Monday, October 23, 2006

Hooters is a cruel mistress

The wedding was over and I needed a fix, the way any vein-corrupted addict needs a fix.

I understood the urgency of the common crackwhore; I felt the jitters of the cokehead and the cravings of the junky, the humiliation of the man who pawns the only heirloom to take a last turn at the blackjack table.

I couldn't follow my embargo. Self-control is for the weak and discipline is for the apathetic.

"You have to call your brother and get the score," I said to the Watchman.

It had been an afternoon of defeat of frustrations. We drove from New York to ACC country, where we would attend the wedding of a close friend. Michigan-Iowa would not be broadcast by ABC. The Watchman called a local Hooters (a dining establishment that stands out for its boobery and eclectic clientele) to confirm that it would carry the game. No problem, we were told.

At zero hour, Hooters did not carry the game. It didn't carry ABC at all, much less GamePlan. Our waitress tried to convince us that Michigan-Iowa wasn't being aired anyplace in the nation at all, an assertion so disboobular that it should have lost her a tip; having observed her other patrons, the Watchman and I still left thirty percent.

In our rented SUV, I had a Rain Man outburst of profanity and howling, then immediately settled. I was certain of a Michigan victory. By maintaining my composure, I would prove to myself that I am an adult.

The college football season is a cactus flower. Your team blooms on only 12 Saturdays each year. That allows a team about 42 hour of oxygen and sunlight. We pause and it is gone, and for the eight months that follow the bowl season we can only reflect on our misspent youths, the sins of punting, and life's cruel brevity.

I contemplated these things as Hooters faded in the rearview mirror.

Improvising, I decided to turn off my cell phone and avoid all updates on the score. I would watch Notre Dame-UCLA at the hotel, and watch the Michigan game when I returned to my apartment and my Tivo. It would be fine -- maybe even ideal.

I conjured my happy place (thoughts of puppy dogs, Grand Theft Auto, the poetry of e.e. cummings) and forgot.

We arrived at the wedding; my condition was of a man drugged on antipsychotics, and the game was far from my mind. The Watchman and I chatted with the groom's father and posed for a photograph with the groom's brother. I enjoyed the cool night air and the birds overhead, imperturbable.

Then came one of the groom's college roommates. He knew the score at halftime. My facade crumbled and I begged: tied 3-3.

As we settled into our seats, apocalyptic scenarios tumbled through my mind. I recalled internet rumors that Mike Hart was injured, that Adrian Arrington was suspended. I imagined an injured Chad Henne replaced by a dumbstruck Jason Forcier, an imploded offensive line, and I recalled the curse of the recent second-ranked teams that had suffered such inglorious meltdowns.

The ceremony was as well officiated as any that I've attended. As occasionally happens at weddings, there were neutral remarks that triggered moments of clarity and the concern that I'm a bit of a mess. And I was genuinely happy for the bride and groom, whose relationship I'd first heard about in the summer of 1998.

It was no easy job, reconciling the moment with my terror about the Michigan score. Cognitive dissonance? Don't mind if I do.

I might compare my thoughts to the following:
  • A video of adorable bunnies while Megadeth blares in the background.
  • A photo that depicts a bouquet of roses in a crystal vase while a house burns in the background.
  • A pastoral country picnic with Garrison Keiler and Terri Gross while a storm of locusts blackens the horizon.
Quiet, contemplative contentment coupled with dread.

The wedding ended and I begged the Watchman to call his brother for an update. (Confident of my newly scorched detachment, I'd left my phone at the hotel.)

The score was 20-6, with minutes left in the game. The hurricane disappeared as quickly as it arrived. I lit a cigarette, exhaled slowly, laughed at my folly, and enjoyed the wedding worry-free.

I tend to feel minor stress when I attend weddings, but I sat at a gregarious table and made new friends. A couple orchestrated blind dates for the Watchman while two fellow-gentiles and I mangled the hora. As the reception wound down the groom's brother organized the hotel afterparty.

There are two kinds of social functions I can competently organize: my yearly St. Patrick's Day dinner and wedding afterparties at hotels. The hotel afterparty may be my favorite part of the wedding. You spend several hours with people you have seen passed out in bars and sick on sidewalk corners, or for whom you bought beer when they were underage, who have seen you in pitches of rowdiness and misery. I thought about how the groom went to the hospital the night after Michigan beat Ohio State in 1997 because he bloodied up his forehead with an ill-timed leap into a doorframe. And suddenly -- pow! -- there you all are, in suits and ties, and there are careers and new spouses and a wedding etiquette.

At the hotel afterparty, everyone returns to normal: jeans and sneakers, bottles of beer and hard liquor, the natural order still in effect.

The groom's brother designated a room. I helped spread the word and volunteered to buy the beer. The Watchman and I began our second doomed quest of the day. A local ordinance forbade grocery stores from selling beer, and all the liquor stores were closed. For a half-hour, the Watchman and I drove through empty streets and the parking lots of strip malls. There was nothing we could do, but I nevertheless chastised myself, imagining an afterparty lubricated only by Diet Pepsi and Fritos. I would take responsibility for the night's premature end.

Yet as with the day's earlier crisis, everything worked out. Others had prepurchased some liquor and beer. There was enough to last us until well past 2 a.m.

The groom came shortly after the Watchman and I arrived. As we watched College Football Final and drank Blue Moon, two Penn State grads tried to bait us by singing the Nittany Lions fight song. The groom tried to make them shut up. I told him that they should sing because it was cute: Penn State provoking Michigan is like a kitten provoking a hippo.

7 comments:

Flop said...

Hippo and kitten indeed. I'm surprised no one answered with a call-and-response chorus of:

"WE OWN ... PENN STATE!"

And I'm adding "research local liquor ordinances" to the list for my next wedding.

Crunk Raconteur said...

Oh man, Flop...that should have already been on your list. You have to know when the bars will close, when the stores will close, whether you can buy liquor on a Sunday (and, in fact, whether that Sunday is considered to begin at midnight). It's important if, you know, you're into heavy drinking at weddings...

General Bird said...

CrimeNotes, I thought you didn't attend weddings that don't broadcast Michigan games in the event of conflict. All good, though, after disboobular.

CrimeNotes said...

Friendship wins out, General Bird.

General Bird said...

Disboobular pussy.

I say that without the benefit of my urban dictionary, but I think it's what I mean.

Flop said...

Crunk:

All of the previous weddings I've attended have either taken place locales where I know the local liquor ordinances the way a harbor pilot knows the shoals and tides or with groups in which I'm a member of the Temperance League by comparison. Either way, I've been positive that the booze would flow like the mighty Mississip.

And it did.

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