Back in the mid-90s, when people were still deigning to marry my friends, I was invited to Tim’s bachelor party out at the lake. I was happy to get the news for several reasons, first among them being that I knew this particular bachelor party was having a hard time finding a place to roost. Hard to imagine why someone wouldn’t want to subject their property to a loud, flailing late night bacchanal from this group of guys, but nevertheless the situation was dicey for a while.
It turns out that the soiree would take place at the cabin belonging to Ted’s brother. We were told it was up on the hill, nestled in the trees, overlooking Lake Travis. None of us had ever met the guy, and Ted said the place would be vacant because his brother was going on one of his many far-flung international hunting trips (which, now that I think of it, raises the interesting question of whether permission was ever actually sought in advance for the party….). According to Ted, his brother was a “big hunter” (more on this later). We were told everyone could crash on the floor that night so that no one had to attempt an ill-advised drive home.
This all sounded great, given that we essentially just needed a place to behave poorly without undue neighborly and/or judicial hindrance. Just about anywhere would be ok, as long as we were left to our own questionable devices.
And so a 16-gallon keg was duly reserved, commitments were made to bring “certain films” on VHS tapes, and I was in charge of bringing the jambox and tunes. As the date got closer, I asked Ted about this whole “hunting” thing and was told that his brother shot large animals all over the world and that the cabin contained a disturbing amount of Ted Nugent-like accouterments…..taxidermy, guns everywhere, bear hunting razor arrows with giant compound bows, a “size-able” knife collection, etc. I remember having a fleeting moment of pause about the combination of these items with the dogged level of intoxication and merriment that I knew was going to take place, but the moment soon passed as I was struck with an idea for a performance art piece that we could have the bachelor enact, using some of the aforementioned props that would be lying about. I had this old CRT computer monitor that was giving up the ghost, and I thought it would be a fine thing if I wrote the word “SINGLE” on a thin piece of paper in big bold letters, taped it to the monitor while it was glowing that sickly green, and then had the bachelor shoot a bear arrow into it with the giant compound bow. I envisioned special effects-quality sparks flying everywhere in the night as we all cheered, drank, hollered, etc. It would be a Cathartic Moment. And if it blunted the arrow tip in the process, damaging the vile killing machine, then (karmically) all the better!
So, when the day arrived, we all took off work early and hauled the supplies out to the lake. Loud rock and roll was quickly instigated, the keg tapped, and films shoved into the VCR. A dilapidated strobe light (which I had bought as a kid at Radio Shack in the early ‘70s, and which was now held together with masking tape) was stuck in an upstairs window for no good reason. It was a multi-media extravaganza! I plugged in the CRT and it provided a bilious green glow out on the deck overlooking the trees and the water.
And we had a ball. I’m not saying the scene would bear up, in any way, to much outside scrutiny. But the fifteen of us dove into the pool of bachelor party behavior with belly flops of gusto, and Tim the bachelor was made the continuing center of attention and could be seen smiling quite a bit.
When the time seemed right, I gathered the fellows together and made a big production out of taping the “SINGLE” sign onto the glowing CRT screen. The giant (and frankly quite dangerous looking) compound bow was fetched from a corner of the living room, as was a razor arrow. None of us had ever used one of these things before but we had seen lots of bow-and-arrows in movies and so thought, with classic hubris: “How hard can it be?” With two rows of beer-armed guests on either side of the projected flight path, we started lustily ribbing the bachelor and chanting “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!”
As he struggled unsteadily to notch the arrow and pull the brutal bowstring back, Tim’s face was covered in sweat. Was his perspiration testimony to the difficulty of the bow pull, I wondered? Or was it in contemplation of his brave step out of bachelorhood? In any case, with a mighty exhalation he let the long, gleaming arrow fly. The crowd cheered as one. The scalpel-sharp arrow tip glinted savagely in the moonlight. The shaft rocketed right to the screen of the computer monitor with its thematically-significant sign……….
…….and bounced harmlessly off, falling un-impressively onto the deck like a small stick.
This was followed by an odd, massed deflating sound as all the men in attendance sighed at the anti-climax of my performance art concept. The arrow was picked up and put away, along with the bow, accompanied by an unspoken air that maybe we had dodged a bit of a bullet (to mix metaphors) in terms of ricochets, drunken drives to the hospital, awkward questions about whose idea this was anyway, etc.
And so the guests put their heads down and partied with greater diligence. The music got louder and rowdier, the strobe flashed uselessly on, and the films ran in a loop.After a certain number of hours had passed, two biological imperatives manifested themselves at roughly the same time. People became Hungry….and…..people wanted to shoot some tequila.
Neither food nor tequila had been brought, which constituted an unforgiveable lack of planning. But from the depths of despair, Ted shouted out that he’d found some things rummaging around the cabin kitchen. In retrospect, this is where events took a turn toward Great Consequence. Dark and Light……the Sacred and the Profane. Drastically divergent gastric experiences.
To address The Hunger, Ted found several pounds of grizzly bear sausage in the freezer. None of us had ever heard of such a thing before, much less tried it, and actually we all had some real qualms about having anything to do with such an ethically dubious product. But given the state of libationary group mind and, of course, The Hunger, these misgivings were set aside and the sausage run through the microwave to defrost.
As these things are sometimes wont to go, people became impatient with the defrosting time and insisted that the sausages be put in the skillet on the stove while still largely frozen. The kitchen was bare of all other food products, including cooking oil, and there was much spattering of ice crystals accompanied by the smell of burning meat. Beer was put in the skillet as a (poor) substitute for oil. One thing that became quickly apparent was that grizzly bear sausage is greasy. Quite greasy. Actually really damnably greasy. But reason had long since fled, and soon links of half-cooked, icy yet burned sausage were being passed around on plates to the line of bleary, ravenous guys.
We dug in.
For reasons that will very soon become apparent, at this point in the narrative it is necessary to obscure the facts a bit. Suffice to say that one member of the group, who will remain unnamed, was the first to feel the pangs deep in his nether-guts. Beyond pangs, really. Truth be told (and, after all, our very lives depend on truth, as Bill Hicks used to say), it was a full-on case of The Grabs.
And so this (unnamed) individual ran at half-crouch to what turned out to be the only bathroom in the entire cabin. Mighty were his efforts, and great his distress, all of which was certainly not aided by the increasingly ill-tempered and desperate cries and bangings on the other side of the bathroom door. But it was safely locked and, as the bards say, this too shall pass. Eventually he emerged.
He was not well received.
Some of the stricken had been able to wait it out, albeit with superhuman powers of zen concentration. One had run upstairs in a panic, looking for a second bathroom, and run into a waist-high Russian Boar mounted and sitting upright in the middle of the floor, which nearly scared the bear out of him when he turned on the lights.
Some had not found the needed level of focus and had been forced to run out into the trees (which brings to mind an ironic adage about what a bear is usually doing out there…..). Any sense of nature’s justice having been served was entirely lost on the assemblage when they discovered that the one cabin commode had been incapacitated by the ministrations of the first victim.
In all fairness, it has to be said that the mood turned quite ugly at that point, with much unwarranted and heated abuse poured upon Patient Zero.
Things were eventually sorted out, because there really wasn’t much choice in the face of such an en masse biological emergency. Music of a less frenetic pace was put on the box as the assembled sat tentatively around the living room and tried to regroup. The strobe light was extinguished after some complaints about the unwelcome psychedelic accompaniment it had provided to those recently in the woods. The films, however, played on in the same loop.
It was at that point that Ted told us what else he had found in his earlier scavenging of his brother’s kitchen.
Way back in a cabinet over the fridge, with boxes placed in front of it (no doubt purposely) to obscure it from view, was a bottle of tequila. And this was very good tequila. In fact, everyone later agreed that it was The Best Tequila We Had Ever Had. My later research found it was $75 a bottle, which was quite a bit in the mid-90s!
This being a bachelor party and these guys being…well….these guys, fifteen shot glasses were lined up across the kitchen counter and the shooting began. For all of us, it was our first experience trying a really good tequila. In Texas, as you may know, we had been saturated for many years with a cynical yet effective advertising campaign that led us gringos to believe that Jose Cuervo Gold was the best tequila around. And for some reason, for most of those years, it was just about the only drinkable tequila around Central Texas. The boutique brands had made it quietly into the stores by the mid-90s, but weren’t really known to people of our incomes, and frankly I only discovered them as I set out to find out more, based on this fantastic blanco tequila we had that night to soothe our bear-ravaged pallets/GIs/psyches.
Now I know what you’re thinking, but if all you’d had around for a couple of decades was Jose Cuervo Gold, you’d shoot tequila, too, rather than sip it! It was a defense mechanism, really.
But, like a diamond shining in a rough of bear effluvium, we had all experienced the special joy of a Really Good Tequila that night. And our pallets would never be the same.It just goes to show that any group of reprobates can be rehabilitated, given the right impetus.