30 July 2011


Success, with hardly enough exclamation points to convey it properly.  So mind-blastedly overwhelmed by the success of this project - four years in the making, plus the hundreds of thousands of man-hours’ worth of research - Dr. Pavla Kormatikos cannot quite find the words even.
“I-” the assistant Stepan begins to say, but Kormatikos gestures him to remain silent.  This is an epic moment, integral in that they will be quoted and paraphrased with every retelling.  Eyes still moistened at the glorious sight, Pavla wracks his brain for something memorable, something catchy to say.  A eureka reaction, but something singular and downright candid.  …  
                                                                He wonders why it is that when one truly needs them, one cannot find the proper words.  Perhaps that could be his lab’s next point of research, fraught with numerous MRIs and possibly some clinical tests.  Some sort of inhaler device might come of it, which a person could use to trigger candor and wit.  But for the present he is positively stumped.
“Alert the press,” he says at last, content at least to silently bask in the presence of his greatest accomplishment.
“What should we call it?” Stefan - the intern, not to be confused with the assistant - asks as he blindly feels for a phone on a nearby desk, likewise unable to take his eyes off the marvelous new thing they had wangled.  It defies a lifetime of experience, and looking at it makes Stefan fear he might have a seizure at any moment.  And for an awful moment, Pavla realizes he does not know what to call it.

*          *          *

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Dr. Kormatikos begins.  He feels uncomfortable without his lab coat; without its numerous deep pockets he feels unsure what to do with his hands.  For the present they rest clasped together on the podium, knuckles beginning to whiten.  The assembly is smaller than he had hoped for, and Pavla recognizes none of the dozen or so reporters sitting before him.  Second- and third-stringers mostly, more than a few slouching idly or texting on their phones with a maddening indifference.  Agrotes, his father would have called them.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am most pleased to say that after years of research and almost ceaseless activity from my staff, we are proud to unveil for you that which is never before been seen,” and again, Pavla wonders why he is bothering with any introduction at all.  Pearls before swine, besides which the words which had looked so good on paper seem to be coming out in a driveling jumble.  Disregarding his notecard speech, with a sharp tug on the velvet rope the equally velvet curtain draws back from the pedestal on the stage.
“I give you Kormatika, ladies and gentlemen.”
The room is palpably stunned at what they see.  Atop the doric-styled plaster pedestal, a simple square sheet of plastic is propped up, the color of… well, a color yet unseen by human eyes.  Not quite gold or burnished bronze, a bit like blue and yet positively not.  Kormatikos himself looks at it wistfully, sure that he will never tire of its subtle beauty.  How to describe it, short of Olympian?  The color of the gods themselves, a sort of visual ambrosia.
One by one, reporters and photographers regain some sort of composure.  Flashbulbs begin their controlled explosions, pencils are pointed as an onslaught of questions are raised, an industrious few head to the back of the room with their cellphones and begin to call up reinforcements.  With a certain satisfaction, Pavla realizes the crowd is about to get infinitely bigger.
“We’re going to need a larger conference room,” Stepan whispers into the doctor’s ear.

*          *          *          *

The science behind Kormatika is surprisingly simple (as all things are, in hindsight), yet larger developments make divulging its secrets highly illegal.  With every idea comes a practicality; a hypothesis needs an observable phenomenon, research needs equipment, data needs logging, and the whole process requires a surprising quantity of money if it is to reach any sort of applicable conclusion.  As part of the process of raising said money, Dr. Kormatikos supplemented his lab’s piecemeal grant funding with privatized investment.  While providing a boon for the laboratory’s research capabilities, this privatized investment required a contractual agreement promising the marketable yields of their intellectual property, et cetera and so forth until such time.  Kormatikos did not mind this then, and does not even still as he sits towards the far end of the board room table with the innumerable suits around him.  It’s not as if we were curing cancer, he shrugs.
A suit at the front of the room is delivering a PowerPoint demonstration rife with charts and figures.  Pavla is no economist, but the gist of the matter is the name aesthetic.  By slightly altering it to a more Americanized Chormatica™ the numbers on the charts and graphs indicate an expected sale boost of 9 to 12%.  Already it is being heralded as ‘the new color of the decade’ by the fashion industry.  Clothing, automobiles, house paint, toys, furniture, carpeting; not to mention the innumerable marketing uses on billboards, packaging, and corporate logos.  The R&D at General Mills has already been contracted to find an application of Chormatica™ to food dyes.  Bigger than lime green and electric blue combined, the charts cheerily promise.
Pavla does not mind, for really what is in a name?  Chormatica™ has made him the most notable physicist of the year.  There are even whispers he may win the Nobel Prize for Physics this year.  He had always hoped he would win the prize for promoting peace, but this would do just as well.  Besides which, his new color has made him quite the wealthy man.  A mansion in the north of France, a summer home in Kavála, half a dozen cars he doesn’t know what to do with and a forty-foot yacht named the Visual Ambrosia.  While Kormatikos would like to resume his researches, he finds himself caught up in a whole pageantry of interviews, presentations, lectures and endorsements.  The attention is nice, but for the first time in his life Pavla finds himself having to deal with boredom.  Looking at his chormatic-colored pen, he wonders if it has lost some of its original lustre.

*          *          *          *          *

It takes about three years for the novelty of Chormatica™ to fully wear off, largely relegated to the shelves of Sherwin-Williams between the different shades of brown and gold.  When people now see it, either in the form of the odd dress shirt at the back of the closet or the random hybrid on the road, they are generally reminded of the mid-2000-teens, of Lady Gaga videos and the days before privatized postage.  Dated, basically.  A colorful splotch on the e-pages of history.
Doctor Pavla Kormatikos has since returned to his research, currently heading up a query into recoloring dark matter.  He has no complaints to speak of, a Nobel Prize in his study and a Kormatika - because it will always be Kormatika to him - tie clip underneath his lab coat to remind him of his heydays.  The mansion in France and five of the cars have been pawned off for research money; they weren’t of much use to him, anyway.  He will always have the house in Kavála, close to home and the sea had not thought much of since boyhood.  Most importantly, he will always have his research.  Fifteen minutes come and go, but the trivial questions that continue to jape humanity will come at us forever.

29 July 2011

"Morning of the Day Off"

Ven lies naked to one side of the bed, habitually he realizes as he notices Marji is already gone to work.  With a relaxed sigh he spreads out toward the center, pulling the sheets from around his knees up to his shoulders.  It doesn’t matter what time it is, that glorious axiom of the day off.  Ven slips in and out of light dreamy sleep as the rays of morning brighten, pale, and again thin with the oncoming rain.
It is the pleasant tattoo of raindrops against the window that finally rouse him up from bed, making a straight dash for the bathroom.  Slowly the mind starts to jostle itself up, beginning the abstract jumble of disassociated garbage and internal dialectic that will continue well into the early stages of sleep.  The mind is a bizarre, wonderful thing he thinks as the last bit of urine ekes itself into the bowl.  Three-gallon-fueled flush.
He looks at the reflection of himself in the mirror, a same-old sight of five or six times every day for as long as he can remember.  But how Ven has changed! from infantile smallness to this lumpy, stoutish figure now naked before him (yet not, actually).  He winces even at thinking himself ‘stout’ anymore, and he wonders if he’s lost weight or if it’s simply a positive reaction to familiarity.  Ven brushes his teeth, less out of concern for dental hygiene than because his body habitually needs that minty morning clean-mouth flavor.  Otherwise the entire morning will feel ‘offish.’  Maybe that’s why people are so particular about their toothpastes, they’re like a drug for the palate.  Marji has her Aquafresh to one side of the sink, Ven his Colgate mint with the baking powder bite, pink toothbrush, blue toothbrush, and he wonders if they aren’t being a bit sexist and proprietary.  Maybe they should simply share a one toothbrush, or would that be unhygienic?
Questions, interminable questions running through his brain as he fetches some pyjama clothes from about the floor, some stripey pants and a grey college tee he vaguely remembers once passing out in a pool of vomit in.  The fraternity still sends pledge letters, once in a while.  “Brother Vetter,” they still call him, and it makes him feel tingly and good and young again and Ven wonders what it takes to join the Freemasons.  Marji wouldn’t go for that any, but then it’s supposed to be a secret society, eh? 
He heads for the kitchen and puts the kettle on.  Unlike toothpaste, tea is an ever-changing whim.  Does he feel like a rooibos, a black, a green, or dare-I-say-it a white?  Flavored, unflavored, spritzed with lemon or touched of milk, the world is his tea soggy oyster.  He feels like having boring old Earl Grey, but a look in the cupboard and they’re out so he opts for a Chai Spice instead.  Interminable questions and an endless array of choices, useless choices.  Far from empowering, it’s at times the opposite; masters of discretion enslaved by inherent finickiness. 
“And yet,” Ven says to himself with an ironic grin as he inserts a slice of Rudy’s organic all-grain wheat bread into the toaster.  He feels like eating a boiled egg with his toast and tea and grabs one from the bowl they keep in the fridge, overladen with sauces and spices and juices.  A dusting of Lawry’s, a sip of tea, and Ven takes a bite out of his egg.  Or tries.  CRUNCH it goes, unsavory like a malted-milk ball. 
Hollyknockers!”  Spitting the stuff into the sink, Ven inspects his teeth with his fingers to make sure nothing has been damaged, likewise inspecting the uneaten half of the egg in his hand with his eyes.  The white is normal and rubbery but the yolk is a cratery hardened yellow center, actually very much like a malted-milk ball.  He grabs the bowl from the fridge and begins slicing the five remaining eggs in half on the counter.  All completely normal with soft crumbly yolks, how bizarre!
“How bizarre!” he says as he continues to look the egg over.  It weighs about the same as the others, it was boiled in the same batch, been in the same fridge in the same bowl.  But then the toast pops and, losing interest in the egg, Ven pushes it down the disposal and wonders what to do with the ten other halves laying about the counter.  Most importantly he wonders what sort of jam would best complement a Chai tea, again swept away by the tide of unrelenting choice and unanswerable questions.

28 July 2011

"The Barfight"

It was another Wednesday at the Blue, myself and Tony and Kelly all elbows across the bar with our drinks in hand.  Talking about movies, making Simpsons references, complaining about our Cubs and Twins and Tigers, half-heartedly ogling the gals strewn about; a lot of small talk, a thing to do to help the beers go down sort of like.
            So the way we were arranged was this:  there were two scurvy fat looking fellers nestled in nearest the bathrooms, followed by Kelly, then Tony, then myself.  There was nobody to my left for much of the night, until these two collar popping young sugarwaifs strut on up and take stools nearest the door.  “What have you got in a Belgian wheat?” one’s asking bartender Kenny, while the other orders up a Mike’s Hard.  Belgian Wheat leans stiffly on his elbow, trying to lock cocksure and not at all ridiculous.  Meanwhile Mike’s Hard is cocksure and keeps bobbing his head suggestively as he sips, akin to a walking chicken or a turkey or something.
            It’s fairly ludicrous to watch these college boys doing their thing and I’m thinking back to my own college days, wondering if I was ever so daft.  Not like them, certainly, but each in his own way like.  They start commenting to each other about their drinks in overloud nasal voices, about clarity and hoppiness and so forth.  I’m having to bite my lip and suppress a laugh by then, but as I always say, far be it from me to be the rude one, eh?  Sage advice perhaps, but once their convo started drifting into the murky waters of politics one of the hefts at the other end of the bar was not above so being.
            Belgian was just remarking to Mike’s about those ‘idiot Tea Partiers’ and the current budget crisis and all, and daft though they are I’m nodding along so to speak.  Then an empty bottle gets set heavily down onto the counter nearest the john.  “Idiot Tea Partiers, you say?”  We’re all craning our heads down the bar to see him, this plump leather-clad thing from out of the Thunderdome - Bill, I think his friends generally call him.  He’s twisting the top off another Bud Light and smiling all big and menacing like.  “What about those idiot Dumb-o-craps who can’t even balance a budget properly!?”  And his buddy - fat man in greasy overalls I think’s called Gary - is laughing it up and flashing a few broken teeth.  He’s a real character even if he doesn’t talk much, and I’m thinking to myself how perfect he’d be in a novel or story someday.
            “Right now the President is trying to get a balanced budget passed,” Belgian whinges in response.  “The Repelicans in Congress are just blocking it for their stupid political reasons.”
“Your President is being a dictator. Congress - which represents the people of America - has spoken! Yet Obama will not let go of his ideas and let democracy prevail.”
“Look, man, there’re two halves to Congress.  The Republicans only have the lower half.  It’s a split legislature at most.”
“The House majority has spoken and they represent the people of America!” and I dare say Bill was standing upright and thundering his fist against the bar.  “Most Americans don't want to raise the debt ceiling - fact! However, do you find it responsible to increase the borrowing level without having a balanced budget? If the Democrats came up with a balanced budget, perhaps raising the debt ceiling would be warranted!”
But Belgian won’t be stifled, climbing to his own feet in less than intimidating fashion.  “The Democrats are trying to balance the budget, you hayseed yomp!  It's just their approach is a combination of increasing revenues and cutting spending. And as to the wisdom of raising the debt ceiling, I've heard sensible arguments to either side. But – hell!!  - if it's a question of hard politics, storming out of a directionless meeting is a fair response to unbending ideological rigmarole.”
Point though he was trying to make, Belgian was well out of order with his ‘hayseed yomp’ remark.  Bill was already walking around Tony and Kelly and coming our way, and I can feel his presence pass by me like an angel of death.  But then he’s past and that presence is lifted from my shoulders and I feel at ease again.  More’n could be said for Belgian, though I have to give him some sort of praise for standing his ground.  Bill comes right up to him, face in face like.  “The Republicans have offered to raise the debt ceiling if he cuts spending.  Fair?”
And there is a moment of silence, save for the terse seething of two very close faces.  “No, it’s not fair,” Belgian snaps.  “They’re just offering to raise the debt, not find an equilibrium.”
“I’ll give you equilibrium!!” Bill roars as he grabs Belgian by the easily accessible popped collars.  By this time we’d backed right on off next to the bathrooms.  I’ve never seen an actual bar fight before, but I’m expecting bottles and glass and the like to start flying any minute.  Gary hasn’t even moved from his seat, still watching and chuckling from the far end of the bar.  But Mike’s Hard pulls Bill around roughly by his shoulder and the two seem squared off in the bar’s center floor.  Mind that Mike’s isn’t a big guy either, and Bill’s looking slightly confused as the kid crouches down for a judo attack stance or some such thing.  And then-
It was a beautiful thing to see, a legitimately movie-perfect kick.  I mean, Mike’s really launched himself at Bill, bringing his whole person into the single point of his foot right into the fat man’s solar plexus.  Bill was thrown backwards and Mike’s does the Bruce Lee quiver as he bounces himself around to perfect stillness.  Then fast as lightning Gary pushes past us and brings a bottle down right over the top of his head.  And Bill was back up in a jiff and throwing down at the fallen, bleeding persona of the Mike’s. 
What happened after, I couldn’t well say.  The three of us were already headed out via the service entrance into the crisp blackness of the night, the muffled shouts and cries of anguish and the crackle of furniture fading fast as somewhere sirens perked up in the distance.

27 July 2011

A Bit of a Refresh

So for those of you who may remember things as they once were (halcyon days, those) you may notice the new background/theme/aura of the Rudian Days.  This now includes (notice at the end of each article/entry/etc) an easy-to-use rating system.  Just click what you feel after, easy and painless and somewhat useful to me by way of input.  I'm going to try and put more stories up than I have in the past few months; been largely posting things on the Associated Content in an effort to generate some more feedback.  It's been a mildly interesting experience but I think I prefer the ability to choose my own fonts and use umlauts and obscenities, and otherwise boldly go where my mind wishes in terms of subject matter, like.
So (famous last words?) here's to another stab at the blog, surely to be peppered with updates on my upcoming move westward to Portland.  Cheers until then!

26 July 2011

"The Extraordinary League of All Dan Rudys"

            It is another bland Tuesday, those kitchenless sort of workless work-a-day ‘weekends’ that vilify the rest of the week and all.  I am checking out the Facebook (fine application, that) when I notice there’s a little red speech bubble in my top left-hand like.  I click to find an invitation to the “Extraordinary League of All Dan Rudys,” a group devoted to uniting the very width and breadth of online humanity that dubs itself by said moniker.
            Well hell, I think to myself as I accept away, little knowing what lay ahead.  Within the minute there comes another little crimson thought bubble caddy-cornering my screen, a message ominously entitled ‘There Can Be Only One’ when brought about the drop-down.  I read on, a distant Dan Rudy from the Massachusetts fulminating some senseless jargon about the One and all that, a battle royale that will fulfill the destiny of all mankind and such.  Fight to the finish, one week from the day like.
            Of course, I let it slide by.  I’m not one for these online scammations of the general populace, man of the world and all of that.  But an odd Sunday post slips into the box, plane ticket and directions to the Swampscott, Massachusetts.  And nagging little messages in my inbox, ‘Come Come Come,’ ‘There Can Be Only One, Melee Weapons Only’ clogging up the works with sixty, seventy shots a day.  Makes a man sure-fired up enough to fight to the death, if it’ll only stop the spam and all!  I’m on the Tuesday (-next) plane with my cricket bat, the Reebok willow Excel, blue trimmed and solid like.  Gonna bash me some Dan Rudy, I think to myself cannibalistically as I sip at a mid-flight gin and watery tonic.  And I’m wondering if’n they’ll all look like me, semblance and the such.  A sort of masturbatory action in reaction, beating oneself to death in the greater context sort-of-thing.
            Long story short, I’m there at the Swampscott on the beach off of the Yacht Club, Excel in hand.  It’s a goddamn diaspora reunited, Dan Rudys from every which way; a baker’s dozen in all, even an inexplicable Korean chappy with a farcical looking pressed-metal sword in hand.  And I’m looking and looking, but there isn’t a single lookalike amongst the lot, me standing alone as myself the like.
            Massachusetts yacht nob Dan Rudy addresses the crowd, boring as all can say:  “Hear-ye hear-ye, the Extraordinary League of All Dan Rudys now in session” and such.  Rules; who needs rules in a battle-type royale context?  I’m thinking we must be linked, because we’re all jumping in before he’s done and explained himself, yet nonetheless standoffish all the same.  Myself, I’m thinking of my spotless dental record.  Is winning the right to be the one and only Dan Rudy worth getting irrevocably gobbed in the mouth by some ass of the same name?  Most heartily not, I’m thinking.
            We crouch about on that beach for what seems like hours, prodding and duking and sidling along, waiting for first blood to come.  Naught happens, and soon some of the non-Rudy yacht nobs stroll down to watch us, hands kipped in short white khaki shorts all nonchalant and all.  “What are you boys doing?” “What’s the scuffle?” and such like.  Well, far be it from a Dan Rudy to take such verbal informality.  I’d say we width and breadth charged the bejesus out of them, white pants and all.  Scared them right off the beach, though a few may have gotten clobbered up a bit.
            “Ye gods, I was wrong,” MA Rudy exclaims to the rest of us.  “I think perhaps we are an unstoppable force, united!”  And united we were, scuttling on off to the Red Rock Bistro for a bit of gnosh and talk.  And sure enough it was an alright endeavor, chatting and laughing and berating a bunch of myself, all-told.  Because Dan Rudy or not, we’re all a bit of ourselves, aren’t we?

22 July 2011

Easy Escargot

Serves: two as an entree, three or four as a side, or a small gathering as an appetizer
Prep time:  twenty-five to thirty minutes

1 dozen escargot-acceptable (i.e. edible) snails
1/2 stick of butter, and possibly some olive oil (explained later)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, well minced
Herbs d'Provence, salt, and pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 F.  In a shallow foil-covered pan place your snails in close proximity to one another (but not quite touching).  Melt your butter in either the microwave or on the stove top, then pour atop the snails along with the shallots, garlic, herbs et al.  Ideally the liquefied butter should cover the snails completely; if not, add some olive oil (or consider using a smaller pan, if possible; the idea of using foil cupcake cups did occur to me).  Place in the oven; they should take between twenty and twenty-five minutes to cook, but the key is that the butter/oil begins to boil (so keep an eye on things).  A delightful summer dish, escargot goes well with tossed pasta or really any sort of light food as strikes your fancy.  And enjoy!

17 July 2011

A Place; A Probability; A Portland!

     So I finally have a new, geographically outward direction:  Portlandia!  The unholy land, the hipster's paradise, the original Skid Row!  All these things and more, so I've heard.  It's an exciting prospect, and as I sort through my things and prepare for the big shift next month I realize it is also a time for change.  I've kicked off a Google+ account (definitely worth a try if you haven't yet; once more people get on board it'll be something great), updated all my address books and the like, regurgitated my resume, and now I'm looking over my generally neglected blog (i.e. this) and wondering what I should do with it.
     Its progressive disuse could probably be linked to a few factors; less free time what with the job and all, more story content being uploaded onto the Y! Contributor site (with this being my catch-all for material unpostable there), and less time online in general.  I'd like to resurrect rather than scrap it (the fate of other projects, such as RudianBM) but I wonder if it could use a face lift, perhaps something with 'Portland' alliteratively thrown into the title.  Something with more purpose - such as specifically delving into this new, seamy, sacrilegiously hip Portland world - or keeping it along the same shim-sham line of whimsy?  What do y'all ('the royal you') think?
Send your response and €1 in a plain white envelope to:

Alliterative Portlandia Blognom Project
PO Box 112320
Portland, OR 97214

or by all means drop a comment on this entry and give us ('the plebeian me') a hint.

Very Cheers,


03 July 2011


Author's preface:  My first story to be published in paper-and-ink print, in the seminal Mid-Western publication Sperm Meets Egg, out now.

It is a glorious feeling, finally piling out of that van in the parking lot behind the Auke Bay laundromat.  The six of us are crusty and grungy and tired, yet driven onward by the need to drink heavily and fully live up our prospective weekends.  I grab my daypack from the back, amid the other packs and greasy tools and jerry cans and the like.  The fresh sea air is wafting over the building from the marina across the street, cool and strong.  I can hear the bells and the birds and the occasional horn lowing in the distance and it excites my soul, beckoning me thence to my doom like a siren.
            Boss Nick is saying something from the driver’s seat, and I think Boss Matt is saying something else in agreement.  Not listening, so can’t be sure.  We all mumble our goodbyes and bon voyages and fuck-yous as they drive off, sling our bags over our shoulders and lope along to the corner bus stop.  The lot of us carry our daypacks except for Squat Dan, who insists on bringing all of his kit with him; a mountain of things crammed into a five-foot tall rucksack, strapped tightly to his hairy, stocky five-foot-two frame.  Quite the sight ordinarily, but this is Juneau - Auke fucking Bay!  Where the sea dredges up America’s most colorful assortment of people.
             Festival-bearded Grandpa Ray has his guitar case in hand, intending to venture off wolf-like and alone downtown in search of a badly-needed lay.  Myself, Squat Dan, Droid, White, and Baby Dave have our own plans, equally excessive and with as much a chance of some sort of lay as any.  Before I go any further with the narrative, let me clarify that the nicknames were all picked out yonks ago by Squat Dan.  Grandpa Ray is as young as any of us, Baby Dave leans toward the giant Swede side of things, and Droid is begrudgingly but fully human; Dan occasionally insists on calling me Rutabaga, though I insist he doesn’t.  All monikers aside, White is simply Neal’s last name.
            Anyway, our plan was to take the 4 bus down to the industrial stretch where we would load up on six free ponies apiece at the Alaska BrewCo.  Costco was just a stone’s throw away, so we’d use White’s membership to buy some cheap liquor for the weekend ahead.  Heading back to the bus route, we’d take the 2 back up toward Auke Bay, getting off before by the Safeway to grab some dinner with our food stamps (speaking of monikers, they’re actually just swipe cards) and head across the street to the Sand Bar.  Killing a few hours there, we would then rejoin the 2 and take it up to Mendenhall, where we would be guests at the payroll matron’s partner’s house.  There we would drink abhorrent quantities of liquor and beer, mill about in their jacuzzi, and cavort a bit with the education gals that sublet their ground floor.
            That was The Plan, essentially.  We stand around smoking cigarettes and exchanging money so as to have the right chunk of change for the bus.  Baby Dave is upset because his Bic has somehow lost itself in the lining of his coat, while Squat Dan is trying to convince us to pool up our fares in his keeping.  But somehow his math doesn’t seem to be coming out right and god but I need a drink.  The bus finally comes, we file aboard, pay our fares, take our seats - except for Dan, who has to stand at a dignified hunch with his pack.  The Juneau bus is a hell of a thing, but I suppose most public buses are.  Lots of plump Alaska Natives, a cluster of Japanese students, a couple scraggly Vietnam vets, and a handful of elderly folk at the front.  And then us, the scrofulous foul-smelling bearded trail people.
            The first kink in The Plan comes when Droid points out that the brewery closes in thirty minutes, with us still ten or so minutes out.  With a five-minute walk from the stop, that’d leave us some fifteen minutes to drink our six ponies… carry the two… I figure we would have two-and-a-half minutes per glass if we hurried.  The bus chugs along at a maddeningly even pace, past the mall, then the Fred Meyer, then the Wal-Mart and hospital.  Finally - finally! - we approach the industrial stretch and we’re nearly prying open the door before the bus rolls to a stop.  Despite ourselves we’re jogging along, jaywalking and cutting lots and leaving Dan far off behind with his mountainous belongings, cursing us ever the more distantly.
            We save ourselves a couple of minutes as we reach the door to Alaska BrewCo’s little welcome center and gift shop.  The upper echelons of the wall are ringed with empty bottles, grouped and labeled by place of origin.  Nearly every country and every state is there; there are even a few from North Dakota, with ancient-looking labels I’d never heard of.  But I’m not much for the décor at the moment, and head straight on for the little sample bar.  The bartender is an understanding sort of salt called Tony.  He chews the fat with us a bit while we sink back our various ponies of stout and spruce tip and red.  He’s worked at the brewery some twenty years now, been sober for about eighteen of them and is getting ready to retire back to the lower forty-eight, in Iowa.  We tell him a bit about ourselves, each in turn as we wait for the next rounds to come.  Truth be told, I think in all the rush we get seven or eight free glasses apiece; not wanting to be ‘that guy,’ I buy a couple of the big thirty-twos of spruce tip and sink them into my pack.
            Bidding Tony and the BrewCo farewell we jump on up to the Costco.  Dave still can’t get at his lighter, and he’s starting to throw a bit of fit at it.  But we’re well on our way, blitzing through the discount liquor section like sailors on furlough (which we kind of nearly are, in a way).  Among us only Droid isn’t twenty-one, and has to go through the ignominious motions of giving Neal money to buy with.  I opt for a large handle of low-end Scotch whiskey, hoping to obliterate every last vestige of myself before Monday morning.  We all start to rush back to the bus stop, but timekeeper Droid informs us we’ve got another twenty minutes to kill before the 2 rolls along.  We kick up on the curb outside a vacant gravel lot and pull back from our bottles, smoking and chatting and occasionally pissing and always keeping an eye out for the roving patrols of the Juneau City Police.  I nearly laugh myself senseless when Droid pulls out a bottle of Oporto; he didn’t know what it was when he picked it up.
            “Shall we have a spot of sherry before billiards, old bean?” I ask him in my snootiest affect.
            Dan just shakes his head and we all know what he’s going to say, like expecting the rabbit when a second-rate magician paws the inside of his top hat.  “Oh, Droid… so young, so naïve.”  We laugh it up for a bit and start to head back to the bus stop, and I’m feeling nice and vague and forgetful of myself.
            “I love this place!” I shout, and I think everybody more or less agrees with me at the moment.  The bus comes, we mount up et cetera.  The ride is a pleasant blur of laughs, really uneventful like as we unload outside the Safeway.  None of us are particularly hungry though, so we skip on over across the way to the infamous Sand Bar, as wretched a hive of scum and villainy as could be found in these parts.  The place is your typical pit bar, with a couple old wooden tables and chairs mingled with the green-felt pool table and a coupla slot machines, the wood paneled walls and the enormous flatscreen t.v. mounted at the center of the bar, the whole din smelling vaguely of piss and beer and buffalo sauce.  But it’s a Friday night, and the place is crawling with fishermen and bikers, truck drivers, trail-builders and the odd and vaguely out-of-place yacht nobs.
            We recognize a few of the faces from the other work crews, who are getting their drinks paid for by a trawler bloke who’s just hauled it in good.  “I appreciate the work you guysh do for Alashka,” he tells us emphatically, drunk as all hell.  The five of us - including Droid, who is trying to play it cool and not get carded - are included in this magnanimous feeling and he offers to buy us drinks as well.  “What’ll you have?” he asks me sharply.  A Rainier, I tell him, and I guess that’s the magic word because he slaps me on the back and buys me two.  I’m double-fisting the fuckers, not necessarily adding to any conversations but nodding along and laughing, enjoying the positive hell out of myself.  One of the New Hampshire yacht nobs asks us with the faintest sneer if we’re fresh off a boat, which sort of makes my night.  It’s my first time being mistaken for a local, the culmination of a month’s worth of tent-living, labor, and personal neglect.
Exulting besides, I’m finding the evening’s beers are really starting to weigh in on my bladder.  The bar’s bathrooms don’t have any doors or stalls, just being sort of open for the general public to enjoy an eyeful.  I step up and all, but feeling vaguely self-conscious about it I elect to take my piss out in the parking lot instead.  White and Baby Dave are mingling there with another crew lad, burning it up like.  Dave is still Engelbrechting it with his jacket between various pass-arounds.  Finally with a triumphant “A-HA!!” he tears the lining from his windbreaker, the lighter clattering out to the pavement.  “There,” he says amicably as he contentedly lights up, ignoring the tattered lining fluttering about from under his arm.  I join them there, breaking out my briar and the black cavendish I keep in my grandfather’s old leather pouch.
“No shit!” Crew Lad exclaims, and hitting me up for the pouch he surprisingly breaks out a briar of his own.  It’s not long before Squat Dan joins us with his pipe, and soon there’s a small group of scruffy, malodorous young men producing a fragrant and dignified blue cloud of smoke in the Sand Bar parking lot.  A biker comes out for a cigarette and spies us, and after a bit of explaining and a puff he joins along with our group.  His leathery mustachioed friend comes out after him, flabbergasted like.  “You left me to hang out with these, these kayakers!?” he spits, and once again I deflate from local to tourist in the span of ten minutes.
The Sand Bar goes on for hours, and soon Droid is frantically finding us out from the crowd.  “The last bus comes in five minutes!!”  Frantic we were, piling off pell-mell towards the roadside with our bags.  I’m about staggering at this point, beyond the pale of commonplace feelings - feeling pretty damned good, really.  We make a laughing, slurring group of six, and I have to do another headcount as I realize we’ve been joined by a random hanger-on White disdainfully calls “the meth addict sonofabitch.”  We barely make the stop in time to mount the number 2, with the last leg of our night’s journey ahead.
Like I was saying before, we’re all in fairly good spirits as we sit around on the bus toward Mendenhall.  All jokes and jollies and what.  I even have a hearty laugh as we pass the dubiously-named Swampy Acres horseflesh farm with the Purina shield on its sign, before the evening takes another odd turn of pace.  It happens from either side of me.  White was saying something to Dan when the bus driver starts raising his voice at them; meanwhile, an Alaska Native gal at the back asks Dave, Droid and I if we’re from the area and I’m sort of dividing my attentions at this point between the here and there.  We tell her we come from the lower forty-eight as I overhear the driver telling White “no cussing on the bus.”  Neal asks him what he’s “fucking talking about,” while the girl suddenly pipes up that we “don’t belong here” in Alaska.  “You can’t even bait a fish,” she says deprecatingly.
Hell hath no fury I suppose, as Baby Dave all of a sudden stands up to his full height.  “What did YOU SAY!!?  WHAT DID YOU FUCKING WELL SAY!?” he roars at the gal, and Jesus-me if we didn’t have to hold him back from outright braining her there on the bus.  Meanwhile Neal is still arguing with the bus driver in less-than-best terms.  Consequently, our bus comes to a halt.
“All of you, off my bus!” the driver commands us as the doors hiss open to the empty blackness.  We heft off Dave first - still shouting out the gal at the back - and try as best we can to grab all of our gear.  “How do you like them apples, you little shits?” the driver calls to us.  “Don’t bother boarding tomorrow, I’ll just pass you by!!”  And with another hiss the bus roars on off down the way, leaving us to ourselves and the moonless night.
“Well, hell,” I say simply, and we all start laughing as the tension drops away.  Our stop is just up ahead, the night is yet young, and with a cry of dismay Droid realizes he’s left behind his sleeping bag.  We laugh all the harder as Dan again pulls his overused rabbit from the hat.
“Wow, you guys really pissed that driver off,” Meth Addict tells us with a touch of awe as we saunter along with our bottles.  With the slightest glimmer of promise on the chilly air, I inform him the night is far from over.  We walk merrily on into the darkness, smoking and chatting and occasionally pissing and as always, keeping an eye out for those roving patrols of the Juneau City Police.