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.

easy writer

I put away my laptop and gathered up my power cord. Shelly walked outside and was wrapping herself in a scarf and gloves while I got all my shit together. The power cord, of course, was not being cooperative and so I ended up jamming it into a pocket and hurriedly grabbing my jacket, throwing on a one sleeve while leaving the rest of the coat dangling as I walked to the door.

What was my rush? Why was I hurrying? In a more honest moment I would say that my heart had been broken for the first time in any sort of recent memory and I perhaps was hoping for some respite from my own thoughts. I found memories of the girl everywhere I looked, like ghosts haunting me as I walked around town, and maybe Shelly was a means to exorcise some of them. In my more typical bravo-laden moments I would merely dismiss such questions as self-explanatory given the way Shelly had approached me.

They say the best liars actually convince themselves of their own prevarications. The physiological process of the brain would function identically if one were recalling an entirely contrived story as if one were tapping into an actual memory. Moreover, the more one told a particular lie, the more solid the synaptic connection would be, thus cementing a memory out of a fabrication. Despite all of this, I couldn’t convince myself of any truth other than the actual one. Shelly offered the potential of a momentary lapse of pain in what had been dark days.

And there is a dark days arc coming in which I will gladly recount for you the ways in which a man tries to pry himself from the grim clamps of melancholy, but once again, I defer to a later time.

For now, I happily joined in step with Shelly on the short walk to Easy Street. We chatted a bit about the town and where she lived and I pointed out to her where I lived and then we descended the steps to bar area below the restaurant. They had a fire blazing inside and there were a few scattered families, mostly looking like people in town on holiday for the snow and the ski.

Once the season starts to kick in crowds grow and change. The laid back local vibe is supplanted with a boisterous gathering of people in town to hit the slopes. They ski and snowboard all day and then imbibe heavily at local watering holes. Easy Street isn’t as bad in terms of the noisy post-ski crowd, but it certainly had become louder over the last few weeks.

We found a place along the window that looked out to the patio. Snow storms had shut down any outdoor dining in most places but it was still nice to look out onto the patio and watch the fat snowflakes fall.

The waitress came around, a cute girl I had chatted up in the past, to take our order. She somehow remembered my name and I remembered her’s was Heidi, although we’d spoken only twice before. She commented on not seeing me for a while and I asked if she were still crashing with friends or had found a place. It’s odd how some details wedge themselves in folds of gray matter.

Shelly ordered a glass of red wine and I almost fell in line with her before succumbing to my desire for a stiff whiskey with one ice-cube. Cold days with snow and nothing really to do lend themselves to whiskey more than wine.

Right before Heidi returned with our drinks, Shelly gave me a mischievous look with a Cheshire cat grin blossoming across her lovely face. It evolved into smirk of sorts before she said anything.

“So why is Jackson Panic here in Park City?”

I paused and studied her visage before attempting to answer but right as my lips parted to speak, she expounded upon her initial inquiry.

“Allow me to rephrase – most people come to a town like this to get to the slopes but you don’t appear to me a man too concerned with snow sports. So, if you didn’t arrive here because you wanted to come to a ski town, what was it you were trying to get away from?”

It was a pointed question from someone who barely knew me. I had been kicking around a lot of different things when I decided to move from LA to Park City but hadn’t really considered whether any one of them were something I was running from. Was I trying to get away from something? Or someone?

the end of dallas the beginning of…

Our drinks arrived and Stephanie continued to flash me the same sweet and slightly shy smile. She was beautiful but in a “I have been put away in an unhappy marriage and preserved” kind of way. She was definitely a stunner in her day and was easily one of the most beautiful women in the bar but she was full of self-doubt and dressed a bit like a hot mom of three who had been out of the game for a while.

Her eyes didn’t break from mine when she sipped her drink. I was holding mine, not even nursing it a this point. It merely gave my right hand something to do as I smiled and looked into Stephanie’s eyes.

Her gaze burned into mine for a bit in a fashion that tipped her hand as to what she thought she needed or at least what the barrage of drinks and her drunken friend had been telling her. There are lots of suggested quick fixes to the end of an unhappy life and she already seemed determined down a path of saluting it’s departures with an apparent unending succession of drinks leading to some kind of naked attention on her previously neglected body.

It amazes me the kind of women some men will choose to ignore. It amazes me the kind of willing body that blossoms in what another idiot of a man deemed infertile soil, where a beautiful woman springs forward with renewed vitality into a world in which she might have previously dismissed herself as a walking corpse with a perfunctory agenda, waiting to merely complete the steps and get off the ride.

Then at some point this woman has an epiphany in which she sees that she has more to offer the remaining years of her life and a vigor she had forgotten she possessed. These women are phases, or rather – you’re a phase to them. You’re a moment in passing in which they are freeing themselves from a cocoon of their former self and trying to reconcile their identity to a new reality. You are the moment, the merry-go-round. Just keep spinning until the music stops.

Alex walked over and chatted with me and the newly reintroduced into society Stephanie. Alex was a decent enough wingman to give the late-night situation its proper gravitas and allowed she and I enough distance to get to know one another. When the time came, Alex went back to the hotel without either Ike or myself, which I knew troubled him but Ike was engaged with an 8-ball and I was tending to Stephanie.

I walked Alex outside and shook his hand, promising I would check in the next day at some point. I had to since my things were in the hotel but nevertheless, he looked as if he wanted assurances. I told him to punch Ike when he saw him and we both turned away laughing.

My turn was a somewhat clumsy pirouette into a tall red-head with the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.

“Watch where you’re going clumsy boy!”

I apologized profusely, one might even say inordinately. She seemed amused with my embarrassment and sincerity and gave me another couple of heart stopping smiles. She then interrupted my antics.

“Why are you headed back inside if your friend is leaving? What’s waiting for you in there?”

There was something in her voice, all too knowing and too full of mischief. I was speechless for a moment but then gathered up my thoughts quickly.

“The only thing in there is an open tab and my phone, both of which I am not necessarily opposed to walking away from.”

She smiled again and I swear I fucking melted. Completely.

“So close your tab and get your phone and then take me to get coffee.”

I am not even entirely certain I acknowledged her, what with the speed I launched into the bar. I flagged down the bartender and gave him the sign for my check and then walked over to Stephanie. I grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her deeply on the lips. I told her she was absolutely beautiful and I was sure to regret this decision, but I wasn’t in the mood for a mad fling this particular night. I told her I was tired and had an early flight back to LA the next day and I had to be going. I mentioned my living in LA and her being here and in essence added another tiny little break-up to the pile of heartache she was carrying around but I couldn’t worry about that at this time.

I tried to smile at her as I walked off but she was already angry and ignoring me. I bolted out the door and couldn’t see the redhead anywhere. Once again, I felt my pulse stop – but this time for all the wrong reasons.

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.

cocaine clouds and eight balls of delerium

We followed Ike into our hotel room and Alex immediately called dibs on the shower. As I had showered that morning, all I wanted to do was throw on some jeans and a clean shirt and brush my teeth. Ike was still in the bathroom so I took my toothbrush to the kitchenette in our suite and cleaned up in there.

Alex walked into the kitchen dressed and ready for the night. At this point all we were missing was Ike. I walked over to the bathroom and knocked on the door.

“Hey buddy, you all right in there?”

I could hear Ike snorting loudly and so I assumed he was making a dent in the eight-ball and trying to rally himself. I then heard the distinct sound something chopping against a hard surface, quite likely Ike cutting up lines on the marble counter around the sink. Ike didn’t respond and so I knocked and called out to him again. He still didn’t say anything but I heard the chopping and the snorting continue so I assumed he was fine.

I cracked open a beer and walked over to the sofa where I had slept the night before. I sat down and relaxed as Alex joined me. He was staring at the lip of his Tecate somewhat vacantly and then looked up at me before taking a sip.

“What’s he doing in there?”

“I have no idea. It sounds like he is trying to finish off that entire eight-ball.”

“Glad he asked us if we wanted any.”

I looked over at Alex and laughed, “Did you really want any?”

He laughed and raised his can to me and we toasted the remainder of the day. Despite all the adventure it was only about 6 o’clock but we did have people waiting on us and so there was a slight sense of urgency to get motivated. We sat on the sofa talking bullshit for a while before I decided to check back on Ike.

I knocked, again, and I asked him if he was okay, again, and the only answer I received was the sound of snorting and chopping again. I looked back to Alex and shrugged.

“Fuck it – I think he is actually trying to finish off the coke. Christ, he still has the ecstasy taped to his balls I bet. I say let’s get out of here and meet up with Bird.”

Bird was what we called our friend Robin. For some fucked up reason his parents had named him Robin and he had gone by Bird since I gave him the nickname our freshman year at Tulane. Bird recently married his pilates instructor and they were waiting for us at some trendy spot near downtown Dallas. They had been there for a few hours and judging by the diminishing quality of their voice mails they were thoroughly enjoying the margaritas they were drinking.

When I party, I am like a shark – I keep moving. I don’t want to sit still for too long else I will get sleepy and tank. If I keep things moving then I am good for the night; it’s only in the lulls that I start to crash.

Alex looked at me and then looked back to the bathroom. He was sort of the patron saint of drunkards in our group. He looked over the boys when anyone went a step too far and, though he could tie one on himself, he would take charge and watch over the group when things started getting a little too wild. He had a solid head on his shoulders and apparently wanted to stick around and make sure Ike was going to come out alive.

I had enough faith in the cockroach-like unkillability of Ike not to worry about his survival. I had waited an additional 45 minutes for him to resurface from his cocaine bender in the bathroom and since it showed no signs of waning, I decided to move on.

I walked over to the front door of the hotel room, opened it and looked back at Alex, “You sure you want to stick around?”

He was still on the sofa drinking his beer, “Yeah, we’ll catch up in a little while.”

I shut the door, walked to the elevator and hailed a cab. My night was just beginning.

I gave the cabbie the address Bird had texted me and we wove through an upscale extension of downtown Dallas off of McKinney Boulevard. We pulled up to a large building with several restaurants and bars nestled inside it, with patios spilling out into the street and tables packed with 30-something yuppies drinking and eating.

As soon as I stepped out of the cab, I saw Bird sitting at a table near the center of the action and holding court amongst a group of six or seven people. Bird was a charismatic guy who could charm the habit off a nun if he chose, but he was mostly interested in mountain biking and making money. He was my only close friend enamored with the almighty dollar but it didn’t bleed over into some kind of obnoxious personal materialism. He just had a keen mind for business and was intrigued with the different ways he could make money.

He stood up in mid-conversation and waved to me with his right hand while still clutching a pitcher of margaritas in his left. The table turned toward me momentarily and smiled. I walked over and joined what already promised, from thirty feet away no less, to be a rowdy crowd.  The night was looking good.

Bird introduced me to the group and then insisted I take a seat next to him as more chairs were added. His fiancée, Melody, gave me a kiss on the cheek and I shook hands with the rest of his friends, most of whom were on his soccer team.

Bird poured me a margarita, handed it to me and then looked at me somewhat inquisitively, “Where are your friends?”

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.