“Here,” says Nate, “drink this.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a cheeseburger.”
“It looks like a beer. Shitty too, from the smell of it. And what the fuck is that red thing floating at the bottom of it?”
“It’s a cherry; a cherry and a lemon.”
“What kind of mad combination is that to put in a beer?”
“Just drink your beer normally. When you get to the last gulp, I swear to God, it’ll taste like a cheeseburger.”
“I don’t think it works at sea level, but I think we’ve got enough altitude here,” Henry offers. Shak looks suspicious. I’m confused.
“I’m confused,” I say.
Nate nods. “Drink.”
I drink. I chug a bit at first, looking at his pale face turned golden through the horrible bite back of Pabst on tap. God, I needed this. And this shitty, well-lit and mostly empty Portland bar was the place to do it.
I pause about halfway through. “Last gulp, huh?”
“I’m telling you, man. A goddamn cheeseburger. You’ll see.”
Dammit. As if things weren’t weird enough lately. 4 months into my European stint I hadn’t seen as much as a hair toss in any bar in Amsterdam. No drugs to speak of, just loads and loads of lonely whiskey, vodka and pea soup and to boot, a rigorous exercise schedule that had put my gut at sophomore year levels. Sophomore year in high school. Without sounding like a narcissistic bastard, can I say a thing like that? What can a thing like that even mean?
Then suddenly a trip to Spain and Morocco explodes right in my face and it earns more than its fair share of hookups and romances, none of them expected and all of them exciting and forbidden by rules left unwritten in all but the most distant and turbid corners. Friends suddenly came to visit and the craziness started.
“How’s the pot here, man?” Dave asks me.
“I don’t know man, I don’t smoke,” I told him.
“Why not?” he asked. A fair question, especially here.
“Just haven’t.” I said. I don’t like fair questions.
“Never even been curious?”
“Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be gay?” I asked him.
“You insensitive fuck, I AM gay!” He retored. Oops.
“Fine, fine, whatever,” I said. “Have you ever wondered what it’s like not to be gay?”
“Fair question.” He said, and thought about it. “Yeah.”
“Have you tried it?”
“How do you know wouldn’t like it?”
“And what if I did like it?”
“Exactly.” I said, winning the debate.
“What about shrooms?” Brooke offered. “No wait, shrooms won’t work for you.”
“What? Why not?” I asked.
“You’re a shitty drunk, Bird. You talk too goddamn much,” she said. Which was true.
“I usually do anyway.”
“Yeah,” Brooke responded, “but when you’re drunk and someone mentions their weed is from Oregon the first thing you say is, ‘oh, like Ken Kesey,’ and then you launch into romancing the American Northwest and things like hunting wild mushrooms and logging…you weirdo.”
“So what?” I asked.
“Bird, who the fuck besides you, Trevor and Nate even knows WHO Ken Kesey is? And of those who know – who cares? And what kind of shit-faced book junkie would even bring up Ken Kesey at a time like that?”
“So what’s this got to do with doing shrooms?” I asked her.
“Well…you’re also too self-confident with your talents, and possessive too. I’m just saying that, on shrooms, some people light fires, some see the Earth breathe and some people jump off balconies. You’d probably behave like Jack Kerouac and go rummaging through old stacks of paper looking for a long enough scroll to write enough crap on to last you your entire high. And while no one could even read it, you’d claim it a masterpiece until you woke up 2 days later in the Van Gogh Museum.”
“No, you can’t do shrooms,” Dave agreed.
“What’s left?” I asked.
“C’mon,” Dave said. “I saw sign back there that said they served Absinthe.”
“Guys, wait,” I said. “This is the kind of talk that is going to lead to a series of events that will end up with one of us in a Belgian prison while the other one lies dead or worse on the frozen deck of a tourist boat in Budapest.” I know it sounds bad, but I was right, dammit. I know about these things. But that’s another story.
In any case, the friends came and went. Other business trips came and went too and were well enjoyed. All of them yielded much craziness, tempestuous women on the margins of the civilized world and fast shots lit on fire, some of which were absinthe. And I was right.
And _ye gods – n_one of it was a good idea.
But who cares? These are the years for miscreant behavior of this kind, and I’ll be damned if the wild animals of Amsterdam OR Portland were going to stop our golden youthful age. Not these horsemen, sister. A mini-fridge full of fireworks, a perfect mountain covered in fresh snow, a cold city filled with meth freaks and vegan law students and enough scotch and bourbon to wreck a pack of camels, we did the New Year thing right.
Just ask T.
In any case, last year started off like a god-damned… what did I call it? Like a god-damned Dear Abby column. That is NO way to start off a year. Years must be started off with epic tales of surviving deathly hangovers in Oregonian forests of gleaming beauty, with explosions of childish glee, with drunken hordes and merry times, and with friends yelling, “SHIT, NATE SHOT A BOTTLE ROCKET UP MY SHIRT” while their girlfriends stare at them and me with abject terror and utter disbelief.
That’s how this year started, my friends. What could go wrong?
_My girl left me sober
I don’t know what to do
I turn the bourbon upside down
but she’s across the ocean blue_
_These are my At-a-lantic Blues…
Oh Lord, my At-a-lantic Blues…_
_I call her: trans-atlantic
Confusing dusk with dawn
We talk for 20 minutes sexy,
But now my minutes are all gone_
_I’ve got the At-a-lantic Blues…
Yeeaaah, the At-a-lantic Blues…_
_The problem’s geographic,
And understood by few,
I don’t know how I’m gonna solve it,
But I’ll just keep playin’ ‘till I do_
_To fight the At-a-lantic Blues…
Hoooaaaah, the At-a-lantic Blues…_