We Ain't All BadBlaine Duncan
Tongues were out and everyone’s had at least one dot of paper on it, if not two or three.
A few hours before gametime and plenty earlier than the dots-on-the-tongue mess, Boo was standing in the parking lot of our complex, beer in hand, yelling “RE–BULLS” in mockery of both Ole Miss and their fans, who lumbered past our apartments in the shadow of Bryant-Denny Stadium. None of the visitors returned the call.
Of the twenty or more of us in those small apartments, at least fifteen had been drinking since noon in prep of a 6:00 P.M. bout; Vick noting that he liked Coors Light because the cans looked pretty. Made sense.
Seemed like everyone from the tiny hometown, more than an hour north of Tuscaloosa, traveled for the SEC game, likely thrilled about some affordable tickets, more likely pumped to get fucked up or chase girls or both. Romeo even gave me his student section entry after he’d scored another for a reasonable price and a far better view.
Even if it was 2000 and Alabama had already lost three games prior, it was fortuitous that I had a fine vantage point of the field even though I got my student ticket scanned about one whole damn minute before kickoff. Mid-October games, even in the downside of the Dubose era, had good weather and good crowds, but I was alone and didn’t need a seat. I stood for the whole thing and cheered as much as anyone else there. After the 45-7 win, which even saw some Eli Manning action, I took the seventy-five yard stride back to the row of one-bedroom apartments where me and two other best friends lived, where me and the rest of the redneck, small towners had begun to amp up the party, if you want to call it that.
And that’s also about when everyone was sticking out their tongues to one another in display to say that we were all on the same trip. Well, to a degree. Brothers and sisters in arms, I’d guess.
It was the sort of full-on dark now that college kids know in their bones, the dark that tells them: if you’re going to fuck up, now’s the time to get going. We cordoned off, seven or so of us going to the Strip, eight or more drinking in one or two of the apartments. Good thing, too. Goodman pretty much saved a guy from burning the complex down – or at last dying of smoke inhalation – as he lay passed out on his couch and food smoldered from his nearby kitchen. We ain’t all bad.
Shortly after those heroics, me and Goodman loaded up and drove across town to another party, to another, nicer set of apartments – Yorktown Commons, you know the ones – and smoked one on the way. What was over there, across MacFarland in such traffic? Why leave the joy of Bryant-Denny’s neighborhood? Cocaine, likely. Fun,
guaranteed. When Goodman and I parked the car and got out, we already noticed the trees were swaying way more than the wind was blowing.
Back on the Strip, Vick, Scott, lots of others were in packed bars. I’m talking can’t-even-get-to-the-bar, asshole-to-elbow crowds. Mitchell held a bottle of beer atop his head, jumped up and down, and let it pour all over him out of being too damn hot. Vick buck danced up a pole, so they said. Wayne had splintered by himself somehow or another. Anger or madness, you pick. We didn’t know it at the time, but he was about to be all alone, yelling at a washing machine in a laundry mat, loud enough to draw the law and surly enough to see the bad end of the cuffs. Sure glad I didn’t wind up with him. He was turned loose in the morning; a long ways off from that point, though.
Goodman and I swooped back across town, back to my place, that one-bedroom apartment that made Bryant-Denny look like a parked spaceship on nights like this. Everyone else was making their way back, too, mostly from the bars, but who knows where else. Nick, who’d never done much more than a twelve pack of beer and a shot or two of whisky at a time, looked at me with all the earnestness he could muster, held his fingers in a rigid yet bent manner as if holding tightly to the controller of some invisible video game, and breathed his command: “Do your hand like that. You ain’t never felt anything that good.” I think he was right.
I went inside, looked at the clock: 2:18 A.M. After a thirty minute episode of some cartoon, I looked back. 2:19 A.M.
Greg had gone to the nearby store, brought back a V8 drink, a liquid that sparkled to life as you poured it down your gullet. It was an experience, mystical and life-affirming. The drink got passed around a lot – more than any whisky I recall – and most had religious beliefs resurrected as the vegetable mash-up provided an answer to life or at least to how to get to a good bowl game. When Vick drank it, he smacked his lips twice and matter-of-factly deadpanned, “That’s pretty good.” Life’s just simpler for some.
A young lady walked by with two male friends, all headed home from the bars. I’d bet The Booth, but The Tusk seems just as likely. Vick couldn’t help it: he yelled for them to come over. Cordiality at its best. They were hesitant, and I can’t blame them. Scott, Vick, and Nick all had their football prowess leftover from their days on the high school field. No one told them a secret, though Vick did ask for breakfast in a roundabout way that just ain’t gentlemanly in this year of our Lord.
Finally at some point, Greg drove us to Kentucky Fried Chicken, back when it was called such and acronyms weren’t all the rage. Downtown, the sun was streaking the sky. KFC was the best breakfast in a mile radius from us, maybe more. We didn’t even know the
restaurant had trees, but damn we could hear what sounded like all the town’s birds, all singing. It wasn’t irksome in the least, albeit maybe the same birds that had annoyed us out of sleep a night or two before. With the windows down and no music from the car, oddly enough, it was the most beautiful thing we’d ever heard. As beautiful as anyone could hear as they wait for five chicken-and-biscuits. It might as well have been the Million Dollar Band playing the fight song after that last Ahmaad Galloway rushing touchdown nine hours before.
Not the best night ever. Nah, not at all. But top twenty five? I’ll give it that, sans hyperbole.
Nothing else would’ve brought that many like-minded and disparate folks together in one spot, at one time, in a string of one-bedroom apartments like a football game, all trying to stop time. Not in Tuscaloosa, not this crowd. It was the Ole Miss-Alabama game that did it, singularly.
Or maybe it was just that we had plenty of acid.