Since I began this summer with visits to see some of my greatest friends, I figured I should end it the same way. For Labor Day, I journeyed north to Worcester to see Kevin, one of my best friends in the world. I’ve done my best to cull the highlights for you; but as Ben Brantley once wrote in his opening night review of The Producers, “how do you single out highlights in a bonfire?”
One of A Kind
I write to you now from my apartment back in Jersey City; sober, in one piece, and not at all broke. That’s a marked improvement when compared to previous times I’ve spent with Kev.
I first met Kevin in the spring of my freshman year at Lafayette. I was taking an acting class, filled mostly with upperclassmen. I thought I knew who I was because I had already managed to be cast in a main stage production and knew a good number of the elder thespians. As self-centered and self-conscious actors are wont to do, I recall that we scanned the room for unfamiliar faces. We were all a bit curious about and frightened by the blonde guy who sat silently for the first two weeks of class, never saying a word to anyone. He just glared at us from underneath a seriously furrowed brow, occasionally scratching at the half-week’s worth of stubble he always seemed to have on his face. It wasn’t until he finally got up in front of the class and performed that we even knew he could speak. Not only could he speak; he could act. He was good. Real good. That was Kevin.
I got to know him better during that semester, and before long we were hanging out all the time. He’s a smart, diligent, wildly talented guy. An actor, writer, athlete, and future doctor, he’s been my best friend, my bad influence, and my brother from another mother for the past seven years. This is him.
Did I mention that he is also certifiable?
St. Mary of the Interstate
To get myself to Worcester, I had to take the bus. I was not dreading the journey. I love traveling, and even if it has to be on a manually-powered rail cart, then so be it. As it was, the ride from Port Authority Bus Terminal was no longer than if I had made the drive myself, including the stop in Hartford.
The amount of sociological experiments you could conduct in Port Authority is incalculable. Even at 10:00 on a Saturday morning, you wouldn’t believe some of the things I saw, heard, and smelled.
The bus was almost completely filled. As our departure time approached, a tiny middle-aged woman with large glasses and a helmet of hair boarded the bus. This diminutive woman smoothed her Greyhound gray skirt with her arthritic hands and sat down in the tremendous driver’s seat. I’ll admit that I raised an eyebrow. A woman the size of your average grandmother is going to captain a twelve-foot tall automotive battering ram through holiday morning traffic? Before I knew it, her pre-flight checks were done and her voice was coming through the PA.
She introduced herself as Mary, and laid down the laws of the bus. No cell phones, no boisterous conversation, and no littering. In wrapping things up, she gave the incorrect destination no fewer than three times, which means I had no fewer than three minor heart attacks. By the time she corrected herself and got to the end of her speech, she was out of breath. Jesus, Mary, I thought, Are you driving the bus or pushing it?
All Drains Lead to the Ocean
While scarfing down sandwiches Saturday afternoon, Kevin says to me, “We’re going out tonight.”
“Great. Where to?”
“A place downtown,” he says, through a wall of corned beef. “It’s like a New York bar. You’ll like it.”
“What’s it called?” I ask.
More chewing. “The Boiler Room.”
I told him it sounded like a gay bar. He said it wasn’t. That may have been the truth, but The Boiler Room was the gayest straight bar I’ve ever been to. All the guys were wearing shirts a size too small, the women exuded the musky scent of desperation, and the music alternated between throbbing techno and more radio-friendly remixes of, I shit you not, Cyndi Lauper and Belinda Carlisle.
This is in no way meant to imply that I had anything less than a fantastic time.
We were joined by Kev’s girlfriend, The Lovely Patricia, and two of his meat-head gym buddies. Like most proud young men, Kevin does not dance, at least not without copious amounts of alcohol coursing through his bloodstream; and while he was well on his way to passing the legal limit, the rhythm was not moving him. So, I cut a rug with The Lovely Patricia, and we had a ball.
At around 1:30, Kev and I found ourselves on line for the bathroom. The wait was unusually long, but given how much trouble the people going in and out had simply walking, I could only begin to fathom how difficult it must have been for them to aim accurately. My suspicions were confirmed when I elbowed my way to a vacant stall and found it worthy of CDC condemnation. Like some scatological carnival game, I had to determine just how far away I could stand from the bowl and still make it in. It wasn’t long before I heard a deep, stern voice taking someone to task, and an intoxicated mumble answering it. Quickly shaking and zipping, I emerged to find a suited bouncer motioning for Kevin to exit the bathroom and, by extension, the establishment at large. His crime was one of pure invention; unable to endure the wait for the next vacant receptacle, Kev decided to pee in the sink. Apparently, they frown on that at The Boiler Room.
In his defense, I saw no fewer than two other patrons doing the same thing. So, really, it was likely just the (un)luck of the draw. However, if someone ratted Kev out for defiling the hand basin, then I should have demanded the removal of every third man in the bar for having turned the stall I had to use into a regular Ganges.
Know Your Roll
With a visibly embarrassed Lovely Patricia in tow, we left The Boiler Room and got into Kev’s car (I was DD). To my great surprise, he was hungry. Along with every other drunk in downtown Worcester, we lined up at the Burger King drive-thru. I haven’t had fast food of any kind in months, so between my lapsed knowledge and Kev’s booze-addled requests, I got my burger lingo a bit confused.
“Yeah, hi. Can I have two quarter-pounders with cheese?” I ask.
A static-filled pause. “No, but you can have two whoppers.”
Apparently, Kev’s food was coming with a complimentary side order of sass.
After suffering through his hangover (and stomach ache) most of Sunday morning, Kevin announced we were going to meet some friends of his at a big backyard BBQ. I was ready to roll and waiting in the kitchen when Kev came out of his room, dressed like he was headed back to The Boiler Room. Now, the boy works hard on his body (blueprints for brick shit-houses are actually just pictures of him), and I can’t begrudge him his playful exhibitionist streak. So, I was prepared to play along when he said to me, “Hey, I want you to meet two friends of mine,” and dramatically flexed his arms.
Gesturing from left to right with his chin, he said, “This is Charlie, and this is Chuckie. Say hello.”
I stared back at him, letting his satisfaction and the silence linger just long enough. “You named both of you biceps Charles?”
We were in the car before he even began to formulate an answer.
Dante Would Have Been A Yankee Fan
After the BBQ on Sunday night, we warmed up–yes, warmed up; what the hell, Massachusetts?–at his friend Jess’s house, with heaps of taco dip and a game of Apples to Apples. Kevin chose this time to inform all of his fellow Massholes that I was a rabid Yankee fan. Jess smiled smugly and led me down the stairs to the den, not saying a word.
The winding staircase was lined, floor to ceiling, with seventy years worth of signed Red Sox paraphernalia. It literally was like descending into hell; except I don’t think Virgil ever sweetened the deal with hors d’oeuvre.
A Regular Marcia Brady
With the sun still shining on Monday, Kev and I stopped at his parents’ house to utilize the yard. He grabbed a rubber ball slightly bigger than a softball, which we began tossing around. I should have known better.
You see, as I have made previous allusion to, I have a bad track record with returning a throw. Sure, I’ve made some improvement via kickball, but whenever Kevin’s involved, things just don’t go right.
Case in point: At one Lafayette soccer game, while I watched Kev and some other buddies on the field, the ball was kicked out-of-bounds up into the stands. I was the person closest to it. I stood up to throw it back, only to have the ball land shy of the fence and roll helplessly back under the bleachers. One of the mothers actually asked me if I had been cut from the team.
Second case in point: During a more casual spring match, I stood on the sidelines with the other spectators. Two players collided going for the ball, and it popped up and began a long, slow arc out-of-bounds. I was standing directly under it. As I readied myself to catch the ball–and bear in mind, this is before my right fielding days–I realized that I was just one step too far to the right to make the catch look effortless. I moved to shift my weight, stepped in dog shit or something, and slipped. My legs came completely out from under me and I landed flat on my back. I sit up to see Kev staring at me from the goal line with a look of supreme embarrassment. (For the record, I did manage to catch the ball before Humpty Dumptying in front of everyone).
Now, back in the present day, we’re having a catch. Considering that he’s a soccer player and that I never once passed the Presidential Physical Fitness Test, we’re both doing all right. At one point, though, my attention waned and Kev drilled me right in the face with the ball.
No blood, no bruising, just some laughter.
Actually, that sums up my weekend with Kevin, particularly when compared to others, quite well.