Quote of the Day:
“Back when I was in the Navy they paid us once a month. First weekend, Jack Daniels. Second weekend, Budweiser, man. Third weekend, Pabst Blue Ribbon. Fourth weekend, Mad Dog. Then we’d get paid again and it was Jack Daniels. –Sixto Aleman, when he said “Jack Daniels,” he said it with relish
TB isn’t quite sure of the exact year any more, but it was around 1990 that the first bachelor party was necessitated for one of my old asshole runnin’ buddies down in Pascagoula. We’d seen some movies that helped, of course, but we were not really prepared for the event, none of us had any money, and even if we’d had some we didn’t really know what to do, other than that it should be something big. Fortunately Juan came through with a limo reservation for eight hours and a plan to go to New Orleans and back. We only had to put up fifty bucks apiece and Juan threw in a case of Crown to offset that expense. So Smily, BR, Rob, Mark, Big Jack, Juan, TB and Mijo, the next day’s man of the hour, loaded up in the limo and set off for the send off. Coach Six, Juan and Mijo’s Dad saw us off. I am quite sure he left us with words of wisdom, but we failed on this occasion to take heed.
We were all roarin’ drunk before we crossed the state line–Crown’ll do that to you. All except Mijo, a nervous groom facing an all too rapidly approaching and uncertain future as a family man. We arrived in New Orleans and went to Pat O’Brien’s, the only place we really knew to go, besides Big Daddy’s after midnight. I remember elbowing my way in to the bar, getting an assist from Mijo who stared down every punk I jostled along the way so that I was able to order a Hurricane without getting beat down. I recall giving Mijo a big hug and probably I said something sentimental to him and undoubtedly I made a joke about his situation and I recall that Mijo was not in the mood to laugh, so I went off in search of girls. The last surviving brain cell of that evening devoted to memory tells me that I saw Smily and BR as they were leaving Pat O’s. I told them not to leave. I reminded them that the limo was heading home at 1:30 no matter who was there, or not. They left. I blacked out. A couple of hours after that I was back in the limo, and then I passed out.
Around three a.m. I came to as we passed through Ocean Springs. Only Jack and Mijo were awake. They both watched me as I cleared the cobwebs and took stock of my personal effects and surroundings. I could see laughter creeping at the corners of their eyes. Clearly there was something I was missing. After several moments Mijo asked, “Is something missing?” I finally figured it out.
The laughter finally came. “He’s still in New Orleans.”
“We got to go back and get him.” TB, loyal friend. I lobbied heroically on Smily’s behalf.
“Dude we’re almost home. He didn’t come back and we had to leave. Nobody had fifty more bucks for the driver,” Mijo explained.
“Oh.” You can’t win ’em all. TB fell back asleep.
Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, Smily was a lost puppy. He and BR had argued about which way the limo was, and because Smily is extremely freakin’ hard-headed, he went the opposite way from BR. At some point, after an extended search, he realized the limo was gone. He sat down on the steps of a quiet storefront to consider his perilous situation.
Presently a bum sauntered by, saw forlorn Smily sittin’ there, and decided to join him. He stretched out his legs and engaged Smily in conversation, in the hobo way. Even shared his brown-bagged bottle of MD 20/20 with the boy. Smily appreciated that. The bum made Smily feel a little better about life, and it wasn’t just the fine conversation nor the sweet elixir of Mad Dog. The bum complimented Smily’s shirt and his belt and hey, who doesn’t appreciate when someone says nice things about them? Then he remarked on Smily’s shoes and Smily just smiled at the unexpectedly pleasant turn in his fortunes. But suddenly the bum reached for the shoes. “Let me try those on,” he demanded. Smily said “no” but the bum was adamant. “I gave you my drink and you are going to give me those shoes.”
Smily had heard enough. He kicked the bum in the solar plexus and ran for his life. He spotted a cop on a moped soon and asked for help. The cop put him on back of the moped and drove him to the station. Before we go any further, you need to take a second and visualize a humble Smily, a frightened Smily, a lost-and-found Smily, clinging to the cop’s belly on back of a tiny motorbike, his head, perhaps, snuggled close to the cop’s skin for warmth and protection.
After a brief but humiliating journey, the cop arrived at the station and let Smily use the phone to call his Dad to come pick him up, a two-hundred mile round trip at 3 am for Mr. J. Smily sat on the steps of the police station and waited. Before he went back out on patrol, the cop got in Smily’s face and warned him not to bother the bums the next time he came back to New Orleans and suggested he might oughta get better friends too. “I know,” deadpanned Smily.
The limo let me off at my folks’ house around four am and I stumbled up the stairs and poured myself into bed, pleased that I’d made it in before my Dad woke up and that, for one more weekend, the parents wouldn’t have to know they had raised a common drunkard. Then the phone rang. I snatched it up.
“Ben?!” It was Mrs. J, Smily lived across the street.
“Wherrrrrrrre’s Smily?!?” For some reason it didn’t register who I was speaking with. More high-pitched than usual too.
I didn’t know where the hell Smily was, nor did I care. I’d already forgotten he’d been left. All I wanted was sleep. “Ummm, he’s at home.”
That was the only time I ever heard Mrs. J cuss. “Dammit Ben, I’m at home and he’s not. Where did you leave him?” Not y’all. YOU. My mind raced at peak capacity trying to think of a response. Considering my condition.
“Ummmmmm. He met some girls or something. G’night.”
The next part hurt my ears so I just hung up.
Twelve hours later we were all dressed up for the wedding. Even Smily, though he was a fashionably late arrival. Nobody was talking about the Bride and Groom, nobody remarked on the beautiful flowers or the feast being prepared. They all wanted to know what happened last night. I couldn’t tell them, that’s for damn sure. The only thing for certain is that I learned a life lesson over the incident.
Coach Six gathered us boys in his kitchen. We were prepared to be humble, contrite; to learn from him in the stern lecture sure to come about responsibility and loyalty and sobriety and probably some other important things ending in “y.” Six looked at each of us in turn, slowly, in the eye, finally settling on Smily. “What do you do if something like this happens again, son?”
“Maybe we shouldn’t drink alcohol?” Smily gave the answer he thought Six wanted first.
“I know better than that. I’m talking about after you missed the limo.”
Smily looked down and shuffled his feet. “Call my Dad before getting lost in the French Quarter?”
“NO.” Six was clearly upset about the choices we’d made on the sacred night before Mijo’s wedding
Smily looked up and the rest of us took over the looking down and the foot shuffling for him. “Um, go straight to the police?”
“HELL NO, SON, you call ME.”
It’s not much of a punch line. That’s just how the story ended. It is something I’ve never forgotten. Six was our friend. He understood things and he never judged. Mijo posted on Facebook today that it was his birthday. Happy Birthday, Six.