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Who’s to say this should be a good year? By all standards it’s off to a rather rotten start. No job, no prospects, few friends, less money. Things are shaping up quite horrifically and circumstances are ripe for despair. Frankly, I’m not surprised. Had I rang in the New Year with a fulfilling job and a beautiful woman on my arm you should find me a suspicious man. No, that wouldn’t sit well, would it? One can never tell until one tries, of course, and I have yet to venture so deep into happiness. I don’t trust those waters just yet. Perhaps next year. Anyway.
This year will be one of industry and progress. Adventure will have to come in the form of artistic and professional accomplishment or else arrive at my doorstep. This year will seek stability, firm footing in this foolish life I’m carving out. No more picking up and running away from it all, for now anyway. This year will begin to build something worth running away from, should the whim come to me as I’m positive it will. Build that career, that name, that persona, the seeds of that legacy so many of us seem to desire above life itself. It will be a good year if for no other reason than it will be a productive one. This year will be about work. To hell with everything else.

Here’s a list:

1) Get another job. Hold onto it.
2) Get back to performing immediately. Seriously.
3) Get conversational in French. (Practice at least twice a week, preferably more)
4) Become more diligent in my gung fu practice. Continue to progress with silat. Start training systema again. In short, be a better martial artist.
5) Find additional movement training for theatre. Le Coq or otherwise.
6) Finish NG Project. Start something new.
7) Go on dates.
8) Don’t be so afraid of chasing after the good ones.
9) Get back to eating a partial raw diet.
10) Get back on an intense exercise schedule fitting to your abilities.
11) Be a bit more mysterious, generally. You’ll get fired less.
12) Pick up the saxophone every now and then.
13) Get to the next level of hand training.
14) Do work you can be proud of.
15) Enough with all this hate: other people, your job, yourself. It’s a waste of time.
16) Write more.
17) Fuck more.
18) Fight more.
19) Plan ahead.
20) Proceed fearlessly.

That’s a good enough start for now. Let’s see how long it lasts. If nothing else we can always run back to Paris. That’s the endgame anyway.

My Dear Brooksy

I’ve made it my business in recent years, in my absence, to write a private birthday message to any who I give a damn about. This is yours.

Another year has passed egregiously by with no favorable results. Alas! You have beaten statistics again, spit in the face of decency, foregone all morality and common good, and poisoned the rich Midwestern air with venomous arrogance and misery. A better man would blow the whistle and turn you in. I am not a better man. It’s true I call you villain but I don’t misconstrue my own standing in the universe so I’ll honor brevity and rely on bullet-point, cold, hard facts. If you’re to continue on in your sinful way, I insist you employ these battle-tested survival tactics I have honed over my brief but illustrious career in Scoundrelhood:

-Know the exits. Everywhere you go.
-The prospect of morning sex rarely outweighs the dangers (in such cases refer to the tactic listed above)
-Whoever she is, she’s lying.
-Sleep with a weapon. Seriously.
-Be a regular at more than one bar.
-Own at least 3 good suits and utilize them.
-You don’t necessarily need to be a good fighter. You do need to be willing to break a bottle over a mans head.
-Unrelated, always have a bottle of something at home.
-Carry cash.
-The possibility of your 80s and 90s should be trumped by the reality of your 20s and 30s.
-Tip more than you should. You need all the good karma you can get.
-Start doing push-ups in the morning.
-Endeavor to own a firearm.
-A little racism is fine.
-You can get away with a lot if you’re buying the drinks.
-The best way to get over anger is revenge.
-Don’t fuck all of them but do fuck most of them. How else are we to get to the triple digits?
-In relation to the above mentioned, keep some good detergent on hand. I prefer Oxy Clean.
-Be able to get by in a few languages. Bedding European girls is harder than you want it to be.
-Know the exits. That’s right it’s there twice.

I value my friendship with you above most things and my fondness of you reaches immeasurably. Each day I can’t sit with you in the dark corner of a bar I miss the hell out of you.

So how about a toast?

Here’s to living where the real winds blow, to those who stay up late, get wild, drink whiskey, and howl at the moon. Here’s to those who know what’s fun and easy is always trumped by what’s bizarre and dangerous, to those whose thirst for weirdness is insatiable and unwavering. To the broken down, sad, angry young men who spit in life’s smug face and say “We’re not nearly finished yet, you bastard!”. Here’s to the young men who understand grit, personality, and gumption beats the hell out of looks, money, and privilege. Here’s to us. Here’s to knowing we haven’t even begun to hit our stride yet and that the real adventure lies somewhere ahead. Here’s to the adventure. There’s not a man alive I’d rather have along for the ride.

Now Gods, Stand up or bastards!

Cheers, my friend, this day until the end of the world.

bp

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I met Dan Ronan my first year of college when we were roommates at the dorms. He was fresh from rehab entering the theatre department and I was a depressed journalism major. We became fast friends and it was all of one week before he was urging me away from all this ‘critical thinking nonsense‘ towards acting and creative writing. In the end, it wasn’t a hard sell. Every day I’d slog my way through reporting and media ethics classes, jealous as hell to watch him creating his own work and leaving the group a few hours at a time for Open Mics. Of course Dan had absolutely no business in a theatre degree which he came to realize but he did have the most desirable quality I had yet to discover for myself: Passion.  Even at that age he cared immensely about what he did and I wanted to know that feeling.

Dan was the first friend to openly commiserate with me on issues of depression and anxiety, as he had faced them on a far greater level.  He was the first friend with whom I could discuss what we’d call the darkness, the first friend to make me realize I wasn’t alone in that struggle, and the first to begin to show me I wasn’t a weak individual because of it.

After about a month I had come around and was trying my hand at writing sketches and jokes and whatever else I could think of. He read all of them. He was always encouraging, never placating, and outspokenly disappointed when he knew I was being lazy in any regard to my craft. It was a joyful, ill-spent semester for a while but it got out of control and I watched my friend once again spiral into darkness. We parted ways for a short time after that. I surrounded myself with my theatre practice; he cleaned up and got back to comedy.

In the following years I saw my friend in varying degrees of frequency. Sometimes we’d get together and improvise 3 or 4 times in a week, sometimes I wouldn’t see him for a couple months. Regardless of the time lapse however, seeing Dan was always like coming home for me. It never really mattered who hadn’t called who, I just missed the guy.  He was always thrilled to hear about whatever direction the wind was bringing me with theatre. He even came to see a few of my plays and of course I savored any opportunity to see him perform.

On stage, Dan was a maverick. He was lightning in a bottle, only without the bottle. He didn’t necessarily always have the best material or the cleverest writing but he was always the most electric body on stage. Simply put, Dan was the most exuberant, unapologetic, and generous performer I have ever had the good fortune of knowing. For me personally, watching Dan on stage was like watching a matador: pure bravado and danger under colorful flag of insanity. Forget facing the fear, he danced around it. He smiled at it and relished every single second. His onstage vulnerability was absolutely unmatched. For any performer it was truly a thing of beauty and envy to witness.   But it wasn’t just that he was fearless, he made me feel like I could be fearless too. It was a joy to behold.

I know at a time like this it’s easy to glorify a person in the wrong way and I don’t want to do that. Dan was easily the most difficult friend I’ve ever had and we didn’t always get along. He pissed me off quite often and I’m sure I did the same to him. Sure, he had his demons but he was also generally inept at a lot of basic human functions: holding a job, keeping appointments, money, cleanliness, manners…come to think of it, I’m pretty sure he still owes me 80 dollars. That picture there? That’s me tying his tie for him. He couldn’t do that either. So many factors to label a person as an asshole but I truly believe he didn’t mean to be that way. That was just his programming.  All that energy and thoughtfulness filtered into the work though and, when it came to his craft, Dan was the hardest worker I’ve ever known. That was the last and possibly most important thing he taught me. Dan was a compulsive and, while it was a major factor in his undoing, it was his ability to channel that burden which made him produce as much work as he did.

He’s left us now but I don’t see it in the same perspective of many other people I know. Dan certainly isn’t in heaven, of course. He wouldn’t fit in there. He’s joined a greater infinity. I know from the beautiful wake of energy in the voices of so many people he touched these past few days. I know because after my pre-work cry yesterday morning the radio blasted a bizarre 3-hour long playlist of break-up hits from the 80s, in Spanish, and I bet the bastard was loving that shit. Because, in our physical universe, energy can neither be created nor destroyed and Dan had enough to light up all our faces and minds for a lifetime and beyond.

Still, I don’t get it. I’m never going to get it. It was a stupid, senseless, unnecessary thing and I fail to see the lesson because either way this wound won’t heal. As far as I can see this is simply a black mark in history. A shaded lens has been put over my eyes and this is just the way I see the world now. I wake up angry and confused at how unfair it all is. I feel something has been stolen from all of us. I and many others lost a friend, his family lost a brother and a son, the world of entertainment lost a great gift it was only beginning to taste.

The one small comfort I have is knowing what can’t be taken. The memories I have of him are mine; the shared laughter and tears and general idiocy which have put me on my current path are completely separate from that black mark. They will remain in the ether where no one can touch them.

Dan wasn’t an easy friend to have but he knew who I was before I did. He saw the darkness, the insecurities, the fear, the pain, but unlike me he didn’t sneer at them. He didn’t see these as things to be politely ignored or ashamed of or hidden away. To him, that was the good stuff. The real stuff. More importantly, Dan saw my potential. He wanted me to be great as I’m now seeing he wanted all of us to be great.

I miss my friend immeasurably and the thought of moving forward in life without knowing he’s out there somewhere frightens me. I suppose the best I can do is keep chasing goals as if he’s still watching. Keep working, creating, and expanding as he did and wished for me to do too. That’s it really.  

Sleep well, baby boy. I’ll see you when I see you. 

 

 

 

Greetings Young Traveler,

Another year has passed and once again I will be absent and therefore unable to salvage whatever tawdry, Bush league celebrations your friends will undoubtedly be throwing for you on this day of celebration. And because I cannot impart a physical gift or at the very least buy you a drink and try and help get you laid I’ll instead dish out some arrogant, quite possibly demented advice for the year to come.

Stand tall, look the world in the face, speak loud, and think little of the consequences. Buy a new suit. Start doing push-ups in the morning. Drink what you deem necessary but try not to be cheap about it. Kiss the girl, even if you’re unsure. Tell him to go fuck himself when the moment demands. And stand by it. Let yourself fall in stupid love if it happens and let yourself be miserable if your heart gets broken. Don’t waste time with anger. Recognize and enjoy when you’re happy. Pick whatever direction you desire most and run that way. If you’re unsure, throw a dart at a map and say ‘fuck it’.

If I could make one wish for what I’m sure will be a year of great change and shifting goals for you, whether that year be good or horrible, it is that you may look back and say ‘I lived it.’

Best get started, my friend. Now go get yourself a drink. It’s 7:00pm for God’s sake.

bp

_____,

As I am unsure of your return date I am leaving this one to you on the computer. I had the pleasure of coming home from Paris to your letter so I shall return the favor with this.The trip was good by the way. Just what the doctor ordered: cheese and chain-smoking, bread and wine, absinthe and awakening. Paris truly is my kind of town, London is not. We’ll speak at length about it another time.

I’m glad to hear for your success though not surprised. It sounds like this has been a time of peace and clarity for an unquiet mind. Alas! We should all be so lucky but I must admit to a certain masochistic enjoyment of my own instability. Every single member of my family is in recovery from one thing or another and it is a world I have vehemently rejected. This is part necessity of personal independence and part spite. I’ve always felt the need to spit in the faces of those telling me I’m broken because the only one worthy of bestowing such a label is me. And I have been broken, many times. Some of those wounds heal and some are left wanting. One thing I have come to accept in the past year is that depression is a beast I will be fighting the rest of my life. There is no endgame in this ride we call manhood, _______. We can move forward, backward, or not at all and it never gets easier, quite the opposite I’m finding, but we can choose to get tougher. That’s the real victory. I have been hurt by many weak and lesser people in my time but I have learned take it with a grin, lick the blood, and enjoy the taste.

“I can do this all day you bastards! Watch me!”

That’s me though. And I am coming to believe I truly am insane which admittedly I quite enjoy. It’s an erratic and strange existence. Substance abuse and rascality are standard office procedure until I find something which suits me better.

But bestow no pity on me for this view, my newly enlightened friend. I have a capacity for selfishness and self-destructive behavior to great measures that I cannot always temper, I know this. Amidst the chaos I am grounded by two things: my connection to the Tao, that great mystic whole which binds all of us in heaven and earth, and, that for some inexplicable reason there is a handful of great people who call me brother of which you are at the top of the list. In short, you are and have been one of the most genuine, selfless, honest and brave men I have ever had the privilege of knowing. You say you had lost a great part of yourself and I do not doubt this but you must also understand that that in itself was but an illusion and though I’m glad you have broken through it there are some things the spirit cannot hide from others even if you managed to hide it from yourself. I am not alone in knowing this to be true of you and though you are changed you must not believe those who loved you did so for misguided reasons. The spirit inevitably reveals itself to the world with or without the mind’s consent. Though circumstance has given you a yielding nature which has caused you strife you must also remember it is a great strength which will always be part of you. Embrace this and be free, deny it and you lose a power held by very few.

As for that great fear you speak of, it is something you can only take on as you step back into the world and continue on the road. I cannot tell how the pieces will fit or not fit but I can tell you the road is yours and only yours. No one else may interfere with your path, my friend, and if they begin to creep in you must understand this is but another illusion you have created in your mind. Fear evil, fear self-deception, fear taxes and oncoming traffic, but do not fear such things as these. Walk tall, breath deep, and look the world in the eye knowing you are fighter and a lover and a part of all things good, bad, of heaven and earth, in this vast universe. The road is yours and it is one of infinite possibilities.

And of course however changed you are you shall still and invariably so be my brother. Relationships change but for good or ill you will have to deal with me in some capacity for the remainder of your natural born life. I’ll see to that.

Awakening! What a joyful word! Enjoy it, my friend. If we’re lucky we shall experience constant change and improved sense of self the rest of our days in this beautiful, horrible, lovely, dangerous life. I’m sure it has been tough but I can’t say I fully agree with your friend. It’s not cash and prizes today but who’s to say that isn’t on its way? Does it come directly from recovery? Of course, not; that would be boring. It comes from you. You can do anything, _____. That’s the prize. It’s easy to say and difficult to understand but once you do you see the universe is limitless. We are bound by nothing. Strive to understand this, old boy, it’s a lifelong problem but well worth the ride.

Get back to the world soon. It misses you, as do I.

Peace and blessing from a brother overseas,

bp

Well, here we are again for another installment and this time en route to quite possibly my favorite place on earth: Paris.

The mission is simple:

I’ll be spending a long weekend with a scattered assortment of bohemians and artists but the real reason for my visit will be recovering a rare Moroccan dagger which was separated from me some months ago. I had attempted to mail it to myself but the parcel was lost in French transit as parcels often are and is now sitting in one of three possible post offices. Locating the parcel should prove simple enough assuming the authorities have not discovered its contents which are likely to be considered illegal and nefarious.

My contact and host is a lovely Parisian Jewess who I have known some time as our paths have crossed multiple times before both in France and abroad. She will help me in locating the right office and then it should be easy sailing checking my luggage for the return journey.

Unlike my Liverpool adventure this should prove to be a weekend fraught with little to no danger. The French are a passive nation and any who aren’t will see no yielding from me. I’ve never backed down from a mouthy Frenchman before and I don’t plan on starting now. Anyway with this in mind I will be dressing more for fashion than function so to blend in with the hip youth I’ll be passing the days with.

Onto the list:

London Prep January '14 002

 

-Notepad

-Sunglasses

-Tobacco

-Cigarette Holder (it will be used)

-Lip balm (I hope it will be used)

-Pomade

-Comb

-Passport

-Lighter

-Bottle opener

-Keys

-Liniment

-Flash drive (why not?)

-Tiger balm

-Pen

-Early Hemingway

-Phrasebook

And the Bag:

London Prep January '14 011

-T-shirts (x3)

-Dress shirts (x2)

-Long sleeve (x2)

-Black Turtle neck

-Black Hoodie

-Black Jeans (x2)

-Black Dress shoes

-Lace up boots

-Socks (x5)

-Boxer Briefs (x5)

-Scarf (red)

-Black Jean Jacket

-Derby Cap

I have been practicing my French and preparing my lungs for what will certainly be an obscene amount of cigarette smoking. Beyond what has already been stated I plan to accomplish nothing but sitting in cafes and drinking a few bottles of Absinthe. The rest tends to take care of itself.

Je bois tu Absinthe, Paris! All of it.

Onward.

 

Liverpool '13 066

I’ve come to believe the first impression of a city, while not always lasting, tends to be the most accurate. Though a week cannot give one a complete picture or deep understanding of anywhere, it gives the feel better than years of living can ever do. Fresh naïve eyes tend to be the most insightful. One may move to a new city, hate it, grow to love it, learn to really hate it, and finally perhaps come to love it in spite of that hate or vice versa. This is more often a result of living though, not the city itself.

Love or hate, despair or enjoyment, loneliness or companionship: these are all results of being anywhere and such experiences inevitably paint or even pervert our view of the place we rest our head. With each passing week, month, or year we slowly lose conception of that original essence of a place only grasped by those with childlike wonder or the ignorant and uninitiated.

“You won’t be able to understand a thing most people are saying and they will try and take the piss for you being American. Just be louder and outwit them and you’ll have their respect. They do like to fight more here than London but just be polite and it’ll be fine. If you knock some one’s drink or anything just apologize and they’ll likely do the same. Most places in the city centre people won’t fuck with you in the streets. Thing here is the long-haired, skinniest freak could be a total fucking maniac in a fight so you never know. Keep your head up, watch your pockets, and you’ll be good.”

This is the advice I got while exiting Lime Street station Saturday night with my mate and host for the week, Jules. It was sound counselling.

Downtown Liverpool is small enough to walk end to end in an hour. Smaller streets of cobblestone make for scenic paths from pub to pub and are void of noisy buses with only the occasional cab passing by. The architecture is a smattering of old northern brick buildings with modern cafes and bars.

The bars themselves are wonderful and incredibly cheap compared to London.  There are many pubs too filled with sweatered old men one can scarcely understand a word of. These are the places where every ear at the bar perked up when I ordered my whiskey. We spent the majority of our time at the bars with a younger crowd. Many of which styled similar to the New York cocktail bar; small, dark, rock and hip hop music playing rather than the obscene dance pop plaguing many a London bar. These are places that, in London, would be top dollar to hang out at but are instead the average.

Plus it’s cheap.

Northerners are very friendly and eager to hear what you think of the city. Alliances form easily and appear genuine.

The women dress up, often excessively so but you could never accuse any of being lazy with her appearance.  During the day they’ll go out to the shops or for lunch with full hair curlers still in… A very strange practice I do not fully understand. They are charming in the northern fashion but don’t seem too impressed by outsiders much less foreigners.

And though it is welcoming I was obviously an outsider in voice and certainly in appearance. In a city like London or New York just about any type of person walks the streets and people rarely bat an eyelash. Not so up here. It’s a city but it’s not a huge one and most inhabitants grew up here. I wouldn’t ever label myself as an eccentric dresser but there was a palpable difference. This can be good and bad. Folks may be more interested in what you have to say or shout insults in the road. Teenagers especially frequent the roads smoking cheap weed and sporting chavy track suits they call “trackies”. As in most cases confidence is key:

“Just tell’em to shut the fuck up before ye shag their mum,” advises Jules.

Make eye-contact. Stand tall. Talk loud. Fear none. This is the north in a glimpse. Until further experience tells a different tale I will call it a damned fine city.

Christmas is in the air and once again I have taken it upon myself to create my own cheer.  This year’s festivities will take place in none other than the North of England, Liverpool respectively, with my mate and his mother (who I’ve never met). Liverpool is a port city and the 5th most populous urban area of the UK; it is also a den of thieves, drunks, hooligans, and backwards nationalists. I will be in good company with my native guide but that is no guarantee of my safety. It will be a whiskey-fueled yuletide of carnage and require the utmost levels of alcoholic fortitude, brazen arrogance and blind luck. Needless to say this is no ordinary Christmas and therefore a perfect opportunity for the 2nd installment of A Scoundrel Prepares.

No formal gatherings on this occasion so abandon all hope of style and sophistication; everything I bring under the assumption it may be stained with bourbon and blood. This will be a trip seen from the inside of one pub to the next with hopefully at least one detour through a scouse girl’s bedroom. I’m keeping it simple and direct with this one. Clothing will be dark, neutral and suitable for street fighting.

Wardrobe Includes:

–          Button Flannel x1

–          Plain t-shirts x2

–          Long sleeve Tees x4

–          Wool Socks x6

–          Boxer Briefs x6

–          Turtle Neck (black)

–          Red Scarf

–          Leather Gloves

–          Wool Cap

–          Black Trainers

–          Brown Leather Boots

–          Black Jeans

A Scoundrel Prepares 001

 

Dopp Kit:

–          Toothbrush/paste

–          Comb

–          Soap

–          Deodorant

–          Pomade/paste

–          Liniment

–          Moisturizer

–          Large condoms

A Scoundrel Prepares 004

 

To be carried on my person:

–          Wallet

–          Sunglasses

–          Tobacco

–          Lighter

–          Notepad

–          Pen

–          Keys

–          Flask

–          Switchblade

–         Krishna

A Scoundrel Prepares 005

(Not pictured: Irish Whiskey, illicit substances, and some truffles for my mate’s Mum. All these to be purchased upon  arrival at reduced cost.)

Like I said, simple. It’ll be a short little romp through the North but here’s to hoping it’s an eventful one and that I return to you next week reasonably intact with a new adventure to tell of.

Until then, may the Gods smile upon this endeavor and guide us through the chaos.

Peace within, Rage without.

Happy Christmas.

 

 

September, 2012

It was a mad dash against time from Basque country. A scheduling snafu forced us to keep our rented VW all the way to Madrid and we had 5 hours if we were to make our train to Andalucía. I had no great trouble with this being the only one passable at driving stick and I felt I was just getting the hang of it. I rode the clutch to hell right up to the bitter end and bitter it was because the old girl gave out not half a mile from the station. No matter. I did that 6 hour drive in 4 ½ and as for the car, it was insured and frankly not worth the 2 minutes spent discussing the matter before we hailed a cab and left it for dead.

We missed the train anyway. Funny enough two of our tickets were never processed so it was of no great loss to the majority. We caught the next one.

It wasn’t until an hour later in a toilet stall, while carefully pouring 3 bottles of Rioja into 3 wine skins, it occurred I should call Eurocar and tell them where their Golf sat. They were extremely apologetic and sending a tow and a replacement immediately. I told them the latter would not be necessary. We were safe now on the road to Cadiz. The next day we’d take a bus to Tarifa and then it was off into the great Abyss: Tangiers.

This was how we left it and God damn was it good to be back. Days in the White City equal weeks elsewhere; the details of which I will not go into at this time. The crew was battered upon return to the windy little seaside town armed with rugs, spices, and a quarter ounce of fine Moroccan hash.

Ever the slaves to poor planning, we found there were no busses running that day or any other day for the long weekend. I being the only one with any knowledge of Spanish was able to coax a cab driver into making the long trip up to Malaga, our final destination. Split three ways it ended up being just a bit more than the bus would have with much better comfort. The drive takes about two hours winding about the rocky hills overlooking the Alboran Sea. A fantastic drive.  From what I could gather: our driver was ‘Manuel’, he was from Granada, and his wife was not thrilled about his missing siesta. This didn’t seem to bother Manuel much. Hell, he probably made 3 days wages on that ride.

17:00

We arrived in Malaga and made our way to the Oasis Backpackers hostel. Oasis is what some may call a “party hostel” (a term which I feel is thrown about far too loosely). No parties really occur at these hostels far as I can tell. They’re cheap and huge and meant to attract the thirsty youth of France, England, and the United States on summer vacation.

Now the best way to find the right people is to be in the kitchen around 19:00-21:00 and make too much food.

What’s usually the easiest and most cost-effective bet is grabbing a load of pasta, sauce, sausages, and an assortment of wine, whiskey, and/or beer.  Dan and Paddy took charge of the pasta and sauce while I busied myself with pan-frying the meats.  At a hostel you can often find all manner of leftover oils and spices to borrow and steal. I fry artistically with whatever may be in front of me and liquor plays a major role in the marinating. Whether this truly enhances flavor tends to prove irrelevant. It begins the insulating process of the stomach.

We met a friendly young band of Arab Parisians on an adventure of their own before studying in Seville for the semester. They were planning a night on the beach being still hung over from the night before but they recommended we try the source of their present sickness: the hostel Bar Crawl.

Now, I hate to paint with a broad brush. But I will.

Bar crawls are glorified field trips of amateur debauchery by nervous undergrads afraid of exploring a new city on their own two feet. The flat fee will provide about 5 or 6 cheap drinks over the course of the night and the locations will be typical and lackluster. The only real draw is power in numbers. A good pub crawl will have 20-30 young people, all interested in getting blasted, all the men interested in getting laid, all the women interested in teasing the men. It’s as safe a bet as any and after our short tour of the Muslim world we wanted liquor and women to be as easy as possible. Period.

The crawl would begin at 21:00 outside of Oasis. After our meal we went to the rooftop club of the same building. The food and wine had hit hard and I expect my boozy sausages were an unknown culprit to my two friends.  We perked up with 3 gigantic vodka red bulls (they must have been 3 shots with a full can all in one oversized martini glass) and sat on the white plastic furniture, enjoying the evening view. Odd place. No youth here. Seemed to be full of the boozing Forty-something crowd of the city. One of those places appearing infinitely more glamorous in photos than it could possibly be in reality. And so it was.  ¡Adelante!

21:00

The group set off from Oasis led by an American facilitator named Luke and his foolish Roman trainee whose name escapes me now. Luke is one of those who came over as part of a study abroad program and just kind of stuck around afterward for lack of better idea. Originally from D.C. he’s been in Spain 3 years, has run this crawl about a year of that, and has absolutely nothing else interesting to be said of himself. I wasted no time engaging with the Roman who I’ll call Paulo. He was in over his head enough just distributing the drinks and looked every bit as unspectacular as Luke.

 21:10-Pub One

Quite a small place with a larger patio. I found a stool and took my free cervesa and whiskey shot, then immediately ordered a glass of better whiskey and waited. I knew if this night was to be at all successful I had to be 3 to 4 times drunker than I normally would, had we gone it alone.  My two teammates kept up drink for drink with me (never a good idea) for now and most of time in Pub One was spent discussing options of the fairer sex available to us.

We broke the ice with a pair of Belgians; one attractive but tepid, the other haughty and not so attractive. They were nice enough though and the tepid attractive one even ordered a round of shots in what I assume was an attempt to ease her social anxiety. Not the Pub Crawl type, this one. It seemed to work. She became much more congenial as the night went on. The haughty not so attractive one made no such transformation that I could distinguish, as is common with unattractive best friends. However I must not stand in judgment of these two for they were well-intentioned and would later prove themselves angels in an otherwise cruel and grotesque vacation city.

22:15-Pub Two

Things were livelier here. The locals were now hitting the town and this spot was marginally more appealing to my sensibilities. The team had now diversified with Paddy sticking to the Belgians, Dan and I turned our efforts to another group of undetermined nationality. Dan was doing well and I was thirsty and apathetic. Again to the bar where I met an extremely drunk Moroccan man. For reasons beyond understanding I bought us a round which was not repaid. He had an offer all the more interesting:

“It is the best fucking shit, you see. You see, your American shit? Is nothing, man. This is the shit.”

“Alright, well, let’s see it then.”

It was about 10 minutes of this absurd bargaining I can never get back over the terms of purchase. He wanted me to follow him out to the other end of the square to meet his man but I know better than to follow a Moroccan down a dark alley. Nice try, Buddy. He finally relented, agreeing to go grab the shit and I would save his seat.  It proved a waste. As my friends worked whatever game they claim to possess, I sat another 20 minutes waiting and the bastard never returned only confirming my earlier suspicions. No matter. I was quite drunk now. But anyone who has partaken can tell you that, to be promised cocaine and come up empty is among life’s greatest disappoints. One that does not ease until the morning after, sometimes longer…

23:45-Final Stop, the ‘Club’

The night would conclude as many a Pub Crawl shall at a gloriously seedy night club. Red glowing bar, lit dance floor, abrasive lights and Euro-Pop, the stench, the sadness…

By now I had been separated from the two nearly an hour while keeping close tabs from a distance. As I had mentioned they kept up more or less drink for drink to this point so it was only a matter of time before it all fell apart. My failed quest for narcotics meant I was out of luck for love tonight unless I was willing to get desperate. I was not. Nothing left but to have another and do some dancing and so I did.

00:30- Shame and Confusion!

Dan was doing extremely well with the Asian of undetermined nationality on the dance floor. They seemed to float in synchronization amid a sea of red lights and frantic bodies in fast forward. It was an exquisite moment of romance and I count myself fortunate to have witnessed the first embrace. Even more beautiful was watching my dear friend fall flat on his ass seconds after their lips met. And more spectacular still was the tactical maneuvering of two bouncers sweeping him up and out of the door before anyone knew what was happening.

“You’re too drunk, man. You must leave.”

“Yes, sir, you are correct.”

And so Dan was gone. As for the Asian of undetermined nationality, she had moved on before he was out the door. For whatever reason I felt no need to go check on my friend and instead looked for the other which wasn’t difficult. I turned my sight to the corner lounge to find a scene not the least bit heart-warming as the former.  At some point, as men often do, Paddy had turned his attention to the haughty not so attractive Belgian and was now engaged in a most bizarrely fierce make-out. It was, in a word, horrifying but bless him if he hadn’t found a couch to park his unsteady legs. He was safe for now. Now to find Dan.

00:50

It wasn’t hard. The club was situated in a small back alley and Dan had parked himself on a residential stoop opposite the entrance looking stoned and dejected.

“I got robbed.”

“What?”

“They took my phone.”

“Who? What’d they look like—“

“Oh.”

“Oh, what?

“They got my wallet, too.”

“Fuck. Who’s they?”

“I dunno. I think went into an alley somewhere.”

“We are in an alley.”

“Oh.”

“Come on. Let’s get you home.”

Luckily it was a short walk to Oasis. I slung his arm around my shoulder and off we stumbled. I felt I had to move quickly as one member was still unaccounted for and I had no reason to assume his safety. I dropped Dan back at the room and rolled myself a rather large spliff before taking to the streets. For reasons beyond logic I set out to case the area in search of the thieves as if I’d simply come upon two Spaniards sifting through a wallet and examining a Samsung.  Better still I might find that pushy Moroccan bastard and finally get what was promised to me but Alas to no avail. It made sense at the time. After a night of repeatedly being snubbed on all sides I needed to feel some kind of justice had been served.

01:20

The search proved inconclusive but I did find some very nice church steps in the Plaza de la Constitucion upon which to smoke and watch the evening crowd make their way home. This was the blissful moment of my evening. It was a beautiful and serene September night and the gross drinking culture of Andalusia was contained to the small calles beyond. They were now an unhappy memory, unable to pollute this lovely scene. That is until a barely conscious Paddy, supported on each side by a Belgian girl, made his way across the square.

He fell over twice before they finally took a seat some 20 yards away from me. I watched in amusement as the two tried in vain to get him sitting up straight before making my presence known.  They thought he had been drugged.

“He’s not drugged,” I said, approaching from the shadows of the church. “Never could keep up properly, this one. How you doing, kid?”

“I’m a’right. Where’d you go?”

“Dan got robbed. Smoke this.”

“Okay…”

He stood to grab the spliff only to immediately fall over once again. They picked him up again while I placed it to his mouth for him to take a drag.

“I really think someone has put something in his drink or something,” said the pretty one.

“Was it you?” I said to the not-so pretty one.

“What?”

“Nothing. He’ll be fine. Thank you, by the way. This was very kind of you to help.”

“It is fine. We should be going though.”

“Yes, let’s.”

02:10

We did not part from the Belgians until we split to our separate rooms so only then did I realize I had left our key card with Dan. No point in knocking, I had to find the manager. I left Paddy asleep in the hall and went to the front desk which was empty. I had no idea where the staff quarters were so after ringing the bell for several minutes I simply began shouting. This did the trick and the very beautiful, very displeased English girl who had checked us in earlier that evening finally appeared asking why I had not used the phone to call. There was indeed a sign and phone in plain sight on the counter.

“I’m sorry I didn’t see it. I left my key card behind.”

“What’s that smell?”

“Uh—“

“What room?”

“41.”

“Okay, come on.”

I followed her up the stairs through the darkness.

“What the —“

“Oh, he’s with me. I thought it’d be easier than carrying him. He’s fine.”

“Fine, just get him up.”

“Listen, sorry about all this—“

But she was already gone. Fair enough.

 02:45

The room was full of sleeping bodies now. Our Parisian friends from dinner had returned from the beach and were all lying comfortably. Paddy climbed up his bunk without a fuss and was out like a light before he hit the pillow.

I smoked 3 spliffs that night.

Sitting on the small balcony overlooking Calle San Telmo I tried to piece together what exactly happened to the night.  Steadily and efficiently it ran straight downhill like a mudslide and I saw all of it.  Still I couldn’t make sense of what went wrong or rather what upset me so much about it.  Come to think of it I couldn’t even recall speaking to a single Spanish person the whole evening.

In Closing…

Certain life lessons should not need to be learned through experience, they go without saying. Sometimes you have to experience them anyway. Why? Because you make your own stupid choices, that’s why.  And if you’re at all worth your salt you’ll make some incredibly brash and ill-informed choices now and again. If you’re not up to this you can do a Pub Crawl like we did and see how that suits.

I can say unequivocally a Pub Crawl is a fairly safe choice on vacation. They’re cheap and they’re easy. I’m sure there are many people who enjoy Pub Crawls very much; I am sure those people exist. And perhaps there are even crawls worth attending.  Frankly I can’t be bothered to find out.

A few final thoughts:

1)      Pub Crawls are cheap and you get what you pay for. Don’t expect a clean drunk.

2)      Furthermore, don’t simply drink what’s handed to you.

3)      Worthwhile experience cannot be pre-packaged.

4)      A woman wooed under such plastic conditions rarely stays wooed.

5)      Finally, when the night has a clear agenda don’t expect surprises.

If we had gone our own way it may have been different. We may have lasted later into the night. We may have met some good people and seen some memorable places. Both my friends may have held their liquor and Dan might still have his Samsung. Or maybe not.  Maybe we’d all be worse off and in a great deal of danger, broke, lost, and friendless. We can’t know. We can only try again next time. Perhaps it will be different.

When I first moved to London I went into a bar and ordered a martini. The bastard behind the bar gave a strange face, shrugged, then poured me a shot of Martini vermouth with a few ice cubes. I swept the glass off the side of the counter, spat in that  mans face, and never returned again.

I’m still cautious when ordering one even in the states. It’s a simple enough cocktail yet an incredibly difficult drink to mix properly for some reason. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times. Fitzgerald would be beside himself.

An even bigger recipe for disaster is to order one “dirty” (meaning with olive juice). The greatest mistake rookies make, in my opinion, is the assumption that the three ingredients are in any way created equal. A martini is and ought to be basically straight liquor with a hint of something else, served ice cold.

Image

Ingredients:

3 oz of Gin or Vodka (I’m a gin man, myself)

1/2 oz of Vermouth (Really more like a tablespoon though. If you like them dry, the saying goes: take your cocktail shaker, open the bottle of vermouth, wave it over the shaker like a magic wand, put it away.)

1/2 oz of Olive juice

2 or 3 Olives on a tooth pick

Here’s How:

1) Fill your shaker with ice then add your liquor and vermouth. Shake well.

2) In your pre-chilled martini glass, pour in the olive juice. Now here’s the key, swirl it about the glass to coat the entire surface then throw it down the drain and forget it ever existed.

3) Pour the contents of the shaker into the glass and add your olives.

4) Enjoy yourself, you handsome sonofabitch.