Friday, September 23, 2011

Category Five Hurricane

When I regained consciousness, I was curled up in the corner of an upward-bound elevator in the Orlando Sheraton.

The year was 1985. I was in college.

Our jazz ensemble traveled from Southern California to Orlando to participate in the Walt Disney World Jazz Festival. Now, you’ve all probably heard the stereotype that band members are geeks, dorks, and various types of goobers. This, of course, is a stereotype and as is the case with most stereotypes, it’s absolutely true. Most of us were nineteen or twenty years old, so we were still a year or so away from being of legal drinking age.

In California.

In the great state of Florida, however, the legal drinking age was twenty, a detail that did not escape our attention. The first night,we were sitting around in the hotel room, plotting the evening’s activities. When you’re underage, opportunities for obtaining alcohol are somewhat limited, and you get used to bumming booze off the older siblings of your party buds, or bribing someone of age to make a beer run. With our new found freedom, though, it was much simpler.

“Hey, let’s go down to the hotel bar and get hammered!” suggested Alex.

Alex Harrison was a trombone player, and I mean that in the nicest sense of the term. He was about six-two, and vaguely resembled Frankenstein. He was the kind of guy who would do anything for a laugh, even if he were the butt of the joke, which he often was. Alex owned a gold Volkswagen Beetle with a sunroof. Just for shits and giggles, he’d open the sunroof, pop his head out, and drive around like that. It was hilarious, as well as ridiculously stupid.

We hooked up with two more guys, Ralph and John, piled into the elevator and headed down to the Zanzibar Lounge. The hostess seated us at a table in the back, and we perused the drink menu. Gator Wizz. The Swamp Bomb. The Barracuda.

“Hey, check out this one,” said John, pointing at the drink menu. He was the lead trumpet player, incredibly arrogant, and among the four of us, had the most experience with alcohol. None of it good, but experience nonetheless. “The Category Five Hurricane. This looks pretty potent.”

The Category Five Hurricane, Zanzibar’s specialty, consisted of three kinds of fruit juice, rum, vodka, peach Schnapp’s, a shot of grenadine, and if I’m not mistaken, turpentine and nitroglycerin. The menu was not particularly specific.

Up to this point in our young, foolish lives, most of our drinking experience was with beer, and we all knew (more or less) what our personal limits were. For example, I knew that three beers gave me a nice buzz, while five had me doing the Technicolor yawn on someone’s carpet. Through an unforgivable oversight, the Zanzibar Lounge did not provide a beer-to-Category Five Hurricane conversion chart, but as it turns out, Budweiser and Hurricane do not have a one-to-one correspondence. It’s more like a one to a very tiny sip correspondence.

We did not know this at the time.

“You fellas gonna trah the Hurry-kine?” drawled the waitress. According to her gold name badge, she was Amanda. A bit on the pudgy side, not spectacular looking, but nothing you’d throw a bag over, either. Let’s call her a soft six on the one-to-ten scale.

“Yep,” said John. “A round of Category Five Hurricanes please, Amanda. We’re ready to party!”

A couple minutes later, Amanda brought out the hooch, and we were in absolute fucking awe. Though it wasn’t made clear by the picture on the menu, the Category Five Hurricane is served in a glass that’s approximately the size of the Stanley Cup.

Oh, were they tasty. Peach, orange, lime, just a hint of turpentine. We blew through the first round of Hurricanes like Anna Nicole at a Viagra convention.

“Okay, the next round’s on me,” said Ralph, although it came out more like, “Oh, kay. Zhuh neft rowd’s agh meh.” Ralph was a throwback to the 1950’s. Leather jacket, slicked back hair that he was always combing. He was a neo-Fonzie, if Fonzie played the tenor saxophone, wore an earring, and had an acne problem.

Amanda carted out the next round, and we dived back in.“Mebbe we orta get zub food zo we don’ get too wayshted,” suggested John, as he stared into his drink.

“Good thinkin’,” mumbled Alex. “Don’ wanna ged sick er shumfin.”

We ordered some hot wings, onion rings, potato skins, and the seafood platter. And, of course, another round of Hurricanes.

By this time, things were getting a little fuzzy. Okay, a lot fuzzy. We knew we had to get up early in the morning for our performance at the Tomorrowland Terrace, so we didn’t want to do something irresponsible like staying up too late.

“You boys ready fer one mo-ah round?” purred Amanda. Over the last half hour or so, she’d somehow gone from a six to a solid eight, and rising.

“Who’sh gudda buy duh nesht round?” asked Alex.

Ralph passed out face first in a plate of fried clams and cocktail sauce. We took that as a signal that the next round was on him.

By the time we polished off the last our Hurricanes, it was approaching one o’clock in the morning.

“Grf bulla frubba gut googa,” suggested John.

"Waff stroffa," replied Alex. "Bub dubba burble gorp."

“Merf,” I added, reluctantly. “Blubba gunk friff brap.”

Ralph said nothing. He was still asleep in his seafood platter.

We paid the check, which was astronomical, tipped the waitress, splashed some water on Ralph's face to revive him (somewhat) and stood up.

Have you ever been really, really hammered? Not tipsy, not buzzed, hell, not even merely drunk. I mean blurry vision, room spinning, jelly-legged, I-can’t-feel-my-fucking-face blasted. That kind of covers our state of being as we attempted to navigate our way out of the Zanzibar Lounge.

"Oh, Earl, look at those boys," said some blue-haired old bat. "That's just embarrassing."

"Forrrrk Yoooooou," mumbled John, drawing a shocked gasp from Gramma Moses.

We somehow made it to the elevator and headed up to our rooms. The sudden movement made me even dizzier than I already was, so I sat down in the corner and stared at the ceiling. It seemed to be melting.

The next thing I knew, I was in the elevator by myself. Nauseous. With a screaming headache. I stared at my watch and waited for it to come into focus.

Five o’clock AM. Those fuckers had abandoned me.

We were all supposed to be in the lobby at eight, so we could go over to Disney World and be ready to perform by eleven. I got off the elevator at the eleventh floor and stumbled to my room. When I opened the door, I noticed an unusual smell. Vomit, mixed with the unmistakable scent of fruit juice and cocktail sauce. I went into the bathroom, and there was Ralph, asleep with his head resting on the toilet seat.

Ralph had ralphed everywhere. The shower curtain. The bath tub. The sink. It looked like “The Exorcist Meets Psycho”.

I kicked him in the ribs to wake him up.

“Fuuuuuuuuuuucccckkkkkk,” he mumbled.

“Yeah, I know, me too. Let’s clean this shit up.”

We did the best we could. When the bathroom was passable (to us) we took turns showering and got about an hour of sleep. We got ready and barely made it to the lobby on time. John and Alex were asleep on one of the lobby couches. Everyone else was milling around, chipper as can be, ready for an exciting day in the Magic Kingdom.

As we dragged ourselves onto the bus, the band director noticed our condition.

“What the hell happened to you guys?” he asked. “You look like you’ve been hit by a tornado.”

He was pretty close. Actually, it was a series of Category Five Hurricanes.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Talk is Jeep

If anyone ever asks you for the price of stupidity, the answer is this:

$161.24 plus tax and labor.

I'll explain how I arrived at this figure in just a little while but to fully understand the situation, we must start at the beginning.

Not Theresa's truck, but it makes the point better.
About a year or so ago, Theresa's truck, a Ford F-150, decided that it no longer wanted to remain operational.  I would go into more detail about this, but after the McRib fiasco, I sort of promised Theresa that I'd stop writing things that she might find embarrassing, no matter how true or utterly hilarious they were.  So we're going to leave it at, "the truck broke."

Anyway, instead of rushing into a new vehicle, Theresa decided to save up for something really nice and in the meantime we'd just make do with the cars we had.

The plan worked perfectly, and just last weekend, we went out car shopping.

Smart Car, aka truck without the bed.
Theresa's first instinct was to buy a new truck.  She liked the look, and after all, trucks are rugged.  The problem is, we don't really need a truck.  For years, back when the F-150 was running, I thought that she had far more vehicle than she really needed.  The cab was a little crowded, and we hardly ever used the truckish features, which basically transformed the F-150 into a gas-guzzling Smart Car.

Ironically, right after her truck shuffled off the mortal coil, we moved into a new house.  How convenient it would've been to have a truck to help carry our belongings across town.  Also, for the past year, we've been landscaping our back yard with decorative rock.  We probably could've carried 20-30 bags at a time in a sturdy vehicle such as, I don't know, a Ford pickup, but we no longer had one.  Do you know how many bags of rock you can carry in the trunk of a 2008 Chrysler Sebring?


To sum up, when we had a truck we didn't need it, and when we needed it we didn't have it.  And now that we'd finished everything we could possibly need a truck for, Theresa decided to go a different direction.

So we looked at Jeeps.  Some with four doors, some with two.  Some were used and some were new.  Jeeps in red and tan and blue.  We think Jeeps are cool, do you?

Sorry about that, kind of got lost on Mulberry Street for a minute.

After a bit of Jeep-browsing, Theresa decided on a four-door silver Wrangler Sport with a removable roof, outstanding stereo system including XM radio, lots of bells and whistles.  In fact, it was only lacking in one feature.

This particular Jeep did not have automatic locks and windows.

To most people, this wouldn't be much of a sticking point.  Sure, it's a little inconvenient to actually use a key to unlock your doors, and manually rolling windows down is primitive to the point of absurdity, but still.  It was a pretty cool Jeep, so you'd think these minor details could be overlooked.

And you, my friend, would be very, very wrong.

Theresa wasn't having any of it.

Theresa: Is there any way we could get the automatic windows installed?

Salesman: Sure, it usually runs an extra fifteen hundred dollars.  We could build that into your deal.

Me: For five hundred, you can poke me on the shoulder and I'll roll the window down for you.

Theresa (ignoring me): Do you have any Jeeps with automatic windows and locks?

Salesman: Of course.

So we looked at some more Jeeps.  None of which were even remotely close to our price range.  But they did have automatic windows and locks.  And leather interior, GPS systems, stuff like that.

Back in the negotiating room, the salesman had met our requirement for the monthly payments on the original, prehistoric, non-automatic window Jeep.

Salesman: So we're back to the windows and locks.

Me: Theresa.  This is an awesome deal.  We can live with the windows and locks.

Theresa: Who's side are you on here, anyway?

Me: Yours.  I want you to have the car you want.

Theresa: I don't want to feel like I'm settling, though, this is still a lot of money.

Salesman: Okay, what if I could get your locks and windows installed for this same price?

Theresa (pauses . . . looks at me . . . then back at the salesman): Then we would have a deal.

And with that, Theresa got exactly what she wanted.  She deserved it.

All of which brings us back to the price of stupidity.

At our house, we have a two car garage which, up to this point, has been a one-car-and-a-whole-lot-of-other-crap garage.  Not wanting to park her new Jeep in the driveway, where it could be defiled by lawn sprinklers, low-flying birds, or neighbors who have limited control of what their lawnmowers run over and send flying all the hell over the neighborhood (I'm looking at YOU, Walt from Next Door), Theresa suggested that we organize the garage to make room for both of our vehicles.

So we did.

The next morning, I started backing ever-so-slowly out of the garage.  This was a dangerous task for two reasons:

1. I'm not real good at driving in reverse.
2. It was six in the morning and I was really Goddamn tired.

I carefully looked over my right shoulder, because the last thing I wanted to do was to scrape, bump, or smash the Jeep.  As I inched my way backward, out of the corner of my ear I heard a loud crunch, which sounded an awful lot like a driver's side mirror getting ripped off by the door frame of a garage.

Which, coincidentally, is precisely what it was.

$161.24 is what a side view mirror for a 2008 Chrysler Sebring costs.

As I said earlier, plus tax and labor.



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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cowardly Consumption

I was at the Outback Steakhouse the other night, enjoying a delicious filet of salmon when an interesting question occurred to me.

"How did mankind decide which animals we would use as our primary food sources?"

Why, for example, do we eat cows, but not horses?  Why pigs, but not raccoons?  Why chickens, but not yellow-billed cotinga?  Have you ever TRIED yellow-billed cotinga?  For all we know, they're absolutely scrumptious.

After giving the matter some thought, because I obviously have too much spare time, I've reached an iron-clad and irrefutable conclusion:

Human beings are lazy and stupid, so we'll only eat slow, ugly animals and birds that can't fly.

Before everyone starts screaming at me, I do realize that some people eat deer (cute and quick) and duck (they fly), but you're not going to be able to get McVenison or a Jumbo Quack down at the local fast food chain any time soon.  Our major staples are beef, pork, chicken, and turkey.  Animals we can easily catch and that won't put up much of a fight.  You don't "hunt" cows, you round 'em up and slaughter 'em.  You don't go on a turkey "hunt", you go on a turkey "shoot," as in, "There he is, Rufus, plug 'im!"

Speaking of hunting, where do we get off calling that a "sport," anyway?  Let's look at deer hunting.  Now, I've got nothing against hunting per se, if you want to take your rifle and blow Bambi's head off, that's your business.  But when your opponent's entire defensive arsenal is "run like hell," that's more or less a mismatch.  Oh, it might LOOK like a sport, but it's like entering sprinter Usain Bolt in the Special Olympics -- and I'm going to end the analogy right there before it gets completely out of hand.  

You want to make hunting a sport?  Try hunting tigers with a Swiss Army knife or going after mountain lions with a billy club.  Give the animals a fighting chance.  Hell, that's a sport I'd shell out a few bucks for on pay-per-view.

Which brings us back to why we eat the slow, ugly, and flightless.  We're wimps.  We're not going to try to mass produce lion meat, because there's a pretty decent chance that we'll be the ones that get consumed in the process.  Maybe barbecued lion ribs would be out of this world, but it's just not worth the risk.  So we go after cows and pigs.  They're slow, ugly, and non-threatening just like the Cincinnati Bengals.  

The Double-Double says "Moo."
Don't misunderstand, I'm not complaining about this.  I love steak and chicken, and I eat them as often as possible, just like the good Lord intended. I know the whackos at PETA get all out of joint with the "God's creatures are not food" argument, but as far as I'm concerned, if God didn't intend for us to chow down on chicken, He wouldn't have created Colonel Sanders.  I'm no theologian, but I've never heard scripture quoted to the effect of "thou shalt not partake of In-N-Out Double-Doubles."  In fact, the only clear statement God has ever made on what we should and shouldn't eat has to do with FRUIT.  The first time someone ate an apple, boom, humanity was screwed for all eternity.  And yet the produce section remains well-stocked.  Plus, I think the book of Timothy says that everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if you put catsup on it.  Or something like that.

So anyway, just out of morbid curiosity and the desire to see a rifle-totin' redneck get mauled to death, here's what I'm suggesting.  Let's expand our food choices.  For every deer that a hunter shoots, he must also attempt to bag three other "non-traditional" sources of meat.  Take out a ten-point buck, you gotta go after a tiger, a polar bear, and a pit-full of angry cobras.  If we're given a wider variety of food choices, we might finally be able to answer the one question that's been puzzling mankind for centuries:

Does yellow-billed continga really taste like chicken?


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