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5. Road Trip 2008, Day 3-4: The Obnoxious Drunk and the Zen Master

“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Paul and I sat behind the VFW for another hour talking over the muffled sounds of some blues band with a Fiona Apple sounding singer (it wasn’t as good as you’d think). I asked him why the hell he had been talking to the old lady at the bar for so long, and he tried explaining that she gave him the inside scoop on the Bozeman area. For example, since we had been planning to climb Lone Mountain in a few days, she suggested we climb it from the backside. She claimed it would be a much more scenic climb.

“I don’t trust a word that annoying woman said,” I told him.

“Dude, you don’t trust a Montana woman? She’s lived her for 25 years!” We both burst into laughter.

When we heard Fiona and her blues band finish up, we moseyed inside to finally see our fellow patriotic crooners, The Dodos. After grabbing a couple of Olympia’s, I made my way into the crowd, while Paul stood in the back, leaning against a pillar. He had been vacant most of the night; I didn’t know if the drinking caught up with him or if he was just tired.

I decided not to worry about him and began scanning the people around me. Maybe my beer binge altered my vision, but I seemed to be surrounded by beautiful women: a tall brunette with rosy cheeks sipping a PBR to my left, a cute little hippie red head to my right, and in front of me a slender woman with shiny black hair and a dark complexion. Could my night get any better?

The Dodos took the stage and began their set with some older material. Although unfamiliar with the songs, I was fascinated by Meric Long’s guitar playing. I’ve been obsessing over the guitar riffs on “Visiter” for months, and now I could finally see him at work, his fingers pitter-patting across the fret board as Logan Kroeber drummed away like a lunatic. Long switched guitars almost every song (I think he had five), which led me to believe he did a lot of open tuning. I used to think he layered the guitar tracks on “Visiter”, but there he was, playing all the string parts on one guitar.

If only he'd had his trombone during our singing of The National Anthem.

He also relied heavily on a looper pedal, infusing back-up vocals and even pulling out the trombone, which he looped into a haunting back-drop to a song. I turned to look for Paul when they kicked into “Fools”, not only the best song on the album, but probably the best song of 2008. I didn’t see him anywhere, but I didn’t get too concerned, returning my attention to the pandemonium on the stage. The audience joined in the singing with the chorus, “Whoa-Oh! Whoa-Oh! Whoa-oh-oh-oh!” I know, pretty primitive lyrics, but sometimes the simplest choruses are the catchiest.

A clip of The Dodos performing “Fools”, although not from the show in Bozeman:

Being so caught up in the music, I had forgotten about the hotties around me. That is until the girl in front of me decided to take out her ponytail, and commence flipping her long black hair into my face repeatedly. The first few times it annoyed me, especially when her flowing locks hit me in the eye. But when she turned around and smiled at me between songs, I got the feeling the hair toss was an intentional move. I wasn’t sure though. Her girlfriends and her seemed to be with a group of hippie frat guys.

"After we shotgun these beers, are you guys up for some extreme tree hugging!?"

The hair tossing and coy smiling would go on the rest of the show, but I couldn’t give her all of my attention – it was The Dodos for after all. As the band broke into “Joe’s Waltz” for the encore, she kicked the flirting up a notch and began dancing, moving her hips back toward me. I’m horrible at reading woman, but I had no doubt that her bouncing into me was not an accident. One of the frat boys in a flannel shirt seemed to notice, and didn’t seem too happy. I turned around thinking, “If only I could find Paul!” but I couldn’t locate him. I took a step back from the girl as a sign of peace, but she continued moving her butt back, blindly searching out my torso. I stood my ground, but didn’t reciprocate her hip shake. I didn’t need to get jumped by a bunch of college guys.

When the band finished up, the frat boys clear out to try and buy a final drink, leaving the hair-tosser and her girlfriends huddled by the stage. I knew I should say something to her, but I wasn’t going to walk into the estrogen slaughter alone. I needed a wingman; I needed Paul. I scanned the bar one last time. With the crowd thinned out, he should be easy to spot. No Paul. That’s when it hit me.

“That fucker went to the car.”

I would have to do this on my own. I stood back for a while, trying to figure out what to say. “I’m visiting Bozeman. Do you know anywhere I can stay?” Nah, too forward. “Hello, I’m the guy you kept hitting in the face with your hair.” Too rude. The longer I stood there trying to compose myself, the creepier I felt staring at the group of girls. I had nothing. Defeated, drunk, and embarrassed, I walked outside, prepared to take my disappointment out on Paul. I looked into the car window, and there he laid, lost in dreamland with a smile on his face. Asshole.

“What the fuck dude? Where’d you go? You’re such a fag!” the drunken insults and accusations came flowing out like the waterfall we had seen in Spearfish.

“…wha?…is the show over?” he grumbled, sitting up and rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“You know it’s over you dick! You left me hanging! How could you miss The Dodos?! They were the reason we drove up here! What the fuck!” He chose not to respond, closing his eyes, and lying his head back. That didn’t stop me. “I needed a wingman, and where were you? Sleeping, you shit dick! Little baby Paul is tired! Boo Hoo! I drove all day you dick; I’m the one who should be tired! “I screamed.

Maybe it was the dozen beers I drank, maybe it was the two hours of sleep I got in South Dakota, or maybe it was anger at myself for being such a coward, but I let it all out on Paul. Poor guy. He laid there half asleep, as I ranted into the night at him. I brought up issues that didn’t even relate to the road trip. “This shouldn’t surprise me. You always ditched me at shows in Omaha.” My complaints were endless, and he just sat there, bleary eyed and confused, taking all my drunken frustrations like a Zen master. When I finally ran out of wind, all I could hear was his heavy breathing. This annoyed me to no end.

“Well?! What do you have to say for yourself sleepy boy?!” I yelled.

“…………you’re a dick,” he mumbled and then rolled over to return to sleep. My anger fell on deaf ears. I sat back in the drivers seat, thinking I wouldn’t get any sleep with all my pent up frustration. Of course, I passed out within minutes. The long day of drinking had finally caught up with me.

The next morning I woke up with a pounding headache, confused with my surroundings. Why am I sleeping in my car, parked at a VFW? I looked to the passenger side to see Paul missing, once again. Did he camp at the bartender’s? Did he hook up with the old lady? I had no idea where he had gone. Alone with my thoughts, bits and pieces from the night began settling into my memory. “God I’m an asshole,” I thought. The guilt settled in and I knew I needed to go looking for Paul. I pondered if my temper tantrum had imploded our entire road trip. And it had been going so great…

Just then I noticed movement behind the bar’s dumpster. I glanced over to see Paul coming up from the squatting position and pulling up his pants. Now I felt worse. He could have easily waken my drunk ass up and told me we needed to find a public bathroom, but no, he decided let me sleep in, opting to drop a deuce behind the dumpster. I had a lot of explaining to do.

As he walked back to the car, I searched for the words to apologize for my outburst the night before. When he opened the door, I hesitated, and then finally let it out, “I’m sorry about last night.”

“Don’t worry about it…..hey, are there any napkins left in here? I wiped my butt with a leaf and it ripped my asshole all up.”

He had already moved past my tirade onto a more pressing dilemma. I decided I’m pretty lucky to have such a forgiving friend, more bothered by jagged edged tree leaves than his friend with a propensity to be a jerk when he’s drunk.

More annoying than a drunken asshole.

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