Monday, May 18, 2009

I Heard I Was In Town

Wow--What a great week it's been! Yep, I'm back from my little mini-vacation in Phoenix, and I'm ready to do it all over again. I had a blast.

I punched out of Vegas-land around twelve-thirty on Wednesday afternoon, pointed the truck south, and headed for the Dam. But there were some sort of shenanigans going on down there--traffic was completely stopped and there must've been about 20 different cars and SUVs with lights and sirens going, blocking traffic. I called Dougie to see if there was anything on the news, but he drew a blank. I was only delayed about ten minutes or so, but it sure was frustrating when all I wanted to do was get on the road.

Once I got across Hoover Dam and out of Black Canyon, I cranked up the music and put my foot down on the pedal. I was absolutely hauling ass across northwestern Arizona. I think my rate of travel was closer to the outside temperature than it was to the posted speed limit. I was making good time. Almost too good. Before I knew it, it was 4 pm and I was on the far side of Wickenburg, less than forty miles to Eddie W's house. I had told him I'd be there around six, so I was pretty far ahead of schedule.

I called him up, and before I lost the signal out there in the middle of nowhere, he said that he was already on his way home for the day and would probably get to the house about 20 minutes before I did.

Once I got off the Carefree Highway and close to his neighborhood, I dialed it down a bit, and also stopped at the nearest Circle K to fill up the tank on cheap-to-me gas, scrub the bugs off, and grab a bottle of water. But he was waiting for me when I pulled up in the driveway.

I unloaded my gear, dropped the bags in the living room, kicked off the shoes, and less than a minute later, I was sipping an ice cold draft beer from a frosty glass, courtesy of Ed's beer fridge. It was a nice way to kick off my visit to Phoenix.

We planned on having a mellow night, so we just kicked it in front of the big screen, watching the ballgame and having a few beers. Eddie's wife Michelle was kind enough to pick up some pizza and wings, and after dinner, we just hung out on the back patio smoking cigars and catching up until we were too tired to drink.

Thursday was the big day, and we had a lot planned. Eddie got up early and dropped the kid off at the in-laws, took Michelle to work, and gassed up the SUV before I got out of bed. Once I got up, showered, and got dressed, he was back, down in the kitchen making a pot of coffee.

Our 'breakfast of champions' consisted of leftover pizza and coffee with Bailey's. The only thing we had to do that day was go grocery shopping and then pick up Michelle at her office at 3:15--from there it was off to the Jimmy Buffett concert down at Desert Sky Pavilion. (Yeah, I know, it's now 'Cricket' Pavilion, but it was Desert Sky forever, and I can't shake the habit). Our plan was to just sit in the hot tub, smoke cigars, have a few beers, and spend the day relaxing before the show.

While sitting out in the pool, enjoying the Arizona sun, Missouri beer, and Dominican cigars, Eddie told me of the last thing Michelle said to him as he dropped her off at work.

I don't want you guys to be late picking me up because you're off getting lap dances at The Candy Store!

Hmmm... Well, honestly, that idea had never even entered our minds, but while sitting out there, we figured that if we had the grocery shopping done by noon, we could still get an hour in at The Candy Store before picking Michelle up from the office. Sounded like a good plan to us! Strip clubs here in Vegas are geared to tourists and way too overpriced, so I haven't gone to see the ladies since the last time Ed and I hit the Hi-Lighter back in the summer of '06.

It was shaping up to be an epic day.

Sometime after that decision was made, it was my turn to go fetch the next round of beers, so I hopped up out of the pool, did a cursory dry-off, and took the pint glasses back to the garage for a refill. Coming back out to the backyard, I forgot about the little half-step that separates the patio from the pool deck, and carrying two full beers, I didn't see it either. I completely tripped over it, doing a textbook face plant, going down in a painful heap.


Being a pro, however, I sacrificed the body and managed to keep Ed's beer intact. Mine however, hit the deck and spilled everywhere. Luckily the glass didn't break, but man, I jacked up my knee--it was all skinned up and bloody. Eddie had the hose handy, and sprayed off both the deck and my knee, and a few minutes later, all was well--he got a replacement beer for me while I eased my now battered body into the hot-tub for some 'therapy' for another hour or so.

Since we had a plan for the day, we didn't linger too long. We finished our beers and changed into dry clothes, then headed out to the grocery store to get stuff for the concert that night and the BBQ on Saturday. When we got back to the house, we unloaded everything, then packed the coolers and loaded up the truck with stuff like blankets and lawn chairs, bottled water, etc. Once the chores were done, we both took showers and got dressed in our concert gear and were out the door by 1:15, figuring we'd get a good hour and ten minutes worth of lappies if we made it to the strip club by 2:00 pm. (Eddie lives a long way from everywhere. Except maybe Vegas--he's pretty close to my place...)

The first thing we did, of course, was put the old Music For The Rub & Tug CD on as we made the drive down towards civilization. That CD was one of the first ones I ever made as soon as I got a computer with a burner on it, and I made three copies--one for the two Eddies and another one for Derek. It's been a favorite for years, and it's the perfect warm-up for a trip to the 'ballet'.

Now, I hadn't been to The Candy Store in probably eight or nine years--it's in Eddie's old neighborhood in north Phoenix, and we both moved away over five years ago. Back at the time, dances were only five bucks and most of the girls that worked there had a lot of skank in the tank--the pickins were a bit slim, especially if you went there on a busy night. Just to give you an idea, I remember one gal in particular who had paw prints tattooed all the way across her body from her right knee to up over her left shoulder. And she was one of the 'hotter' ones.

So our expectations weren't very high for this visit, but we figured with only an hour to kill, what the hell, at the very minimum we'll get a good laugh or two, as our trips to the strip club are usually quite memorable.

Our prospects were looking up as soon as we got there, however. The same smoking nazis who took over California have moved east to Arizona, and you can no longer smoke indoors, even in a bar/strip club. So sitting outside on a concrete parking stop, smoking a cigarette and talking on a cell phone, was a barely-dressed blonde hottie. She gave us a smile as we passed by, and I told Eddie that no matter how skanky the lineup was, there was at least one chick I'd be willing to get a lappie from.

He agreed and we made our way inside. There was no cover on a Thursday afternoon at 2 pm, and aside from the one lonely Mexican guy nursing a Budweiser at the bar, we were the only patrons. We grabbed a couple of beers, found a couple of seats in the corner, and waited for the procession to come trolling by.

We didn't have to wait long, and I have to admit that we were both impressed by the lack of skankiness on display from the dozen or so gals working the room at the time. There were some very attractive ladies in there willing to get naked for ten bucks! Before long, we were both face-deep in fake boobs and stripper perfume. I however, having not been in so long, made a rookie mistake. I forgot to empty my pockets and the first girl to climb up on me and start grinding stepped right on my keys. Ouch!

It didn't take but a couple of songs before I found my favorite--an amazingly hot blonde with a perfect body and an Arizona tan named 'Rikki'.

So if your name is Rikki, how come you have the letter 'M' hanging from your necklace?

Anyhow, I kept her busy for pretty much the entire time we were there, while Eddie took the variety-is-the-spice-of-life route. Luckily we were under a time restraint, else this gal would've probably emptied my pockets. As it stood, she earned about a hundred bucks and I ended up with a bunch of glitter stuck to my head and most her perfume infused in my shirt. Good times!

Just as our time ran out, she had to do her shift on the main stage, so we left her a few singles and we headed for the door, glad the Eddie's wife put the idea in our heads. He married a good woman.

And we were actually about two minutes early picking her up, but she was already changed and waiting in the parking lot at her office when we got there. We stopped to get some sub sandwiches to go, then headed out on the 101 down towards Desert Sky, ready to get our tailgate on!

We made it to the arena about four hours before showtime, but the parking lot was already filling up with hard-core Parrot Heads. Of course, being a dumbass, I'd forgotten my camera (but at least I remembered the tickets!), so I was unable to capture any photos of the buffoonery going on all around us. But we found a good spot at the south end of the lot, next to a berm with plenty of shade, so that's where we set up camp.

My old roommate Tammie and her crew were on the way also, so we touched base and told her where to find us--they had a three-car caravan a few minutes behind us. So we set up the camp chairs and pulled the cooler out, and I got to work making margaritas in the cocktail shaker. While waiting for the others, we munched on our sandies and had a few cocktails.

Tammie and the gang showed up a bit later and found us, and we spent a few minutes setting up the pop-up shelter and BBQ grill, and passed around a few beers and such. We had a great time tailgating for a couple of hours--it was still about 101 degrees, which is just perfect for Phoenix, but we had some shade and a slight breeze, not to mention plenty of cold drinks on hand, so it was an ideal afternoon/evening for the concert.

Tammie was smart enough to bring her camera, so there were plenty of pictures taken. Here we go--this is Ed, Michelle, Tammie and me, deep into the tailgating experience:

Around seven pm, we packed up the party and moved it inside the venue. We all had general admission seats on the lawn, which, if you ask me, is the only way to enjoy a concert by Brother Jimmy--it's tough to initiate any buffoonery or make new friends in the reserved seats, so we *always* opt for the grass--that's where the real fans sit, anyways.

Here's a bunch of pictures we took once we got inside:

It didn't take long before I made a new friend--this is Megan, and we had a great time dancing and drinking together during the show.

This is Ken, Tammie's brother, and her Uncle Mike.

Of course, there are always opportunities for buffoonery out there in the lawn seats, so we captured a few of them on film.

Oh yeah, word around the campfire was that there was actually a concert going on, too...

A few more...

Of course, not everyone was having as much fun as we were...

Anyhow, it was a great show--Jimmy played all of his normal standards from the regular playlist, plus a couple that I'd never heard before (Surfin' in a Hurricane? I had no idea). My only gripe was that he chose to cover two Beatles songs, too. Hey man, it's not like the guy has about 40 albums worth of music to choose from--I don't need to hear Yellow Submarine... But that's just me--I'm just not much of a Beatles fan. The concert followed the usual outline--about an hour and fifteen minutes of music, a twenty minute intermission, and another hour-plus of music, and then a three song encore.

It was a fantastic show, as usual, and the tailgating and the outrageous costumes just added to it. I love going to Jimmy Buffett concerts and can't wait to do it again--it's always a great party. Oh, and afterwards, I got a laugh at Eddie's expense. Remember when I turfed it on his pool deck earlier in the day? Well, his drunk ass fell down the stairs on his way out of the concert, landing in a pile of semi-empty beer cups and other assorted shiat at the bottom. Heh. No harm no foul, but certainly a few laughs.

After the show finally ended, it was bottled water in the parking lot for another hour or so while we waited for the post-concert traffic to thin out. We finally made it home sometime after midnight and went straight to bed, stopping only long enough to unload the unconsumed booze from the back of the truck.

I felt kinda bad for Michelle, she had to get up early and go to work, but Eddie and I were under no such pressure. He had a couple of meetings to go to that afternoon, so he needed to go into the office, but we had a more leisurely start to our Friday.

I packed up my gear and prepared myself for the 60 mile drive down to Eddie B's house in Gilbert, and we both left the house around ten in the morning. Yep, it took almost a full hour to make it to the other end of town (Phoenix is a big city), but once I got down there I grabbed a cheeseburger and read one of my Bourdain books while Eddie B spent the last couple of market hours working in his home office.

Once he was free from the computer, we poured ourselves some ice cold Tecates and hopped in his pool. Luckily his pool deck is at the same level as the patio, so gravity couldn't reach up and smite me that time around. It was another 100-degree day, but the sun didn't seem so intense and the pool was the perfect temperature. I think we hung out there for almost two hours, and I got some more much-needed sun (I came home with a nice tan). His wife Regina got home from work eventually, and the plan for the evening was to join George and Marlisha for dinner over at their place.

So we got showered and changed, then headed up to their place, which is only about ten minutes away from Eddie's house. When we got there, the party was ON! They had the whole entertainment setup going.

Outside in the backyard, there was a full bar going on with all of our favorite booze on hand, plus plenty of cold beer on ice and several bottles of top-shelf wine. George was manning the industrial sized charcoal grill, and Marlisha had plenty of food ready to go. There was a dining table set up with candles, plus all of the outdoor 'mood' lights around the pool were going, and the misters were keeping everything cool. It was turning into another perfect night.

Their neighbors also showed up a few minutes later, so we had a full-on dinner party going. Besides our drinks, Marlisha had made some deviled eggs for an appetizer, along with some marinated shrimp, which George threw on the grill for a couple of minutes. She had also made a batch of super-spicy homemade cocktail sauce, and the shrimp were amazingly good. Sadly, I'm a dumbass, and forgot my camera again, so the only photo evidence of the meal was a single snapshot taken with my cellphone.

As much as we enjoyed the shrimp, it just got better from there. George had procured some fresh corn, de-silked it, but left it in the husks and soaked it in saltwater for a few hours. Then he threw it on the grill and roasted it. It was oh-my-god good! We also had potatoes, marinated in olive oil and rubbed with herbs, cut in half and grilled, too. Marlisha also made some of her famous home-made macaroni and cheese that has to be tasted to be believed. There was a caprese salad, made with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes and basil fresh from their garden that we all raved about, plus sauted mushrooms and a wine-reduction sauce. And oh yeah, there were also steaks on the grill.

Along with all that, we had a few bottles of good wine to go with it, and it was a fantastic meal all around. Everything was just amazingly good--words and pictures couldn't begin to do it justice. Good company, good food, and good wine--the trifecta of awesome. And it was another beautiful night outside, too.

We ate until we were stuffed, and sadly, nobody had room for dessert--we'd brought a chocolate cream cake, but they had all the makings for Bananas Foster on hand, too! Unfortunately, we just couldn't find the room for it, so we were content to sip cocktails and wine after dinner and spend several hours smoking cigars and enjoying each others company. It really was a perfect night and a perfect meal--we could've never had such a great time in a restaurant. George and Marlisha are awesome hosts, and of course offered to do it again if I would just come down and visit again, so I'm checking the calendar for this fall...

After a night and a meal like that, we all slept like babies once we finally made it home. I got a good eight hours of sleep in, but Eddie is used to getting up around five in the morning, so he was up and kicking around early. I showered and got dressed, and once I came downstairs, he and Regina started cooking some breakfast--we had eggs, bacon, seasoned potatoes, and something called 'aroz con leche', Spanish for rice with milk, which was actually pretty good for something I'd never heard of before. It's rice cooked in evaporated milk, with cinnamon and nutmeg and a few other things added. I guess it's a traditional Mexican dish that Regina grew up on. Eddie married himself a good cook and has been reaping the benefits--but it was a good breakfast all around.

Eventually, we had to make our way back up to Ed W's place for a BBQ. I was also gonna stay there again on Saturday night because it would cut sixty miles off of my drive back to Vegas. Unfortunately, it seemed like damn near all the roads out of the east valley were under construction, and it took me an hour and a half to make the drive. I swear to god, the Superstition Freeway is the biggest clusterf*ck on the planet. That damn freeway has been under construction for going on 30 years, and it's STILL not done yet. They had it down to just two lanes coming out of the east valley on Saturday, and it was completely gridlocked.

I remember ten years ago when I bought my condo. I told my realtor that I wanted to live in the east valley, but I worked at Squaw Peak, so I would only buy a place if I didn't have to use the Superstition Freeway for my commute. It took some looking, but we found a place that met that criteria. Most of the time freeway access is a good thing--not so in this case--it's a complete nightmare to drive on.

Anyhow, I eventually made it up to the far northwest end of town, unloaded all of my gear again, and set about doing some damage in the kitchen. Eddie and Michelle were providing all the stuff for burgers and such, but I brought along some beer brats. So I put five bottles of Shiner Bock in a big saucepan, cut up a couple of onions, and simmered the brats for awhile while we waited for everyone else to show up. George and Marlisha eventually showed up, and Eddie and Regina weren't far behind.

We munched on a veggie tray, chips and salsa, and wonderfully spicy wasabi peanuts, while emptying Eddie's keg fridge and watching the baseball game on the big screen. Eventually we threw the meat on the grill and had another great meal.

After dinner, it was more hot-tub and cigar time. That was a lot of fun. We stayed up until the wee hours drinking good Scotch and smoking Partagas Black Labels, and eventually Ed got drunk enough for another retelling of the legendary Blue Moon, midget stripper, and cheese sandwich story from waaaaay back in the day. I swear I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.

But the weekend was coming to an end, and we had that happy combination of drunk/tired catching up to us. Eventually the party ended, everyone went home, and we called it night. I stumbled up the stairs and passed out, the activities of the previous three days having finally worn me out.

At 4:00 in the morning, my phone was ringing... Yep, it was work, seeing if I might be available. As much as I wanted a shift, well, I was a good six hours away, so I had to turn it down. I fell back asleep till around 8:30 or so, got up, showered, packed my gear, and loaded the truck. I said goodbye to Ed and Michelle, thanked them for their hospitality, and hit the road back to Vegas. I topped off the tank, checked my Powerball tickets (nope, didn't win the $150 million), bought a bottle of Gatorade, and plugged in the iPod. Just four hours later, I was pulling into my driveway, happy to be home, but looking forward to doing it again soon.

Once I got my luggage in the house, I spent the balance of my Sunday afternoon catching up on my sleep, knowing I'd be working late that night. I actually got called in early, which was nice, and had a pretty decent night.

Now I'm home and life is back to normal for a few days until the weekend. I get the keys to my new place on Saturday, so I've got a busy week ahead of me.


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