dancing on my lap, dancing on the floor – who’s that dancer knockin’ on my door?

Rick, Parker and I walked out of Carnevino.




…suddenly here you are and you’re not entirely sure how you got from where you last remember being to where you find yourself now. This is my current state of affairs. You have memories peppered over a blurry time line you think you took part in and then there’s a blank, as if you’re in the middle of a Raymond Chandler novel and someone has removed any clue as to what’s going on. Of course, in this post-blackout state of desperate consciousness, there’s nothing resembling Chandler’s sinister thugs waiting to rough you up but you do find yourself staring straight into the g-sringed ass of a woman of mystery. She’s the same kind of gal Raymond Chandler would have waltzing into your office in a raincoat except she’s gyrating to Def Lepard and she’s wearing a sparkly g-string and you have no idea who she is.

I’m in a room, some call it VIP and some call it champagne, but I’m in a comfy chair against the wall and there’s a gyrating ass in front of me shaking to the micro-rhythms of songs within songs and I got nothing in the way of an explanation as to how this all came about. I remember talk of titties and I remember a few scant seconds of a decadent dinner but then someone put the lights on low and I wake up with my face against some dancer’s ass.

She turns to me and smiles. She looks Bahamian, exotic with a hint of the result of people fucking people into cafe con leche homogeneity. She notices when I exhibit signs of life. Perhaps strippers can only see you when you move, much like velociraptors?

She throws a dainty leg over my shoulder and leans into my ear, purring my name. Apparently we’ve met but I’m at a distinct disadvantage. She knows my name and I don’t have a damn thing stored in the wrinkles in my brain concerning her. She laughs at my obvious confusion.

I stir and look for my friends or at least someone I know but I am in a dark room with chairs piled against the walls and pretty girls are dry-humping guys seated in chairs just like me. It’s the strip club version of The Matrix but instead of being plugged into machines we’re in plush chairs and sexy vixens are pumping our wallets dry.

I stand to go but the Bahamian goddess pushes me back into my seat with a giggle. I tell her I need to go and she shakes her head no. I insist and she petulantly relents with a puerile frown. She then tells me I owe $800. She does it nicely, with a sexy grin and a beautifully delicate hand extended palm up in front of her. She looks innocent, almost like Oliver Twist begging for food but with fantastic tits. I don’t remember walking in and I don’t remember what had happened since but now I am deep in the moment and I’m told I owe $800 for the last hour or so of entertainment. I make a move to protest but it’s curtailed by a large man in black shirt and red tie. I slept through $800 worth of lap dances. Strippers are like taxis and the meter runs until you get out of the car. The only way out of this is with eight crisp Benjamins as compensation for the least memorable $800 of my life. My first car cost $750. I just paid that much for fake tits and a pussy that smells like cookies being rubbed up against me while I slept.

It’s disturbing how easily I part with money, whether it be bar, stripper or casino. I have no attachment to money. I am merely a way station between where the dollars originated and where they’re going. She takes my pile of hundreds and moves on. I wander back into the world of the living, looking for Parker. Fuck everything that has just happened. If I’m going to burn through a grand I will do it with a conscious vengeance from this point on.

I make my way to the table and Parker and Rick are sitting around with cocktails but no cookie-scented pussies clinging to their wallet. I am somewhat annoyed. All the different conversations of brotherhood revolve around not leaving anyone behind but I found myself alone and sleeping through an $800 stripper tab. Who the fuck was watching out for me?

Parker stands up laughing and wants to give me a manhug but I’m having none of it. Fuck him for leaving me alone. It’s my fault for getting so drunk but there’s a code that he ignored.

He reads the agitation on my face and smiles before handing me a bottle of MacAllan 18. We’re going to be drinking scotch for a while, mostly due to the fact that we’ve just ordered a bottle for the table. I need some water but have to admit that scotch sounds tasty.

I pour a drink and just as the spicy notes are hitting my palate, Parker punches me on the shoulder and starts laughing.

“Mr Vegas is here.”

I have no idea what that means but within seconds I’m escorted outside the strip club and crammed into a limo full of my friends and 4-5 girls who might be strippers in their spare time. It’s hard to tell. I still have the bottle of scotch in my hand. Perhaps the night is not a total waste yet.

I’m in the awakening stage of the night. I’ve had a big time with everything before and now I’m starting to rally for the present moment. I’m in a limo, headed to a club, I’m $800 lighter but I’m also making my way with a bevy of slightly slutty looking girls. It’s a wash.

The seconds fire off instantaneously until I’m mired in the shoulders of undancing people on the dance floor at Tao. I have no idea why I’m surrounded by attractive women who seem afraid to dance and my sobriety is threatening to creep back into my consciousness, tainting it with the desire to leave the dance floor and go back to my room to sleep. Luckily there is a gal whose only concept of dancing is to grind her ass against my crotch. It’s not really dancing but it’s a good enough move to keep me close to her. We’re two rhythmless white people who are drunk, so we grind and we give each deep Vegas kisses that mean absolutely nothing. Almost nothing, I should say. I’m hoping that all the kissing ends up in drunken nakedness but her kisses indicate more of a Vegas party moment and that’s all she has to offer.

I take her by the hand and we go to the bar. Over the pulsing noise of the club I order two tequila shots. I look up at the balcony that wraps around the bar and see Parker and Rick leaning out over the floor from our VIP area. Mr Vegas is a limo driver but he also greases the palms of every bouncer in the city and he got us into the club and into a primo spot with no effort at all. We repay his kindness with more Benjamins. With enough credit cards, even I can be a baller in Sin City. The shots arrive and I hold one up to toast my new drunken friend. She told me her name on the dance floor but I couldn’t make it out. I just nodded my head. Parker sees me about to take my shot and he lifts his glass of scotch. I toast him from afar, shoot my tequila and then grab my new girlfriend’s ass, pulling her into me and planting another kiss on her lips. One of her friends comes up to us and starts whining about wanting a shot as well. I order up another round, toast the girls, toast Parker and then make out with both of the girls, one at a time. I have an erection the size of Kansas and smell like a stripper and now I really want to bang.

Girl 1 and girl 2 drag me back to the floor and we all grind against each other. Girl 2 places her hand at one point on my rock hard cock and raises her eyebrows before splintering into giggles. We dance, we do shots, we make out and we repeat until things start to fade again.

I wake up in my bed, naked and feeling as if I were a rag someone had wrung dry. I have created another blank space in the annals of time. I’m like some kind of time traveler who is always jumping forward – like Quantum Leap but instead of being a physicist I’m an alcoholic. I’m locked into a massive thirst that is only matched by my massive headache. Every move is touched by the vengeful goddess of the morning, the one that hates each and every one of us but especially me.

I sit on the side of the bed with my head in my hands for a few minutes, perhaps hours. I finally rise and walk toward the bathroom. I can’t help but see a note scrawled in lipstick across the mirror:

Jackson, it was great meeting you. You’re a lot of fun. Give me a call later. – K

Who the fuck is K? How did she get in my room? Did something happen? Why didn’t she leave a number?

I call Parker, who was obviously still sleeping when the phone rang.

“Hey. What the fuck happened last night?”

“What the fuck didn’t happen last night?”

“Funny. Who is K?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I have a note on my mirror signed by K.”

There is a prolonged silence.

“I have no idea man. You were en fuego and we were surrounded by women. Right before you disappeared you started calling yourself Sid.

Oh. Fucking. Shit.

The silence is palpable before Parker finally breaks it up, “You still there?”

“Yeah, call you later.”

I hung up the phone.

I hadn’t heard from Sid for amost five years. He was back. Things were about to come unglued.


you don’t meet nice girls in strip clubs

We weren’t in an exceptional hurry to get away from the pool. Young ladies in their twenties with unspeakably perfect bodies and no tan lines had begun filling up the empty chairs and Rick had sat down on the chair to my left so there was no compulsion to make a hasty exit. We had another round coming and we were more than capable of making small talk until it became apparent we had to move on to the next event.

Rick was far more amusing than he had ever let on. He was in his mid-forties with a mid-forties spare tire comfortably wrapped around his midsection and a head that was losing two hairs for every pound his gut gained. He liked to laugh though and he loved breasts. Often times, conversation amongst people who do business together stays within the confines of safe and acceptable but Rick threw around the word ‘tits’ as carelessly as a college freshman. Here’s something to remember – married men, especially those married more than ten years, are the most dangerous guys to go out with. They don’t often get a hall pass and when they do they max it out and all the more so when they are in Vegas. Rick was going to be dangerous.

In the normal world, drinks turn to shots at a slow pace, but in Las Vegas the ratio of drinks to pure alcohol easily exceeds 4X of anywhere else in the States. Again, it’s the full gamut of choices that are laid out and are always there but in Vegas you feel more inclined to choose unwisely. It’s a Vegas placebo.

So, while we began with just drinks suddenly we’re ordering shots. Our compatriots of industry are busily hacking away in their prisons of Microsoft office and we were waist deep in a gorgeous pool doing shots with twenty-one year old girls. Parker looked at me and his face said it all – brilliant Nevada spring day, unending amounts of booze and enormous bar tabs completely justified due to the presence of Rick. Suddenly Christmas was like my ex-girlfriend and came twice a year.

Shots blend together quickly and you find yourself, between rounds, thinking of something diabolically fantastic for your next order, which only quickens the pace. Needless to say, booze was flowing and our old-man game was entertaining but not threatening to the young women who gladly let us buy them drinks but never considered returning any favors. Eventually it was time for the corporate mixer and we were shit-faced and oblivious. My drunk super-power is not giving a flying fuck and I shared it with my comrades so we could all ride the train of ‘who fucking cares’ together.

Finally, after several memorable and yet still forgotten hours, Rick suggested we break away from the pool to our respective rooms, clean up and reconvene for a pre-titty dinner. Rick was the customer and the customer is most often right and so we made that our plan and I went up to my room.

I travel more than most people and spend the majority of my time in hotel rooms. I am comfortable there and have acclimated to the point I sometimes feel lost amongst my own things in my own place. I take solace in the generic and yet accommodating creature comforts of casinos and hotels. The Wynn is an exceptional place to stay and my room begged me to go out into the night and bring home a young lady to share it with. I had no desire to argue with my room nor with the shots that were making the case for the bedworthiness of every woman I passed in the hallway. I accepted the fact as I went to meet the boys that the only thing that would keep me from banging a fat girl was unconsciousness. Fortune favors the bold, but tequila favors the big.

I met up with Rick and Parker in the bar in the lobby and they each had a drink in their hand with another waiting for me on the bar. We had moved on to a fine scotch that was well beyond my knowledge of spirits but went down like a whore after hours. I had ordered another before ever noticing I had finished the first. My autopilot light was already on and judging by the glassiness of my comrades’ eyes, so was theirs. Some nights it’s best to take the keys and hand them to your Id and hope that little fucker gets you home in one piece with all your vital organs in tact.

We made our way out to dinner. Debauchery makes fast friends of men. Already, our day had been filled by the supple flesh of twenty-something year old girls and now we were headed to Mario Batali’s Carnevino to partake of bloody red steaks and deep red wine. I had been salivating since I was poolside where a young college girl named Mely asked me to shoot tequila from her navel. Now I was gastronomically erect for a last supper kind of meal – the dinner I’d share with Lucifer himself to celebrate the arrival of Ossama bin Laden. I assure you, there wouldn’t be any virgins left for him after that dinner.

We dined in an excess only William Blake could fully appreciate. The kind in which you knew your next round on the toilet would have you shitting pure butter. The vacancy signs were hanging on each of our foreheads as we hopped another taxi and headed to the Spearmint Rhino. We would wash down the rare steaks with a few lap dances and hope that the endless rain of money would convince one of those big breasted girls to marry us and carry our abortions.

With that kind of introduction to the second half of the evening, you’re probably surprised to hear me say I was impressed with how fucked up things actually got.

who’s your daddy…wait, who’s that?

Growing up naturally means a loss of childhood and with that loss comes the accompanying loss of the magic of things like Christmas morning. I remember waking up at the crack of dawn, bursting out of my head with excitement over the toys I hoped to find under the tree. I would be so giddy on Christmas eve, my mother could barely get me to sleep at all. That’s pretty much how I felt sitting in Q’s, playing pool with Jenny, Harley and Ike. Any time a guy thinks he going to get laid he gets pretty damn happy but it becomes exponentially greater when he thinks he’s going to get it on with two girls he just met. That was me, there on the bar stool, with my own personal Merry Christmas taking shape right in front of me in the visage of two nice young ladies who worked at Hooters.

We played a game of pool, me and Jenny against Ike and Harley, and the flirting between me and Jenny began to increase. I’ve mentioned it before, but I do have a mostly dormant conscience that will rear its head from time to time, generally cherry-picking the most inopportune moments to impregnate the situation with moral consideration. I could see in Jenny’s eyes she was infatuated with the young Dr. Christian Reynolds. He had all of my charm with the added bonus of his medical school pedigree and the ability to turn any woman into a doctor’s wife. The problem was he obviously didn’t exist and this usurper of his identity was a far cry from the stable, career-oriented man she was expecting. This usurper was me, a mostly degenerate but affable fellow with a healthy vocabulary and a predilection for dive bars, tequila and easy women.

This dormant fucking conscience of mine looks up and see’s Jenny’s shimmering green eyes and her intentional mix of girl you take home tonight and girl you take home to mom and starts to grouse about it. Jenny was infatuated with a fabrication. So, while watching her walk around the table and lean over to take her shot, realizing a part of the pose she is striking is for my benefit, I was feeling a slight pang of guilt. At the same time, my mostly devious inner-monologue was making the case that she was infatuated more with the Dr. part and less with me, the actual part. That seemed somewhat superficial to my devious inner-monologue and really constituted a wash as far as matters of conscience should go.

All of these thoughts were interrupted by Harley who came and leaned into me, whispering into my ear, “How’s it going?”

I looked at Harley. Harley didn’t have the look of a woman who was out to marry a doctor. The look she was throwing my way was the same I would get from any woman who wasn’t under the false notion that I was a physician. She had a smile that was telling me she and I could have a lot of fun together and the way she winked at me hinted she probably had undressed me with her eyes at some point. Harley was a force to be reckoned with.

“I don’t know Harley. It’s hard to say. I think Jenny has greater ambitions beyond a night of carnal bliss.”

“Yeah, I was kind of afraid of that. She can kind of be that way. At least you and I can still get it on though.”

She laughed an all too knowing laugh and waltzed over to the table to take her shot. Harley was a sex bomb with the way she moved and the way she conducted herself and she was a thrill to watch. Unfortunately, while I was watching her, Jenny was watching me. She got a little jealous and came back to my bar stool with a slight air of petulance. She didn’t say anything to me but she stuck her tongue out at me as she walked my way and then positioned herself between me and Harley. She was making her point pretty clear.

Jenny was definitely being noticeably aloof toward Harley and Harley was the kind of girl who would only then be inspired to agitate and antagonize her friend. In between shots, Harley started putting a full-court press on me, walking up and slinging her arm around me or standing mere inches away from me, giving me a playful poke and lots of come hither smiles. The two girls, the two friends – the two women I had hoped would become the tandem for my menage-a-trois – were at odds with each other.

Ike noticed the budding rivalry for my, or Dr. Christian’s, affections. As with most mild dilemmas I create for myself, Ike took great joy in watching it play out, so much in fact, that he managed to add to the awkwardness building around us. Thankfully his date, Jane, showed up and, after introductions and a quick drink, whisked him off to another bar, leaving me with Jenny and Harley vying for my attention.

Since there were now only three of us, we decided to play a game of cutthroat, which was quite apropos for how things were starting to pan out. With Ike gone, there was even more time for the flirting and maneuvering between shots. Harley had made the decision that the threesome was no longer possible but felt that the night would be salvaged by the two of us slinking off somewhere and getting sweaty naked. Jenny continued her course of saying enticing things while looking very pretty doing it and hinting that we should make plans for a later date – a proper date. I have to say it again, Jenny would make a beautiful wife some day for some guy who was looking for someone like her. I just wasn’t that guy.

Was I more attracted to Harley because she represented more of an immediate gratification? I would be a liar if I said that didn’t factor in but there was more than that. Harley was sexy and fun – she loved to laugh and looked damn fine doing it. She liked the fact that I was a pretend doctor but it was obvious she didn’t care about it the way that Jenny did. Harley was interested in undressing the man, not the job. She took her shot and turned to me, finding me gazing longingly at how incredible her ass looked in her jeans. Her blond and black streaked bangs were hanging over her left eyes and with a quick toss of the head she flung them from her face. While Jenny was setting up her shot, ignoring us for the time being, Harley walked over to my bar stool, splitting my legs and putting her body up against mine and kissed me – not a peck or a friendly hello but a soft-lipped, tongue filled ‘let’s ditch this place‘ kind of kiss. Once again, I was making out in a bar.

When the kiss ended, the gig was up. Jenny stood at the table looking as if she had just been stabbed. There was an anger welling with hurt in her eyes and she would have ripped Harley’s head off if she could. Harley was still facing me, still pressed against me.

“Is she looking at us?”

I nodded and Harley laughed again.

“Looks like it’s just going to be you and me but I think I can keep you entertained.”

It was my shot and it might have eased the tension had I stood up and walked over to the table, but Harley’s kiss and that damn devilish laugh had me so turned on, my cock was at complete and full attention. So, I’m sitting there with the lovely Harley pressed against me and my erection pressed against her. I didn’t feel like modeling my stiffy for the pool playing crowd so I grabbed Harley and started making out with her again. When we finished our second kiss I looked at her and suggested we make a hasty exit, thinking I could use her to help shield my boner. While we had been lip locked, Jenny apparently had enough and left without saying good-bye.

So ended any chance of two lovely ladies in the sack with me, but…

We hopped a cab and were back at my place within minutes. We didn’t stop making out the entire time and Harley was feeling me up like I was an altar boy. We exited the cab, my little member still at full attention, and stumbled to my door. I pressed her against the door and she started removing my shirt before we ever got it unlocked. I fumbled with my key while deeply involved with Harley’s lips and managed to open the door and fall inside just as my shirt was ripped over my head and my pants were undone.

We navigated my living room while never breaking lips and fell onto the bed, commencing with the rest of the disrobing. She asked for music and so I grabbed the remote to the radio while she plied my neck with kisses. There was a Debussy CD already loaded and that would have to do because there was no goddamn way I was stopping to pull out my iPod.

I won’t bore you with a lot of carnal details but our little tryst turned into a flesh filled fantasy of porntastic proportions. Harley may have been one of the sexiest women I have ever met, from the way she walked, to the way she kissed to the way she fucked me senseless. I will say that, deep in the throes of round two, our sweaty bodies fulfilled with each other once already, she got on top of me and began to ride me in a way only my most secret fantasies could have hoped for, my supine body being pulled into hers as she rocked back, bending her torso back over my knees and with an undulating thrust bringing herself back upright. The intensity in her thrusts continued until a low moan began rumbling inside of her and then she started to yell.

“Fuck me Christian! Fuck me Christian!”

Here’s the deal, somewhere in the progress of the night I had forgotten about the false identity. There I was in the midst of having one of the best sexual experiences of my life and this beautiful girl starts yelling some stranger’s name. I had a moment of shock until I remembered how we got to that point and then a lingering cognitive dissonance as the woman I was fucking was yelling someone else’s name. Then suddenly…I was ok with it.

Harley was having a good time. Dr. Christian Reynolds was having a good time and me, I was having a really good time as well. Thus all was good with the world. Harley stayed the night and when she left the next morning I briefly pondered what might happen if I told her the truth but then decided to let it go. Truth would only complicate things at this point.

Shortly thereafter I quit practicing medicine and went into fields less likely to get me laid. I’m sure somewhere my imaginary mother was very disappointed.

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.

she never even called me by name

One thing I came to regret early on in my friendship with Ike was telling him where I worked. You can’t really not tell your friends what you do for a living but I had a naive hope that he wouldn’t be interested in the physical location of my office. I was completely wrong about that and most of my fears were justified the first time he stopped by unannounced. I’ll touch on that another time as there are some details that still have to be suppressed until the next court date.

Being friends with Ike meant that I became aware of all kinds of little holidays and celebratory events that the majority of humanity seemed to ignore. Any obscure festive occasion from around the world was on Ike’s radar. He believed life itself was a celebration and these little holidays merely set the tone for what to what wear and what to drink. One day last summer he showed up at my office in the middle of the day with two straw cowboy hats, one atop his head and the other clutched in his right hand. His shaggy blond hair was sticking out from underneath the hat and he had it pulled down low over his eyes so that you mostly just saw his perpetual shit-eating grin glaring out at you.

I had a decent vantage out the window from my desk and so I knew he was coming before he actually entered the building. The kid needed his own theme music to follow him around all the time. He couldn’t just open the goddamn door but had to burst through it, strutting forward with the kind of confidence that made lesser men uneasy. He was blissfully unaware of terms such as ‘inside voice’ and so he bellowed out greetings that shook the eardrums of anyone around. He was inexorably linked to me and was viewed as mine, almost like a pet but often viewed as my mess or my curse. However, a lot of people in my office loved him. He was unique. Cindy, the gal who ran our front desk, was nuts for the guy. She lit up like a Christmas morning being shared by a family that actually loved one another every time Ike came bounding through the door. That day was no different. She would have given up anything, including her job, to have had the chance to go out with Ike and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I had strictly forbidden him from making a play on any woman in the office. He was enough of a disaster in the making at any given moment that I had to draw lines and contain him somehow, minimizing his impact on my life.

Yeah, it sounds kind of harsh and like I have suddenly decided to become an old fuddy duddy but really – Ike’s capacity to fully fuck things up was enormous. Even in my messed up world, I had to make rules. He still loved to chat Cindy up though. He was at her desk in his cowboy hat, charming the skirt off of her while I waited to find out exactly what was going on. It wasn’t hard for me to gather that the other cowboy hat was likely meant for me. He had a fondness for cowboy hats but I was guessing these hats had a specific purpose. I thought of googling ‘cowboy holidays’ before he made his way over, just so I would have an idea of what he had in mind, but decided to let it go. Whatever the reason for the hats, I would know as soon as he got Cindy all nice and juicy and then realized he’d better stop the flirting unless he wanted to piss me off. I’m not a violent man but I did slug Ike once, sending him sprawling to the ground, and we’re both well aware of the fact that I would do it again.

He made two more stops before finding me at my desk.

“Greetings sport – guess what today is?”

“It’s Friday Ike – beyond that I’m guessing somewhere in the world it’s straw hat day.”

“Ha, no sport – that would be a stupid fucking holiday. Today is Pioneer Day in Utah. Actually, it’s tomorrow but they celebrate today so I got us a few hats and Cliff is waiting in the car. Let’s go celebrate the pioneering spirit of those brave Americans who crossed the continent in search of a better way of life.”

My mind starts doing the math – it’s a Friday in the middle of the summer. Half of my office is out which means there is more work to do but they won’t notice if I get it done today or tomorrow. A cold beer was sounding good, even if I had to wear a lame ass hat. Don’t kid yourself, Ike wasn’t uptight about too many things but he was a stickler for holiday details. If it’s Pioneer Day, you damned sure better be wearing the appropriate attire. I was actually lucky he stopped at the hat and wasn’t requiring a full get up. For St. Paddy’s day we were dressed like leprechauns, with fake beards and green knickers. Ike claims he was excommunicated for his Easter outfit a few years back. Despite his hyperbole, I can see how some people might get miffed at seeing a drunk and bloody Jesus stumbling from bar to bar.

I do one more quick look around the office. Most of the people who can see me from their desk are gone, either for vacation or taking a long lunch. It’s decided – we’re a go!

“Ok, I’m in. Give me the fucking hat. You talked Cliff into this as well?”

“Yup and he’s wearing a hat. He might also already be a little tipsy as I bribed him with a with small Macallan 12.”

“Even still – getting him to wear a hat. Impressive.”

“And…I also told him we would start at Hooters.”

Is it contradictory that I will go out of my way to watch Hooter’s waitresses ride a mechanical bull but have a slight aversion to eating at their establishment? Yes, and I own up to it. Look, there are beautiful women who make the decision to walk around scantily clad in rather bad outfits and serve buffalo wings and in theory that’s pretty fantastic but the actual place feels kind of pathetic. I would rather be at a strip club, which I also try to avoid by the way, paying too much for drinks and being molested by women who wear perfume that smells like cookies and dressed like extras in a Motley Crue video. However, I would never say that aloud to either Cliff or Ike, else we’d be at Silver Reign, assuming they didn’t still have a security photo of Cliff on the wall due to the time he sprinted out the door, leaving a $700 tab and a very angry stripper in his wake.

Cliff loves strip clubs and places like Hooters. He knows there is no way in hell he will ever take one of these girls home with him or even get a phone number but that doesn’t stop him from emptying out his wallet every time. Actually, of all the people to go to Hooter’s with, Cliff would be my first choice since he is so truly happy there. It’s beautiful to see a person who is genuinely happy.

“Okay, then Hooter’s it is.”

Ike had his Cayenne parked behind my office. He was a trust fund kid but he lived a pretty bohemian existence except for his ride. That was the area in which he chose to go all in. It was a nice ride and he fearlessly parked it in some of the seediest parts of town as he went about his adventures. Cliff was sitting in the front seat and waved a little 50ml bottle of Macallan at me that had been drained. Ike wasn’t kidding about ‘small.’ Cliff had his hat in his lap but it matched both mine and Ike’s. We were headed out to celebrate Pioneer Day. As usual, I had no idea how this outing would end up.

It’s a short drive from my office to the third street promenade where we could find the closest Hooters. The place was a giant outdoor mall / tourist trap bedazzled with street performers and places to get ice cream, soft pretzels and cotton candy while milling about the overpriced stores. There are a few good restaurants and bars around and as far as I know this is the only Hooters on the west side of LA.

It’s kind of a small space with a big oval bar in the middle set up to serve both sides and with an awkward patio wedged against the street. Cliff guided us to a table just inside the door. I felt like the thing to do was remove my hat but that would defeat the purpose. Pioneers didn’t have time for social propriety. Our waitress came over, a dishwater blond with streaks of black highlights and a little too much make-up. Even from beneath the weird color of her nylons her legs displayed the rocking credentials of a twenty-something who likes to exercise and maybe gets in some kettle bell sessions on the beach. She was attractive but a little trashy – and that is sort of the Hooters mantra. She introduced herself as Harley.

There was a quick exchange of looks around the table when she introduced herself. I wasn’t entirely convinced it was her name and neither was Ike apparently. Cliff was still looking at her legs and so the exchange was just between me and Ike. He immediately pounced on the moment to introduce us as well.

“Harley – that’s a beautiful name. As in the bike?”

“Motorcycle, like the motorcycle.”

I smiled to myself. I knew where this was going. Both Ike and I have a habit of making up random shit when meeting people we think we will never run into again. It backfires from time to time but for the most part we just have fun with it. Ike pointed to Cliff and began the introductions.

“Harley, this is Emmet. He just flew in from NYC and we want to show our old friend a good time. My name is Derrick and I live around here and, you may already know this, but this other handsome fellow is Dr. Christian Reynolds, physician extraordinaire.”

Cliff spits his way into a laugh and puts his head down on his arms that are folded on the the table for a brief second. Harley doesn’t notice as she stopped doing anything other than look at me once Ike used the word ‘Dr.’

“So what are you a doctor of, Doctor Christian?”

“Please, just call me Christian. I practice…”

Suddenly Cliff pops his head up and blurts out “He’s an OB Gyn!”

That wasn’t the direction I was headed and Harley seemed a little taken back by Cliff’s interruption but I decided to run with it. You see, This kind of game was our own little form of improv and required you to think quickly on your feet and be creative.

“Well, Emmet is getting a little ahead of all of us. I am in residency here at UCLA and so I am not yet a fully practicing OB Gyn but I am working toward that goal.”

“And what made you want to practice that? Are you just obsessed with women?”

The look on her face told me she was in flux somewhere between interested and alarmed, but leaning towards interested.

“Actually, my mentor at med school – that was his specialty. I guess I was somewhat inspired by him. You don’t see as many men entering this branch of medicine any more but ever since his first lecture I was inspired. I suppose you could say that a passion for a subject matter is as contagious as any virus and so here I am years later. Of course I like women, but I chose my career based on the passion I have for the subject.”

My retort seemed to placate her more natural suspicions. As I mentioned with the South Africa tale, people tend to believe what they want.

“Very interesting Dr. Christian. You’re going to have to tell me more. Like, what’s up with the hat, doc?”

I noticed immediately she wasn’t giving up the doctor portion. Amazing how a word can affect someone.

“I will gladly tell you everything you want to know but maybe we can order a pitcher and a few dozen wings first. Then we can talk about my hat and whatever else you would like.”

She smiled a very flirtatious smile at me. Christ, doctors get a lot of pussy, especially in LA. Being an OB Gyn was going to be a little awkward but I was up for it. Harley made it seem like the challenge in getting to know her was essentially halfway home just by the way she let ‘Dr.’ affectionately fall off her tongue. She took our order and turned to walk away but stopped and turned back to me.

“I would have never pegged you for a doctor.”

Then she winked at me and I knew immediately I was well beyond halfway home.

falling into madness

Have you ever tried to do anything important while bombed out of your mind? Allow me to elaborate. I walked to the back of the boat with Biondetta’s note that I tore from her book crumpled up in my hand with the intention of discussing her dire warning with Ike. Then of course, our magical brownies kicked in with far more oomph than even the permissive medical marijuana laws of California would allow. My brain was shot out of a cannon from behind my eyes and the world rushed at me in wave after wave of sensation, from olfactory to tactile. Some drugs sneak up on you, sliding you into a careless oblivion of warm, fuzzy niceness and others wallop you upside the head. This moment was a mass explosion of synaptic firings combined with a decisive stupefaction of rational thought as my ability to articulate suffocated under the mounting influence of intoxicants being pumped through my system. That was the night my liver said, ‘Fuck it kid, you’re on your own.’

There I was with a brain boiling and bubbling in narcotics and I’m the person selected by the fates to save the universe, or least mine and Ike’s asses. My skin was tickling with electricity and my thoughts were mucked in cold cerebral molasses. I walked over to Ike and Cindy and stared at the starlight reflecting off of the pulsing Pacific, glimmering like circus lights off the passing waves. The ocean and nighttime sky were collaborating to put on an exposition of starry wonder and my intention to tell Ike that we were in grave mortal danger was slowly vanishing. We were in peril in some topsy-turvy Hitchcockian way but I no longer cared to address it. I was stoned and worse, I was rolling. In conclusion, I was now completely worthless.

I’m not sure how long I stood at the back of the boat with Ike and Cindy, staring at the water and sky around us and listening to them banter and giggle in the background. At one point I looked down at my hand and saw the crumpled paper and a few of the synapses fired, urging me to once again attempt to talk to Ike, but all that seemed too ambitious at the time. I was mesmerized by all the sensations around me. Eventually Desi came and wrapped herself around me again and this time there was no fight left in me to try to wait for Biondetta. She took my hand and took me below deck. As we began to walk toward the cabin she noticed I was still carrying the crumpled paper in my hand and asked me what it was. I told her it was nothing and threw it overboard. My concern with littering had also apparently melted away under the spell of magic brownies.

Altered states lead to lapses and perversions of time and space. Some of it moves quickly and some of it is protracted out into nanoseconds, each of which is individually wrapped and devoured slowly. Running my hand across Desi’s back, feeling her lips against mine, threatened to extend on into an eternity of soft naked moments. From the moment she was fully wrapped around me, when we were completely entwined and virtually indistinguishable, to the moment we slowly parted seemed to take days, all of which were filled with the give and take, an ebb and flow of delicate flesh against flesh. The memory now is a montage as if I had seen it in a film or read about it in a book and the only clue I have that it was me and not some character in a script is the scar from the bite mark she left on my right shoulder. In a moment of post-coital bliss I shuddered off to sleep.

When I opened my eyes the room was moving, rocking on waves but moving with my own vertigo as well. In the darkness I reached out for Desi but she was no longer in the bed. I could smell cigarette smoke though. My throat was parched and cracking and I needed some water badly. I heard a sound at the end of the bed and sat up slowly. From the darkness I could see the burning tip of a cigarette.

“Good morning sweet prince, actually it’s not morning but welcome back to the world of the awake nevertheless.”

“Captain Alvaro? What are you doing?”

I began coughing. My throat was its own Sahara and I wasn’t able to keep talking.

“Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink. Thirsty Jackson?”

I tried to say water but dry cracking was all I could come up with.

“Here my boy – drink this. It isn’t water but it will get the blood pumping.”

I took the bottle from Alvaro’s hand and drank deeply. It was rum but I didn’t care. I felt like I was on the verge of death and drank lustily from the bottle. I licked my lips and tried to focus on the captain. Once I thought I could speak, I tried again.

“Where’s Biondetta?”

Captain Alvaro laughed and it must have been a full body laugh as I could see the tip of the cigarette bouncing around.

“Surely, my boy, you mean Desi!”

“No. Where’s Biondetta?”

“Biondetta is off doing something else. She’s a fickle one and a bit of a rabble-rouser. You won’t be seeing her again. You can however see a lot of Desi if you wish. She seems to be quite fond of you.”

The captain then waited a long time, apparently for me to say something. I wasn’t offering anything up. I honestly had nothing further to say and it was slowly sinking in how weird it was that Alvaro was in the room, Desi was not and I was naked, stoned and drunk. Some things are a little too odd to miss regardless of your state.

“Well, I suppose I will go and let you sleep it off. Desi should be back soon. I just wanted to check and make sure you were still breathing.”

My eyes were adjusted to the darkness now and my vision had unblurred enough so that I could see the captain stand and walk to the door.

“Sleep Jackson. This will all make more sense in the morning.”

With that, the captain walked out and shut the door. I was still sitting up in the bed and still holding the bottle of rum. My head felt heavy and the effects of the brownies had not yet worn off. I looked around for a clock but I didn’t see one. My wristwatch wasn’t on my wrist either but I wasn’t sure I was wearing it when I came aboard. I decided to get up and find Ike. I gathered my clothes from the floor and dressed and walked out of the cabin.

The hallway leading through the boat was darker than our room had been and I paused to allow my eyes to adjust again. I had to find something besides booze to drink. Water sounded amazing but anything that wouldn’t string me out further would be a welcome libation. I just wanted to come down to the point that I could start putting my thoughts together again. I began to walk forward at a snail’s pace. Not only was the hallway dark, but the boat was rocking more with the waves. I couldn’t have walked a straight line on land at that point so I was nearly hopeless trying to navigate through the boat. The ship leaned to the right and I put my hand on the wall to balance myself. That’s when I felt someone take my other hand, accompanied by Biondetta’s voice in whisper. I could just make out her silhouette.

“Jackson, I’m getting you out of here.”

buyer’s remorse

I leaned back over the toilet, my stomach contracting with much greater force than my trainer ever got me to exert while doing crunches but there was nothing left to hurl. Five minutes retching and heaving beats a 30-minute abdominal workout. I’m surprised there isn’t already a dry-heave class somewhere in LA. The black cat next to my leg was purring. He thought we were bonding but I just didn’t want to be alone if that was to be the end, even if it meant keeling over next a cat. Brushes with mortality make people do all kinds of weird things – finding faith, cursing the world or, in my case, petting a cat.

Ok, so I exaggerated a little bit about the last coherent memory being kissing Desi. There were a string of other images tied loosely together but they all seemed like they were happening to someone else. I was gliding along as my own co-pilot.

After our second kiss, Desi replaced the soft feel of her lips with the sweet taste of a second magic brownie, which I ravenously bit it in half. Certain moments in one’s life demand moderation but others are meant to be feasted upon. Sometimes the road of excess really does lead to the palace of wisdom, or to the toilet, but William Blake never mentioned that. At that moment it made perfect sense to have another brownie, another drink, another piece of excess and see where the ride would take me.

The captain suggested we fire up the grill and we all walked to the back of the boat where there was a carefully packed ice chest with fresh halibut, mussels and shrimp. The decision was made that everyone had drank enough champagne and so we switched to white wine, a 2007 Chateau Montelena Chardonay to be precise. The day was still fairly young, the sun was still beaming down on us and I was personally locked into my own personal nirvana of intoxication.

As I mentioned, I felt like the volition in my actions was missing. The events were loosely strung together by an overriding sense that everything was going to be okay no matter what we did. I sat on the back of the boat, eating mussels and dipping bread into a broth of white wine, fennel and a little ouzo. We danced to Vampire Weekend. Wines glasses overflowed. Life was moving along as if on a conveyor belt of bliss and we were functioning behind a warm fuzzy coat of cognitive disengagement. Biondetta continued to glare at me from time to time and once when I was alone, staring off the back of the boat toward the island, she came beside me and started to say something but Captain Alvaro interrupted her. She quickly went back to her place sunning on the deck but before she did she managed to say one thing, “You should leave…”

The stupefied state under which I was operating wanted to attribute it to her ongoing bitchy behavior but even laboring under the influence of multiple intoxicants I noticed Biondetta’s tone was more pleading than derisive. But really, with all that was impacting my brain at the time, my main thought was why didn’t I make a move for Biondetta instead of scooping up the low-hanging fruit that was Desi. This isn’t meant as a slight against Desi. I am simply saying I would have preferred to have been kissing or dancing with Biondetta but because I am kind of a lazy fuck who often opts for the path most taken, Desi was my girl.

I did cast one more longing look at Biondetta’s long legs. With the aid of everything I had eaten and drank, at that moment I would have sworn she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Just like any other man, I am prone to hyperbole when drunk but even sober I would say she was at the very least stunning. She looked up and caught me drooling over her but instead of brushing me off with attitude, she pointed to the book she was reading, tapping one page in particular several times. I was on the verge of asking her what she was reading when Desi walked over to me and planted another kiss on my lips and then asked me if I’d like to go below deck.

Here is where being a pea-brained douchebag actually comes in handy. Biondetta’s recent attempts to communicate with me made me think I hadn’t yet burned my bridges with her. Perhaps there was still a possibility that the kisses after each drink would come from her delectable lips versus those of Desi?

I casually fended off Desi’s arms and body.

“Let’s wait a bit before heading below deck. Not in any kind of puritanical sense but just – let’s keep enjoying things up here. We have all night for below deck entertainment.”

“Well you shouldn’t keep a girl waiting too long.”

She gave me another deep kiss but I could see a look of frustration on her face. As a man, I am so used to being turned down for sex it hardly registers but attractive women never completely acclimate to rejection. As gender equality continues to rise, the ability to handle being rejected might be the sole domain men continue to own completely.

Desi walked back over to the Captain and I looked to Biondetta who seemed to have a smug grin on her face. Had she just witnessed the dismissal of Desi? I hoped so and I hoped it registered with her that I did it for her. This of course is the overimbibing logic that runs through my drunk brain:

“I didn’t make out with her for the umpteenth time because I really like you and if you like me too then I won’t sleep with her.”

That is a prime example of my drunk-brain logic. It’s a wonder I ever get laid.

However, as I continued to steal looks at Biondetta she was clearly pleased about something and so I went ahead and assumed it was me. One of my glances caught her pointing to the book again and tapping the page.

Captain Alvaro then announced he was going below to wash some of the dishes we had used for lunch. Biondetta immediately stood and asked if she and Desi could lend a hand. Desi’s head pivoted and her eyes shot bolts of death in Biondetta’s direction. The Captain however looked pleased that Biondetta was finally doing something besides sulking by herself and flashed another of his ‘limited time offer’ smiles.

“Why yes ladies, that would be most helpful. Jackson – will you and Ike be able to entertain yourselves with only Cindy for a few minutes?”

“Absolutely Captain. Let us know if we can help.”

“Guests do not help. Guests only enjoy.”

He then ducked below followed by Biondetta and a reluctant Desi. Biondetta had left her book sprawled open, face down where she had been sunning. Once everyone was below I walked over to the book and picked it up. She was reading Faust – not exactly leisurely vacation reading. I turned the book over and looked at the page she was tapping on earlier. Scrawled in blue ink, discreetly off to the side was this:

“You are in danger. You and Ike should leave now.”

I tore the page from the book, crumpled it up and threw it into the ocean immediately. I know – littering. I started walking up the boat toward Ike, trying to figure out how to pull him aside and talk to him without arousing Cindy’s suspicion.

That’s right about the time the second brownie kicked in.