The hazy one o’clock sun hits me in the retina like an angry baby fist. My friends and I sit on the outside patio of a burrito place drinking cheap beer and eating nachos, a delicious meal. Lawyers and doctors sit inside and have lunch while they read the Wall Street Journal in suits and ties. I guess we look a little out of place. The three of them look like strung out junkies after being stuck in a plane and two airports for close to twenty hours. I probably don’t look much better. I quit my job so that I could spend time with them while they are down. And because my job sucked. The four of us are sporting beards and flannels (the traditional garb of october in New Jersey) drinking, talking, and laughing. That half crazy kind of laugh you have when you haven’t slept enough. This is punctuated by bouts of silences when the brain tries to figure out what the hell is going on. Who the hell keeps ordering beers, why?
After the storm hit, none of us were sure if the trip would go through as planed. I remember talking to Money the night before their flight was scheduled to leave.
“So do you think you guys will make it. I mean from last I saw AC was still underwater. How the hell can you fly out of that.”
“I don’t know man, I hope so. I have been sitting here with my parents for the past two days listening to them argue. We have no power. All I do is sit around and drink by candle light.”
“Sounds like your getting in touch with your Irish roots.”
By the way of some miracle AC was still flying out. The three of them couldn’t wait to get out of dodge. My friend Money was the de facto leader of the expedition. We will call him Money for two reasons. One, I have chosen to avoid using real names whenever possible. Two, the kid always has cash. So his next move makes sense. He bought himself, my cousin, and our friend Retard plane tickets a few weeks in advance when Sandy was still an ubiquitous ovum in her ocean womb somewhere off in the dark edges of the Atlantic. He decided they should leave the night before in order to beat traffic, spend some time in AC, just get the fuck away from the disaster area. The night they left there were still no traffic lights. A handful of cops stood in the rain huddled around barrels burning with heat directing traffic at every intersection. To say the least they needed a vacation.
Unfortunately for them although the airport was still up and running, the actual city was not. Because AC is a dangerous city when not under a state of emergency and in those kind of sordid conditions it is probably down right depraved. A town half filthy rich and half filthy destitute, covered in at least a foot of water and sand, roamed by pirates of a modern sort. So instead of waiting around in the airport they decided to take refuge in a bar near the airport, right on the circle, on halloween night. I wasn’t there and the description I got from them was sketchy at best, but being that I know the area and I know my friends I am sure I can tell the story as well as anyone of them can.
The trio walk into this bar close to midnight in some crappy part of Atlantic county. The airport circle is located in-between the pine barren boondocks and metro AC. This location is home to one of the many colorful combinations you get in Jersey where two peoples of different background meet and join together, genitals first, to create some new breed of human being. Part piney, part stripper, part truck driver. The after effects of combining meth, moonshine, the back of a panel van and a broken condom. In this bar there are probably fifteen to twenty other people. All packed into a oddly shaped building with low ceilings and shitty floors, windows in the front only because the rest are boarded up, bad lighting that makes everything look terrifying and a smoke machine to cover up the smell of piss, stale beer, and inbreeding. The actual bar itself is made of concrete and covered with formica, a sad looking structure doted with stools. The floor is wide open for people to dance and strewn with a few tables covered in empty bottles and popcorn. Mind you, it is Halloween night so there is a special event, Karaoke.
If you will please try to imagine the three of them all stoked on getting out of the house after being trapped with no power for days. Just a few hours away from getting on a plane to fly them out of the state. In they walk, to this little shit hole bar because they have no other choice. They just want to have some beers to pass the time. What do they encounter? Middle of nowhere mutants in Walmart brand costumes drinking Budweiser and orange daiquiris while singing Sweet Home Alabama and My Humps. Having. a. blast. I can only imagine that shock would be putting it lightly. The image in my head makes me laugh.
They huddle together in some dark corner and try to stick around for a little while and ride it out. But even after a couple of rounds the brutal sining and general creepiness of the bar only intensified. Even the bartender seems like he wants to kill himself. When you watch a hammered four foot six Barney Rubble try to finger a six and a half foot tall Lady Gaga that may or may not have a vagina you realize that no amount of alcohol can save you. So they decided to split. As they walk out, amused but a little concerned for their mental well being, all of them quickly come to the conclusion that they have no other choice but to go back to the airport and wait out the last four or five hours before their flight.
Airports are designed to make waiting in them bearable. There are restaurants, places to get magazines and coffee, usually a bar, and bathrooms that are pretty clean if you need a moment of silence. Unfortunately for them the state of emergency meant that the bar, restaurants and news stands were all closed. So the only option was to sit in the airport chairs and try to get a little sleep. This would have been a decent plan if not for all the Mexicans. Apparently an hour after they got back from the bar a family of Mexicans showed up. By family I mean whole extended family. We are talking forty people here. Men, cousins, aunts, uncles, woman and children. This wouldn’t have been a problem if not for the fact that they decided to talk the entire remainder of the night. And that Retard hates Mexicans or rather anyone that isn’t white really and then probably ninety percent of them too.
“Dude, we gotta get out of here. I can’t stand all these fucking Mexicans man. They stink and they wont shut up. Im gonna have a fucking nervous break down.”
Before I explain this colorful character here I would like to apologize. Sometimes you have a friend that can’t get out of his own way and because your his friend you tend to end up falling in line with him when he is around. There is a saying that goes something like, a group of people will follow a leader but will fall for a fool, or something like that. I don’t know maybe I just made that up. My point here is that I apologize if we offend anyone but I have to tell things how they really happened. I think you can judge by the above quote what kind of person were going to be dealing with. I am friends with him so I guess that doesn’t make me any better. You be the judge. I digress.
Retard got his name because he is in every way shape and form a social retard. Unhygienic, irresponsible, unintelligent, foul mouthed, reckless, all of the qualities that make a young man young. The difference between him and your average twenty-one year old is tact. Most time when I am like him it is from a lack of tact, he is tactfully reprehensible. That is kind of why I like him. We also call him Retard because for a while when we were in high school we would go out in public and he would do this great retard impression. I know this is horrible and honestly I am sure there is a special place in hell reserved for people like us but we were stupid asshole kids and he had some acting chops. He would do it straight faced and believable enough that people would actually think we were trying to keep him in line and felt bad for us. At Taco Bell he would play it up slow but by the time we were done eating he would start smashing hot sauces on the table and yelling “Mommy is a cunt.” At Walgreens we would go in the adult diaper section and wait around for someone to come by then he would get into his act.
“Uh oh, I… I gotta go.”
“Just wait. Were out of these and I don’t want you to have an accident.”
He would let out a nasty fart on cue and get all upset then start saying how he had to go. The look on the elderly lady’s face also in the isle to get some Depends was goddamn priceless. We did this for a while until the employs got wise and started to look at us like what we were, horrible human beings. So we had to stop and were subsequently never allowed in Walgreens again but the name Retard just kind of stuck with him after that.
Anyway, for the next couple of hours while Money and my cousin try to sleep all they get to listen to is Spanish, high pitched laughter, and the endless drone of Retard bitching. By the time the plane got in I am sure they were happy to squeeze into those tight little seats and get some peace and quite. The problem with the flight from AC to Myrtle is that it only last an hour. After the night they had endured the trip must have seemed like the blink of an eye. No rest for the wicked.
On the way to pick them up I got stuck in traffic. A drive that normally takes an hour and a half ended up taking me three. When I pulled into the airport the Jersey I had been forced to dilute for months was unleashed. People in South Carolina are very polite in public, we are not. I pulled the car up and started calling them a bunch of ugly fuckers. They responded by telling me I was a stupid faggot that drives like a woman. Happy reunions. The people waiting outside the terminal made faces that would have you thinking we were throwing feces at each other. This look would be a reoccurring theme of the visit. On the ride home my cousin and Retard sat in the back and argued. After enduring little sleep and so much time together I am surprised there wasn’t blood. I talked to Money about the storm and other bullshit. When we finally got into Charleston everyone was excited. We had arrived.
So when we stopped to get something to eat it only seemed natural to start drinking. We were on vacation after all. So what if it was noon. So what if we looked like homeless people. Retard yelled at girls and old woman asking them if they wanted the “Ol’ braciole”. For some reason referring to his penis as a pork chop wrapped in string was hilarious. People were terrified. My cousin repeatedly tagged Retard in pictures that were of someone else, usually an undesirable. An example would be a fat woman covered in jelly doughnuts. Or an Asian girl giving the peace sign wearing a Pikachu hat. Every twenty minutes or so my cousin would start laughing and then Retard would get all pissed and we would know he had done it again. Money was as close to mad as he really gets. You could tell from looking at him that he wasn’t part of our reality. All he wanted to do was sleep and possibly strangle all three of us.
When we went to get another round the girl behind the counter looked at us odd. She was young and pretty, probably a college student. She looked at us partly amused and partly annoyed. Like someone who spent the night drinking and didn’t want to deal with a bunch of assholes two hours into her shift. When we paid for the drinks she handed us our change, looked at us with a little smile and said.
“You guys aren’t from around here, are you?”