44, part one
“This is life in Washington, DC: Moo! I am a cow!”
“Moo! Cows live in DC!”
My old college buddy James was on the floor, under the table, screaming over the oppressive jukebox and pounding the underside of the table with his fist. I’d long since taken my beer and cradled it to my chest. Across from me was a horrified Iraqi vet, and associate from my day job. I smiled apologetically.
“Moo!” James continued from the sticky floor.
My veteran associate, David, was in town for the Inauguration of Jesus Hussein Christ, benevolent dictator and black man only according to Jim Crow laws. I was putting him up in my spare bedroom.
“And the other thing that lives in Washington, DC?” James said. It took me awhile, perhaps half a pint, to realize that he had asked the question a few times. I bent down and looked at his shadowed face.
“What’s the other thing that lives in DC?”
“Pigs! Oink! Oink!” His head tilted back and hit the floor with a sickeningly wet thud.
“Um…should we get a cab?” David asked.
“Cabs run Satan’s meters!” James screamed.
I shrugged and flagged down a waitress. “I’m fine.”
“But your friend is…”
I stared blankly at David.
“I mean, he’s…kind of out of it.”
“I’m in it, baby! I’m far from out of it! I grew up in this sad, demented city!”
I ignored the disembodied voice and continued staring.
“So we’re staying?”
David sighed and, when the waitress came around, he gave in and ordered a gin and tonic. I asked for another Winterhook. I’d spent the better part of a month finding a bar that served Winterhook, and I wasn’t about to let James ruin it.
“Did you ever fuck that Spanish maid?” James asked.
Still staring at David, I shook my head. “Which one?”
“At your apartment? With the flower print hat?”
“No. I’m incapable of speaking coherently when a woman is around.”
David snapped his fingers as his gin and tonic arrived, “That’s the little one, right?”
“Nacho likes the little ones!”
“The best thing about the little ones,” James screamed.
“Here we go.” I muttered.
“Is that, when you slick their hair back in the shower – “
“Oh my god,” David hissed, “Everyone’s listening!”
“—they look like ten year olds!”
The manager approached our table and asked us to leave, and I pointed a finger at David, “Now we leave. There’s a natural order to things.”
David and I pulled James from under the table, hefted him to his feet, and the three of us struggled out into the sunlight. Four in the afternoon, perhaps too early for such debauchery, but the times demanded drink. Forty-four shots was the joking plan the night before, and that had turned into 44 bars. All in honor of our Lord and Savior, Barack Obama.
“What are we up to?” James slurred.
“Twelve!” James pulled away and stumbled into the turn lane of Wisconsin Avenue. “Zachary Taylor! Tippecanoe and Taylor, too!”
“Tyler.” I said, “Number ten.”
“Zachary Taylor! Died on the Fourth of July, 1850, after only two years as pres!”
“Woah.” David muttered.
“They say he was poisoned! Number 13! Um…”
“Fillmore.” I said.
David looked at me, “Woah.”
“I paid 50 grand for my history degree.”
“Millard Fillmore!” James screamed, dancing back onto the sidewalk as a Metrobus honked at him. “The best bar for Fillmore?”
“Um…” I stared at a redhead and her dog, “Know Nothing Party. Irish Times, Union Station.”
“That’s the exact opposite of what the Know Nothing Party would want.” James replied.
We hopped the Metro, emerged in ten minutes at Union Station, and stumbled to the Irish Times, which is just about the worst bar in the area. In protest, the three of us ordered Stellas and James ordered an empty glass so he could ‘share with his imaginary friend.’ Once it arrived, he upended a flask of scotch into the glass, and drank it like the world was about to end. The waiter asked us to leave.
“Fuck you.” James said.
“Look,” the waiter replied, “don’t make me get the manager.”
The manager was a large black man, and we finished our drinks as he herded us towards the door and out onto the sidewalk.
“Fourteen!” James leered at me.
James spun around, then looked up towards the setting sun. “Something on New Hampshire Avenue.”
“Very good!” I replied.
“What?” David asked.
“The only president from New Hampshire.”
“How in the hell do you two know this shit?”
“We weren’t too cool for school.”
“Bars on New Hampshire.” James hissed.
“Um…Any of a zillion places.”
He grabbed my hand, and I grabbed David’s, and we made our way back to the Metro…