Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Golf Trip to the Sun 2: The Irish Car Bomb's Revenge"

Last Thursday I returned to the scene of my near demise for some more Eastern Shore style golf. This trip was different from the original The Golf Trip to the Sun in two key respects: (1) the heat did not reach a point where you could grill halibut on your dashboard and (2) one of the two rounds of golf was replaced by a second night of over-indulgence. The event is known simply as the 8th Annual (with last year being the 7th Annual and the year before that being the . . . crap, I forget) and includes a group of longtime friends all of whom could be classified as professional drinkers ranging from Hooters Tour caliber to multiple major winners. Everyone involved owns their own business, is an executive and/or has a law degree and played lacrosse in college so we are always handling a highly volatile mixture of ego, aggression and alcohol.  At least once per trip, someone drops a beaker of it on the floor of the lab and sends everyone running for the decontamination showers. This year would be no exception.

What could go wrong?
The first night always starts off with a relatively mellow dinner at a local seafood restaurant (though every year it seems that they have put one more open table between us and the rest of the customers).  There are a lot of the bear hugs and laughs that you get from close friends who haven’t seen each other in a while. The dinner conversation starts with wives and kids then moves on to work which dovetails nicely into politics right about the time the check arrives and we prepare to leave for what has been known simply for the past eight years as the “Back Deck.” 

The Back Deck seems harmless enough. It is attached to the suburban three bedroom home owned by our host’s mother and it serenely overlooks the 8th green and 9th fairway of the community’s golf course. It is furnished with a few Adirondack chairs, a wooden bench and some tables – the perfect setting for a group of old friends to peacefully gather, smoke a few cigars and reminisce about old times. Instead, it inevitably turns into a heated political roundtable with a steadily escalating decibel level. Imagine an episode of The McLaughlin Group where the entire panel is drunk, and every five minutes either Robert Novak or Jack Germond charges across the stage and tries to flip the other over in his chair until Morton Kondracke and Pat Buchanan can step in and break it up. This goes on for about three hours until (a) everyone is too tired to stand-up, or (b) furniture is broken. 

"I'm going to kick
your ass Germond!"
This year it was the latter as I let my guard down while sitting on the wooden bench and suddenly found myself trying to leg press my way from under the weight of my political opponent to whom I was giving-up about 75 lbs. (When you’re the smallest guy on the trip with the biggest mouth, you grow used to these odds). Any chance I had of gaining some leverage was lost when the legs of the bench snapped and the whole situation dropped to the floor. At that point I was left grappling for a knee which I thought I had accomplished until I stood-up and discovered it belonged to an “innocent” bystander. When the dust settled, we all stared at the bench like a bunch of 12 year olds who had just broken mom’s favorite lamp with a Frisbee. Then we acknowledged that there was nothing we could do about it in our present condition, shrugged our shoulders and went to bed. (I was just glad that I wasn’t the direct cause of the damage considering that I was responsible for the bathroom drywall incident of 2008). 

The second day is an ultra marathon that fittingly starts where the first day ended.  By the time I got to the deck, guilt had apparently spurred a lot of activity as the bench had been replaced by newly purchased plastic Adirondack chairs. I was simultaneously handed a beer, offered a Bloody Mary and sucker punched in the kidney. The starting gun had officially sounded. 

The centerpiece of Day 2 is a round of golf for which our original group of eight grows to about twenty. Of the twenty, maybe seven keep score.  (I do play real golf too but no one ever shotguns a Budweiser during the club championship so those stories aren’t quite as flavorful).  Our round was enhanced by an iPod in the cart playing the Stones, Tom Petty, The Allman Brothers, etc. This needs to become a regular part of the game. Think about it.  You’re outside and you’re drinking beers with friends.  Under what other circumstances would you not have music playing in that situation?  Then again, when the playlist switched to hip-hop and I made a double, I wanted to annihilate the speakers with my sand wedge.

In hindsight, they all
looked like Phoebe Cates.
After golf we returned to the Back Deck for a few post-round cocktails.  At this point, we were generally sedated enough that the topics of conversation stayed on non-controversial subjects like high school sports memories, girls from our youth and fights. (Ironically, it’s safer to talk about fights than politics with these people). After a few hours, we piled into a van and headed into town to see what we could milk out of our third wind. This year the only thing that got me into the van was my pure undying respect for tradition. 

It had been exactly eighteen days since I had gone to St. Michaels, Maryland, stuffed myself full of fried seafood, chased it with a bunch of beers and a few Irish Car Bombs and then woken-up the next day feeling like John Hurt at the dinner table in Alien and now I was back.  Did I learn my lesson?  Well this year I skipped the fried food and had a big old grilled fish taco, chased it with a bunch of beers and then went back to the Carpenter Street Saloon and ordered-up a round of Car Bombs.  I don’t know what it is that draws me to those things.  Maybe it’s that they’re a shot swimming in delicious Guinness.  Maybe it’s the name (I doubt I would be as inclined to order a round of “Iranian Car Bombs”). Ultimately, I think it’s that they are a test of manhood as if we are saying to ourselves, “Selves, if we can stomach this foul concoction at this point in the night, we are men….with suspect judgment.”

"I told him not to get the fish taco."
After the Car Bombs, we returned to the Back Deck where we had clearly reached Level 5 of Larry Miller’s Five Levels of Drinking.  “One of your friends stands-up and announces, ‘WE’RE DRIVING TO FLORIDA’….and then passes out.” (If you like to push the limits of indulgence on occasion, this routine is worth eight minutes of your time - The Five Levels of Drinking). At that point there was nothing but love in the room.  We actually spent about five minutes in a huddle pumping each other up like we were getting ready to go fight a dragon. Eventually, people started wandering off to the bathroom and didn’t come back until there were just two of us riding-out a night we didn’t want to end. And then it was just me, sitting on a plastic Adirondack chair waiting for the sun to come up because it seemed like the right thing to do. 

I woke-up the next morning on the floor of the living room.  Not sure how I got there but sleeping on the floor does have its benefits because the aching in your back and shoulders draws some attention away from the spike in your forehead and the fish taco and Irish Car Bomb leg wrestling in your stomach.  The ninety minute ride home and the next twenty-four hours are always rough but by Monday morning the recap emails start flying and you find yourself laughing out loud at your desk and looking forward to next year . . . and Googling wrestling moves so you don’t end up on the wrong end of a Back Deck pile driver at the 9th annual.