The Journey of Papi McGill, formerly Macho {R.I.P.}

April 30, 2010

“Drinking alcohol does not actually “kill” brain cells. …but it damages the dendrites, the branched ends of nerve cells that bring messages into the brain cell causing damage to the way the cells in the brain communicate. Luckily the damage is largely reversible and not permanent. However years of alcohol abuse can cause serious neurological damage…”
from this website.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the room, first of all. In the beginning, I didn’t like him. In the beginning of their relationship, that is. Like most of the other people I haven’t liked in my life–which is most other people–my closet full of suitcases tends to get in the way of anything likable about someone else. I don’t know whether or not I made it clear that I didn’t like him; I don’t remember doing anything, other than rolling my eyes, which I do about 99% of the time, so surely he didn’t know the gesture was toward him. In fact, my mother and he were so utterly happy, they didn’t know the world still existed, which is exactly how true love should be, which is exactly why I rolled my eyes for much longer than a 20-something “adult” child should have. It just so happened that I was in a relationship where I wished the world I was living in didn’t exist, a possibility I contemplated often, when not rolling my eyes at others who were perfectly happy.

In a way, this led to me liking him, by which I mean Trusting him. On the day I needed help loading up my stuff, he showed up with an empty jeep, ready and willing. I was sitting on the stoop, sulking. If I ever neededed to talk to anyone, he was there for me, he said, because he loved me. I know, I replied, because I did know; I believed him. After that, I had a hard time remembering why it was I hadn’t liked him.

But all of this–the “not” liking–was after the night we met. {and…SCENE}

A mom & her daughter, who look more like sisters, walk into T.G.I. Fridays in North Little Rock, Arkansas. They choose the same stools they’ve sat on for the past 4 nights. A few of the regulars nod, and the bartender starts pouring their drinks: Sex on the Beach for the older one; Lynchburg Lemonade for the younger one. They accept their trivia controllers and begin to login, eager for this round to be over so they can join in. “Don’t let me drink more than five,” lemonade says to beach. “Five’s my limit.” This is their life, if only for a couple more days, when the daughter will fly back to San Francisco to resume her normal life.

What they don’t know is that this night won’t be like any other night. This is the night they’ll meet Macho.

I don’t remember where he came from, or whether he was there when we got there. But I do remember noticing him–a young guy, probably about my age, already drunk at–how late could it have been–6? or 7?? Probably more like 5:30.

“Another Killer Kool-Aid for Macho!” he yells. The bar erupts in approval. The girls look at at him, then at each other. How long will it take before he’s hit on one of them? In the past few days, the mother has gotten asked out by pretty much every man who’s bought her a drink, including the married ones, leaving the daughter time to focus on her mission of kicking some trivia ass and drinking every man who flirts with her under the bar.

Before either of them can say, “I’ll have another,” Macho is sitting next to them.

At what point did my mom stop seeing the world around her? The way the story’s told, it happened in an instant. One minute they were exchanging pleasantries, and the next they were engaged. Even if I had been sober enough to know what was happening, I wouldn’t have believed it.

“I’m gonna marry this lady!” Macho proclaims, in a voice propelled by the specially concocted drink he’s been downing. Beach ducks her head, secretly blushing. The bar, once again, erupts in approvement. A couple across the bar high-fives, and the bartender responds, “Alright, Macho!” “Is this guy okay?” lemonade asks one of her newfound friends. “Yeah,” J—– answers. “Macho and I go way back; he’s a good guy.”

Their instant love is the sort that doesn’t want to go home after last call, so an after-party is proposed, somewhere near the riverfront. After some balking about cover fees and music tastes, they find a place with a jam band and dollar margaritas. The tables, which are placed together in rows, stretch out across the room like a downhome wedding reception. J—- announces he doesn’t dance and beach grabs a chair next to him; “Go ahead,” she says, “We’ll watch.” ┬áMacho lunges for the dance floor like the paparazzi on a celebrity; he’s not the kind of guy you have to tell twice. Never okay with being outdone, lemonade grooves for as long as she can, failing to keep up with him. Even after throwing up in the can, Macho is back in action, the commodal respite acting as an alternative power nap. “For as long I can remember, I’ve had weak knees,” lemonade tells the group. None of them hear her, though. All eyes are on Macho.

You have to see his dancing to understand what it’s like. Think “chicken dance” on Acid, and you’re halfway there. Long after the retirement of his moniker, Papi McGill continues to outshine and outlast anybody on the dance floor.

The weekend continued to surpass everyone’s dreams of a Good Time, especially my mother’s, as Macho proved to be genuine and incessant. Even today, the legend continues. As we get older, details get embellished but–to my knowledge, Brian never took back the words he’d yelled at the bar. He wanted to marry that lady and he did.

After the end of my first marriage, I was able to view Brian–my “stepdad”–as the good guy he’d been all along: a completely unexpected and totally undeserved friend and father-figure, as well as the best kind of roommate there is…a bartender who loves the Red Sox almost as much as he loves his grandkids. Almost.

While no one is perfect, and anyone who moves to Florida gets an official entry in my “People Who Piss Me Off” notebook, I can truly say that the years I’ve known Papi, as he’s now called, have been the best I’ve known. While I don’t think I could prove Direct Correlation, I also know it isn’t a Coincidence. He’s gotten me jobs; he’s poured me shots; and he changed my kid’s first diaper. He also volunteered to be a part of my new writing project before he even knew what it really was.

So, <raises drink> Here’s to Papi! He may be too old to write for 30POV, and he may be closer to Ft. Myers than he is to Fenway, but he’ll always be the {Honorary} Bartender at my events.

Here’s to our first Intoxication together (R. I. P. Indeed!)…
Here’s to all of the Intoxications that followed (darts, anyone?)…
And here’s to all the Intoxications to come…

papi_rip

6 Responses to “The Journey of Papi McGill, formerly Macho {R.I.P.}”

  1. Christina says:

    Love it! A fitting memorial for a man who has left all of us 30-somethings behind…..

  2. Jason says:

    What a closing picture. When I die, and if I've been wrong and the soul continues to exist in some sort of extant form, I hope that's my first image. Wonderful memories for us to enjoy here. And such details. Meeting at TGIF on Day 4 of a binge. His good sides showing up almost instantly. And of course, he being called Macho. I seriously love this.

  3. llxt says:

    Thnx, Jason. It's impossible to really tell this kind of story–definitely a yahadtabethere moment. But I did what I could to capture the night..

  4. llxt says:

    Thanks! I'm hoping I'll get to speak at his funeral, too.

  5. The Tailor says:

    And you did a damn fine job of it. Hats off to Papi McGill!

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