The Slow Crawl
New York City
Benjo called me from the airport on Saturday afternoon. He arrived at JFK. I told him to ditch any socialist newspapers that he might have imported from France. Homeland Security isn't keen about anything leaning too far left. Then I leaked some privy information that most NYC cabbies are fronts for Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. If Benjo said the wrong thing or made the wrong move, he'd get his throat slashed.
Lucky for Benjo, he successfully navigated immigration, customs, and a ride into Manhattan. I met Benjo and Johnny Mushroom in the East Village on Saturday night. The trio of us rented that swanky canal house in Amsterdam in August of 2007 and now we were all chilling out in the big city for a few days.
Johnny Mushrooms is originally from Australia. He's dating a nice gal who lives in San Francisco but most of her friends live in NYC. We met up with a group of 20-something girls from Cornell. Brights girls who like to party. We essential crashed Bree's party. Never met her before. Neither did Johnny Mushrooms. But her friends were friends with his girlfriend so it was totally cool that he showed up unannounced with a bottle of vodka, Benjo, and myself.
I had not played drinking games in a decade, perhaps the last time I visited Derek at school and hung out in his fraternity house. I routinely drink with AlCantHang and there's nothing quite like it. Drinking as a game is peanuts for a seasoned veteran like Al. For him, it's more like drinking... as life.
At first Benjo had a tough time adapting to the rules of Up the River. I kept a keen eye on Johnny Mushrooms. He's a poker pro and even though he never played the drinking game before, I gave him respect since he'd pick it up very quickly. Benjo eventually understood that the entire point of the game was to get as shitfaced as possible while getting everyone else in the game snookered as well.
A few more people showed up to the walk up on First Avenue. As the small group turned into a party, I naturally mingled with the potheads. Or rather, the Ivy league potheads instinctually gravitated towards me. I dazzled them with tales of Nicky's medicinal marijuana batches and a few Amsterdam stories such as the time I almost shit my pants.
I had to leave the party for a bit to head uptown to see a guy about a horse. Benjo tagged along. We took a slight detour to Gray's Papaya for hotdogs. Then we took a walk down 72nd Street to the Dakota where John Lennon was whacked.
We headed back downtown and ended up at Beauty Bar. The bouncer stopped us. He was funny and hysterical. The nebbish owner who gave me the gloss over before he reluctantly nodded to the brother at the door who finally allowed me entrance to a bar that I could care less about going inside. Lots of 80s music. The booze buzz wore off. I went home to get some rest before an exhausting Sunday of football.
Sunday was huge for me. I rarely sports bet anymore so I had everything (money and emotional turmoil) riding on the last 16 games of the season. Every game had significance since I was ahead by one point in the Pauly's Pub pool. I was sorta freaking out. I knew that I'd make the money and finish in the Top 4, but I was in first place since Turkey Day. I just didn't want to choke.
Lucky for me, I had a solid week. Only one person had more wins than me and I managed to hold onto first place. After an eight hour binge of football on Derek's couch, I headed downtown to meet up with Benjo and Johnny Mushrooms.
They were staying at the Pod Hotel. It's sort of like a high-end hotel for budget travelers with different types of rooms to fit various budgets. Johnny Mushrooms was in the middle of playing a couple of the big Sunday night online tournaments. It was work for him. While he played in the Pod, Benjo and I had a couple of beers in that odd neighborhood on the East 50s. The Sunday football game was on and I tried to explain the skinny about American Football. After drinking pints of Stellas at the Irish pub, I took him over to the East River promenade. I pointed to the water and explained to him what a floater was.
Johnny Mushrooms went deep in one tournament and won a few bucks. He was exhausted and decided to call it an early night. Benjo and I continued drinking at a different bar. At one point, a cougar had her eyes set on Benjo.
On Monday morning, I had to catch up with some work. Benjo and Johnny Mushrooms did some tourist crap like the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, and Chinatown. Johnny Mushrooms had to fly out to San Francisco and left in the mid-afternoon.
I headed to the West Side and checked into a swanky hotel... my home for four nights for Nicky's visit. I found a sick sick sick deal online which essentially got me four nights for the price of two including a seriously discounted rate for New Years Eve. Even the top hotels are hurting and if you know where to look, you can find some amazing values.
Anyway, I took Benjo to one of my favorite spots in the city... Strand bookstore near Union Square. Benjo is also a writer and frequently reads books in English. He had a lot of fun wandering the tiny aisles lined with massive shelves. He bought a couple of books. He had never read Women by Charles Bukwoski, so I bought that for him. I purchased two books. The Plague by Albert Camus was recommended by Benjo. A malcontent Frenchman recommending a novel by a French existentialist? Talk about cliches. I also picked up a book about John Coltrane's music called Coltrane: The Story of a Sound.
After a quick trip to the bookstore, we had to meet up with Derek and Nicky. Derek just got off work while Nicky arrived from LAX. We grabbed dinner at Big Nick's. That's a favorite eatery among the McGrupp brothers. I took Nicky there last summer and she loved it. And since Benjo is a fan of greasy spoon diners, we knew he'd love it.
We retreated to the P&G for drinks after dinner. We luckily snagged a booth and drank pitchers of Yeungling. Benjo and I got drunk and recorded three episodes of Tao of Pokerati. Two were good. One was stellar. Hopefully, those will be uploaded sooner than later.
The party ended early. Nicky pulled an all-nighter before she got on her flight and was exhausted. Derek had to work on Tuesday and Benjo had to get up early for his day trip to Washington, DC. He wants to take a photo with Obama. The Frenchies love the guy.