liquid lunches and sparkly afternoons

Ike sat down just as mine and Shelly’s kiss was ending. I kept close to her face, her lips, letting the moment linger a little bit longer. She smiled at me as a tress of her hair fell into her face, tickling my nose on the way down. I then slowly turned to the left to see Ike sitting across from us, with a tremendously goofy-ass grin smeared across his mug.

“Hello kiddies!”

Shelly wrapped her graceful left arm around my shoulders and offered him her right hand.

“I take it you’re Ike.”

He clutched her hand exuberantly, “Ike I am. It is a very special pleasure to meet you.”

I thought for a brief second the fucker was going to try to kiss her hand but he just held it for a few beats longer than what seemed normal. She smiled at him, pulled her hand back and placed it on my lap. I felt my pulse jump. She made polite small talk with Ike, who was brimming over with conversation, and she ran fingers in small circles on the inside of my thigh. I felt completely relaxed sitting next to her and the uneasiness that had been flowing in and out of my consciousness began to dissipate under the influence of whiskey and a beautiful woman. As I alluded to earlier, if there is one thing I do well it is self-medicate.

Ike then looked over at Lenny Kravitz and gave him a nod. “Hey Lenny.”

Lenny was looking at his phone but looked up and gave an almost smile in return. Really Lenny was far too cool to speak to me in the first place but he was polite enough to at least acknowledge Ike’s greeting. Ike took it in stride, as he did almost everything.

“Where’s our waitress?”

I looked over at the bar, trying to find Heidi but instead saw the other girl coming our way – the scary, angry girl.

I started to give Ike a head’s up warning about our server, but then I became curious as to what might happen once the two of them saw each other again. I decided to wait and observe. Sometimes you should just let shit happen.

The scary, angry waitress dropped a plate of something off at the table behind us and then made her way to our table. Ike had his back to her as she approached and stopped next to him.

“Can I get you guys anything?”

She sounded decidedly more pleasant this time with no sign of her previous vitriol, but it was, of course, only latent until her situational awareness caught up.

Ike immediately replied he would like to order a round for us all and was in the midst of turning to face the waitress when a cold pallor of recognition slid down his face, as his eyes met hers.

Her eyes immediately widened, “Holy shitballs – I was wondering how long it would be before we crossed paths!”

Again, the shift in the woman’s tone was instantaneous and chilling. Equally impressive, however, was Ike’s immediate regathering and laconically cool demeanor.

“Good to see you again so soon, gorgeous. I forgot you worked here.”

“That’s funny you remember anything before you went home and fucked my roommate.”

I felt compelled to chime in at this moment as the news that Ike didn’t sleep with this particular girl was somewhat startling.

“Wait a second, Ike – you slept with the other girl, the blond?”

Ike flashed me a quick look that spoke volumes of ‘shut the fuck up‘ and the turned back to the server.

“Look, last night got messy but no one fucked anyone. She passed out.”

“I don’t know if I believe that, especially coming from a guy who makes out with me but goes home with my roomie”

This exchange wasn’t exactly going down in the most subtle of ways. We had several other tables’ attention at this point, including Lenny’s. There was a palpable sense of anticipation. We were all waiting to see what was coming next.

“Katie, I know last night I made a douche move and no amount of boozing can really excuse it. I also know you’re in town for the season from Minnesota and I’m here from LA and we don’t really have the luxury of time for a long drawn out reconciliation. Thus, I propose we skip the unpleasantries and you allow me to buy you dinner at Chimayo after you finish your shift. I know you want to try that place and I have the entire night free.”

Here’s something I may not have told you about Ike – he remembers just about everything. He can be downing cocktails with you all night and the next day recite nearly verbatim the conversations you had the previous drunken night. I wouldn’t have remembered where she was from, much less that she wanted to check out a local spot. You could actually see the ice in her veins starting to thaw.

Shelly’s melodic voice then pierced the  cold war thaw.

“I have an idea, Katie, why don’t you finish your shift and we’ll all grab drinks and dinner? When Ike turned toward Shelly she playfully winked at him and then beamed a beatific smile back at Katie, who was obviously ruminating over the last several minutes.

“Ok – I’m done in an hour. I have a change of clothes in back. So, what the fuck do you want to drink, Ike?”

“Tom Collins.”

“I’ll be right back.”

She was actually smiling when she walked off – well, almost. I was about to congratulate Ike when Lenny spoke up from the table next to us.

“Well played, my man.”

I looked at Lenny and laughed. It was well played indeed.

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leaving the big D

I looked to my left and to my right. The mysterious red-head was nowhere to be seen. I walked across the street, to the parking lot, and did a quick look around but she was not there either. She had disappeared between the time I had met her and the time I had paid my bill inside.

I crossed back over the street and peered into the bar.

peering inside the bar

Stephanie was now huddled up with her friend. For a moment, I thought of walking back in and trying to square things away with her. I already had a script playing in my head for what I might say but I lost the inspiration. Perhaps it was the night or being tired and perhaps it even had something to do with the magical red-head who flitted into and out of my life, but I gave up on chasing Stephanie. I gave up on the entire trajectory of the evening at that point.

It really wasn’t all that late, only midnight. We had begun so early that it felt as if days had passed since we’d started. Now, I found myself alone in Dallas outside a bar. Alex and Ike were somewhere else, nearby, but still somewhere else removed from me. We hadn’t heard from Ike in a while and who the fuck knows where he was at. I glanced one more time into the bar and then turned abruptly to my left and began walking.

I wasn’t entirely certain whether I was walking toward the hotel; I merely began walking.

Do you ever have a moment, like a seismic shift, in which the topography you thought you knew suddenly looks foreign and ominous? It’s as if you swivel your head left and right and nothing quite looks as it did just a few seconds prior. That was my moment as I was walking down the street but it had less to do with sidewalks and landmarks and everything to do with how I was looking at the world. Was it the margaritas or a day fueled by booze -maybe but not really. Something snapped between Stephanie and the red-head. My synapses began firing in different directions and my perception of my immediate world changed. I mentally wrapped up whatever I was doing up to that point and then something new began but it was so new I couldn’t tell what it was.

The ginger was a hard stop in my evening. I was entranced by her and she highlighted everything I was ignoring about what I was doing with Stephanie. It wasn’t love at first sight but it was a well-defined pause, a rest in the music. Somewhere within my chest some unidentifiable something had a moment of respite and took in a deep breath and it altered a course somehow.

  I wandered up the street and found a dive bar playing Rolling Stones songs from speakers mounted on the roof. I went in and found an empty seat at the dimly lit bar and gruff looking young guy with the makings of a ZZ Top beard came over and asked me for my order.

“What do you have that’s good?” I asked.

His gruff countenance went unchanged and he said, “It’s all good.”

I had a brief epiphany. He was right – everything seemed good. Everything felt ok. I smiled and ordered Shiner Bock on tap.

Everything was good. Everything is good.

The bartender returned and looked at me for a moment before saying anything. He still seemed comically unhappy but he muttered through his aggro-beard, “This round is on the red-head at the end of the bar.”

I looked up and there she was.

a drink, a phone and a divorcee

I looked around the table quickly and pondered telling the story but opted instead to say they would join us soon. We then discussed the game and the plans for the night. Our agenda consisted of a few more pitchers and then a bar later on that boasted giant fishbowl cocktails.

After about an hour of drinking and swapping stories, my mobile rang and it was Alex.

“Yo, Ike came out of the bathroom and passed out.”

“Wow – is he still alive?”

“He seems fine but he is sleeping now. Text me the address you guys are at and I will join you.”

How Ike could manage to sleep after snorting an entire eight-ball was completely lost on me but as long as he was still alive and breathing, I didn’t really care. About twenty minutes later Alex arrived in a cab and the conversation at the table resorted back to the game, the day and what the plans for the rest of the evening were. We ordered another pitcher of margaritas and put on our big boy pants. This party was going to be one of those we wouldn’t remember.

It did occur to me to ask whether Alex had left Ike instructions as to where we were going to be and what the plan was. Alex said he had left a note and included each of our mobile numbers. This wasn’t the first time we had left Ike somewhere alone. In fact, each of us had been left behind for one reason or another and so this wasn’t necessarily something outside the bounds of normalcy for us. We each had a bit of the cockroach in us. Some people, with a more teleo-functional concept of the world, might say that kismet had brought us together but as you age it becomes easier to find the people who share an affinity for everlasting nights. This wasn’t really a matter of fate or even chance in our group; it was merely the product of social behavior that’s easily identifiable by others with similar interests.

So went boldly forth with the remainder of our night. We stayed on the makeshift patio, ordering pitcher after pitcher of margaritas until the night was a soft moving blur of stars and crisp night air – where jokes passed with hearty laughs and toasts and cheers were made on behalf of everything. We entered the slippery world of smiles given freely and people who had just met, talking like old friends. Our universe was exploding into a tequila infused, nighttime magical realm and everyone at the table was along for the ride.

We eventually closed our tab and walked down the street to the place famous for its fishbowl cocktails. We still had not heard a peep from Ike. I assumed things were fine but Alex felt compelled to call and check on him repeatedly and each time bore a look of slight concern on his face. Again, I was sure he was fine. We were all fine.

We found the place with the fishbowls and immediately ordered three for our group. Each bowl arrived decorated with plastic fish sitting around the rim and a grouping of long straws in the middle. Ours were blue and red in color and everyone took a straw and began to sip. The rest of the evening would be fueled by Kool-aid looking cocktails and we would all have slightly blue tongues.

The night was quickly sliding into an oblivious fast forward of party antics.  Conversations became bogged down with the staccato of drunken attention spans and lapses of memory and then blurred together in a soggy mess. We made a critical decision to hit up one more nearby bar. Alex texted Ike the new location and we walked off down the street.

We actually had a few blocks walk and it gave some time to breathe fresh air and clear the head slightly. I was nearly at that tipping point where the inexorable blackness of a Mr. Hyde formation would start creeping upon me but the break in the flow of drinks and the cool night air exorcised those demons and I began to feel somewhat in control again by the time we reached the new spot.

It was nothing more than a trendy restaurant with a long bar that turned into a hotspot at night, but the scene looked good. I stayed outside the doors with Alex for a few more minutes while the rest of our party walked in. Alex wanted to give Ike another ring just to make sure he was ok. Ike still wasn’t answering. We shrugged at one another after Alex left yet another voice mail and I opened the door for him. I could see a mild haze in his eyes, indicating that the night was wearing on both of us.

Bird and his crew had saddled up to the bar about midway up. As I walked in, I felt my phone vibrate and pulled it from my pocket expecting to see Ike’s name on the ID but it was from a name I had changed at some point to ‘Do Not Answer,’ which meant it was likely an ex-girlfriend of some sort and I had made the sagacious decision at some previous point to rename her, and nameless others, with a moniker that was more instruction than identifier.

As I was putting my phone back into my pocket, I felt a soft hand on mine and very sexy voice purr at me, “Ooh, nice phone. May I see it?”

I looked up toward the body and face attached to the hand that was gently placed on mine. The hand belonged to a savagely beautiful brunette with long hair and a bright-colored, low-cut blouse that accentuated her chest. She had small pursed lips that were already locked into a smile and brownish green eyes that were fixed on mine. I gladly relented my phone into her delicate palm.

“Is that the best you can do?”

She was looking at my phone but then broke back to my eyes and grinned a little wider. “I’m sorry – how do you mean?”

“I mean, if you want to hit on me, asking to see my phone seems a little odd – don’t you think? I feel like you could have done better.”

She was about to reply when another girl, with shorter light brown hair and a square mannish jaw leaned in front of her and interrupted.

“Dude, she just got a divorce. She needs to get laid but has been out of the game for a long time.”

The intruding girl said the last part with the unmistakable closed-eyed clumsiness of a very drunk woman. I could see the brunette feverishly blushing behind her and decided to do away with the intruder and end the blushing. I placed my hand lightly on the shoulder of the intruder and softly pushed her back to her original spot to the brunette’s right. I then smiled at the girl holding my phone.

“Well, then – you simply should have said that. That would have been more than enough to stop me in my tracks.”

She still looked embarrassed and was sheepishly handing me back my phone, seemingly resigned to letting me go on my way when I decided to change the topic.

“Ok, this wasn’t really fair – I showed you mine. Now you should show me yours. Go ahead, where’s your phone?”

The brunette laughed and began to dig through her purse. As she did I caught the eye of the bartender and ordered her another martini and placed an order for a Grey Goose up martini myself, with two olives.

She smiled at me appreciatively when I placed the order and then thrust her iPhone into my hand. I gave it a cursory once over and handed it right back.

She looked surprised, “I thought you wanted to see my phone.”

“Not really, I just wanted to talk to you. I’m Jackson.”

I extended my hand to her once again and she placed her delicate hand inside my grip.

“Hi, I’m Stephanie.”

“Pleased to meet you Stephanie. So what should we talk about now?”

She began to laugh and blushed again. Over her shoulder I could see Alex looking my way and raising his eyebrows. I was going to be detained for a while – that was clear to everyone around.

one for me and one for me

I’m not going to wax overly philosophical but living is like surfing. There are moments in which you’re just in the line-up, enjoying the scene and then the water starts to move. You paddle for that swell as a wave begins to crest and you take it as far as you can. That’s the general thought behind this particular day. It started just like any Friday in which I have to pour myself into the office but a set came in and suddenly I’m headed off with two friendly girls and one of them has suggested we have a threesome. I had every intention of riding that wave as long as I could.

Jenny and Harley wrapped up their shifts right about the time my world started taking on the unmistakable tenor of just-past-tipsy. Enough beer had gone from pitcher to gullet to drown the most rational of thoughts and we were in the easy slide of inebriation – some more than others. It became apparent we were losing Cliff pretty quickly. He really was nothing at that point beyond a goofy smile with eyes popping wheelies inside his head. He was just about done by six but he had started a little earlier and he drinks a little faster than I do. Ike was his usual self. It’s not exactly easy to tell the difference between drunk Ike and sober Ike. Some people become heaps of worthlessness but I’ve never seen ike regress into a drooling lump of mush.

We plopped Cliff into a taxi and he didn’t put up much of a fight. He started to protest but then had a ‘fuck me, I’m drunk‘ moment and decided to pull the rip chord. The plan was to head over to Q’s, grab a table and some beers and play pool for a while. With Cliff’s exist, that left what would have been a neat four-pack of two girls and two boys, but one of the girls had made her intentions known to me that we were going to attempt the elusive menage-a-trois later that evening. That left Ike as a fourth wheel, which only makes sense in the world of menage-a-trois. I had no real desire to see Ike naked. I have no real desire to see any man naked and when it comes to threesomes, I’m an advocate of the one boat and two rivers versus the two boats and one river variety.

Here’s where I’ll pull back the curtain just a little bit: guy code. It exists but in an entirely fluid fashion and it’s passed along as are many ancient tribal doctrines, via an oral tradition. Some guys tend to ignore it all together and then wonder why so many other guys think they’re douchebags. There is nothing noble about it but it makes our interactions easier and roughly 99% of it deals with cockblocking, or rather how to avoid doing it. It’s applicable in this story because there are two boys and two girls but one of the boys has a shot at scoring with both of the females. This actually is the royal flush of provisions and pretty much trumps any other scenario. Guy code dictated I had position and Ike had to stand down.

When the girls went to go change out of their Hooters uniforms, I broached the subject with Ike.

“Ok Ike, here’s the deal – Harley thinks she and I can talk Jenny into a three-way with us.”

“What?!? No fucking way! Really?”

“Yeah, she just mentioned it to me. Technically she mentioned it to Dr. Christian.”

“Wow, Dr. Christian has a lot more game than you do.”

I have to admit, he was right and that realization was slightly depressing at the time, but only in passing. I had a shot at the Everest of male sexual fantasies. Frankly, I had never been close before and so, even though at 2/3 of the way there we still had the treacherous 1/3 left to go, the near tangibility of it was titillating. I had never consciously aspired to have a threesome but if it looked like it might fall into my lap then I was going to make sure my lap was accommodating.

“Yes, Dr. Christian has game for sure. Thank god I’m his only beneficiary.”

“Ha! Well said, sport. So do you need me to leave?”

“No, I think that would be a little too transparent. I kind of need you here for a little bit.”

“Say no more, sport. Here’s what we’ll do. I will head out to Q’s with you guys and will shoot a text message over to Jane. She mentioned wanting to meet up with us and so it will work perfectly. We can transition to the new spot and get you situated and then I will have the perfect excuse to make a timely exit. Work?”

Guy code – that’s the kind of magic it can work. I had no idea who Jane was but now we had a plan.

“Perfect.”

Harley and Jenny returned shortly, looking far less Hooterish. It was interesting that before when both were decked out in matching orange shorts and white tank tops, Jenny looked prettier but now that they were wearing street clothes Harley seemed more attractive. Both girls changed into jeans and flip-flops, pretty much the fashion de rigeur for west coast beach cities, but Harley’s ensemble with a white blousey thing and her slightly punk hair worked a little better. She gave me another knowing wink when she walked up.

We all jumped into a cab and headed down the street to Q’s. Now Q’s sets itself up as a billiard bar and there are indeed a lot of pool tables to be found there, but the place is better known as a college crowd, or near college crowd, meat market. It’s the kind of place a guy recently graduated from USC might roll into with a polo shirt with the collar up and work some of his douchebag magic and convince a young lady to hop into the BMW he got for graduation and roll back to the apartment he shares with two other guys. I know this because I have been there and done that, minus the raised collar, USC, the roommates and the BMW. However, since Harley suggested we play pool and the options are somewhat limited it would have to work.

Luckily, we waltzed in before the mad rush of Friday evening had started and we were able to procure a table while the girls went to fetch a round of beers. I am a lousy pool player and all the more lousy once I have been imbibing. As I mentioned earlier, we had moved beyond tipsy during our day of drinking but the brief respite while waiting for the girls and then cabbing over to Q’s cleared my head some. A man should have his wits about him if he’s going to try to get naked with two women. That much I was sure of.

Harley and Jenny each were carrying two beers. I felt a little guilty that they had been bringing us beer all day and were still doing it but that feeling of social consciousness was also fleeting. Jenny made her way over to me and handed me a cold mug of suds. I didn’t ask what I was drinking, but merely thanked her and clinked glasses with her in a toast. She never broke eye contact as she toasted and drank. She had beautiful greenish eyes that seemed to shimmer beneath her long eyelashes. Her eyes were playfully dancing around my gaze. She then raised her right eyebrow.

“Sooo…Harley tells me you kind of like me.”

Aha! Already the crafty little minx was whispering like Iago in Jenny’s ear and filling her full of inspiration. I did like Jenny. She was pretty in an all American kind of way. She was the cute girl at your office or the cute girl in your building. She would make a very cute wife for a man much different from me some day. She would probably marry a man like Dr. Christian, which was why she was smiling so sweetly at that very moment.

“Yes, well, Harley is right. I do like you.”

“Good. Maybe I like you too.”

We toasted again, this time our eyes playfully dancing more Lambada than Foxtrot. Then Harley and Ike wandered over and joined us. Harley wrapped her arm around Jenny’s shoulders.

“So what are you two sexy people talking about?”

She winked at me again. I looked at Ike and he winked at me two. It now seemed like everyone was in on the conspiracy except for Jenny, the most crucial person of all but she seemed at the very least amenable to such a suggestion. Harley then handed me the cue ball.

“You wanna break, doc? I was thinking you and Jen against us…unless you want me and Jen against you.”

Jenny giggled. Harley winked at me again and Ike was just smiling.

So far, I was a pretty big fan of Pioneer Day.

the doctor was in

Harley brought out the first pitcher and round of wings, carefully navigating the treacheries our fucking cowboy hats posed for her to reach down and put things on our table. It was Pioneer Day somewhere in the world and we were eating buffalo wings, drinking pitchers of Stella and flirting in girls wearing clothes at least one size too small. I’m sure our pioneer ancestors would have approved.

Harley would tend to her other tables, though there weren’t many, but she would linger with us. Ike filled her in on Pioneer Day and she plucked the hat from my head and it put it on her own. There is something about a woman in a cowboy hat that cuts through my breastbone and straight into my heart. I can’t really put my finger on it but it definitely sparks a charge. The same can be said for woman in a dress. Take that beautiful creature and put her in a dress with cowgirl boots and a hat and I’m tempted to drop down on my knee and pledge my undying love. Tempted – I said.

So we have the lovely Harley now playing along with our holiday festivities and, as Hooters was a little slow that particular Friday, another waitress named Jenny started coming over and joining our revelries. Jenny reddish wavy hair and ample curves to fill out her little tank top. Her curves were the natural variety that softly defined her womanhood. She was a little pale for a beach gal and smattered with freckles. She also apparently felt about doctors the way I felt about gals in cowboy hats. I honestly never fully understood the impact two letters, MD, could have on people until that day. I had given many prevaricated occupations before but all in the service of amusing myself. However, telling a couple of ambitious and attractive young ladies in LA that I was a doctor had the unanticipated effect of industrial grade panty solvent. Both girls ongoing insistence of calling me Dr. Christian was further proof that the doctor part of my false identity was of equal importance as the rest. Your job may not define you but sometimes it does define your penis.

Harley, Jenny and I had a few more exchanges about my choice in medicine. They began to get a little more playful and started softly tossing me questions about female hygiene. It was about 20% test and 80% conversation fodder on their part but like most things, if you think it about for a moment you can play your bluff without getting called. I had an ace up my sleeve in that I lived with a girl for two years who was in med school and some of what she was learning rubbed off on me in an osmosis kind of way. However, casual conversation in a bar, even if it involves medical expertise, isn’t all that challenging especially if two of the participants have a vested interest in believing everything being said is true. Thus, Dr. Christian was more than capable of keeping up the charade of actually being Dr. Christian and specializing in gynecology.

As things tend to do with me, Cliff and Ike – the pitchers flowed and the laughs increased. Really, the wings at Hooters don’t get enough credit. They’re tasty. That fact gets lost in all the other hype. It’s fairly well established that men in any kind of an aroused sexual state really struggle with the finer points of discernment, whether it be sound decision making or appreciating something good to eat. This is the reason topeless bars are such a brilliant money making idea. You fill a place with a bunch of guys with semi’s and chub but no real means of finishing the job and you charge them $40 a pop to have a girl come over and keep them in their engorged state and they become ATM’s, dishing out money with reckless abandon.

But, I digress. The good times were rolling and picking up speed. Jenny and Harley were the day shift and getting off work around 6. There was already talk of the small group of us relocating at that time to another venue, after the girls changed of course. A friendly rivalry was growing between Jenny and Harley for the attention of Dr. Christian. Both of them seemed to have greater plans for the post-Hooters soiree that was brewing and from my perspective it was really a no-lose situation. Harley, with her blond hair and black highlights and hints of tattoos peaking out from beneath her shirt, was more randy and open about our impending future together perhaps lasting no more than a night but Jenny started coming on strong with big doe eyes dreaming of something a little less carnal and tad more substantial.

Whatever complaints I may have had about Ike, he was by no means a cockblocker, even if there were two girls involved and it looked like they were both holding out for me. Cliff was sinking down a little further into each new mug of beer. He was more of a friendly drunk with no real agenda beyond the moment. So the boys fell in, towing the wingman lines and aiding and abetting the fictional Dr. Christian Reynolds.

Harley came back our way with a fresh pitcher of Stella she said was on the house and set it on the table and sat herself on my lap. We had already spent a few hours in the restaurant drinking, eating and getting to know the girls and Harley was itching to finish her shift and head out for some entertainment.

“I got a proposal for you, doc.”

“And what would that be?”

“I think you and your friends should come play pool with Jenny and me.”

“Sure, I kind of thought that was the plan.”

“It is but I need your help with something.”

I liked the tone in her voice when she said that – it was full of promise.

“Harley, you know I’d do just about anything for you. How may I be of assistance?”

“You see, Jenny really likes you and I kinda like you too but I am also a little hot for Jenny.”

See? I told you – promise.

“So what exactly are you proposing?”

She leaned in right next to me, so close I could feel the whisper coming out of her mouth.

“I wanna fuck Jenny. Jenny wants to fuck you and you want to fuck both of us. How about it?”

Another law in the annals of Jackson Panic: When an attractive woman invites you to a three-way, you always say yes.

if i’m not charlie sheen, am i losing?

I realize I was in the middle of a story about being lost at sea with a couple of drug infused rodents and I will return to that tomorrow. As you probably know, I survived the odyssey and you’ve also probably surmised there are going to be beautiful women in bikinis, an unexpected cargo and the occasional Moby Dick reference to amuse those of you who read something other than this blog.

However, much like the rest of the world and despite my aversion to celebrity media, I have kept up with the shitshow that is Charlie Sheen. You can call it schadenfreude but it is nearly impossible to avoid seeing Charlie’s odd mug beaming back from the television nor is it easy to read the paper without seeing his name. The fucker is everywhere right now and he’s coining phrases.

Charlie Sheen is winning. He drives a better car than you, he has more money in the bank than you and he’s sleeping with porn stars and actresses half his age and two at a time no less. Charlie Sheen is winning – his words not mine. Soon, someone will create a bot on Twitter that will ejaculate Sheenisms and there will be apps for your iPad and phone that will let you set your own status to winning. Until then, you are not Charlie Sheen and you are not winning because Charlie Sheen is winning with his tiger blood and Adonis DNA.

I’m in Las Vegas earlier this week, the scene of mine and many other wayward traveler’s personal debauchery. I already have plans to regale you with stories about hookers, thousand dollar naps and a brush with Lucifer himself during my stints there but I’m saving those for a later date. I was there for other reasons this week, although the continuum of reasons for being in Vegas are always tilted toward the lusty and the decadent.

I had finished the business at hand and wrapped up the day with the Michelin-rated, gastronomic orgy that is Joel Robuchon and his sixteen course menu that starts with caviar with fennel cream, foie gras with black truffles and a crispy truffle tart and then continues moving through a selection that will dazzle the palate and empty the wallet. It was the kind of dinner Caligula would order for Nero while they watched Rome burn and got blowjobs from slave girls and boys. It was decadence so disturbingly pristine, you wondered whether it would end with the clubbing of a baby seal.

The dinner was long and the drinks flowed from cocktail to aperitif to white wines and then to reds before sliding into ports and cognacs. Our hearty crew eased out of the MGM with bellies full of food and wine and our wrist watches suggesting it might be time to consider sleeping. Wiser men than us had made the decision to forgo sleep while in Las Vegas, so the late hour meant we would continue the indulgence at Drai’s.

Drai’s is the place where, if I believed in a maker, we would have shook hands and exchanged business cards a few years back. That was the night that would have been fatal for lesser constitutions but somehow my liver, my heart and my sheer will to live carried me through the valley of the shadow of death. I marched back into the joint like Shakespeare’s Caesar, with Cassius and Brutus in tow. I had once left humbled but returned the victor.

So what does any of this have to do with Charlie Sheen and being a winner, you ask. I’m just now getting to that. Cassius, Brutus and I take our seats in the VIP lounge, in a booth just to left as you enter. There was a dj already spinning near us but the ambient noise levels permitted our dinner conversation to continue over bottle service and a parade of the young and beautiful passing by our table. Some people will tell you that nothing good ever happens after midnight, but these are the whispers of superstitious peasants who avoid the number thirteen and throw salt over their shoulders. What happens after midnight is the next day and what better way to welcome in a new day than conversation and a bottle of Glenfiddich 18?

After a little rabble rousing with the VIP manager to allow two attractive ladies to enter the VIP lounge and sit with us, Brutus turns his sights on me and my recent literary efforts.

“So Jack, has Charlie Sheen sucked all the air out of the room in terms of outrageous stories of hookers, strippers, benders and overall unseemly behavior?”

Brutus has always been jealous of my ability to both write and speak in complete sentences. He’s a great guy but his emails read as if they were written by a seven year old. I shrug at his suggestion and am content to let it pass. He, however, is not.

“I mean sure – you did find a way to judge a bullriding contest for strippers and you did get yourself fired for trying to get Olivia Wilde’s phone number but as funny as those might be to us – don’t you think Charlie Sheen pretty much now owns the entire world of mandom’s bad behavior? What can you really add to the conversation?”

Brutus has a smug and very self-satisfied look on his face. He put one of his arms around the slightly drunk blond girl seated next to him, who was obviously taken with him. Brutus knows me well enough to feel comfortable that I am pretty laid back and generally let the inane diatribes of assholes bounce off of me like water off a duck’s back, but he seemed particularly pointed in his rant this evening. Perhaps it was his need to tear me down since, in his myopic view of the world at this point, I was a competition for the girl he was attempting to charm.

I smile a slightly coerced smile to ease the tension and respond quite diplomatically, “I write the stuff I write because I enjoy writing. Based on what I’m seeing, people are reading it of their own accord. I don’t think the existence of Charlie Sheen precludes me from writing.”

Brutus pounces, granted its the lumbering pounce of a man filled with drink, but it is a pounce nevertheless.

“Yes Jack, that’s true but Charlie Sheen is winning! Charlie’s stories are being acted out on television and in the news and they are stories of him as a winner. Somehow your tales are always from the opposite vantage point. You are Charlie Sheen without the winning. You are another also ran with a blog who has a few adventures but who isn’t a winner. So that kind of makes you a loser.”

Et tu Brute?

Cassius decides to join in the criticism. Brutus is pretty obtuse but Cassius is a reader and fancies himself a writer as well.

“Dude, he has a point. You’re not Kerouac and Ike is not Dean Moriarty. You’re not as depraved as Thompson’s Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo. Man, you’re not even Tucker Max. This whole genre of puerile antics has been explored and exhausted and now the final throes are up for grabs every night on TMZ with Charlie Sheen destroying his career. Maybe you should write about other things?”

Ok, I can live with falling short of Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson but the suggestion that Tucker Max might in some conceivable universe write better than me hurt. That’s like the manager at Starbucks telling you that you don’t really have the qualifications for the kind of candidate they’re looking to hire.

Et tu Cassius?

I set down my scotch and took a deep breath. The table seems to be expanding with me, in a communal inhalation, waiting to see how I will respond. I point to Brutus but don’t break eye contact with Cassius. This is where I cross the Rubicon.

“Charlie Sheen is winning? Really? Tell that to the ex-wife whose throat he held a knife to. While you’re at it, set a lunch with Jon Cryer and tell him Charlie Sheen is winning. Invite Denise Richards.”

Cassius starts to interrupt but I cut him off.

“I’m not fucking finished. In fact, I’m just getting warmed up. Charlie Sheen is winning is the last gasps of a career on life support with an obituary in the making. His only friend right now appears to be hubris. He’s on a drug called Charlie Sheen but that’s the kind of shit that someone says right after they’ve gone over the edge. That’s Thelma looking at Louise and saying ‘this was a good idea, right’ just as the fucking car goes air born. Charlie Sheen is winning is the equivalent of putting your last dollar on red and when it comes up black, looking around the table and telling people at least you have your pride.”

I take a breath.

“But really, fuck Charlie Sheen. I’m sitting down and I’m jotting down laughs. Some of it happened and some of it didn’t and some of it is a little of both. That’s why, Cassius, I don’t use the real pansy-ass name your mother gave you. The world is full of stories and most days I take a few moments to add one of my own to the pile. The drinks flow in my stories and the nights drag on ad infinitum, but if it’s amusing it’s because of the way I tell it. I flirt with the cliff but never drive off of it and so you get to enjoy stinky cheese tales and stories about me passing out at work. You might be concerned about my well being or my liver but I never profess to have tiger’s blood and am aware of the perils.

Winning isn’t being Kerouac or Thompson. I write for myself the same way I live for myself and I do both with zero apologies. You don’t like my stuff – don’t read it, but just because there are a trillion other stories already out there doesn’t mean we should stop writing new ones down. In fact, the stuff I’m working on right now will make that tiny pinhead of yours spin like a dradle, Cass.”

Everyone looks at Cassius. He does have a pinhead. He’s now uncomfortable and I’m winning.

“Cowards die many times before their deaths, but I’m going to keep braving the tempests, drinking the wine and writing the stories so that only one death comes my way – a good solid one. Before then though, I will live and write to the hilt. Winning isn’t the car and winning isn’t a book deal. Winning is doing what you do with an understanding of how you fit in the world around you and the peace that comes with understanding that place. I’m winning because I’m still in the game and I’m still trying to be a little better than I was yesterday. I’m winning for the very reason you started this conversation Brutus – because I’m putting it out there.”

With that I stood up, kissed the hands of both the girls at the table and nodded to the boys.

“Hail fucking Caesar.”

I win.

hooters and bulls!

I don’t know what it is about me and mechanical bulls but we seem to be drawn to one another. That magnetism becomes a little stronger when it includes a bull riding contest between Hooter’s waitresses and a local strip club to raise money for breast cancer awareness. Yes, you read that correctly – it was a buckoff between the ‘delightfully tacky, yet unrefined‘ girls of America’s favorite wing restaurant and the girls who get paid to take off their clothes – all in the name of a good cause. Who says charity events are stuffy?

I get why some of my married friends are hesitant to hit the town with me on a Saturday night. Even before Ike brought hookers into my kitchen, I had plenty of success finding mischief on my own. There was a time when I believed in the devil but even back then I realized he couldn’t make someone do something. All he could do was present the opportunity. Thus, by the same reasoning, I could be the devil in my married friends’ details. I wasn’t trying to get anyone in trouble but events like sexy bullriding competitions have a way of falling into my lap and sometimes those turn into late-night wet t-shirt contests – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ike actually sent me the invite to the event via email. I was sitting at my desk, sipping a hot cup of java when the email lands in my inbox. It takes me all of three seconds to open the email, read it and respond in the affirmative. I didn’t even take note of the day or time because I knew I could make it. I was going to this event.

I might have to change some plans around but I would be there.

“Hey, sorry but I can’t be in your wedding this weekend after all.”

“What do you mean?”

“I forgot I have this rodeo thing I have to attend.”

That conversation never gets easier no matter how many times you have it.

Ike said he sent the invite out to eight guys and all eight responded ‘yes’ within five minutes. That is the beauty of technology; it can bring people together.

It turns out the event is on Saturday so I don’t have to back out of any weddings or cancel on a Groupon, which makes the day all the more enjoyable. The rodeo events start later in the evening so we decide to meet up for dinner and drinks somewhere before heading over to Union Cattle in Manhattan Beach.

I have no idea whether this was an officially sponsored event of Union Cattle or whether it was something informally arranged by the other two establishments, but the invite and the details seemed a little hush hush. When we get there the place is crawling with dudes, all of whom are hovering around the mechanical bull arena. We’re in pretty high spirits as we arrive ready for whatever kind of hijinks await.

Despite what I said earlier about some of our married friends showing discretion as to when they hang out with us, every one of them Ike invited showed up. If I had a wife, I’m not certain how I would go about asking her if I could sneak away for a little while on Saturday to watch strippers ride a mechanical bull. I’m sure there is some kind of domestic etiquette one uses when broaching such a subject, but the finer points of that kind of negotiation are completely foreign to me. Regardless, they all seemed to navigate that precarious discussion with relative ease so I’m certain there is something I am missing.

We find a place among the rabble that will accommodate the ten of us and give us all a good view along the railing. We have large steins of beer at our disposal and are giddy like five-year olds at the circus by the time the emcee of the event gets things going.

The emcee hands a megaphone to a group of guys next to us who look like they just got back from a Robot Battles competition. Some people might refer to these kinds of guys as the Chess Club or the crowd from Comi-Con but both of those groups hold a warm place in my rotten little heart and so I will just pick on the hobbyists who design robots for gladitorial jollies. Needless to say, these guys don’t appear the kind who will add any extra spice to the event.

Things get started and it’s just ok. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably like me and when you hear there is going to be a Hooters girls vs Strippers contest on top of a mechanical bull, your imagination runs to the wilder side. Then it gets started and it’s sort of – lame.

Here’s the deal, if I invite you to come to an event that will have free food and drink all night and you show up and realize the free drink is Kool-Aid and the free food is Fritos, then you may be a little disappointed. There was nothing dishonest in how I advertised it to you. There is indeed free food and drink when you arrive and we will be serving it all night but it’s not quite what you expected. You wanted wine, champagne and caviar – or at the very least those little mini-quiches you can hold in one hand that are slightly upscale and conveniently tasty. You simply expected more.

So it was with the event. We were hoping for champagne and being served Kool-Aid. The bullriding was so-so and the girls must have been instructed to dress conservatively as there wasn’t a sight of either a Hooters outfit or a pasty. The robot club next to us was doing nothing to urge on the competitors as they just handed the megaphone back and forth to one another and occasionally mumbled something inaudible into it.

I’m not the kind of guy to just stand around and watch the Titanic sink. I am a man of action and so if the ship can be saved, I will do everything in my power to save it. I ask the robot boys for the megaphone and they look relieved to be done with it. I step back over to my circle of friends and lean into the arena and start my own emceeing.

I was born with a loud voice – I mean from the getgo. Growing up, I would be in trouble all the time for talking in class because my voice would carry and the teacher would overhear me. It turned into more of a blessing as I got older and had the chance to do a public speaking event here or there but where it really comes in handy is in a crowded place where I want to be heard. If you add a megaphone to it then it becomes a weapon I can wield at my discretion. It was time to get this event on track.

After the third rider completed her less than memorable ride, my voice came bellowing from the megaphone:

“It’s time to put the sexy back into bullriding! Make some noise if you want to see real entertainment.”

Finally, the place starts to come alive. Guys start cheering and the cowboy operating the bull looks up at me and smiles. Even the staff seemed a little disappointed up to this point. The emcee pointed to me as the new rider approached the bull and so I complied with a hearty, “Let’s give a hand to our next lovely rider!”

Now people are cheering. Now it’s starting to resemble a party.

All of the bull rides so far have been slow, which should give the ladies an opportunity to show off their skills for dance or just being hot. Let’s be clear here – this is a contest and as far as I can tell the scoring metrics should be hotness charted against sexy moves with a standard deviation factored in. Take that robot boys!

So far, we have seen some pretty ladies atop the bull but nothing that ventured into hot territory and most looked slightly embarrassed, which brings the sexy portion of the scoring down to zero. The next rider is a Hooters girl and once she’s on top of the bull it starts its slow pacing again.

She seems to have a little more life than the rest but is still holding back. I step in to let her know.

“Ladies, this is a contest. Let’s see what you got. This isn’t bull sitting, it’s bullriding!”

The rider looks to me and laughs and the crowd reinforces my suggestion with a few solid ‘fuck yeahs!’ She starts to feed off the vibe and her ride instantly becomes a little more enticing. Now there is promise for the event to resemble what I first pictured when Ike sent the invite. She completes a respectable ride and dismounts. There are more cheers this time and the audience is once again engaged.

The next rider is from team dancer. She has platinum blond hair, a wasp-like tiny waist and breasts the size of which go beyond questions of human intervention. She is marvel of bipedal locomotion as there really isn’t any way she should be able to move without falling over. She’s wearing a pink cowboy hat, painted on jeans and t-shirt with the club’s name on it. I think she is the perfect candidate for Stage 2 of saving the Titanic.

She starts her ride and is miles ahead of the competition already. She is leaning into the bull and obviously is an artisan of her craft. Once she gets into the rhythm I decide to give her a little extra incentive through the megaphone. In my loudest voice, I rattle the walls with the phrase:

“Skin to win! Skin to win! Skin to win!”

I don’t want to toot my own horn but that was something I thought up on the fly. It works because it’s short, it’s easily repeatable and it rhymes. Chants are so much more effective when they rhyme.

The chant spreads like wildfire. The emcee looks at me a little nervously but the cowboy operating the bull is nodding his head and chanting along. Now you can’t even hear the music in the arena because the whole place is reverberating with one communal chant.

The wonder of bipedal movement atop the bull gets our drift immediately and the pink cowboy hat is flung seductively out into the crowd. She’s holding the bull with her left hand while her right arm swings languorously off to her side. Then she grabs her shirt and in one fluid motion it comes off and joins her pink cowboy hat. The arena transforms into the exact scene we thought we were going to find when we first came in. There is a gorgeous, if not entirely anatomically believable, woman astride a slowly gyrating bull in the middle of the room who is clad only in a red bra and painted on jeans. She has a tattoo of what looks to be a pin-up girl on her shoulder and someone in the crowd has the good sense to toss her the pink cowboy hat so her outfit would be complete.

If you took all the previous scores combined they couldn’t match the show bipedal girl just put on. The emcee is still smiling at me nervously as she dismounts to thunderous applause. A Hooters girl is next, a drop-dead sexy black girl who is wearing a black cowboy hat.

As she’s getting ready to mount the bull, the emcee walks over to me and asks me to keep it down. I tell him of course and as soon as he turns his back to me, I start the ‘skin to win’ chant again. He whirls around and rips the megaphone from my hands but just like on the streets of Egypt and Tunisia, the people’s voice would be heard. And hear in Manhattan Beach that voice was telling the establishment: Skin to Win!

The new cowgirl knows what to do and before the ride even starts she has removed her sexy little western shirt and begins her ride in short-shorts, a pink bra and a black cowboy hat. Her ride trumps the last, despite the protestations of the emcee demanding she put her shirt back on. The walls continue to rattle with my chant and there is great joy amongst the patrons and the competitors.

The bipedal wonder rider is now going around the room taking donations for the cause in her pink cowboy hat and the money is flowing. I lean into the arena again and even without the megaphone am able to bellow out above the noise: Gentlemen, empty your wallets for breast cancer awareness!

Another hearty cheer rocks the room and the bipedal wonder walks over to me and extends her hat. I give her the entire $287 I have in my wallet. She smiles at me and asks if we would like to come to an after-charity event hosted at a late-night spot.

I tell her we would be honored. She smiles at me, kisses me on the cheek and says, “Great, you guys can judge the wet t-shirt contest!”

I turn to my friends and immediately ask, “Ok, what is everyone’s curfew and who feels like judging a wet t-shirt contest?”

The devil can’t make you do anything; he can only present you the opportunity, a fantastic and wonderful opportunity.