I rolled out of bed and yawned into the living room, immediately causing my roommates to crack up laughing. This was not something atypical to hungover Saturday and Sunday mornings back in my early-twenties, but, nevertheless, I had to ask: “What?”
Freddie smirked. “Have you forgot? Check your wallet.”
I ran back to my room and retrieved my billfold off the nightstand. It was overflowing with $20 bills.
“Holy shit, there’s like $500 here!”
I began to slowly recall the events of the previous night. A college friend of Freddie’s, Scott, had invited him to a party at his luxury high-rise in the financial district. Back then I still lived in Hoboken and I convinced Freddie that the best way to get to Wall Street would be via the NY Waterway ferry service. Predominately for business commuters, by 9:00 PM Friday when we set off, Freddie and I were the lone passengers on ship. Freddie is nothing if not a law-abiding moral man, but I had further convinced him that we should smuggle a bottle of vodka and some tonic water on deck. As the ferry slowly moved through the dark waters, Freddie and I passed the two bottles back and forth. Swig of vodka, swig of tonic, swallow, repeat. By the time we arrived at Pier 11 we were pretty lit up, and thus struggled to locate the apartment on the dark and deserted brick streets.
Ultimately we arrived at Scott’s incredible pad to find the party in full swing. Nerdy, lithe little men in $300 Gucci jeans, tucked-in pink Thomas Pink slim-fit shirts, Prada loafers sockless, drinking and dancing with women just a few pounds overweight yet still in tube top dresses, the kind of ladies that would only be good-looking if we lived in a place that didn’t have cable television yet.
Oh, did I forget to mention that Freddie went to Duke University and thus the entire party was full of Cameron Crazies?
I know what you’re saying, Duke is probably the second most detested college in America after Notre Dame, how could I possibly have a good friend that went there? Duke is full of supercilious WASPy crackers from New Jersey and Long Island who spent their university years camping out in Krzyzewski-ville, not even drinking but studying (!!!), all to smear blue and white clown makeup on their pale, pimply faces to root for a team full of detestable floppersand court-slappers. Yes, I agree with that and, quite frankly, so would Freddie. That’s what makes him so great. Freddie did then and still admits to this day that his alma mater was a major nerd school. But, he is not a dork and Scott is not a dork, and…well…that made three of us at this particular party that were cool. And I’m even counting the lollipop-headed Mike Dunleavy, Jr. who was there, fresh off a middling rookie season, proof that even a $3.1M first year contract doesn’t make one cool.
Luckily, Scott and his Duke friends were investment bankers and thus already quite rich by age 23, providing one of the most fully stocked party bars I’ve ever seen. I started hitting the Maker’s Mark neat hard and before I knew it I was actually enjoying the party. Soon, a pair of Villanova co-eds arrived and we were all three flirting, mocking the Dukies around us.
Meanwhile, a game of beer pong had sprung up in the corner. Now, even today at 30 I like the game, but back then I loved the game. I asked my favorite Villanova girl if she wanted to be my teammate, she acquiesced with authority, and we called “next.”
I like to team-up for drinking games–most specifically beer pong or flip cup–with girls I want to pick up, it being a semi-sleazy way to accelerate the seduction. It forces both of us to get drunk at an accelerated pace, I rarely lose at things so I get to display my impressive prowess, and soon we’re winning games and high-fiving which begets hugging which begets kissing which begets sweeping the dank Miller Lite off the beer pong table for a quick public romp. OK, that’s never happened before, but the rest is basically true.
The Duke kids were terrible at beer pong, as if they had never played it in college and were trying out this “crazy state college kid game” just for a laugh. Like when private school kids have “white trash” parties. It was quite clear that my ‘Nova girl and I were going to run the table for the rest of the night, something I brashly informed her of.
One of our opponents Neil was someone that you couldn’t help but viscerally hate. A 5’4″ 110 pound pipsqueak in a ribbon belt and Robin egg blue chinos with just the most perfect Prince William tussled hair, he carried himself with an inappropriate swagger that can only be manifested by a massive familial net worth. He immediately went after me.
“Let’s play for money, fella.”
“Naw, let’s just play our teams now.”
I looked at my girl and smiled.
“No. You and me, one-on-one, one cup each, $20.”
“Naw, let’s just keep it fun.”
Neil got in my face. “First we play for money. Fill your cup up.”
I was exasperated as I turned to my girl and shrugged. “Fine, one cup, then we go back to teams.”
We each set up our sole Solos. I threw and missed. Neil threw and made it. I took the lone twenty from my wallet and walked it over to Neil. People at the party were legitimately impressed. $20 isn’t much money, but to gamble it on just a single one-second event is still somewhat high-stakes. But Neil wasn’t happy.
“Double or nothing. Let’s go again.”
“Come on man, I just want to play teams.”
“You a pussy? I want you to try and get your money back. Double or nothing.”
My girl was getting sick of the machismo pulsing over the beer pong table. Educated, civilized women absolute detest needless manliness, finding it anything but sexy. And though I hadn’t instigated and was completely trying to defray things, it didn’t matter. She left my side to find her friend at the drinks table. Now I was really pissed.
“Alright, double or nothing, motherfucker.”
A small crowd had begun to gather, surrounding the table like a cock fight ring. The Duke kids backing Neil, Freddie, Scott, and the few other free agents on my side.
We set up our cups. Neil threw and missed. I threw, my ball hit the lip of the cup and knocked it over, unloading all the liquid onto the floor. Victory! Scott and Freddie high-fived me.
Neil sprinted into my face like Earl Weaver arguing with an umpire. “No, no, no, that doesn’t count! You didn’t make the shot! You knocked it over.”
“That counts, pal, that’s how everyone plays.” I looked toward Scott and Freddie and they nodded, true.
“I didn’t have enough beer in my cup!”
“Your fault. You filled it.”
“You know that would have lipped out if it was filled!”
“Not my fault. You filled it. Now give me my twenty back.”
“No way. Doesn’t count, we’re playing again.”
“You’re Welshing you fucking midget?”
“I ain’t Welshing, we’re playing again. Double or nothing.”
“No, I already won.”
“Uh uh. We’re playing again. For $50!”
The crowd was buzzing.
“How bout $100 then?”
I snorted in his face. “You think you’re a big man? You think I’m impressed?”
I dramatically paused. It’s funny, I’m not a gambler at all nowadays, but back then I was an impetuous wagerer. I would bet on anything and everything. I thought the only way to prove my points, my worth, was to throw ludicrous money at my opposition.
“Let’s play for $500!”
Neil backpedaled. “No, $100’s fine.”
“Pussy.” I looked at the crowd. “Do you believe this coward instigated things and now won’t play me for a measley $500?”
People started laughing at Neil. He was fuming, thinking things over, when finally he snapped.
“Fine. We’ll play.”
I did not expect him to call my bluff. As two girls filled a second cup for each of us, Neil and I went to our respective corners.
I huddled with Scott and Freddie. “Guy’s I don’t have a nickel on me. What the fuck do I do?”
“Don’t worry,” said Scott, “everyone hates this motherfucker. If you lose, we’ll stake you. But you ain’t losing.” Freddie slapped me on the ass for good luck.
I never get nervous in competition but, despite the liters of liquor flowing through my CNS, I was trembling. I may be a starving artist now, but back then I was borderline homeless and I could not afford to lose my friends’ money.
We flipped a coin and Neil won. He elected to throw first.
Neil lined up and released. SPLASH! The Duke kids erupted. “That’s what’s up!” spouted Neil.
Scott squeezed my shoulder. Focus. I exhaled, lined my elbow up, released, and…SPLASH!
I answered him.
Two new cups.
Neil lined it up, tossed it, missed.
I lined it up, tossed it, center cut. Victory. Scott, Freddie, and a bunch of turncoat Dukies surrounded me, slapping me on the back, feting me.
With an immediate fury, Neil flapped open his Pierre Cardin eel skin wallet, pulled an inch thick stack of ATM fresh twenties, and threw them at me as if I was a worthless hooker. Neil then stormed from the party, grabbing some Hershey’s syrup off the drinks table en route and spraying it all over Scott’s shirt in anger.
All we could do is cackle at our good fortune.
Freddie reminded me of this story just this weekend at my 30th birthday. Earlier in the day I’d had my first ever Tyranena brew, another gift from Dirtyspeed. It was one of the most fragrant and rich-tasty coffee beers I’ve ever had. Silky with a thick roasted flavor, I found this quite good, despite the fact that oatmeal porters aren’t exactly my favorite style in the world. This is one of the better ones I’ve ever had though. It also made me quite intrigued to hopefully try more from the amusingly named Brewers Gone Wild! series, specifically the Hop Whore DIPA and the Spank Me Baby! barley wine, though the entire series seems delicious.