Saturday, February 21, 2009

Have a drink on me

It was sometime after dawn when panic began to take hold. I normally don’t sleep much on nights before big events but this was ridiculous. I got out of bed and walked to the kitchen. The floor was cold and I could hear birds singing outside. I quickly went back to bed and tried to sleep a few more hours. I was supposed to be up by 10:30am but my anxiety got me up once again before that. I made a few phone calls, loaded my equipment into the car and left. During the drive, as usual I did my vocal warm-ups. I try to avoid other drivers seeing me because I feel like an ass doing these things.

After exchanging cars with my drummer, I began one of two trips to the Hot Topic store in which we would perform in a few hours time. Accompanying me was an associate which shall remain anonymous. Why, you ask? Having stopped in one of the many red lights we encountered on our first trip, I suddenly became aware of a foul smell that had not been present before. I looked at my associate. We locked eyes like two men about to draw guns and that moment seemed to drag on longer than it should have. Finally, he broke the silence: “It was me, OK?” I didn’t say anything; I only smiled as I lowered my window and raised the volume on the car stereo so the sounds of The Mars Volta could drown out any awkwardness.

It was difficult to imagine how we were going to play a gig inside this store. I knew we’d pull it off but I was having a hard time visualizing it. We left to get more equipment and when we returned about an hour and half later, we proceeded to set up said equipment in the limited space we were provided. I found myself checking the time with unnecessary frequency. I kept seeing 6:00pm approaching more and more and I began to get what Hunter S. Thompson called The Fear. I’ve been performing live since ’99 but I always get nervous before a show without exception.

We began our set past 6pm. Since it was such an intimate setting and I have a tendency to be shy when sober, I played with my shades on. “Attention shoppers” I muttered into the microphone after the second song, “We are Ophelia” and quickly began to play the next tune. It was a lot of fun like always. During the final breakdown, I climbed upon my amp in a crazed frenzy. In the corner of my eye I caught a look of fear in the bass player’s face and all I could think was “Maybe if I fall on my ass, we could sell a few more CDs…”

Fast forward a few hours: After a nutritious dinner consisting of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, I headed to Rio Piedras to meet up with a co-conspirator who likes to be called Whore. (He’s male, by the way.) Now, under normal circumstances we wouldn’t be caught dead drinking Schaefer Beer, but the can was going for a dollar and who are we to argue with that? The economy is in recession, after all.

Seeing as we were a bit strapped for cash, we headed to the one place where anyone can get wasted with only a few dollars: El Refugio (The Refuge). This place is famous for a drink that contains copious amounts of rum but tastes so sweet, you tend to overlook the alcohol content. My friend and I were not fucking around, so instead of having our drink at room temperature as the norm entails, we had it in a tall glass with some ice. The ice made the drink even easier to consume - as if the sweetness wasn’t enough. We’d made up our mind to leave so we were having our last drink when something unexpected happened. While wildly gesturing with my hands during conversation, I knocked over my glass. It took me half a second to decide I wasn’t going to let it go to waste… Yes, fuck! I sucked the precious sweet liquor off the table to the surprise of my friend and the sinister eye of his fucking phone camera. Now I have yet another memory to haunt me when I stumble into El Refugio once again in the future.

We ended up in some balcony above a bar. Already I could feel the booze dancing in my veins. I even recall telling my friend that I felt compelled to throw my beer down to the street with the hopes of hitting someone in the head. After we got bored outside, we decided to step inside once more. I went over to the bar and asked the bartender to charge 4 beers and an order of onion rings from my credit card. He seemed confused at my request and replied that I better open up a tab than pay for 4 beers and ask for 2 now, 2 later. Yeah sure, I said. But then he kind of got lost in the background and never actually took my credit card. I did get the beers and the onion rings, though. And so it was, without a second thought, that I instructed my partner in crime to move with me to another table. When it became apparent to me that no one was waiting for us to pay, we left through the door in an alcohol-fueled escape. We got to the first floor of the place with a sigh of relief. Right then, a security guard told us we had to get cups if we wanted to drink those beers downstairs. I wasn’t going to debate this issue, and quickly ran back upstairs. We stopped just a few steps shy of the door. We realized it wouldn’t be wise to walk back in with our stolen beers so we did what anyone else in our position would’ve done: we stuck the bottles of beer down our respective pants.

To the unknowing eye, I’m sure our manhood could have seemed larger-than-life considering we had large bottles of beer in the front of our pants. Now, come to think of it, the bottles were extremely cold - so what could’ve been perceived by an outsider and the reality of the situation were two entirely different things. We stepped outside the place and finished our complementary beers in the midst of cigarette smoke and obnoxious drunk talk. After a while, we looked around us and decided it was time to go home and leave this decadent treachery behind us. We shook hands and exchanged a knowing glance that acknowledged the fact that we would soon meet up again in the moral battlegrounds that are these booze-filled Caribbean nights where there seems to be no consequences whatsoever. Until then…

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