“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past. So goodnight, I will dream on…” – Thomas Jefferson
As I make my way through the abandoned amusement park, I think, “This is a pretty spooky place.” What were we thinking? I get a couple of Sea Breezes in me and I think Straight Ted’s idea of checking out Old Man Murphy’s long-defunct 1950’s amusement park is a great idea. Stupid. I’d rather still be at Gay Tim’s annual pre-Fourth-of-July party. This place hasn’t been open since those five disabled kids from the youth group were decapitated on the log flume. They say you can still hear their wheelchairs squeaking around the park, and Gay Tim swears he snuck in back in high school and saw a ghost kid wheeling around with his head in his lap. The head asked if he’d buy him a churro. Gay Tim can’t even look at fried Mexican desserts anymore without shivering. So of course he’s not here, as Straight Ted, Pants, Toilet Face and I stumble through the boarded up midway and upon an old, automated Fortune Teller, still plugged in.
It beckons, “SEEEEE INTO THE FUTURRRRE.” I’m drawn to the machine, and I ask Pants to hand me some quarters as I step past a feral black cat into the payphone-sized booth and put my hands on the automaton’s crystal ball, signaling to it that, good or bad, I’m ready for my fortune. It locks eyes with me, and I swear its lips curl into a smile as the first crack of thunder makes us all jump. I try and laugh it off until the Fortune Teller says, “Come with me, J-Train!” Is it the realization that it just said my name the reason all of my hairs are standing up? No, I feel a bolt go through me and a holy light blind me. I don’t hear the second crack of thunder before it all goes black…
6:00am Wake up. What happened last night? Those Sea Breezes must’ve snuck up on me. Not a great way to start the day. Mom called. Apparently, I mumbled some “sex talk” to her last night. It takes me a while to piece this all together, but my guess is that I was trying to reach a girl I met at the bar last week. I stored her in my phone as “Mama Cass.” This had less to do with her size and more to do with her resonant singing voice, but she did eat two Big Mac meals after we left the bar. I remember she asked for the meals to be “super sized,” and when the person at the counter told her that was no longer an option, she snorted a laugh and responded, “Just give me a shitload of fries.” I was both repulsed and turned on: the confluence of conflicting feelings contributing to maybe the greatest sexual experience of my life. Seriously, I lasted forever AND she tasted like McNuggets (and she didn’t even eat McNuggets). Oh, Mama Cass, you don’t know what you do to me.
Anyway, after I grunt out an apology to my real mom, I briefly think about what it must be like to watch a toddler take his first steps, watch it reach for you, and only you, when it falls, and then a couple dozen years later hear that same precious little boy drunkenly tell you he’d like to “French those big totties and fill you up.” This regret is quickly drowned out by a headache that could have made Jesus hang it all up if only the devil offered relief instead of power.
6:15am – 8:15am I toss and turn on this beach house sofa. It smells like the beach. A beach that was ejaculated on by a homeless guy. How can I want sleep so bad and struggle so hard to get it? Web MD says it’s due to the astonishing amount of sugars I consumed last night and something about acetaldehyde. Either that or I have AIDS. Option 1 seems most likely, but this incredible anxiety I’m feeling is making AIDS seem plausible, which only makes me more anxious.
8:30am Pushups. Remember that part of Batman Begins when Bruce Wayne wakes up after kicking a bunch of ass and immediately does a bunch of push ups while Alfred butters his toast or something? This is just like that, except all I can hear is my buddy, Anno-Rex, puking in the bathroom. Everyone is putting on their game face. I muscle through 15 chest-to-deck push ups. Core so tight, arms like coiled cobras. I am Batman.
9:30am I wake up for the second time, face down on the floor. It’s the Fourth of July, friends. I need to get moving. I start texting the guys: Toilet Face, Drunk Steve, Gay Tim, Straight Ted, Tranny Jane, Pants (guy named George, he’s always wearing pants), Leatherface, Blair Underwood. Who’s ready to go? Who’s picking up the meat for the BBQ? Who’s been aging discontinued Four Lokos at the perfect temperature in their wine cellar? Who’s bringing their perform-your-own-magic kit? Who worked themselves to a chubby then stopped because they didn’t want to be in their refractory period where they’d feel feelings?
10:00am I have my first beer. I remember I once had to go to an alcohol education course after I received an underage some years ago. They give you a 50 question test at the beginning to determine if you need professional help, and one of the questions was, “Do you feel an urge to drink when you wake up?” The person who gave me the quiz pointed at it, winked, and said, “Football on Saturday doesn’t count.” I have two opinions on this: 1. I’m pretty sure my instructor would lump America’s birthday into that caveat, and 2. What an incredibly unqualified person to be identifying potential alcoholics.
11:00am I meet the gang to get coffee and head to the beach. Cooler’s packed thanks to Tranny Jane and his (her?) OCD. She (he?) keeps blaming the OCD for her (his?) hourly tanning lotion massages. I can’t imagine a Fourth without some sun, sand and cold ones with the ocean quietly roaring in the background like a lion on ludes. My headache is subsiding from the calming sounds, icy beer, and Tranny Jane’s strong hands. I ask the guys about the night before, the abandoned amusement park, the fortune teller, and they just laugh and talk about how drunk I was. Oh well, maybe I dreamt it. I did have a few too many. I shake it off and take a dunk in the cold surf. I pee in the water because it’s what George Washington intended and then pass out on my towel for a refreshing hour of Z’s.
12:30pm I am a man renewed, a Phoenix risen. My body’s tight from the rays, my Warby’s are polarized, and my beach/golf hat is perfectly sun-faded. I start to throw a little bocce, and my balls are landing like Pallino-magnets. I can’t be beat. I look around me – girls in bikinis are jamming to the new Miley Cyrus song (God’s anthem), family’s are arranged in circles sharing Pringles, couples are erotically playing paddleball, and babies in bucket hats have no idea what the fuck is going on. God, what a country! I decide I can do a handstand, and fall harder than the Twin Towers. Everyone laughs. No worries, I’ll stick it next time. Because this is a land of opportunity.
3:00pm My skin is a toasty golden brown, my head has the lightness of a perfect drunk, and we pack it up to head over to Queef’s BBQ extravaganza. (Her real name is Sarah, but I farted once and blamed it on her and now everyone calls her Queef. Sorry not sorry.) I am feeling great.
5:00pm Queef didn’t anticipate the crowds and didn’t buy enough kegs, perpetuating the female stereotype that they never pony up for parties. Based on my research, all of the money they save by never buying alcohol goes to scarves from H&M. The party is dying down, but luckily I sneak in about eleven keg stands. For the last one, I wear a fake mustache and glasses so no one thinks I’m bogarting the beer. As people are trickling out, I find a bottle of Skinny Girl and take it to the face, feeling my abs starting to show through a bit more. I stand on the table and give the speech from Independence Day with my own twist: “Today is OUR INDEPENDANCE DAY!!! FUCK YOU BETHENNY FRANKEL!!!”
7:00pm Bar. This is fuzzy. Tranny Jane orders a round of Crown Royals and I smack a shot out of his (her?) hand, screaming something about “Canadian Piss.” Then I take mine. Oh boy.
9:00pm I go on an anti-American tirade because the 4th landed on a Thursday. This night is slipping away from me. I take off my shirt and beg for “Liberty or Death,” and get tossed by a bouncer, literally: one hand on belt, other hand on the neck of my shirt. As I soar through the air, I feel momentarily free. I guess he gave me liberty?
11:00pm Quick slice of pizza to refocus. I quietly sing “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks to myself in the corner booth of the pizza shop. It’s starting to rain. The patter outside reminds me of the night in high school. A car…the rain…Kara…
11:40pm I’m back in the bar, successfully using my mustache and glasses disguise to slip past the bouncer. I start yelling at everyone to shut up. The DJ is a genius. He’s playing Marvin Gaye’s rendition of the National Anthem from the 1983 NBA All Star game. A tear comes to my eye. It slides down my cheek. I start to think about all of the sacrifice that went into making this country so great. The beauty of our lands. The freedoms we have. The undeniably awesome resilience of a people that — I puke. I puke everywhere. On my shirt. On the waitress. On the bar.
12:00am I’m “escorted” out of the bar, and we return to the house to light cheap fireworks and break things. We play a fun game where we throw things into the ceiling fan to see what it will successfully cut (or rather, withstand). This fan is indestructible. Seriously, no one told me they installed the Cadillac of ceiling fans in this beach house. It should be in the brochure. And as milk explodes from a sliced plastic gallon jug above our heads, the moment seems to pause. I look around at a house full of friends and acquaintances, a spectrum of races and genders (Tranny Jane was there), a carnival of experiences and histories. Families a century ago that nearly starved on their way to somewhere better, with only a boat ticket and a dream. What a leap! What courage! And if they didn’t quite find what they were looking for when they stepped into line at Ellis Island to get a lice-check and a new identity, I can only hope they’re looking down now as 2% showers us, our faces frozen in jubilation, our sparklers miraculously unextinguished by the milk protein, lighting the room, and our hearts, in their sulfurous glow. It’s that optimism of our forebears that colors this nation’s identity and bleeds into each of us now. Tomorrow will be better. Tonight will be incredible. This ceiling fan will never break.
Those were my last thoughts of the night as a cantaloupe rocketed at my head. Someone threw it into the fan and it spit it out so fast that I thought I saw a rocket tail. I feel a tremendous pain, then the lights blaze white, then it’s all going dark. Just before I pass out from head trauma, I look up and the last thing I see is the writing on the tag clinging to the chain, hanging down from the world’s most impressive ceiling fan: “Made in the USA.” So, with the last bit of blood in my body, I raise my fist.
I come to. I’m expecting to be in my bed, but I’m not. I’m on the homeless, beach cum sofa. How’d I get here? The confusion turns to panic as I check my phone and see the date: July 3rd, 2013. I ask some friends about the fortune teller and the ceiling fan and Queef. What happened at Queef’s?! Did she (I) fart again? Everyone laughs. They say, “What are you talking about? You passed out!” Blair Underwood thinks this is particularly funny. Fuck you, Blair Underwood. I play it off. “Must have been a dream,” I think to myself. And so I rally and party, as I would any other day-before-Independence-Day (a little concerned about the possibility of a stroke), and try to forget the 18 hours I apparently hallucinated. And just as the alcohol starts to close the aperture on my memory, I think about that big girl I slept with last week. What was her name? Big Mac Mama something. Maybe I’ll give her a call…