If we like something, we enjoy it in excess. We are competitive and territorial. We go as fast as we can and don’t look back. We turn around only when we’ve forgotten something. We crash.
We are men. And we are idiots.
I had been living in California for about three or four months. I had traveling over the hill to Santa Cruz almost every weekend to hang out with my friends “Scott” and “Maureen.” They were living in a house a few blocks away from my current beach-adjacent domicile at the time.
I drove from San Jose to Santa Cruz early one Saturday afternoon. The plan was to go to the brewery and get a burger. Possibly go to the bar that night. Brunch and the beach the next day.
A burger at the brewery turned into a burger and several beers. Sun was still out. We took the ocean route back to their house.
Wine. Whiskey. Gin. More beers.
Hours had gone by in minutes. We talked, laughed, played games, became friends.
It was now 11 p.m. and it would have been entirely too easy to just stay in. We’d already been drinking for 8 hours. We would’ve sleep like magnificent angels and would have been bright-eyed for brunch and the beach in the morning.
Shots. Shots. Shots.
“Let’s go to the bar and play pool.”
I grew up in the Boy’s Club in downtown Waterbury. If there’s one thing I love (and there’s definitely more than one) it’s playing pool. And drinking. Playing pool and drinking.
“We should absolutely go to the bar and play pool. Who can drive?”
No one could drive.
“Should we walk?”
“We could take the bikes!”
Taking the bikes solved both problems we were currently facing. First, we had to get to the bar quickly in order to take part in the drink specials that ended at midnight. Walking would take far to long. It was out of the question. The bikes would be exponentially faster than walking. It was a no brainer.
Second, the bikes gave us the perception of making a responsible decision. By not getting behind the wheel of a car, we were putting our safety and the safety of the public first.
We were saints.
We hopped on the cruisers and made our way west. The bar was a five minute bike ride from their house, using side streets.
One of the wider side streets on the route, a couple blocks away, had a manicured median, complete with several thoughtfully, intentionally placed boulders and shrubbery. The curb separating the median from the road was about 12 inches high.
We made it to the bar in no time and chained the bikes to a streetlamp. We took our well-deserved and rightful place at the bar.
We won our first game of pool, and then the second. And the third.
There’s something about your muscle memory when you’ve been drinking that’s quite amazing. You can barely stand or formulate a sentence with your stupid mouth, but a combination bank shot is a breeze. See also: beer pong, darts.
This is where the story gets a little blurry for me.
Apparently we had been winning on the table for a while and were challenged by what could only be referred to the next morning as “a couple of hood rats.”
It was just about closing time at the bar. We were in a heated match-up with these gentlemen and, allegedly, put a sum of money on the game. I do not recall this.
We lost the match just after the lights at the bar had come on. I looked around. All the chairs were up on the tables, the bar wiped down, the bartender was counting the cash.
“Pay up? For what? Get out of here.”
Hood rat #1 gets in my face.
“Give me your chain then.”
“Get out of my fucking face.”
“Those glasses look expensive, give me those.”
They are expensive.
“Get out of my FUCKING face.”
Maureen notices the exchange and pulls me away before my roots get the best of me. She drags me from the table and outside to the street.
Time to go.
Scott has already gotten the bikes unchained.
Time to go.
“I’LL RACE YOU HOME.”
“I’m not too familiar with the streets, man. Plus, I’ve been drinking a ton and should probably take it easy. What if we just cruise at a reasonable velocity back to your house? Then we’ll wake up, eat a delicious brunch and lay on the beach all day. It’ll be glorious! That’s probably a good idea.”
And we were off. Flying around corners on the dimly-lit streets between the bar and the house, pedaling as fast as we could on the single-speed cruisers we had no business riding.
We were neck and neck for the first leg, laughing and screaming at each other. I knew I could muster up the strength to pass him on the next turn.
Next turn passes and Scott hits another metaphorical gear. He gains a strong lead.
By the time we made it to the main street a couple blocks from the house, I knew I was too far behind to catch him. Shit, I lost.
That’s when it hit me.
“Oh my God. DID WE LEAVE MAUREEN AT THE BAR?”
I turn my head to look back to see if Maureen had followed us in our drunken drag racing excursion. As I turned my head, my whiskey, beer, wine, and beer-soaked arm muscles turned the handle bars as well.
The front tire of the street cruiser I was intoxicatedly maneuvering through the dim streets of Santa Cruz’s west side clipped the curb of the very well-kept median.
I went over the handle bars.
My body, lacking in motor skills, reaction time, good judgment and decision-making ability, flew at full speed into the well-manicured median – complete with several thoughtfully, intentionally placed boulders and shrubbery.
Maureen found me there only a few seconds later. She hadn’t been far behind. She helped me back onto my bike and we rode to the house.
When we got arrived at their house, I fell off the bike again during the dismount.
I woke up the next morning in a world of pain.
I was still drunk. The pain went from my cranium through my torso and down to my feet. We were all in rough shape.
We needed brunch. We needed the beach. Most importantly, we needed brunch in a place where we weren’t regulars. Zachary’s was out of the question.
Imagine the only place in hell that serves brunch. Jeffrey’s.
The lights are dim. There are windows, but the decrepit blinds beg you not to open them. The wait staff is a group of folks who meet at the local bar on weeknights to reminisce about the good ol’ days.
They never got out. They make sure you know that.
There’s half an omelette on the floor under our table.
Three coffees. Three tall orange juices. Three large ice waters. One chocolate milk.
To this day I have no idea what I ordered to eat, or if I even ordered a thing at all. I slammed my fluids, at a rate likely 10 times faster than the booze I had ingested the evening before.
I looked down at my feet. Flip-flops. Thong-style, where they’re held to your feet by a piece of fabric fixed to the canvas which runs up between your big toe and second.
On my right foot, the thong had been ripped completely out of the canvas.
How had I not noticed until now?
Apparently I had ridden to the bar last night with my flip-flops on. My favorite flip-flops. The flip-flops I bought on spring break senior year of college. In California. On Venice Beach. With my buddy Steve.
I was devastated. I was devastated and barefoot.
Time to go to the beach.
Nap time. Oh my God, was it nap time.
It was absolutely gorgeous out that day. Sunny and 75. Not a cloud in the sky. The water was perfect, waves great for surfing. What a great time and place to get through this soul and body-crushing hangover, 25-year-old dipshit Alex thought to himself.
Scott threw on his wet suit, grabbed his board and hit the surf. Dude can really rally. Maureen and I put down a sheet and plopped down. Nap time.
I quickly fell asleep to the soothing sounds of the ocean, the birds, and the subtle warmth from the overhead sun. I was asleep for probably an hour and change. The hangover was gone. The pain was gone.
That’s when it hit me.
I couldn’t move.
Ever see a turtle on his back? Try as he might, his little legs and arms can’t garner enough momentum to flip himself right side up.
Try as I might, I couldn’t sit up. The pain in my torso kept my body flat on the sheet, flat on a sheet placed on the most beautiful beach, during the most perfect sunshine, the most perfect temperature, the most perfect beach.
“Maureen! Maureen. Maureen, I’m stuck… I can’t get up.”
Maureen turned over toward me, wearing dark sunglasses and a hat. She smiled.
“I know! It’s so beautiful.”
DAY 8: ON THE FOUR UNDERSTANDINGS FOR A HAPPY LIFE DAY 7: DEAR ERIC DAY 6: ON WHY YOU’RE HAVING TROUBLE DATING IN YOUR 20′S, LADIES DAY 5: ON SUNRISES AND SUNSETS DAY 4: ON PARADISE DAY 3: ON SMOKE AND WHISKEY DAY 2: ON HOW CLOSE I WAS TO NOT EVEN GOING TO COLLEGE DAY 1: WHY I’M WRITING EVERY DAY FOR 40 DAYS