Azas vermelhas

Where the hell was I?

New Year’s Eve.

Portland is a strange and wild town. The population, at least in our beloved demographic, is about 75% male. I’ve never seen such a knobfarm in my life. Packs of tattooed beardos ride rampant through the streets on direct-drive bikes called ‘fixies’. No doubt driven mad by that terrible combination of plentiful alcohol and scarce women, they roam the neighborhoods shrieking and howling, looking for Californians to scalp.

“There are two keys to getting laid in Portland:” Nate confided, “Go vegetarian and ride a fixie.”

“The only thing I like more than eating meat is driving.” I replied.

“Well then you’re shit out of luck. Unless you go to law school. That works too.”

Why anyone would ever ride a god damn direct drive bike is completely beyond me. They’re on par with those giant-wheeled monstrosities you see in reprinted French advertisements from the turn of the century, as far as efficiency goes. No brakes. No coasting. No gears.

No way, son.

I thought SF was the most freakishly bike-obsessed city in the West; many are the times I’ve wished painful and slow deaths on the goofy, feebleminded hordes of Critical fucking Mass. Portland’s got us beat, though, in their weird bike fanaticism. Beat handily.

They also have this… thing… with miniature plastic horses. Apparently there’s some cult that puts out these tiny plastic horses in random places throughout the city, attaching them to huge iron brackets sunk in to the sidewalk. Idols to some lesser forest god, no doubt. I can just see it: a whole mob of these pagan freaks, dressed in black robes, dancing around a huge bonfire out in the woods before cruising off into the night on their little bikes to distribute miniature plastic horses to the farthest corners of the Portland metropolitan area.

Weird bastards.

————

We regrouped at Nate’s place to start the pre-bar drinking. White Russians and scotch straight up, telling dirty jokes in Portuguese and trying to figure out a plan for the rest of the evening.

The last night of 2007 and things were bound to get out of hand. We were all strangely quiet while we waited for the girls to get ready, drinking steadily and speaking only in hushed tones. Steeling ourselves for the night ahead.

9:00 PM

We arrived at a place called Calypso, a quiet corner joint near Nate’s. We stormed in, ordering six pitchers and four bottles of wine in the first three minutes. As a test of man(and woman)hood, we ordered a plate of Devil’s Balls, some kind of hateful fried habanero… things.

Mistake.

Ten minutes later, our kindly waitress was bringing us cup after cup of melted vanilla icecream, the only thing that seems to ease the agony. Paulo and Cass were dry heaving in the back of the bar while I chewed an entire pack of Trident.

Things went downhill from there.

10:30

Shak’s left us for another table and is busy chatting up a very visibly pregnant lady. I look over at him, bleary eyed, and he gives me a wink and a thumbs up. Fucking weirdo.

Cass and Henry are up dancing, the only people in the place, and I’m playing Dunk the Duchess with Nate and our terrible, terrible DJ, a late-forties black guy named Raymond.

“Ray, buddy, do you have any Tower of Power?”

“No man no. I don’t know their work. You don’t like Madonna? Everyone likes Madonna.”

He was playing terrible, random funk, R&B, and pop. Bobby Brown and Bel Biv DeVoe and The B-52’s, all mixed together in the most abrasive and inept fashion. Even when he’d play good songs, which was rare, he’d move in and out of them so jarringly that the entire effect was ruined. It was like taking a bite out of a delicious sandwich and finding a gangrenous thumb in it. He was good people, though, and that goes a long way in life.

“Ray it’s your turn.”

Ray poured a little beer in to the floating tumbler, the Duchess, while Nate and I kicked furiously at the table legs. I think one of the reasons Nate and I get along so well is that we’re both more than willing to cheat at anything, remorselessly.

“You sunk your battleship, Raysauce. Drink up.”

The record began skipping and Ray leaped up from our table, spilling his beer and dashing for his Technics.

“Man he fuckin’ sucks.”
“Yeah. I just don’t have the heart to tell him.”
“Yep.”

Shak came back with a plate full of raw oysters and Ouzo shots, celebrating a valiant if unsuccessful attempt with the prego.

It was just that kind of night.

11:55

Nate and Sara, wasted beyond all hope, slip out the back and go home. The rest of us head to another bar, this one full of chain-smoking hags and bald bikers.

A 6’7” lumberjack with an eyepatch checks my ID at the door, giving me a hard, hateful, cyclopean stare when he sees my state of origin.

“What are we doing here, dude.” I ask of no one in particular.

“These are the kind of people we were warned about. They’ll hear my California accent and take us all out back and beat us to death with chains and garbage cans. That’s how these people operate. They’d love a nice murder to ring in the new year.”

“Who are you talking to?” Cass asks me as she hands me another shot of Jim Beam.

“It’s not important. Don’t you worry. When you see them come for me, you just run for the exit. Don’t look back, no matter what. You and Henry go have some beautiful kids and name one after me.”

“Sara was right, you are weird.”

“Cheers to that, sister.”

————

Back at the pad, we get into some serious fireworks. Shooting bottlerockets at each other and at other drunken pedestrians, a huge cloud of smoke begins to build around the house. A neighbor, some bug-eyed shitheel named Dawn or something, brings down a box of mortars, which we detonate with childlike glee, deafening ourselves and terrifying the locals. Nate manages to jam a Black Cat down the front of my coat, blasting a huge, black hole in my nicest shirt. It would have cost me a nipple if I hadn’t had thirteen layers on in defense against the cold.

“I’m gonna throw a half stick of dynamite into your bed at sunrise tomorrow morning. My vengeance will be terrible and swift, you shit!” I shout before falling over the deck railing and into the ivy below.

“Long live the Entropeneurs!” Somebody yells.

Howling and explosions and the sound of hundred thousand Oregonians cheering the stroke of midnight is the last thing I hear before I pass out in the frozen mud.

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