I first produced my pistol, then produced my rapier

Another St. Patrick’s day rolls around.

Saturday, around 10 AM, and we’re in Lilley’s bomb shelter playing beirut. Four white dudes and one tall, tall Indian. Mahesh stoops over to keep from smacking his head on the low rafters, being very careful about how he celebrates victory, lest he knock himself unconscious on those unforgiving goddamn 4×8’s. The rest of us leap around, jeering and high-fiving every shot, and all poor Mahesh can do is clap and smile his huge, nervous grin.

There are some strange housing situations in San Francisco, people living in old bank vaults and garages and storage containers and shit, but Lilley’s got one of the weirdest. Five minutes out from the mansions of Washington Heights, you find yourself in the middle of a full-blown eucalyptus forest, right where you’d least expect it. Short rows of huddled, two-story bungalows, all painted identical shades of beige and red. Half-ton iron doors set just outside the foundations lead to reinforced bunkers underneath the spartan homes. Old military buildings are hardly a rarity in SF; you drive around long enough, look in the right places, and you’ll see all kinds of batteries and silos and shit. You forget, living here now, that there was a big chunk of time when San Franciscans expected enemy ships to come sweeping in under the Golden Gate, guns blazing. The Cold War was a big deal in these parts. The whole western half of the city was built during these manic, paranoid years. For decades, officers’ families huddled in these basements with their canned goods and their various supplies during nuclear drills, listening to air raid sirens and clinging to each other. They knew the End was coming, it was just a matter of time.

Now the bunkers are filled with mountain bikes and Maytag washers. And giant bins full of empty Coors Light cans. A pinball machine or two. This one is at least.

There’s something disconcerting, something creepy about Eric’s place. We live in a City, not a Forest. End of story. All these fucking trees, all this quiet, it weirds me out. There’s nothing inherently malevolent about the woods, or about the city itself, it just seems freaky when you see them bound up in such unholy union. I hate the sound the wind makes out there. This town is no place for a wilderness.

Furthermore, people who live in the forests of SF should have tracks in their arm and untreated syphilis, not ping-pong tables and barbecues.

“Where were you last night, man?”
“Fucking work.”
“All night?”
“Til 1 AM, man.”
“You worked till 1, Trevor?! Shit I didn’t even think you had a job.”
“I know, right? Who knew?” I say. A ball drops into my cup. “Mahesh, fuck. Are you fucking kidding man? How do you keep making those shots? Telekinetic bastard.”
“He’s got Indian voodoo.”

Mahesh shrugs and grins his bigass grin. Motherfucker deceives you with his quiet demeanor and endearing accent. Mr. Oh No I Never Played Beirut Before, shit, don’t believe it. He can put a ping-pong ball in a Solo cup at thirty yards, blindfolded with a ten knot headwind. Bet they call him The Sniper back home. Fucking sleeper. We have to keep rotating him amongst the teams, so people don’t start blacking out.

He’s loving it, too. Smiling like the Natives invited him home to their special ceremony, sharing a secret and cherished part of their culture. Like he’s gotten a rare glimpse into our exotic ways. Insofar as the four of us have a culture, though, I guess this is it; playing drinking games all morning in a goddamn basement, and listening to the Pogues.

Ah, Saint Patrick’s Day.

Needless to say, we were all shortly blitzed.

———

Things were getting frantic out in the forest by one or so. We’d drunk the minifridge dry and folks were getting restless, angry. Some dude named Mike had turned the hose on the neighbors’ yapping shih-tzus, and they (the neighbors, not the shih-tzus) made a lot of noise about calling the cops. Bottles were broken and words were exchanged. Meanwhile, I was out in the trees with Eric’s nine-iron, looking for deer. I’ll kill one and we can cook it, I explained. For lunch.

Somebody’s cousin or something showed up with a truck and drove us back over to my place, the closest parking to Civic Center. The eleven of us weaseled it into my narrow ass garage, a feat, and we headed downtown.

Alcorn and I, who had spent the lion’s share of the time competing against Mahesh the fucking Invincible, were barely conscious. He slumped against every telephone pole we passed, and after having failed to bag a deer in Eric’s yard, I decided we must stop for pizza.

I’m not sure if we did or not. I think so. Memory fails.

I woke up six hours later under my kitchen table, missing a contact lense and both my socks. Alcorn was nowhere to be found. It was pitch dark.

———-

I ended up over in the Marina, back on Alcorn’s couch. Nick was there with Grace, sober and evil as hell. My hangover was in full effect by 10pm. People were texting, the phone was ringing, but fuck if I was getting off that couch come hell or high water. I turned the phone off. Other than going to the bathroom to puke, I don’t think I moved for about five hours.

Alcorn was in a bad way too, looking like hammered shit, and Nick kept yelling and hassling us, dancing around like a weirdo. I felt like I got hit with a grand piano, and all he can do is holler and spray Guinness at me. Fuck sober people.

We played wii for a couple hours, in relative silence. I had a hard time focusing on the screen; the brightness hurt my eyes. I think I’m getting too old for this shit.

Grace was passed out on the couch behind Nick, her arm elbow-deep in a bag of chips. God knows if she had anything to drink or not. There was a little hill of crumbs on the front of her Cal sweatshirt. I swear that girl weighs 96 pounds despite a diet of nothing but Ranch Doritos, Kettle Korn, and cheap wine. The human body amazes me.

We (humans) can’t figure out how to recycle things like styrofoam and circuitry, but our bodies can turn shit like Fiery Hot Cheetos and Funyuns into muscle, bone, sinew… fucking crazy.

This is the kind of shit I think about, you know, when I lay slumped against Grace and Alcorn’s toilet. I watch the ants wander by, picking their way through the contact cases and spattered toothpaste, and concern myself with the subtler miracles of the world. Meanwhile my Bud-drenched brain tries in vain to escape forcibly through my ears, and I heave until my abs give out.

Such is life.

I made it home around two, my body in a state of complete confusion. You can hardly blame it; pounding headache, taste of bile, extreme vertigo… all signs point to Sunday morning. My internal clock, scrambled by my mid-afternoon blackout, was convinced it was the Morning After. Thus denied sleep, I stayed up til sunrise listening to NPR, watching the room spin, and writing more Six Word Memoirs to trade with Jolene.

There comes a time, around four am on a Sunday, when you’re listening to Rick Moranis talk about his new country music album and the sheer, all-consuming strangeness of the universe hits you like a shotgun blast.

You step back and you think, I’m really listening to Rick Moranis sing country songs about the FBI on NPR. These events are really occurring.

It boggles the fucking mind.

-T.

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