Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Mastodon Chronicles

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Moments after I returned from one journey (work assignment in Uruguay), I quickly washed a load of clothes and began packing for the next trip. A few days later, I found myself roaming around airports at odd hours in a Xanax-induced haze because I always fail in an attempt to sleep on airplanes. I hate layovers, but I know where to find a good BBQ joint at DFW airport. Those are things that I used to find peculiar, but now, seem to happen more and more frequently. Such is life on the road, always on the move, with barely enough time to stop and smell the roses. I'm a life-addict and I know that the preciousness of time inspires me to stop every once in a while to smell said proverbial roses, even if I'm allergic.

I am a seeker. I travel Earth in search of original experiences which is why I end up in some of the most remote and unexpected locations such as G-Vegas, South Carolina.

Bob Jones University is only a stone's throw away from the epicenter of debauchery known as Mastodon Weekend. Bible Belt country would be the last place I'd consider throwing down for wild rumpus, because had the Jesus Freaks known we were coming, our crew would have been met at the airport by an old fashioned lynch mob carrying torches -- or worse, an entire church group led by an overzealous minister angrily waving a sign wile shouting through a bullhorn, "Go home, Hedons!"

Luckily, those in power don't follow us Twitter, or we would have been denied access the the greater G-Vegas area. The gatewatchers would have had a legitimate concern.

The phone number of a local bail bondsman was passed around among my friends. Otis sent it out as a half-joke, but after living in the South for a few years, I know that there was a tinge of seriousness to his gesture. It's always better to have an important number and not need it, then to need a number and not have it. This group of gambling fiends have been gathering at random times on and off since 2004. At some point, one of us is going to jail during one of these excursions. It had yet to happen, but if there were any place where it had a high probability of occurring -- it would be in G-Vegas. After all, the carefree attitude of Las Vegas did not apply whatsoever. Freak flags are not encouraged; they are quickly town down and set ablaze. Then the sheriff's department tossed yer ass into jail with the fresh catch of the day -- usually methheads and buglers. Most of the time, they're both.

As is, twenty or so courageous individuals made the trek to engage in aberrant behavior that represents the complete opposite of those standing piously on the moral high ground. It is hard to describe the feeling about driving around the back roads of South Carolina en route to an underground poker game while passing a white-steepled church every half-mile as few grand in greenbacks bulges out of your pocket.

No wonder my girlfriend issued me a stern warning before she dropped me off at LAX. "Be careful," she said. "And please, don't get hurt."

But what's the fun in that? If I'm taking such a high risk of being in a locale that frowns upon my proclivities to gambling and substance(s) abuse, then I might as well go balls to the wall and enjoy every single second. For me, it was 50 hours in G-Vegas of all-out lunacy. Mastodon might become extinct some day, so that's why it was essential that I maximized the fun.

Axilla Part 2, a Phish song comes to mind, with an essential lyric that better describes the undertaking of Mastodon...
Never understood what my body was for
That's why I always leave it layin out on the floor
The shape a curiosity
Where different faces fit before

And tracing my image in the sand
To pass the time from slip to fall
The line I trace begins to weave
A tangled web from wall to wall
I missed the first Mastodon because I was holed up in LA last year attempting to finish Lost Vegas. It's still not done, but I wasn't going to miss the second incarnation. I had it squeezed in between two trips to South America. Uruguay > South Carolina > Chile. That was the game plan. An act of God caused one of those legs to be canceled outright. The 8.8 earthquake in Chile put a damper on a working holiday adventure, but the Almighty spared his wrath upon G-Vegas.

AlCantHang arrived on Wednesday with Caity, a good 48 hours before my puddle jumper was scheduled to land. I skipped out on the Thursday evening meatfest, but railbirded the meal via Twitter and Twitpics. When I boarded my 1am flight out of LAX on Friday morning, the chatter had died down. G-Vegas has a 2am last call. The blue laws prevent all-night benders similar to the December Vegas gatherings in a city where last call is absent from the local vernacular and you'll find friends drinking at the Geisha Bar at 7am -- some just starting their day while the vampires add more fuel to their all night ragers.

The 2am cap on booze consumption was a actually godsend and helped contain the insanity of the Mastodon Weekend. Had drinking establishments G-Vegas served booze any later than 2am, someone would have ended up in jail or in a hospital.

My flight from Dallas to G-Vegas arrived fifteen minutes early. Luckily G-Rob picked me up and the Dead were rattling around his car speakers as I slid into the front seat. I dropped off my sparse luggage (just my backpack with my laptop and only a handful of items) at chez G-Rob and we headed to Bad Blood's casa where I gave a tutorial on how to play and gamble on Big Deuce. My buddy Rey from Costa Rica had taught it to me game one week earlier in Uruguay, and I was already spreading the highly addictive and volatile action game.

That's when the white truck showed up. The Mayor was driving it. He's not the real mayor of G-Vegas but he might as well be the Mayor because he knows everyone and more importantly -- he knows how to get shit down. The Mayor loaded up Bad Blood's poker table into the back of the truck that was filled with a few other tables, chips, cards, and dealer's chairs. The Mayor asked us to drive directly behind him, just in case a bored deputy decided to punch the license plate into his SCMODS.

"I don't exactly have all the proper paper work and insurance stuff," said the Mayor.

"What the hell? Where did you get the truck? Did this truck fall off the back of a truck?"

"Something like that."

That's how they roll in G-Vegas and we followed the white truck to an undisclosed location for the poker tournament. Luckily, a sports bar was located next door, and a couple of the attendees arrived early for cocktails. Otis eventually rolled up in the Mayor's sleek black Mercedes. The only thing weirder than seeing Otis step out of a Mercedes would have been me driving the white truck.

We also picked up our Mastodon jerseys. Chilly's buddy whipped them up for us. I got the number I always wanted!

Quick note... if you want to read about the poker tournament (Otis won!) and ensuing cash game, then you have to head over to Tao of Poker to read that portion of the Mastodon Weekend.

* * * * *

I had not played frolf in fifteen years. The last time I threw a frisbee was in the parking lot of a Phish concert. But my friends are frolfers and I wanted to partake in the joy of being in the great woods of South Carolina while tossing an orange disc.

From the first hole, it was evident that G-Rob was not an amateur. He's a big guy with a powerful throwing motion. Timmy was equally skilled, but had a handicap, well, two actually. He had his two kids with him which held him back a bit. I dunno how he managed to keep an eye on two little ones, play frolf, and capture several amazing photos -- all at the same time!

I gotta say that it felt good to be outdoors. When most of these friends get together, we're hanging out in Las Vegas and stuck inside the prisons/casinos. Mastodon gave us opportunities to be outdoors and enjoy a bit of nature. Frolf gave us a little of both worlds -- a chance to compete and gamble and be outdoors.

The rest of the crew got off to a slow start and we played an entire round before they arrived. I finished 18 with a sore arm but I popped a half-a-Vicodin to take the edge off so I could play a second round. 36 holes in two and a half hours. That's a lot of strain on someone who never works out unless you consider ripping bong hits an Olympic sport then I'd be considered a world class pro.

G-Rob figured out how to gamble on frolf combining it with poker. We were all up for the hybrid contest that pitted our frolf skills with the luck aspect of poker. It came down to the last hole and I was heads up with Bobby Bracelet. I sucked out and prevailed winning the first ever Mastodon Frolf/Poker Open.

Frolf took a lot out of me and we headed back to G-Rob's to shower and get ready for the late afternoon pub crawl at 5pm. We stopped by Bad Blood's house and played a couple of hands of Big Deuce. I won almost $100, and those fuckers are addicted.

We headed downtown and everyone was already at the first bar -- Blueridge Brew House. I forced myself to wolf down a burger because I needed a solid base if I wanted to drink heavily and attempt to win the Pub Crawl Trivia Challenge. Here's the thing -- I'm not much of a drinker these days. Sure, back in my frat boy days I could drink the Prime Minister of Ireland under the table, but I have long since strayed away from the liquid spirits and have gone the herbal route in the 21st century. I can't run a marathon, but I'm can still bring it in a short sprint.

The rules were simple - drink a shot and answer a question. Whoever gets five wins $100 and the coveted trophy. The questions involved local G-Vegas history and blog lore. I spent part of my flight to G-Vegas re-reading the old archives on Up for Poker in order to brush up.

Right out of the gate, I misheard a question (The Mayor's underground poker room is known as?) and did not answer it properly (I said The Depot, the former name before the location moved and now it's actually The Home Depot). The judges did not notice the manner in which I answered. But Chilly did and called for a ruling. That meant I had to do a second shot. The fucker! I quickly called the floor for a ruling. Otis said that I had to do another shot. I protested and realized that this was going to be a serious event. I needed an attorney with me the rest of the night if I was going to avoid any future entanglements and shady rules violations. Luckily we had at least one attorney among us and I asked CK to keep an eye on things so I didn't get fucked again.

Shit, I had two shots and I didn't even leave the first bar. That might not seem like much, but I ate 10mg of Vicodin after frolf and popped another 10mg of Adderall before we started drinking. That in itself gets you pretty fucking faded so an extra shot that I didn't have to do was going to make me... sloppy. Well, more sloppy. Sloppier. Sloppiest.

The group migrated to the City Tavern, a dimly lit establishment which had a rhinoceros head above the bar. AlCantHang hooked me up with a shot and I was ready for the next question. "The Gooch" is what starting hand in Texas Hold'em? That was a gimme. I did my homework and knew that it was A-10. Ding. Ding. I was up 2-0 but consumed three shots.

I drank at Meatheads before during Bradoween in 2005. That's where paid BG money to drink a bucket of water that tasted like tin. It's a dive located in the basement. We walked down the flight of stairs and the place was empty save for the girl behind the bar talking to her bar back. As Otis said, she was not prepared for 30 people swarming at the bar seeking shots and beers. BG and G-Rob battled it out on the jukebox. Wu-tang vs. Phish.

Maigrey beat me that bar. She drank her shot faster than me. Dammit. Four shots down and only two counted.

We stumbled over to the G-Spot. The last time I was there (on Phish tour with the Joker), we were hushed by a stand up comic. Apparently, the bar decided to start their open mic night during one of our drinking binges. Anyway, the comics were nowhere to be seen. I got involved in a pool game with Drizz against Otis and someone else (Iggy, StB, Bobby?). The G-Spot featured girly drinks. AlCantHang bought me a shot. I was ready for the question. Of course, I fucked up and only answered it partially. The judges made me drink another shot. Bam Bam was already at the bar with a shot of SoCo in hand and quickly handed it over. I knocked it back. The judges approved of my second answer. Six shots. Four bars. Three correct. I only needed two more to win. But... I was... in no condition to walk, let alone speak in public, but somehow I got convinced to smoke a joint that was gifted to me by a very generous local (you know who you are!) and I shared the spliff with the stoners in our crew. We migrated to the next bar and I almost got trampled by a horse and buggy.

Stoned. Faded. Drunk. Jacked up.

I stumbled into Barley's Tap Room where the inhabitants looked like a J Crew photo shoot. We climbed a flight of stairs to a huge room with pool tables. That's when things got a little blurry. I vaguely recall chatting with BG and Bobby and I whiffed on winning the shot race. Maigrey took that one. I think that was the fifth bar, but there could have been a sixth. I have no idea. I know that point I was in for seven shots in less than ninety minutes and only had three out of five needed to win.

We ended up at the Irish bar that AlCantHang loved. Connolly's. A cop car was parked out front. I didn't know if the local po-po were finally onto us. Luckily, I had ingested every piece of contraband and was cleaner than a Mormon. If I were to go to jail that night, it would be on drug charges, and at the least a simple drunk and disorderly charge maybe even a public urination rap, and at the worst, I'd get a charge for inciting a riot.

The judges decided to let me go up against Maigrey with three questions remaining and the score at 3-2 in my favor. AlCantHang lined up three shots a piece. I heard a rumor that Maigrey knew the answer to the next question (where Otis worked prior to G-Vegas), so I'd be down 3-3 and needing the last two to win. The only way to beat her was drink my shot faster than her then look up the question on my CrackBerry. But that didn't happen. She downed her shot faster and got the answer correct. She tied it up.

Down to the final two. Bad Blood asked the question.... Who won the first Bad Blood New Year's Day Tournament?

I knew that one, but it was on the tip of my tongue. I played with the kid when I chopped the Bradoween tournament in 2005 He was a teenager and one of the best players in G-Vegas. He was Shep Smith's kid. But that was not an acceptable answer. They didn't make me do another shot -- but I had to elaborate my answer. That's when I blurted out, "Wolverine."


Shit. Nine shots down. Nine sheets to the wind. One more question to go. Maigrey had a good buzz going herself. Shit, we were both tanked at that point. What would happen is she got it correct? Would there be a tie-breaker? More shots? Good lord. I needed to win the last shot race otherwise I was going to have to get my stomach pumped.

But I knew the answer to the last question. It was about a guy known as the Trooper. He had moved out to Vegas to play cards for a living and I saw him from time to time. He always wore an Iron Maiden shirt. They wanted to know his codename and the inspiration. I knew it was "Eddie" but I fucked up and said "Eddie inspired by Van Halen."

The judges declined my answer. Maigrey couldn't answer the question and I was given another shot. How retarded am I. The Trooper always wears Iron Maiden shirts. Duh! "Eddie and Iron Maiden."

That sealed the victory. It was a close race. Maigrey was a worth adversary. We both put on a good show for the entire bar and the Mastodon Crowd. Just like the Oscars and the Presidential elections, no one suspected that the outcome was rigged. I love being on the right side of the fix.

Ten shots consumed. Trophy in hand. I returned the prize money to Otis and told him to donate it to Haiti. What could possibly happen next? Victory shot followed by an Irish Car Bomb race where I finished fourth of four.

That's when I lost time. My memory went blank. I can only recall one instance and that involved someone who was actually more wasted than myself. A friend of Mrs. Blood had a little too much to drink and sat on the curb. She was luggage and Bad Blood pulled up the minivan to take her home. Mrs. Blood was unable to get her friend into the vehicle and asked G-Rob and myself for assistance. G-Rob attempted to pull her up but he couldn't budge her. I grabbed her arm which was layered in vomit. I told Bad Blood to open up the other door. I ran to the other side and jumped in the van. I told G-Rob to push her into the van while I pulled her in. I dunno how we managed to get her into the seat (with a seat belt buckled too), but we did. The Egyptian engineers who built the pyramids would have been proud that we accomplished the feat without a sled or alien technology. We did our good deed of the day. I told BadBlood to give her a glass of water and two aspirin. Doctor's orders.

Then I lost time again. Blacked out. The next thing I remember, I'm standing in G-Rob's bathroom shedding my clothes. I stripped down to my boxers because I didn't want to puke on my clothes. But something odd happened... I didn't puke up anything despite trying and trying. I wanted to get it all out before I woke up on Sunday morning with the worst hangover of my life.

An hour later, I woke up on the floor of G-Rob's den and a made mad dash for the toilet. I yakked up nothing. Just dry heaving. Where did all the booze go?

Around 6am, I returned to the bathroom. That's when the bile spewed forth. I knew that was going to be the end. I crawled back into the den and G-Rob woke me up an hour later to go frolfing with Bad Blood. He said it would be good to walk it off and sweat out the booze. I originally declined before I accepted. I'm a frolf junkie but I had a Category Five hangover. I broke into my emergency hangover remedy -- codeine.

I popped one pill and we played frolf. I almost lost it on the 4th hole. I rallied on the back nine and started to feel somewhat normal. I got to enjoy the last few holes with my buddies and realized that I really dug frolf and was going to find courses in LA so I could play when I went home.

I shook off the hangover, ate lunch, and watched basketball. I thanked G-Rob and Mrs G-Rob for letting me crash at their house and then G-Rob dropped me off at the airport. My Mastodon Weekend trophy got flagged by TSA. It reeked of SoCo. I drank a victory shot out of the trophy moments after the victory. The agent asked to swab the trophy for explosive materials. I said sure. She asked me what did I do to win it.

"Binge drinking and useless trivia," I answered.

She congratulated me and handed the trophy back. I shuffled to the gate. I was still hungover, had a sore shoulder, and was out of pharmies. I had two long flights ahead of me, but I'm used to that sort of obstacles when I'm on the road. I just let the memories and pictures on my camera keep me sane until I was able to get back to the slums of Beverly Hills.

I survived Mastodon Weekend.

I dunno if it will ever happen again, or if I will ever participate, but I'm glad that I did. Sometimes, you just gotta live. Thanks to the guys, especially Otis, for giving me that opportunity to let it rip.

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