I recently asked my friend Rocky, via email, if he remembers the time we nearly burned down a Chi Chi's restaurant in Charleston, WV, back in the day. He claims to not recall much from that era, so I expected to get a message back saying, "Pardon?" I'm not clear on whether he really can't remember this stuff, or simply chooses not to. He blames his memory lapses on alcohol, but I wonder. The things he can remember, and the things he can't seem pretty damn convenient. Luckily though, he has friends like me to remind him of stuff whenever he "forgets."
He remembered the Chi Chi's incident just fine, probably because I was the dumbass in that one, and his version of the story was hilarious. I'd forgotten one part of the tale, and was laughing out loud when he reminded me. It was but one night that our girlfriends pretended not to know who we were. There were more.
When I was deciding what to write about today, I realized that my well had not only run dry, but also had collapsed in on itself. I flipped through my notebook and saw an entry that read, "Spots on Carpet," and just tossed it aside with a huff. Scraping the bottom of the barrel is what I believe it's called. This is my third update this week, and I don't really lead a three-update life anymore. I'm more of a two-update guy these days, and I'm spreading myself pretty thin here. I stewed about it for a few minutes, then a cartoon light bulb began levitating above my head: I'd just tell a bunch of Rocky Stories!
So that's what I'm going to do. In case you're wondering, I asked Rocky if he has a problem with any of this, and he says he doesn't. He even gave me the thumbs up on running a couple of unusual photos I have of him. More on that later...
A little background info, before we get started: I've known Rocky since, hell, I guess forever. He lived next door to my grandmother, so I'm sure I knew him even before elementary school. We knew each other, but didn't really become friends until later. Sometime in high school we started tooling around the valley in his beleaguered Brut-scented Datsun, cranking his favorite album at top volume, and hanging out in his Farah Fawcett/Cheryl Tiegs shrine of a basement. There was a group of us... think That '70s Show, without the hot babes. I had my first beer with Rock, Miller High Life in bottles, purchased at Wagner's Market when we were sixteen. I can still see the desperate look on his face as he gave me his little pep talk before I entered the store. Holy shit, talk about your slippery slopes!
Now, with no further delay, here's the first edition of …Rocky Stories(tm).
The Chi Chi's Incident I know this happened fairly late in our debauchery careers, because females were present. We took our girlfriends to the wildly exotic Mexican(!?!) restaurant in Charleston, and had several drinks in the cantina while we waited for a table. Once we were seated we continued to drink, and at some point somebody (possibly your humble correspondent) put a tortilla chip in the candle in the middle of our table. Yes, I was quite the jokester in those days. It sparked and spit for a few seconds, which brought a few laughs, then everything died down and we moved on. We continued to keep the waitress busy traveling between our table and the bar, and started working on our strange meals from a faraway land.
Eventually one of us noticed that something wasn't quite right with the candle. It was sizzling and whistling, and putting off a mind-boggling amount of heat. The hell?! We messed around with it, and were surprised to find that all of the wax, all of it, was now liquid! It was four or five inches deep, in a sizable round glass container, and it had all gone from solid to boiling liquid! It was impossibly hot, like burning jet fuel or something... flat-out amazing. Then it started to crackle. Oh shit, the glass is going to bust, we realized with great alarm. I started to panic. I could just see molten hot wax rolling into our laps, and an evening spent wearing gauze and medicated creams in the burn unit of a local hospital -- the perfect end to a perfect evening.
I'm not real clear on who poured the glass of water on it, but it may have been your humble correspondent again. Instead of the episode being over, it suddenly got much much worse. A roaring five-foot flame shot out, blue in color, nearly singeing the Mexican artifacts hanging from the ceiling. It sounded like a gas grill firing up. I've never seen anything quite like it. Somebody across the room screamed, "They're freebasing! They're freebasing!!" and an army of restaurant employees instantly ganged our table. Other diners were now on their feet, ready to flee the building, and our girlfriends looked like they were ready to throw themselves in front of a bus. A member of the staff flung a plate onto the candle, and the chip-fueled flame was finally extinguished.
We then received a stern talking-to from management, but were allowed to finish our meals -- with every eye in the house boring holes in our backs. It was a long drive home.
A Globe of Puke Rocky was playing quarters with a bunch of guys at a party once, and they were using a clear glass coffee mug, which was etched to look like a globe. I was never a fan of drinking games, so I was just standing there watching the competition. Things were already pretty much out of control; I think my friend Bill swallowed eighty-five or ninety cents during the game -- some total not divisible by twenty-five. And at one point Rocky downed the entire warm contents of the globe, then sat there silently, staring straight ahead for an extended period. You could tell he was working hard to stop something bad from happening. Then, without warning, he refilled the globe with almost the exact same amount of liquid he’d taken in. Only it didn't look like beer anymore, it was more like barbecue sauce. It was friggin' brown! Again, people were on their feet ready to run. Incredibly, the players of the game were in such a state they just took the globe into the kitchen, washed it out and continued playing! Like I say, I never much cared for drinking games.
The Filmmaking Class When we were in college (I use the term very, very loosely - it was West Virginia State) Rocky and I took a filmmaking class together. The guy who taught this thing was a complete freak who once flopped and flailed in the floor, imitating a handicapped person, in front of an entire classroom of stunned students. For some reason I really liked him. Anyway, his first assignment was for us each to produce a three-minute “chase film.” Each of us had to do our own film, I think so he could see what natural talents, if any, we possessed. So, Rocky starred in mine, and I starred in his.
For my film I had Bill playing a bully who terrorized the blind street beggar Rocky. Bill not only stole his money but afterwards stuffed the collection cup into Rocky’s mouth. Bill laughed arrogantly and was shown walking into a bowling alley, as Rocky struggled to get to his feet. The rest of the film was of the blind Rocky “chasing” the evil bully. I had Rocky running down the middle of I-64, eighteen wheelers whipping past and blasting their horns, and then I’d cut back to Bill inside the bowling alley playing pinball and leisurely drinking a beer. Then back to Rocky, running down a country road, and falling ass-first in a mud hole. Then Bill playing pinball again, and back to Rocky tumbling down a steep hill... You get the idea. The part where he fell down the hill was one of the greatest things I’ve ever witnessed in my forty years on Earth. He started out sorta rolling on his side, then he began picking up steam and was eventually going end over end, occasionally bouncing high in the air. I could barely hold the camera steady I was laughing so hard. It’s a wonder he didn’t break his neck. I mean, it was simply unbelievable.
For his film, possibly as revenge for what I’d put him through, he made me play a flaming homosexual. I remember skipping through an open field wearing a trench coat, my limp wrists waving about, and also getting carried away while eating a hotdog, eventually removing the wiener from the bun and fellating it. I also remember sitting bolt upright in my bed the day he was going to show that thing to the class, beads of sweat popping out on my forehead.
About halfway through the semester the professor did some skipping of his own, and left the state with thousands of dollars worth of school-owned cameras and equipment. The class just dissolved into chaos after that. The guy left a big box of vintage TV Guides from the 1960’s in one of his closets, for God knows what reason, and Rocky helped me put it in the trunk of my car. I still have it in my basement.
The Whitewater Rafting Trip The same players from the Chi Chi’s incident went on an overnight rafting trip down the New River in WV, sometime during the early ‘80s. It cost a hundred bucks each, and Rocky apparently thought that was going to buy him his own personal manservant for the trip. He bitched and bitched because he had to row the boat, and lift heavy things. He kept mentioning the hundred bucks every time the guide would ask us to do something.
The whole thing got off to a bad start when we saw them loading one measly twelve-pack of beer on the raft. Oh, that shit simply wouldn’t do. So Rocky and I held everyone up as we high-tailed it to a grocery store to buy 24 more beers. Our girlfriends were not amused.
Despite everything I’ve mentioned, the trip was a blast. We didn’t see another human being the whole time we were gone, and it felt like we were visiting prehistoric times. It’s incredibly beautiful and rugged up in those mountains, and the rapids were pretty awesome as well. Rocky kept trying to convince the guide to let us break into the beer while we were still on the river, but he wouldn’t go for it. He was one of those by-the-book dullards.
That night, at the camp we’d built for ourselves (despite paying a hundred bucks each), Rocky and I started in on the hops and barley, and by the time the sun went down we were pretty roasted. The guide cooked an entire meal, including dessert, on the campfire. I think we had spaghetti!? Can that possibly be right?? Anyway, Rocky wandered off at some point to use the “bathroom”, and when he came stumbling back in the dark, he tripped and knocked over a table containing various noisy articles, as well as the cake -- or whatever it was we were supposed to have for dessert. The whole thing just dumped into the dirt, face down. The guide was visibly pissed.
Another thing I remember from that trip was a wooden box, sitting right out in the open, with a toilet seat attached to the top. There was no way in hell I was using that ridiculous contraption, I’d hold it for days on end before I’d crawl up on a shit box. But when we woke up the next morning, and came out of our tents, the guide was seated atop the thing reading a magazine! He was just sitting there, straight-backed, like he didn’t have a care in the world. I think he even gave us a friendly little wave! We tried not to look, but it was a pretty hard thing to ignore.
Vodka and Five Alive Rocky and I skipped class a few times when we were in “college,” opting for the consumption of alcoholic beverages instead of algebraic equations and the like. One day we were drinking vodka and Five Alive at his house, and things got a little out of hand. I remember him trying to open a sliding glass door and snapping the handle off, then somehow getting the thing off its track and hopelessly jammed at a precarious angle. Everything was tilted to the left, and wouldn't move in either direction. Then, as an encore, he backed into a huge shelf of plants and toppled the whole deal into the middle of the floor. There was potting soil all over the living room, four inches deep in some spots. Shit. I was ready to abandon him -- he was acting like a maniac! -- but I felt a little guilty, so I hung around some more. And the next thing I know he has his mother’s vacuum cleaner out and is plugging the thing in! “Rocky, are you nuts?!,” I screamed, “We’ve got to clean up some of this dirt first!” He just acted like he didn’t hear me and began running the vacuum over these great piles of soil. It only took a few seconds for the grinding noise to begin, and only a few more before the smoke started rolling. Then there was a loud wrenching sound, and a big metal plate came off the bottom of the vacuum. It smelled like an electrical fire in there, and Rocky looked like he was about to pass out. His eyes were going crossed, so I left. Later that night, around 8 o’clock, my phone rang. It was Rocky, and he wanted to know why I was late picking him up for class. I said, dude, it’s 8 o’clock at night! And then I had to spend the next fifteen minutes trying to convince him. He was extremely skeptical.
National Lampoon Scouts I can't remember why this happened, but Rocky and I found ourselves in a bar in a neighboring town one night, drinking Long Island Iced Teas and beer. I don't recall us ever drinking in that town before, and we almost never drank liquor, so it's all a mystery to me now. But we got ourselves pretty oiled in those unfamiliar surroundings that night, and at some point began telling everyone we were writers for The National Lampoon -- and buying drinks all around. We said we were scouts, out searching for material (apparently attempting to tap that rich reservoir of comedy that is St. Albans, WV), or some such nonsensical bullshit. The details are still sketchy, because I was blasted, but I can remember a bunch of people sitting at our table, telling us jokes.
After leaving we stopped at an elementary school to take a whiz and something got vandalized there. A tiny bit of glass may have been broken, but I'm not real clear on it. I seem to remember a small angry crowd, including an old lady waving a broom, chasing us off the property.
We went back to Dunbar, and there was a carnival in town. We somehow hooked up with Tim, another friend, and we were all at that carnival when the puking began. Tim was able to fill in the blanks on what happened, because there was no way in hell I was retaining much of it. I can remember sitting in the passenger seat of a car (my car?) with the door open, vomiting into the grass. I guess I passed out after that, because Rocky became convinced I was dying. Tim said he was screaming, "You're not dying on us, Jeff! Goddammit, you're not going to die!!" then attempted to begin CPR. Tim said he tried to pound on my chest, but missed and slugged me in the crotch. This brought me briefly back to consciousness, and I supposedly said, "Help me find my glasses Rocky, so I can kick your ass." It's one of my best lines, and I can't even remember saying it.
After Tim got Rocky calmed down, they dumped me at Bill's house and went home. Bill took me into the den and just let me drop in a pile on the floor. He said he checked on me an hour or so later and there were two or three cats sleeping on my back. Shit, what a horrible night. Bill eventually called my girlfriend and she came and retrieved my sorry ass. She gave me shit, my parents gave me shit, and I felt pretty shitty on my own.
And the next morning I found ten or twelve napkins stuffed in the pockets of my vomit-encrusted jeans with jokes scribbled all over them.
The No-Alcohol Party Despite my protests Rocky once dragged me to a no-alcohol party at some girl's house in Dunbar. He knew her, I didn't, and I didn't like the sound of that no-alcohol descriptor one tiny bit. But we went, and it turned out to be a very memorable night indeed.
When we walked in people were playing fucking backgammon, sipping Coca-Cola, and listening to a novelty 45 that spoofed the "Who Shot J.R.?" craze. I felt like we'd passed through a portal into the Land of Nerds. "What in the hell?", I whispered to Rocky, "You must be pretty damn horny..." We started mingling and it was incredibly dull. People were talking about chemistry and shit. I can't really remember who was there, but they were all a little too civilized for my tastes. After a few minutes Rocky came up to me and said, "Lets go get some beer." He didn't have to twist my arm, and we made a beeline for Wagner's, where we purchased two twelve packs. "I thought this is a no-alcohol party?" I said. And Rocky just shrugged his shoulders. Why sweat the details?
We got back to the house and people were almost literally throwing themselves on the beer, apparently needing some relief as well. The host seemed a little nervous, but didn't object too much. I started making some calls, inviting a few of our rowdy friends to somebody else's party -- a party being thrown by people I barely knew.
Before long it was rocking in there. Bill arrived with some real records (I'd begged him) and some more beer. He walked over to the stereo and ripped the needle off the 45 that was still droning "Jayyyy Arrrrr..." and tossed it like a Frisbee into a nearby chair.
An hour or so later I remember walking through the living room and people were laying everywhere, some were making out, and Molly Hatchet was rattling the windows. And Bill was standing in the middle of the floor tipping up a comically oversized jug of beer, a gallon or something. Then somebody yelled, "Jeff, can you come here please? Rocky's locked himself in a closet and won't come out!" I tended to that crisis and when I returned Bill was busy hiding empty beer cans all over the house. This was supposed to be a no-alcohol party, as mandated by the host's parents, and Bill was going around hiding beer cans in boots, and down inside plants, and behind the Rice-A-Roni in the pantry! Things were quickly spinning out of control. I found Rocky a little while later in a bedroom rifling through somebody's underwear drawer, flinging bras and panties all over the room. Fuck.
Eventually the parents came home, and walked into a scene straight out of Animal House, transferred to their own residence. I remember some guy coming down the steps as the parents entered the house, and he smiled and raised his beer in a salute like he was goddamn Hugh Hefner welcoming them to the mansion. Holy crap in a hand basket. I prepared for the worst, but they didn't say a word. In fact, they disappeared into their bedroom and let the fun continue.
It turned out to be a mistake.
Later that night Rocky wound up and hurled a slice of pizza across the room, without warning or provocation, and it momentarily stuck to a wall, then slid down in a wide greasy streak. And a little later he took a great arcing piss off the balcony, very nearly hitting a group of geeks standing in the backyard. He also locked himself in a few more closets(?). Bill successfully hid twenty or thirty beer cans all around the house, and the J.R. record somehow got busted all to shit.
Yeah, we all got into major trouble for that little night on the town. For reasons I still don't understand, it was the balcony pissing that seemed to tip the scales. I would've guessed the Italian fastball. In any case, parental phone calls were made, and I think Rocky was grounded for a month, while I got off relatively easy with just a week.
I bet they're still finding those cans.
As I was typing all this stuff, it occurred to me that we may have been assholes. That thought had never really crossed my mind before, but some of these stories are undeniably obnoxious. It doesn't bother me though. We had fun, lots and lots of fun, and nobody got too hurt. I sometimes marvel that we made it to this advanced age, considering some of the shit we pulled (wait till you read the Bill Stories!), but we're all pretty much intact. And nobody can accuse us of not living our lives. They can accuse us of a lot of stuff, but not that.
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