So, here is my epic tale of adventure from the most recent Marine Corps Birthday Ball.
I had been invited to attend the ball hosted by the Marine Corps League in Chula Vista, CA. Not wanting to show up in my Army uniform to such an event (and have to shave my sweet beard in the bargain), I put together my suit with all my mini medals attached to the lapel. My sweet wife being unable to attend, I went stag, but had a good time nonetheless. Once the dinner and ceremonies were over – and not having a dance partner – I decided to leave somewhat early; around 2130 if memory serves.
Since the night was still young and I was dressed pretty sharp, I decided to head down to the Gaslamp Quarter of Sandy Eggo to have a pint of Guinness (for strength!) and a cigar at the Cuban Cigar Factory. This I did, and even managed to find free curbside parking nobbut two blocks from my destination – no easy task for those of you familiar with downtown SD on a Saturday night. Enjoyed my cigar in the company of a young Petty Officer 1st Class, who was there with his two cousins and his fiancé. Going to school to be an LCAC navigator, and would soon be assigned to ACU-5 up at Camp Pendleton. We had a good chat, and as we parted ways I decided to go across the street to an Irish pub called The Field, for my Guinness tank had not yet been fully topped off. This is where things got interesting.
The place was packed, with a line out the door, yet I found myself being graciously waived inside without so much as a glance at my ID. Must be the medals, thought I, or else my prematurely grey beard. Whatever. I make my way up to the bar and find myself standing behind a large red-headed man in a white t-shirt that read “Devil Dog Security.” As I’m pondering whether or not he might be a former Marine, he turns around and looks me up and down as his eyes get wide. I give him a brief smile and nod my head before he turns back around and starts whispering to his buddy. His friend looks over at me and motions me up to the bar. He introduces himself as Alex and his bearded ginger friend as Kelly. Kelly leans over, places one hand on the back of my neck and pulls me in close as he stage whispers in my ear that “You scared the shit out of me!”
“Me?” I ask, “How did I do that?”
“You just looked mean!” he says.
At this point two things dawn on me: 1) I guess I look intimidating when I don’t smile, and 2) Kelly is *very* intoxicated. Alex explains a few things to me. First, Kelly is an old neighborhood buddy of his that he hasn’t seen in about 25 years. Second, he is a regular at this particular establishment, knows all the bartenders, and would like to buy me a drink. “What’ll you have?” he asks. Naturally, my reply is “Guinness – for strength!” So he orders a few beers and we chat for a few minutes, while Kelly sways in the background. A little while later nature calls, so I excuse myself and head to the men’s room. When I return, I’m puzzled to see that my beer is no longer on the bar. As I get closer, I see that Kelly is now enjoying it with gusto. Oh well, I think – it’s not like I paid for it.
So then Alex asks me if I’ve ever been to KC BBQ – the place where they filmed some of the scenes from “Top Gun.” I reply that I have not – indeed, have never even heard of the place – whereupon he suggests we head over there. Having nothing really better to do, I agree. We amble out of there and begin walking. Kelly is telling Alex how cool I am, and how I’m the greatest guy he’s ever met. We hail a cab, and all pile in the backseat for the ½ mile journey to KC BBQ. At this point, things go from interesting to downright strange.
As we’re driving, Kelly (in the middle) tells me what a great guy I am (again) and then says he wants to give me something. He then pulls out his wallet, takes out a bill and tries to stuff it in my pocket. When that fails, he shoves the bill in my hand. I look at it, and see Ben Franklin grinning up at me. Somewhat shocked I demur, telling him that I can’t possibly take his money. He, using the logic of a drunk man who has just met his new best friend, repeatedly rebuffs my attempt to return his money. Ok, I think, I’ll just hang onto it until we get to the bar, and then give it to Alex.
We arrive at KC a few minutes later and head inside. Alex orders us a pitcher, and Kelly heads to the bathroom. While he’s gone, I explain what happened in the cab and give him the $100 bill, saying I didn’t feel right about taking his money. Alex says well, let’s just use it to pay the bar tab. So he gives it to the bartender and has him open up a tab. Feeling a bit peckish at this point, I decide to order some ribs while Kelly begins a conversation with another large drunk man about the merits of baseball player Alex Rodriguez, AKA “A-Rod.” The ribs come out and I try one. Not bad, but a little tough. I invite Alex and Kelly to partake, and Alex decides he’ll have one. He tries to pull one out, and ends up flipping the whole rack onto the floor. *Splat* Oh well, I think – it’s not like I paid for it.
Kelly again begins telling anyone who will listen – esp. the well-built blond sitting next to me – what an awesome guy I am. He then tells me (again) that he wants to thank me. How will he do this you ask? Well, out comes the wallet and another $100 bill. I’m laughing at the absurdity of this, but he is dead serious. I look to Alex for help, and he just smiles and shrugs. So I take it and put it in my pocket. We get some sandwiches to replace the floor ribs, and hang out for awhile longer while Kelly beams like he’s never been happier in his life. Finally, around 2am we decide we’ve had enough and make to leave. My two pals are headed back to Alex’s apartment, and I’ve got a bit of a walk back to where I parked my car. As we shake hands goodbye, guess what Kelly has in his hand? Yup, another C-note. Of course he won’t listen to me pleas, and stuffs it down inside my suit pocket. Then with a wave of their hands, the two of them stagger their way down the road as I slowly make my separate way, pondering my good fortune and wondering if Kelly is going to wake up the next morning demanding to know what happened to the $300 he used to have in his wallet.