Trashy Non-Fiction
 

Eddie, a.k.a. Ed$, is half man, half legend. He lives life on the edge in Brooklyn, NY. Each day is a new adventure. Here are five of them.


Note: If you are under 18, don’t read these stories. If you are over 30, you probably shouldn’t read them, either. In fact, if you have anything better to do whatsoever - regardless of your age - DO NOT read these stories. You’ve been warned.

Chapter 1: The Wednesday Food Challenge

by ADRIAN PALENCHAR



    Eddie loved to eat. He still does, actually, only today he doesn't have to tell people anymore: the missing buttons on his pants speak volumes. Today, Eddie says he's “let his body go to pot” and doesn't care. Back then, he let it go to McDonald's on Wednesdays for hamburgers. This is a story, a tale within a tale really, about one of those days.

    It was the spring of 1999, Eddie was 18 years old, high school graduation was heavy on his mind, and one could get a McDonald's hamburger for just $0.29. Eddie did it all the time. It was no secret because Eddie loved to brag about how much he could eat. One afternoon, after his friends grew tired of listening to Eddie's mouth boast about his stomach all week, they went ahead and placed an order fit for a large family – but intended for an individual: 20 McDonald's hamburgers.

    Now as to why an individual would ever try to eat 20 burgers, one must go back to the Wednesday before, when an entire gallon of milk was also purchased for a sole consumer. The reason was simple, really: these high schoolers liked to brag about how much they could eat. And when the lure of money came into play, bets were placed, logistics were ironed out (mostly), and the Wednesday Food Challenge (an unofficial event) was born.

    Contestants were given one hour, the length of their lunch period, to finish a given food. Dozer – also an 18-year-old senior who rarely shied from a bet – and his gallon of 2-percent milk were up first. He claimed he could drink the whole thing within one hour using just a pint glass for assistance. Others disagreed of course, so on a sunny afternoon, in a high school courtyard in Sonoma, Calif., Dozer poured his first glass of milk as 20-plus onlookers waited eagerly. Dozer poured pint after pint while sitting on a bench and 45 minutes later, there was just ¼ inch left in that milky jug.

    It's been noted that the human stomach is incapable of holding a gallon of any liquid at any one time. Dozer didn't read notes and certainly not books human anatomy. Maybe he should've.

    Dozer arose from the bench, stumbled around for a minute, milk drunk, leaned over and spewed a steady, cloudy stream into the nearby bushes. Some students scattered in disgust, others cheered him on, while the rest argued whether vomiting should nullify the results. Amidst the commotion, Dozer made his way back to the bench, back to the remaining milk, and with John Belushi-like determination, pounded the rest of it straight from the container. He slammed the empty jug to the ground and stomped on it for good measure and like that, the initial food challenge was in the books (though, it was never quite agreed upon whether puking nullified the results).

    Noon rolled around the following Wednesday and now it was Eddie's turn. He sat on the very same bench, this time alongside a mound of burgers, each wrapped in McDonald's signature yellow paper. His mission: to eat all 20, including the pickles and condiments, within 60 minutes, without puking. He was allowed only the aid of water to wash them down.

    The first five vanished easily. Five burgers were a snack for Eddie on most days. As a 15-year-old center for the freshmen basketball team, he once ate 60 chicken McNuggets following a game. As a 25 year old, he went for fifths during Thanksgiving dinner. And during the 10 years in between, Eddie never missed a meal or even turned down appetizers, such as two sandwiches with a side of Top Ramen before dinner.

    The dude could flat out eat and yet, despite his proud gut, appeared to be in relatively good shape.

    The next five burgers would give Eddie a solid indication of whether the challenge – an unhealthy one at that – was doable. They too went down easily, or so he claimed, and by now a sizable crowd, growing by the bite, watched with interest. Teachers and staff took notice as well and quickly became concerned with Eddie's health. The school principal begged Eddie to stop and when he refused, he phoned Eddie's mom and told her that her son was eating 20 Big Mac's. Not the truth, of course, but a valiant effort and really the only one that could stop this freight train of food from chugging down Eddie’s throat. Eddie's mom laughed it off, thinking, “Well, at least he won't be hungry for dinner.”

    Meanwhile, Eddie kept mowing down burgers. But after a dozen, he slowed, realizing this wasn't going to be easy, that in fact, it might not happen at all. He appeared worried. He hadn't officially trained for this, just lived a lifestyle that was conducive to competitive eating.

    Now, legend has it that Eddie ate all 20 hamburgers. Some who witnessed the event firsthand even swear to it. Others remember him making it to 19 ½ before passing out with a half-eaten burger in his hand. Those are a couple of the ways people want to remember it. Those are the images they want to hold onto. The truth of the matter is (at least, in the eyes of other spectators) Eddie ate just 2 ½ more, finishing with a grand total of 14 ½ McDonald's burgers.

    It was quite an ambitious challenge. It was definitely a step up from the gallon of milk, but probably easier, it turned out, than the 36 hard-boiled eggs that were attempted by a new competitor the following week. He didn’t come close, by the way.

    Despite losing the bet – Dozer ended up being the only Wednesday Food Challenge competitor to walk away victorious – Eddie became a hero because all the while, he was doing something he loved: eating.

    See, for Eddie it was never about winning or losing. It was about the burgers –  free burgers – and a hell of a lot of them. That's all people really cared about, all they wanted to remember years later, not the numbers. And for that, he went down in history and continues to go to McDonald's to this day.


The Buzzard hadn’t brushed his teeth in three days. Three. He was lying on the ground of some airport – could’ve been Phoenix, Denver or Chicago, it didn’t matter – with his swollen, hairy belly exposed, trying to explain to his friends why he’d failed to achieve even the most basic hygienic routine.

He came to a simple yet infallible conclusion, as this giant, party-bird-turned Arizona legend often did: He didn’t have time; he was too busy drinking.

The Buzzard flew into Phoenix on a Friday night – it was St. Patrick’s Day, but that didn’t matter either – carrying on his back 13 friends, all ready to take in as much sunlight, Giants baseball and beer as they could in a four-day span.

But before he left his apartment in New York, The Buzzard had to get a haircut. And, as a result, answer to the name “The Buzzard” rather than Eddie, indefinitely.

The Buzzard and a few of his friends reasoned that since they didn't know anyone in Arizona, they should feel free to act and look as they pleased; there'd be no embarrassing consequences. So, out came the scissors. One of them went with a mullet, another a mohawk and yet another, duel mohawks and a handlebar mustache. Then it was The Buzzard's turn.

Ever the crowd pleaser, his friends convinced him to go with the “old man” or “buzzard” look (achieved by shaving the top of one's head and leaving it long on the sides). It's a haircut just as likely to get a laugh as get one kicked out of any respectable establishment and into
jail. The Buzzard didn’t think it through. He, nor anyone else, could've ever predicted the harsh repercussions. He looked absolutely ridiculous, to put it mildly, and shaved a Kip Dynamite-style mustache to boot. The feathered scavenger was ready to fly.

The first one up that Friday morning –  before the Buzzard and his crew departed New York – sported an untamed flattop, which nasty as it was, looked decent compared to the worn-out-broom-like strands of hair hanging off the back of his head. One could’ve easily mistaken him for country singer Toby Keith or pretty much any member of the LPGA circa 1985. He, like all the others, had been looking forward to this trip for months and kissed goodbye to sleep long ago. With the 8 o’clock purchase of a case of Natural Light (aka Natty), they did the same to sobriety.  

The Buzzard heard LPGA Star stirring in the kitchen and swooped down from his nest, hoping to steal some of his eggs. He was also looking for a reason to fill the peaceful morning air with his eclectic and often annoying musical taste. Unlike most days, LPGA Star was game. Their roommate, Wolverine, was asleep in the other room, which was nothing a little Europe’s “Final Countdown,” followed by repeated stomping outside his door couldn’t fix. Good morning, courtesy of The Buzzard.

Within an hour, the three were joined by Mohawk and The Organizer, and were comfortably seated aboard the party train. The Celebrated One – the dude who this whole melee was in honor of  – showed up 20 minutes later and was hit so hard with a rush of joy, surprise, laughter and beer that he nearly blacked out.

It truly was the final countdown.

But to quote Steve Miller of The Steve Miller Band, “you have to go through hell before you get to heaven” and the flight on the wings of the haggard buzzard was a shaky one. Before they left the house that morning, he was five beers and one green bowl deep. It also marked the first, last and only time anyone was able to keep track, for The Buzzard often soared too high for his own good.

After cruising through the airport to the Celtic sounds of Flogging Molly and the dumbfound stares of just about everyone, the crew of six hit the bar for some drinks before the first leg of their trip. Well, that’s not exactly true. Beers were $1 less at the snack shop than the bar – plus, they didn’t have to tip, so they bought ‘em there, then brought ‘em in there and nobody said a thing. In fact, a hefty, off-duty airport employee took pity on LPGA Star and his friends and offered to buy them drinks with her employee discount.

LPGA Star was scheduled to sit next to The Buzzard on the first leg of the journey, a position the other five didn't miss. The Buzzard had a history of poor air travel. He didn’t fly sober and often alarmed flight crews. 

But The Buzzard’s head fell forward and his eyes rolled back 10 minutes after takeoff, and much to the delight of everyone aboard, he remained that way until they landed in Washington, D.C., for a layover.

Five of them were hungry; The Buzzard was thirsty. Without so much as a word, the feathered scavenger flew straight toward the nearest airport bar. The others went for sandwiches. Upon return, they found the bird in rare form. He’d managed to make friends with some trashers who were raised near his hometown of Sonoma, Calif. As the others lay down for a power nap on some benches, LPGA Star and The Celebrated One made the mistake of joining The Buzzard in the bar.

Joining The Buzzard for a drink was always a risky move because it was never one drink. He had found a happy-hour special and was abusing it.

A tall pint and a shot for $8 was nothing to write home about – not that The Buzzard could write his own name at that point if he wanted to – but it was generous for an airport. Like they’d done countless times before, the two tried to control The Buzzard. They were met with blank stares of confusion.

He couldn't understand why had they wanted him to curtail his drinking and stop stumbling around. Why should he go lay down with the others? And why should he pay attention to the wrecking-ball-sized bag attached to his back?

“Ecccsskhuusemeee,” The Buzzard slurred.

Crash.

“Hey! What are you doing!” replied Random McGee.

Clink.

“Soorrrreeeee,” The Buzzard said, trailing off.

“My pants!” McGee said.

“My skirt!” yelled McGee's girlfriend.

Nothing but quick and quiet accelerating footsteps followed as The Buzzard gained speed for takeoff. Without an apology, he flew the scene leaving in his wake two wet patrons and his two mortified friends. All they could do is pretend not to know him, awkwardly sipping their beers.

Upon return to the group, the two toasty members found the bird grounded. It was worse than they could’ve expected. He was white. He was red. He couldn’t form a full sentence.

Holy shit! The Buzzard is not going to leave D.C.!

They got water. He didn’t want to drink it. They offered food. He said he didn’t want to eat it. They told him he didn’t look too good. The bird concurred.

But by some miraculous, turn-your-head-and-pretend-you-don’t-see-it way in hell, they let him on the plane.

Not without a warning, though: Sober up or get off.

Mohawk and Wolverine had the pleasure of accompanying The Buzzard on the longest and most deadly leg of the trip – a five-hour flight from D.C. to Scottsdale, Ariz. They stuck him near the window and prayed he’d pass out quick.

He did.

Then he woke up.

The Buzzard needed food and water if he was going to survive, and he needed more than peanuts. While The Celebrated One and LPGA Star took down cocktails across the isle, the rendered bird had no choice but to spend his cash on airline food. But when the food came, apparently, The Buzzard didn’t like it. He was more interested in eating his wet nap than anything else. Had it not been for Wolverine’s parenting skills – skills which the side-burned, duel-mohawk-wearing roommate had to bust out all too often – the starved and confused bird may have taken down the whole thing.

But with little more trouble on that leg of the journey, the six landed in Arizona, met up with the remaining seven bachelor party members and enjoyed an unexpected limo ride to their hotel. They stopped at the liquor store on the way, of course. Soon, cases of Natty, Keystone Light and Milwaukee’s Best (The Beast) filled their hotel rooms. Much later – after two games of midnight, parking lot Wiffle Ball – urine filled The Buzzard’s pants.

One of the dudes, let’s just call him The Questionable One, decided – no, called! – that he was going to share sleeping accommodations with the now-wet bird. The two spooned the night away on the couch in a warm, yellow haze. No quite. But The Questionable One did sleep near The Buzzard and that's bad enough. Definitely worth mentioning.

6:30 a.m., Saturday: Early, but not too early for a beer.

At least that’s how The Masturbator – scratch that, The Public Masturbator And Open-Door Shitter – The Unlawful One and The Buzzard felt. The three of them, hell maybe Giant was there too, rousted LPGA Star from his cold, hard, blanket-less sleep and handed him a Natty. The Celebrated One, Mohawk, Standard and The Pale One – yeah, they all had weird nicknames – were also disturbed at this ungodly hour and trickled into the continental breakfast for some fake eggs, sausage and unwelcome sunlight.

Parents covered their children’s ears from the blur of orange, black and beer. Wolverine, The Organizer, Rips and The Questionable One soon followed as the crew took to the pool. All the while, The Buzzard flew with his claws wrapped around 12-once cans of fun.

They all knew what was bound to happen. It was was more of a “when” than an “if.” The Celebrated One predicted it would happen in the fourth inning. He was too generous. A half-hour before game time, following a no-win argument with a cop regarding his haircut and how hardcore it was (“Let’s see you name one other person who’s ever had this haircut,” The Buzzard yelled to a friendly officer), it happened. He was out cold. The large, intoxicated bird lay sprawled out on the grass behind the left-center field wall with his eyes closed. The dudes, who had just been joined by The Biggest Fan, continued around him.

The Buzzard was down, but not out. He was simply resting.

For the next four hours, the bald bird enjoyed various stages of consciousness while his pants suffered through various stages of wetness and discoloration. The first “incident” occurred when The Buzzard was waiting in line for the bathroom. Apparently, if this bird is bumped into, even slightly, when he has a full bladder, he can’t help but piss his pants. At least, that’s how he tried to reason it. No one else saw it as logical, but it was good for a laugh.

Out of tradition, and because they were such great friends, the grouped chiefed The Buzzard. Blades of picked grass filled his mouth. A sunscreen “SF” adorn his stomach. Old-lady sunglasses and a sweatshirt covered his head. Peanut shells and Wiffle Balls rested anywhere they could and trash decorated his waist to his feet.

As an entire section of fans shuffled for a better look, The Buzzard woke up. Then he stood up. Then he stumbled around. Then someone noticed his pants were wet – again.

Forget the game, this guy’s more entertaining! For the next 10 minutes, fans, vendors, passersby and even police officers starred in amazement. They
didn’t know whether to arrest him or laugh. The 6-foot-3 Buzzard, with the self proclaimed “most hardcore haircut of all time” had pissed himself in his sleep.

Then he passed back out.

The dudes got The Buzzard home after the game, not the cops, and The Organizer bought him his favorite meal: a triple-decker cheeseburger – which he promptly dropped on the ground. After a two-hour nap, he was at it again.

For those who are keeping track, that’s four times in one day that The Buzzard passed out (“napping,” he called it) and twice that he urinated himself. The unshaken bird couldn’t figure out why everyone was giving him such a hard time about it though.

“It’s not like a pooed myself,” he said.

Then the party train left for Tempe. Keeping with the trend of the day, The Buzzard forgot his wallet. How convenient. The Biggest Fan agreed to accompany the feathered fuck on the 20-minute cab ride to retrieve it.

The ride there sobered the bird to unacceptable levels. Not that he was by any means capable of operating a moving vehicle, but it was enough to warrant drinking a beer in the cab on the way back.

As he glugged down the final ounces of Natty outside his yellow ride and tossed the can nonchalantly into the trash, he found himself surrounded by three cops.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” he said, “I’m going to jail for drinking a beer?”

Not exactly. He was going to spend the night in jail because the officers had never seen a 6-foot-3 buzzard and no idea what to do with him. They thought he was suicidal so they took his shoe laces.

Hey, at least he got a good meal out of it.

And he obviously learned his lesson because by 8 o’clock the next morning, The Buzzard was soaring happily around the hotel lobby, his claws clenched around two 12-ounce cans of fun.

Sunday: Day Two couldn’t have been as rowdy, could it?

No. It was impossible. In a 24-hour span, The Buzzard had managed to build a reputation that spread through the tri-city area like wildfire. Tempe. Scottsdale. Phoenix. They’d all heard of the giant bird.

But by noon, The Buzzard was out to prove everyone wrong. He was drunk again and the group was on its way to its second of two games.

People stopped and starred as The Buzzard circled slowly around the stadium prior to game time. Those who hadn’t seen the display firsthand had surely heard an exaggerated one from a friend.

“They love me here,” The Buzzard said, playing dumb. “I told one of the beer vendors who recognized me that I peed myself twice and got thrown it jail. He was so happy.”

Yes, The Buzzard was quite impressive. After a few more beers, he told players in Milwaukee’s bullpen that he masturbated to pictures of ex-Giants reliever Rod Beck. He was kidding, right? Right?

The Organizer and The Unlawful One accompanied The Buzzard to Whataburger following the game. But first they smoked a bowl. The Unlawful One had been to that particular burger establishment so many times, he thought he owned it. His beverage of choice at the time, a Sparks which he bought at the liquor store on the way, backed that theory up. But who should stroll into the restaurant but three of Arizona’s finest. 

“Shit!” said The Organizer.

“Wait, they’re laughing,” The Unlawful One said, relaxing and leaning in to hear what the officers had to say.

“… and one of the guys had shaved just the top of his head …” one officer said, as the other laughed.

“… oh my God, that’s hilarious…” he responded.

“…yeah, I think they’re here for a bachelor party or something…” the first one said.

The Unlawful One had to say something. This was too good. Plus, it was in his nature.

“Hey guys,” he said, grabbing The Buzzard and removing his cap, “look what I got right here!”

The cops were stunned. It was him. The guy who passed out on the lawn and got chiefed. The guy who peed his pants twice. The guy who argued with one of them about how hardcore his haircut was. The guy who they threw in jail.

It was official: The Buzzard was an Arizona celebrity. His city-wide popularity, however, couldn’t keep him from getting thrown out of a Scottsdale bar later that night.

“Sorry man, your friend just looks too sloppy,” a bouncer said to LPGA Star in rebuttal to his pleas to let the bird stay. “He’s got his jacket falling off his shoulders, his pants are falling down and he’s swaying around.”

“Yeah, good point,” the star said.

Fortunately, when it happened, he, The Biggest Fan and Mohawk were all ready to leave too. Did the Buzzard call it quits though?

Not a chance in hell. Come on!

It was straight to the liquor store – which was closed but then reopened just to sell one more case of beer – then back to the hotel for the after party. The group was locked out of the rooms, or maybe no one bothered to check their pockets for the key, but no matter, the hotel was more than happy to hand over five more copies.

And then let them trash the rooms, fill the hot tub and pool with beer cans, pass out in the hallways, bump beats where ever they walked, and cause an overall annoyance which can still be heard to this day.

“Some piece of shit tried to drowned me last night,” The Buzzard said as he walked into the room where Standard, The Celebrated One, Mohawk and LPGA Star were sleeping. It was 8 a.m. Monday and The Buzzard was toting a bottle of Yager.

Apparently, Wolverine had had all The Buzzard one can take in a given span and attempted to wrestle him to the death in the pool around 3 a.m. He failed. The Buzzard lived and continued to drink.

He brought his act, his voluntary spectacle, into the continental breakfast for the last and most unacceptable time. Beer on a weekend morning was one thing – this was Yager on a Monday. And he wasn’t even eating. The dazed bird was just stumbling around the crowded breakfast room, by himself, sipping off his green brick of entertainment.

There was no way the dudes from New York were going to let him get wasted again. Well, more wasted anyway. They had a plane to catch and another layover and it was bad enough trying to get the bird out here in the first place.

Verbal attempts to stop The Buzzard failed. He was too confused for reason and too big to take down physically. Apparently, he was also too buoyant to drown. Luckily, The Unlawful One stepped in with his green bag and sedated the bird to the point of sleeping on his feet.

Finally the fucker was finished. He put down the bottle and put on his hat. He pulled his jacket over his shoulders and zipped up his fly. Yeah, The Buzzard’s fly was always down. He was a regular hot dog vendor. He pulled the tongues out from the toes of his shoes – his fuckin' tongues were cramping his toe space, but he just let it slide – and even managed to tie the laces. He almost looked average.

The ride was over, but The Buzzard had plenty to show for it. He had the haircut, of course, the smaller bank account, the criminal record, the yellow shorts, the destroyed liver and the gotta-hand-it-to-him admiration of all 13 in attendance. He also managed to drink himself a temporary lazy eye.

Go figure.

As The Buzzard sat of the ground of some airport, he finished brushing his teeth and put away the oral cleansing object which had become foreign to him. Mohawk, Wolverine and LPGA Star sat with him, recapping the journey, laughing hysterically and often shaking their heads in amazement and disbelief.

He couldn’t have enjoyed himself through all that, could he?

“It was alright,” The Buzzard said with a crooked smile, one eye focused on his friends and the other still clearly in Arizona.


 

Chapter 2: On the Haggard Wings of The Buzzard

by ADRIAN PALENCHAR


Chapter 3: Dry Shoes


by ADRIAN PALENCHAR



They dropped Eddie off at his parents' house shortly after sunrise: cold, barefoot, in a sleepless daze, soaking wet and holding the one thing that would be the demise of his story. They were Eddie's friends, but didn't act like it that morning or the night before, and left him standing there, confused and hopeless. In Eddie's hands were his shoes – his dry shoes – the demise of his story, which gave him away because to cover up the embarrassing truth, he told his parents he tripped and fell into a pool.
His friends pulled away in a Jeep, too much in their own state of sleeplessness and wind-chilled discomfort to be concerned. They left Eddie against his wishes and he had to come up with a story, quick. He was in no state to think. That's why the pool alibi, all things considered, sounded pretty feasible. That kind of thing happened to him all the time – except for the dry shoes, of course.

Maybe it could've happened, he thought. Maybe he fell in head-first, a controlled fall, yeah, that's it, and was able to keep his feet dry by hooking his toes to the side of the pool while the rest of his body continued to fall forward like the hands of a clock, his feet ever the sturdy pendulum ... but then again, maybe not. Definitely not.
His parents were no fools and obvious questions popped into their heads. Why was their 17-year-old son, who loved to sleep in, home so damn early? Why did he smell funny? And finally, why were his shoes completely dry while the rest of him was soaked?
The answer to all three: because Eddie actually spent the night in a bathtub.
Twelve hours earlier, it was Saturday night and Dozer was having another party. It didn't start off as a party. They usually didn't, but when this good-timer was left home unsupervised, one never knew who was going to show up. It was the day-and-age before cell phones, but word-of-mouth traveled quickly in the small, wine-country town.
Like Eddie, Dozer was a junior in high school, but seasoned described him best. He'd made a name for himself early in his career and was held in high regard by many of the upperclassmen because of his Barney Gumble-like drinking abilities. He was never one to take it easy or take a weekend off. Hell, weekends meant nothing to him. He earned the name Dozer, short for bulldozer, during his freshman and only season on the basketball team. By his junior year, his favorite sports included long boarding, steak eating and card cheating. Not sports? He'd argue otherwise.
Parties at Dozer's started early and ended late. No one wanted to miss a minute, though one minute was hard to distinguish from the next. The venue wasn't the cleanest of places, but there was always an open invitation to crash. All one had to do was find a clearing beneath the clutter.
Around 7 o'clock the usual suspects showed up at Dozer's door with 12-packs of Natural Light. This group of kids, like many others in the town, was too young and inexperienced to pace itself. As soon as one can was emptied, another was popped, like a Congo line to drunk town. A few hours passed and the group carried on, laughing, playing cards, snapping bong loads, listening to music and dusting 12ers. The place looked like a homeless man's paradise: CRV heaven.
By now, other characters had showed up. Grippo was one of them. Grippo was a lovable oddball who had a few years on Eddie and company, but loved sharing in their immature antics and putting them up to new ones. One never knew exactly what was going through his head while he came up with entertaining stunts. They could be weird. They could be scary. They could cause a person to black out.
A thought came to Grippo that evening that quickly became the stuff of legend. It was a funny stunt, which only one kid really had the guts and flare for showmanship to carry out: Eddie, of course.
Eddie just as easily could've been named Cheese Nip, though it's a little longer and not as catchy. Thor, the name of Dozer's blue, 2-foot plastic bong, had seen a lot of action that night and things were just getting started. Thor was reserved mainly for “mokee rips,” which were half tobacco, half weed. It was one nasty machine.
It was about to get a lot dirtier.
Grippo was personally bar tending for Eddie that evening. Anything he wanted – and some things he didn't – Grippo made. Beer and juice? Hell yeah. Beer and Tequila? Sure. Cheese Nips and Chicken McNuggets? What?
It's not a drink, but it could be smoked! That's what Grippo thought, at least.
So that's what Eddie did. First, crumbled up Cheese Nips, then a nugget of a McDonald's chicken nugget, out of poor, old Thor. The kid was so wasted that he was smoking food through a bong. Apparently, it's possible.
After that, things got a little hazy. What a surprise. Eddie passed out in the living room, then the bathroom and eventually made it into the bathtub. No one can remember why or how he ended up there, he just did.
Then some asshole peed on him. That's the embarrassing part of the story. That's the part he wanted to hide from his parents. Well, the whole story might be considered embarrassing to most, but not to Eddie. He took things in stride.
As mentioned before, his friends were of little help. They'd been drinking for hours and certainly weren't concerned when their friend started smoking food. They were more there for damage control. They took off his shoes, keeping them dry, and turned on the shower. And that's how Eddie spent the night, or at least a few early-morning hours: barefoot, soaking wet and in a daze.
The party was a late one and when it finally wound down, his friends were able to find clearings among the cluttered living-room floor – or was it the hallway? No matter, they were only there a short while before one of them, the one who drove Eddie home, had to get up for work. Pulling late-nights like that was no sweat back then. It was a time before responsibility and most of them certainly made the most of it.
But Birdman – he was the one with the Jeep – was responsible and was going to be late for work if he stuck around to help Eddie come up with a story that winter morning. Eddie had no choice because a ride home was a ride home and someone without a driver's license didn't let those pass. Their other friend, he was delirious – and probably a little drunk still –  found the whole predicament humorous. What a jerk.
So see, they had no choice but to feed Eddie to the sharks. And although his parents didn't believe he fell into a pool –  and grounded him for the next couple weekends – he never did provide them with another explanation. He stuck to his story, dry shoes and all.
“I wasn't going to tell them I got pissed on and shit,” said Eddie, reflecting on the incident eight years later, not realizing the irony that they're sure all hell going to find out now.


 


Chapter 4: Ed$ for Life


By ADRIAN PALENCHAR



It looks fake: big, green, yellow, bubbly and cartoonish. It's got to be fake: funny, out of place and absurd. And if you were actually there to ask Eddie about it, after he came to, you'd have a hard time convincing him it wasn't. 

It's not, though. That tattooed dollar sign on Eddie “Money” Ergurt's inner bicep is quite real and nearly as comical today as the story behind it. 

“Dude, let's take the bus to Petaluma,” Money said to BR's.

As one should be well aware by now, taking public transportation anywhere with Money – be it a plane across the country, a Greyhound to a touching state, or in this case, a city bus to the next town – is not, repeat is not, a good idea.

“Alright,” said BR's, making his first mistake of that young day.

There would be plenty more of those to come and the final one would last forever. But BR's was no fortune teller, merely a good-timing 20-something with a day off, so onto the bus they climbed. The friend they were supposed to meet in Petaluma, Calif., let's just call him Einstein, was still in class for another couple hours. The bored duo made the trip to visit him anyway, figuring they'd kill time. The pair stepped off the bus, not at Einstein's house, but instead at the river.

“We picked up a 12-pack of 24-once cans of some garbage,” Money recalled. “We were like, 'Fuck it, let's get some booze.'”

Money and BR's put their newly acquired entertainment in a shopping cart, along with some cashews for nutrients, and wheeled it to the river. It was there they sat for the next couple hours, waiting for Einstein's call.

“People kept walking by and looking at us like, 'What the fuck are you guys doing, you idiots?'” Money remembered.

The call finally came just after they finished their beer. They set out to meet their friend – no longer walking in the quickest point-A-to-point-B manner – which was fine because they didn't have to be anywhere quickly anyhow.

“Money kept bumping his head on my chandelier,” Einstein remembered, “and it was only around 2 o'clock at this point.”

Einstein picked up some 40-ouncers and the three passed the late-afternoon hours playing cards and running their empty bottles across the street to a dumpster in order to hide the actual amount of alcohol they consumed from Einstein's girlfriend. It was for the best. She wasn't too fond of Money that day because of his constant attacks, be them inadvertent, on their fragile chandelier.

“Did (Einstein) mention anything about Money hitting his head on the lamp?” BR's inquired, while recalling his side of the story.

Head on lamp? Check. Double check.

They grew tired of the apartment as night rolled around and headed to the nearby town of Rohnert Park, far from sober. Their first stop was a family establishment: an eatery with an arcade that also sold beer. Money promptly marked his territory, literally, behind a pinball machine on the second floor. Einstein recalled Money being too lazy to walk downstairs and use the bathroom. Money remembered Einstein egging him on, looking for shock value and a laugh. They both remember being kicked out shortly after, not because of this horrendous decision, but because of an unruly BR's, who was starting trouble downstairs.

“Probably because I was too drunk,” BR's recalled, “but I don't even remember being kicked out.”

Figures. He did the same in another bar, this time during a much later hour, and by chance the three found themselves in an ally outside a tattoo parlor. It was there that they stared destiny in the face.

“I hate tattoos,” Money said in retrospect. “To this point, I kinda wish I didn't have it. I never was going to get one. It never crossed my mind in my life.”

But.

There's always that “but” when one mixes alcohol, youth and peer pressure. But Einstein had planned it all along. He knew he was going to get a tattoo. It was no big deal to him; he had five already. Money and BR's on the other hand were vacant of ink and vacant of thought.

While Einstein got “legends never die” in memory of his father, Money and BR's had simpler thoughts: nicknames. Money went with a  dollar sign to symbolize his. BR's, which stands for Bong Rips, got at giant “B” and and “R” on his arm in old English.

“I don't know why they let us get tats,” Einstein recalled, though he did pay the guys extra to stay open after hours. “We were totally belligerent.”

So much so that Money took unnecessary precautions.

“I know that I took off my shirt, even though the guy said I didn't have to,” Money recollected. “I remember BR's just totally KO'd when he was getting his and they just tatted him anyway.”

So it was official, though not officially recognized by either of the first-time patrons. It seemed like a joke, like a dream. It didn't really happen.

It was time to go. Money called his girlfriend for a ride home. She agreed to pick them up, but he felt the need to call his friend Grippo as well, who also agreed to pick them up.

Why?

“I was kinda a dick like that sometimes,” Money recalled, bluntly.

So when Grippo got to Rohnert Park first, the pair didn't hesitate to hop in. Before they left, Money hit his head on Einstein's chandelier one last time for good measure.

They were halfway back to Sonoma, heading to their next party, before Money's girlfriend called. Why she put up with him is anyone's guess. She waited patiently as her oblivious boyfriend partied into the night, then picked him up and drove him home after all that.

“Then the next day when I woke up she was laying on my arm, right where I got tatted,” Money remembered. “I woke up and pushed her head off my arm and said, 'What the fuck, did you bite me or something?'”

She hadn't bit him before, but that seemed like a more likely scenario than the truth at that early hour and with that foggy head. Money looked down at his arm and his initial thought was that it was fake. Then pieces of the night started coming together, coming into focus. It was no bite, no dream.

“It doesn't super bother me,” Money says, these days. “but I don't particularly love it.”

When his parents – with whom he was living with at the time – first saw it, they laughed. That's been the most common reaction from first-time viewers because it looks so fake. It's got to be fake. It's not, though. That tattooed money sign on his inner bicep is quite real and it appears as comical today as the story behind it.


 

Chapter 5: Free and Loaded in Atlantic City

by ADRIAN PALENCHAR


So there they were, a couple of 25-year-olds waiting for a bus in front of a Greek bodega in Queens, NY, at 6 a.m. on a winter Wednesday. The two didn't plan on ending up there. It wasn't an accident either. Eddie and his friend (we'll call him “Free” because by both fault and default, Eddie will be referred to as “Loaded”) liked taking spur-the-moment trips. They'd been to Boston and Washington, D.C., but this adventure, because of its proximity and price, had more pillaging potential than the others put together. Apparently, it also had more “P's.”

It cost $4, when it's all said and done, for a round-trip bus ticket to Atlantic City, NJ, from Astoria, NY. $4. For that price, how could they pass it up? They weren't big gamblers, not with money at least – Loaded liked to risk his freedom, health and dignity – and this is a story about one of those times he came out a winner (which is all relative, really).

The bus came. They got on. They got to where they needed to go. That's all anyone really needs to know about bus travel: it's boring and uncomfortable and the destination can't come soon enough. After a much-longer-than-anticipated ride, the two were handed casino vouchers as they stumbled off the bus at the Taj Mahal with full backpacks and empty stomachs. Instead of gambling, like Mr. Mahal expects patrons to do, Free and Loaded cashed out immediately, took their $20 each and headed for the diner for breakfast, then the liquor store for dessert.

They decided, after much debate, that they should bring their own alcohol into the casino. Why not? They'd seen it done before. They thought they'd seen it done, at least. One can even bring in his own music if he wants, too. Right? 

They were destined to find out.

Free and Loaded found themselves amongst a small flock of old people, perched on slot-machine stools. They didn't have cups full of quarters. They didn't have cigs or social security checks either, but they had a stereo and beer. They placed it between them and from it, out came not-so-subtle Bay Area gangster rap. It probably wasn't the music of choice for the rest of the casino-goers, but surprisingly no one complained.

Amplified music and beer go hand-in-hand, so in a backpack next to the stereo, hid a 12-pack of Budweiser. The two would've usually purchased a more economical beer, like, say, Natural Light, but they decided to class it up a bit, seeing as how they were in a fancy casino and all.

Loaded had to twist Free's arm a bit to get him to agree to either amenity. Free didn't like drawing unnecessary public attention to himself. Loaded thrived on it. He loved talking loud, loved his music even louder and loved high-profile drinking above all. Basically, he was in heaven.

The two jokers laughed with nervous excitement with the crack of each new beer, start of each new tune and fresh pull of the nickel-slot's handle. It's not that they weren't old enough to gamble, but the winner of each hand got to order the loser to drink. Electronic hands are dealt quickly and they weren't kind to one another.

So as it turns out, one can bring his own party into a casino if he chooses. And when one runs out of beer, he can simply walk to the liquor store and restock – which they did.

The next time, they brought tall boys with them. Twice the alcohol, twice the spectacle. Still, no one said a thing. Free and Loaded spent the greater portion of their day like this, carrying on with the cheap slots, beer and beats. They got sucked into that casino-time-warp thing, when one really doesn't know if it's night or day anymore, and before long, it was dark.

Free and Loaded were hungry. Plus, they had no place to stay. The two hopped the bus to Atlantic City not knowing anyone or anything about where they were headed. They figured something would turn up and hit the frozen boardwalk for food and shelter.

Loaded wanted to find an all-you-can-eat buffet. Free wasn't in the mood. But, there was snow on the beach and wind in the air and the two didn't want to walk any farther than necessary. Plus, the boardwalk characters were sketchy, at best. Many sported early '90s football parkas or worse, much too little.

“What are you looking at?” sneered a way-past-her-prime, if-she-ever-had-one lady at Free as he glanced at her please-stare-at-my-tits, see-through t-shirt.

Disgusting, yet disturbingly intriguing.

He shook his head in humerus disbelief. He was too shocked to come up with a snappy, verbal retort. Then a haggard, harry man stumbled by offering rooms for rent.  This was their chance. Their chance for a discounted room. Their chance to be comfortable. Their chance to –

“$45 for the night,” the man offered.

“Naw,” they responded, “we're good.”

– completely blow it! The man wandered away. Free and Loaded wondered what just happened. Why the hell did they just turn down a cheap room? Ah, yes, because they were both drunk and stupid.

“Something'll come up,” Loaded said. “Let's go hit up one of those buffets.”

“Fine,” Free said, reluctantly.

Into Bally's they went; Loaded leading the way. They found the food, but attached was a string of what seemed to be 100 people. They walked to the front of the line, “to investigate,” Loaded said, but he had other thoughts. He found a loop-hole. They could just cut past the plates and silverware, past the cashier and right into a free meal. So, not a “loop-hole” exactly, but more of a direct path to the food.

“I'm not doing it,” Free said. “That's stealing and I have to draw the line somewhere.”

Who did he think he was fooling, playing high-and-mighty? This was a casino. A place that could afford a couple free-loaders. Free got stubborn and stuck to his guns. Loaded got angry and set on a free meal.

“Call me later,” Free said, as he headed back into the cold to find a bite to eat.

Loaded found himself standing, well swaying, really, in front of the buffet with one problem: no dinner plate and no utensils. Maybe sneaking past the line wasn't such a good idea – like bumming a skydiving ride without also stealing a parachute. Loaded made the best of the situation, grabbing a small, salad plate from the side and trying to blend in.

Then he was faced with an even bigger problem: trying to find a seat. It turned out the reason the line was so long was because seating was assigned. Loaded loaded (“filled” might've been a less confusing word choice there, huh?) his plate with food and people started taking notice. Where'd this guy come from? He wasn't in line and he certainly doesn't have any silverware. Why doesn't he just sit down?

Loaded was standing all alone, sticking out like a sore thumb. What he needed was the other four fingers to blend in with, metaphorically speaking. So he just sat at the nearest table.

A family of four approached him.

“Uhh, I think you're in our seats,” the dad said.

Loaded quickly whipped up a sob story about how he and his girlfriend were fighting and how he was having a really bad day and left her at another table to eat alone.

The family ate it up. They decided to let the sad sac stay. Loaded showed his appreciation by eating with his hands. He was a good conversationalist between bites, at least.

Meanwhile, Free finished chocking down the second of two bad pizza slices and rejoined Loaded at Bally's. They celebrated their reunion by cracking a couple cold ones and hopping in an elevator to do some exploring.

“Let's see what's on some of these other floors,” Free said.

“How about five?” Loaded picked.

It was a floor full of conference rooms and they seemed to be the only ones on it. It was quiet. The halls were quiet and the rooms themselves were deader, still. It was after hours, or so they thought, and everyone must've gone home for the night.

Some of the doors were unlocked, so, because they were explorers, drunken explorers, they went in. The room was set up for a conference alright, but when was it supposed to start? It was only 8 o'clock. It could've been set up for the next morning or maybe even an hour from now.

Better get to work then.

Using the pens left out by whoever set up for the conference, Free and Loaded drew on all available paper surfaces. They weren't vandals, just having fun: immature, dumb, drunk fun. They drew dicks on the presentation boards, stick figures having sex on the napkins and fake notes on the notepads. Then, they sat and rested.

A day filled with drinking, followed by their first heavy meal took its toll. Free and Loaded were getting sleepy. They had their laughs; they had hit a wall
. They could go no further.

It was more of an involuntary act than a decision, really, to sleep in that very room. On the plus side, it was free, quiet and they were already in it. On the down side, they weren't supposed to be in there and feared someone might walk in and see how they redecorated the place.

Solution: sleep under the tables.

Four or five hours later, Free awoke. He recalled it as “a slow, where-in-the-hell-am-I wakeup.” Gumland, was the response. That's what one sees when he sleeps on the floor under a table: gum. In this case, gum and the legs of a passed-out Loaded.

“Get up man,” Free said, as he kicked Loaded.

“What?” Loaded moaned. “What's going on?”

“I have a mean headache,” Free said. “What time is it?”

“Who knows?” Loaded said. “What time has it been this whole time we've been here?”

The two cracked up. It was true. So true.

“Let's get out of here,” Free said.

They took a look around, shared another laugh and headed back down to the ground floor of the casino. It was about 12:30 a.m. They essentially took a short nap and sobered up a bit. No harm, no foul. Once comfortably seated on stools, back in front of cheap slots, they woke up further with the help of some punk rock and tall boys of Budweiser.

Out of the corner of his eye, Free could see a security guard circling around, looking at them strangely. He knew all along he wasn't supposed to be doing what he was doing. One can't really bring his own alcohol and music into a casino, right?

No. No, he can't.

“What are you guys doing?” said the security guard, with a confused and angry look.

“What?” Loaded said, playing dumb. “We can't do this?”

“No!” he said, obviously. “You guys can't be in here with those.”

“Really?” Free said. “We've been doing this all day.”

He and Loaded were met with a menacing stare, then promptly escorted out, stereo and all. They did get to keep their beers at least.

“This sucks,” Free said.

“Fuck it,” Loaded said. “Let's just finish these on the beach.”

And so they did. Beers. Jackets. Backpacks. Snow. Wind. Sand. Punk Rock. The moon. It wasn't all bad, they figured. They had gambled and they had won. The feeling of great accomplishment didn't last long though, as the wind pounded hard on their faces.

What was left to do? What more did they need to see? The bus. That was it, they figured.

“Let's check the bus schedule,” Free said, “see when it leaves next.”

“Yeah,” Loaded said. “I'm over it.”

And like that, not fully planned, but not an accident either, Free and Loaded were waiting for a bus, leaving Atlantic City.


 

photo courtesy of www.garrettrowland.com

copyright©2005-2012. adrianpalenchar.com