Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Conan has left the building

"Tonight, in this house, we are gathered in praise of one Conan O'Brien."

This past Friday, January 22nd was a day of melancholic celebration, marking the death of The Tonight Show and the ousting of Conan O'Brien from NBC after more than two decades of service.

After work, I stopped by the Old Harbor brewery in San Juan and promptly purchased a gallon of their best beer without a second thought. I had arranged to meet a friend at home and watch the final Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien at the scheduled 11:35pm EST time. After pouring the first glasses of beer, we moved the television set so it would face outside into the yard. The reason for this was quite obvious: I wanted to smoke. Considering the magnitude of the event that was about to unfold before us, I did the only sensible thing that came to mind and smoked my finest Cuban cigar...among other things. Having the t.v. set up this way made it seem like we were in our own theater and I was very pleased with the results, until I began to think hard about the reason behind our gathering.

The show was amazing, as expected. Conan's goodbye speech was a heartfelt and sincere moment that touched me as I'm sure it touched countless others. The show closed, fittingly enough, with Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird - a song of such epic grandeur, that it's shout-out requests at just about any show have become the stuff of legend. More remarkable so, was the fact that Conan himself played guitar on the track and even took a solo on his Les Paul. Simply brilliant.

My friend and I had consumed all the beer and had even downed a few shots of a deer-in-the-headlights liquor whose name we won't disclose. After watching a bit of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and having a couple of laughs, an eerie silence fell between us. I was starting to get a particular feeling and simply uttered the word "Shit" as I stared at the shot glass in my hand. I looked up at my co-conspirator and he smiled and said, "I've already sent out some texts to see who's hanging out." This kind of unspoken coordination is something akin to telepathy; I assume this kind of communication is developed between individuals after they've been in the trenches together for years. I looked at my watch, it was nearly 2am... let us begin.

We decided to head to a place I had never been to before. My friend asked me to drive. When I questioned his request, he told me he couldn't get a DUI on his record. For some reason, he assumed I could. Fine. We rushed over to the bar in my decomposing vehicle while the music of Blur blasted from the speakers, hiding the frightening sounds of an engine that has seen far more better days.

The bar in question wasn't necessarily great, but I was now in the company of a couple of more friends, so this inconvenience was overlooked. One of those present wanted to dance with a girl he'd been looking at for a while. The only problem was he cannot dance to save his life. He quickly reconsidered after I informed him that the dance floor was so crowded, no one would notice his lack of skills. I later learned that, for reasons unknown, the floor cleared up pretty fast after he'd decided to grab the girl's hand and lead her to the aforementioned area. The poor bastard could not back down and went through the agony of trying to dance for a full five minutes before making up a bullshit excuse to head outside to the smoking area once again. Things could have been worse, without a doubt. Like the unfortunate yuppie who sat down next to an attractive young lady, who later politely asked him to vacate his seat so her girlfriend could sit down. And by girlfriend, I mean lover. Ouch.

I made it a point not to look at my watch for the rest of the evening because I didn't want the aggravation of knowing that my sleep time was wasting away before my eyes. I clearly recall laughing uncontrollably at some point but I cannot, however, remember what I was laughing about. The bar's bouncer asked me what time it was, but I told him that I didn't know. This individual, as far as I could tell, was not retarded, so when he noticed the watch on my wrist he kindly asked: "That is a watch on your wrist, right?"

-"Yes", I said.
-"And is it working?"
-"Yes, but it's complicated and I haven't the patience, nor the brain capacity to explain at this time."

He looked at me with pity and I felt it was as good a time as any to get out of there. I found my friend and suggested we leave, and it was only after he suggested we get some breakfast that I realized how close we were to daybreak.

On the ride home, my friend drove. I implored him to speed up in an attempt to outrun the first rays of the sun as we listened to an old imported recording of a live Green Day performance from the last century. My alarm clock would sound off in 3 hours, but it didn't seem to matter. We had witnessed the closing of a chapter in such a unique instance of television, that I closed my eyes safe in the knowledge that this was a night people would talk about for years to come. I made it to bed shortly before 7 am amidst small beacons of light penetrating my windows, serving as a kind reminder of an evening well spent.

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