A'ight then, y'all...we made it through another week.
That one was close...scary close. Between the tenacity of those dadgum Razorhawgs and the mishaps of our own beloved Tide, we were lucky to leave that rain-slogged backwater with a W. And I ain't talkin' ‘bout the presidential type neither, I'm referring to the victory that keeps our hopes of redemption alive...not matter how decrepit we may have look at times in that there football game.
Now I know Our Dark Lord has shown his displeasure at those of us who found fault in the Tide's come-from-behind win of Arkansas. He even went so far as to get miffed this week during media sessions, which, granted, he is oft liable to do. But cotdangit, fans of the Tide can't help but wonder what has gone astray this year, amirite?
We can blame the offensive line, or the fumbles. We can blame poor pass defense, or a drop-off at the quarterback position. But me, I tend to become more introverted during periods of travail such as this one. I ask myself, "Am I Hoodoo-in' to a standard? What about my previous week's performance could have contributed to the karmic ass-whuppin' Football Loki has done dropped upon our heads?"
I'll take the blame for the Ole Miss loss. Too many typos in my Hoodoo, I wasn't focused completely, didn‘t treat each sentence as though it had a life of its own. That one is on me. But honestly, folks, I just can't figure out what could have gone astray in my Arky Hoodoo to put us in such a precarious position. I'd ask each of you to look within and ask whether or not you've given this Hoodoo thing your 100 percent.
In the course of my thoughtful self-analysis, I realized that in general, the Tide is propelled to football greatness on those occasions upon which I spin tales of debauchery. I presume Football Loki is a Dark Sider, as he appears to enjoy vice and ill-gained pleasure. Therefore, for this week, I'm going back to my roots, y'all. We ‘bout to get crunk up in here.
This week's story evolves from the era of my coming of age, a time when I was on the brink of pushing out of the sweet nest of college to take flight on wings of my own (feeble as they may have been, to follow the metaphor.) I must admit, this story carries with it a great deal of personal shame to which I have only recently come to grips through persistent meditation (which, notably, auto-corrected to medication...Ah spellcheck, you bastard, you know me so well...) and prayerful consideration of the responsibilities each man must take upon himself as he tows the barge of time through this little thing we here in this dimension call "life."
But as a man and disciple of ODL, I must take accountability for mine actions and cast this embarrassing tale of drunken revelry down upon the Hoodoo ledger to satiate the ever-growing hunger of the football gods (heathens though they may be) and help propel my beloved Crimson Tide to football victory. So, here goes...
I, your humble narrator, am the eldest of my generation on both my mother's and father's side of the family. You first-borners out there know the weight such a placement puts upon one's shoulders. Always the caretaker of the little ones when the adults needed time alone, always counted on to make responsible decisions rather than lead our younger siblings and cousins into danger. I filled this role to the letter, standing by like a crossing guard when we kids would walk to the corner store for penny candy. My grandparents on my father's side had a swimming pool, and I was often times left to serve as lifeguard for the kids while the adults engaged in "adult" activities, if you know what I mean. If you know what I mean, you'll also understand that in that particular Catholic side of the family, the flock of sheep with which I was charged was rather large, and keeping them all safe from Death's icy grip was a Herculean task, at best. Hell, I'd have rather arm-wrassled Hercules himself than carried this responsibility.
At home, with a working mother and father in absentia for reasons pertaining to his lack of phallic control, I was often left to watch over B-Rad. This paradigm played out as we grew older, as I felt a responsibility to look out after my little brother. So much so, that he didn't even know that I had indulged in any illicit narcotics until well until my college years, when we ultimately discovered our mutual interest and began partaking together.
In my junior year of college, I turned 21. As the eldest of my generation, that mean that I became the designated purchaser of alcohol for all of my underage cousins and relatives, including B-Rad. Fault me if you must, faithful readers, as I am not proud of this at all. No sir, not one bit. Whilst this aspect of the tale is not my Hoodoo, it is shameful in and of itself and I have a feeling that St. Peter will order me smited across the peepee with a yard stick by some nun or other before granting me entry to those Pearly Gates to which we all aspire.
But alas, as I said, this is not my Hoodoo, as horrible as it may be. For you see, this story will take a much darker turn as it winds through the dusky wilderness of my past. Maybe this confession will serve the dual purpose of fulfilling the football gods' need for fresh Hoodoo while also absolving me of some of the ever-present guilt I feel weighing about the neck like a leaded albatross. If not, I reckon at least the baring of my jugular will win me favor. Be gentle, Loki.
Allow me to set the scene. My home and lifelong geographical location is Mobile, AL, as many of you know. A little bit bayou, a little bit rock and roll, Mobile is one of those Southern cities that, much like New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah, breaks sharply with the traditions and cultural practices of our more inland-based fellow citizens. Yeah, Mobile is in Alabama, but it's nothing like the remaining population centers in the state. It's a port city...THE Port City, if you trust the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau. Many of you uplanders look on with horror and puzzlement at our cuisine and our practices. Things like gumbo, Mardi Gras, oyster stew, the Delta...these are things that are not just clipart on travel brochures to those of us who call Mobile home. They are the threads with which our lives are strung together, tightly bound like the salt-crusted wires of an old crab trap.
Another part of Mobile culture (at least for the last fifty some odd years) is Mobile's annual football event...The Senior Bowl. Many of you may have viewed this all-star spectacle on television, as it many times provides fans of college football with the final glimpses of their gridiron heroes before they graduate to the big leagues. During Senior Bowl Week in the end of January, Mobile becomes the center of the football universe. NFL and college luminaries abound: they eat oysters at Wintzell's, the players visit childrens' hospitals and perform for the public and scouts during open practices. Our own ODL is a regular during that time, as he usual finds some recruit or another to visit while he's in town for the big show.
For Mobilians, it's a great chance to see the guys we've been watching on television for the last four years. It also provides Mobilians with yet another reason to have a throw-down. Some uplander from the Birmingham area who was cleaning out my sewer pipes once asked me, "You're from down here...how do you people get anything done? You want to party for four months of the year." After getting over the seeming insult, I decided that I didn't not disagree with what he had said. We begin weekly parties when football season starts. Before we know it, it's Thanksgiving. Then there's Christmas, of course, and New Year's. That much is pretty standard for much of the state, I'll agree. But in January, Mobile begins ramping up to its annual Carnivale celebration, known here alternately as Mardi Gras or "da Boom-Boom." (Think bass drums, y'all. We are a colorful people, no?)
Now that Mardi Gras celebration lasts the better part of a month, stretches right up against the Senior Bowl. Tailgating the likes of which is rarely seen in these part then breaks out. Many of us are familiar with tailgating at Bama games, with a maximum of two fanbases concurrently celebrating. Imagine tailgating next to Boogs on one side, Corndogs to the other and Tennerseeyans behind you (btw, pro tip, never let a Tennerseeyan get your six...bad things man, bad things...moving on.) The shit-talking is endless, to say the least.
Now back to our tale, one year, I received four passes to the Senior Bowl in a radio contest. Now I rarely win anything, but this was about as good a small prize as I'd ever won in my life. I figured it was a no-brainer, with four tickets I could carry B-Rad, my boy Mook (you may remember him from previous tales) and one other lucky person.
That one other person proved to be my younger cousin, who we'll call Bock for the purposes of this story. Bock was a tough kid who'd had a hard life. His daddy was an alcoholic and substance abuser of the tallest order, and his mama was my daddy's youngest sister. Apparently, God only designates a bulk commodity of "smarts" to each family, and let's just say that by the time this particular aunt was born, the smarts bucket had run plumb dry. Dumb as a box of staplers.
So you see, this poor cousin of mine had little chance in this world. My grandparents contributed to his upbringing the best they could, but what evolved was something akin to the worship accorded to one baby Jesus. Bock could do no wrong, no matter what happened. He was a good kid all in all, and when I was a boxer, he'd train alongside me: partly to help build his body into what was required of a 6A HS wide receiver, and partially for the paternal, errr, wisdom I could bestow upon him.
Sometimes we'd run, sometimes we ride. Sometimes we'd just line up and run plays in the large backyard of my grandparents' Cottage Hill residence. Knowing that he was a bird pushed out of the nest in many ways, I decided to mentor him, help give him the ethics he would need to avoid the genetic trap bequeathed to him by his addict father and Irish-stock mother. He was clean-cut, and had decided as a sophomore that he wanted to enter the service after graduating. I felt as though my influence had helped mold him into someone who was strong enough to avoid life's pitfalls and kick them square in the ass when contested.
Now, the fact that I'm spending time telling you about him makes it obvious that he was selected as the fourth member of my entourage. Y'all already know about the wanton ways of my sibling and my substance-abusing friend Mook. But Bock was only 16 at the time, a youngster, impressionable. You know what I mean.
As always, there was a pre-game shopping trip to get, you know, essentials. B-Rad and Mook accompanied me to pick out the liquor.
"You know, we need to get something light for Bock to sip on...so he doesn't feel left out." I said to my fellow travelers. "We have to teach him how to drink properly...you know, we are like his role models and shit."
I kept in mind the inexperienced nature of our party's youngest member. Whilst B-Rad, Mook and I filled our shopping cart with cases of Southpaw beer (Southpaw, now defunct as far as I know, is owed my eternal gratitude...for you see, when B-Rad elected to give up crack, he did so cold-turkey over the course of one weekend with only a roll of Skoal and a case of Southpaw to detox him) and a plethora of mixers with which to blend our weapon of choice of the era, Bacardi Limon. I remembered that poor Bock would certainly feel left out if we neglected to array him with at least some form of libation with which to wash away the problems and troubles of the day. Being the kind-hearted and sensitive gent that you all have come to know on these here Hoodoo pages, I selected for him a beautiful vintage of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill, which is apparently the training-wheels alcohol upon which many young alcoholics begin their descent into addiction. I added to the equation a lovely Bartles and James sampler pack, just to give him a little more experience with the lay of the shit-liquor land.
With our rattling paper bags abounding with alcohol, we made a stop by the local Popeye's Fried Chickenry. After all, if we were going to be instructing young Bock in the ways of the Force, we would need to teach him that the experienced alcoholic knows it is but folly to consume liquor on a) an empty stomach and b) while dehydrated. I mean, I was charged with raising this kid right, after all.
Chicken and liquor in tow, we swooped by and picked up Bock, who was as excited as a butt-sniffer at a bicycle seat convention. It would be his first Senior Bowl, in addition to his first drinking experience. It had not occurred to me that it was somewhat irresponsible to introduce a young man to the very substance which had proven so poisonous and destructive to his gene pool and ancestry, and such is the source of my shame. For you see, as time wore on, alcohol addiction put its icy grip around Bock's throat, his genetic predisposition overruling reason and logic. He succumbed, and continues to succumb, to its draw, to the point of causing him great personal harm. I've always felt guilty about leading him down this path, and one day the Lord will call me to atone for this wrong. I apologize for this unintended moment of seriousness, but this is one of the most shameful episodes in a life full of shameful episodes, only in this one I find no humor.
But enough of the melodrama. Being the big cousin, the elder of the group, I felt it incumbent upon me to show Bock how this whole Senior Bowl drunk get-down was ‘sposed to unfold. Mobilians will understand this, but for those of you who hail from points far and wide, the site of the Senior Bowl (Ladd Peebles Stadium) has no parking. I mean, like, none. Sure, you can fit a few hundred tailgaters in the parking lot on gameday, but by in large, one must find a yard to park in, pay the owner of said yard upwards of $20, and hoof it on to the game.
We were traveling in my chariot at the time, an '85 Chevy Nova, which was a small sedan that was easy to park in tight quarters. We found an appropriate place to park after much searching, and immediately sprung the trunk and set up our modest tailgate. We ate like horses and gulped liquor the way deserted desert travelers slog down oasis water. Bock timidly approached the Boone's Farm, sniffing it the way a dog sniffs a treat offered from an unknown hand.
"Aw just drank it, mane, it tastes like Kool-Aid," B-Rad told him. B-Rad, after all, was a Boone's Farm sommelier, having a great deal of experience with all colors and hues of this esteemed beginner libation.
Bock sipped it...sipped some more...took a longer drag off of it. "Dayum, y'all right, this shit IS good."
Satisfied with his initiation into the Cult of Malts, we began to pass him other things to sip. Gave him a Southpaw. He didn't like it (hell none of us LIKED it, but it was cheap and effective), but he drank it. He worked his way up to a shot of our beloved elixir, the Limon. He slurped down a shot like a raw oyster on the half shell, to the cheers of his elders. Bock liked it, which is unusual for someone who has only just been introduced to the bouquet of hard liquor.
By the time our two-block walk to the stadium came, we were all full to the livers with nectar. We stumbled and staggered our way to the stadium, a band of ragged travelers who appeared to be locked in the depths of some surreal dementia, wandering to and fro, yellin' out random slurred song lyrics, offerin' unwarranted commentary on the shutter color of nearby shotgun houses, laughin' like the idiots we were. Hell, I'm surprised we made it to the stadium at all, let alone got passed the guards to enter the game. Truly a miracle and a product of God's favor, I tell you what.
I can't tell you a thing about that game. By this point, locked firmly in the grip of the intoxicants, I was driven to find more. Before halftime, I clutched in my fist four 16 ounce Red Dogs (another exquisite product of the Plank Road Brewery), all of which I consumed in a display of alcoholic athleticism to the delight of my fellow travelers. If this was to be Bock's first entrance into the kingdom of debauchery, then I was bound and determined to be its cotdang King Arthur.
In a state of Bacchanalian stupor, we elected to leave the game and return to the tailgate, where the beer didn't cost $5 a pop. Again, it is only through the miracle of some innate GPS location-rendering mechanism that I was able to guide us back to our home base. But in the meantime, we took more than a few meanderings onto side streets, following the whiffs of rib smoke and burger grease that abound in the locale on gameday. We were so hungry, pangs were clawing at the inside of my gullet as if I'd swallowed a dang ole badger.
Unable to find suitable nourishment, and still looking for the spot in which we'd lashed mine chariot, we stumbled upon the siren's call of a liquor stand. For you see, on Senior Bowl day, everyone with a yard near the stadium has something for sale. May be rib samitches complete with potato salad right on the white bread. May be bottles of water for the un-alcoholed (or overly alcholed). This particular gentleman offered an ice chest full of Olde English and Old Milwaukee's Best. Sitting upon a table with his change drawer was something that caught my eye...a bottle whose irregular exterior glinted and refracted the sunlight.
You see, though I‘m from the hood, I was not overly familiar with gin. My mother and her boyfriend of the time had kept Seagram's gin in the liquor cabinet, but no one ever drank it. The Scotch went so quickly one could posit the bottle was leaking. The brandy would get used in cooking. The vodka ended up in froo-froo drinks when momz hosted girls' night. But that damn gin was ever-present, and I'd always wondered why.
So the sight of that Seagram's bottle called me like the siren's song. B-Rad pointed to the cooler, "How much?"
"Whatchoo doin' wit dat?" I pointed to the gin bottle.
"Sellin' it, whatchoo thank I'm doin' with it?...Dolla a shot."
Now I looked over at the "shot glass," which was really no shot glass at all. Rather it was a child's juice glass, the kind I remembered using when B-Rad and I attended day care (or on the rare occasion we heathens were allowed into Sunday school.) Now your typical shot glass is what?...an ounce and a half, maybe two ounces? Well, this one was four ounces if it was one. Four ounces of gin for a dollar sure sounded like a bargain...(I'm going to let y'all figure this one out.)
Mook turned up his nose. "I ain't drinkin' that shit, I hate gin."
Bock smelled the clear liquid and decided it wasn't his cup of tea either. It was up to me and B-Rad to show Bock how the intrepid explorer of alcohol is oftentimes rewarded.
B-Rad was game. Boy'd drank anything that didn't run away from him.
So that left us, B-Rad and your humble narrator, to exhibit our manliness by consuming what would prove to be the most vile liquid I've let pass twixt these lips and over these here teeth (‘cept for that cotdang green MadDog...good Lord have mercy.)
"Set ‘em up, dog," I told the purveyor.
I sucked down a four ounce gulp of that pine-scented shit and though I'd swallowed turpentine. It was awful, beyond awful. My face must have betrayed me, as the fellers started chuckling.
"Damn, white boy!" said our salesman.
Feeling the challenge, I said "Fk it, set up ‘nother...an gimme one dem OE's..." For those of you unfamiliar with this little gem of urban drinking culture, Olde English tastes like horse piss with a slight bouquet of rusted nails and hemoglobin. I near ‘bout puked on the spot (what do we call this literary device again children?...anyone?...anyone?...Bueller?)
Before it was over, I drank four of them thar "shot glasses" full of gin, just to prove a point. That point being that sometimes a man's gotta just cowboy the fk up and do things he doesn't want to do for fear of being called a p@#$y. B-Rad tapped out at three. Wisely so, please note.
I felt like I'd caught a dadgum Evander Holyfield right hook as we continued our trek back to the car. My memory fogs over from there. By the time we found the Nova, I was in no state to walk, let alone drive. I surrendered the keys to Mook, who was the most able of the bunch at that point, which ain't sayin' much. I was too drunk to ride in the front seat. (Ever been THAT drunk? So drunk that riding in the front seat of a slow moving vehicle felt something akin to ridin' a Tilt-A-Whirl at the fair after competing in a pizza eating contest?) I took the rear seat (of my own car too, how humiliating), while B-Rad took the shotgun seat.
At some point or another, we got cut off in traffic. For the record, Mobile is home to the worst drivers on the planet. If in Mobile, never, never-ever-ever-ever assume that just because your traffic signal turned green that it is okay to proceed into the intersection. To do so will most likely result in one's death. Abide the five second rule in Mobile people...when in Rome.
So we got cut-off, and B-Rad went ballistic. Punched my front windshield, cracking it in the process. I sat up long enough to realize what had happened and chastised him...kinda.
"COTDANGIT B-RAD Why you mumble-mumble-glurgle-glurg GONNA NEED ME a new shizzlefus dackledang a'morrow." I was so stewed y'all, it wasn't even funny. Well, it was kinda funny.
We made our way back to WeMo (West Mobile, for you outsiders), though I puked at every gas station on the route. We decided food would be appropriate to balance out the drunk, so we hit Domino's. Huge mistake. When one is intoxicated, particularly upon the above-mentioned spirit, the mere smell of a hot, loaded Xtravaganza pie will make the stomach turn and rebel. I vomited profusely on the sidewalk outside of Domino's. I just couldn't stop, it was absolutely horrible.
What was worse was that the gin had also settled in on B-Rad, and he was feelin' its hallucinatory effects. He was spinnin' out of control. I didn't know what we were going to do, but I knew what we couldn't do: namely, take a drunk B-Rad back to my mother's abode. Especially when I, the responsible one, was stricken with alcohol Ebola himself. So we did the only thing we could do.
"Mook, take him to Jo-Di's house." Jo-Di was a portly kid from the neighborhood who owed his life to B-Rad. Now a pastor, this rotund character from our past had been accosted in middle school by a young man who had rather savagely stabbed a sharpened pencil into his protruding belly during a disagreement about Alabama football (Jo-Di, of course, was defending Alabama's honor against a cotdang Aub.) Witnessing the attack, B-Rad leapt into action, promptly whuppin' the ass of said attacker. On a side note, the next day, B-Rad called me from Scarborough Middle School to tell me that he needed me to escort him from the premises. The attacker's father, a grown ass man, had stationed himself near the school and threatened to beat B-Rad down. That, my friends, was the first time I whipped a grown man's ass, as I outweighed him by half a buck. It was the stuff of legend.
At any rate, I, much like Vincent Vega toting an overdosed Mrs. Mia Wallace, decided Jo-Di couldn't refuse to help us. He just had to let us crash for a while. After a tiny little threat involving the theft of his mother's underwear, Jo-Di allowed us in. B-Rad crashed on the couch, where he wallowed in his own sick for what was about two hours. I continued to hemorrhage from both ends as the gin worked its way out of my system. We were still drunk, but we were at least walkin' drunk.
I thought surely we'd escaped the fury of an angry mother and averted disaster. We made our way home, the entire crew still in tow, to prove we were all alive and accounted for. As we arrived, momz was working in the yard. Shit, wouldn't be able to slip passed her. She immediately noticed the cracked front windshield on what had previously been her car before bequeathing it to me as a graduation gift.
"What the hell happened to the window?"
In my drunken state, I had not developed an appropriate pre-lie. I usually prepare for these sorts of things, but I was lucky I had remember the coordinates to my home, let alone come up with the fictitious accounting which would satisfactorily explain the broken glass. My brain scurried to catch up, struggling through the webbing tangle of juniper berries and malted hops that clogged my synapses. The spark plugs just weren't firing, and all the while, the weight of my mother's glare was bearing down upon me.
That's when Bock broke. Under the stress of the moment, and himself still riding the Boone's Farm roller coaster, he projectile vomited directly at, and upon, mine dear old mother. She shrieked. He held his hand over his mouth, as if trying to put the vomit back in. However, Pandora's Vomit Box had been opened. Flustered, he began to profusely apologize, spitting out random words.
"Sorry Aint Momz...dint mean to...strawberry, is red...said I shoulda ate."
"What, son? What are you talking about," said Momz, still trying to make sense of what had happened.
B-Rad, btw, had relapsed. He was trying to free himself from the clutch of the front seat's grip, and had opened the passenger side door. But gravity betrayed him, and he just kind of spilled out and onto the grass head first, his ass still inexplicably glued to the seat. It was like dumpin' a body out of the trunk, all limp and shit (wait, y'all have never had to dump a body?...oh, umm...neither have I, I mean...nevermind then, carry on.)
As if exposed to the torturous tactics of the CIA's finest Gitmo interrogation operative, Bock found his coherence and started spittin' truth bombs like the cotdang Enola Gay. That sumbitch squealed and squalled like he was witnessing the second coming of Jesus Christ Himself in the Flesh, testifying about how his elder cousin had plied him with the vile venom of liquor and how he'd led the whole lot of them down the road to depravity and the desolation of morals.
I, meanwhile, just laid my head down on the cool comforting embrace of the front lawn, the green blades cushioning me. When I say I laid down, what I mean is that I fell down. I just figured if I stayed there with my eyes closed, my mother, much like a bear upon finding a motionless human, would simply go about her business and pay me no mind.
I then felt the clasp of her pinch on my ear as she pulled me to my feet and yelled words in my face. Loud words. Talked some shit about responsibility and self-pride and corruption of the youth. Hell, I don't know, y'all, I was drunk. Rude, though. I tell you what, if I had had any semblance of balance or equilibrium, I certainly would have offered some retort. Instead, I could muster only "BOONE'S FARM WINE MOMZ!" With indignation, too, as though those words provided some obvious explanation for the deeds that had just been recounted. I don't remember her exact reply, but it was coupled with an eye roll.
The next morning, when I finally awoke from my substance-induced slumber, I couldn't find my car keys. After all, I'd lost consciousness about 15 times the previous day...such things were to be expected. I searched high and low before remembering I had not been driving, that Mook had been at the wheel. Figuring he may have left them in the ignition, I walked out to the car.
No keys. Instead, there was a note on the dash informing that my driving privileges had been revoked. I also discovered with joy that about half the pukes I thought I had cast upon some piece of pavement or other were actually cast into the floorboard of the back seat. Like a little vomit souvenir of the previous day's events. Yay me.
Ever find day-old gin and chicken puke in your floorboards? Not pleasant. I burned a cord's worth of incense sticks in there to obscure that putrid smell. But such is the price one pays for being a big shot, like I am.
Moral of the story: Alcohol is a hell of a drug. And gin is bad, y'all, mmmm-kaaaaay?