It was 1998. 99% sure. That was a qualitative time. I am done with numbers.
I was in London, because my folks lived there, but it was coming up on New Years. I had amused myself whilst in London by strolling up the street to the pub, drinking whiskey, and then going to home to eat a sandwich and pass out. It was grand times.
The first time I went into that pub, I walked up and ordered a bourbon and the barkeep (pubkeep?) got all stoked and said, "Alright! Cowboy!" Then, he did that every time I walked in. Sometimes, I just wanted a pint. But I felt obligated. We had this thing. It was cultural coercion. It was damn near subversion. He was teaching the yank a lesson, and the lesson was: drink son. You're not in Kansas anymore. Or whatever.
A few days after Christmas I hear that an acquaintance of mine is going to be in London, playing a gig. Only met the guy once and it was a wine-drunk, hash-tossed hippie jam; I didn't remember him that well, but I knew we were on the same wavelength and that we would have a ball in London. I went back to the pub, then to Newcastles in my Mum's kitchen. Ad infinitum.
This dude whose name I can't remember (I might not have known it at the time!) comes over to my parents' house. I hated coffee due to many, many hours as the neighborhood yuppie crank dealer. Many stories in there, FYI. Anyway, no one hated kids enough to invent energy drinks then, so I made a pot of tea with like thirty tea bags and added milk and sugar and we got twisted. And we hit the streets.
And every. Single. Goddamn Bar. Was reserved seating only. Everywhere.
Now, knowing me at 19, we didn't leave the house until we were both a little drunk, and I think I'd purchased some good hash on the streets of Merry Ol' as was my wont. Usually from a hooker. Preferably a transsexual hooker. Always figured they were a little more honest.
Now, the streets of London on New Years Eve was the biggest drunken debauchery I had ever seen or been a part of. It was fantastic. Within minutes, we'd been passed bottles of champagne, scotch, gin, beer. It smelled like a reggae festival. Good vibes and all. There was one Indian man who asked me if I wanted to buy a woman. I thought he was joking. He looked real serious and intense about it, though. But we said thanks anyway, and rolled on.
So, we're bouncing drunkenly through the firecrackers and hooligan shouts. I'm hoping it stays positive and no one starts brawling or raping or colonizing or any of the other shit you can expect across the pond. We stop at every club, pub, and restaurant and I do my cute southern boy routine and they do NOT give a fuck. They laugh. All the fancy people in all the fancy clubs and pubs and bars? They're just laughing. But we don't even care; we're just laughing, too, having a ball.
Midnight comes and goes. We're stumbling, when we sea a goddamn oasis in the cold, drizzly night. There is a canopy entrance with a bouncer, yellow light and warmth spilling out of the doorway. Gotta figure that's a hallucination, but there it is. Neither of us know where we are. Not at all. England. Safe to say we're still in England. There is nothing else on this soaking, deserted street except this fucking magical oasis. You do what you do.
We step into this place and there is a full wooden bar along the back wall. The side wall on the right has a full cheese and crackers and probably mutilated goose parts spread. Grapes. That kind of scene. And. And fucking AND. EVERYONE in the place is either a big dude in a fancy suit, or a gorgeous twenty three year old eastern European beauty in a slinky dress. Not bad. I swing up to the bar and order two bloody Mary's and it's like thirty pounds, which breaks me, but I hadn't spent any money yet, so rock on. I bring the drinks back and we're sipping, smoking, watching the barlights and bottles do that blinky dance they do when the liquor finally catches up with the smoke.
My friend, whose name I don't remember, but whom I have fond memories of... He starts to walk toward the food. IMMEDIATELY, a big dude gets between him and the food and says, "This is not for you!" Fair. We reconvene, and I start looking past the blinky lights. Homie is swaying a little. I am starting to think we came into the wrong place. Or the right place? We came into a place, no doubt. And it was time to leave. They are definitely starting to stare at us. All of them. Especially the women. The women are fucking pissed.
I want to leave, and homie agrees. He just has to hit the bathroom. So, he goes to the bathroom and it's just me and the remnants of my shitty drink. And a million eyes, half of which I want to have sex with, but none of whom I trust. I light a cigarette because Jesus, you need to light a cigarette. I would have turned into a cigarette if I could have. And my boy is lagging. I'm smoking and the bar is staring daggers and I'm done, so I turn to follow my buddy into the bathroom. I push the door, and there's resistance. Shoulder in, I can see that the two sinks are filled with vomit. Nice. I shove the door all the way open and the floor is COVERED in blood. Thick; like half an inch thick and making small waves from where the door opened. And there's my buddy, whose name I can't remember, standing in the middle of the bathroom, white as a ghost and frozen.
I'm pretty slow on the uptake, but I took this in real fast. I grabbed the homie and pushed him in front of me through the door. The men were congregating, but not fast enough that I couldn't football by them, using my boy as a battering ram. Into the street, where it's run, fucking run. And we have that burned into us, there's no need for conscious thought any more. Just fucking run, man.
I have no idea when we parted ways that night, and I never talked to the homie again, but I swear to fucking Christ he was alive and well when I left him.
And he still owes me a drink.