We should’ve chilled out after they kicked us out of the restaurant. OK, they didn’t literally toss us out, but when they turn the lights on real bright and crank “Closing Time” over the stereo, that’s a pretty strong hint that they’d like you to leave.
So we did, about 10 of us. It was my sister-in-law Elena’s birthday, and she suggested that the party reconstitute itself at her house. I almost didn’t go. We’d already driven past Elena’s house when I declared, “Turn around! I’m going to the after-party!” In terms of regrettable statements, that one’s up there with Gen. Custer saying, “I like our chances!”
When you’re in your 20s, a Friday night of bad ideas gets magically erased by your ability to sleep until the following afternoon, during which time your superhuman body generates a gallon of stem cells and rebuilds itself. My senior year in college, I went on spring break and spent an entire week doing things that would terrify Lamar Odom. And I felt great the whole time. But the moment you blow out the last candle on your 30th birthday cake, things change. Sure, you can still go big for a night, but the next day there are consequences.
It would’ve been one thing if we just sat around, had a drink or two and discussed how we’re all old enough to feel sad that John Stamos is in a show called Grandfathered. Instead, we got right into the arm-wrestling and piggyback races. It was like American Ninja Warrior crossed with Cirque du Soleil crossed with a PTA meeting.
My neighbor Jamie carried me around the house piggyback, which was probably inadvisable since I weigh 190 pounds and Jamie is a girl—a surprisingly strong one, as it turns out! Strong as she is, though, we did learn right away that the 190-pound-dude-lift is a barefoot event, or at least one not to be undertaken in chunky heels. We discovered this when she dropped me straight backward onto the kitchen floor, a blooper that drew riotous laughter from the crowd. Nothing funnier than a bruised coccyx!
After Jamie carried me around the house, the women started arm-wrestling, as moms are wont to do. Which inspired me to challenge Elena’s boyfriend, Louis, to a rematch—we arm-wrestled about a year ago, and he killed me. This time I won, possibly because midway through the contest Louis’ rotator cuff gave way, a development about which he was remarkably stoic. “I had it repaired once before, years ago,” he said. “I’ll get it fixed again. Then we can do best two-out-of-three.”
After destroying Louis’ shoulder, I turned my attention to Elena’s furniture. Elena’s ottoman is a brand called Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic. Or rather, it was. It is now part of a new line that I call “Broken Chic by Steve.” It’s like a few steps beyond shabby. Nobody’s onto this yet. What you do is get a 180-pound man named Steve 5 feet in the air and then drop him onto the piece of furniture you’d like to convert.
How, you ask, do you get a man that high up in the air? Does this project require a stepladder? Why, not at all. Just try to give him a ride on your shoulders. Adult men are probably unaccustomed to riding on shoulders, so they’ll topple off pretty quick. And if you time it right, you end up with an ottoman that looks like Chris Farley face-planted on it.
Steve and I were going to buy her a new ottoman until we looked up Rachel Ashwell furniture and saw how much it costs, at which point we decided that it would be cheaper to abandon our jobs and move to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where we’d spend two or three years apprenticing with a master Amish ottoman-maker. During that time we’d plant trees that we’d eventually fell and saw into boards, which we’d laboriously plane and sand until we’d precisely replicated the Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic ottoman frame. “Good work, fellows,” our mentor Ezekiel would say. (He’d take a liking to us despite our modern Hypercolor T-shirts and our inability to grow beards.) To celebrate our success, I’d give Steve a triumphant ride on my shoulders and then—noooo!
Or we could just try gluing it back together, which is my new winter project. The ottoman’s out in my garage, covered in clamps and looking extremely shabby indeed. I tried reinforcing the cracked part with metal strips, but when I gave it a test-sit—resting my weight ever so gingerly—it splintered apart all over again.
You know, this whole situation comes down to one bad decision. And believe me, if I could go back in time, I would. I’d get in that time machine and tell Elena not to buy such expensive furniture.
The next morning I was hungover and sore, with red streaks atop my shoulders from carrying (and dropping) Steve. I was also, perversely, kind of proud of my behavior. Closing time? I don’t think so.