He was the Hunter S. Thompson of our group...if Hunter never wrote a damn word of note but still rode life on the ragged edge. I was in my early 20's and busy clutching at some kind of success while partying it up with a rag tag group of my closest friends. This guy though, the brother on one of those friends, was the easiest going nomad/thief/slacker/druggie...and he was a damn good time. This is a man that strolled down St. Charles, drunk as hell at Mardi gras, yapping at the camera while semi-discreetly blowing chunks in the debutants yards only to reload with a lukewarm can of Red Dog beer moments later. Rinse and repeat for the rest of the walk to the French Quarter.
I digress however, as I will address how this man lived in another entry, The Wayne Years. This story is about how his life was remembered and, selfishly, about me and the possibility that imbibing in one spirit could cause an individual and even an entire evening to be possessed by another spirit all together.
Today, I couldn’t tell you who made the phone call. But there it was, our friend had overdosed and passed away. As the story goes, he left this world on a bench, by a river as the sun rose; I could imagine a less picturesque way to go. As the news spread all the local friends knew what had to be done. It was time to gather, revel in past tales and drink.
9.9 times out of 10 we sit at the bar at Bosco’s but because of the large turnout we had to sit at a big round table at the front of the restaurant so that we could all interact. This was already a risky proposition as we would be within earshot of most of the patrons and it didn’t take a fortune teller to know that things could get loud and vulgar quickly. On a normal weeknight you could find anyone at Bosco’s, from families with children of all ages to the local mayor to millionaires to local hipsters. In other words, plenty of people to offend, and we knew it.
Surprisingly the evening started innocently but then, as everyone loosened up with a couple beers, E broke out a bottle of Big House red wine. All were in agreement that this was beyond appropriate because the label depicted a little stick figure escaping from jail. The decision was also unanimous that the most appropriate way to drink the bottle was to sip and pass it around until it was gone. Drink we did and by the 3rd pass around the table…it was awful. I can only compare it to drinking a vile grappa but with alcohol content so low that nothing could hide how funky sock like it tasted. We finished the bottle and went back to our beers but our lowbrow drinking style did not go unnoticed by our server.
Here is where being known as a regular helps: the waitress brought her concern to the manager that we were drinking out of a bottle and clearly we weren’t planning on paying corkage either. The manager looked over and told her not to worry, deadpanning “They’re fine.” Clearly, the booze gods were on our side so far.
Now, depending on the type of place you drink in, the next thing to happen could be considered a boon or a bust to the evening: A storm caused the power to go out. Everyone had paid their tab and we were en route to the bar to continue drinking but there was no beer to be had as the registers were down – bust. As we’re standing at the end of the bar, right in front of the beer taps the most obvious solution to our empty glass situation was illuminated. Me, being one to throw myself at most opportunities, hit one of the taps and poured a handful of beer while quickly flipping the tap off and sipping down the beer. No one noticed or I didn’t see anyone notice so it was time to be more bold and pour a glass. As I did this, the bartender turned around. It was dark, in hind sight I know he was still too far away to see/hear the tap flowing but instead of flipping it off and acting normal, I hid behind the bar and didn’t flip the damn tap off. My friends, being good friends, didn’t bother to do anything and just stood around. I jumped up and flipped the tap off but the gig was up, I was busted.
The bartender, who knew us very well, took one look at the situation and calmly said, “You can leave right now, all of you.” I was devastated. I had never been 86’ed in my life, much less form my favorite bar but as we walked outside, I was met by smiles. In that moment, my friends recognized that the most appropriate thing for the evening had just happened. They even joked that I was channeling our deceased friend and that he had caused the power to go out. I’m not a religious individual but the coincidences were at least amusing and if there is an afterlife perhaps he was sending us a message that our seats would be kept, warm.
Epilogue: 2 weeks later, I went back and apologized for my behavior. All was forgiven and the incident was never spoken of again between me and the staff. As I thought about that night later in life, I came to the conclusion that if I spend that amount of time in one place, maybe I should be kicked out once in a while. The grass may look greener on the other side but the liquor is just as brown but every now and then, we have to look and make sure, even if we have to be thrown over the fence to taste it.
"Drink through it." - Myself and countless others