A Not-So-Brief Review of A Not-So-Brief Engagement – Part III

I took her on a backpacking trip, and we got a late start so we didn’t arrive in Yosemite until 1am, but being us, we decided to start the hike anyway. We were tired and winded, and stopped in a clearing to catch our breath. I asked if she’d like some water from my pack, then got down on one knee and didn’t give her any of the water she asked for. She cried and hugged me and said yes under a beautifully full moon, and at the tender age of 20 we were engaged.

I was nearing the end of my college career and was told for the first time I needed to complete three quarters of a foreign language. Taking them sequentially would’ve extended my time in school, and I wasn’t having any of that. In my scrambling for a solution, I discovered that going to a foreign country for three months allowed you to do all three required quarters of language classes in one go, so duh that’s what I did.

Because I was engaged, it took a little extra planning and money (thank you parents), but not too long after we were both on our way to Madrid – me to take classes and her to teach English. We had a beautiful studio apartment on Calle de Toledo near Plaza Mayor. The cabinets and desk were built in, the floors were marble, and there were huge windows that looked down on the vibrant streets of metropolitan Spain. I did my homework in bars where I got help from locals who argued over verb conjugation, and I actually watched sports with a vested interest for the first and only time in my life.

One night we went to a Gogol Bordello concert, which I’d highly recommend you try – gypsies know how to party. After, we headed to the nearest expat bar to continue the drinking we had started before the show. There was a pair of fairly attractive women standing at the bar, and as soon as I turned my back she was making out with the one with blue hair. Call me old-fashioned, but if you’re in an agreed-upon exclusive relationship, making out with any gender without a discussion with your partner is just not cool. I was upset, I said as much, and stormed out of the bar.

There was a whiskey place nearby that was extremely packed and had rock music blaring over the speakers. She followed me in, was incredibly inebriated, and dressed in a mini skirt and a leather jacket. The bouncers of the bar saw her repeatedly trying to get my attention, saw me rebuff her, and figured, “this chick is a prostitute that’s disturbing our patrons!” So they promptly flanked her, picked her up off the ground, and dropped her off outside the bar. At the same time, the two whiskeys I ordered arrived, and I had a really hard time walking away from them to go tend to someone who had just upset me. I downed one of them, took a sip of the second, sighed heavily, and walked outside.

I didn’t talk to her – I just kept walking. We had another friend with us, so I spent my time venting to him. There was a group behind us that I didn’t pay much attention to. I hailed a cab, and when I turned around she wasn’t there. I was too tired and angry to wait for her, so I got in the cab to go home. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized she had the keys to the apartment. I slept on the stoop, and she finally rode up in another cab after the sun was up, and she had an orange bag that she had swiped from a construction site over her shoulder. We both stumbled up the stairs and went to sleep in the hopes that these feelings wouldn’t still be there when we woke up.

I was shaken awake because she had a bloody nose, and it freaked her out. I told her it was probably nothing, and was reluctant to deal with her as she was still pretty hammered, and I was still pretty pissed off (and also maybe a little drunk). She woke me up again when she screamed. She went to blow her nose, and her her face near her eye immediately inflated like a fleshy water balloon.

I learned that she had been separated from my friend and me when the group we were walking with veered down a different street. In the hopes of spotting us, she climbed some nearby scaffolding, but her high heels weren’t up to the task. She slipped, and pinballed off the beams with her face on the way down. In the process, she fractured her orbital bone, so when she blew her nose, snot and blood flew through the new opening in her sinus cavity, filling the area around her eye underneath the skin. Also she was concussed.

Once I pieced all that together via some hungover Googling and the parts of the story she was able to spit out between gross facial secretions and immediate unconsciousness, I woke her up again and dragged her to the nearest emergency room. Pro-tip: foreign emergency waiting rooms are a great place to hash out relationship problems. Apparently I cared more about her physical well being than I did about being slighted. Go figure.

The Desert in the Off Season

We were greeted at our camp site by a ten foot tall neon green penis that sprayed a light, refreshing mist during the day, and shot fire from its tip in the evenings. We piled out of the Lincoln Town Car I rented to shuttle us to, from, and around the desert, and set up a camp of tents, shoddy 2×4 supporting structures, and an old parachute. It was Black Rock Desert, but there was no organization okaying our presence, no expensive tickets, no large-scale art or upsettingly large stacks of speakers pumping out garbled untz noises at 5am, and no rules.

After being there a couple hours my friend asked, “Hey are you cool with me taking the trunk off of that Town Car so we can fit more people in it?”

“If you feel confident that you can get it back on, then yes, absolutely!” He was a mechanic, so I felt confident in his abilities, and I also loved the idea. We were now able to (somewhat) comfortably transport up to 13 people at a time, meaning we were the party wherever we showed up.

When I wasn’t building or tinkering, I spent most of the daytime hours in the open desert teaching people how to do donuts in the Town Car, and lounging around at or near Frog Pond (ponds, really – it was a collection of small hot springs) in varying amounts of clothes. My particularly eccentric Ukrainian friend liked gathering the small fish or tadpoles inhabiting the pond into his mouth, then spitting them onto anybody who asked why his cheeks were puffed out. It was hilarious.

The evening rolled around, and my friend said, “Would you like any of the liquid acid I brought?” I feel like you can all guess what my answer was. “How many drops do you want?”

“I dunno. Three? Four? That sounds reasonable.”

“Okay, tilt your head back and open your mouth. One… Two… Thr- OOPS!”

“Throops?! How many is throops?!”

“Uh… Maybe like… Eight to ten?”

Great. Clearly it was time to load up into the Town Car and head out into the desert. There were thousands of people spread out over the vast expanse of public land (you were only legally allowed to have so many people at each campsite, which seemed to be the only rule people were interested in following), so you just had to drive toward the lights to find a group partying. For some reason, I was still elected to be the driver, and we may or may not have spent 30 minutes following around a car with a flashing light on it, and we must have visited upwards of ten different locations.

My friend that throopsed me and I stood watching a group burn a five-foot high wooden man, and they neglected to tell us that they filled it with fireworks. One of them zipped right between our heads; neither of us moved. We turned slowly to each other and I said, “Well that was close, huh?” Then we laughed until it was time to move on to the next place.

When we’d had our fill of nonsense, we headed back through the pitch black desert to our camp. I was still driving, but my passenger was dictating all of my wheel turns, as I could not see. “Okay, straight. Left… LEFT! MORE LEFT!” We narrowly avoided a large muddy patch that the car would have sunken into, and I finally decided I had had enough of the driving thing, stopped, and made my passenger drive, which he was basically already doing. When we got back, I did that cartoon thing Homer Simpson does where you spin around in circles on the ground saying, “WOOOOOP, WOOP-WOOP-WOOP-WOOP-WOOP!” until I got tired and went to bed.

The finale of the event comes in the form of a 30-foot tall frog with vampire teeth and bat wings, made primarily from wood and propane tanks, constructed at the far end of the shooting range (there was a shooting range). I took my shotgun and lined up with about 40 to 50 other naked or nearly naked people with guns, then someone yelled, “Holy shit, it’s a Frog Bat!” And everyone opened fire.

The explosions reverberated through your bones, and the thing went up in a glorious mushroom cloud of smoke, fire, and Frog Bat bits. Having slain the beast, there was nothing to do but pack up, put the trunk back on, and head home – tired, hungover, sunburnt, and victorious.

A Not-So-Brief Review of A Not-So-Brief Engagement – Part II

Our first romp in the grass was literally in the grass of the local YMCA, as our drunkenness gave way to the sun rising over the San Fernando Valley – clearly we were in love. Things progressed as quickly as the 350 miles between us would allow. We spoke on the phone every day, and we made frequent trips to visit one another in our respective cities. After six months or so, we couldn’t stand to be apart, so we decided to find an apartment in a neighboring town, as her artistic sensibilities, and disdain for college towns and the shackles of higher learning in general wouldn’t allow her to be in the same town as a university.

It was our first time having our own space, and I got wrapped up her hippie fun and frolicking. Our apartment was filled with beautiful antique furniture that we coated in day glow, stacks of records and books that spilled out of every shelf, and half-finished paintings and drawings that were done in varying states of inebriation. Luckily it was in a shitty neighborhood, so nobody really minded the loud young couple next door. Except that one time.

There’s a game called the “Dude v. Fuck Game” – you watch The Big Lebowski, and each time someone says “Dude,” the Dude Team takes a shot, and each time someone says “Fuck,” the Fuck Team takes a shot. She and I decided to play by ourselves with a bottle of rum, that in all likelihood we shoplifted from the nearby grocery store. I don’t remember who was on what team, and really it doesn’t matter. This game was likely to kill us both if we kept going at the one shot pace, so it soon became half a shot, then a quarter, then just a sip.

“I have to tell you something,” she said about three quarters of the way through the movie, her voice quivering with the fear of what might come next. “I cheated on you.”

It felt like I got punched in the chest. Hard. The wind left my lungs and I made every attempt to unhear what I heard. As the air filled my lungs again, so too did the kind of anger that only youth and half a bottle of rum might allow for.

“HOW LONG AGO?!” I finally got to after a run of ranting.

“Six months, maybe? I’m not really sure. I was really drunk, and it was just the one time, and I regretted it right away, and I couldn’t tell you!”

“Damn straight you couldn’t! I never would have moved in with you! I could have avoided all of this!” The yelling wasn’t cutting it anymore. My arms started thrashing around – I threw things, I broke things, I punched things. I have a distinct memory of pushing her against the fridge, but I was blinded by rage and too much alcohol, so I don’t recall much else.

There was a pounding on the door. I could see red and blue lights flashing through the window. “Open up!” I sobered to the degree I could and opened the door. I was immediately taken onto my porch and put into handcuffs. I hadn’t hurt her in any physical way, though repeatedly calling her a “whore” probably didn’t feel great emotionally. We each explained our sides to the story.

“I know you’re hurt right now, son, but is this really something you want to go to jail for? Because that’s where this is headed.” The police officer took a kinder approach than I expected. Maybe he was used to seeing so much worse when he arrived at scenes like this, or maybe he felt pity for me because he had been in a similar situation, either way, his approach was appreciated.

I was let up, and the rest of the night was quieter. As it has the tendency to do, love conquered our negative emotions. We resolved to work it out – we knew that with grit and determination and willful ignorance we could make it work. Dammit, we were better than all those other couples, and this would just be another shining example of how true that sentiment was. Love was all that mattered, and we definitely still had that, at least. “Love is all you need” and shit, right?

“Sooner or later you’re going to have to face the fact that you’re a moron.”
– The Dude

A Not-So-Brief Review of A Not-So-Brief Engagement – Part I

I was at the tail end of my first year of college, and on one of my too-frequent trips back to The Valley to putz around doing not much of anything. I dropped my friend off in the parking lot of one of the many strip malls that litter the suburbs of my hometown, popped two hits of acid into my mouth and drove away in no particular direction. After three or four aimless turns, I decided to head back to see what my friend was up to for the rest of the night.

“Sean!” I heard a female voice from behind me that wasn’t immediately recognizable, and I turned just in time to catch the embrace of one of my former classmates from AP English in 11th Grade. We hadn’t hung out much, but she was always someone that caught my eye. She was always dressed in ridiculous, haphazard outfits, her hair and makeup were always a finely-tuned mess, and she was absent from class about as often as I was.

“Me and my friends are going to a poetry reading across the street – do you wanna come?”

“Sure!” I eked out, as I swallowed the two small pieces of paper that were still moistening under my tongue. I had never been to a poetry reading before, and per usual, I was in the mood for a new experience.

The event was in the back room of a piano shop. I was ushered in along with my lady friend and her hoard of regulars. It was dark, had a blue hue to it, and was filled with your standard hippy amount of local art, tapestries at odd angles, and stray cushions. I sat at a table by myself, and waited to be entertained.

“Welcome to the [I forgot the name of the show] Poetry Night!” boomed the overweight, heavily-bearded host with an ironic and expensive black hat covering his receding hairline. “As most of you here know, each and every one of the people here is required to come up on stage and perform something!”

Oh shit… I thought. Maybe if I just sit quietly, I won’t be noticed. There are so many people here… They can’t know everybody.

They can. “You there!” The host was pointing directly at me. “I don’t recognize your face, and I noticed that you’ve yet to go up on stage. It’s the end of the night, which means it’s your turn to get up here!”

Just then the effects of the acid started peaking. I hesitantly got up out of my chair, went up on stage, and sat on the stool in the center.

“My name is Sean Farrell, and this is my first time.”

My memory clicks off here. I don’t know what exactly it is that I said, but I spoke for about five minutes. My memory clicks back on as I thank the audience and walk offstage into a sea of applause, hooting, hollering, and women wiping tears from their eyes.

The host came up to me, clasped me firmly by the hand and said, “That was truly incredible, man. You’re welcome to come back here and do that again any time you want!”

“Thank you, but I really don’t think that I can.”

The rest of the evening is a blur, as I was whisked from place to place with this new group of poet friends, and one old classmate who I had managed to woo with my performance. Bottles of red wine were passed around, I drank heartily, endearing myself to the group all the more as that’s what artists do, and to them, I was an artist.

Maybe Try Going Up Less Drunk

It’s odd to have a travel blog when you’re not traveling. My process when moving to a new city or acclimating to a new lifestyle has consistently been messy, and moving here has been no exception to that rule. As many of you know, moderation truly isn’t my thing.

I’ve repetitively made my rounds to bars and night clubs and comedy shows and more bars, and it’s been a crazy week. Like most of my weeks, I suppose. For the sake of updating you, though, I’ve now done a total of four open mics since landing here. My understanding is that I will have to do more like 5-10 a week to be truly “committed to the craft.”

After the show Friday, the primary note I got was to just keep plugging away. Repetition, repetition, repetition. The secondary note I got was, “Maybe try going up less drunk.” I think both are decent pieces of advice. It’s hard to remember which pieces of which jokes struck the audience when remembering the evening as a whole is a bit challenging.

For me, one week is an impressively short time for the pendulum to have hit an apex, and begin its swing back in the other direction. I find that each critique and each bombing (the comedy kind, not the terrorist kind) only encourages me to push myself harder, work on my material more, and get out there to try it again.

Last night went better. I felt more nervous on stage, or at least I think I did. In any case, I remember feeling more nervous this time. Another thing I remembered was all of my lines, and I think that’s a start in the right direction. As for the direction of this blog, I think it will begin to take on more of a “repository for stories” role for me. I may not be doing anything worth sharing in this moment, as working on oneself tends to be less entertaining, but dammit I’ve done some pretty ridiculous shit in the past that should be written down somewhere.

Pulling from my past will also allow for a little more consistency with the pacing of my posts, so this too will develop into a sustainable practice. Or maybe this is all just masturbatory for me, in which case enjoy the show!

Here Comes the Bride – Me!

I have wonderful news! After four days of not having a functioning shower, I finally made the leap and spent $17 to use the showers at a gay bathhouse about three miles from my apartment. I considered a gym, but this was cheaper and I was too hungover to even pretend to want to exercise. While I was there, I met the man of my dreams and we’re going to elope this weekend!

Alright, I’m pretty sure that’s enough characters to get me through the preview on Facebook. I was going to make a joke about how I’m getting “married to comedy,” but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it (except for that sentence).

Anyway, I started my new job on Monday and I love my new coworkers, but being in another animal hospital definitely made it obvious just how much I love and miss my old coworkers. Y’all are wonderful, and I sincerely appreciate the support I feel you telepathically sending my way, and I’m choosing to ignore the anger at my absence that goes along with it.

I also went to my first open mic in Chicago, as I couldn’t reasonably say, “I had my first day of work” without having done both new jobs I came here to do. It went alright. I wouldn’t say it was a great audience (I’m not basing that on my experience – literally every comic that went up made note of it), but I was still able to pull some laughs out of them. I also abandoned my written material about half way through just for the sake of ranting a little. I think sticking to what I intended on saying is probably a better way to go from now on.

I look forward to more bombing and more honing of my craft, but more than that I look forward to meeting more Chicagoans. They have largely been ceaselessly kind and willing to placate me in my antics. Sleep isn’t that important, right?

 

Live Bugs and Too Much Beer

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If you were to say, “Yesterday was too much!” you would not be wrong. I woke up particularly early yesterday because I was scheduled to sign a lease for my new apartment at 10am, but I needed to deliver an assortment of live bugs to a friend of a friend before a certain time, and I wasn’t sure how long the apartmenting would take. I made it to Petsmart right when they opened, but apparently there’s a shortage of mealworms in the Chicago area. I called a nearby Petco, they said they had them, and apparently the staff at Petco likes to lie to people because they definitely did not have them when I got there. 20 crickets, 50 night crawlers and a bottle of freeze-dried mealworms would have to do.

Brief aside: I got a new apartment. It’s a third story (4th if you count the bottom floor) walk up in a very nice neighborhood in the northern portion of the city. Nothing makes you feel like you have a lot of stuff like having to haul all of it up 43 steep and winding stairs. The electricity wasn’t on, though, and won’t be until tomorrow, so I write to you from another hotel where I’ve consumed vastly too much room service food to combat yesterday’s hangover.

Back to yesterday. In exchange for the bug delivery (which I discovered was for a performer who was to eat them in front of an audience), I was given two VIP wristbands to the Lagunitas Beer Circus, which allowed me access and as much free beer as I wanted. I made friends with a couple ladies in the face painting line, and we went to their apartment for more drinking. After they switched into evening attire, we went to one of their friend’s houses. Shortly after arriving, the ladies followed the friend into a separate room, and one of the roommates asked me nicely to leave. I wasn’t given a reason, just told it was time for me to go. Now, I know I can be noisy sometimes, but I still feel like that was a dick move on their part, and I look forward to whatever opportunities going forward I get to shit talk them (like this blog for example).

I hailed a cab and moved on to the next place, which unbeknownst to me was smack in the middle of a street fair called Market Days in Chicago. It’s like a gay pride block party, complete with music and dancing and food and an overabundance of alcohol. I stayed there until they started moving the party into the surrounding bars, then I found a karaoke place close to my house to wind down the last couple hours of the evening/morning.

I ordered halal pizza to be delivered to me, and waited in the passenger seat of my car for it to arrive because I had had enough of those stairs, but according to the 4 missed calls on my phone and the lack of pizza remnants in my car/home, I’m guessing I fell asleep before it arrived. It is now 8pm, and I just now got up the energy to put my fingers on a keyboard. Good game, Chicago.