“This morning I woke up from an unquiet sleep with ashtray clothes”
– Lloyd Cole, “Lost Weekend”
Like everything else in life, it all started innocently enough. Doesn’t everything, really? My friend, who also happens to double as my boss, got tickets to a Ranger game from his father-in-law. He knows I’m a Ranger junkie, and he had never been to a professional game, so we made a road trip out of it. His father-in-law also had some La Quinta benefits to cash in, so we had a hotel room about 20 minutes away from the Ballpark for free.
What could possibly go wrong?
We made the drive from Austin to Arlington, checked into the hotel, dropped off our respective backpacks, and headed to the yard after stowing a case of beer in the hotel fridge. (Minus four cans, actually.) We got there about 30 minutes before first pitch, which was perfect. We took a picture of my oldest brother’s name on the plaque there, grabbed a beer, and made our way to our seats.
Kick ass seats, by the way. Nineteen rows behind the visitor’s dugout. Check the pic.
As awesome as those seats were, it was HOT. And I just happened to have some friends at the game in a nice, air conditioned suite. These friends managed to smuggle us into said suite, and we watched the rest of the game from there. Yes, we lasted all nine innings.
My plan for after the game was to take Bear to J Gilligan’s in Arlington for beer and munchies. It was halfway between the Ballpark and our hotel, and I was really craving their Irish Nachos. (Again, see the pic by clicking the “forward” button on the previous photo because I’m too lazy to figure this crap out tonight. You’ll soon read why.)
Unfortunately, J Gilligan’s was dead that night. The neon “open” sign was lit, but the place seemed to be closed. No one was there. So I called a friend that I graduated with (and saw U2 with while in high school) to ask for suggestions. Somehow we decided that Bear and I should go to No Frills Grill off of Little Road, and that was convenient because it was about 5 minutes away from a friend’s house, and about 5 minutes away from our hotel.
Bear and I got a table on the back patio (we’re both smokers), ordered beer and appetizers, and settled in. And then we started making “friends”.
We met some artist dude named Kyle. We met the friend he was with. And then shit got weird.
Of course, by this time, my friend Jan showed up to hang out with us and Bear had migrated to another table while some dude was talking to me about his buddy who is (supposedly) related to Bob Marley. Yes, this happened. And then shit got even weirder.
“Are you laughing at me now? May I please laugh along?” – Lloyd Cole
It was around this time that someone asked me if I was “wearing a wire”. Yeah, I’m Johnny Depp in 21 Jumpstreet. Whatever. But Bear was at a different table and I was getting really odd (i.e. dangerous) vibes from the dude talking to Jan and I. It really didn’t help that the buddy of the freak show talking to me rolled up in his SUV next to the patio, eyeballing us the entire time. So I called Bear back over to our table.
Trust me when I say this: There is no one else you’d rather have on your side than Bear. He’s like the real-live version of Jason Bourne. Seriously. Honest.
The next thing I know, this once scary dude is about to piss his pants as Bear talks to him. “Yeah, I know Tino. He runs all our shit on the northside.” Yes, that happened, too. And that is when the thugs left. We closed out our tab, and Jan invited us to her house because there is no way either of us could drive. It’s good to be responsible, you guys. Power move.
We hung out in Jan’s backyard by the pool, with Bear drinking Crown and me nursing beers. Around 3:30 or 4am is when Jan drove us back to our hotel. Sadly, however, on that short drive Bear passed out in the backseat. I tried – to the best of my limited abilities at the time – to get that hulking 225lb tree trunk out of the car and up to our 5th floor room.
Wasn’t happening. His snores were more powerful than my arms.
So we went back to Jan’s house and I crashed on her couch. Bear? We left him in the car.
And the story does not end there…