New Years Eve
byon 01-05-2012 at 12:20 AM (136007 Views)
So I headed to the beach.
It was New Year's Eve 2011, and, according to the Mayan Calendar, the last one for all of humankind. I'm not worried, though. We survived Nostradamus' prediction for the end of the world, the Harmonic Convergence, the Rapture - even the Hale Bopp Comet. I think I can handle the Mayans.
I stopped off at Rebecca's in Clayton on the way down for a visit and a haircut. She has a precocious little girl named Brenna, who is four years old and just about the most achingly adorable creature on this planet. After yet another perfect haircut and a Christmas present of a much-needed electric trimmer I was off to my favorite dive bar in Bethany Beach.
The night before, I did some healthy damage to my liver, burned my hand trying to light Donna's birthday cake and found myself inhaling a late night breakfast at the Marsh Road Diner. All of the above contributed to me feeling like five feet, eleven inches of rotting **** behind the wheel. Each mile I drove convinced me more and more that I needed to turn back, find a cool pillow and flip it continuously for the next several days. However, when I passed the Dover Downs Monster Mile track on my right, I realized I had to be locked in. I also realized if I didn't find a bathroom I was going to piss all over myself. I set down the challenge that I was not going to do that until I reached the hotel, which was still about 90 minutes away. I had to create an unrealistic and completely idiotic self-challenge. After all, I am a man. You women would not understand.
My body was still in some state of chemical shock as I careened down Route 1, praying I lived long enough to blow past the police traps set for assholes like me. As the sun came crashing down, I hopped over the little bridge that always indicated the home stretch. Back in the day, there were two old green vans from the 1960s - or maybe 400 years earlier - planted and trimmed with tall, threatening blades of grass. One of the vans had "Loockerman" stenciled on the side so I always called it the "Loockerman Bridge." Yeah, I'm a freaking genius. Magically, the rot in my gut disappeared and was replaced with a euphoria only a man on the way to his favorite dive bar at the beach can feel. I squared my jaw, adjusted my crotch and steeled my gaze towards the next landmark.
As I crested the next bridge into the town of Rehoboth, the familiar multicolored madness of idiot drivers, artery-hardening chain restaurants and cavernous outlets snapped me from my reverie and into cutthroat buccaneer mode, flipping off nuns, sweating profusely and keeping an eagle eye out for the McDonald's on the right. For the past 20 or so years, every time I go to the beach I always get a single cheeseburger at that McDonald's. I don't remember why, but it's always been my little tradition. I even get it with the onions - and you know how much I ****ing hate onions.
I get back on the road, gloriously savoring my little cheeseburger, until I hit the next little bridge. There certainly are a lot of bridges going on here, and I left out the first and the one even further down the road. I swoop down into Dewey Beach, home of douchebag guys, slutty girls and many of the great times of my youth. But I was focused. I had no desire to slam drinks, eat fatty wings and pass out in a gutter with kids half my age. A few miles down the road, I could do that with people my own age, and that's where I was headed.
The situation was getting dire. I could actually hear my bladder let loose a blood-curdling scream as I arched over the last bridge and rocketed towards Bethany Beach. When I wheeled into the parking lot, the car had hardly come to complete stop before I raced past the bewildered desk clerk, yelping, "Where's the bathroom???" before quickly adding, "I have a reservation!" as I disappeared around the corner from the front desk. It's a good thing it was just a liquid emergency because there was no toilet paper and I wondered, almost aloud, "What the hell? What if..." I didn't dare contemplate the remainder of the question because my left eye was twitching with the satisfaction of unlading myself of whatever the hell I had drunk within the past 24 hours. I emerged from the bathroom confident and serene, but my legs were shaking like a newborn giraffe.
It was about 5pm, so it was too early to get started. I took a quick nap, ate the half of a chicken sandwich I brought with me and finally, when it hit 7 o'clock, decided to present myself to the public. The hotel was pretty much across the street from the bar, so if I got too stinky, I knew I could just walk back if necessary. I found a spot out front of the bar, opened the door, expecting all of my barfly friends to stop talking, turn to see me walking in and carry me like a college mascot to my seat at the bar.
Well, that didn't happen.
None of the regulars I knew were there. Then I remembered most of the crowd who I hung out with were in the bar and restaurant biz and they had their own fish to fry, seeing as it was New Year's Eve. Well, Martha was there, holding down a seat next to the cash register. Martha is a woman in her 60s or 70s, incredibly funny and everyone loves her. I was buttressed by two or three couples between Martha and I so I never had a chance to say hello. She up and left 10 minutes after I planted my ass on the bar stool. Randy was behind the bar, as he always is on Saturdays. On Fridays, his brother, John, tends bar there. His twin brother John. I found out the hard way after one night of heroic whiskey drinking on Friday and asking his brother the next night who the girl next to me was the night before. It actually took about five minutes of cockeyed head tilting by the both of us before another patron said, "Ah, yeah, that was John, Randy's brother. They're twins."
"Get the **** out of here."
After seeing the poker faces of everyone around me, I accepted the fact they were brothers. Oh, and I know this is lousy storytelling, but the name of the bar is Big Peaches. If you ever go down there and see me, pretend we're complete strangers. It works better that way, trust me.
One of my best buds, Jeff, was working at Mangos that night, hating the fact he couldn't be throwing back with the rest of us cretins. He's an interesting cat. He's pretty well heeled, but he has a Zonker Harris mentality and that surfer mindset. However, he is also very intelligent and can get quite pissed off when people underestimate his intellect. We became fast friends at the end of summer at Big Peaches. And speaking of fast, there's Fast Eddie. Fast Eddie is in his 50s, looks like he's ridden a lot of rough road and has a nose for being in the middle of the action, and if there is no action, he creates it himself. One can say a lot of things about Fast Eddie, but one thing you can never say is that he is boring. He's also one of the most laid back and funny people there. He's about as reliable a thing as there is at Big Peaches. When the dinner crowd left and it was just Randy and me, I asked where Eddie was. "Oh, he'll be along," he said. You can set your watch by Fast Eddie.
Jeff, Fast Eddie, Martha, Randy/John - those are pretty much the solid regulars or bartenders there. There is also Tom, Tim, Roberto, Amity, the Russian, Leni, and a whole cast of incredibly unique characters at Big Peaches. In addition to those fine people, I have never left a night there without meeting another five or more people. Bethany Beach is a very socially incestuous community. Everyone knows everyone else and their business. It also doesn't hurt that the restaurant and bar crowd, after they close at night, makes their way over to our little bar in the wall. There are always stories and lots of laughter, with Randy or John holding court. It is reminiscent of Cicely, Alaska, the fictional home of the denizens of the great television series, Northern Exposure. Everyone is accepted for who they are. These are the locals and they suffer no fools, but they at least give you a chance to prove yourself a fool first.
Just as I thought the evening was going to be one of Randy and I blankly watching whatever corporate-sponsored college football bowl game was being shown on the bar TV, in comes Fast Eddie. Before I knew it, I had a shot in front of me to accompany my third double whiskey of the night. They were going down easy - too easy, in fact. I won't bore you with how much whiskey made it into my gullet that night, but suffice to say, it was startling. A few others wandered in and the stories started flowing. I knew I had arrived as a local by proxy when I realized I was either part of the stories being bandied about or was there for a lot of them. Stories of Fast Eddie passing out in the bushes on Thanksgiving weekend (I was there for that), a local restaurant owner committing suicide recently (not there for that) and a 6'4" drummer mercilessly beating a poor kid half his size - in the same restaurant the drummer worked in, no less (missed that, too), filled the air. Apparently, this drummer rented a room to a guy, whom everyone said was really a sweet kid, but reneged on the amenities he promised. The kid owed him money, so when he walked in, the drummer stopped playing - in mid-song, no less - walked over and decked him. The police are still looking for the guy. Just another night in Bethany Beach.
Some rather well-dressed couples zipped into the bar. They said they came from Turquoise, a Greek restaurant about 50 yards away. Apparently, there was a belly dancer there. Eddie and I looked at each other, with our full glasses. I said, "Kill that, Eddie, we need to check this out." Two minutes later, we were headed towards Turquoise with another character, Darren, in tow. Darren is in his late 20s and was on the make. We missed the belly dancer, but Leni, the owner's 23-year old daughter was tending bar. She served us criminally under-priced drinks and her father brought us free onion rings and spanikopita. Man, I ****ing love this town. Fast Eddie was tangled up in conversation with four well-dressed older women who called themselves the Golden Girls. F-bombs came hurtling out of their mouths at a record pace. One of them, B.J., had a rubber cigarette lighter sleeve in the shape of an anatomically-correct naked man. She handed it to Eddie, who nudged it over to me. I elbowed it back to him, saying, "Get that out of my face, Eddie." B.J. apparently also lives in a huge house in Bethany and kept complaining about all of the "****ing copperhead snakes" she has all around her property. She's scared to death of living there. She is also desperate to fix up her daughter with any single guy in her vocal radius. I felt bad for her, so I gave her my office number while Fast Eddie and Darren meandered over to the Cottage Cafe another 50 yards in the other direction. I noticed she wrote down the wrong number on a bar coaster while we were standing outside and breathed a sigh of relief until she repeated my number aloud and realized she switched two numbers around. Damn. That's ok, I never answer my office phone anyway.
I rejoined the guys at the Cottage Cafe and made short work of another double whiskey. Darren buttonholed me and said, "Dude, you should have hooked up with her." I watched as another head sprouted from Darren's neck and looked at him thusly. I told him he must be joking, but he was dead serious. My dazed amusement was broken by a frizzy-haired blonde girl named Jill and her rather large girlfriend, also named Jill. At least, that's what I thought the first Jill said. I could hardly hear much of anything. It was crowded, loud and hot. Jill #1 kept yelling in my direction until I looked at Eddie and told him I was going to get some air. Several minutes later, he came outside, laughing.
"Goddamn, Eddie, that chick was loud. What, is she deaf or something?"
He looked at me and asked, Who? Jill? Yeah, man, she's deaf."
"Ok, I'm headed back to Peaches." He said he'd be over after the ball dropped or Dick Clark died on national television, whichever came first. I glided back to my home base and rang in the new year with Randy and some other folks I met that night, laughing the entire time. Shortly thereafter, Fast Eddie, Darren and the two Jills came bouncing into the bar. I could tell for sure that Jill was either completely deaf or mostly deaf by her speech patterns and if I didn't have many whiskeys to my credit, I would have felt bad. However, she was smashed and loud and kept poking her finger at me saying, "You think you're hot ****," or something equally hilarious. I realized my night was over. She was a cute girl, but I knew if I wanted to do anything with her I'd need to weather an entire storm of inane conversation, unpredictable behavior and perhaps physical harm, so I paid my outrageously inexpensive bar tab and found the comfort of my bed at the hotel.
I woke up the next morning feeling incredible. It stunned me. I took down the free hot breakfast the hotel offered and made my way to the boardwalk where the Hair of the Dog 10k was winding down. Honestly, what the hell were people doing running 10 kilometers the morning after New Years Eve? Then it struck me that I probably would never have encountered any of these people at any bar last night as they were prepping for a morning of unreasonable torture. I went upstairs to Mangos to watch the runners cross the finish line. I chatted with Jeff, who was handing out free beer to whomever ran the race or paid the $10 to get in (like I did). I chatted up Whitney, whom I always run into down there, and marveled at the people lurching and streaking towards the finish. The buffet was open, but I didn't want to hit it yet. Besides, I felt the athletes should have the first go at it. I turned around and the line went out the door. Jesus Christ, where did all these people come from? Everyone in line seemed to have that upper-middle income look to them. They all had flat faces, stiff lower lips and impossibly straight teeth. I'm sure half the Audis, Volvos and SUVs of the Delmarva Peninsula were parked along the avenue. There didn't seem to be many attractive people in that line at all. It's not because they were running; I can tell a pretty face even when it's pouring with sweat and knotted up in a ponytail, but this was prep school mom hell. I decided to head home.
The road back towards Dewey Beach looked like a bad day at the zoo. Animal carcasses were everywhere. I even saw a dead eagle. Seriously, I passed at least a dozen non-domestic animal bodies, squished and sprayed all over the road. Maybe the aliens came in the night. After surviving the Rehoboth Beach traffic, I was back to open road on Route 1. After about 90 minutes of driving without stop signs or red lights, I came upon a red light in Smyrna. I was going to see if Willey's Produce was open to say hello to my friend, Marie. Let me tell you something: when you are driving without stops for a long stretch of road and then finally stop, your body goes into a quivering shock once you come to a complete stop. It's as if your body is telling you, "Dude! Give me a warning or something!" I sat there, vibrating, until I could turn onto Route 13 only to find Willey's was closed. Derp.
Amazingly, I felt no effects of the prior evening's alcoholic intake. My organs had been marinating in a methylene stew which my body had effectively processed and converted into energy. I came to the conclusion that my liver could probably power the entire Eastern Seaboard after a night of serious boozing. When I finally made it back to the house, I changed and took the most beautiful nap I have ever had. I was fine the rest of the night.
The next morning, I awoke to a train wreck of a headache and my body felt like it had been stepped on by a giant foot. That's ok, because I don't have to worry about another New Years Eve like that until next year. Or maybe not, if the Mayans have anything to say about it.