stories >> 2000 - 03 - 29
Saturday morning I wake up at a hellishly early
seven o'clock in the morning. Unusual as can be for a guy like me who likes
to lay his lazy bones in bed as late as possible. You never sleep that well
after you've been out drinking and, paradoxically doing something bad for yourself
(drinking) ends up doing something for yourself (getting up early). There's
probably some lesson in life there, or maybe I'm just confusing myself.
Friday night we had consumed an unbelievable amount, and I lay there on Saturday morning thinking that I was going to have to pay the price for the night before. My watch is grimly stating that it's 6:50 in the morning, and I'm afraid to move. I'm afraid of that sneaking hangover, which is suspended just so long as you maintain a perfect balance between sleep and wakefulness, holding absolutely still with your eyes squeezed shut, praying for the sunlight to quiet down its screaming rays. I open a cautionary eye and move my head experimentally. No headache. Hmm. I shift my body a little bit, and to my surprise, there's not even a lot of trouble down in my stomach. I actually feel pretty good. I don't trust this non-hangover of mine, and I decide that I better play it safe. So I curl back into the bed and sleep a waking, dreaming sleep for the next hour and a half.
I dream about that the doctor's appointment I've just had was moved from Austin to Manitoba, Canada, and that I'm extremely chapped at the doctor for pulling such a fool move.
I dream of all my old college roommates sequentially as the come and go from my current apartment.
I have an unconscionably dirty dream about someone I know.
I dream that the sun is coming through the windows just like it really is, and I dream that I'm laying in my bed, wrapped up snug and warm, just like I really am. I dream that Spinks is crouching at the foot of my bed and talking to me, telling me that the party is going to be happening today and that I've got a lot to do. He's moving to New York after all, moving in with Lauren and going back to school, and that's why he's throwing down today. He's reassuring me and patting the foot of the bed, looking out the window at the cars below, and as I wake up the dream is seamlessly replaced by the real sun and my real bed.
Dream Spinks was right: this is a big day.
I accept that the hangover just isn't happening
and I get out of bed. I shake myself like the big, hairy dog that I am and I
pull on my Motorola running stuff. The Capitol 10K is just a week away and I've
sort of continued my running group on into this new race. We're supposed to
meet, just like always, down by the lake at 10:00 and put in our four miles.
I still can't believe how untainted I am by our last night's efforts, so I brush
my teeth with caution, drink a few glasses of water, and poke about in the bathroom
for fifteen minutes. I fill up the Camelbak with water and get into my clothes,
stretching my arms over my head wondering at my good luck.
Clear, clear Austin weather as I lock up my apartment and head out to the truck. I'm glad to be running instead of biking today, since wrestling the bike around with my gimpy shoulder has been a trial for the past month or two. I slide behind the wheel easy in body and conscience. I've been practicing on starting the truck (ask me sometime about how embarassing this was), so it turns over on the very first time and I'm rolling down to the lake and to Runtex to meet my people.
I love Runtex. I love Paul Carrozza. If he was a woman and single, I'd sell everything I own to marry him. Runtex is such a happy haven of running. Whenever you come down to the store, there are always some running nerds noodling around, stretching or swapping stories and cooling off from their runs. He keeps a permanent supply of port-a-potties behind the place so you can relieve yourself right before the run, and there's always a spare parking space to squeeze into. Runtex is one of those places that I love to patronize: you feel like here's some dude who loves to run, and he set up a place to help feed his obsession, and nothing is going to stoke him more than if you come along for the run. And it's just sitting there waiting for you, not overtly in your face with a lot of aerobic guilt. There's not a lot of "no pain, no gain" hardcore crap; there is alot of my current favorite Runtex t-shirt: "Run hard, live easy." Or the old sign they'd put up on Sundays: "Runtex is closed on Sundays... so go run."
I just got distracted reading the Daily Word on the Runtex website. Paul Carrozza is one of those guys that I hope I can be like when I grow up.
I'm down at the 'Tex at 9:50 and I pop inside
to pick up a few registration forms for upcoming races. I get back outside and
start stretching a bit just in time to see Lisa pull up in her Honda. She honks
and rolls down the window, asking me what's up. She's been talking to Michelle
and apparently the night took a stronger toll on her than on me. Lisa isn't
sure if Michelle is going to make it out. I laugh and tell Lisa that since she's
here we've already doubled last week's turnout, which was a grand total of one,
myself. She parks in one of those Runtex spaces and we pop back inside to get
her signed up for the Capitol 10K.
Waiting inside BZ and Mary show up and we shake hands, hug, and get reacquainted. BZ's moved on from the garden now, but it's nice to see him. This running thing is working out really well. It's great to have a semi-regular, non-pressure running group. I personally don't need a whole lot of motivation to get down and do a run, but it's great to see the people showing up and knowing that you're going to be bullshitting for the next hour, maybe picking up some breakfast, maybe making some plans for later on that night. A much different vibe than my usual hour of penance on the trail.
Lisa's signed up and we head on over to our normal starting spot. We run into Michelle on the way over and make noises of appropriate surprise and approbation that she's made it out. It's just a little bit warm, maybe 80, but there's a little bit of a breeze and the sun is dazzling off of the lake.
We stretch out and joke around. Next to my apartments they've built one of those old style circuit workout running track things, where there's about six different stations for things like pull ups, sit ups, etc. They've got a six step stretching routine listed on one of the boards so I started following it a few weeks ago. I noticed that when I do it that the plantar fascitiis doesn't give me any problems, so I figure it must be doing some good. It takes about ten minutes to run through, and everyone is teasing me about how long I'm taking. I snort back and tell them that I'll still be stretching after they get done with their first lap, because aren't they all doing eight miles today to prepare for the race?
I'm finally stretched out and we all are grumbling good naturedly about our various pains, hangovers, what not. I don't bother to time the run and just try to dial in a ten minute pace. It must be a little faster than normal because BZ, who can easily smoke me, hangs back and runs with Mary and Michelle. Lisa and I take off, but after awhile we always string out a little bit, and I'm eventually running alone. Nothing but me, my big legs, and my big thoughts.
I wait for Lisa in the shadow of the bridge
on Congress. I've heated up pretty good from the run (Lord help me when summer
really starts) and I'm starting to talk up a swim at Barton Springs. The two
of us walk back to the starting tree as Mary scoots past us with some smart
comment. We get to the tree, I get some water and by that time everyone has
regrouped. As Lisa pets some woman's dog I try to put the sell on everyone about
a swim at the Springs. Not too much success here but I give it a shot anyway.
I use my usual winning affirmative tactics ("Come on you weaklings") but no
one's buying it this morning.
We walk back to the cars, pop over to Palmer under the mistaken belief that we can pick up our race packets (actually the elementary school science fair finals are taking place, and instead of a running expo there are experiments called things like "Amazing Lizards" and "Things Grow Better With Coke [as opposed to water]"). Lisa shushes me from using foul language because of all the kids and parents around, and I laugh and tell her, "Everyone here is either older or younger than us, Lisa!"
I say goodbye to everyone as they head off, I stop by Runtex to buy one of those "Run Hard, Live Easy" shirt, and I get back into the truck. I'm heading to the Springs for my swim, but I'm going to make a stop by Austin Tricylclists, the local triathlon store. One of my rituals every spring is to buy a new pair of goggles to let myself know that training season has begun once again and it's time to put the ritual in action.
I like Tricylclists because I think it's cool that we have a triathlon store, and it's cool to see the same people that you race with running a store. But the vibe is different from Runtex, and I think it's because your average triathlete is different than you average runner. Your normal demographic is a thirty year old person with a lot of disposable income who is generally very Type A. Lots of gear, just a tiny bit of body fat, and a lot of intensity describes your average triathlete. There are not too many casual triathletes; I am a gross exception. When I show up at one of these races I probably weigh twice as much as most of them and I paid a tenth as much for my crap. So walking into Tricyclists I always feel a bit out of place. Today I walk between a couple of three percent body fat guys lounging around in lycra on one side and $4,000 triathlon bikes on the other side.
In the store, I head back to the swimming section and get myself a new pair of Racetech goggles (remember, they're for training and racing ). I toy with getting the goofy hologram goggles with the swirly patterns on them, but I figure that the novelty of these things will wear off after two swims and I'll be back buying a new pair. Instead I splurge and get the "metallized" goggles that have a shiny mirror finish. I also buy my first ever kickboard since I figure I want to be giving the shoulder a rest, despite the clean bill of health.
I purchase my stuff and the woman asks me if I need a bag. I tell her, nope, this stuff is fixing to get used in just about fifteen minutes and she asks where I'm swimming. "The Springs" I tell her, and she shivers in mock anticipation of the water. "Too cold for me!" she tells me. I smile back to her and think, "That's right you three percent body fat mother fucker." I scorn your climate control weakness.
I go back out to the truck, sneaking past the mildly disapproving eyes of the lycra boys out front, and drive over to the Springs.
I put on my new goggles, get out my new board,
and slip into the water for the first time since last October. It's as cold
as ever, though someone will tell me later tonight that the water is up to 72
degrees from the normal 68 due to our mild winter. I put the kickboard out in
front of, feeling the shoulder groan just a bit, and start kicking down to the
end of the pool
Woo, boy, this kickboard things sucks. I didn't go for the flipper bit so I'm kick along in bare feet. You crawl along miserable slow with bare feet and a kick board. Oh gosh. And it's boring. What keeps swimming interesting is that there are so many mechanics to pay attention to: body roll, your position in the water, how you're breathing, where your arms are. With the kickboard all I'm doing is kicking and sticking my head up every now and then. God. I'm hating this.
So I start trying to mix it up a little bit. I leave one arm on the kick board and stroke with the other, thinking maybe this is easier on my shoulder than doing normal strokes. The stretch of my right arm pulling back while my left arm is on the kickboard really sticks it to the shoulder, but after the first pull it's bearable. I switch arms and the shoulder again makes a few complaints but after a few more strokes it's doing okay again. I kickboard for maybe two hundred meters and by then I'm so frustrated and bored that I stick it up on the side of pool. I take the plunge and decide to swim a crawl across the short distance of the pool.
As my head goes under, all of my swimming experiences come back to me. I hear that faint sucking sound as water flows into my ears, stopping them up a little bit. I remember that you can't hear much above the water, only your quick gulp of breath, but you can hear your arms and legs churning when you're underneath. I look at the bottom of the pool and I look straight ahead, seeing the bubbles that my hands chop up as bright white lights hung in the clear blue green water. I feel the water swish over my calmly as I practice breathing in long, slow cycles. It feels so good. I how forgotten how good it feels. The shoulder's aching just a little bit, but the swim is doing so much good that I don't think that there are going to be any problems.
Out and back the short way, and I feel like I've proven my point: Big Al is back in business. I get out of the water, grab up the kick board, and head back to my towel. I stretch out for a minute and watch everyone walking by, sitting around, swimming. I've only swum for maybe ten minutes, but I've still gotten that serenity that comes to me from training. I have to run an awful long way to feel like this, and I rarely feel it all on the bike, but in the swim I get it very quickly. Maybe it's the hypoxia, maybe it's some Freudian womb regression, maybe it's the utter absorbing mindlessness of swimming, but whenever I get out of the pool I feel like everything is okay. I've literally washed all my troubles away:
Two feet on the floor
Both hands on the wheel
May the wind blow your troubles away
I shake myself out of my torpor, pick up my
stuff, and head back to the truck.
My final morning destination is, of course, Mi Madre's. After a four mile run and a quick swim I'm ready to mow down some migas without the least bit of guilt. The chi chi East Side is packed next door, but as always there's a seat at Mi Madre's. I find one of the coveted outside tables and I plop down with my copy of Tropic of Cancer. I'm digging on the Henry Miller, much more so than I thought, and the Mi Madre's folks recognize me and take care of me. I don't bother with the menu and the sneak me a few extra tortillas on the side of the migas. I sit in the half sun and half shade, still feeling serene from my swim, slowly rolling up a bite of migas with a bite of potato, a bite of beans, savoring the salsa.
Life is fine, fine as wine, life is fine.
Back home, I've showered, napped, and done
a load of laundry. It's too hot for jeans so I pull out the only pair of shorts
I have that are in reasonable condition. Khaki jobs, I joke that they're my
"frat daddy" shorts. It's going to be hot and sunny so I put on my cowboy hat
(I do live in Texas, people). The big party is rolling as I dawdle, though it's
going to be rolling far past midnight so it's not so important that I get there
right right now. My serenity has been distilled by my nap into an exuberant
well being, and I nod at the cowboy hat in the mirror with a big goofy smile.
I figure Spinks needs a going away present, and I know that he's been eyeing my Beastie Boys anthology, so I figure that'll work out just fine. I'm in my truck listening to Paul's Boutique and I'm heading over to the closest record store. I pull through the light there at 45th and Burnet and I happen to glance over at a guy waiting to make a left turn going the other way. He's got a pair of drumsticks out and is whacking away on his steering wheel, hollering along with his mouth wide open to some song I can't hear. This guy looks as happy as I feel, and I holler out the window at him and give him a thumbs up. Bravo, old boy. Good show.
I pick up Spinksy's CD, buy a new copy of Ill Communication, and head on over to Jordan's, hooting along with "Sure Shot" and making a general ass of myself.
I recall Jordan's place from Halloween last
year, but I don't remember the exact address. I remember the street, though,
and when I turn on it I see his car. I figure that he'd park close to his own
house, so I find a place for the truck and walk back towards his Nova. Sure
enough, I see Matt throwing horseshoes like the big Oklahoma goober that he
is, and I hear music from the drum set they've rented, and I think I see Spinks
kicking around in the back yard.
As I walk in I see Meryl, one of my relay people, and she's waving at me. I walk over and say, "Hey ya" and she starts telling me how she was going to come running with us this morning.
"Yah, I got up at ten and thought, 'Damn, they're already running,' so I went down there but I didn't see you guys, so I went to the half way point to see if I could catch up with you but I didn't see you there either so I just ran by myself."
I look at her and smile a little bit, "You drove out to the bridge on Mopac to see if we'd run by?"
She laughs and tells me, "Yes! BUT I DIDN'T SEE YOU GUYS!"
Good old Meryl. I can't figure this woman out.
I wander off into the party proper and find Spinks. I give him the big high five and tell him I've got something for him. I pull out the Beasties and he's stoked. "Dude, this is AWESOME!" he tells me, and then starts grabbing everyone he can and telling them, "Dude, Alan got me the Beastie Boys!" It's obvious I hit this one on the head and I feel pretty good about it. I say "Hi" to Jordan and I wander over to where Crime, BFD, and some other folks are sitting. On the way there I pass Jody and she says "hey" and yells out something about, "are you going to show off your ninjitsu again?"
Uh, oh boy. One of the many incidents from the night before was me throwing David into a table over at Mango's. To make up for it I bought a round of drinks and taught Michelle how to throw someone. She barely remembered it today but she was dropping me on my backside all Friday night after I showed her the moves. Her kung fu is strong.
Anyway, this bit of news has spread to everyone at the party, and the rest of the night folks are teasing me about my karate moves. Good Lord.
I wander back to one of the kegs and Eric and Cortney, of salsa fame, are camped out and making a good showing of things. Sweitz wanders by for a little homoerotic banter. I see Jonas and give him the high five, and everything feels good in the world.
I drink a beer or two, go back over to bullshit with Jody, and then lay down and put my cowboy hat over my face. One of Spinks' friends is yapping away on the guitar, doing some Pink Floyd covers and what not, and I'm thinking that it's time for a little more shut eye. I snooze a little bit , getting hotter and hotter in the sun, until someone comes over and pops my hat off my head. I squint against the sun and Kim's sitting next to me, asking the question that everyone asks when they wake someone up, "Are you sleeping?"
I put my sunglasses back on and talk to Kim about dancing, laying out, taking vacation, and other lazy warm afternoon things. She's wanting to work on her tan a little and she's brought a whole bag of "laying out" gear. One of the things she has is a "spritzer," which is a little spray bottle that you, uh, spritz yourself with.
"I've never heard of such a thing," I tell her.
"Come on, you've seen these, Alan."
"Well, sure, when people are watering their plants, but never when they're watering themselves."
Jody sees the spritzer though and is immediately enamored. "What a great idea!" she says, immediately appropriating it. "I'm going to put some ice in this thing and it's going to be great." So I watch her go over to a keg, put some ice in the bottle, and come back and start spraying all of the women with it. They're all shouting with how great it is, and I'm thinking, "What a bunch of crazy chicks."
Then Jody comes over to me and offers me a spritz. "Take your sun glasses off and I'll do your face." Sure, whatever. I close my eyes and that ice cold spritz water hits my sun baking face with a sizzle.
It was awesome. I start shouting about how great this spritz thing is. Jody grins knowingly and sprays down my arms, legs, and chest. I repent my earlier suspicions.
Meryl's back, and she says, "oh yah, a spritzer" (one of these mysterious girl initiation things, I guess). We bullshit a little more, Meryl leaves to go watch basketball, Kim gets up to go somewhere, and I wander off to get a beer and something to eat.
I find Jordan and we're talking about how the day has been going. He tells me that the party has been rolling since eleven in the morning and that already, here at five o'clock, the cops have been by twice. As he talks, I take another long look at how things are laid out. Lined up on the back porch is the drumset and an even dozen guitars. One keg is conveniently located next to the improvised stage. Next to that keg is a table of food and a grill cooking away, and next to that is another keg. On the other side of the yard from the grill is the Kim Isom spritzing station. A little further back is a table with an umbrella with a third keg, and back where Jordan and I are we have an awning/tent contrivance set up to provide shade for ourselves and the final keg. Jordan and I are lounging on some mismatched chairs while he lays out the plans for the rest of the day: get everyone fed, try to keep the neighbors calm, perhaps take up a collection for the tickets he anticipates getting for disturbing the peace, and loading up another keg or two around eleven if things so warrant.
I've already got the feed out of the way (with some asparagus/basil thing that's unbelievably good), so I tell Jordan about my day. When I tell him about the Springs, he says, "Man, that sounds great to me." I stop and look at him, and I say, "Well, do you want to go?"
So as quick as that, Jordan and I are hopping out of the party and back into the Padre, roping down Mopac, blasting Ill Communication, and heading for the Springs for the second time today.
Once we're there, we find out that the side
we've parked on has already shut the gate. I tell Jordan that we can hike over
to the Zilker side or we can hit "the white trash run off," the free and dog
infested area just downcreek from the pool. Jordan's cool with that, so we get
on down past the dogs to that old dilapidated boat ramp. Jordan strips down
to his shorts while I try to change into a swimsuit with a towel wrapped around
me. I still don't have this trick down, and I end up with only my package covered
and my big white butt hanging out for everyone to check out. Ah well. I do manage
to get my trunks on with some dignity, though backwards, but it's way too late
to worry about that and I jump in after Jordan.
The water feels as good as it always does though it's quite a bit different down here than up in the pool. There's a lot more algae and such floating in the creek down here, and we're disturbing a flock of geese that inhabit this part of the creek. Some guys on the boat ramp are throwing a stick to their dog and she keeps swimming past us and sniffing us as she goes by. I start to stroke down the river and Jordan and I are laughing because we feel so good. We swim past the place where people rent canoes, and everyone's looking at the two crazy bastards splashing around in the water where everyone else is paddling. I ask Jordan if he wants to swim down the creek to the Barton Springs bridge and we put in a few minutes of serious swimming.
But hey, who wants to be serious. It looks like someone is fishing under the bridge so we pull up well short, crouching down in the chest deep water so that we're floating with our feet just barely touching the bottom. We look back up the creek and see the trees leaning over the green water and the pale peach evening sky. The geese are swimming around and honking in a somewhat insulted manner, and everyone is bringing back their canoes before it gets dark. You can hear the folks calling to each other, tired and happy, and there's just a tiny bit of breeze pulling Jordan's hair around his ears. Neck deep in the creek and drunk on the water, Jordan, another old Austinite, turns to me and says, "This is what makes Austin such a great city."
We turn back to the boat ramp and I try racing a few of the canoes. They easily beat me, but I get a stoke just from trying, and by the time we're out of the water we're both feeling great. I surprise Jordan with an extra dry towel I've stashed for him and my serene feeling from earlier in the day has come back once again. We stop to watch some frisbee dogs on the way back to the truck, and when we finally get going and we're heading back up Mopac, I start laughing just for the sheer hell of it.
Back at Jordan's and the party landscape has
not changed significantly. I drop Jordan off at the house and see Jen drive
up. She's worked up a pretty good sun burn today and her skin is about as red
as her hair. I walk her back into the party and I change back into my frat daddy
clothes. Back out by the keg and I take a pull of beer and babble to anyone
who'll listen how great our trip down to the Springs has been. Everyone's nodding
in approval, but they're also giving me that look like I might be just a mite
crazy. Yep, I just could be.
A few people come, a few people go. Shannon shows up, Lisa shows up, Sweitz goes off for a nap. Michelle shows up and we talk a little bit. Genevieve comes by and I give her a hug, which unfortunately squeezes her new tattoo and she lets out a little yelp. I watch the sun go down as the Pink Floyd boy launches into a rendition of "Jane Says" and no one can quite remember all the words. Jordan saves things with a rousing round of "Gin and Juice", a la Gourds style, and then Sweitz wakes up and comes out to play "Rivers of Babylon." I don't know the words to this one, and you remember how I am, if I don't know the words I'm not interested. I'm wandering back inside the house now with some vague idea of using the bathroom.
I see Jody inside on the couch and I sit down next to her. As I turn to her, I see Spinks walk up with someone in tow. She waves at me and says, "Remember me from salsa dancing?" Oh, yes I do, I remember that this woman went dancing with us and is Lauren's best friend down here in Austin. I remember her, but I don't remember her name. I am completely clueless about her name, and she knows it. She's looking at me expectantly, with laughing eyes, and I'm kind of stammering trying to hide my ignorance. Brian gives a nudge and a whisper, which she of course sees, and I finally blurt out, "Marcy!"
She laughs and reintroduces me to her friend that came with us to Miguel's, and Good Lord, but I can't remember her name either. I decide to guess. "Uh... Stephanie?" I ask, like a complete dork. She starts laughing too, though, and tells me, "No, Megan," and I'm feeling like a total zero. Luckily the Road Gods take a quick little bit of pity on me as Marcy turns to me, still smiling, and says, "What do you know - Stephanie just happens to be my real name."
Whew. Social disaster avoided, or at least navigated, or least borne with dignity, Marcy, Megan, and Spinks all whip off to another room.
I beat it back aside for another beer and to find Crime. Earlier in the day we had made some plans to grab a bite to eat as the night wore on. I'm feeling a little hungry after the swim, so I want to go now. I find him and Michelle back out by one of the kegs, and I mention that it's time to get some grub. As we're talking one of Spinks' 19 year old friends, who is too drunk to stand up at this late hour of 7:30, has managed to wrestle himself up one of those Freebird's Burritos. Crime sees him holding onto the giant burrito and says, "Mmmm... burrito...."
We round up Michelle, Jen, and Shannon and head out to the Padre for a quick ride down the block to the burrito place. Once we're all ensconced inside, I throw on my cowboy hat and jam up the Beastie Boys. I love showing off this thumping bass. When I bought the truck from Spinks, I thought the giant subwoofer was the dumbest thing possible. Then I started liking it. Now I catch myself thinking things like, "Hmm, I wonder how much it would cost to get this mid-range bumped up a little bit."
We zoom over to the burrito place, rolling back and forth into each other as I take the turns too fast, and letting the bass thump all over our bodies. We luck into the choice spot out front and I tell Crime that I've only got three bucks on me. He smiles at me and says, "Who's your daddy?"
Freebirds, for those who have never gone, is a slacker's dream. They server giant, and I do mean giant, burritos and you can get them for pretty cheap. The sizes are "Regular," "Monster," and "Super Monster" but they are all grossly mis- and undernamed. The Regular rolls up to a tube the size of two soup caps stacked on end. The Monster is unbelievably larger. I've never seen anyone actually order a Super Monster.
We stand in the quickly moving line and I check out the trying-to-be-hip décor. It works out okay: the Harley coming through the ceiling with the Statue of Liberty (holding a burrito, natch) is kind of cool; the six foot tall "FREEBIRDS" written on the wall and ice machine is kind of cool; the rotating, laser taped, giant "F" on the ceiling is kind of cool. We quickly move up to the front of the line and some eighteen year old kid takes my order. His name tag says "Joonyah" on it and, even though I think it's a goofy damn nickname, he turns out to be pretty cool. He rolls me up a burrito, throws in the garlic for free, dumps just the right amount of habanero on the thing, and sends me down to the cash register where Crime and Michelle are waiting for me. Crime's bought me a coke, what do you know, so I won't have to choke down this burrito in capsaicin induced misery.
I'm gnawing at my burrito, gasping between the peppers and the "barbecue sauce" that's really the habanero sauce, and I look over and I see Kate and Tiffany, aka Tugboat, have come into the burrito stand. As we make greeting noises, they wave at us and promise that they will come and sit down with us. My nose is starting to run from how hot I've made this burrito (why the hell do I do this to myself?) and I'm daintily blowing it when they show up.
The first thing out of Tugboat's mouth when she sits down is, "You were the one who spelled out K HO at our party." Ah yes. Something I had forgotten about. A few months ago the two girls had thrown a party, and one of the things they had was a hundred or so tea lights. I thought that I would spell out "Kate," or "Hoedebecke," with them, but I ran out pretty quickly and ended up with "K HO." Kind of like that scene in Fandandgo when they wanted to spell out "Stop" but spelled "Go." Oh yeah, then Tiffany asked me not to light them, so I did. I can be one hilarious son of a gun.
I also remember from that party that they had Captain Crunch laid out as one of the party snacks. I also remember that Tiffany, who teaches Spanish for a living, was annoyed at me for my abuse of the language (or maybe she was just irritated by the "K HO" thing, hmmm). I also remember that when we were leaving she was getting awfully friendly with one of her party guests.
"That guy? I gave him the boot!" she tells me cheerfully.
"Really? You're pretty cold, woman."
"No, I just gave him the boot last week. He had come down from Chicago to see me that weekend."
"Ah, " I say and grin wickedly, "that makes sense. You surely didn't look like you were giving him the boot that night."
Tugboat seems to be getting over this booted guy pretty quick, and she tells us that she has got some new guy lined up that she met the night before. Sometimes women really do have it easier than men. As my man Adam said, "Guys just don't have this kind of turnaround."
By this time everyone's macked down their food and we're itching to get back to the party. We say goodbye to Kate and Tiffany and bump back out to the truck. On the way back to party Crime wants to hear the intro to "Heartattack Man," which goes something like this:
<strumming on the guitar>
Here's a little diddley...
...about a guy we call the Heartattack Man. Now my man...
...now my man weighs in pretty hefty. He's weighing in...
<other voice> how much does he weigh in at?
<gasping for air from laughing> he looks like that guy on the hefty bag commercial...
we listen to this over and over on the two
minute drive back to the party. I do an execrable job of parking, but by now
no one gives a rat's butt, and we head back inside.
Like the song says, "people light up as the
lights go down," and the party has accelerated with the waning of the day. The
tiki torches are burning now and the party has doubled in size since we left.
I find an open spot down next to Kim and some younger fella named Kevin that
I had met earlier in the day. He's talking to someone, maybe Jordan, about David
Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, which I've never read. I get sucked into
the conversation and he starts telling me about The Outsider by Richard
Wright, which I've not only never read but I've never even heard of it. According
to Kevin, and according to Amazon, it's a book about existential angst. Kevin's
a smart guy; I like him; and I start to lay into what I perceive as the weaknesses
of the existentialists. I start tooting the Camus horn, especially my favorites
The Plague and The Myth of Sysiphus. I really start to shoot my
mouth off about what a coward Sartre was and what a stud Camus is. After I run
out of steam on this, which of course takes awhile, he asks what I'm reading
right now and I tell him I going through Tropic of Cancer again. He's
read Plexus but no other Henry Miller. We compare notes on Nabakov and
he starts to wander off into the realm of movies. I confess my utter ignorance
of movies (I can't remember actors' names for the life of me) and I get distracted
as Sweitz rolls up and starts making a bunch of noise. Turns out he and Kevin
know each other from way back when. Kevin eventually gets up and I squat down
into the ridiculously low lawn chair that he's vacated.
Ah... now I can stretch. Michelle comes over and sits by me for awhile, and as we're talking I feel a bump on my shoulder and it's BZ there with Mary. Hey ya, hey ya, my peeps. He gets down and we start jabbering about the party and what we've been doing all day. As we talk Hamlin has shown back in with his possee. Meryl comes over to say "Hi." I try to give her the Jordan style finger hook hand shake and it nearly knocks the poor girl off her feet. I'm a little embarrassed but I quickly recover because Kristin has suddenly appeared with a bottle of tequila. She suggests taking a shot so I pretend that I'm nineteen again and tip the bottle back for a long, hot slug. Ugh. Too many bad memories have been wrapped up in even worse tequila and I don't have much desire to bring them back tonight. I put the bottle down, get out of the chair after a few attempts, and go off to find something to cool off the tequila burn.
I find Jason Huang, and he's wearing a cool set of Hawaiian, rosary looking beads. He's just gotten back from the islands where his sister got married. He's acting a little jumpy, and finally he blurts out, "I feel like I should apologize to you." What the heck are you talking about, my man? Jason has had a dream, one of those damn work dreams, where I had done something to really piss him off. He couldn't remember what it was but he remembers being really angry at me in the dream. I don't know what he did to me in that dream of his, but he's feeling a little awkward about it now. I tell him not to worry, all his bad karma has been erased in my opinion, and we can get on with life and the party.
Jason reassured I wander off for that beer I was wanting. I see Ramona and Stephen standing around and I give them an enthusiastic "hey ya!" Stephen's all pumped up about kempo these days so we shoot the crap about martial arts for awhile. I tell him about TKD and studying under Master Blankenship and he tells me about his kempo sifu. We talk about kata and he asks me if I still do them anymore. "Nope, " I tell him, but I think about it and say, "but I'm never going to forget some of those." Old Master Pliska used to say you had to do a form 10,000 times before you remembered it, and I can still recall a few of those that we did over and over. Rob, tell them now, how we'd go out to Mount Bonnell at dawn, or down to Zilker at sunset, or out there at Clark Field in the middle of the night, and we'd practice poomse, up the field, down the field, eyes closed, legs only, hands only, backwards, hands over our ears. A few nights after this party I'll sit in bed and remember my favorite form of all time, palgye oh chang. Funny how you can miss something like that.
But at the party I'm not feeling too unduly sentimental, and Pam's found us with her husband, who looks like Nicholas Cage. He and I start talking and Heather finds us with her husband or boyfriend or whatever, who looks like a giant buff David Bowie. He's something like 6 foot four, blonde hair, and skinny but substantial. We talk about swimming and he tells me a story about swimming in the Pacific just south of San Francisco, where two Weimaraners nearly caught him and drowned him because he looked too much like a seal. I told him that I had read the same thing about swimming in the Bay, that you need to wear funky colored wet suits so that the sharks don't mistake you for sealions.
As Stewart continues on, I see that Sweitz is holding court next to me to an enthralled, or at least stunned, group. I lean over and ask him if the Sweitz show is still running to a general laugh among the group. "It's always running, baby!" he shouts at me, and then thrusts his emtpy cup at me. "Go get me a beer." I hold my half filled cup over for a few seconds, slowly tilting it and looking him in the eye. He just stares back so I go ahead and splash him. "Damn, I didn't think you'd do it. Let me see that." Sure, I say, and he proceeds to splash me back. Whatever. I pour the rest of the cup down his front and sit down. Sweitz takes it all pretty well and finally gets up to get himself a beer. I decide I should move out of the way just in case he comes back looking for revenge.
I see Matt, talking to Bradley, and I get involved somehow into yet another swimming discussion. Hamlin has some sort of swimming past, and Bradley is a past captain of the swim team, and they're both making noise about how they'd love to go swim. Looking back, I'm not sure how I got so involved in all this swimming talk, but it's starting to wear thin on me. I promise to send Bradley an email about swimming when I get home, though of course I'll send it to the wrong address. It's also starting to get late, and that "time to go home switch" has gotten thrown.
It's 2:20 in the morning now. I start saying my goodbyes, moving past all of the people I know and getting one last quick word: I assure Jason that we're cool, Meryl wants to know about the race, Bradley still wants to swim in the morning. I go through this as quickly and thoroughly as I always do, and I turn and head for the front door. I see Sweitz talking to Marcy and I stop by for the high five. He's not wearing a shirt and I kid him about it, and he smiles back and says something about "if someone hadn't of poured beer on me, you SOB..." Sweitz starts in on his usual line and asks me if I'm going home with him tonight. Marcy wraps her arms around me and goofs back, telling him, "No way, kid, Al Grande is por mio esta noche." I put my arms around her and I squint my eyes into what I imagine is a Ricardo Montalban look. I start trying to tell Sweitz that I've got Marcy's name tattoed on my chest: "Su nombre esta escribido por el piel del pecho" or some such crap. I don't think anyone understands, least of all me, and I squint some more at Sweitz with my arms still around Marcy. They're both laughing, and then she's talking to me again, reaffirming that we're all going out on Thursday night for salsa. I turn to her and try to pay attention but I'm distracted by trying to count the rings in her ear. I can smell the cigarette she's been smoking coming off of her skin and I'm wondering how her hair doesn't get caught in the big silver hoop earring. Spinks told me earlier that she's some sort of hardcore offroad cyclist and I'm wondering why she doesn't have more scars on her like I do. My mind's wandered off a million miles now and I know it's time to go home. I give her a goodbye squeeze and Sweitz a high five.
My last stop is the same as the first stop and when I find him Spinks is up on the stage. I give him a hug and a slap on the back and we promise to see each other on Thursday night. "You have to send the email getting people to go, my man!" he yells at me as the thick of the crowd drags him away. I tell him that I will, and I look for the door.