few minutes discussing the noticeable increase in the number of beautiful women working in our favorite pub. This isn’t to say that the staff wasn’t already full of pretty faces but the new ones were pretty exciting. One of the symptoms of the Peter Pan complex is that new is always slightly intoxicating and I felt I was double-fisting with the Sami-Rachel combo.
Rachel returned quickly with five shots and four chasers. She placed glasses in front of each of us and then surreptitiously glanced to her right and her left. We did a quick toast and the boys all dropped our Jager into our Red Bull glasses and drank while Rachel shot her Jager straight. It was one hell of a way to kick off the night.
At this point we went into wash, rinse and repeat mode. The only changes were the increased animation in the conversation and the occasional beer ordered to cut through the haze of Jagermeister and Red Bull. Rachel was joining us with a shot every round and the festive spirit of the night was ballooning into the warm glow of mutual adoration for everyone involved. Even Waylon was openly smiling, something he generally deemed too square to do. We were having a great time.
On our second shot, MoneyClip looked at Rachel and suggested she give me a birthday kiss. She blushed slightly but offered me a quick peck to the lips. This also began to fall into the cycle and each round of drinks brought on a kiss that lasted a second longer than the previous one. Somewhere around 1am, with the bar packed full of people and our table stuffed safely from the view of bar management, or so we thought, Rachel’s string of Jager shots turned the innocent peck with which we started into an open-mouth kiss of drunken passion. My comrades sat idly by as Rachel and I chased our shots with quick games of tonsil hockey. Then she would clear our glasses and go see about other tables.
After one of Rachel’s passion shots, our table was visited by the bar manager, who had a supercilious smugness to him that was ill-suited for a bar manager. He asked us whether Rachel had been drinking at our table, to which we all replied she had not. Our drunken confirmation of her abstinence was not entirely convincing though and right after last call a dejected and tipsy Rachel came and sat down at our table.
“Well gentlemen, looks like I just lost my job.”
We were all shocked. I, being the one with the most obvious vested interest in the situation, spoke up.
“You got fired? Why?”
“They said I was not supposed to be drinking on the job. That and they saw me making out with you.”
“Oh fuck. I am so sorry. I will go talk to the manager and see if I can change his mind.”
She smiled at me again, almost coquettishly and squeezed my hand.
“You’re a doll but I don’t need to be saved so get off your white horse.”
I looked at her sitting next to us. She was probably at most 23 and here she was putting on a brave face for some guys she just met. Sure, she had put her tongue in my mouth but we still didn’t really know each other. I felt awful and blamed myself entirely for her getting fired.
“I am so sorry Rachel. This is my fault.”
“No, it’s mine but it’s okay. I had been thinking of quitting anyway. You can however make it up to me.”
I brightened at the idea of being able to do something for her.
“Absolutely! Name it.”
She gave me that dimpled smile again.
“Take me out to dinner tomorrow.”
Another obvious commandment from the book of Jackson Panic: If a beautiful woman asks you to take her to dinner, assuming you’re single, you say yes. Should you do anything a beautiful woman asks you to do? No, absolutely not and we’ll get to that soon enough.
So, my birthday was officially over but I was already rolling into the next day with a dinner date with a beautiful woman who had sparkling blue eyes and soft, warm lips. Was the universe finally doing me a favor?
In a word, no…but we’ll get to that.