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Monday, 17 July
Alley Rats

On Friday my friend D. celebrated his thirtieth birthday, an important milestone for any young man who is interested in denary numeral systems. D. obviously wanted to celebrate in style, and so he chose for his venue a theater close to my heart, a grimy fringe palace noted for, among other thing, its lively rat population.

The wife and I could not resist such a gala event. We showed up and were greeted at the door by A. and R., who filled us in on the latest news: "We found two rats!" Awesome. "One was fresh and the other one . . . " R. trailed off here, and his face took on a greyish cast. "We found two rats," he concluded lamely. A. pensively chewed on his beard hair. I wasn't sure where to go with this conversational gambit, so I punted. "I guess we'll go inside," I said, hurrying along, leaving the duo to their mutual rat reverie.

And you know? Good move, Skot. When presented with verbal evidence of dead-ratness? FORGE AHEAD! This is how to live a life of richness and luxury. We proceeded into the Dead Rat Cathedral.

And greeted many friends! Well, the wife did. Me? Not so much. See, the thing is, I cannot remember people's names to save my life. I'd like to pretend that it's some sort of mnemonic tic of mine, or that I have a kind of Proper Noun Alexia or something, but if I'm honest with myself, it's probably just this: I'm kind of a highly distractable and neurotic prick who doesn't make any kind of effort when it comes to introductions. So if I get introduced to, say, someone named James, I don't make any mental notes to record that fact. Instead, I do things like think about James' ridiculously garish rings, or his bad cargo pants, or the fact that I'm suddenly thinking about how my feet are sweaty. "Hi, I'm James!" he says. These fucking shoes, I'm thinking. And then James has moved on, and I'm still all, I'm going to cut my feet off with a hatchet. And then, weeks later, there's James greeting me like an old friend, and I'm thinking Oh fuck. Feet guy. Which is helpful. Feet guy. And I can't very well say, "What's up, Feet Guy?" So instead I brilliantly revert to the default: "Hey! What's going on, man?" My entire hopeless social life would grind to a scorching halt without that placeholder "man."

Later, I rasp to the wife, "Who's that guy? I know I know him, but I forget his name." The wife is kind to me, but still betrays some measure of exasperation. "It's James. He saved your life that one time in Myanmar. You always call him 'Feet Guy'."

"Oh, God, right," I mutter, and then forget James' name seconds later. Because, you know, remembering the names of your friends is hard. Especially names as exotic as "James."

So I wandered among the nameless wraiths for some time, making jaw-clicking small talk with these friendly mysteries when the Big Event came nigh.

See, D., for reasons best known to himself and his luckless girlfriend had decided to ring in his thirtieth with . . . a food fight. They had even laid tarps down in the alley, for the purposes of, I suppose, not filthifying the theater itself. Because you don't want to get a nice rat-infested theater all messy.

A food fight. This sounded awful beyond all comprehension, but there were many willing participants. My friend Lisa had come equipped with some strange sort of Silkwoodian bodysuit, complete with smoked square eye-apertures; she was particularly adorable when she favored us with an impromptu pre-fight little hornpipe. It looked like Smee if he were receiving rhythmic electric shocks. Another friend, C., eschewed any protective gear at all, and opted to participate in his underwear. I would dearly love to claim that this was especially horrifying, but the fact remains that I once was (at another time, in another theater) an event at which C. had his balls waxed.

Yeah.

Oh, I didn't mention one other salient fact: for some reason best known only to D., for the duration of the food fight, our friend K. was also to sing Michael McDonald's "What A Fool Believes" over the sound system. K. employs a disturbingly awful McDonald imitation, complete with his throaty, half-gulped vocal style that resembles yards of innocent bullfrogs being crushed under tractor wheels. This was the soundtrack for the food fight.

I can only recall certain moments, such as someone being hit with an explosion of what appeared to be croutons. I know that dill pickles were involved, and I also remember an arterial spray of ketchup hitting a nearby wall.

"WHAT A FOOOL BELIEEEEEEEEEEEEEVES . . . "

There was L., running around like the avatar of white piracy, hurling--were they hot dogs?--something at someone. C. seemed to be patrolling the perimeter, looking for discarded food to recycle, his underwear glinting in the moonlight. An entire bottle of ranch dressing seemed to Krakatoa at the epicenter of the fight.

K., meanwhile, had given up even trying to bother with the McDonald lyrics, which he had clearly forgotten, or mistranscribed, and had adopted an unforgivable kind of adenoidal scatting technique to accopany the gustatory mayhem transpiring in the alley.

"HOOP HEP HAWN DIP DE DANGLE DAR DUNG BE-MEEEEEEE . . . "

By the end, with K.'s howling drifting back down into a subharmonic range, the place looked like some unspeakable culinary Holocaust. L.'s pristine white suit-thing seemed to be caked with distilled nausea, and D., the celebant, wearing an ill-fitting wool suit, appeared to have been violently raped by a Cobb salad. The alley was a desolate horror of sights and smells, and I have no doubt that local rats were sitting on the sidelines twitching with vast anticipation.

We learned later that at least two people had vomited in the midst of the battle. D. had apparently received a stripe of ketchup across his lip, which was, along with the admixture of other evocative scents, enough to make him let it go. I suspect the jar of tartar sauce. Where did he puke? "Right in the middle of the tarps," I heard second-hand.

I'd love to tell you all these people's names. But to be honest? I can't remember a single one of them.


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Comments

Well that explains your liberal use of initials in your posts, although I"ll forgive your lapse for coining the phrase "gustatory mayhem". Here I was thinking it was for the sake of privacy and it's really because you cannot get beyond simple rodents, poor footwear choices, and other such minutiae. Sheesh. Women want to hack off their feet quite reguIarly -- have you ever looked at OUR footwear?

However, I can appreciate the food fight since for our going-away party several years ago my mother-in-law set up a surprise pie fight and it was LOADS of fun! (even sans vomit and hot dogs)

And, as far as we knew, sans rats.

What IS interesting is that you have no trouble remembering the name "Michael McDonald". Now THAT'S a shame.

Comment number: 007787   Posted by: Tess on July 18, 2006 02:17 PM from IP: 193.77.107.127

I'm trying to decide whether this is entirely truthful, embellished truth, or almost completely fiction. I've come to the conclusion that no man could have created this in its entirety. And yet, Michael McDonald? That part MUST be fiction.

Comment number: 007800   Posted by: Amanda on July 19, 2006 11:20 PM from IP: 67.37.176.158

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