The day the bottle dropped
It is the story of the fateful day when Ubba the Gringo dropped the bottle.
BG's brother Ubba (derived from Stubba or Stubbs, due to Ubba's shorter stature amongst his 6 feet and up bros) came up to visit when he could from Louisiana, usually in late October, in time to celebrate BG's Halloween birthday. Liberal consumption of alcoholic substances inevitably ensued. Although I always made a valiant attempt to plan Halloween-related outings, they often backfired due to BG's hangover-ridden state. And so we wound up--day after day, during the time of year when New York City is at its most glorious--escaping the brilliant blue skies, low humidity, and perfect temperatures by hiding out in the small neighborhood Irish bar where the sun never shone. BG's favorite saying was, I believe, attributed to W.C. Fields; to wit: "It's much too nice of a day to spend outdoors."
This particular bar was the last holdout from olden days, when the street was lined with Irish drinking establishments. But times had changed, and unless one wanted to take a 45 minute subway ride into "the city," as we referred to Manhattan, the choices were limited. This particular bar had its pros and cons. The prices were way cheaper than Manhattan--no happy hour, but an everyday low price of $3.50 for a drink or a beer. Although the Irish bartenders were cordial but standoffish, they knew how to pour a man-sized drink, so if you ordered a few scotches on the rocks you were in for a rip roaring, rollicking time. With every three rounds came a buyback, like clockwork--while you were still working on your second, a coaster would be laid down in front of you to let you know the next one was one the house. No umbrella drinks here, my boys--just the old Irish tunes playing on the juke, a small pool table in back, and a bunch of hardened drinkers and sports fans.
So one fine dazzlingly beautiful and crisp fall afternoon, BG, Ubba and I headed over to "Hugh's" for a little hair of the dog. When we'd drunk our fill, we stumbled down the block to the small liquor store run by a Chinese gentleman who was strictly business. No matter how many times BG frequented this establishment, which got a lot of its revenue through selling Lotto tickets as well--Chinese guy was unwaveringly brusque, hardly ever cracking a smile as he wordlessly, solemnly slid the bottles through the opening in the bullet-proof glass and took our cash. Quick, clean, no-nonsense, it was a reassuring and predictable ritual --just like at Hugh's, you knew what you were getting, and that's what you got--no more, no less.
As we half-walked, half-staggered the three blocks back to BG's apartment, I sensed that catastrophe was about to strike, Call it a sixth sense, but my soul was suddenly seized with a felling of inchoate dread.
And then, it happened, so suddenly that it still seems like an awful blur. BG had been carrying the bag with the bottle of vodka for me and him, and the bottle of Bacardi for Ubba. In order to retrieve his keys to open the outer door to get into the building, he tried to hand the black plastic bag over to Ubba to hold. But Ubba, afraid of looking too "ritter" (familyspeak for gay) didn't want to touch BG's fingers as the bag exchanged hands.
Suddenly, and without warning, all hell broke loose. The bag went crashing to the ground, and the bottles came tumbling out of their delecate swaddling, as delicate shards of glass scattered everywhere, blinking and glittering in the blinding autumn sunlight.
There was a moment of awful silence. Time itself seemed to have stopped. A few neighbors, who had the good sense to actually be out enjoying the picture perfect fall day, quickly crossed themselves and thanked all the saints in heaven that such a shameful fate had not befallen them in broad daylight, in full view of the public. Their shocked, teary-eyed faces seemed to say, "There but for the grade of God go I...Si no bueno, mi amigo!"
Then BG, acting quicky and decisively, bent down to examine the extent of the damage. It was bad, all right, but not totally irredeemable. He noted with relief that although Ubba's bottle was indeed shattered, the bottle of vodka was not.
Stubba, totally chagrined and humiliated, sweating profusely, eyes darting furtively back and forth, muttered to BG--no man, just leave the whole thing.
BG replied indignantly--have you lost your mind, man? Wasteful! The vodka is perfectly good!
As he bent to pick up the shards of broken glass from the Bacardi bottle, again Ubba said in low whisper--Nah, nah, come on, just leave it...
As BG straightened up, his sad chore done, we looked around and saw that Ubba had vanished. We walked the few feet into the vestibule of BG's building and saw Ubba huddled and trembling in the corner, pale and shamefaced.
"Come on, Ubba, we're going straight back to the liquor store and get you a new bottle."
"Nah, nah, I don't need to be drinking anyhow."
I quicly stepped in to the rescue. "Stuff and nonsense, my good man! I will go to the Chinese guy and pick up another bottle of Bacardi for you."
Ubba, in awe and wonder at my generosity and forgiving nature, turned to BG and said, "Does Elvira have a sister I could meet?"
All was well, and the party lasted for many an hour, long into the night. But sometimes, we still think back to that fateful day when in the blink of a jaundiced, bloodshot eye, perfectly good booze went down the drain.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE HORRIFIC TALES OF WASTED SUBSTANCES AND PIPE DREAMS GONE HORRIBLY, TERRIBLY WRONG!!!
In the meantime, please share your own substance-fueled interludes in which you, too, faced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.