Thursday, March 10, 2005

Aides to the Ex President 8: The Game

The restaurant manager soon broke from the doorway and headed over to the bar, followed by one of the waiters with an extension cord. The heat appeared to be off for the moment, but I drank off half of my gin and tonic just to be within striking distance of finishing up before we got tossed.

The sounds on the staircase began to coalesce into Jim's voice, roundly cursing the Dallas Cowboys and, occasionally, me. This gradually got louder, and within a couple of minutes I was treated to the sight of his hunched over form, carrying one end of a big screen television. The bartender and another waiter had the other end, and before long this group was scurrying around like roadies for KISS, while Jim bellowed orders like the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Jenna appeared beside him, with a water glass full of Wild Turkey. He waved her impatiently away, so she brought it over to me.

"What the hell's going on?" I asked, still a little freaked out by the peripheral Algeria, my changing clothes, and the general feeling that we'd Gone Too Far.

She gave me a dirty look and wandered off. I shrugged. Huh, wonder what Jim said to her. I took a sip of Jim's drink, then wandered over to the bar.

Dave, the manager, had been taken out of the equation by Jim's bellowing about "total coverage" and "that cocksucker Aikman," so we had a few minutes to talk while he got me some ice for the whiskey.

[For those of you playing "Jeff's Liver" at home, this is AFTER I quit drinking whiskey straight out of the bottle and BEFORE I quit drinking straight whiskey altogether. Well, with some exceptions.]

"Did you really do that?" Dave said, watching me out of the corner of his eye.

I looked at him quizzically. "What?"

"Jim said you traded your press passes for a couple of hookers last night, while he slept. He said you were lucky to get out of that hotel alive!"

"Uh, well, what do YOU think?"

The guy sort of smirked and busied himself washing glasses: "If you want to know the truth, he's more the hooker type. Anyway, I don't mind. This is turning out to be one of the best nights we've had since I've worked here, and if he's willing to do all the work to get that TV up here, and ramrod the party, I don't care WHO you are. You could work for the Economist, for all I care-if you're with that freak, I know you'll write something good about us."

"What on earth?" I thought, "is he on to us? Or is this a bribe?"

He slid me a beer and began shouting at the bartender, who seemed hypnotized by the growing crowd around the television, and Jim. I slipped back to the table, looked at the ice, then dumped it over the railing. "Fuck it," I thought. "The cold will slow me down."

I took a couple of pages of pretty incoherent notes, attempted to sketch the crowd, and sipped on Jim's forgotten water glass. Jenna kept bringing me beer, but didn't have much to say. Guess she didn't approve of hookers.

It was halftime before I realized the game was even on--from my vantage on the roof, there were too many people blocking the television for me to see it...but that was OK. There was plenty of other scenery to take in, and I had the feeling this was going to be a night I should remember. I tried my best to memorize every view from my seat, to hold "the moment" in every way I could. The bite of the warm whiskey, the smell of cigarettes and cooling concrete, the shimmering of straight blonde hair under red neon--shouts from below, streets full of people having the time of their lives, or pretending to. I wondered how many of them knew that it was too good to last, and how many were, like me, trying to preserve some small piece of the magic before Monday mornings (and, in the long run, careers and parenthood) crushed it like a grape.

With about 15 minutes to go, Jim came back and gulped the last of the whiskey. "Come on, man, the manager wants to see us downstairs. Time to walk tall."

We met the manager, who ducked us into his office and offered Jim a bump from something in a brown vial. I declined, and leaned against the door while they began haggling over the bill.

I woke up in the car, with whiskey on my breath and a headache. It was dark, and it seemed like Jim was driving a thousand miles an hour.

I rubbed my eyes: "do we have enough gas to get home?"


"How did you pay for all that?"

"I told him the article'd be in the November issue. That way, we can go back down there for Halloween. The Eagles are in town then, I think. And this time, we're going."


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