Monday, May 24, 2004

Running with Al Can't Hang, Part I
"The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over." - Hunter S. Thompson
I've never been to Pamplona. I never even been to Spain. The Sun Also Rises is one of my favorite novels, and was one of the reasons why I wanted to be a novelist. In Hemingway's epic novel, he enthusiastically wrote about the ever dangerous, thrill and heart-pounding excitement of the Running of the Bulls at the Festival of San Fermin. I always wanted to go, mainly because of the "go see for yourself" mentality that fuels my efforts as a writer. I never got there, but this weekend, I was close.

I treated this trip like one of those embedded war reporters in Iraq, hanging out with an unit of battle tested marines itching for conflict in Al-Taniyah. I realized that my run to Philly could have been my last trip away from home. I left easy to find envelopes with just-in-case-I-don't-make-it letters addressed to special people in my life, using tear jerking expressions like, "You're the best brother a guy could ask for..." or even "You know, Sunshine, that you're the woman I loved the most..." Yeah, I knew I might not come back in one piece and wanted to cover all the bases. Al Can't Hang and his posse were professional drinkers, and I dropped out of the drinkers circuit many, many years before. It was going to be tough just to keep up with a guy who's blood type is 180 Proof, but I was ready for the challenge.

A free ride to Philadelphia was what my buddy Senor offered me. We drove cross country together. We followed Phish all over America, and I jumped at the chance to take a Sunday morning drive down to Philly with his wife and son. We made excellent time out of the city and chatted the whole way down the NJ Turnpike. I made the call to Al Can't Hang on Friday, who arranged a Sunday of baseball, drinking, and poker. I was very excited going to meet two of my new fans. Al Can't Hang read two of my novels and Mrs. Hang read three of them! But I'm also a little nervous when I meet people for the first time that I met via the online world through my blogs. There's always that tinge of skepticism that thinks I'm being set up by a rogue unit of Chinese organ thieves. I relaxed and wandered over to Citizens Bank Ballpark ten minutes before noon. I was early and Mrs. Hang called as they arrived in the parking lot. I went to go meet them.

"Look for the hippy guy," she said. We've all seen the pictures of Al Can't Hang's multi-weekly fun-filled trips to the Boathouse, so I knew who I was looking for. A few moments later, I spotted a random hippy guy walking towards me with a beautiful blonde. In the flesh, it was the infamous Al Can't Hang and Mrs. Hang. I also met the first of a couple of cool friends of Al's... Big Mike. I dropped my stuff off in the car, met Monkey Boy for a moment, then walked with Al Can't Hang to the bar where Big Mike and Mrs. Hang was waiting for us. En route she called me.

"You better hurry up if you want to see the naked woman," she quickly stated.

The police were trying to cover up an old black woman who took off all her clothes on the sidewalk across the street from the Stadium. She just laid down on the ground, face first, and placed her arms around her back, as if she was getting handcuffed.

"Welcome to Philly," I heard one Phillies fan say as they walked by me.

We went into McFadden's and found a seat at the bar. The place was packed with fans, drinking ninety minutes before the early afternoon game started. It was located inside the stadium with a separate outside entrance. In order to get into the actual ballpark, you had to get your ticket scanned at an entrance to the stadium in the back of the McFadden's. There were TV screens all over the place and a large circular bar was situated in the middle. Big Mike staked Mrs. Hang in Al Can't Hang's NL tourney on Saturday night, and she came in first place, thereby chopping her winnings with Big Mike. She was the big winner. All I know was that Big Mike kept buy round after round, while we shared some wild stories about our numerous celebratorial escapades after getting compliments from everyone about my writing. Nothing is cooler than hanging out with local celebrities. Al Can't Hang knew the bartenders, and like he wrote on his blog... they bought us drinks, beers for me and Mrs. Hang, and double shots of Southern Comfort for Big Mike and Al Can't Hang. I also had my first ever Cheesesteak Nachos... which was pretty tasty.

The game started and we slowly made our way up to our seats in the upper level. The view was good and you could see all the action. The new ballpark was impressive with a fan friendly atmosphere. The skyline of Philadelphia could been seen in the background. The only drawback was the 90 degree weather. Big Mike bailed first and went for shade and a drink. We followed a few innings later and found Big Mike in a bar one level below called High and Inside. He was sitting at the bar and ordered us another round of drinks while we watched the game on a flat screen TV, under soothing air conditioning. Al Can't Hang and I went back to McFadden's for another drink, while Mrs. Hang and Big Mike went looking for a gift for his nephew. By then it was the ninth inning and time for dinner.

Sushi? Yep, all you can eat... my favorite kind. Al Can't Hang knew the bartender and we got a hooked up with free drinks. More double shots of SoCo for Al Can't Hang. They guy was living up to his cult-legend status. By this point, thanks to the generosity of Al Can't Hang, Mrs. Hang, Big Mike, and very shortly soon after Lewey, I didn't have to pay for anything. Everyone was making me feel welcomed. Philly is underrated. They know how to kick it down there and have a great time. I met Lewey at the sushi place and he was wicked hungover from the previous night's drunken bender. I think he drank nearly an entire bottle of Tequila the night before and was struggling just to keep his head up. Lewey was also the guy I was told to watch out for. Al Can't Hang wanted me to come down to take his money. He was the loose cannon at Al Can't Hang's poker games and had a reputation to play any two cards and drive everyone at the table insane. Al Can't Hang also called Lanlow who was willing to play. We had six players. Stuffed, and not really drunk (more sun-drunk) it was ready to play poker at Lewey's.

To be continued.... Part II: Lewey the Loose Cannon.

Editor's Note: I decided to break up my report into two parts. The introduction and first part appears on the Tao of Pauly. Part II, the poker write up appears on the Tao of Poker. Please visit the other site for both exciting parts!

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