booze

An Amari Christmas (or The Pablito Who Stole Christmas)

by Pablo Harris

I.

“Hey T, how’s it going?”

“Hutty! What up man?”

“Oh, just dealing with all this shit that’s about to go down.”

“Yeah, you all right with all this? You ready for it?”

“Yeah, sure, but got a question for you.”

“Shoot.”

“So, what’s up with Pablo? We got this Vegas bachelor party comin’ up and then there’s the big day. You know, my fiance’s getting nervous. She really wants to get a final headcount on this. Last time we talked he was all like ‘yeah, I’ll be there’ but that was two months ago and hasn’t responded since.”

“Yeah? Isn’t he a groomsman?”

“Yeah, s’posed to be. I even convinced Annie to have her friend Lena, Pablo’s favorite UCD Alpha Phi, be his wedding partner.”

“Leee-nnaaa. Shit, that guy owes you.”

“No shit he owes me. He still hasn’t paid me back for a couple of O-Zs of Humboldt’s finest.”

“No shit?”

“Yeah, whatever, it’s not about the money. He owes me, owes Annie, owes you for sure, for giving that guy a roof over his head and getting him laid! Last new year’s, remember how he was all moping around because he had to catch his flight back to work in Tibet.”

“Ha! Korea, man.”

“Korea, Tibet, same thing. He was all sad because what, he was leaving that tall, skinny, super-nerdy white girl who spoke Spanish?”

“Yeah, Brooke. But in his defense, she was alright if you’re into that bookworm librarian thing.”

“Yes, we all know he’s got strange taste in strange. I mean, ‘with the first overall pick in the Great Texas Bush League College Porn Draft of 2000, Pablo selects: Women Over 40′. Not even that chicken-licker Elsa was going to touch it with a ten foot dildo. Then traded his second, third, and fourth round picks to move up in the draft to make sure he got Joy of Spexxx?  Who the fuck does that?”

“The worst, real or fantasy, general manager ever.”

“Right. Anyway, you gave him a bottle of Fernet Branca. Annie and I introduced Lena to him. You know the rest.”

“I know, that lucky bastard. And what is it with ‘Frisco, restaurant industry people, and that vile liquor? Fernet to Pablo is like spinach to Popeye. In one shot he went from Dopey the goat to some drunk ass kid on Christmas. Like he just got all the Star Wars cantina scene figures and a Millenium Falcon tambien.”

“So, have you talked to that asshole lately?”

“Yeah, talked with him last weekend but I don’t know what’s up with him. He told me his contract ends at the end of the month but is considering extending his contract there at that, what do you call it, hogwash job he’s got. So, I don’t know, man. He told me some bullshit about how he needs to save some money, wants to move to the Bay but not sure when. So I called him out on this and how his life out there is bullshit and should be back to teaching in Cali. Hell, even his restaurant jobs got to better than what he’s doing now. So, after calling him on that shit he’s shoveling, he admitted: he’s scared of Vegas.”

“What the? Since when?”

“Since the last time he was there for that Christmas. And Heidi.”

*   *   *

December 2009. The last Christmas I spent in the States with my family while I was still bartending in Northern California and about to enroll for my final semester at Cal State. When my maternal grandmother passed before Thanksgiving it was a difficult time for the Herez family.  Especially tough for my mother.

After the plates were cleared, another disappointing trio of Turkey Day NFL games were in the books, and we were approaching the dregs of vintage Graham’s Port, my mom requested the boys turn off the SportsCenter. Even my father and brother were quick to oblige. The TV is never turned off in the Herez house. That’s when I knew what was coming. “Aw shit, here it comes, the intervention, fuck. Now? Not now,” I thought.

She surprised me with an unexpected tack.

“Look, Paul, I know you don’t like Vegas but I don’t want to be here without my mom this year so we’ve decided we’re going to Vegas for Christmas this year. I need the distraction. I don’t want to be here without her.”

“I think this is the worst idea ever.”

“I knew you would say that. But I want this distraction. Your grandmother not being here, I don’t want to be here. And because I know you hate Vegas, I used my Platinum Points to book you a suite at Harrahs. So, if you’ll join us, your room’s already booked. You can take the train down on the 24th to Hanford and Dad and I will pick you up there and you can ride with us.”

“Or I can bring him,” my brother offered. “I’ll pick you up at the Bakersfield Amtrak, bro, and you can catch a ride with me.”

“Does that work for you, mijo,” my mom asked directed at me.

“Not really. I haven’t been home in a while -”

“That’s your own fault,” my brother interrupted.

“Fine. Sure. But I just want to lay on the living room floor next to a Christmas tree, watch some movies, eat some tamales, and be home. And for a family, especially for this family to go to Vegas for Christmas, this is a terrible idea.”

My mom began sobbing so my dad interjected, “Can you just think of someone other than yourself right now.”

Mom continued crying, “ I don’t want to be here at home for Christmas. And now, not only with your grandmother being gone, now one of my boys might not be here to spend Christmas with the family.”

I yielded, “You know, I’m sure it’s not easy letting go of your mother, my grandma, especially at this time of year. But there must be better ways to grieve. But . . . fine. Let me see what flights are available out of Sacto. You’re right. You know I hate this idea, but yeah, I’ll be there.”

“Thank you, mijo.”

The afternoon of Christmas Eve at SMF, waiting to board the plane, I read this brief article in an abandoned Time magazine: Best Opening Fiction Lines of All Time. Number one was awarded to Anna Karenina’s first line,

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

I don’t know anything about happy families but I do believe Tolstoy was onto something. “Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Each unhappy  family is unhappy in the grips of its own grief and its vices. For my mom, its Vegas, bingo, and slot machines. For my dad, it’s golf and horse racing. For my brother, its prostitutes. For me, it’s drink.

Three hours later, I touched down at McCarron, grabbed the shuttle to the strip, immediately checked in through the Platinum reception, tossed my backpack and a small duffle of presents on the sofa, and took inventory of the mini fridge and wet bar. Eight dollars for a bottle of Heineken. Twelve dollars for a can of cashews. I’m not a gambler but time to hit the casino.

*  *  *

“What can I get for you?” she asked.

Eyes transfixed by the electronic spinning reels and entranced by the incessant pprrdlulululu-boo, pprrdlulululu-boo and the occasional cha-chinging sound to imitate coins hitting the payout tray, I didn’t even bother to look up to see who‘s taking the order.

Campari soda lime,” I curtly demanded.

“Campari soda lime,” she slowly repeated, logging the order and noting his manner.

While slow playing nickels trying to drink as many as I can with the least damage accrued, she returned a good five minutes later.

“Campari soda lime,” she reiterated while setting a cocktail napkin next to the ashtray and the slot machine.

First I glanced at the just placed high ball glass and followed the trail of a pale dainty retreating hand up a well-toned arm. Over to fleshy mango-shaped breasts stuffing a burgundy spaghetti strapped corset top. Up to sparkling blue eyes that pierced the second-hand smoke framed by curly golden tresses. I was instantly sprung. We locked eyes as she meekly smiled then slightly bobbed her head a few times before averting my gaze as if she just dropped something on the floor.

“Oh, here, this is for you,” putting a fiver on her tray.”                                                                                                                

“Thanks.”

“Thank you.”

Then an audible sigh before she opened with, “So, I got to tell you, my bartender told me ‘look out for that guy’.”

“Look out for that guy? Interesting. Why?”

“He said watch out for that guy because he might be a ‘made man’.”

“Made man, huh?”

“Well, only a ‘made man’ orders a Campari soda lime so you must be in the mafia. Sorry if you’re Italian. Are you Italian?”

“No. Just a fan of the amari, the bitters, and in need of an aperitif.”

“Isn’t Campari a digestif?”

“Actually it’s both. I make my own rules. And if I really was a made man I’d be drinking Averna. Campari’s from Milan, Averna is Sicily.”

“You sound like a made man to me.”

“Would a made man be plugging nickels into a machine at Harrah’s? I mean, if I were ‘made’ I’d be at the high end tables across the strip at Caesar’s, up at The Wynn, or downtown at The Plaza. No offense.”

“None taken. I’d rather be there, too, I guess. But you certainly are bitter.”

“Perhaps.”

“Well then, if you’re not a ‘made man’ then let me guess, you’re in the industry.”

“Yep.”

“So, you a chef, sous, on the line, garde manger?”

“Nah, I’m front-of-the house. I serve, bartend, stuff like that.”

“I see. Cool. Oh, I’m Heidi from San Diego. As you can see,” pointing to the name tag above her perfect left b-cup. “What’s your name? Where you from?”

“I’m Paul. I live, work, go to school in Sacramento.”

“And what brings you here Paul?”

“Well, my family wanted to do something different this year. So here I am, just killing some time before the Christmas Eve family dinner thing in need of a Campari,” before proceeding to drain my glass in three gulps.

“Oh, would you like another?

“Yes please.”

“Alright, I’ll be back.”

This time she promptly returned with a cocktail brandishing a vibrant, deeper hue and continued the inquiry.

“So, where you going for dinner tonight, Paul?”

“Upstairs at The Range.”

“Cool. The Range is really good.”

“Right on. Never been.”

“And Oscar’s working tonight. You should ask for a table in his section. Tell him you’re a friend of Heidi.”

We chatted about California, working in the industry, this and that for a few minutes.

“What’s your plan after dinner?”

“More of the same.”

“Drinking Campari for nickels?”

“Pretty much. I’ll be in need of a digestif.”

“Well, I’ll be around here until one. Come by and say hello when you’re done.”

I slammed another. “Alright then. But hey, Heidi, one for the road.”

“You got it.”

*  *  *

 

I returned around a quarter to one. Waiting for her to return. Preparing for an after dinner nightcap. Heidi sneaked up behind me.

“Any luck tonight?”

“Nuh. Not yet.”

“Well, let me help you change that. My fiance’s bartending at Rio tonight so we’ll meet him around four. So, like I said, I have a fiance but I do have a friend that I think you should meet. My friend Kat just moved here from Hesperia – ”

“You mean Hysteria.”                                                                                                                                                                          

“Oh, you know it then.”

“Yeah, I dated a girl from there once. That place is just a dump in the desert. The locals look like Joshua trees, arms full of spikes.”

Heidi, shaking her head, “Well, yeah, but anyway, you’d like her. She’s cocktailing at Deju Vu but is starting at UNLV this semester in hospitality/restaurant management. She’s at my place now so I can give her a call. And a bunch of us are finishing work here soon. We’re meeting next door for some Christmas cheer at the Imperial Palace then to The Fireside.” She smiled coyly and leaned into my ear teasingly, “And you know, Christmas only happens once a year.” She erected her posture and playfully asked, “So . . . should I call her? Want to come?”

Of course she knew the answer. Of course, I should’ve known better. But after all the preprandial drinks, the Dom, the Rochioli, the Opus, and internally repeating her maxim, all commitments to Christmas Day family obligations were long forgotten.

“Of course,” I answered.

“Great! I’m almost done so let me get you a drink before I clock off and go change real quick. Another Campari, Paul?”

“Nah, J-Dub Black and water, please.”

“Alright then. Now that’s a drink.”

II.

Christmas Day. 2pm. I woke up on the floor of a hotel room that was not mine. Then I saw her sitting there on an angry chair. My mother glaring through moist eyes.

“My God, Paul, I don’t know what to do with you.”

“What do you mean what to do with me? I’m fine.”

“No you’re not! You were supposed to go golfing with your dad and your brother this morning. They couldn’t find you so you’re dad went looking for you. He found you with two, two prostitutes, and a security guard trying to get you in the elevator back to your room. Your dad brought you here. You could barely walk. Your eyes rolling in the back of your head, slurring about Heidi this and Kat that.”

“Prostitutes? No, those are my friends.”

“Those are not your friends. Your friends do not leave you so messed up like this. So you missed golf, we were supposed to have brunch here and open presents and . . . I just don’t know what to do with you. So, you need to sober up and then we’re going to have a talk later. And you need to apologize to your dad when you see him for missing his tee time and for calling him a cock-blocking fag in your drunken stupor.”

“I said that?”

“Uh, yes, and you said worse to me.”

“Really? What did I say?”

“You know, maybe I will remind you sometime but not now. I don’t want to talk to you right now. Why don’t you get up, go back to your room, take a shower, go back to sleep if you need to sleep it off, and maybe we’ll meet up with you later.”

“So where are dad and Vince now?”

“They said they were going to Caesar’s to watch the Lakers game. If you clean yourself up perhaps you can catch them there later.”

“Ok.”

*  *  *

“Hey this is Tim, leave me a message and I’ll call you back.”

BEEP

“Hey, Big T, what up, it’s Paul. I am at the Caesar’s just off the Sportsbook, just pacing around by the elevators, trying to figure out my next move. So . . . maybe you can give me some advice. Answer your phone, damnit! I just need someone to talk to. My parents aren’t talking to me. My brother hates me. So there’s that. Oh yeah, merry Christmas.

Click

With holidaze fading, no family to tend to, I wandered around the Forum and back to the Palace before staggering into Nero’s. I needed a quiet place to just sit and reflect on all that transpired. The lounge was helmed by a friendly, immaculately manicured yet masculine barkeep.

“Hey there, what can I get for you?”

“Hey, I need a glass of white wine, for now. You got a list?”

“Sure. What do you like? Something crisp and lean like a sauvignon blanc or something fuller, richer like a chardonnay? Or perhaps you like something in between like our house white, the Sokol Blosser Evolution from Oregon. It offers a little bit of everything,” slightly lisping but it went undetected since my gay-dar was debilitated from last night’s furious assault to the cranium.

“I see you have Sea Smoke pinot by the glass. Wow, that’s highly allocated and never seen offered by the glass. And for $18 a glass; that’s a deal!”

“Well, I guess you know your stuff then.”                                                                                                                                         

“I love that wine. I say, if California was ever to do what France did and ranked all the towns and vineyards in Burgundy, Sea Smoke vineyard would certainly be a Grand Cru.”

“Oh, for sure. Well would you like a glass of that now?”

“I’ll wait on that. But please, a glass of the house white. I prefer white wine for breakfast. Works better than coffee.”

“Uh, you know it’s almost 5:30pm now.”

“Well, that’s breakfast for me today.”

“Long night, huh?”

“Long night. Long morning.”

“Ooohh, tell me about it.”

I spent the next couple of hours chatting with Gary about the fallout with our nuclear families and our love for our intimate, incestuous work families while I killed a bottle of white before Gary generously poured me a couple of glasses of premium Santa Barbara red, “on me”. Once again, I should’ve known better. Should’ve learned my lesson from the night before. Should’ve known that I was no longer a ‘made man’ to have one’s eye on, to watch out for, but a ‘marked man’, a mark, a target. Like a lost tourist to a pickpocket on Las Ramblas. Like a single straight who had wandered unbeknownst of what happens to a stray at The Asphalt, Flaming Saddles Saloon, or the EndUp: I was the mark.

“Hey Gary, it’s been great talking to you. Thanks for the wine but I should settle up. I got to get to dinner.”

“Alright, here you go.”

On the check was two house whites and one house red. $24. I put $40 in the book and handed it to him.

“Thanks again.”

“Sure. And hey, after dinner, come back for a nightcap. I’ll be here until eleven. Or better yet, meet me hear then and I’ll take you to some bars where only the locals and industry know.”

The service trap was set and felt myself descending into the depths of another bar well.

*  *  *

“So Hutty, sorry to report but I don’t think Pablo’s going to be making this one.”

“Well, fuck him then. Speaking of gay ass Paul, do you think he went out with that guy and did some dirty deeds?”

“I don’t know. And there’s nothing that I can’t get out of him if you give him enough blue agave and smoking greens but he’s been standing pat for years with that fucking cliche; what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Also, he has some gay tendencies like all that Top Chef, art history, wine, Oscar Wilde. And what’s that dirty Spaniard’s name, that director, Pedro Almodovar? Pretty queer. But, you know, I’ve known him since seventh grade. I’ve seen nearly twenty years of his porn collecting habits, there’s some strange shit in there. But it’s all straight. He’s a vagitarian.”

“Ok , but I still wouldn’t put it past him. You know him. You never know what kind of depressing drunken depravity he could get into on a holiday bender.”

“True.”

“Alright, but he’s kind of a faggot for not making it at least to Vegas for the Bachelor Party. And I don’t get he’s still living there with those kimchi-culos. So, what, he’s got a one-way on the yellow bus like all those other losers out there? Is that his thing now?”

“Not that I’m aware of. If he mentions any trim out there its either Kiwis, Canadians, or midwestern girls.”

“Well still, Paul’s cut. I guess you’ll slide into his spot and you just won the bridesmaid sweepstakes.”

“Yeah? Alright then! Thank you, Tibet.”

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Defending the Lady’s Honor

by Mr. Motgol

Ha-bin was always a messy drunk. Every time she went out she got catastrophically hammered. British chick wasted. A weaving, incoherent puddle of babble and drool. But unlike a British chick, Ha-bin wasn’t tall or brawny, with ancient, boozy Viking blood pumping through her veins. Instead, she was a small Korean woman with zero natural tolerance for alcohol. As a result, every time she touched the stuff she turned into a chaotic wreck. You could set your watch to it.

This night she had been particularly indulgent. We all had. We had just closed a show, an English language production of Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist. It was a reasonably big to do, with plenty of attention from the local press, and decent crowds of both foreigners and Koreans showing up for the limited run. I played the main role and Ha-bin was the producer. She had put the whole thing together and it had been a resounding success, so after the show the cast and crew headed down to Ol’55 bar to drink until we all fell down and saw in triplicate. We were in Korea, after all.

drunk 1

Ha-bin cornered me in the bowels of the club. She was dressed in her usual regalia: tinted round glasses, army fatigue pants, and a black fisherman’s cap over cropped hair. The getup gave her the look of a Bolshevik lesbian.

I was literally leaning up against the wall while she mumbled on in slurred and hopelessly broken English, something about “foreigners together… Koreans… you know… beautiful… hip-hop… musical.” She seemed to be pitching her next project and after thirty minutes of this circular, one-way conversation, I grew restless and excused myself.

I found Big Brent at the bar. He was high school buddy who had also moved to Korea to try out the waters. Brent was a monolith of a man, tall and thick, whose glasses, gentle manner and quick wit undercut his raw, physical power.

“I’m getting kind of hungry,” he said, taking down half a mug of Cass in one gulp. “Wanna grab some food?”

“Good idea. It’s past three and nothing good can come out of staying here. I know a meat place around the corner.”

We were just walking out the door when Ha-bin grabbed me.

“Yaaaa…” She swayed, holding onto my shoulder. “Wherrrrre you going?”

“Uh… we’re going to get some samgyupsal.”

Ah, mashiketa!” She said. “I come too.”

“Uh, sure… okay.”

samrest

It was only a five minute walk to the little restaurant, but somehow we lost her.

“Did you see where she went?” asked Brent, as we sat down at our table. The place was dark and smoky, jammed with customers eating, drinking, and jabbering loudly over the constant sizzle of meat.

“No idea.”

“Me neither.”

“Well maybe it’s for the best,” I said, waving to the server. “She’s pretty wasted. Hopefully she just jumped in a taxi and went home. Last time we drank together she ended up passing out in the street.”

Two bottles of beer and some side dishes arrived. As Brent went to fill my glass, my phone rang. I checked the screen. It was Ha-bin.

“Wherrrre you?” she asked. I could hear garbled voices in the background.

“At the restaurant. Where are you?”

“Family Mart. Come get me! So hungry…”

family-mart

The Family Mart was a convenience store just around the corner from Ol’55, part of a Japanese chain spread throughout Asia. It was open 24-hours, and served as a magnet for the drunkest scumbags of Busan’s expat community. Like many convenience stores in Korea, plastic tables were set up outside, and it was perfectly acceptable to buy beer, wine, soju—anything really—and then proceed to sit down and drink it right there. The result, during the warm weather months, was a boozy pack of expats guzzling well into the dawn. The later it got, the sloppier and rowdier they became. The place was always a molten, shameful mess, ground zero for the stupidest drunken shenanigans from the city’s foreigner set, and this steamy June night would be no exception.

As I approached the brightly lit store, I saw Ha-bin seated at a table with a group of Westerners. I recognized my friend Matt, along with a young, dark haired woman and a wiry white guy with a scraggly beard and dreadlocks.

Ha-bin, was half slumped over, mumbling. A skinny cigarette burned in her right hand, more ash than tobacco.

“Hey, Ha-bin!  Let’s go eat. Come on. You’ll feel better.” I grabbed her hand.

“Ees zees your beech?” a voice stabbed out. The accent was strong and unmistakably French.

I turned to the source. “What?”

“I said: Is zees your fucking beech?”

Before we proceed, I must come clean: I hate white guys with dreadlocks. Can’t stand them. One look makes my skin want to rebel. This is a visceral, irrational prejudice, and while I’m sure there are and have been very decent, upstanding white men with natty dreads, I have yet to meet any. And even if I did, I probably wouldn’t give them a chance. I’d have hate them just on principle.

I let go of Ha-bin’s hand and addressed the mouthy Frenchman.

“She’s not ‘my’ bitch. She’s nobody’s ‘bitch.’

“No, she is a mozerfucking beech. She seets and talks sheet. Take your fucking beech away.” He waved his hand for full effect.

Already heated by booze, my blood turned to fire.

“She is my friend. Who the fuck are you to talk to her like that?”

“She is a fucking beech!”

“And you are a white dread shitstain!”

“What? You are tough guy, huh?” He stood up.

“Eat my ass you Trustafarian bag of cunts!!!”

“No, fuck you man!”

“Come on! I’ll pound your ass into the dirt!!!”

“Oh, you will keeck my ass??? You want to go! Let’s go! Come on mozerfucker!!!”

He kicked his chair to the side and stepped. It was on.

The dark haired girl screamed in French as he came at me. He was smaller and sinewy and like me, very drunk. He threw a couple of ineffectual punches and missed. I immediately got inside and, remembering my wrestling days, took him to the ground, where we scuffled and rolled around on the filthy pavement. I managed a couple of blows to the side of his face, but could get no real power at such close range.

His girl waved her arms and shrieked some more. I tried to subdue him and get another shot at his face, when suddenly I was grabbed from behind and dragged up from the ground. Another guy got a hold of him and pulled him away.

“All right, break it up, guys!.” Matt yelled, stepping in between.

Chests heaving, we stared at each other over Matt’s shoulder.

“Okay okay.” I threw my hands up and was released.

“Fuck this… let’s get out of here Ha-bin.” I waved for her to come, then turned and walked toward the restaurant. My head was reeling. I needed a smoke and a beer.

“FUCK YOU MOZERFUCKER!!!” echoed the voice of my nemesis as I walked away. “COME BACK HERE!!! I KEEL YOU!!!”

samgyupsal

Brent was seated where I left him when I returned to the restaurant, tending to the fatty strips of pork in the small grill in the middle of the table.

“You won’t guess what just happened,” I said, plopping onto the stool and lighting a cigarette.

“Oh? Do tell…”

A minute later my phone buzzed again.

“Wherrrrrare you???” Ha-bin’s voice moaned through the speaker over obvious shouting.

I hung up. “Fuuuuuuuuuck. I’ll be right back.” Brent, shrugged and continued grilling the meat.

light

The scene was much the same as I left it, though now Matt was now restraining Ha-bin, who was now in berserker mode. She unleashed a banshee’s wail of invective toward the Frenchman and his girlfriend.

“YAAAAAAAAA SHIPPALNOM!!! CHUGEOLAY??? AAAAAAHH??? SHIPPALMICHINYEO YEOT MEOGEORA!!! YAAA!!! MICHINNOM GAESHEKKIYAAAAAAAA!!!”

As soon as I approached I was spotted by the natty Gaul, who pointed, eyes ablaze: “You! MOZERFUCKER!!!”

He was on me before I knew it and knocked me off my feet. I felt the sharp scrape of the pavement against my shoulder as he pressed down. Now on top, he  jumped from side to side as I attempted to scramble out from under him. Finally I made it back to my feet, staggering. We squared off, throwing sad, drunken punches that never hit their marks.

“Knock it the fuck off!” Matt screamed, pushing me away with his meaty arm. “If you don’t stop the cops will be here.”

“Okay okay.”

Once again I threw up my hands.

“Just get out of here!”

I turned away and grabbed Ha-bin by the wrist, dragging her along. She jerked and screamed, swinging her free fist toward the couple.

YAAAAAAAAA GAESHEKKIYAAAAAAAAAA!!!”

“You walk away???” the French guy yelled back. “I find you mozerfucker! WE ARE NOT FINEESHED!!!”

mouth

Back at the restaurant we joined Brent, who peacefully dug into his meal and chuckled as I recounted the latest round. Ha-bin could barely sit. She leaned on an elbow and puffed on a skinny smoke, muttering to herself.

We ate and drank for fifteen more minutes. I was relieved to be out of the action. I had only been in a few fights in my life and hated them. And this asshole was hardly worth the effort.

Just then I saw him, outside of the restaurant, walking past with his girlfriend. Our eyes met and he stopped.

“MOZERFUCKER!!!!” he screeched, bursting through the door and tackling me at the table. Bottles, plates, silverware and glasses crashed to the floor around us, as we grappled in the greasy floor of the restaurant.

Big Brent sprang into action. He was lethally quick for a man of his size, and immediately he seized the raving pseudoRasta and, club bouncer-like, fucked him out the door like a bag of wet laundry. The French dude hit the pavement but was soon back on his feet, pacing back and forth and screaming to me.

“You come out and with fight wiz mee, mozerfucker!!!”

I had to give the guy credit for persistence.

At this point the owner of the restaurant was heatedly holding forth with Ha-bin as the smattering of other customers gazed on in semi-disbelief.

The Frenchman paced and raved outside of the door, ignoring his girlfriend’s pleas to move on. It was now very early morning, and the glow of the  day’s first light began to seep down the building sides surrounding us.

I took a breath and walked out the door, ready for round three.

He came out swinging, grazing my cheek but landing nothing. Again I took him down. I wanted to end this thing once and for all, hoping to use my size advantage for the old “ground and pound.” But he was a slippery son of a bitch and before I knew it, he was behind me, with an arm over my throat, attempting to choke me out.

He wrenched down tightly, and I gasped for air, but nothing was coming in. He had me good. My mouth moved and gulped like that of a goldfish that had jumped out of its bowl. I couldn’t let this happen; unless I did something, now, I was done. So I mustered all my strength and flailed my body while pushing up with my arm. This seemed to work. I felt him release and leaped back to my feet, sucking in the clear morning air. We stood there, staring.

“Are we finished?” I asked.

“No we are not fineeshed! We are never fineeshed!”

He came at me again, but never made it.

Big Brent had had enough of our pathetic spectacle. With amazing speed he flashed through the door, past me and went straight for the Frenchman. With his huge left paw he grabbed the guy by his nest of dreadlocks and forced him onto his knees. The dude’s girlfriend screamed for him to stop,  but Brent was in total control. Brent then balled up his right hand into a fist, and bore it down like a warhammer on the top of Frenchy’s head: BAM! He repeated this three more times: BAM! BAM! BAM!

This managed to stun our Jamaican Pierre, who stood up and staggered, his eyes now black holes.

“That should take care of him for a while,” said Brent, just in time for the cops to arrive.

A Korean police station lit up at night

They kept us separated at the police station. Brent, Ha-bin, and I were on one bench, the Gallic couple on the other. Ha-bin was an exploding rage-filled hairball the whole time. She screamed, cursed, wailed and repeatedly bum rushed our foes on the opposing bench, only to be grabbed by intervening cops, who she clawed, slapped, and even bit at. I was amazed at their ability to handle such abuse. They gently took control of her, holding her back and quietly asking her to calm down. They were obviously used to such goings on. Just another night at work for a Korean peace officer, it seemed.

After a few hours—enough time to sober up—they let us all go with a warning. I’m sure they were more than happy to have us out of their hair. Frenchy’s ire had not yet cooled. Unsatisfied with the outcome of our melee, he repeatedly offered to continue it at a time and place of my choosing.

“Any time! I weel be there! This is not fineeshed, mozerfucker!!!”

He even shouted out his phone number, three timeslest I have trouble tracking him down.

dove-hd-3

I never saw him again. It turns out he was an international student at the end of his stay. And though he was clearly out-of-line–an obnoxious, arrogant, champion drunken shithead–I had to grudgingly grant him one crumb of respect: the guy was driven. He didn’t give up.

How much fighting does alcohol cause? Too much to count. It’s the primary fuel much of human aggression, though there can be an upside to fighting dead drunk. Sometimes both parties are just too wasted to do any real harm to each other. This was certainly the case with us. Had we been a little more sober, somebody would have probably got their ass kicked.

A few weeks later I ran into an Irish buddy of mine who had witnessed part of the fracas. He was none too impressed with either of our prowess. In his musical Cork brogue, he only had this to say:

“You looked like a couple a Polacks dancin’.”

Brent moved back to America. During a recent visit we recounted the story over steaks, beers, and cigars, laughing at its patent absurdity and praising Korean cops for their unbelievable powers of forbearance. Silently, I recalled how nice it was to have him on my side.

As for Ha-bin? Her drinking days are long behind her. Soon after this incident she found God. That’s right, she got right with Jesus and became a born-again-Christian. Today she runs a Christian café/bookstore with her similarly devout husband. No longer does she slap dudes and bite cops. These days, the only thing getting thumped is her Bible.

I haven’t been in a full-on fight since. And it should come as no surprise that the experience did little to temper my disdain for white dreadheads. If anything, it’s exacerbated the bias. It’s made it to where I can barely travel in Southeast Asia anymore. Just picture it: There I am, trying to relax in paradise, wanting to murder every third backpacker I see.