44, part two
James leaned close to my ear: “Fifteen?”
“Penn State. Single.”
“701. Mo’s Bar.”
James leaned back. “Expensive.”
“Yep. You’re paying.”
He opened his wallet and drunkenly peered at the neatly ordered bills, “Ah, the house that Microsoft made.”
My next memory was on the Circulator Bus heading for Georgetown and James touching my ear with his harsh whisper, “Sixteen.”
“Duh,” I replied, “Obama the First.”
David snapped his fingers. “Mad Dog at Lincoln Memorial!”
“Wow. High school flashback. Are we allowed to fall twenty feet into the shrubbery?”
“I think that’s only something you can do when you’re 16.”
We popped into a liquor store on M Street and each grabbed our poison. James went for some sort of sour apple drink, David picked up two bottles of Thunderbird, and I went for the Blue Nun. We found ourselves, transported as if by magic, at the Lincoln Memorial, sipping from brown bags in the rising dark.
“James balanced precariously on the edge of a step, ready to fall to his death, and called, “Seventeen!”
“So we need something Kennedy related…?”
“No. Andrew Johnson.”
“Andrew’s a strong name,” James whispered.
“Don’t do that.”
“Andrew is the first called! The first apostle of Obama!”
I glanced around at the roving bands of black thugs and park police officers. “Really, James.”
“A gentrified area of DC?” David suggested.
“Ah. Maybe.” James grinned.
“Something near the black Civil War memorial on U Street?” I said.
“After dark?” James muttered.
“Right. Gentrification, then. Columbia Heights? The Raven?”
“Gallery Place? Fado?”
James looked troubled. “Um… It’s not right, but yes, please. Yummy.”
Each of us washed down a full Irish Breakfast with coffee and water in a desperate attempt to sober up, then we moved into Guinness and Harp and black and tans and scotch and burst out of Fado into the glittering lights and bustling streets of Gallery Place.
“U.S. Motherfucking Grant.”
David shrugged, “So drink anywhere, then?”
James barked false laughter, “Amen, Army veteran and baby killer, drink anywhere.”
“Bourbon Bar,” I said, but James grabbed my shoulder and led me right back into Fado.
“Nineteen.” James asked the bartender after three Boddingtons.
“What?” the bartender asked.
“Rutherford B. Hayes.” I said.
“The comedy president!” James replied.
“What are you guys doing? The bartender handed us each a free Heineken, thanks to David talking up his tour in Iraq.
“Drinking for each president.” I replied.
“And you’re on Hayes?”
“Fuck… You’re stuck, then.”
I waved my hands defensively, “It can be anything. Hayes… Ohio. Fought for the Union in West Virginia. Ended Reconstruction. Railroads…”
“What he have to do with Railroads?” the bartender asked.
“Strike or something. Fucked up with the B&O.”
“Lots of Fells Point bars come into mind.”
“Don’t say take a train to Baltimore.”
“No, no. Chadwick’s, Georgetown. Cramped, faux-wood, under an overpass, in a refurbished industrial building, weird and horrible. Very Baltimore.”
“I like you,” James said, “I’m going to tip you a quarter so you can get your kids an education and they don’t have to tend bar!”
“So…your friends an asshole?”
I glared at James, “And here I thought he was one of Santa’s elves.”
“Can we get three more free soldier Heinekens?” David asked.
“Not now. No.”
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