Tights and Pinstripes

We drove up to New York on Saturday for the penultimate game at Yankee Stadium before its imminent demolition over the next year. Pat in particular wished to visit the “house that Babe built” once in his life, despite the fact that none of us are huge Yankee fans. I for one – though not a huge baseball fan – regaled in the history, excitement, and chance to discover something new and unique. Moreover, my reading of late has included the works of Sherlock Holmes and Bendis’ Ultimate Spiderman so I reveled in the big city atmosphere while occasionally gazing out the windows, hoping to uncover scenes from my comics.

"This is where Daredevil haunts . . ."

"Hells Kitchen! This is where Daredevil haunts . . ."

“Oh hey guys,” I said as we passed through the Lincoln Tunnel. “Hell’s Kitchen. This is where Daredevil haunts in the comics. Hey, can you imagine jumping between these rooftops?” Such is the nature of my neurosis. We turned onto 42nd Street, and my eyes scanned the sky for cathedral towers, a favorite backdrop for cover artists.

Ironically, instead of mass sighing and eye rolls, everyone just nodded staring at the huge towers eclipsing our SUV. Bree even whispered: “Rooftop to rooftop . . . That’s incredible!”

Clearly the big city impressed us all. New York in particular has the capacity to overwhelm even the most urbane traveler. Denver, Boston, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago. In my travels all these cities never possessed the oppressive claustrophobia of a New York City street. The maze of towers and monuments enveloped our SUV, swallowing us within the chaos on Times Square, and even eclipsing the sun. Country bumpkins that we were, we did not notice, still amazed by the size, scale, and flashing marquees.

After much consternation and scratching of heads, we found the hotel: the Helmsley. Apparently the previous owner of this hotel created quite a stir several years back by bequeathing all her fortune to her pet dog, leaving nothing for her friends and relatives. In the country, we were accustomed to treating our pets with a side of eggs or some ketchup and pickles. Somehow with all my pet allergies, it seemed fitting that we should choose a hotel once owned by a dog.

Piling out of the SUV, we greeted Tiff and Pat who driven separately – far from impatient fathers.

“How was your trip?” Pat asked, helping me carry the luggage to the bellboy.

“Awkward,” I responded. “Dad grumbled at every toll booth along the Jersey Pike.”

“Because he did not have EZ-Pass?” Pat asked with a smile.

“Yeah, in his fury, he even promised that ‘next year I will not happen again’ as if the toll booths had killed his favorite dog or something. He even screamed at the toll booth guy near the Lincoln Tunnel . . .”

“I did not,” Dad interjected, rifling through his bag for the hotel confirmation. “The light was still red. He did not change the stupid thing to green.”

“You called him an asshole, after he told you to pull forward,” I laughed. “And you really kindly lingered on that last syllable too. Asshoooole!”

“Well,” Dad smiled. “He was.”

Thus, now checked into our rooms and well-versed in New York vernacular, we set off to the baseball game, deciding to rent a van instead of hopping the subway to the Bronx. This proved to be an excellent choice, not only because we happened to avoid the crowding ebb and flow of people arriving and leaving the stadium. Manny, our driver, took us along the East River route; we passed speeding boats, Roosevelt Island, and hanging tram cars, which I recalled from a movie several years back.

"Remember that scene?"

“Hey, those are the trams that the Green Goblin cut in the first Spider-man movie. Remember that scene, guys? Osborn gave Peter the choice between saving the tram full of people and Mary Jane! This must be the Queensboro Bridge. Bendis used it for a similar scene in Ultimate Spider-man. Now that is cool.”

“Was that the one where that blonde girl died in the comics?” Ryan asked.

“No, that was the George Washington Bridge, I think. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard. The death of Gwen Stacy. Spider-man shoots his webs to catch her when the Goblin throws her off, and Spidey accidentally snaps her neck . . .”

Tiff interrupts our geek-spasm with an exaggerated sigh, while Pat quizzes Manny about the new Yankee stadium. Apparently the general debate among New Yorkers – according to Manny – is whether the new stadium merits the destruction of what, to many, is a national landmark: the house that Babe built. Moreover, ticket prices will inevitably rise to cover the cost, yet Manny confirms the rumor that the stadium will actually hold less seats. Thus, he wonders, what purpose does it serve?

Dad, Pat, and Manny talked animatedly as we neared the stadium. I vaguely listened to the sports-related conversation and instead stared out the window surveying the landscape across the river for more comic book-related memorials.

. . . my creative writing teacher made us read Boys of Summer . . .

. . . my creative writing teacher asked us to read Boys of Summer . . .

Yankee Stadium possessed no known references to my knowledge in comic book lore, so the game and stadium encompassed most of my attention. Back in high school, my creative writing teacher asked us to read Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn, who worked as a sports reporter during the Golden Age of baseball, covering the rise and fall of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Despite a meager interest in sports, the book and its excellent writing held my attention, as Kahn communicates a great love of the game and its history. Yankee Stadium is – or I suppose, was – one of the last of the old stadiums to die, demolished for a shinier tech-loving generation. Thus, it was a thrill to experience the history before it devolves into a parking garage.

The shame and feeling of loss was easily shared by many, though not easily communicated. One young protester circled around the stadium holding aloft a sign, which read HISTORY, then crossed out in red (like the Ghostbusters sign). To me, the message was clear, but not everyone seemed to get the point:

“Look at dis moron. Hey, ya knucklehead,” shouted a deeply accented voice from behind me. “Explain yourself!”

"When's da last time Baltimore won a World Series?"

"When's da last time da Orioles ever won a World Series?"

Donning his orange and black Oriole jersey, Ryan chatted happily with a Yankee fan, seated beside him. The pair exchanged bets about the outlook of the game, while Ryan defended his team from the catcalls.

“When’s da last time da Orioles ever won a World Series,” someone shouted down.

“ ’83,” Ryan shouted back.

“Baltimore sucks!” another shouted.

“We know,” Ryan replied back with a smile. The Yankee fans were quite confused by this point, and we heard fewer comments from then on. “What can I say? It’s the truth,” Ryan said with a shrug.

After the game (Yankees: 1, Orioles:0), Manny drove us back to the hotel, where had an early dinner before catching “The Little Mermaid” near Broadway and 48th. Bree had loved the show as a kid. Heck, I fell in love with Ariel myself when the show first arrived in theaters – the first of many relationships with fictional characters.

The next morning Mom promised to take her to the American Doll store to fix Emily, her doll, which Kevin had scratched with a penny a few months back, much to his delight. Bree had her revenge by screaming, smacking him with the remote control, kicking him when he fell, and then concluding her assault by sobbing to Mom. Kevin not only suffered Bree’s blows but got punished as well. Girl Power indeed.

Thus after the show, my little sister as well as the rest of us were in high spirits, if a bit exhausted. Walking in New York City is an odd experience for us bumpkins, where back home a trip to the nearby grocery store ordains a five-mile drive. In the city most either walked or took a cab. On a Saturday night the whole city seems to empty the offices and apartment complexes for the streets. One must learn to tread carefully to avoid drowning in the masses. Countless years of training amid the lines and avenues of Disney World had prepared us for these moments, however, and we traversed Broadway and Times Square without losing anyone. Some might have stayed to shop or walk the sights and sounds, but ironically the chaos and congestion were a bit overwhelming, even to the fam, who are used to traveling in packs. The lights and ads hovered over us, simultaneously beating and blinding with gaudy brilliance. Claustrophia had sunk in, and I longed to return to sanctity of our small hotel room.

. . . trying in vain to spy cloaked figures, daring vigilantes, or giant webs.

. . . trying in vain to spy cloaked figures, daring vigilantes, or giant webs.

I could understand why city life could be quite lonely. All the grandeur and splendor – both real and imagined – induces a fair bit of indifference. I found greater comfort away from the chaos, among the silence and darkness of the side streets, trickling down from the skyscrapers and bubbling up from the sewers. In these areas, we found the true charm of citylife. We skirted Bryant Park, now alit with candles, music, and old men chatting quietly among the trees. A wedding reception echoed deep within a hotel lobby, fashionably dressed bridesmaids sipped champagne on the sidewalk. Meanwhile, I stared at the high towers and tiered rooftops, trying in vain to spy cloaked figures, daring vigilantes, or giant webs.

That night I slept restlessly. The terrors of the big city would be welcome bedfellows compared to my brother Kevin, who so shifted and wiggled dominion over our shared double that once or twice I considered stealing the bedspread and camping out on the floor. Thankfully morning arrived quickly, waking us with the shrill siren of a phone call from next door. It was six o’clock, Dad chimed. Time to dress and ready ourselves for mass.

Once on our road trip a few years ago, Dasad and I almost had a falling out over Sunday mass. Mom had called the night before reminding me about mass as we passed through Missouri, and that if I failed to receive my sacrament on this trip, I would surely burn in Hell for all Eternity, perpetually ripped to shreds by gore-crows, mummified in molten chains, and forced to watch Real World reruns while all the demons, devils, and politicians take turns poking me with large pointy sticks. My own perspective of the afterlife is a tad more . . . liberal, of course; however, even God’s wrath is slightly less intimidating than my mother’s, so I agreed to find mass somewhere.

Unfortunately, the earliest mass the next morning began at eight and lasted nearly an hour, which put us off schedule to meet a few of Dasad’s cousins in Tulsa. This of course irritated my friend a bit, and things looked grim until we talked over coffee, burritos, and enchiladas later – male-bonding food. Dasad explained that his family will sometimes skip Sunday mass during vacations. After all not every city or town possesses a Catholic church, and vacations – thick with activities and itineraries – often do not allot much leisure time. I understood, citing my doubts that God took roll like a homeroom teacher, passing out gold stars for perfect attendance. No, my fears stemmed principally from a strict Irish Catholic mother, whose fury at such heathen dereliction could give all the devils, demons and politicians with their pointy sticks a run for their money.

We could not offer even that excuse.

The whole cathedral evokes feelings of respect and mystery too – particularly early in the morning.

Now in New York City with St. Patrick’s Cathedral just a few blocks down from the Helmsley Hotel, we could not offer even the faintest excuse. Thus, we woke grumbling at six and shuffled out into the now empty city for seven o’clock mass. If you have never seen it, St. Patrick’s is an awesome cathedral. Entering the pews you feel as if you are journeying back in time. The dull lighting flickers like candles, creating deep shadows and enclaves along the walls. The statues and ornaments of the gothic architecture simply drips off the walls and dance in the faux candlelight. The whole cathedral evokes feelings of respect and mystery too – particularly early in the morning. The mass last only about a half hour, and the priest’s homily was short and succinct. After touring the grounds a bit – I did not dare take pictures – we left and completed our Sunday ritual with a visit to Starbucks.

Sipping my pumpkin-flavored coffee, I spied out the peaks of the old cathedral, another favorite spot for comic artists. The city was calm now, and although it did not feel any less claustrophobic, early Sunday morning some of the chaos of the previous night had ebbed away, sunken back into the sewers or drifting off into the high towers and belfries. After packing, I walked Mom and Bree to the American Girl Store to buy some clothes and fix her damaged doll. We left soon afterwards, offering our goodbyes en route to the city that has spawn so many stories.

Around lunchtime we stopped at gas oasis for food and drinks. Gazing at the vast array of peanuts and almonds in the gift shop, Kevin sleepily asked Dad where we were.

“New Joisy,” he replied with a comical accent.

“Excuse me,” spoke up a girl, standing nearby, her hand reaching for gum drops. “But that’s how they speak in North Jersey. This is South Jersey. We do not talk like that. Just so you know . . .”

Her voice carried a slight edge of annoyance with it, as if we had insulted her. Dad said nothing, choosing instead to walk away. Apparently amid the toll booths, shouting Yankee fans, and crowds we had failed to insult anyone until arriving in South Jersey. Criminals and snide comments beware! Learn to fear the linguistic vigilantes of South Jersey!

Band Aid

The weekend activities rendered me quite dizzy, sick, and laid out with a bad head-cold.  Thus, much of Monday and Tuesday — freed from my daily academic commute by online classes — I slept most of the day and therefore found sleeping at night near impossible.  Incapacitated by illness and Circadian rhythms, my body and mind found balm in the latest Rock Band game.

Strapping on my guitar, I whipped the crowds into a frenzy in Boston, New York, and Chicago before succumbing finally to restless sleep.  Unfortunately the following morning, Beck’s E-pro and several other crowd-pleasers had become lodged in my subconscious.  Typically this would have annoyed me to no end, but the hypnotic rhythms of the song provided enough audible caffeine to see me through my programming class:

I still have to unlock Jimmy Eat World, Modest Mouse, Pearl Jam, Silversun Pickups, and AFI so I might come down with some malarial bug tonight.  Even without the game, several days of fevers, coughing, and sweating alone might actually trump another database class.

Database Delirium

“Ok everyone,” my professor instructed us on the first day of class. “This course will not involve much lecture. My philosophy is that we’re a team here. I’m only going to give fifty-percent of the material. If we are going to master this material, I expect you to contribute the other half. You see, I might not know everything about databases and programming, but together, we will support and teach one another.”

As we looked over the syllabus, my classmates and I nodded our heads as our professor glided around the room with a smile and a friendly laugh. She seemed like a pleasant and amiable lady, approachable and ready to answer questions. Gazing over the projects, papers, and homework, nothing appeared unusual or odd. After all, this was a Masters level course, and we were accustomed to reading and studying outside the classroom, absorbing the necessary materials by ourselves. Therefore, her speech concerning “contributing fifty-percent” and “I don’t know everything about databases and programming” worried us not; that is, until the second week of class, when we began to suspect that she truly and honestly did not understand half of the material . . .

“Ok, does anyone know what an Object-Relational DBMS is? Or what it does? I’m not sure myself. It has something to do with virtual objects? Did anyone read their chapters yet? I can never understand the programming language . . .”

“Ma’am?” one of the students asks, raising his hand above a laptop. “According to Wikipedia, it has something to do with user interaction with databases. Like the emergence of GUI and early user-friendly interfaces.”

“Ah,” my professor ponders. “That sounds about right . . . I think. I don’t know, maybe we’ll come across it later . . .”

At first I interpreted his whimsical personality and ignorance to a teaching style, a method of feigned cluelessness in order to encourage participation. Yet such a performance – if in fact genuinely manufactured – only pushed us into greater confusion and heightened our irritation.

“Now,” she asks me. “Who interacts with the books in a library? What carbon-based life-forms use the books?”

I scratch my head at that, flummoxed by the simplicity of the question. Obviously the patrons and users would access the database to the books, but surely there must be some deeper meaning behind this question. A series of circles and squares connected like a toy railroad to thick lines served to illustrate her model. I sighed. Last year my previous professor had likewise relied heavily on shapes to relay relationships between information systems and society. One year later and the method still seemed rather silly and superficial. Thus, unlike most in the class, I felt ready to state the obvious – that is until her ‘carbon-based life-forms’ comment which left me a little bewildered.

“Um, I suppose, the uh . . . users?”

“Absolutely! Now I wonder what users do with books at a library? Now users perform some operation on the books in a library. We should consider what operation or action this is.”

These last few questions are more statements than questions; so obviously, most of the class is stymied. Our professor continues to dance around actually asking a question: “Hmm . . . I don’t know. What operation could this be? I wonder.”

Finally some brave soul raises her hand to spit out the answer to this riddle: borrow. Users borrow books. She of course is delighted, and scribes the three words in the circles on the board: users — borrow —- books. We should grow accustomed to this style of model mapping, she explains. Every object has an operation that affects another object. She then continues her lecture, delving into the history of the database and computer systems.

The lesson is a good one, but it takes us nearly thirty minutes to arrive at the punch-line, as she intermittently pauses to consider, wonder and ask questions in the form of statements.

“The database stores information. Information needs to interact. There is word that signifies this interaction. How data table can reference each other. One table can affect another table’s data. They interact in a specific way . . .”

“Uh . . . ma’am, do you mean they relate?”

“Excellent!” she shouts. “Tables relate to one another . . .”

Between consulting the clock and these frequent tests of our common sense give me cause to reconsider our professor’s knowledge. Her whimsy and confusions seems more authentic as the lesson draws to a close:

“Ok, so hierarchical models are built like upside-down trees. However, though organized well, they are much slower . . . no wait. This [her powerpoint slide] says it’s quite fast. Hmmm . . . I thought it was slow. Oh well . . . so you see hierarchical models are much faster than previous models . . . ”

Those cannot be her slides, I realized as we pack to leave. She borrowed or pilfered someone else’s presentation. Suddenly my regard for my professor deepens; she obviously must be quite skilled in improvisation and the ancient Irish art of malarkey. It seems I have much to learn from her after all.

The Curse of Ra

Gah . . . long day and thus, short post.  Pat and I had the opportunity to attend a football game today high up in the upper bleachers at the mercy of the sun.  No hat.  No sunscreen.  No clue.

If the sun himself slapped us around a few times with a fist-full of red popsicles, we could not have left the stadium any redder and confused.  Irishmen, as our neighbors once explained, are naturally sensitive to sunlight among the cloudy climes of the British Isles in order to absorb essential vitamins.

After the game, my body overflowing with vitamin D, I jumped into the car with a throbbing headache, in desperate need of some rest and a bathroom (I could not suffer the stadium facilities after the game.  Too many people who drank too much beer . . .).  Even stopping at the bookstore on the way home only served to stop my headache and not the wave of dizziness that took up residence in its absence.  I drove home and slept for an hour or two, awoke and played a few rounds of Puzzle Quest — because its that addictive.

Anyway as a result of day’s adventures and my latest obsession with music videos, we have Smashmouth — a severe guilty pleasure of mine — as well as Steve Martin, just because I mentioned Ra in this post’s title.  Depending on your tastes, you might find yourself with a headache and a few catchy songs stuck in head all day long . . .

A Musical Pause

A few weeks ago just after posting our trip to the anime convention, Dasad mentioned how much he enjoyed the anime music video (AMV) linked in the blog.  Since then I search about for some other interesting or unique AMVs to show him and others.  This post-convention season churns out many high-quality AMVs that have won awards during the summer at conventions, thus I thought that I would post one or two just for kicks.

Essentially this is what I watch when I’m bored or need a good pick-me-up.  Better than coffee . . . for me at least.

Southeast of Disorder

A Tale from Margarittaville (A True Fiction)

“Ok, Scott, it’s your job to protect your brothers. Make sure they don’t drink or smoke or go near any topless girls, ok?” His mother gives me the speech between swigs of Corona. Aubrey sits beside her on large fold-out chairs munching grapes; their eyes bore into Scott’s like lasers.

“We trust you, ok? Don’t let us down,” Aubrey added, popping another grape. She had not released him from her gaze yet. Scott stood as one transfixed.

“Paul and Mr. Don are walking with us too s-so . . .” Stammering like a child, I mutter a few excuses, trying to pawn off or at least share my impending failure.

“My husband and my father,” Aubrey began with a frown, “will not watch your brothers. They are already too busy drinking as it is, to keep an eye on teenage boys. Dad alone has had six beers already. Meanwhile you’re . . .”

“Sober,” Scott said with a sigh.

“Responsible,” his mother countered. “We can trust you to do what is right.”

Ouch, he thought.

"Particularly the red ones!  They're quite potent."

"Particularly the red ones! They're quite potent!"

The two women released Scott from their grasp and returned to talk of pools and the upcoming school year. He turned around and walks off like a whipped dog, his shoulders heavy. His brother, Matthew’s head had already disappeared through the rows of parked cars, colorful tents, and margarita machines. Scott sped up to catch the group. A few of his father’s friends offered him a drink, in passing, which he declined politely, feigning a headache which he discovered as he sprint to be quite authentic.

“Oh, and keep your brothers away from those syringes,” his mother shouted from under our tent. “Particularly the red ones! They’re quite potent!”

Scott nearly chuckled at the futility of my mission. Avoiding temptation? Preventing the occasional libation? A necrophiliac in a funeral parlor stood better chances of learning temperance than his brothers did of avoiding alcohol at this concert.

He did some basic chemistry in his head:

— Mix together:

1. Our 2008 Jimmy Buffett concert.

2. One bus full of friends, family, beer and booze.

3. One cooler of syringe-packed Jello shooters.

4. Several football fields of tailgating Parrotheads, beautiful co-eds, and drunken cowboys, all eager to intoxicate anyone regardless of age or state law.

5. My three under-age brothers.

— Now buffer the solution with the following:

1. Mom’s orders. NOTE: this step is easily dismissed and forgotten.

2. One non-drinking older brother bestowed with the mission of keeping them all alcohol-free . . . or else.

— Finally stir in my fellow chaperons:

1. Paul and his father-in-law, Don, both buzzed and ready to displace the blame:

“Whatever you guys do, I didn’t see it. I wasn’t there. Ok?”

— The product: a slightly alcoholic solution producing mass euphoria or headaches, depending on blood-alcohol levels. Mixing the products with volatile mothers can result in severe burns or lacerations . . . for us all.

. . . like a refugee camp for gypsies.

. . . a refugee camp for gypsies.

Nevertheless, Scott caught up to boys as they plotted our course through the menagerie of camps and people. Tailgating at a Jimmy Buffett concert is much like watching a circus pitch tent or a first-grader finger-paint, he thought.   You start with something dull and lifeless and simply add a bit of color and spectacle. Originally much of the land surrounding the concert pavilion is desolate and dead, covered in dusty asphalt or loose apocalyptic-gray earth, the kind that easily kicks into clouds when trampled. Scott remembered a raucous punk festival held at the same pavilion one year. Afterwards everyone including Paul and himself walked back to car covered in dirt like mutated dust bunnies.

The Buffett fans – festively called Parrotheads – typically arrive early to unfold large blue or green picnic tents, portable barbeques, and several coolers-worth of beer and snacks. Their campsite sprouts colorful leis, tropic music, and even kiddie pools. Some load sand in the back of their truck beds for makeshift beaches. The odor of generator exhaust and gas grills perfumes the air, mixing with sizzling cheeseburgers, steamed shrimp, and succulent pork barbeque. Scott spied carven ice sculptures for drinking games and paper-mache volcanoes fitted over port-a-potties – appropriately entitled “Wastin’ Away.”  Tropical birds from nearby pet shops and zoos squawk from chalk-colored campers. Cars and vans were fitted with plywood shark fins, biplanes, and palm trees; hammocks stretched out between bumpers. It was like passing through a refugee camp for gypsies, and Scott and his brothers soaked in every sight, sound, and skimpy bikini.

. . . every sight, sound, and skimpy bikini.

. . . every sight, sound, and skimpy bikini.

The girls were the least of his problems. As long as all the important parts were covered, the boys could stare at bikini-clad beauties all day long, Scott thought. My worries rested on the cup of Corona they are carrying.

Of course the concert pavilion does maintain cops and security, watching for drunken brawls, passed-out party-goers, and underage drinking; however, the general rule was that while yellow bottles of Corona attracted attention (not to mention had potential use as a weapon) the ubiquitous red drinking cups did not. Most Parrotheads learned to pour their beers into cups before consuming – or at least before walking around in plain view of the authorities or their mothers.

His one younger cousin, Jessica, was even ingenious enough to spike her orange Gatorade bottle, from which she casually sipped with no fear of discovery.

“I drank only half of it,” she confessed to him as they walked with a giggle. “Then I added one of orange Jello shooters to it. You swirl it around and no one notices.”

Scott’s brother Brian emerged from among a beer pong game, still celebrating his twenty-first from a few months ago. He had snuck a few bottles of Corona from the bus and filled his siblings’ empty cups – after a stern word from Paul – once the group had traveled well out of range.

“Believe me, guys,” Paul whispered scanning from side to side. “You don’t think Mom’s listening, but she is. Women have spies everywhere. It’s best to wait until we turn the corner here . . .”

By this juncture as the sole non-drinker and solitary voice of maternal authority, Scott had few options. Simply asking his teenage brothers to stop drinking and give the beer to him could not succeed. They would kill him. Politely requesting them to pour the beer out onto the ground and replace it with non-alcoholic iced tea or sparkling mineral water from Greenland was not going to work either. A party foul of that stature would ignite a mob. Nonetheless for the sake of futility, he tried both anyway.

“Hey guys, why don’t you stop drinking and give your beer to me?”

“Come on Scott. It’s just one,” they smiled.

“Yeah, but wouldn’t you like to try some delicious iced tea that I made before we left or this sparkling glacier water which they collected from the melting ice caps? Just think, until global warming, these water molecules had stayed frozen since the last ice age . . .”

“Scott, it’s just one beer, and it’s a Jimmy Buffett concert. It’s almost a law to drink.”

Paul ambled over with his father-in-law, who looked severely buzzed. Brian had injected green Jello into his mouth seconds before and Mr. Don now seemed to stumble over blades of grass. Paul wrapped his arm around me and smiled a big goofy drunken smile.

“Scott, you worry too much,” he said. “This is a rite of passage. I remember years ago when I was just a young pup, a wee lad inexperienced with the world, parties, and beer. My godfather changed all that one weekend at a Jimmy Buffett concert. Yes, it was true religious experience.

“Your problem is that you need to relax more.  Mom won’t know. I’ll see to that . . . though if she does happen to know (somehow she and Aubrey always find out . . . eventually) let us be clear that I did not know what was in those cups.”

“Wha-what cu-cup-ups,” hiccupped Mr. Don.

“Right,” Paul smiled. “Let them walk around. One beer won’t even give them a buzz, man.”

“Ok, but just one beer and tell Brian to hold off on syringes. They get no more from this point on. Mom will kill me if she smells beer or Jello on their bodies.” This was Scott’s idea of compromise, the middle path between prudish authority and youthful hedonism.

Drinking games

. . . take a shot, kiss a girl, howl at the moon, get lei'd . . .

They continued walking through the maze of stalls, passing a bevy of partiers playing various drinking games: beer pong, quarters, ice luge, and flip cups. On the other side of the avenue, a girl in skimpy pirate gear spun a large wheel with various instructions: take a shot, kiss a girl, howl at the moon, get lei’d, etc . . . Crowds of men, women, and old ladies crowded around the wheel and laughed, occasionally whooping as two of the younger ladies French kissed. The boys momentarily ignored the beer and stared, rather curious about these provocative rituals.

A few Parrotheads lounging under a plastic palm tree cheered Scott and the group as they passed. Each of Scott’s younger brothers had donned a grass skirt and walked through the parking lot bare-chested adorning matching pairs of coconut bras – all except the youngest, Chris, who sported a colorful A-cup, festooned with plastic blossoms. Every now and then, the boys would stop to take pictures with someone or coyly lift their man-ziers to flash their cheering fans.

Wastin' away again

. . . paper-mache volcanoes fitted over port-a-potties . . .

Brian and his girlfriend walked ahead, pockets brimming with spare Jello syringes. Every now and then he would offer a ‘shot’ to some reclining partygoers or a fellow tailgate-traveler. The band of brothers stopped near a group of older ladies, who whooped and hollered at our arrival, shouting “Ooo . . . here comes the party boys!”

The ladies, made-up in tropical war-paint, stood with open mouths as Brian dribbled the alcohol-infused goo into their mouths, like baby birds eager for their next meal. The shots as his mother had promised were strong, and the old girls settled back into their lawn chairs with a raucous cackle, teasing their benefactors as they continued their trek:

“Hey, fairy-chest, next time bring some more of the red shooters. Try stuffin’ your chest next time too!”

Chris blushed and removed his floral bra, clearly hurt by the women’s savage mockery of his cross-dressing talents.

“I think your chest looks very nice,” Tony – a high school senior and Scott’s fifth younger brother – teased Chris. “Very seductive.”

“Thanks,” sighed Christ. “But it doesn’t help.”

By now, Scott had relaxed a bit, noticing that the boys’ had finished their beers. They could return to the bus now, and his mother would not be any wiser. Suddenly strange girls ambushed Scott and his brothers from a nearby stall and offered the young boys drinks from plastic flamingos (actual lawn ornaments transformed into ersatz beer bongs). Chris smiled and accepted the long draught, kissing the flamingo’s lips and lifting its body high in the air. Within moments, the beer raced down through the creature’s neck, surprising Chris who dribbled foam and beer onto the ground. The girls cheered. Another young lady appeared, wielding a large squirt gun and a wet T-shirt.

and my license to fly

They continued walking through the maze of stalls . . .

“Would you like a little squirt?” she asked laughing. Matthew opened his mouth wide in response. The others only stared at the young lady’s white T-shirt. The girl pumped the gun and room-temp vodka shot into his mouth like those water pistol games at carnivals. “Was that good for you?” the girl asked, giggling. Matthew grinned foolishly, and the girls gamboled off, leaving the boys smiling ear from ear and Scott feeling quite anxious.

The brothers walked back to bus, passing close to the entrance to the pavilion. Surprisingly enough, Scott spied a Starbucks tent near the ticket counters and strode over for a free sample of their newest Chocolate Banana smoothie. Thank the gods of industry for the ubiquity of coffee shops.

Paul strode up behind him, and slapped his elder brother on the back. The other boys had spied the bus, and weaved quickly through the growing crowds to grab their tickets. Nearby Mr. Don danced between the crowd, wobbling from side to side and laugh, his shirt wet with room-temp vodka and green Jello.

“I love you, Scott,” he said, finally finding a solid RV to lean against. “I’m glad some-somebody here knows where he’s . . . er, we are going.”

Scott could not help smiling. “That’s why I’m followin’ you, sir.”

“Oh no!” the old man laughed. “Oh no, don’t do that! Ha, we’ll never get to . . . to . . . wait, where do we go again?”

“Yeah, man,” Paul said. “Don’t worry about it. Mom won’t notice a thing, if the kids don’t say anything. And they’re not stupid.”

“I love both of you,” Mr. Don cheered. “And that guy over there with the tattoo on his chest too . . . he’s great.”

“Mom will never know. Just don’t write your blog about any of this stuff, ok? If we agree to that, no one will ever know.”

“Sure . . . just don’t tell Aubrey I got coffee without her.”

“Agreed,” Paul laughed, offering him his last Jello syringe. “Come on, let’s hurry up. We only have a half-hour before the concert.”

“Wait, do I even know that tattooed guy?” Mr. Don whispered. “Anyway he has some nice tits . . . er, tats. Good tit-tats. HA!”

Scott sucked down the Jello and strode off after his brothers. As Jimmy sings it’ll end up on the “coconut telegraph” eventually, he thought. Hopefully long after Mom’s forgotten her death threats.