Thursday, May 31, 2012

the best eight months of my life: 1998


“When I wake to find the solace of
All that we’ve become?
I can’t wait to make the promises
That I’ve been leery of,
Take me down, let me see,

I’ll be there waiting … for you!
In the morning when times have changed!
I’ll be there through the lies and all,
I’ll be standing like a soldier for you!

So you hold your secrets,
Through the days when I need to be alone,
I will wait for you,
Through the rise and fall!”


---------------------------------

In the interest of full disclosure … I still love Hootie to this day.  And this is my favorite song by them.  (It’s this, or “Old Man and Me”, off the criminitely underrated “Fairweather Johnson” cd.)  Having said that, let’s do this, a long talked-about, often thought-about, definitely-gonna-be-fun look back at the best seven to eight months of my life*, the summer and (most definitely!) the fall of 1998 …

(*: all of 1998 was quite enjoyable, to be honest, save for two days: my 21st birthday, and November 16th.  The latter will be discussed below, in over/under 15 pages.  (Take the over.)  The former?  broncos 14, Chiefs 10, AFC Divisional Playoffs, a defeat I still have not gotten over fifteen years later … and probably won’t ever get over.  I noted all week leading up to that game that “whoever wins this game, is winning the Lombardi”.  God bless it, I hate being right so often.  Even more than the fact than I hate that the better team won that frigid cold Sunday late afternoon …)

* I headed home for the summer sometime in early May.  I had an internship lined up at the Post Office of all places, working in the Philatelic Center in the Hunt Midwest Underground complex across from (now) Ameristar / (then) Station Casino.  But the job didn’t start until after Memorial Day, so I had a few weeks to simply enjoy life and not do a damned thing, other than lay out on my folks back deck and get one helluva rockstar tan to open the summer.  (I also might have been enjoying a couple blenders of margaritas every day too.  Damn, I miss college …)

* I started said “internship” the day after Memorial Day.  I can honestly say, the almost four months I spent at the Philatelic Center?  It was the funnest job of my life.  If at least once in your life you can have a job that doesn’t feel like work?  Then you’ve found something worth keeping.

For starters, virtually everyone who worked there, was a “refugee” from the old downtown Post Office on Pershing … and oh yes, everyone knew my dad.  Either they knew of him, or they’d worked with him.  For most (at the time) hot as holy hell 21 year old guys, that might be intimidating, to work with a bunch of your dad’s ex-co-workers.  For me?  Hell, I knew my dad.  He’d “warned” me about a couple of them, noting “now be careful of (insert name here) – she likes to close the bar down.  And (insert name here), he’s going to tell you I did (insert thing here) once.  (pause).  He’s lying”. 

And my favorite: “I think Chris is up there now.  She’s a lot of fun to work with.  (pause).  I had to bring her a bottle of Visine once to hide the obvious from everyone.”  (stevo playing dumb voice) Gee, pop, what could she possibly have needed Visine to conceal (rimshot!) 

* The way the Philatelic Center was (is?) set up, was that you had your own “room”, were given a “production order” for the day, and fulfilled said order.  (In case you don’t know what a “philatelic center” is, it’s where most stamp collectors get their first-issue stamps from.  They order, we fulfill.)  My boss was actually someone named Machelle, who ranks amongst the best bosses I’ve ever had. 

For example, anyone who knows me, knows that I am NOT a punctual person.  Hell, it was a running joke for a long time, that if you wanted me somewhere at 7:00, you said 6:30, you had to build the half hour delay into my arrival.  (I think I’m better now.  Somewhat.)  The Post Office?  If you’re late, you’re screwed … unless you had my boss.  I was driving 30 plus minutes (from 79th and Lackman to Ameristar) every morning, and had to be there at 6am.  Uum, I’m not only not a punctual person, and I am most definitely not a morning person.  Especially when my favorite NHL team is making a Stanley Cup run, and every game ends after Letterman has signed off for the night.  Machelle?  She’d swipe my card for me at 6am … swipe me out at 4:30pm (yup, mandatory overtime!  All summer!  Wohoo!) … and then just know that once I stumbled in about 6:15, I’d stay until 4:45.

As for Chris?  Oh yeah, she was there.  To protect the guilty, I will simply say, every night when Dad would get home, he’d ask me how Chris was.  I’d just smile and say “good”.  (She was his co-supervisor on the docks for years before transferring out because of a bad knee.)  Every guy, even married ones, I am convinced, has one girl that is always his “friend” – not in a “getting it on” kind of way, just your female best friend.  (For me, it’s Katie.)  For Dad?  It’s Chris.  I loved that chica too.  Even if the vicinity around her vehicle smelled shockingly similar to how DJ and I’s main room smelled every day on Stubbs …

* There were really only three other eventful things that summer, so let’s take them in (somewhat) inverse order:

3. President Clinton admits he “had sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky”, on the night of August 17th.  Until the day I die, I will argue Clinton was right to come out swinging that night … but he should have resigned during the State of the Union in 1999.  If he’d resigned, with Gore now running as an incumbent (in the LBJ role, essentially)?  We’d have been spared the Bush administration … which, to be fair, looks competent, well-run, and genius compared to the Obama administration.

2. I bribed every friend I knew, every weekend I could, to make trips to St. Louis or Chicago for the Home Run Derby of 1998.  I could not give two shits that McGwire and Sosa were doping, were shooting every steroid known to mankind.  Every person who loves baseball was creaming their pants every night that summer watching the two of them assault the record book.

God that was a fun summer.  And of course …

1. “The Summer of the Metro”.  And no, I’m not talking about KCMO’s mass transit system.  Poor Gregg.  Poor Jasson.  In mid-June that summer, some drunk driver plowed into their cars, plus their neighbor Melissa, in the middle of the night.  In the words of Ross Schwisow: “wrecked ‘em?  Damned near killed ‘em!” (rimshot!)*

(*: the only routinely funny joke lamer than my “poker?  I didn’t even kiss her! (rimshot!)” one-liner that I plagiarized from the great Anthony J. Bruno.) 

So when you’re only 20, as G was at that point, insurance provides you NOTHING but the best as a rental.  Yup, the poor guy drove around in a Geo Metro for like six weeks while his Accord was being fixed.  I had the misfortune to ride in it once.  Never again.  Actual conversation from that night of horror as best I remember it:

(stevo) it’s 99 f*cking degrees out, turn on the air already!
(gregg) can’t.
(stevo) why?  It doesn’t work?
(gregg) oh, it works.
(stevo) then why not turn the damned thing on?  I’m sweating even more than I usually do!
(gregg) because the car runs at half power.
(stevo) (confused look on his face) what?
(gregg) if I run the air, this thing won’t top 40 (mph).
(stevo) you’re kidding me.
(gregg) (with a “if you respond to this, I will f*cking KILL YOU” look of rage) no.
(stevo) (stays silent the rest of the ride …)

* One I nearly forgot about: Game 5, Western Conference Finals.  Stars 3, Red Wings 2 (OT).  The best hockey game I’ve ever watched in my life.  And earned a “shut up down there!” from my mom to me after Guy Carbonneau tied the game with seconds to play.  I mention that, because my mom can abide any swear phrase you can think of, up to and including the “god f*cking dammit!” blast I use way too often … but if you tell her to “shut up”?  She’ll get enraged.  Conservatives!  God love them … because only He can understand them.

(Yes, this is the game that the Stars won the face-off to open overtime, Jamie Langenbrunner threw a “what the hell, why not” 120 foot shot in off resulting face off … and it went right through Chris Osgood’s legs to win the game.  Hence the second “shut up already!” blast of the night that came not even five minutes after the first one …)

* Well, like all great things, summer eventually draws to a close … and it’s back to school, to our apartment.  Me, Vineet, and Frank had chosen this place for three reasons:

a. our “fourth amigo” at the time, Wes, (me and Vineet’s fellow roommate our freshman year) lived in said complex.

b. since we spent every weekend either in Arlington or Deep Ellum (not sure what to compare it to … Westport with more strip clubs?  Waldo with more tattoo parlors?  Brookside with more black people?  If you don’t know Dallas, Deep Ellum is a big club district to the southeast of downtown, by the Cotton Bowl.  It’s a seedy bar-filled part of town, that’s a helluva lot of fun come your random Friday night.  So it’s the Eclipse? (rimshot!)), it made sense to live closer to where we wasted our time at.  And

c. price.  We had a lovely three bedroom / two bath apartment, on the ground floor, on a (somewhat) private inaccessible street to outsiders, with washer and dryer, in the way of a really errant drive off the 14th tee … for $550 / month.  Oh, and the four funniest things about the apartment:

1. We never had a kitchen table, a dining room table, a table of any kind, save for a coffee table.  (Unless you count the barstools by the counter that we used as a table, and I do.) 

Why, you ask?  Because oh yes, Frank had his home gym set up where most people would have a dining room.  A full-on workout room as soon as you walked out of the kitchen.

2. Cocoa Vineet!  On top of the entertainment center?  Well, let’s just say, a couple of us noted one night that “wow, that monkey on the back of the cereal box looks like Vineet!”  So, yes, we put an empty box of Cocoa Puffs on top of the entertainment center that had the crazy monkey on the back, and we wrote the words “Cocoa Vineet!” on the blank white t-shirt said monkey was modeling.  But I promise you readers – smoking a tobacco-like product does NOT kill brain cells!

3. The Planters Cheez Balls canister.  Anytime someone says “that’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen”, I think “nope, not even close”.  I love the Planters Cheez Balls.  So much so that I plowed through an entire canister the first night we moved in.  (Note: weed may have been involved.) 

The roommates?  Took the empty canister (and if you’ve ever had one, you know these things are massive), and turned it into their own personal ash tray.

It was filled in less than month.  We’d dump it … and dump it again every couple weeks.  I miss that canister.

4. The commute.  Sweet.  Freaking.  Jesus.  I’ll put it this way: we lived about 15 miles from campus.  (An 11 mile freeway drive, exit 24 (Eastchase) to exit 13 (Forest Park), then build in the side streets both ways.)  If I was not on the Landry by 6:45?  I wasn’t making my 8am class.  To put this in perspective, I currently have a 12.9 mile commute (according to my odometer) from home to work in the morning, mostly on the freeway.  On my WORST day?  It takes 25 minutes.  That’s how crap-tacular Metroplex traffic is.

(And because the East Side of campus was undergoing massive renovations at that time?  Parking shortages were insane.  If you didn’t make your 8am?  Don’t even bother trying to make your 9:30 or 11, you’d be parking down along the riverfront across from Colonial Country Club, and hiking 2 miles uphill to campus.

Thankfully, my last semester?  My 8am professor drove in from Arlington*.  So if I tuned into Channel 8 and they were noting “45 minutes from Loop 820 to downtown”?  I knew Dr. Bamford wasn’t showing up either, so sweet, pool day!

(*: after a disasterous first semester freshman year, with 8ams all five days of the week, I swore “never again”.  From that point on, I had all Tuesday / Thursday classes, with one night class, usually on Wednesdays since I worked from noon to 6.  It’s a genius schedule – go all day Tues / Thurs, at 8 / 9:30 / 11, and either 12:30 or 2, go one night a week, and what do you get?  Four Day Weekends!  Fellow readers, peoples and peepettes, I will never be accused of being a genius … but that schedule is GENIUS!  Yes, you’re damned right I stole it from Wes …)

* Anyone remember how hot the summer of 1998 was?  Because I sure as hell do.  D/FW topped 100 degrees on 92 separate occasions, the last 58 of which were consecutive.  Yes, there were days my alarm would go off at 6:30, I’d fire up the TV, see “103 and sunny” as the forecast, roll back over in bed, pray there was a girl next to me … emphasis on “pray” because, well, like nowadays, there rarely was / is … and if not, sleep in another couple hours until Frank started blending the first batch of margaritas for a pool day woke me up for good.  It’s a freaking miracle I graduated a semester early, let alone graduated at all.

* Perhaps the funniest … or at least (amongst the) most (dusty voice) criminite in nature, moment of my life, occurred on moving in day at “The 305”.  Frank and I are exhausted – it was 106 degrees outside, we’ve just lugged furniture in for the last couple hours, but we notice the neighbors across the entryway are moving out, and so being nice, we offer to help.

About three hours later, maybe 9, 9:30ish, we’re sitting on the couch watching God knows what, when there’s a loud knock on our door.  I get up, open the door, and there are these two attractive females on our front doorstep.  I’m sure the only thing going through my head at that point was … well, let me channel my inner DJ here: “score!!!” 

So the conversation as I best remember it: we invite them in, offer them a beer, which they graciously accept, and then …

(chick) by chance, did either of you two see anyone moving stuff out of our apartment today?
(frank) which one is your apartment?
(chick) the one across from you.
(frank) yeah, there were two guys moving everything out. 
(chick) really?
(stevo) yeah, we helped them haul out a couple of the heaviest items.
(chick) (now enraged) you did WHAT?!?!

Turns out … it was one of these girls ex-boyfriend stealing everything of value from their place.

Suffice it to say, we not only did not “score!!!” with our neighbors, they pretty much never spoke to us again.

Although it did lead to one funny exchange with Frank come mid-October, once it cooled off:

(frank) so, why do you always leave your window open?
(stevo) because it’s nice outside?
(frank) well, aren’t you worried about those guys (from earlier) stealing our sh*t?
(stevo) (stunned) are you serious?
(frank) well yeah!  They already robbed our neighbor –
(stevo) ok, first of all, we didn’t date those dudes.  And secondly, we ain’t got sh*t to steal!!!
(frank) oh.  Good point.

* Christ, I’m still in September, and I’m on page 8 in Word!  Time to get rolling here.

* Me and Frank, the Tony Gonzalez look-alike that … wait a second, that occurred in 1998!  Sidebar time!!!*  We’ll get back to where this was headed in a minute or two.

(*: so Gregg and Jasson come down to visit that spring, like they did a couple times a year, a quick weekend get-away to catch a Mavs (this was the Dick Motta vs Bill Fitch game where we paid $10 / apiece for near courtside seats … and felt ripped off) or Stars game, or just for whatever.  (The year before, it was the midnight showing (aka “debut”) of “Private Parts”, still the craziest, most fun movie-going experience of my life.  It’s the only reason I got satellite radio, to have Howard Stern back in my life again.

Anyways, we’re sitting around just getting sh*t faced drunk on that Friday night, and Gregg starts calling Frank “Tony”.  Why, you ask?  Cue the “gregg drunk voice”: “because you look like Tony Gonzalez!”  Now, to be fair, Frank was a fitness freak, and sweet Jesus, was he fit.  Dude was built like a tank, and had no problems showing off what he had.  (In his defense?  I would have too.  Dude was ridiculously fit.)  That … and if I could find a picture of him, the dude actually does look like Tony Gonzalez in the face somewhat, in addition to having his body.  And yes, he’s Latino, as a name like Francisco would denote.  (cue every female regular reader of this site wondering out loud why they didn’t know me fifteen years ago, and sighing in disgust over that …)

Anyways, the night was also memorable because Gregg drunk-dialed our friend Tiffany pretty much all night long, and come 7:30am, she calls back … and in the interest of full disclosure, she’s pretty much the most religious, tee-totaling person you will ever meet.  Let’s just say, drunk voice-mailing doesn’t go over well with people like that.  To this day, anytime this night comes up, Gregg starts laughing, and I get enraged.  Probably because I have NEVER had a hangover like I did by the time Tiffany was through verbally b*tch slapping me from 600 miles away.

OK, back to the original story before I start asking a random reader to “pick me up a pack of Camels!” after they advise me to “try the low fat bacon”.  And Jesus, please don’t make me explain what that pop culture reference is from – it’s only one of the five funniest movies ever made …)

So, Frank and I are headed up in mid-September to watch my brother make his debut on the JBU soccer team.  Being the good older brother (and armed with daddy’s credit card), I volunteer to take us all out to dinner afterwards, and Drew brings his roommate, so there’s four of us.

We go to the “fanciest” restaurant in Siloam Springs, which actually, is a fairly decent steak joint called (if I remember right) Callahan’s.  We sit down, the waitress comes over, and remember, it’s pushing 7pm on a Saturday night …

(waitress) what can I get you fellas to drink?
(stevo) double vodka tonic please, with a couple limes in it.  (Note: even fifteen years ago, I knew a good drink when I smelled and sampled it …)
(waitress) I’m sorry sir, I can’t get that for you.
(stevo) (thinks it’s because she thinks I’m underage)
(stevo) no problem, here’s my ID.  (reaches for wallet).
(waitress) I’m sorry sir, this is a dry county.
(stevo) come again?
(waitress) a dry county, we don’t allow alcohol sales of any kind.
(stevo) (brain kicks in) oh, without a unicard!  I gotcha, a Collin County extortion thingy!  OK, how much?
(waitress) (genuinely baffled) what’s a unicard*?
(stevo) (to his brother) is she sh*tting us?
(drew) (shakes head in disgust) nope.  You gotta drive a mile that way to Oklahoma to get legit beer, let alone vodka.
(stevo) ok, thanks.  (to everyone at table) we’re leaving.

So … we all head for an Indian joint across the border, grab a case, head back to Drew’s room, and pound a few, before me and Frank head back to the Metroplex, but not after making one more stop at said Indian joint to stock Drew and his buddies up for the next couple weeks.

(*: a Unicard is what you had (have?) to purchase in Collin County, Texas, to buy liquor by the drink.  I still have mine somewhere in the cigar box of memories.  God I hate conservatism …)

(Oh, and as a funny sidebar, this Indian joint was (is?) a gas station / tobacco shop that also sells liquor … and doesn’t card anybody.  This led to a funny conversation once I got to witness between my dad and my brother, where he kept asking Drew why a Texaco in unincorporated Oklahoma kept charging his Visa for $13 nearly every day.  Drew said something like “they have the cheapest gas down there”.  Somehow Dad bought that excuse.  Actually scratch that – I guaran-damn-tee you Dad didn’t buy that excuse.  He no doubt knew.  Kind of like how …)

* the Rangers pennant push in 1998 became “emergency expenditures!”  Believe it or not, I was really conservative on using dad’s credit card for three years.  Then came the fall of 1998 – with everything the summer had meant to me (in a baseball sense), to be in a city where a team was fighting for a playoff berth every night?  Let’s just say, between me, Frank, Vineet, and Mike (our neighbor and good buddy who also went to TCU), I think we missed three home games combined from mid-August on.  I told you this semester was a great time!

* Let me hit on a few more highlights, and man, I’m going to struggle to limit this to a few, this semester was without question the funnest period of my life …

* One of the home games we didn’t miss?  Was game three of the Divisional Round of the playoffs!  Yankees (boo!)  Rangers (yay!)  Just a typical early October Friday in North Texas – 104 and not a cloud in the sky!!! 

Until about the fifth inning.  Me and Mike are standing in the beer line, the Rangers and Yanks are still tied at goose-eggs … and you can see the clouds rolling in from the west.  Our long national pleasure is about to end: the heat is about to end.  Big time.

After a three hour rain delay that saw the Yankees eventually close out the series (and saw four very drunk, wet dudes stroll into a Waffle House at 3am in need of some quality grits), fall had finally arrived.  And with it, came …

* One of the only two or three Chiefs games I am thankful that I failed to attend (at Arrowhead).  While you all in KC were dealing with the “Flood of 1998” for the Sunday nighter against Seattle?  (Dealing with our rain system that moved north after that Friday night rain-down at the Ballpark.)  I was laughing looking at the pictures of Brush Creek flooding, of the rain spilling through the seats of the lower bowl, perfectly comfortable on the couch while it was in the mid 80s outside.

(Arguably the funniest email I’ve ever gotten in my life, came the next day from Gregg.  I emailed him during the game (remember, this was “pre-texting” days …) “how’s the rain?”  Gregg’s response?  “I felt a drop every couple hours.”  (He sat in the club level back then.)  I literally laughed out loud reading it at work the next day.)

* I worked with a dude named Joel who was from San Diego, and he actually got to attend all four games of the World Series that fall (Yankees v Padres).  What I would not GIVE to attend just ONE Royals World Series game.  Just one …

* Our Thursday night pleasure?  Was late night bowling league at the Don Carter’s All Star Lanes Southwest* in (go figure) southwest Fort Worth!  I worked Thursday nights, closed down the reference department at 10:30ish.  Bowling started at 11.  We went until about 1am.

Our team was me, Frank, Mike, and Mike’s roommate Niko.  (And on the weekends he didn’t have to head home to work, Vineet showed up.  I swear I’m going somewhere with this …)

(*: to answer the obvious question at least two loyal readers will have, yes, this is THE bowling alley we went to the night before my graduation that required ID to enter … at 8pm on a Friday night.  And to think, Cityview is actually a classy area of Fort Worth!  No really!  They have the Ridglea Country Club, the city’s best mall (Hulen) and everything!)

So one Thursday in early November, we get out about 1am, and thank God for Texas, some places have 24/7 liquor sales, and Arlington is one of those places.  (Or at least was.)  So Frank and I head up to the Tom Thumb on Collins to do some grocery shopping for the weekend, and to grab some beer for the weekend as well.

We’ve pretty well filled up the cart (again, thanks dad!), and we round the corner into the cooler / refrigerated sections of the store (for those of you in KC who have never been in a Tom Thumb, they make Hen House look ghetto, they’re that impressive.  Or at least the one at Collins and Green Oaks was), and there “it” is.

THE single greatest alcohol purchase of a lifetime.

As the sign said, “Heineken 12 packs: $7.99”.

Even 15 years ago, that was a steal.

So I track down a stock boy, because I don’t see a limit on the sign to the amount you can buy.  Pretty much the exact conversation as I remember it:

(stevo) so what’s the limit?
(stock dude) oh, there isn’t one.
(stevo) uum, what?
(stock dude) yeah, we got a serious overshipment, just trying to move th –
(stevo, to frank) give me a f*cking quarter.
(frank) what for?
(stevo) we need Vineet’s car.  Ideally yours too. 
(frank) what?
(stevo) we’re buying them out.
(frank) with whose money?
(stevo) I’ve got dad’s credit card.  (pauses.)  If he understood September, he’ll definitely understand this.
(frank) good point.

So hell to the yes, we bought (if I remember right) 26 cases of Heineken beer that night, at 2:15am in a Tom Thumb in North Arlington.  And yes, it took two cars jammed full in the trunk and back seat to get the stash home.

And … it lasted exactly three weeks.  When I got back to our place after the Thanksgiving trip home late on Sunday night, I noticed that Francisco and his amigos had polished off the few cases that remained over the holiday weekend.  Speaking of mid-November in the city limits of Arlington …

* After realizing I couldn’t make it home for the Chiefs Monday nighter against denver … and being so full of confidence that the Chiefs would win, that I decided to be “that guy” who shows up at the enemy’s doorstep to celebrate his side’s victory … oh hell to the yes, Frank and I went to the official broncos watching party for the game affectionately known as “The Monday Night Meltdown”!  November 16, 1998, at the Hooters at Collins and Division in the heart of Arlington!

To the eternal credit of both the broncos fans in attendance, and of me and Frank (who hated denver as much as I did by this point in our roommate-ship … see, who says I don’t have hypnotic powers!) … it actually turned into as fun of an experience as possible.  The donkeys fans loved having me there to make fun of … and whatever you may think of me, NOBODY makes more fun of me, than me.  If it is at all possible to enjoy that abortion of a performance, I actually did.

(And I only stuck around for the fourth quarter, because I believed Marty would resign in the postgame presser.  He looked like a beaten man after that game.  He waited six more weeks to step aside … but as much as seeing that period of Chiefs football close hurt?  It needed to happen.  Oh, and this sentence starts page 15 in Word, so the “under” wins!!!  Just looking out for the gambling community who reads every word I write (if only to know how NOT to bet …))

* The weekend trip home for Thanksgiving is recapped here.  And yes, to this day, I still don’t regret my decision … even if I probably should.  (And thanks to that previous post?  I just saved another seven pages of typing!  Yay me!!!)

* The last three weeks of my college experience were crazy.  As noted in the linked post a paragraph ago, I arrived back at school with zero interviews lined up … and I had two offers less than a week later.  I had finals coming up. Not a pretty picture.  But I survived it.  And once I managed that ... of course, that meant one last week of tomfoolery and hijinks before graduating to the real world.

* One I knew Gregg was in for the graduation, I headed off to buy us tickets to the Cowboys / Eagles game the day after my big day.  I asked my brother (who was also coming) if he wanted a ticket, and he was like “nah, I’ve got a lot of friends from school there, I’ll be hanging out with them!”

So let me back up a moment, because yes, Drew did have friends there …

* Drew gets in on Thursday December 17th.  He meets the roommates, we watch a classic first run episode of “Friends” (the “Fireball” episode where Ross makes Joey write ten pages of a script … and Joey invents the rules to “Fireball”, which is literally chucking a ball that is on fire at your opponent), and then it’s off to the Hard Rock Café and a night in Dallas.  (Remember – or don’t, whatever’s clever – Drew has managed to turn my Texas ID into a legit fake ID for himself by this point.) 

Friday, Gregg arrives, we have the bowling night.  Saturday, I graduate, on the day Bill Clinton is impeached by the House for doing what two (and counting) Republican Speakers who resigned that day had done – had an “inappropriate relationship” with someone other than their wife, and lied about it.  (To think that some people actually wonder why I view conservative Republicans through the eyeglass of hypocrisy.)

That night, we go to a huge celebration branch at Tony Roma’s rib joint in south Arlington, and afterwards, Drew heads off to join up with his friends, while Gregg and me and the roommates head back to our place to party it up.  (Yup, even back then, we had no lives.)

About 3am, the phone starts ringing.  It’s my (at the time) 19 year old brother, piss drunk, lost on the freeways of Dallas.  I’m pissed off – not only do I have to get up in a few hours for that Cowboys / Eagles game I got me and Gregg tickets to, not only do I have to get up a few hours before that to take my folks to the airport to fly home, I also have to try to figure out while pushing a .26* where the f*ck my brother is, and somehow get him back to my place safely.

(*: in case you doubt me, I was fully convinced I had lost my door key when we got back to the apartment.  I literally spent an hour trying to figure out where the door key … on my keychain, was.  Maybe .26 is a conservative estimate of my BAC at that point …)

Somehow, I figure it out, manage to get Drew home without incident, and he sleeps it off while my family heads home, and Gregg and I take in a boring-as-hell division clinching game for the Cowboys.  A game whose only touchdown … was on a fake field goal.  OK, maybe it wasn’t that boring … but even Gregg will agree with me on this: the old Texas Stadium was, if not the shittiest stadium in the NFL, it was certainly in the top three.

* That Sunday night was the last time I had Perotti’s.  (At least as of today.)  I’m telling you, that place is to kill for, their lasagna is that good, and the pizza doesn’t disappoint either.

* The next morning, the three of us (me, Gregg, Drew) head for home in three separate cars loaded up with my stuff … and we headed home in the ice storm of the century in north Texas.  By the time we get to Oklahoma City in about two hours longer than it should take, I’m seriously contemplating pulling the “f*ck it, we’re staying and just getting bombed while waiting this out” card.  (Drew nearly wrecked about 55 different times driving home.  Buddy, amigo, brother – you cannot drive 85 on ice and control the car.  As you’d eventually learn.)

We decide to keep going, and make it almost to Kansas, where we stop and have to make the decision, press on or stay.  I opt to press on.

Go figure – not a drop of precipitation, not an ounce of ice, the entire rest of the way.  

* The rest of the year was pretty uneventful.  Which is probably good.  Because (sweet Jesus, I’m on page 16 in Word now!) as the previous pages prove, 1998 was damned fun.

(I did manage to pass the drug test to get hired on at the job offered to me.  I'd be lying if I said I knew how I had passed said test.  I'm guessing the idiots who ran MLB's drug testing unit at that time in history screened my test?)

And yet, the final month ended perfectly -- back home in KC, ready to embark on a new adventure, with the best of both the world I knew growing up, and the world I gained moving away, strongly intact.

And sometimes?  Having a foot on both sides of the fence is a DAMNED good thing.

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also, apologies on the layout ...

Something went bat sh*t crazy when I tried to upload the previous post.  I'll work on fixing it Tuesday.  I didn't change a thing; t...