Monday, September 10, 2012

Amtrak for Dummies

This past weekend was a bit of a vacation for me. I had Friday off, and Monday also, which gave me a spectacular 4-day weekend. So, I decided the most productive use of this mini-vacation would be to get out of town, and visit some of my favorite drinking spots in Sacramento. For those who have never experienced Sacramento through the bottom of a bucket glass, you are missing out. There is a whole booze culture up there. Remember, the place has been around since the gold rush and was founded on saloons and brothels. Plus, it’s the state capital and I found that most capital cities are great drinking destinations. Don’t know why, it just seems to be so.

But the real story here is not a warm-hearted tale of a personal mecca to boozing nirvana. Not exactly.

On Wednesday, I logged on to Amtrak’s website and purchased round trip tickets between Fresno and Sacramento. On Thursday, evening, I arrived at the newly remodelled Santa Fe station in marvellous downtown Fresno. I had about 40 minutes to kill, so I stopped in at the Sheepherder's Inn for a few pints of Guinness. And yes, those fuckers hit the spot!

I went back to the Amtrak station, and proceeded to wait on the bench for my train, 713. I was informed the 713 would be about 20 minutes late by a courteous Amtrak employee. Fuck it. I didn’t mind the wait. After all, I was on vacation.

Within five minutes, my train came in. I proceeded to ask the same Amtrak guy what the story was with this train. Again, he stressed – in no uncertain terms - that MY train was to be 20 minutes late. The gentleman informed me that THIS train was bound for Bakersfield, and he would let me know when the Sacramento train arrived. Feeling quite comforted about this information from a qualified professional, I sat back down, and continued to wait.

Sure enough, 20 minutes later came a train, oddly from the north. The Amtrak employee scurried out from his office and let me know that my train had arrived. I boarded, sat down, and the train departed.

“JESUS H. CHRIST, MARY AND JOSEPH HANGING OFF A CROSS, GOD DAMNED SHIT. MOTHERFUCKER!” was the only thing I could think of to say at that point as the train slowly began to roll south.

The conductor came by to collect my ticket, and smirked at me a bit as I shamefully turned it over to him.

"Next stop, Hanford." He chuckled.

The next 20 minutes were stretched out infinitely. I knew the train I was supposed to be on was the last northbound train in the Central Valley, but Hanford isn’t far from Fresno. It was getting late on Thursday, and I could have probably had someone just drive down, and pick me up. Alas, a vicious combination of stubbornness and pride prevented me from doing so. Besides, I was on vacation, and had no intention of going home.

When I finally arrived in Hanford, I thought I might still have a chance of getting to Sacramento somehow, or perhaps Fresno at the very least. I didn't think Hanford really held anything for me that evening, and I was anxious to depart as soon as possible. I went into the train station to rustle up some alternatives, still hoping perhaps a late night train would still be coming through.

A freight train passed the station before I reached the counter, and for a brief moment, I considered jumping on it like a depression-era hobo.

The Hanford station attendant found my situation to be pretty funny and told me he was getting ready to close up and that I should come back at 6:30 AM, 15-minutes before the first train north. He would not refund or exchange my ticket, and kept saying just to come back tomorrow, the station was closed. I couldn't help but notice the hours of operation listed on the window that separated my and the attendant. They were supposed to be open for another half hour. He was clearly sick of my questions.

I asked him about other transportation alternatives. I was shit out of luck. Where there any cabs? Nope. Busses? Nope. Thinking about hitching or walking, I finally asked how far it was from Hanford to Fresno.
"78 Miles" He replied.

Now, I took some advanced math in high school, and a little in college. I was never any Will Hunting, but I could figure out the area of a parabola. I was tired and annoyed with the whole situation and asked the attendant how in the fuck a 20-minute train ride from Fresno could cover 78 miles? Well, I learned. Hanford east to Goshen, east to Visalia, west back to Goshen and then north to Fresno is 78 miles. I asked again, recognizing that I was dealing with a retard.

Any guesses?

"78 Miles."

Ahhh fuck it! I gave up. I decided to stay in Hanford for the night.

I set out on foot and discovered an amazing little town. I saw the Fox Theatre, and saw Willie Nelson is playing there next month. I saw a permanent outdoor carousel and a real town square. The place reminded me of the town in Back to the Future.

I checked into a Comfort Suites, showered, and decided to make the most of my stay.

Heading out, I stopped at the front desk and asked if there were any decent bars within walking distance. I was directed to Simon's.

It turned out to be a place I never would have expected in small town Hanford. Simon's was a surf-themed bar with about 20 beers on draft, and Surf videos playing on plasma TV's. They had a pool table and Guinness. What more could you ask for? Well, since I was a stranger in a strange town, I decided to veer off course and sample some of the other beers on tap. Then, I decided to make it my mission to try them all. I succeeded.

By 10:00 I was shit-faced and ready for a change of scenery. So I walked down the street and ended up at a cool bar called The Bastille. Great place with a great bartender and fun regulars. I ended up playing dice with a guy that couldn't win a roll and walked away with about twenty extra dollars.

On my way back to the Comfort Suites, I found another little bar and decided to have a few more "nightcaps." At this point, I can't remember the name of the place or what I drank, or how many I had. As a matter of fact, I can't even remember if I even paid for my drinks. I do, however, remember walking the half block between the bar and the hotel, because a local cop pulled up to me and started asking questions. Apparently, I was so drunk, that anyone driving by would say "that guy is so drunk!"

I explained to the cop that I was not planning to drive and that I was a visitor staying in the Comfort Suites and dug around in my pocket until I was able to find my room key. Then, the strangest thing happened. The cop walked me to my room, opened the door for me, and told me to enjoy my stay in Hanford. Stranger yet, about ten minutes later, there was a knock at my door. I opened it to find the cop with a Taco Bell bag in his hand. He handed it to me and said "you should probably eat something." I think I tried to give him a tip but he didn't accept it. I ate and passed out within a few minutes.

I know I got a little long winded on this one. Thanks for hanging in there if you have gotten this far. I guess the whole point of the story is this: Make do with what you have. I turned a miserable night into a whole mess of fun by realizing my glass was half full. I was on vacation after all. And, if you ever plan on getting super-loaded in a small town. Choose Hanford. They know how to treat their drunks.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Puke on the Paradise

Four years ago, my buddy Steve won a three-day cruise to Mexico and invited me to come along.  We were to depart from Long Beach, CA aboard the Carnival cruise ship Paradise of the Sea, arrive in Ensenada, Mexico on Saturday morning, and be back in Long Beach on Sunday.  Steve told me that one of the added features of the prize was that we were to receive unlimited drinks while on the ship.  So, it was our goal to drink more than the actual retail value of the cruise, which was about $375 each.

The ship took off at about 6:00 P.M. while all 2052 passengers and 920 crewmembers were poolside, on the Lido Deck, enjoying the Departure Celebration, a big shindig where everyone drinks fruity cocktails, wears leis and dances to a live band playing "Hot Hot Hot". By that time we were already halfway to Shitfacedville. As a matter of fact, we never even made it to the Departure party.  Instead, we found a nice quiet bar on the Promenade Deck where they served ice-cold Guinness and allowed smoking.  It was called the Rotterdam Bar and it became home base for the remainder of the trip.

Some time after 11:00 P.M., we decided that we should hit the late-night buffet and grab a piece of pizza, or a hot dog, or anything.  Just some sort of food.  We knew there was plenty more to drink and we didn't want to ruin a good time by getting sick.

As we were trying to find the buffet, we started talking with some older Armenian guys who were sitting at the back of the ship on a small deck that overlooks the Verandah Deck, where about four dozen couples were dancing under the stars and enjoying a romantic evening on the sea.  The Armenian guys had smuggled a bottle of Patron Silver onto the ship and were sneaking shots as they exchanged stories of their home county or whatever the fuck old Armenian guys talk about.  They offered us some of their Tequila and poured a shot for each of us into little paper cups.  We toasted, we drank, and I felt mine coming right back up.


I held up a finger - the international hand signal for "let me take this call," "I'll be right with you," or "I can't talk 'cause I'm getting ready to puke."  I excused myself and walked to the side of the ship, leaned my head over the railing and let loose.  Nothing but liquid, and lots of it.

It's funny, the things that you think about while barfing.  Like about the surface that you're throwing up on, or what kind of food is coming out of you, or about the noise that you're making.  At that moment I started thinking about the wind and how it was carrying my vomit down and toward the back of the ship.

Fuck. Fuck.

I turned my head just in time to watch four dozen couples get a puke shower, stop dancing, and look up at me.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

I quickly wiped my mouth on my sleeve, walked back over to Steve and the Armenian Guys, Thanked them again for the delicious Patron and told Steve "We've got to go. NOW."

It was dark, and neither Steve, nor the Armenian guys saw exactly what happened.  They just thought I got sick and wanted to go back to our cabin.  It wasn't until we were safely away from the back of the ship that I told Steve what happened. I purchased a sweatshirt and ball cap from the gift shop and put them on as a disguise and we headed back to the Rotterdam Bar to finish a long night of drinking.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The 25-Hour Work Week

By James Wipperman, July 29, 2012

This is a story of amazing stupidity.  Several years ago, I had a job selling restaurant equipment and supplies.  It was a truly great job.  I was paid a huge base salary plus commissions and bonuses.  Most of my daily work was done outside of the office, visiting customers and drumming up new business, and it was very easy work; the company I worked for had no competition in the area.

There were four other salesmen that I worked with and they were all pretty good guys.  As a matter of fact, during the two years that I worked there, the five of us became close friends.  I think we all realized how easy we had it because we all started meeting up at about two in the afternoon for a few cocktails until it was time to go home.

We always went to the same place, a restaurant named The Riviera Grill and Bar.  The bar was located in the front of the building and had a large window that looked out onto the parking lot.  The bartender, Joseph, could see us coming and would have our drinks ready for us by the time we sat down.  Steve always drank Gin & Tonic; Scott, Rum & Coke; Doug, Coors Light with a Tuaca back; Tim, Jack & Coke; and I always had an Absolut Greyhound.

Those were great times.  We weren't tied to an office and there was no one breathing down our necks.

Our manager was a pretty good guy too.  His name was Barry and as long as we did our job, he left us alone.  And, since the five of us salesmen were putting in the same amount of energy and hours, Barry never had reason to suspect that we were only working about 25 hours a week, each.  He had no reason to say "Jimmy, why are Doug's numbers always so high and the rest of yours so low?"  We had it made.  Work a little in the morning, then get drunk every afternoon.  Now that's a job!

When the Christmas season rolled around, Barry told us all that he wanted to take us out for lunch and asked where we'd like to go.  The Riviera.  It was unanimous.

We all met in the parking lot and walked in together.  And, what happened the minute we walked in the door?  You guessed it.  Joseph yelled across the room at us "Steve, Scott, Doug, Tim, Jimmy, you're two hours early.  What's your friend having?" then, in horror, we looked at the bar and saw a Gin & Tonic, Rum & Coke, Coors Light, shot of Tuaca, Jack & Coke, and an Absolut Greyhound.


We were all let go during the first week of the new year.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

One Hundred Things I've Done While Drunk

I often get asked about my favorite "drunk" stories.  Well, I have several.  So, I've decided to post 100 things I've done while drunk.  Here they are, in no particular order:
1.   Drove from Fresno, CA to Las Vegas, NV to play a few games of Craps.

2.   Drove from Clovis, CA to Ontario, CA for a conference.  I made it to the hotel but never made it to the conference. instead, I woke up the next day and drove home.

3.   Drove from Fresno to Santa Cruz to visit an old friend.  She wasn’t home when I got there, so I drank her liquor and stole some CDs.

4.   Smart-mouthed a cop who was writing me a fix-it ticket and wound up with a DUI.

5.   Created a private pub-crawl in San Francisco by figuring out what the theme for the bar was and drinking the booze most closely-related to the theme.

6.    After the theme bar pub-crawl (Number 5), drove from San Francisco to Freemont SUPER HAMMERED.  Puked in my own car.

7.    Accidently parked in a drive-thru lane at a fast food restaurant and couldn’t figure out why so many people were honking their horns.

8.    Was asked to emcee an event, but got so drunk that I was belligerent and ended up pissing off the entire crowd.

9.    Mixed-up color of chips in Vegas and spent $500 in two minutes.

10.   Told a guy in a bar that I owned a saw-sharpening business and set appointment for him to bring in his saws.

11.   Told a guy in a bar that I owned a transmission shop and set appointment for him to bring in his car.

12.   Decided to fuck the ugliest girl I could find.

13.   Fucked the ugliest girl I could find.

14.   Played craps at Bill’s Gambling Hall in Las Vegas and yelled "bloody cum bubble" until they asked me to leave.

15.   Hit golf balls from the grass at a local church into neighborhood at 3:00 A.M.

16.   Hit golf balls into freeway traffic.

17.   Got too drunk at Imperial Palace in Las Vegas and couldn’t follow Roulette. I thought they miss-paid me and complained until they showed me the video tape. They were right.

18.   Pissed my pants in San Diego.

19.   Lost car in Tijuana.

20.   Pissed in my friend’s mother’s iron.

21.   Successfully convinced a friend to shit off a roof.
22.   Successfully convinced a friend to shit off a high-dive, into a pool.
23.   Successfully convinced a fiend to shit in a barbeque.
24.   Successfully convinced a friend to shit down chimney.
25.   Successfully convinced a friend to shit in a microwave.
26.   Successfully convinced a friend to shit through a screen window.
27.   Successfully convinced a friend to shit in Tupperware bowls at a party.
28.   Threw Vice Presidential china off the balcony of a hotel.
29.   Got in a fight with a stripper because I was on my cell-phone while she was on stage and I wouldn’t pay attention to her.
30.   Fell asleep in bar restroom and woke up after closing time.
31.   House-sat for someone I did not know for an entire summer.
32.   Lost my rental car in the Venetian Hotel’s parking garage in Las Vegas.
33.   Broke everything in sight at a bar named Mr. Ed’s.
34.   Threw everything in hotel room out the window – not my hotel room.
35.   Got kicked out of bar for calling the owner’s girlfriend a cunt.
36.   Got kicked out of a bar for pissing on the bathroom wall.
37.   Got arrested for puking in the gutter in Old Town Sacramento.
38.   Stole soap dispenser from Frankie’s Tiki Lounge in Las Vegas.
39.   Quit job.
40.   Got hired for a job.
41.   Passed out in San Jose and woke up in Fresno – with my car still in San Jose.
42.   Got “asked to leave” three consecutive bars in Baltimore for breaking glassware.
43.   Berated a showgirl in Las Vegas until she slept with me.
44.   Pissed in an ice machine.
45.   Vomited in an ice machine.

46.   Shit in an ice machine.

47.   Had a barbeque and drank beer at the wrong house while nobody was home.

48.   Accidentally committed a hate crime.

49.   Pissed in a girl's purse.

50.   Convinced a stripper to piss off a balcony.

51.   Stole stripper’s money and redistributed to other guests so they would have more money to tip her with.
52.   Hit on girl I met at a bar and then found out we are related.
53.   “Babysat” a drunk stranger in Las Vegas.
54.   Threw a tree into a high school swimming pool.
55.   Re-Routed traffic on a very busy street so that all cars were forced to drive through a resident's front yard.
56.   Convinced all the patrons in a bar that I was the mayor of St. Louis.
57.   Got a garbage can stuck under the wheel of my mom's car.
58.   Accidentally stole a car.
59.   Passed out at one of my college professor's house.
60.   Convinced all the patrons of the Fog Cutter in San Francisco that I was the owner.
61.   Locked myself out of my hotel room. Naked.
62.   Thought it was a good idea to store a keg in a snow bank, but ended up freezing the tap.
63.   Charged a cover charge at a party where I was not a guest.
64.   In high school, I would go to friend’s parties while their parents were out of town and hide beer bottle caps in their mom’s shoes.
65.   Gave a guy a tattoo.
66.   Sat in the owner's seats at a St Louis Cardinals game.
67.   Mowed a friend’s lawn at 3:00 A.M.
68.   Lost my date in a bar.  I later found out she was passed out in the women’s room.
69.   Switched all the dog biscuits for cookies and cookies for dog biscuits at a party.
70.   Drove from Orange County to San Diego DRUNK.
71.   Invited bum to drink with me for happy hour.
72.   Got in fight with the band Faith No More.
73.   Stole a statue from the performing arts building at UC Santa Barbara.
74.   Stole the golden arches from the side of a McDonald’s.
75.   Pissed in John Wayne’s boot prints (and everyone else’s handprints) at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
76.   Robbed a pizza guy.
77.   Drove to Sacramento to see a concert.
78.   Stole a keg of beer from a pizza parlor.
79.   Went to see the Amgen Tour of California and convinced everyone I met that my friend was Levi Leipheimer.
80.   Got robbed by a stripper in Las Vegas.
81.   Got robbed by a stripper in San Jose.
82.   Went backstage at an REM concert by telling security that I was delivering food.
83.   Drank every case of Guinness in Santa Cruz.
84.   Ruined a huge scoreboard in a high school gym.
85.   Blew off work and spent the day drinking with my boss in Monterey.
86.   Crashed a high school reunion.
87.   Forced to stay in bar and continue drinking due to robbery of a next-door grocery store.
88.   Wandered into a redneck bar and almost got my ass kicked.
89.   Wandered into dive bar and played pool with pimps.
90.   Froze the water (solid) in the toilet of a hotel room in Tahoe.
91.   Left a deposit on a car I wanted to purchase but couldn’t find its location when I came back to pick it up.
92.   Bought a “silver” necklace from a meth head and paid twice as much as he was asking, telling him “It’s not every day that you’re going to run into someone as drunk as I am.”
93.   Forgot I was on a date and left a bar with a different girl.
94.   Threw up over the side of a cruise ship only to “spray” all of the passengers on the deck below.
95.   Got charged $4 extra by a cabbie for “farting in cab.”
96.   Came up with the best advertising taglines.
97.   Came up with the worst advertising taglines.

98.   Joined an Elks lodge.
99.   Got up to sing karaoke but repeatedly farted into the microphone instead.
100.   Stole a fire extinguisher then drove around squirting prostitutes and homeless people.