Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Last Dance at the Ranch, Part V

Once Dennis was safe inside his own room, Steve and I headed back to our own cabin to continue our night of drinking.

We sat on the front porch and started in on our first cocktails. A night of outdoor drinking couldn’t have been more perfect. The weather was great, the drinks were strong and there was no one around to bother us.

As we finished our first round of cocktails, we realized that the drama with Dennis had a negative effect on our level of drunkenness. We needed to catch up.

Two, three, four drinks later, we were almost there. I recognized this because we were both starting to laugh at really stupid shit. And the shit was becoming more and more stupid. Just dumb ideas and thoughts and observations. And then, we came up with a brilliant one.

“Dennis’ window is still open,” I told Steve. “I couldn’t get it closed when I broke into his place. Why don’t we go sneak in there and scare the shit out of him?”

“That could be a really bad idea,” Steve said, “What if the guy has a gun or something and freaks out and kills us?”

“Good point. Let’s walk over there and check it out.”

We walked along a little path which connects all of the cottages together. It was pitch dark, but the path is lined by bright solar lights.

When we got to cabin 117, I whispered to Steve, “Let’s wake him up.” Then I picked up the window screen that I had removed from the window earlier and through it through the window. I was hoping that it would knock over a lamp or something, but it just disappeared into the darkness of Dennis’ cabin.

“That’s no way to wake him up.” Steve said to me with a silly tone that meant step aside, little boy, let the grown-ups take care of the real work.

I watched as he walked back to the foot path and pull two of the solar lights out of the ground, then return to the window and flung them as hard as he could into the cabin. Two things happened. First, they made a shit load of noise. Second it completely illuminated the inside of the cabin’s living room and kitchenette. It was cool.

We started giggling like little kids and ran back to our own cabin to do some more drinking.

After another drink or two, I decided to pick up all of our empty bottles and any other trash that I could carry and throw that through Dennis’ window too.

A few minutes later, Steve disappeared down the path toward cabin 117, only return a few minutes later laughing like a lunatic.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Well, I had decided to try to take a piss through Dennis’ window but couldn’t find anything high enough to sand on. Fucking thing is five feet off the ground! So, I just grabbed a bunch of sticks and weeds and tossed them through the window.”

Jesus, I wish Steve wouldn’t have brought up the idea of pissing through the window, because now we both really wanted to make it happen.

Finally, when we were both to the point where we were barely able to speak English and/or walk, we came up with a plan.

We took the little Rubbermaid trash can from under the sink in our cabin and carried it down the path to cabin 117. We set it on the ground and both took turns pissing into it. When it was as full as we could get it, Steve lifted it up and poured it through the window, onto the living room carpet.






We were both startled awake by someone knocking loudly on our door. I hadn’t made it to bed the night before and was still lying in the hallway. Steve was leaning backwards on the couch, passed out. Who was it going to be? Dennis? Tom? A security guard? The cops?

Oh fuck.

I opened the door to find a maid wondering when we would be checking out.

Relief

We straightened up the place as best we could manage, threw our shit in bags and into the ice chest and hauled it all out to my car. And within fifteen minutes, we were heading home.

It was the end of an era and the death of an old friend, rolled into one.


But, how is cool is that? Even if Stevinson Ranch wasn't closing, we were both pretty sure that we would never be allowed to come back. We walked across the bridge and threw a lit Zippo over our shoulders.

It was fun.

Last Dance at the Ranch, Part IV

Steve woke up and felt the need to apologize.

“Sorry man, give me a minute and I’ll be ready.” He was frazzled, and I'm not sure if he really knew what was going on. “Just let me take a shower and I’ll be good to go.” I was still a little drunk. Steve was still drunk too.

It took him about twenty minutes to prepare for day of golf and another day of drinking. God bless him.

When we started our round at 11:00 A.M., the starter said “You have both played this course five times each.” That was odd. And how would he know? And why would he give a shit?

We finished at about 4:30 P.M. Both of us played golf like a couple of dick heads, but our ending scores weren’t too bad, considering that I lost five balls and had to take a penalty for each of them. In the end we had a fun time.

We loaded our golf bags into the back of the FJ and headed straight to the bar.

“Hi, I’m Dennis,” a guy from out of nowhere said, as he reached out his hand for a shake. “I’ve played 60 rounds here.”

Steve and I walked up to the bar and found our old friend Kelly waiting with a Captain and Coke and a Gin and Tonic waiting in front of her on the bar.

“Thanks Kelly,” said Steve. “Here’s my credit card. It’s going to be a long night.”

We wanted to smoke, so we took our drinks out to the massive deck.

“I’m Joe,” another guy from out of nowhere said, as he reached out his hand for a shake. “Can you believe that I’ve played this course over 4,000 times?”

“Four thousand?” Steve asked. “That’s 200 rounds a year… That’s almost four rounds a week. Pretty impressive.”

Okay, okay we get it. The guys in the pro shop have been keeping tabs on all of us for twenty years and they get a kick out of telling each and every one of us how many rounds of golf we’ve played at Stevinson Ranch since the day they opened for business. Steve and I have played five times. Dennis has played 60, and Joe has played 4,000.

“Hi, I’m Dennis.“ Dennis was back reaching out his hand for a shake. “I’ve played 60 rounds here.”

We all shook his hand and both Steve and I acted like we’d never met him before. Including, but not limited to, the time he introduced himself to us five minutes before this.

“I guess Dennis is drunker than us,” I said to Steve.

“Then we have some catching up to do,” he replied.

We sat on the large wooden patio for a few hours, drinking one cocktail after another and listening to
funny stories from strangers.

Every twenty minutes or so, Dennis would come by. “Hi, I’m Dennis. I’ve played 60 rounds of the golf on this course.”

He was a funny guy and we started watching him make his way around the deck having the same conversation with the fifty or so people who were there. He was bumping into chairs and, at one point, almost fell into the fire pit.

By the time the sun was setting, Steve and I started becoming concerned about Dennis. We don’t know the guy, but we could tell that he wasn’t very good at being drunk. He was bound to hurt himself and he needed a babysitter. So, the next time he came by to introduce himself and tell us how many rounds of golf he had played, we started asking him questions.

Dennis was from Santa Barbara and made the five hour trip to Stevinson Ranch a few times a year with his buddy Tom.

I excused myself and went into the bar. The place was packed and noisy. “TOM,” I yelled into the crowd.

“That’s me,” said a mid-fifty-ish-year-old guy. “I’m Tom.”

“Are you here with Dennis?”

“Yea, why?” Tom asked.

“He’s pretty loaded and probably needs someone to look after him,” I explained.

“Okay. I’ll be right out.”

But he didn’t come right out. I returned to our seat on the deck and continued to watch Dennis deteriorate into a nuisance and a liability for another 30 minutes.

“Let me give this a shot,” said Steve, as he made his way into the bar.

A few minute later, Steve returned with two more cocktails.

“Did you find Tom?” I asked.

“Yea. He’s busy trying to get laid,” Steve explained. “He said he’d come get Dennis right away. They’re both staying here too. So I’m not too worried about them.”

We stayed for a couple more hours and finally decided to head to our cabin, where we would continue drinking.

This time, we remembered to bring our room keys and the little paper folder with the gate code written on it.

As we drove through the complex, we were surprised to see that there were very few cars parked anywhere near the cabins. We assumed that most of the people who were staying here were at the bar.

“Hey wait,” said Steve. “Back up for a second.”

Why? What’s up?”

“Just back up.”


I stopped and put the car in reverse.

Steve rolled down the passenger side window and looked carefully towards cabin 117. “Look at that,” he said. “Look up that walkway by the porch.”

Yep, I saw it too. There was a person lying in the bushes. Oh shit. Is that Dennis?

We parked and walked quickly to cabin 117. Sure enough it was Dennis. He was laying about five feet from the bottom step of his cabin’s porch. His knees were bloody, his shirt and shorts were muddy, he was missing a shoe, and he had pissed his pants.

“Dennis, are you okay?” I asked

“I think so.”

“Why are you laying in the bushes?”

“I can’t find my key.”

“Come on,” Steve told him as we helped him to his feet. “We’ll help you out.”

We went through his pockets and couldn’t find his key, but we did find his cell phone. So we found Tom’s number and tried calling him. It went straight to voicemail.

Tom’s an asshole and a shitty friend.

Finally, we decided that we would get Dennis up the steps to his porch and I would break into the cabin through the living room window. I had practiced this and knew it would be easy.

While Steve stayed with Dennis to keep him from falling down the porch steps, I carefully removed the screen and slid the window up high enough to fit my entire body through. Then I climbed up and slid across the window seal on my stomach and came through head first onto the floor of the cabin’s living room. Then, I turned around to close the window but it was now stuck open. It must have come off its tracks when I pushed it open. I worked on it for about 30 seconds, and then remembered that Dennis is probably never going to realize that the thing is open, so it didn’t really matter.

I opened the door from the inside to find Steve and Dennis exactly where I had left them. Dennis extended his hand and I expected to hear him say “thank you,” or “sorry to trouble you,” or something like that. But instead, he said “Hi, I’m Dennis, guess how many rounds I’ve played here.”

“Ummmm… Sixty?” I guessed.

“How’d you know?”



JUMP TO PART V

Last Dance at the Ranch, Part III

I woke up at about 9:00 A.M. I was fully dressed, shoes and all. My shirt was stained with Guinness and there were pieces of sticky popcorn in my hair. I wasn’t hungover. I was still drunk.

What. In. The. Fuck. Happened?

Sometimes when I pass out under similar conditions, it takes me a few minutes to realize where I am. This wasn’t the case that morning. I knew we were at Stevinson Ranch and I had a vague recollection of crawling off to bed. I even kind of remembered where the popcorn came from.

After being forced to “go inside” by the security guard, we decided to keep drinking in the living room. We also decided that we needed a snack. I had brought a small bag of beef jerky, a package of roasted pistachios, a bag of kettle corn, and a jar of honey roasted peanuts. I clearly remember opening the kettle corn. But my drunk fingers couldn’t manage to open the bag carefully and I ended up spilling a few pieces on the floor. That was right before a small argument broke out between Steve and me about who was going to sleep in the bedroom and who was going to sleep on the fold-out couch.

“I’ll take the fold-out,” I announced. “You slept on it the last two times we were here.”

“Fuck you,” Steve answered. “I’m too drunk to walk to the bedroom.”

That had made sense to me. Then, I remember helping him unfold the thing.

So here I was. It was Friday morning at 9:00. I could hear Steve snoring in the other room. We needed to get our shit together for an 11:00 round of golf.

I opened the bedroom door and walked into the living room trying to decide how and when to wake my sleeping friend.

Holy Shit Almighty!

The place wasn’t exactly the way I remember leaving it. It looked like a Central American Cock Fighting ring and smelled like a well-used hockey glove. There were six empty Guinness bottles scattered about the floor, and two full ashtrays that had been spilled onto the furniture and floor. The carpet was soaked with a combination of ice, gin, rum and Guinness. And, an entire bag of kettle corn looked like it had been shot around the room from a confetti cannon. It also looked like we may have moon-walked and done the twist on the popcorn to make sure it was thoroughly ground into the carpet.

But I laughed out loud when I saw Steve’s bed. It wasn’t fully unfolded. The last section that folds out – the foot of the bed – was resting in a vertical position against a chair. Steve was sleeping sideways with his lower legs and feet cantilevered off the side of the uncomfortable contraption.


JUMP TO PART IV

Last Dance at the Ranch, Part II

We continued to drink at the bar until we were among the last five people there. It was only about 1:00 A.M. but we could tell that Debbie and Kelly were spent. So we cashed out and headed back to our cabin.

The road from the clubhouse to the cabin complex is a long, dark one. It’s well covered by a canopy of old-growth trees and guarded on each side by a pair of grassy ditches. I was driving and thought it might be fun to drive in the ditch on the right side of the road than on the road itself. But it didn’t work out so well. We quickly discovered that the grass covering was deceptive; the surface below was soft and muddy. We were stuck.

Luckily, my car has four-wheel-drive. But I was too drunk to remember how to engage that wonderful option. It took several minutes to figure out how to operate my own car. Which, by the way, I’ve had for six years.

When we arrived at the gate to the cabin complex, we found that it was locked. No big deal, when we checked in, they gave us a code to punch into a little key pad thingy that would open the gate.

“Steve, do you have the piece of paper with the gate code on it?”

“No, I gave it to you. Wait, let me check my pockets, No, I think I gave it to you.”

I checked my pockets too. “It’s written on the paper folder that the room keys are in. Do you have the room keys?”

“Let me check my pockets, No, I think I gave them to you.”

Shit.

We got out of the car and found that it was pretty easy to just push the gate open. Fuck their security system. The electric gate is nothing more than a device that says “Hey, don’t go in there,” and just as effective.

Now, without the paper folder that the room keys are in, we have no room keys and no way to get into our room.

Fuck.

But we decided to drunkenly move ahead. There was no turning back. We went through too much already. We would figure out something.

Turns out that the windows on our cabin were just as secure as the front gate; I slid one open and climbed though. Easy.

Although we had already checked in, and dropped our bags in the room, we hadn’t yet unloaded the
giant ice chest from my car. It’s pretty heavy and takes two people to carry it. As we slid it out of the back of my FJ, we discovered the little paper folder that the room keys are in. There it was, right next to the ice chest, where we would remember to find it.

We spent the next couple of hours sitting on the front deck of our cabin drinking cocktails and smoking and getting more and more insanely drunk. Apparently, we were getting louder and louder too because a security guard came by and paid us a visit.

“It’s a little late,” he said politely. “You gentlemen are going to have to go inside your cabin. Other guests are trying to sleep,”

“But we aren’t allowed to smoke in there,” answered Steve.

“Well, you can’t stay out here,” countered the security guard.

That’s when I let him know how shitty the gate was as a security measure and how easy it was to break into our own room. For some reason, I thought that by telling him this it would somehow demonstrate that we were not a couple of drunken fools and that we should be allowed to remain on the front deck while we finished our drinks and a few more cigarettes. But it didn’t work.

“Go inside or we’ll have to ask you to leave the property.”


JUMP TO PART III

Last Dance at the Ranch, Part I

A few weeks ago, I found out that Stevinson Ranch Golf Club would be closing for good on July 18, 2015. What a shame. The place has been a source of numerous drunken adventures and great times for many years.

In the early 1990's, a former professional golfer named George Kelly took a piece of land that had been in his family for over a hundred years and transformed it into a beautifully laid-out golf course. It’s a clear nod to the early days of golf architecture in America, importing the character and traditions of the great Scottish Links courses.

By September of 1995, the course was ready for action. It immediately gained notoriety as Best New Upscale Public Course in California and became the site of the 1996 and 1997 U. S. Open Qualifying matches. It also consistently ranked in the top 25 courses in California and even made the list of top-five public courses in the United States. Most recently the readers of Golf Digest awarded it 4 1/2 Stars out of a possible five for the overall golf experience. As far as California goes, only Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill are rated higher.

But this isn’t a story about golf. It’s a tale of drinking.

A few years ago, my friend Steve did a little research and found that Stevinson Ranch is located about 30 minutes east of Merced, California, and about an hour-and-a-half from where we live in Fresno. He also learned that it’s extremely affordable to play. Amazingly, it’s not a place where you aren’t allowed to wear a ball cap indoors and where you are required to keep your shirt tucked in at all times. It maintains a laid-back atmosphere. And, it has private cottages and a spa and a pool and a restaurant and a full-service bar. We decided to give it a try.

When we arrived for the first time, we were surprised at how rustic the buildings are. The “private cottages” are really just a group of pretty nice single-wide mobile homes that resemble cabins and that are arranged around a small community area that has a barbeque, pool, Jacuzzi, and a bunch of round tables with umbrellas. Nothing more than something you would see at a standard apartment complex anywhere in California. The Restaurant, bar, and pro shop were also housed in a few modular buildings that were arranged around a huge and beautiful wooden deck with plenty of outdoor seating, a fire pit, and an outdoor stage for entertainment.

We usually rent one of the cottages for a couple of nights and drink and golf as much as we can for the weekend. This trip - our final trip – would be no different.

We left Fresno at 5:30 PM on Thursday with our clubs, a change of clothes, a carton of Marlboro Lights, and a big ice chest full of Guinness, a handle of Kraken, two 750 ml bottles of Beefeater, and a collection of mixers.

After checking in, we headed directly to the bar and started with cocktails. It didn’t surprise us that
the bartenders, Debbie and Kelly, were already shit-faced. Regulars had been buying them shots all day and they all had the terrific what-are-they-going-to-do…fire-me? attitude. It was a great time.

As the sun began to set, the place filled up with more and more people. And we learned quickly that most of the customers were people just like us; they were all there for one last dance at the ranch.

Well, there was no fucking around in the bar that night. Everyone was there to drink. And everyone was drinking hard. The mood was both somber and upbeat at the same time and the spirit escalated quickly. There were older men playing dice games, even-older women dancing, a handful of young guys playing some sort of drinking game that involved each person mimicking a complex set of gestures and movements of the player before him, and many other people telling stories of great times at this wonderful place. And I was proud to be a part of this collection of assholes.

At about 10:00 P.M., someone decided to buy a round of drinks for the entire bar. I wasn’t sure who sponsored the round, so I simply yelled “THANK YOU FOR THE DRINK!” into the crowd. A cheer broke out from the masses.

Soon, someone else bought a round for the entire bar. And then someone else, and another after that. Steve looked at me and laughed. “Hey Debbie,” he called out to the bartender, “the next round is on me.”

“I’ll get the one after that,” I added. We were all caught up in the madness of the strange and wonderful party.

Pretty soon, Debbie and Kelly were unable to make cocktails and simply resorted to making huge batches of whatever they thought people might drink. It was working out fine because everyone was happy with whatever was served to them.


JUMP TO PART II

Monday, September 28, 2015

Anaheim Part V, The Absolut Last Call

On Thursday, I only had one meeting scheduled. It was going to be a day that is pretty nice to a hangover. And mine was certainly appreciative of the kindness.

In the early afternoon, as I was walking through the exhibit hall, I was stopped by a couple of guys who I didn’t recognize. Apparently, they were at the McFaddens party the night before. And while I thought the thing was a total rip-off, these guys had a great time. So, on the strength of that, one of them handed me an invitation to the “Survivor’s Reception.” It’s an annual party which is always scheduled for the last night of this conference. Entrance to the shindig is always by invitation only and I had never been invited. Before now.

The Survivors Reception is hosted by a large company that serves as a major sponsor and major industry player for the conference. It’s always held a few miles away at a swanky country club. As the invitation stated, the party boasts an open bar from 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. and “heavy appetizers,” which pretty much means I would be eating and drinking for free.

In some regards, this party reminded me that people never really grow up when it comes to being invited to a party at the cool kid’s house. It’s kind of exciting. At the same time, I remembered the many times that I crashed parties and ended up drinking all their booze, breaking their stuff, tormenting their guests, shitting in their Tupperware and wiping my ass with their pillowcases. I wonder if I would have been more polite if I had been invited. I think that I quietly wanted to receive those invitations, but maybe I had destroyed my reputation to a point where I was on some secret “DO NOT INVITE” list.




I arrived at country club at 6:30 P.M., a half hour after the reception started. The place was gorgeous. There were tennis courts, a giant pool, and a pristine golf course. The centerpiece to the property was a monolithic three-story Mediterranean club house with patios on the second and third floors that overlooked the first, ninth, tenth, and eighteenth fairways.

I found my way to the third floor ballroom and bar. There were already 30 or 40 people in the place, but they were expecting about 100 in total.

I made my way to the bar and ordered a Jameson and Ginger Ale and asked the bartender where the smoking area was. “Head out that door and follow the stairway down to the Wine Room Veranda,” he instructed.

It was a great place. Not so much a “Veranda” as an oversized landing where four staircases intersected, and served as a front porch to an impressive wine room, which was unfortunately closed for the evening. But it was large, had a terrific view and was furnished with some of the nicest outdoor furniture that I’ve ever seen. I decided that this would be my home base for the rest of the night.

While I was finishing my first cocktail and my second cigarette, I heard a voice from above. “I thought I smelled smoke.”

I looked up and saw a 55-ish-year-old man coming down the stairs with an unlit cigarette between his lips and a Bic lighter in his hand. “I guess this is the smoker’s lounge,” he said as he lit his smoke.

Over the next half hour or so, the two of us sat and made small talk and took turns making trips to the bar for more cocktails. Eventually, we were joined by a few small groups of people who were all looking for some fresh air and a smoke.

Over the course of the next hour or so, we maintained a core group of about a dozen people. The staff at the club noticed that we kept running back upstairs for more drinks, so they sent a waiter down to take care of us.

Juan Carlos spoke with a thick and beautiful Spanish accent. He was clearly new to this country and it was obvious that he loved his work and loved serving the guests at the country club. His crisply pressed black slacks, spotless white shirt, Black and gold vest and shiny shoes told the story of someone who takes great pride in his appearance. He was a true professional.

The English language is pretty complex, but the shifting of vowels, use of verbs and the fact that stress is placed on certain syllables makes it a wonderfully versatile and intensely accurate language. On the other hand, Latin languages, like Spanish, Italian and French sound so fucking cool. The end of each word flows into the beginning of the next word so beautifully that even small children, who are just learning to talk, can sound elegant while asking for more candy.

“But of course, It would be my pleasure,” were the flowery words that I heard from Juan Carlos every single time anyone asked for anything. Shit. This guy was so attentive that none of us were able to light our own cigarettes. Every time I raised an unlit Marlboro to my lips, Juan Carlos would appear out of nowhere with a flaming Zippo. “Allow me, sir.”

The Wine Room Veranda was definitely the best place to be. The people were nice, the jokes were funny, the service was great and the drinks were free.

So we continued to drink.

Juan Carlos was bringing cocktails as fast as our group could drink them. In exchange, we were giving him about $20 per round. By 8:00, he had made well over $250. I’m sure he was happy and the rest of us were more than satisfactorily drunk.

At around 8:30, someone decided to order cigars for our group, so Juan Carlos brought out a beautiful teak cigar box full of Gurkhas, Arturo Fuentes, Rocky Patels, Macanudos, Drew Estates, and Nubs. We all chose one and Juan Carlos scurried around cutting and lighting each of them.

As the wind started blowing, some of the people in our group started to complain a little bit about the cold. None of us were from this area of the world and figured that the temperature never dipped below 65 degrees. Well, we were wrong. The breeze was blowing off the golf course and straight at us and none of us were dressed for it.

The complaints were becoming more and more frequent.

Then, the suggestion was made that we should move inside, into the wine room. Someone asked Juan Carlos to unlock the door, but the answer was “I’m very sorry, but the room is closed and my manager will not let me open the Wine Room.”

This would not do.

I walked upstairs to use the restroom and saw that the reception was raging on. The music was loud, people were laughing, and everyone was drunk.

On the way back outside, I stopped at the bar and asked the bartender about the possibility of opening the Wine Room for us smokers downstairs. The answer was a flat “no.”

On my way back to the Veranda, I passed Juan Carlos as he was having a conversation with another employee. They were speaking Spanish to one another, so I couldn’t make out what they were saying. But it sounded as if the other employee was chiding our waiter for something.

In the U.S., and especially in California, we hire Mexicans to perform jobs that we don’t want to do. They pick our produce, clean our homes and mow our lawns. Sure, we pay them, but we treat them like shit. We might not even recognize it, but we think we are better than them.

In Mexico, homes are cleaned, and lawns are mowed by people from Guatemala. And Mexicans treat them like shit.

Juan Carlos was from Guatemala.

I was drunk, so who knows if my judgment was off or not, but I was positive that the other waiter was talking down to our waiter and I just knew it was because he was Guatemalan. I was pissed-off and informed the others.

They were pissed-off too.

After that, Juan Carlos’ tips increased to anywhere from anywhere from $30 to $40 a round. At the same time, our pleas to unlock the Wine Room became louder and were coming more and more frequent. Finally, Juan Carlos relented. “Let me see what I can do.” The he disappeared up the stairs.

A few minutes later, he reappeared with a single key in his hands. Slowly, he inserted the key into the lock and the large glass door opened. He moved swiftly inside and turned on the lights. “You may sit in here to warm yourselves, but please do not smoke in the Wine Room,” he instructed.

We all agreed.

At 9:00, we were informed that it was 9:00. We all knew exactly what this meant. The Survivor’s Reception had a hosted bar from 6:00 to 9:00 only. But we were told that we were welcome to remain on the property and continue with the party. The only difference was that we would now have to pay for our own drinks. We were all pretty drunk and we had all become accustomed to NOT paying for our drinks. None of wanted to start now.

That’s when I remembered that I still had the unopened handle of Absolut from the accident on the freeway. It was right where I left it, in the back of my car. I told the other about this and instructed them to order some club soda from Juan Carlos while I retrieved the bottle.

By the time I returned from the parking lot, the entire group was sitting inside the Wine Room. So I
stood outside the glass door and hoisted the giant jug of vodka above my head in triumph and then swung the door open. I was immediately greeted with a hearty round of applause and with a giant cloud of stink. It seems that while I was gone, everyone decided to start smoking their cigars INSIDE the Wine Room. There was no ventilation at all.

Whatever.


Juan Carlos brought out a tray with a dozen Collins glasses and two carafes. One filled with club soda and the other with tonic water. He also brought a small plate with limes, lemons, cherries and olives. What a great guy.

“Juan Carlos,” one of my drinking partners yelled, “please join us for a cocktail.”

“No no no. I cannot do that. I am working.”

The rest of the group insisted. And he finally abandoned his fight. “Okay, but only one.”

We all mixed up some cocktails, toasted and began to drink. It was at about this time that a man showed up at the door of the room. He was wearing a blue suit and carried a walkie talkie. He was also wearing a nametag that read:

Jim Weaver
General Manager
Food and Beverage

“Juan Carlos,” he said firmly, “may I see you outside? Please.”

Our waiter disappeared and we all broke into the song Dream Weaver by Gary Wright. But we changed the words.

“Ooh Jim Weaver
I believe you can get me through the night
Ooh Jim Weaver
I believe we can reach the morning light…”

A few minutes later, Juan Carlos returned to the room. He was no longer wearing his black and gold vest. “Ladies and gentlemen, I regretfully inform you that I will no longer be serving you,” he began, “I wish you all a pleasant evening as it has been my pleasure in serving each of you. Good night.”

With that, Juan Carlos was no longer our waiter. And he was no longer an employee of the country club.

The party was over.

Anaheim Part IV, The VIP Party

Just like a snake eating its own tail, the conversation with Val went around and around and kept getting more and more frustrating, and both of us were getting more and more short with one another.

“Well, exactly how many are you talking about?” Val asked

“I can fill the place if you want.”

“How many do you think that would be?”

“What’s your capacity?”

“Just tell me how many people you are thinking about bringing.”

“Look,” I finally said, “I’m at the convention center with tens of thousands of people. All of them want to have a drink or two. I’m planning on inviting them all. Will that be okay with you?”

I guess my determination was fueled by a degree of hubris. It was about 2:00 in the afternoon and my goal was to fill up McFaddens with people. The end result would be that I get to drink for free. Which, I think, is a good result.

There were several people with whom I was working at this particular conference. Two of them were good looking twenty-something-year-old girls. Kelly and Amy. I explained to them what was going on and they agreed to go from booth to booth in the convention hall and invite as many people as they could. I thought it was a fantastic idea. Off they went.

We wrapped up our day at the conference at about 5:00 P.M. and I headed straight to my hotel to change clothes and then straight to McFaddens to start drinking before anyone else got there.

I started at the bar with a couple of Guinness and then moved to the patio with a Captain and Coke and a fresh pack of smokes. I sat there by myself for another half hour or so. I was relaxed and happy. I was sort of wondering which drinker I would decide to be for the evening.

We all know those really shitty drunks who get mean and end up starting stupid arguments or, worse, they end up punching someone in the face. On the other hand, we also know the guy who wants to get super introspective and ends up hugging everyone and telling everyone how much he loves them. There’s also the guy who embarrasses you by turning into the cheesy ultra-ladies-man with non-stop pick up lines and the never-take-no-for-an-answer attitude. Finally, there’s the guy who’s shit doesn’t stink and wants everyone to know how much cash he makes and how important he is.

With me, I always plan on having a good time, but I have to decide if I will lead or say “fuck it, let the spirits guide me.” Honestly I prefer the latter. It’s fun to just not give a shit to the point where John Taffer might walk in, kick me and my friends out of the place and then turn to the owner announcing loudly “YOUR BAR HAS BEEN RESCUED! MY JOB HERE IS DONE!” But sometimes a cruise director is necessary. So who would I be?

Then the place started filling up.

I saw a group of about ten people who I know pretty well and called them over. We moved some chairs and tables and all sat together in a large circle.

Meanwhile there were several dozen other people sitting on the patio and about 30 people inside. If this night could be compared to the night before, this was clearly a bigger and better money-maker for the owners of the bar.

We all sat and talked and drank and laughed. Someone asked the waitress about a Moscow Mule and then someone else asked “What’s the difference between a Moscow Mule and a regular Mule?”

Then some quick witted drunk replied “They are exactly the same, but one has heroine shoved up its ass.”

For some reason, this was the funniest thing that any of us had ever heard. We were finally drunk.

Over the next few hours, the place got busier and busier, and by ten o’clock the place was packed. I was proud of myself.

I realized that I never did introduce myself to the waitress as the guy who won the “VIP Party”, and thought it might be a good time. So I asked for Val, but was told that she wasn’t in. I then explained our agreement and the waitress looked puzzled. Then, she ran off to talk to a manager and came back and said “how many of these people are with you?”

“All of them.”

“But there’s over a hundred people here,” she said.


“Yep. They are here because I invited them.”

She disappeared again and returned with a guy who introduced himself as the owner.

I’ll spare you the finer points of our conversation and just sum it up by saying that the mother-fucking guy tried reneging on our deal.

He actually lied through his teeth and told me that the crowd was average size. BULLSHIT! There were ten people in the place the night before and there were about 150 in the place at that very moment. What a piece of shit.

In the end, he agreed to give every single person a free shot – as long as everyone drank the same thing, and I would drink for free and the ten people with whom I was sitting would receive a discount.

We all had Kamikaze shots and I had a few more drinks.

As I was leaving, the owner came over to talk to me again. He tried making small-talk and I wasn’t having any of it.

“Hey, you know that this place is busier than you ever seen on a Wednesday night,” I said. “All of these people are here to drink…”

“Well,” he interrupted, “we want to attract the locals.”

“What? You're located a block from the Convention Center. All of these people are businessmen and women, and all of them have expense accounts. They are the low-hanging fruit and you don’t give a shit about them?”

One of the photo's from the McFadden's
website showing an empty bar.
I was getting nowhere with him. So I told him that his website sucked. Well, it's nicely designed, but all of the pictures were poorly chosen; they were attractive shots of the bar, but none of them showed any people having a good time. Then I gave him a few other pointers about how to run his business and he placated me by telling me I made good points.

Looking back on it, I was just a drunk guy being a know-it-all, but I still think I was right.

We ended our conversation by him giving me a couple of free drink coupons for his bar in Las Vegas – which is located next to Mandalay Bay. I wondered if that idiot doesn’t give a shit about the tourists and only wants to attract Las Vegas locals too.

I still had one more night in Anaheim…


SKIP TO PART V

Anaheim Part III, Start Drinking

I spent Tuesday at the Anaheim Convention Center in a series of boring meetings with boring people who do very boring things. I couldn’t wait for the day to be over.

Finally there was nothing left that I had to do and no one around to answer to. So, I sat out on foot to find a good bar.

I usually like hotel bars. It doesn’t matter if I’m out of town or not. I just like them. I think they’re interesting places to interact with people and to watch other people behave very badly. I guess there’s something about hotel bars that makes adults do things that they wouldn’t -or can't - normally do at home. Maybe it’s because they are out of town and getting loaded, and they know that everyone else at the bar is probably out of town and loaded. So it’s a fairly decent recipe for sex with a stranger or other things that they aren’t allowed to do at home.

Whatever the case, this is amusing to me. And, who knows, I might decide I want to do shit that I can’t get away with at home. If so, a hotel bar is the perfect place to make that decision. Right?

The hotel where I was staying didn’t have a bar. But I was across the street from Disneyland and a block from the Convention Center, so I figured there had to be a hotel bar somewhere close by. Sure enough there were at least 25 hotels in any direction, but not one of them had a bar.

Fuck that.

So I started walking. Finally, I found a cool Irish bar with giant sliding doors that opened to a patio in the front. I guess they kept the doors open when the weather was nice, which pretty much means that they're always open.

It surprised me that there were only about ten people in the entire place. Weird. The place is so close to the Convention Center, where hundreds of thousands of business people come every week. Why is this place so dead?

I picked a nice spot at the bar and ordered a Guinness and made small talk with the bartender.

"Where is everyone?"

"We just opened last month and nobody knows we're here yet," she replied.

I looked up at the T.V. The only thing on was a Hockey game. Hmmm. I fiddled with my phone.

"What's the name of this place?" I asked.

"McFaddens," she answered.

I quickly googled "mcfaddens" and immediately found that this one is the second location. The first one is in Las Vegas. "Oh, here's your website," I said to the bartender. "Nice looking site."

She nodded and smiled and I continued to check out their site. I saw that they were pretty dialed in to social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram... Then I noticed that they have a weekly contest where customers tweet about their experience at McFaddens and then management picks the best one and that person wins a "VIP Party."

I had no idea what their idea of a VIP Party was, but I was bound and determined to win the fucking thing. I figured, hey, this tweet-about-us-bullshit is a ploy to get attention. It's a pretty good marketing gimmick. And it probably has a better return-on-investment than buying radio airtime or advertising in the local paper or visitor's guides. And, I figured I have a solid chance of winning the thing because I have about 15,000 followers on my twitter account. So I ordered a second Guinness and started working on a good tweet.

I couldn't come up with anything.

So I ordered another Guinness. Then I ordered another Guinness.

And then I took a picture of my beer and typed the caption "Dinner at @McFaddens_OC". It wasn't very original, but it's all I could come up with.

Then I switched to Captain and Coke. I drained that pretty quick and started looking around for the bartender so I could order another one. she was nowhere to be found. Probably on a smoke break.

So I tweeted "I'm guest bartending for a few minutes at @McFaddens_OC while the bartender is on a smoke break. I hope I don't get caught."

And then I tweeted "@McFaddens_OC is the only bar open in Anaheim. So I'm drinking here. I should probably apologize to them in advance."

The bartender finally came back and I lost interest in Twitter and I continued drinking until the place closed at 2:00 A.M.




The next afternoon, I was working at the conference when I received a Direct Message through my Twitter account. I won the fucking VIP Party.

So I exchanged several DMs with a promotions manager named Val before she finally asked me to call her directly

I turns out that the party was for me and ten of my friends. I was going to get free drinks all night and my friends were going to get half-off prices during the same time period. And we would also all get some free shots throughout the night. The only problem was that this was supposed to take place on Saturday night. I was planning to leave on Friday.

I told her that I was in town for a conference and that I wouldn't be there on Saturday. "I figure," I began my argument, "that Saturdays are usually busier than Wednesdays. Right? How about if I bring a whole bunch of people and just pack the place tonight?"

How many people are we talking about?" Val asked.

"How many do you want?"


SKIP TO PART IV

Anaheim Part II, An Absolute Letdown


It was almost midnight by the time I was back on the road, heading south to Anaheim. There was no way that I would arrive at my hotel before 3:00 A.M. But I kept driving.

About 45 minutes later, I reached Bakersfield. This was where I was born. It’s also the birthplace of the Bakersfield Sound, a sub-genre of country music that grew out of the fertile honky-tonk bars in the late 1950s. The distinctive sound was created as a reaction against the slickly produced, string orchestra-laden Nashville sound, which was becoming popular at about that same time. Buck Owens and Merle Haggard opened the door and led the way for hundreds of other country acts and ended up influencing a couple generations worth of highly-paid hillbillies. As I drove through town, I wondered to myself if any of this is important. I guess it is, in some historic way. But it doesn’t have a personal impact on me at all. Maybe it’s because my family moved from Bakersfield on my first birthday and because I don’t care for country music at all.

Fuck it.

I pushed play on my iPod and blasted The Cult’s entire Electric album, followed by Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger.

I pulled into the Castle Inn on Harbor Blvd at about 3:15 A.M. I was tired. I was hungry. I was
stressed from the drive. And, I really needed a drink.

Anaheim is a strange place. Many people think of it as a part of Los Angeles - another city that makes up the greater L.A. Basin, like Hollywood, or Burbank, or Glendale, or Long Beach. But it’s not. It has a personality that is all its own. Sure, it’s got the terrific weather, the terrible traffic, and the palm trees. But the personality seems much more Midwestern. Everything is a little bit slower there and they tend to roll up the sidewalks at sundown. So, unlike many of the great drinking cities that I’ve visited, there wasn’t much of a chance that I was going to find a dive bar that I could sweet talk my way into for a few after-hour pops.

Fuck it.

I went to bed early.


SKIP TO PART III