Intoxication's Present Future
“WAKE UP, LADIES AND JEWS AND GENTS! I have a killer idea, and I’m coming over now,” says my answering machine on a Saturday morning. This sounds both urgent and totally unnecessary. I check the time; it’s seven o’clock. I’d bought the answering machine as an ironic homage to the eighties, but all it did was wake me up when friends drunk-dialed.
“It’s Hoss,” I tell my boyfriend as I get out of bed. Hoss is his best friend, and also mine through adoption.
“He has an awesome idea…” Jay repeats, burrowing under the covers.
“…and he’s coming over now,” I reply, pulling on my clothes. “You know how he is when he gets an idea.” A groan is his only response. I wash my face, pull my hair into a ponytail, and yank some shoes on. I don’t have that much time since he lives around the corner.
I hear a mumbled “Just don’t get arrested” come from the bed’s rumpled direction. I cackle, remembering outings with Hoss that have gone totally awry. A stern and sleepy face appears from under Blanket Mountain. “Em, I mean it. We don’t have the bail money. Preach the Gospel of Reason, please,” he half-jokes, half-begs. I kiss him good-bye, but promise nothing. We both know Hoss too well for that.
I’m sitting on the porch when my ride pulls up in his shiny black Gran Torino. He’s wearing giant aviator sunglasses, no shirt, dirty overalls, and a shit-eating grin. He salutes me while holding a fat joint, and tries ashing it outside the car. Big gray flakes float back inside, landing on his chest.
“Put your seatbelt on, and maybe a shirt while you’re at it,” I say disapprovingly. I walk around the car and get in. “Seatbelts are for Hobbits so they don’t fly out the window,” he laughs while buckling up. “Can you imagine their trajectory? They’d be like colorful hairy bullets!” I laugh and yawn, awkwardly, which confuses my laugh and accelerates my yawn.
“I’m ready,” I say, not quite ready. “What’s on the agenda today: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure or Mad Max and Thunderdome?”
He grins and takes another long drag while I fiddle with the radio. He throws horns at my 82-year old next door neighbor, crying “ROADHOUSE!” as we peel out of the driveway. I keep my eyes open, despite the stinging wind, then blink and tear up instantly. I sink into the leather seat, exhausted.
“Where we going, Hoss?” I ask, eyeing his outfit. “And why are you dressed like a retarded stepchild from the hills of Appalachia?” He laughs like a maniac, eyes rolling back, and hugs what looks like an oversized, ancient-looking clay vase to his hip. As we whip around the corner, I hear liquid sloshing back and forth inside.
“We’re gonna go blow some fucking minds, that’s what,” he pats the vase like a beloved pet dog. I scoot over to peer inside, and sniff its contents. “Smells 200-proof,” I say, wrinkling my nose. “That’s because it’s moonshine, son,” he says triumphantly.
“In an open container while you’re driving around,” I raise an eyebrow.
“It’s not like I’m drinking it!” he reasons. “Besides, the cops can’t cite me for an open container; this is a rare 18th-century clay vase from – I dunno, Greece or some other old-ass place.” I laugh out loud. “Sure, I’ve used that one before. ‘But Officer, this is no ordinary alcoholic vessel. It’s an antique!’ If I recall, it worked like a charm.”
He lights a cigarette and hands me the joint; I sink further into my seat. He pushes the vase towards me while we’re at a stoplight. “So why are you carrying around an antique Grecian vase filled with moonshine, dressed like a guy who sleeps with his sister? Or is this just another day in the life of you, in which I’m held hostage?”
“God has a plan for you, my child,” intones the atheist, “but breakfast before debauchery.” He gives me an evil grin, and I begin to worry. Most of the trouble we’ve been in together took place after I accepted a breakfast bribe; he knows all my weaknesses. Today will be no different.
He drives us to a pancake shack that serves near-perfect bacon; we order two meals each – with side upon side – consumed by the munchies. “And another side of bacon? Wait, three bacon sides, I mean,” I mumble to the waitress. We went to the same high school, and I’m embarrassed for her; when I served food, I hated running into people from the past.
“Sure thing, hon,” she says cheerfully, collecting our menus. I feel bad she hasn’t gone farther in life, and then feel worse for judging.
I decide, instead, to feel bad that Hoss ever picked this restaurant; it’s his fault I have to deal with this waitress and her professional life decisions. Besides, it’s probably nice being a pancake delivery girl. People are happy when you’re bringing them blueberry pancakes, extra butter, and six to eight sides of bacon. She should really think of herself as the hero of Pancake Town. This woman deserves a parade.
Hoss takes a sip of coffee, sighing with contentment. “Ohhhh, I wish I could put this on my balls,” he says wistfully. I look up, confused, but keep on eating; with my free hand, I make a question mark sign in the air. “You know Popo and Nana, those pink and blue kids from Ice Climbers, the game?” he asks. I nod, remembering them in Super Smash Bros., too. “I named my nuts after them, because they’re so fucking cold.”
I can’t stop laughing, or dipping my finger in the extra-gravy bowl. I’m ready to plant my face in it. ‘That’s what she said,’ I think to myself. ‘God, get a life,’ I respond-think. ‘STOP TALKING TO YOURSELF,’ I for-real think. ‘Gravy is so fucking good,’ chime all the voices in my head. I’m glad they finally agree on something.
“Inspired!” I say, to Hoss and gravy alike.
Hoss raises his coffee mug high in the air, poised to make a toast.
“I have found a way to blend your love of vintage and design with my love of history and chaotic destruction,” he begins, sounding excited. “Also: Patrick Swayze, we salute you, sir.”
“He never put Baby in a corner,” I wipe an invisible tear away.
“And don’t forget Roadhouse,” he interjects.
“You’re a Roadhouse,” I say.
“Fair enough,” he replies, “but after pancakes, we’re heading to the Antiques Roadshow.” He sits back and grins at me.
“I’m sorry, the what?” I ask. “I need some clarification as to what the fuck you could possibly mean.”
“The Antiques Roadshow.”
“We’re going to the–”
“–Antiques Roadshow!” he cries, pumping both fists in the air. He beams at me.
“And now the million-dollar question of day, Hoss: Did you really wake me up at seven A.M. so you could take me to the Antiques fucking Roadshow? Really?!” I say this as passionately as one can through a mouth full of carbs. I throw my bacon down for emphasis, to show him I mean business.
He picks up the bacon and eats it, raising one pierced eyebrow. I guess he means business, too. “Thief,” I mutter, glowering.
“Unbunch those sandy underpants, young lady,” he says, pointing at me, “Just hear me out.” I roll my eyes. He jabs a finger near my face, saying, “Don’t make me eat the rest of that bacon, woman! ‘Cause I’ll do it — no regrets! Just like Sophie’s Choice.” His voice is like a bullhorn in the restaurant, and I cringe.
“I will keep my undies as sandy as I want, thank you very much, and there are so many things wrong with what you just said. So – many – things,” I gasp, doubling over with silent, painful, unavoidable laughter. He lowers his voice to Conspirator level, and looks over his shoulder.
“Great, now everyone will think I’m a bigot-y pig, all Nazi-loving and shit. I mean, I’d hook up with Anne Frank, for sure, if she were legal,” he states. “I can see her being a hot Jewish chick, had she survived.” He nods while my head hits the table.
“Ow, no one should do this much exercise in a pancake house,” I say. Hoss makes laughter hurt.
“Think of all the exercise you’ll get later today, when you’re running around putting out all my fires,” he smiles broadly. He pushes his oversized horn-rimmed glasses up and steals another bacon. He fashions it into a mustache. I shape my remaining pieces of bacon into a giant middle finger.
“Okay. So what are we doing today?” I ask. He does some happy air guitar.
“Oh, it’s going down at the show of antique roads!” he says gleefully. “I’m gonna get wasted on moonshine – it’s Maker’s, by the way – and wander around the convention center, freaking people out. I need you to help me figure out my bucket list for the day.”
I pull out a pad of paper out that has random quotations on the bottom of every page; it was a gift from a friend of my mother’s. I turn to a page that says “Vampire love is complicated,” and silently agree.
“What are the objectives?” I ask, doodling on the paper. I draw a vampire on a date, and name him Larry. While Larry is having a great time, his date is dead by the time dessert arrives. Larry wonders if he’ll ever find a girl who can survive his affections. Vampire love really is complicated.
Hoss holds up a finger. “One: stand in line and be egregiously retarded. Two: get on television. Three: steal an antique tricycle and ride it around like a showbear at the circus.” I write everything down, shaking my head.
“Seriously, dude, a showbear?” The visual is killing me.
“What else?” he muses, ignoring me.
“You should find an old ceremonial bayonet and then hold Philip Moulde by knife-and-gunpoint,” I toss out, giggling.
“How now, brown cow?” he inquires in a bad British accent.
“He’s the Antiques Roadshow’s specialist in British portraiture. A total wanker,” I say with a snooty English clip.
Hoss snaps his fingers. “Four: hit on all the old lady antique dealers,” he says, gesturing to me, “in the event that an old ceremonial bayonet isn’t available or Philip Moulde is busy. Those appraisin’ bitches can’t resist me, yo. I’m down with the cougar poon.”
He wraps a breakfast sausage in a raspberry waffle, pouring generous amounts of syrup on top and sprinkling it with hashbrowns. “It’s like a waffle-sausage hot dog! It’s a wauffage dog,” he announces proudly, devouring the whole thing in two big bites.
“Or a hot sauffle,” I add. He points at me, chewing, then gives me a double thumbs-up. I order a hot chocolate, knowing it’s the cheap watery kind that looks like light brown water. I really just want the whipped cream.
I think about realistic goals for the day. “Five: can we try to get you into the background of every shot?” I ask. His eyes light up. “It’ll be hard to do since they film so many people simultaneously, but I can scope it out to find the most uptight appraisers.” I write it down on the list.
“Oh, I’m gonna Rage Against The Machine!” he cries. “I’m gonna go Full Metal Jacket meets Chris Brown meets the motherfuckin’ Holocaust!” He rocks back and forth, cackling.
“Be more Zach Galifianakis, less Jack Black,” I warn him. “You already look like a backwater honky. You’re going for simple and befuddled. Also dangerous, but that comes later.”
“Like George W. Bush,” he nods his head thoughtfully. When the check arrives, Hoss grabs it and throws a credit card down. I haven’t paid for my own meal since he won a big lottery, 18 months prior, a secret I keep for him, since people are untrustworthy buttholes.
Having a best friend win the Lottery is kind of like winning the Friend Lottery. They offer to take you on vacation, buy you awesome birthday gifts, and even offer to put your kids – who call them ‘Aunt’ or ‘Uncle’ – through college when it’s time. I often feel like Gail to his magnanimous Oprah: undeserving but uncomplaining.
I start a new doodle: Larry the vampire meets Linda the vampire and they fall in vampire love. Larry can’t believe his luck or how amazingly undead he feels. Suddenly, the date is plagued by a giant black cock, barreling down from outer space.
“Hoss!” I push his hand away. He pushes back and starts filling in the penis he drew on my paper. “Larry and Linda were finally connecting,” I complain, pointing to my vampires.
He points to the penis. “Now they can connect over this enormous wang that’s come to ruin their evening.”
He signs the check and we leave. The waitress says goodbye but I don’t look up. Hoss stops in the parking lot, on the corner of a busy intersection. He strikes a pose, then starts disco dancing while humming ‘Boogie Fever.’ A car tries going around him, then honks, annoyed.
“What are we forgetting, Em?” he asks, frowning with concentration. He does the Hustle, which turns into a pretty good Moonwalk. A large group of cars drive by, and a male voice yells, “DISCO INFERNO!” while another one shouts, “GO MICHAEL!” Hoss grabs his junk and points at the cars, then salutes in reverence at an American flag, planted in front of his vehicle.
I squint and look up at the flag, thinking of my boyfriend; I picture his worried face, surrounded by blankets. “We’re forgetting about Jay,” I look directly at Hoss. “His last words were: Just don’t get arrested,” I say, feeling guilty.
“Harry Potter’s best friend would let him crash the Antiques Roadshow,” Hoss points out.
“But Jay is nothing like Ron Weasley,” I say defensively, “plus they have magic on their side. Not that Ron’s any good at it.”
He lights a cigarette and takes a drag. “They have Hermoine for that,” he says. “Also Dumbledore the Amazing Gay! I can’t believe you’re bagging on Ron, traitor. Even though he’s kind of a tool, he fucking rocks!” Hoss loves the Harry Potter series as much as I do.
“Dude, we’re Muggles. It’s time to face facts.” I get into the car.
“Let’s drive to your house and pick Jay up. We’ll explain the plan and give him, I dunno, ten minutes to convince us otherwise.” Hoss looks at me with raised eyebrows. “Deal?” he says.
The sun is shining a little too bright and the intersection traffic is a little too loud; I’m ready for a second wind, or possibly a nap. “Ten minutes is a long time,” I say, warming up to the idea. “Let’s give him five, tops.”
I truly love our friendship dynamic: Hoss thinks of the possibilities, I get equally excited and worried, and Jay reminds us of the consequences, which we generally ignore.
“ROADHOUSE!” Hoss cries, throwing horns at some passing joggers while peeling out of the parking lot. We take the scenic way home, discussing future shenanigans, towards the voice of reason.