As I headed into a two-block walk into the cold night of this old town, I ran into my friend Jen. I hadn't seen her in a year, but I barely had enough time to even greet her with an arm-touch. I said, "Hey, I'm going to Odessa. You're friends with everyone there. If you get tired of whatever you're doing, bring Jeff and whoever else you're here with and come see us."
She said, "I hate Odessa. And I hate Jeff. We broke up and I never talk to him. Maybe I'll come." I said "sorry" and started walking downtown towards the bar among all the drunk strangers standing outside of all the bars in the street. But really, there are no strangers in this town of 100,000.
As I turned the corner in front of "16 Taps" a man came up from I don't know where and buried his arms around my thighs and pushed me like a football-sled into a brick wall. As he rammed me into the wall, he said in a low redneck voice, "Hey, Boy! You wan' faaaght?"
I didn't want to fight. But I was about to. Who in the fuck was this guy pinning me up against bricks? No, really, who was he? I couldn't see his face because his head was wrapped around my hip. If I was younger, I would've punched without questions. But since I'm older, I thought, "Maybe it's a joke. I never had brothers, but I hear that guys like to play-fight. Maybe it's that. I can never tell."
Well, it was a joke. It was my friend "Kuhn." (Pronounced the same way as the word that black people don't like you calling them.) Kuhn is a young TV producer who tends bar around here, as well. (We all have 2 or 3 jobs in this town.) We only had a second after he let me go to start laughing before some other guy I had never seen in my life interrupted us.
The guy I had never seen before interrupted us by holding a "cigarette" in my face and saying "Your turn, brother!"
Let's recap: I had never seen this guy in my life.
We were on a busy public street in front of a bar.
There were tons of cops within our view.
And this guy doesn't even say hi to me, a complete stranger, - he just smiles holding a "cigarette" out at me after a fake attack from a friend and says "Your turn brother?"
What do you think I did?
Before I tell you what I did, let me tell you why I do a lot of what I do:
I do it for the story. So no, I may not be a particularly regular "cigarette" smoker. And I sure as hell knew it was quite risky to "smoke cigarettes" on the street. And I really didn't feel like smoking on that particular night. But dammit! What kind of story would that be? It would be a lame story like this:
"One time, some guy offered me a smoke on the street and I said no. The end."
So I shit you not, when moments like that come, I tell myself, "Which decision makes the better story? Are the consequences worth the true tale I will get to tell." Usually they are. And I go with it from there.
The only part of this way of approaching things that I don't like is that it does take me outside of the moment to a degree. Sure, I was smoking on the street with strangers. And sure I was making girls I didn't know join in as they walked by. And sure, I spotted my Evironmental Scientist/Door Guy friend, Ozzy, working the door (we all have two jobs, I told you.) and I made him smoke on the street, on the job, too. But if I hadn't told myself I was doing it for the story - I may not have done it. I may have. But now I'll never know. Either way, I did what I did, and I now felt how I felt... good!
Ozzy the door guy/scientist, and Kuhn the bartender/producer asked me if I wanted to come in with them and the strange guy that had just smoked us up. (By the way, I later found out he wasn't just the dude on the street "Cheeching" everybody, he was also the lead singer of whatever band was playing that night. I declined their invite and headed on my way alone to meet my friends at Odessa.
Will I ever make it to Odessa? Find out in Part 3.