The Mixer: This person doesn't own a copy of the Old Mr. Boston, he or she practically is Old Mr./Mrs. Boston. You can throw out any old beverage, and not only can he make if the ingredients are there, if they're not he knows the substitutes by heart as well. Rusty nail? Gotcha! Harvey Wall Banger? Coming right up! Rocket Fuel? I need to use your refrigerator coils if you haven't got any dry ice! Sometimes they'll come armed with their own shaker, and usually bring their own bottle of something nice for later on that night.
The Pop-Culture Hero: The flip side to the Pop-Culture Half-Ass, this person knows all the best lines from all the best movies, and often has other people help them out, adding to the party atmosphere. Part member of Whose Line Is It Anyway, part Alex Trebek, this guy or girl can quote anything and remember everything no matter how much they've had and still preserve the original punch of whatever they're quoting.
The Hidden Talent: This person does something really, really, really well. They lack enough self-confidence to do it in front of people, though. They practice it endlessly, meticulously perfecting whatever is they do, and they never tell you about it. One day, at a party, they get a few beers in them, and it turns out they can juggle. Grapefruits, in fact. That are on fire. They do a fine job and not only is it a great surprise, it is genuinely entertaining.
The Bon Viviant They're glad to see you, and you're glad to see them. It's been too long since we last tipped a glass! They know everyone there and they're sure to introduce you at some point. Never rude or crass, impeccably dressed, witty and endlessly conversational. Never utters "fighting words" or anything of that nature, and can generally round up the other four drunks you meet in Heaven for a kick ass little shin-dig.
The Wildcard:They guy nobody really knows, but dude is completely awesome. Fits right in with everyone at the party, is well spoken and cordial even if this is everyone's first time meeting them, and every so often, can play the piano really well, breathing life into that old thing for the first time since granddad died.
In no particular order, the five drunks you meet in Hell.
The Clutz: Two drinks and this guy or girl goes from average human to Mr. Bean. Generally drops that third of fourth beverage and then needs a new one, and will probably make one or two people spill theirs as well.
The Homophobe: Give this guy (or sometimes even a girl) a beer and he will swear he is not gay, and not only is he not gay, he doesn't like homosexual men either. Lesbians are totally his thing, of course, but gay men are horrible monsters who are attempting to undermine democracy. With each drink he will declare on a more regular basis his undying loyalty to the Hetero Empire.
The Depressive: Everything sucks, everything is terrible and nobody loves or understands this person. They might even be a happy drunk to start, but will always get depressed and tell the world how awful it is.
The Pop Culture Half-Ass: This is that one who quotes Austin Powers, Dave Chapelle, or what have you, but it's always the least complicated one liners that you've heard every other PCHA quote over and over months ago in other bars and clubs. Generally wonders why you don't think they're funny.
The Toucher: This person gets a few drinks in them and is suddenly unaware of things like personal space. This could be as innocuous as the shoulder squeeze, but could be as obtrusive as a Boston Crab. Generally, the worst of the Touchers will probably give you the flu in addition to squeezing, crabbing or clutching.
Something like 65% of your friends on facebook aren't having an easy time of things, and just over 50% of your twitter feed.
No good, you thought to yourself as fell asleep last night.
Your brain, being about a subtle as the Westboro Baptist Church at Arlington Cemetery, has felt the need to remind you that your life isn't that bad. In fact it used to pretty terrible by most measures, and perhaps you should put a little thanks giving in your step.
So every night this week your brain re-edited your child hood memories. One night, you were a juvenile infiltrator of a sweatshop factory that appeared to employ victims of Vatican indiscretions. Another night your middle school was run entirely by Cthulhu worshippers. Another time you were just unspeakably evil and killed several people with your bare hands, in grade school. That'll teach you, says the brain, It could always be worse.
This groggy feeling follows you onto to bus, where you just silently listen to guys you usually talk with more in the morning on the way to your mutual stop. You just nod your head and grunt in agreement with everything they're saying.
You leave the bus without saying goodbye, and you'll probably hear about that if you see them that afternoon or tomorrow morning.
Remembering you only have one extra pair of socks, you stop into the Rite Aid, knowing they stock them even if they are overpriced.
It's just past six a.m., so there's no crowd when you walk in, but the Beegees' "Night Fever" is playing, and you instantly feel as though you've partying all night despite going to bed at before seven last night.
The music make it hard for you to think. There's a buildup toward the chorus that fees like the song's going to some where, with a grinding guitar tense vocals and then . . . the chorus is just crap. Falling completely flat of the promise made by the guitar, dropping it all together in favor of some syrupy drum machine crap.
This used to be party music. This used the new hotness, you think. You find yourself wondering if you'll ever hear "Juke Joint Jezebel" in a Rite Aid at just past six in the morning.
Probably not you think, realizing that KMFDM never got so popular as to be played to death on the radio, so it won't hold that nostalgic comfort that most radio from the 60's and 70's does. You finally decide on a larger pair of ladies athletic socks, because who cares? You know damned well half of things that are marketed by gender are just that, marketed.
Who decided women's shirts button up a different side? Are more women left handed or something?
You pay for your socks, take a deep breath and go to work.
Thank god it's Friday.
I know what happened, and I'd like to enlighten you, as apparently you like forget how you came to be the person you are and instead focus on the flaws of others. It wasn't moving to D.C. or your job or your coworkers that twisted you. It was you.
The religion you were raised in taught you that God is punishment incarnate. God will punish the wicked, you were told.
And then. You broke your first rule. Nothing big. Nothing major. Just a little one. Perhaps you broke one of the big Ten by killing a fly or a frog or something that you don't really regard as worth preserving. Or perhaps you coveted. Maybe you made you made graven image. Perhaps you ate pork.
But after about a day of living in terror you realized, no punishment was coming. Unlike most sensible people you, being smart but still being naive, came to the following conclusion: God will not punish you.
This is what separates you from everyone else. Where most people concluded something like "God is not watching," to "God will punish in the next life" or perhaps even "There is no God," you came to another, far less reasonable conclusion: You are blessed above all.
This would have been fine, but for some reason that no one would call rational based on the criteria for your religion, you thought God was still going to punish everyone else for infractions from which you believed yourself to be exempt.
It was a few years before you realized that such silliness wasn't the case.
This wounded you deeply. You were special weren't you? God loved you so much that he'd let everything go, right? Everyone else has so much suffering coming that God should be heaping on them daily, right now, you would think. Why isn't God punishing everyone? Everyone is terrible awful and wrong, unlike you, the pristine, angelic person, that they should be screaming in agony at all times.
No. That didn't happen. You realized as everyone else more or less has, that you are no different from anyone else, and no one is being punished. Everyone is treated equally, and God is taking care of his own business. That business does not involve punishing all these people that you feel have broken your absurd moral code. Yes, you realized, God doesn't care about your petty bullshit.
And yet you still refuse to come to the rational conclusion. There is a still a God, but he's a big jerk and you don't need him anyway, you're going to see people suffer, somehow.
Now you profess hollow faith in some sort of false morality, some prophet from long ago said something and now your pretending that you care about it. What you're really doing is what those ancient prophets did: making up rules and making up punishment. You're looking for reasons to wound people because they haven't followed some strange standard that, while slightly informed by the teachings of long dead holy men, is mostly just you looking for reasons to be cruel.
You are what's wrong. You are the problem. You only care about yourself, and yet you claim it has something to do with God's will.
The worst part is realize that, like those ancient prophets, no one really takes you seriously and you've lashed out at everyone close to you for not following your obtuse rules. And well, you'll be completely alone soon enough. If God made you this way, then you are being punished for you sins, and if there is no God, you will sleep in this bed you made.
I dream of Baltimore a lot.
It's not the Baltimore I remember, precisely. The architecture varies wildly. It's lit in gold and amber hues. Charles street slick with summer rain stretching street lights into stalactites. Everyone I know is there. They lean out the windows of row houses to wave as I walk. Steam rises off the street. They all miss me and tell me so. I see them face to face and tell them I'll be home soon. We'll all be home soon. I promise.
Pratt street bustles with every era. The fashion of every decade rub elbows with the soldiers coming home from The Great War, World War II, The Korea War, Vietnam and Baghdad, all at once. Trains and boats and planes spilling veterans onto the streets from Penn Station, The Inner Harbor and BWI. Warriors rushing into suits and slacks and bell bottoms, coating their warlike hearts in the familiar civilian skins and going on with life. Eating ice cream, going to college, having children, meeting family members familiar to them with their new unfamiliar minds writhing, ecstatic, overjoyed to be home, praying for the allies that remain-sometimes forever-in combat zones.
Remember, now that you're home, you have to pay for water.
Remembering. Ghostly legions forever gone. Living their lives for those who can't anymore. Moving on, moving forward, growing old, growing up, growing out. Moving away, moving in. Sergeants First Class, Chiefs and Senior Master Sergeants and Gunnery Sergeants retire, putting pins on their caps. VETERAN. SOLDIER. SURVIVOR. Hearing the cadence forever. The four beat, everywhere. All the time. Like a clock.
E-4s become Ephors, certain of change but not certain of how. Getting ready for the next war. Getting ready to put on the hard stripes. Getting ready to let the FNGs make just enough mistakes to learn.
Getting ready to have a child. Preparing to say goodbye to that child before they are even born, not forever, just enough to hurt. Just enough to want. Just enough to leave an empty space in a crayon drawing that goes on the fridge. Coming home again, getting back in the drawing on the fridge. Saving those drawings. Folding them up, putting them in a duffel. Keeping the yellowed paper behind armor and in front of their hearts, soaking with sweat and hope. Hope you remember me. Hope you are proud of me. Hope you get to meet me.
Patterns persist. People persist. Praying to new ancestors, the ones on The Wall in the City of Stone. The ones with the pins on their hats.