incredibly loud and extremely drunk

Any time one starts drinking before noon, the time-space continuum goes into an odd state of expedited flux. The passage of hours starts normally but the intermittent seconds composing that passage of time become increasingly shortened with each new round of spirits ordered and imbibed.

The level of flirtation between me and Shelly was also increasing in direct proportion to the volume of our conversation, which was being amplified by the string of whiskey and vodka drinks making their way to our table. Our laughter was increasing in occurrence and decibel. It’s amazing how amusing booze can make the world sparkle. Shelly then left her seat to put her long, sexy body next to mine on the bench seat against the window. Our thighs were touching and we had begun the play of hands emphasizing points on hands and arms, with each emphasis lingering a little longer. We were two magnets, being pulled into one another at a snail’s pace by a force we were unable to contest.

I could see a wayward glance from other patrons who were either eavesdropping on our conversation that fluctuated between the conspiratorial whispers of two people bound to become lovers and the full-frontal flirtatious laughing of two people enjoying the afternoon. I was leaning into Shelly’s ear, telling her about the time Ike brought hookers into my house, when two things occurred. The first was a lone man was seated next to us and the second was the phone in my bag that was sitting between us and the newly seated man began to ring.

Normally, I shy away from ostentation but on a rare occasion something pimpalicious catches my eye and I add it to my personal quiver. My phone is just such a thing. I have a gold handset – a YUBZ gold handset that attaches to my mobile. It is by far the most pimp thing I own. When I reached into my bag to retrieve my phone and pulled out the handset, Shelly began snorting with laughter and immediately cupped her hand over her mouth. Her snort however, was heard round the bar.

Her snort made me laugh as well and in the midst of my laughter I didn’t even check to see who was calling me. I just answered it to find Ike on the other end.

“Yo, sport, where you at?”

“Oh – hey Ike. I’m just out writing.”

I looked over at Shelly and raised one eyebrow to which she responded by making an astonished face of her own.

“It sounds kind of loud for writing, sport. You in a bar?”

“Yeah, Ike, I’m at a bar and I’m with a beautiful young lady who I need to get back to immediately.”

“Right, where are you guys? I’ll join you”

“Not going to happen buddy – entertain yourself.”

There was a pregnant silence on the other end.

“Fine, sport, be a dick. I am just going to head to Easy Street for their bloody mary bar. See ya later.”

Before I could interject he had hung up the phone. I thought about calling him back immediately and telling him not to come here but that would have only made his resolution to come here all the firmer. At least by not letting him know we were here, he might end up changing his mind.

I was staring at the screen on my phone mindlessly when Shelly asked me if everything was okay. I smiled and told her it was fine but that we might have company at some point.

Then the guy next to me asked if he could see my phone. I looked at him for the first time and realized it was Lenny Kravitz.

I immediately said sure and I disconnected the handset from the phone and went to hand him my iPhone but he stopped me.

“No, brother, I mean the handset.”

I laughed and handed over my pimpalicious gold handset.

“Where did you get this?”

“I ordered it online from YUBZ.”

Lenny looked at up at me,”From where?”

“It’s called YUBZ – like Why you busy – but it Y, U, B, Z.”

“Oh. Very cool, man, very cool.”

He then handed me my phone back and thanked me. I smiled at him and put it away. When I looked back toward Shelly, she kissed me softly on the lips. She was a fantastic kisser with lips that felt like they melted into mine.

I had just sort of met Lenny Kravitz and then made out with a beautiful woman so I really wasn’t upset when Ike came walking up to our table.

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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.

f@ck the dallas police

As soon as the police car behind us turned on his lights, the party in our shitty SUV rental died a quick and painless death. Ike had on his possession an eight ball of cocaine, Alex had taken a joint off of Miguel and I was operating a vehicle, mildly intoxicated, mildly high and with a suspended license due to a DUI from the previous year. This was not the moment to be having a face-to-face conversation with the Dallas police department. However, our situation was actually far more interesting than I was aware of at the time.

“Guys, guys – this is bad.”

I looked at Ike through the rear view mirror as I began to slow down and pull off to the side of the road. His eyes were red and big as Frisbees in head.

“No shit, Ike. I’m not supposed to be operating a vehicle at all. Just try to be cool.”

“Jax, fuck Jax. It’s not just that. I brought some ecstasy with me for tonight.”

This was the first I’d heard of ecstasy on this trip but it didn’t surprise me, nor did I have time to process what one more illegal substance was going to do to us as we got pulled over.

“Relax, Ike. Just be cool. Let me do the talking. If we’re really lucky then we can pull this off unscathed and if we’re just slightly lucky maybe I will be the only one to take heat for this.”

Ike said something else in the back but I didn’t make it out as I was fixated on the police car behind us that was pulling us over. At the present moment there were cars parked all along the side of the road and we couldn’t pull over so I had to wait another block or so before I could stop. While I was scanning the street for a potential spot, I heard Alex repeat something Ike had just said but the only part that really stood out was ‘intent to sell.’

I snapped back to attention, “What do you mean intent to sell?”

“Ah, man – I thought we would have a good time and I brought a few hits to share. I taped fifteen hits of ecstasy to my balls before we went through security at LAX.”

I could finally see a block up ahead where I could make a right turn and pull over but my head was now swimming with what Ike had just said. Ike had fifteen hits of ecstasy taped under his balls. If we were removed from the car and patted down then, once they discovered the ecstasy, the shit we were in was going to get a fuck ton deeper.

Alex turned to face Ike in the rear seat. “Ike are you telling me you have the E taped to your balls right now?”

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”

I could see Ike in the mirror start to fidget and it looked like he was going to reach down his pants so I stopped him.

“Dude, whatever you’re doing stop. Be cool. That cop behind us is watching everything we’re doing right now. He might not search you if you don’t look like you’re trying to get rid of something.”

For the first time in our friendship Ike looked up at me helplessly. He was out of his mind at this point and the wild-eyed look I saw in the mirror screamed for assistance. I locked onto his eyes and he nodded at me. I then started to make the right turn.

At that precise moment, when we were all weighing possible futures and we were all too acutely aware of Ike’s balls and the ecstasy taped to them, another police car went screaming past our shitty SUV on the left. As it did, the one that was pulling us over took off in pursuit with it, leaving us alone on the right turn we had just made.

I kept the car moving at the slow pace, taking a deep breath and making a second right turn. I immediately decided to make two more rights and double back behind where we were originally. The car was as quiet as a funeral. Ike was staring straight ahead, a shade or two paler than he normally was and Alex was fixated on some point in the far distance, stoic as the morning we left for this trip. I had to take another couple of deep breaths and pounded my chest once to get my heart moving again.

“Fuck, guys! Fuck!”

I wasn’t the most articulate person in the world at that moment but I was the only one capable of talking and then the laughter overcame me. I began with a chuckle that rumbled into my belly and eventually poured out in bellows and tears.

Alex looked at me as if I had lost my goddamn mind and Ike was still in shock from the moment. The tears were flowing freely and I was then beating on the steering wheel.

“Fuck, that was close guys.”

I instinctively brushed more of the cocaine off my shirt in between laughs and then I caught Ike’s stare in the mirror.

“You okay back there?”

Ike only acknowledged my question with a nod.

“Good. Good – then answer me this: have you really had the ecstasy taped to your balls since we flew out yesterday morning?”

Alex began to laugh slightly and then it started to crescendo into a laugh equal to my own.  Alex doubled over and put his head on the dash of our shitty SUV rental, Ike however still looked dead to the world. With Ike lost to the zombie world, Alex and I relived the moment over and over and each time the punch lines of cocaine cloud and ecstasy on the balls forced us into peals of uncontrollable laughter.

I parked the car in the hotel garage and we made our way to our room. Alex and I were still laughing and were, overall, in very high spirits, slightly elevated from the post-game sublime perfection and wide fucking awake due to the adrenalin rush of our near police encounter. As soon as we opened the door, Ike darted toward the restroom then shut and locked the door. We were supposed to meet some old friends of mine who had recently married and so the plan was to clean up, change clothes and head out for a night on the Dallas town.

Something about the way Ike looked when he bolted for the bathroom made me wonder whether he’d recover in time to go out with us.

have 8-ball will travel

We left Ricky and Miguel in the garage and walked back over to our car. Once we were out of earshot of everyone I launched into Ike. “Ok, brother, what the fuck was that? Look, I was already a little uncomfortable with you making this transaction but to send the shit back like it was a bottle of wine in a restaurant was too much. That’s reckless, man – real reckless.”

Ike had a quick laugh at my expense and then slapped Alex on the back. “Guys, it’s cool. Luis knew he was bringing low-grade shit and we called him out on it. Everything is cool now.”

“Cool? He looked like he wanted to punch you.”

Alex swiveled toward me with a smile, “To Ike’s credit, people look at him like that all the time? Didn’t you punch him once, Jax?”

Ike busted out laughing. Sure, I had punched Ike once and had thought about doing it again a few times since. Ike has that affect on people. He smiled his casual Ike smile and told us everything was going to be fine and all we had to do was wait.

It took almost an hour and another three beers, but finally Luis returned. We all went back into the garage and Ike was handed a different brown bag, containing a different eight-ball wrapped in a different plastic baggy. While Ike went back to the table to sample his wares, Ricky broke out a blunt – maybe to ease his nerves or maybe just to calm everyone the fuck down. The booze, the grass and Luis’s less menacing demeanor this time was a far better combination for making this transaction work. Ike looked up from the table and smiled. This coke was the coke we were looking for. “Luis, this stuff is good!”

With that pronouncement there was nearly an audible sigh in the room and a fresh round of beers were opened. The blunt made its way around the circle two more times and we were good and saucy by the time we decided to make our way back to the hotel. We shook hands with the garage boys and even Luis smiled this time. We dropped all of our empties into the trash and walked back to our shitty SUV.

Ike immediately went for the backseat and Alex for the passenger side. Apparently I was the designated driver.

Here’s a little back story. A few months prior to this trip, I was pulled over by the Santa Monica police department after leaving a work party and was given a DUI. I spent an uncomfortable night in jail and about $10K later, I was on probation for a few years. I did have a suspended license and so I was not cool driving and definitely not cool doing it after all we had been doing that day. If anyone should not be drunk and high and driving, it was me. However, if anyone was going to be driving, it was going to be me. We argued about it momentarily but somehow I found myself the least intoxicated of the three of us. We were only about 12 blocks from the hotel and I decided I could probably get us there without a problem but I thought the same thing the night I got my DUI.

As we’re pulling out of the lot into traffic, I made the mistake of commenting on being drunker than I originally thought. Ike took this as a cue to put another bump of coke, a very large one, on the end of his key and offer it to me as a wake up. He should have announced his intentions though, because our arms collided, sending a shower of sparkling cocaine into the air and raining down on my shirt. I was now driving with no license in an unfamiliar city but at least I was drunk, high and covered in cocaine. Some people think marijuana makes you paranoid but that is nothing like having a lap full of cocaine and seeing a police car behind you turn on his lights.

“Guys.”

Alex and Ike were rolling in peals of laughter.

“Guys! Cop! There’s a fucking cop behind us!”

The laughter suddenly stopped.

you want drugs with that?

After a few awkward moments waiting in the hot garage bay, the guys returned and said they had made a call and our stuff would be arriving soon. They introduced themselves as Ricky and Miguel. Rick was tall, with a shaved head and a wispy black mustache. He was obviously the guy in charge and was the guy Ike first hit up about making a coke purchase. Miguel was rail thin, darker skin tone than Ricky but shared the same shaved head. Miguel couldn’t have been any older than twenty. Both of them were decked out in navy short sleeve shirts and pants. So the four of us stood there in the garage, sipping at our beers and sizing the situation up. Finally Ricky piped up with a question. “So you guys flew in for the game?”

Small talk can actually be a welcome reprieve from the tension inherent in any drug buy. Ike answered Ricky’s question by telling the entire story, from skating to my apartment so he could pitch me on the trip to the all-nighter he and Alex pulled before the flight, including the pre-flight screwdrivers he ordered for us. The story was zany enough to make Ricky and Miguel laugh, which made the whole situation a little more relaxed. Alex came looking for us in the garage with a cold six-pack in his hand and we all cracked open another beer.

From there, various stories rolled forward about other antics we had been up to in Los Angeles and Ricky regaled us with a couple of tales of mischief he and his garage buddies managed to find in Dallas. We were all enjoying the impromptu party until a very serious looking man in a white t-shirt and baggy jeans walked into the garage. He was about 6’1” , lean and muscular. His arms and neck were covered in tattoos. He could have been Ricky’s more athletic cousin, but there was a menacing quality to his posture that Ricky didn’t possess. The air immediately solidified into a nervous tension. He nodded to the guys and they welcomed him and introduced him as Luis.

Luis’s eyes narrowed at the mention of his name and he acknowledged us without a smile. He then, in Spanish, asked Ricky to join him in the office. We were left alone with Miguel in the garage. Miguel smiled nervously and made a half-hearted attempt to roll his eyes. Apparently this Luis cat was even more serious than he looked. I exchanged looks with Alex and Ike. Alex had a clear look of his concern on his mug but Ike seemed fairly casual about it all. Of the three of us, Ike had far more experience with drug buys and he also seemed to be still drifting along with the drunken buzz he had put on during the game. I did however, notice him stand up a little straighter when Ricky and Luis returned to the garage.

Ricky had a brown bag in his hand and gave it to Ike to inspect. Ike looked in it and then back at Ricky and nodded. He then turned his attention to Luis who was lurking in the background. “Luis, I would like to sample it, if that’s all right. I just want to try it out to make sure it’s what I want.”

As I mentioned, Luis’s eyes were already somewhat narrow but they squinted closer, locking his gaze onto Ike. There were a few pregnant beats before he replied. “What, man, you think I am trying to pull something over on you?”

Ike was fairly nonplussed considering the temperature in the room had just jumped up 15 degrees. “No, Luis, I don’t think you’re trying to pull anything but I never buy any drugs I don’t sample first.”

Luis looked at Ricky and Ricky seemed to shrug ever so subtly. Then Luis looked back at Ike. “Sure, try some.”

Ike opened the bag and walked over to a table at the side of the garage. He pulled out a plastic baggy that was tied in a knot. He opened the b, removed one sparkling eight-ball of cocaine, pulled his keys from his pocket and broke off a tiny piece. He used his key to crush it slightly and then pulled a credit card from his wallet to smash it, cut it and put a small bump on the end of his key. He lifted it to his nose and with a mighty snort, inhaled. He snorted again for good measure and then thumbed his nose.

He looked at me, expressionless – something I hadn’t seen on his face before, he then turned back to Luis. “Luis, this stuff is no good. It’s too cut. I wanted an eight-ball of cocaine, not whatever the fuck this is that you brought me.”

I could hear the sweat drip off my face and hit the floor. Ike was still expressionless in front of Luis and Ricky, Miguel and Alex were standing behind me. Luis looked at Ricky with disbelief and started laughing. Ricky smiled, but it was the nervous smile of a man who didn’t know what was about to happen next. He then started to say something but Luis cut him off.

“Look man, you don’t come in from out of town and try to tell me my shit is not pure. See? This is what you wanted to fucking buy so you’re fucking buying it.”

Ike didn’t seem concerned as to whether he had offended our drug dealer. I was real fucking concerned because Luis didn’t strike me as a the kind of man who had a problem dealing with problems. I wanted to grab Ike and ask him what the fuck he was doing but frankly things started happening too quickly for me to react.

“Luis, I meant no offense and perhaps I wasn’t clear enough up front. We want good shit, not the stuff you sell to frat boys at the local college. I assume that will cost more so we will pay more but this stuff is not what we want.”

Einstein theorized on the relativity of time. If you really want to see a few seconds protracted out into what feels like agonizing hours, have a drunken standoff with a drug dealer who looks like killing someone might all be in a day’s work. Luis didn’t smile outside of the laugh he gave after Ike’s first comment. He was a deadly serious guy in a deadly serious occupation. He was standing a few feet from me and was staring us down. I didn’t want the fucking coke and I sure as hell didn’t need to be in a confrontation in a garage with an angry dealer. Finally Luis made his move.

“How much you want to spend, man?”

“Whatever it takes to get a good eight ball of some quality shit. I have money and we can wait if you need to go somewhere else and get it.”

My anger aside, I was impressed with his calm demeanor. He had the casual tone of a man in a supermarket asking whether there was any more salmon in the back. Luis turned to his friends and muttered something inaudible in Spanish and then told us he would be back soon. He bolted out the back door and then I suggested joining the people who were still drinking outside in the parking lot.

game day, game on

The hangover from Friday’s revelries ached a little bit when I woke up on the sofa of our suite Saturday morning. Texas-OU weekend kicks off the Texas State Fair and the city was already starting it’s party at 7am. Despite knowing that, I was surprised to hear someone in the bathroom. Usually I’m the first one awake in our group but one of the boys beat me to the shower. Ike’s unmistakable voice was coming out of the shower, singing a Willie Nelson song.

Alex walked by right around that time, already showered and dressed in a white shirt with a burnt orange longhorn logo on the front.

“Yo dude – good morning.”

“Fuck Alex, when did you get up?”

“I’ve been up for about an hour. I ordered some coffee and Bailey’s from room service. It’s in the kitchen.”

“Anything to eat?”

“Nah, I thought we could just grab grub there.”

I stood there blinking at Alex for a moment. He showed no wear for what was now his third day of heavy drinking. He smiled at me. He actually looked fresh as a daisy. The guys seem to click into another gear when we’re on safari and clearly Alex had brought a spare liver and some extra brain for the trip.

I walked to the kitchen area, poured a coffee and cut it with Bailey’s. The day had officially begun.

On the way in from the airport the day before, we had loaded the car up with enough beer and booze to intoxicate an army of gorillas. The plan was to tailgate for a few hours before stumbling into the game. Ike actually had one more ticket so we planned to offer it to the first ticketless pretty girl we met, with the caveat that she sit next to us. We are diabolical like that.

All the local establishments around the Cotton Bowl, where the game is played, sell their available parking on game day for a king’s ransom. We found a local body repair shop with a sizable lot that let us park there for the day for a mere $40. We pulled our shitty little SUV into a spot, popped open the back and cracked our first cold beers of the day. It was going to be a good one. The guys who worked at the shop were in the garage doing a little work and hanging out. They were mostly Latino and in their twenties. We gave each of them a couple of beers and made small talk while waiting for the game to start. With our bellies empty, we filled up with beer and a few shots of whiskey.

By the time we were ready to make our way to the stadium, we were more than sufficiently lubed for any social interaction. It was about a ten-minute walk to the stadium from where we parked and we cut through the masses of people mingling for both the state fair and for the game. The air was already full of the aroma of any manner of things being fried. Supposedly the corn dog made its gloriously fried debut at the Texas State Fair. It only makes sense, as we passed long concession stands upon which they fried everything from the standard tomatoes and onion rings to Snickers bars and Oreos. Apparently, if it can be eaten it can be fried.

We stood outside the gates for a bit, trying to pawn off our ticket on desperate college girls but we were a little too drunk, a little too creepy and a little too impatient to give it a real college try. We ended up giving it to a woman working the concession stand outside the stadium and we made our drunken entrance to one of college football’s greatest rivalries.

The game was exciting but I won’t bore you with any kind of play-by-play. We never actually made it to our seats, but decided to stand on the concourse, close to where they were selling Shiner Bock beer. We had another 5-6 beers during the game and devoured some BBQ and nachos while watching Texas beat Oklahoma.

We joyously exited the stadium after the thrilling win, some of us far more hammered than others, with arms locked around each other’s necks. It was an unabashed display of male bonding, drunken male bonding at that. We felt the trip wouldn’t be complete without at least trying a corn dog and so we tracked down a proprietor of said fried treat and washed it down with more cold Shiner Bock beer.

I was dipping my dog in the pile of spicy mustard on my paper plate when Ike spoke up with some alarm in his voice.

“Holy fuck, gents, I am drunk.”

I should say he slurred most of that, versus actually speaking. I was surprised; I had never seen Ike in this state. It took a moment for it to sink in. How did he get so drunk? I thought we were right in step, other than his larger pulls from the whiskey bottle and his double-fisting brews for most of the game. He stood in front of me, slightly wobbly and his eyes glazed over with a whiskey cloud. His smile clumsily slithered about his chin. He was drunk. He was wasted. I was more than a little curious as to what would happen next.

He threw his arm around my neck and leaned into my ear and started laughing. He put his head down on my shoulder, knocking off the ballcap he had bought as a souvenir.

“Jackson. Jax – I gotta get out of here. I am unfit for human consumption. Let’s go back to the car.”

I looked over at Alex who had a grin draped over his face, his eyes chuckling with amusement. Neither of us had ever seen Ike this dismantled before.

“Ok, brother, let’s head back to the car. Can you walk?”

He laughed again and I could feel his weight pulling down a little more on my shoulder.

“Maybe. I think I need some help.”

I looked back to Alex, “How did he get this way?”

Alex just shrugged and laughed. We each put an arm around Ike and helped him back to the parking lot. For the most part he walked fine, outside of the occasional misstep. We had to weave through the thousands of vehicles trying to leave the fair grounds and while doing so, we made the decision to hang out in the lot and wait for traffic to die down.

We piled Ike into the backseat of the car, popped open the tailgate and started a fresh new round of brews. The traffic was brutal and more than a few other cars had the same idea, so we started a little tailgate party there in the parking lot. The guys working the shop joined us and we supplied with them some cold suds as well. Ike, reinvigorated by the party building around us, joined the fracas. There we were, in the Texas autumnal sun, drinking cold beer with strangers and reliving an amazing game. Soon a joint was being passed around and then a blunt. Our little gathering of twelve people was thoroughly enjoying life.

Ike then put his arm around one of the Latino guys who worked at the shop and whispered something in his ear. The guy looked surprised but then recovered and nodded to friend. The two of them headed for the garage and Ike punched me in my arm and motioned for me to follow. We walked into the garage and shut the door behind, leaving everyone else in the lot. The two Latino guys were facing us and one of them pointed to Ike, “How much do you want, man?”

Ike shrugged nonchalantly and said, “I don’t know. An eight-ball, two if you can get it.”

“You have the cash?”

“Yep.”

“Cool, I have to make a call. It will be a few minutes.”

With that, the two guys walked through another door that led from the garage into an office area and we stayed in the garage bay.

“So, Ike, you decided we needed some blow?”

“Yeah, it sounds pretty good. I just hope they don’t try and fuck us around.”

“Me too.”

It momentarily struck me that my recent scrape with the law meant I really should behave, but we were several states away from my last infraction. That shouldn’t be a problem, right?

the wages of sin city are paid in singles

LA is less than an hour away from Vegas via the friendly service of Southwest Airlines. I’m not being paid for that plug but I do have another story coming down the pike about the virtues of being able to select your own seat. That’s later though – for now I want to talk about Vegas and how it can bond male friendship together in an entirely unbreakable way.

There are times in life when you get to know someone and realize early on you will be friends until your last gasp of earthly air, at least for this time around. A few years back I did a stint at this gig up near San Fran. While I was there, I met this kid named Parker. I thought we would be friends in the polite sense of co-workers but this is a great example of how merely putting people into boxes is flawed. He was a bright kid and very diligent, an i-dotter and t-crosser. I am not a detail-oriented person myself. I left law school because the minutiae seemed a little extreme and the grander ideas less pertinent. We were kind of like complementary colors in that way – opposites on the color wheel but would pair nicely together. Thus, it shouldn’t be any surprise that throwing us into the eternal abyss of Vegas might render favorable outcomes.

Up to the point at which we stepped off the plane in Sin City, our interactions had been purely perfunctory work-related duties. We had exchanged a lot of spreadsheets and to that moment what I knew about him was he was a pretty cool guy who was deadly with Excel. He had a rapid fire brain but he was mostly consumed with the 9-5 world around us. In fact, we had never even broken bread together before Vegas. I don’t believe Vegas changes anyone but it does allow a part of them to come out they might normally keep bottled up. We’re all like that to varying degrees. The city merely presents you with the full spectrum of options and how you indulge is entirely your choice.

We had taken a morning flight into Las Vegas that Tuesday and so we exit the plane a little before 11am local time. As we’re exiting the plane, Parker looks at me and asks me if I want to stop off at the bar and grab a tequila shot before heading over to The Wynn where we were staying. He said it with the casual tone one might suggest grabbing a coffee and I fully appreciated the way he had decided to roll. I’m not a big fan of shots but a little dose of tequila in the AM goes a long way. We made the quick pit stop, downed some booze and headed out to join the long cab line that is always outside the Las Vegas airport.

We threw our bags into the back of a new Toyota Prius cab and crawled inside. He looked at me as we motored off and said, “Dude, we’re about to have a really fucking good time.”

Outside of our tequila shot, my thoughts were mostly consumed with the agenda we had ahead of us. I generally try to keep my nose clean around co-workers but it’s nice to find a few people you can be yourself around. We checked into the hotel and had a few hours to kill before having to be anywhere. I had planned to go up to my room, break open the laptop and check to see if any fires were demanding my attention. However, in the elevator I looked over at Parker and felt the need to change up the itinerary.

“Parker, here’s an idea. The only thing we have to do is the happy hour mixer today. Everything else on the schedule is check-in and meet-and-greet. Let’s blow it all off, head pool side, grab some bottle service and roll into happy hour a little happier than most.”

Parker looked at me and then instinctively looked down at his bag on the elevator floor that housed his laptop. Everything I had just said was true but it definitely bent the unspoken rules of what was expected of us. I wasn’t breaking those expectations but was definitely giving them a solid tweak. I imagine these were the thoughts shooting through Parker’s brain at the time but based off the opening moment tequila shots, I was doubling down on the prospect that Parker needed some downtime as much I did.

Parker looked back up at me and blinked once then smiled.

“Yeah, let’s do it. I can just bring my phone in case something comes up.”

“Exactly.”

Look, I wasn’t saying let’s become entirely irresponsible but our handy smart phones gave us enough of a leash to sneak away and grab a few cocktails. Smart phones, cold drinks and women in bikinis poolside sounded like a perfect reprieve from what had been a stressful stretch of weeks. It was settled and that moment right there began a lifelong friendship.

Within thirty minutes we were in deck chairs by the pool with cold beers in hand and more on the way. The party girls were already beginning to gather for the daily sunning ritual and the rest of the people at our convention were probably somewhere inside, decked out in Dockers and sipping bottled water. The only thing that makes the yuppie life of wearing khaki pants and polo shirts tolerable is large consumption of alcohol and all the drunk guys in khaki pants merely prove my point.

I’m kicked back in my chair and the first taste of my Amstel Light is making its way across my lips when I happened to glance to my left and see someone I recognized. It was an older guy named Rick who happened to be the VP of Marketing for one of our biggest clients. He was wearing green trunks and flip-flops, sporting Wayfarers and had what looked to be a piña colada in his hand. He pulled his shades down and looked at us over the frames and then he smiled. I didn’t even know the guy wore anything other than suits but there he was, dressed to party by the pool.

Rick walked over to us and greeted us with a hearty, “Hey boys. Shouldn’t you be getting ready for that mixer?”

I could tell immediately that wasn’t his first drink of the day. I returned his smile.

“Hey Rick. Shouldn’t you be headed that way too?”

“Me, no. Fuck no. I’m going to finish this drink and then head to a titty bar. You boys in?”

I looked over at Parker who was highly amused to see a slightly sloppy Rick since Rick was normally busting our balls about his latest campaign. I’m guessing Parker was as surprised as I was to see Rick smiling. I’m running the scenario out in my head and quickly determine it would be entirely justifiable to blow off the mixer to hang out with one of our biggest buyers, down some drinks and lay the foundation for future business. If all that happened at the Spearmint Rhino, then so be it. I was just about to speak up when Parker let it fly.

“Of course we’re in. When you heading out?”

Like I said, Parker was a cool kid. I was having visions of blowing our entire expense account in Vegas in one night and I kind of liked it.