Spring Cleaning - Kung-Fu Fighting - Doobie Brothers
In the 5th century B.C.E., the ancient historian Herodotus reported of warrior women who rode the steppes of southern Russia. According to him, the Greeks defeated the Amazons at the battle of Thermondon and took many captives. During the sea voyage home, the women killed their captors, seized the ship and got caught in a storm. The storm brought them to shore, where they faced another army, the Scythians. The Scythians eventually made peace with the Amazons and produced children. The result was a matriarchal society known as the Sauromatians, later replaced by the Sarmatians. According to Herodotus, the Scythians called the Amazons "Oiorpata," which means "man killer."
How to describe the last couple of weeks? Pretty much everyone in the house has undergone some kind of change - a spring-cleaning of sorts. Dust and cobwebs have been brushed away, mold scraped off, old grudges and problems forgotten or forgiven. The long days and nights spent in front of the Playstation or The Simpsons or Baywatch Hawaii have given way to actual discussions (usually about Baywatch Hawaii, but still) or trips around the neighborhood (usually to the local falafel place, but still) things have definitely been improving.
Progress doesn't happen overnight folks.
Even the apartment looks nicer (as nice as can be when five guys share one bathroom). There is a noticeable lack of beer cans; an ashtray has been purchased, rather than the cans acting as secondary ones; garbage is taken out regularly, floors have been mopped, dishes washed, and some crucial elements that have been absent for weeks - dishwashing liquid, soap, toothpaste - have returned.
Why this sudden change? Is it simply the warm weather and sunshine affecting us so?
Hell No - it's because girls have started coming over.
Nearly everyone in the house, in one way or another, is getting some. And please, ladies, particularly those of the conservative bent, or (God forbid) some of those Born Again Virgin freaks, do not judge. We are not putting Roofies in drinks or luring naïve girls over with empty promises. We are simply having a good time. Everyone included is having a good time.
It is springtime.
So all is well. I do recall, however, a strange evening of recent memory, just before the weather turned. It was raining, I believe, and if not raining, than certainly cold. A number of us were gathered in the apartment (also before its miraculous transformation), the Playstation was in full force, our friend Vaughn's joints were being passed around like lollipops, and an entire bottle - nay, a tub - of vodka was circling the room, which was gulped up in a surprisingly short amount of time.
After a while we began to grow restless - our cumulative energy growing too large for the confines of the living room - so Nancy suggested we go to a party some guy told her about. This guy had kind of a strange name, which I still have not been able to figure out. It sort of sounded like Beavis, but the closest association I - and everyone else - had was Penis. So we were going to a Penis party. Hurrah!
The party was in a woodworking shop, which was kind of cool, except that there was sawdust everywhere, and every time someone jumped the DJ's records would skip. In addition, the shop consisted of only two rooms: a large one by the entrance which was so well-lit as to be almost uncomfortable, and one in the back - the dance floor - which was pitch black. I visualized dancing with someone and imagining her all Liv Tyler-ish, then the lights coming on and discovering she was more like her father. So I spent most of my time in the bright room, which was fine (no surprises), until they ran out of alcohol.
By this time, however, no one cared. The vodka was kicking in, the joints were kicking in, and Vaughn, for some reason, was feeling it more than anyone else. He had also played Tekken3 for the past couple hours straight, and was confusing the video game with reality. Without warning, he would begin making Bruce Lee noises and start mock-attacking one of us. Usually his target was Luke, who was equally inebriated and also a Tekken addict. While to us their battles - complete with surprisingly complex karate moves, high-pitched screams and loads of overacting - were nothing more than some happy-go-lucky lushes getting some jollies, to most others at the party they appeared to be seriously fighting. Soon we were all escorted outside, where the entire thing evolved into an all-out brawl.
There was kicking. Hitting. Biting. Karate chops. Ducks. Dodges. Screams. Cries. Moans. Yelps. It was fantastic.
Within minutes we were all out of breath and panting like mad, literally lying prone on the sidewalk. Vaughn's apartment was mere blocks away, so we decided to try and make it at least that far, where the roof provided an incredible view of Manhattan. Beavis/Penis, who was nowhere to be found previously, miraculously turned up and tagged along.
Now you have to understand what was happening here. There was me, Vaughn, Luke, Lane, Nancy, two other guys I didn't really know and Penis. All of us except for Penis were totally fucking wasted. So we get in the elevator to go up to the roof, and Vaughn is attempting to roll another joint. By now he is so gone that he can barely speak or stand, let alone do anything that requires a semblance of skill or concentration. He slides down onto the floor and sits there, the half-rolled joint in his palm, tongue sticking out, looking much like a severely dehydrated dog.
When we get to the top floor, the joint has not been rolled. Vaughn refuses to get up, and wants nothing more than to remain in the elevator, eyes half-closed, at peace. We try to move him but he won't budge.
"In or out," he commands, and because he has the pot, no one wants to go out. So we ride the elevator down to the first floor, then back up to the top. No effort has been made whatsoever to roll anything. When the doors open, the two guys I don't know get off.
"We're going up to the roof," says one of them.
"I want to go too," echoes Penis. "Anyone else? You're coming, right Nancy?"
Nancy gives him a look that says 'I never take orders from people named after appendages,' but she feels bad for him so she goes with him.
Now it is simply me, Vaughn, Lane and Luke. Once the doors close, Vaughn wakes up a little.
"Well we finally got rid of them!" he says, grinning and squinting at us. We all sit down on opposite sides of the elevator, grinning as well.
"What about that joint?" asks Lane.
"What about it?" asks Vaughn.
"Well, aren't you going to roll it?"
"Well I'd really like to smoke it tonight," says Lane. Luke and I nod. Vaughn only grimaces, and tries again to feebly roll the joint. He gets nowhere.
We are now back on ground level, when the doors open and a bunch of people get in. We nod at them nonchalantly, as if what's going on - four fucked-up morons sitting around in an elevator - is the most natural thing in the world. Strangely, they act just as unaffected. Vaughn asks what floor they want and he pushes the button for them. They get off and we wave at them.
We go up and down a few times before some more people get on. One of them, a guy with Weird Al Yankovic hair and a mustache, actually takes the joint out of Vaughn's hand and rolls it for him. We all look up at him like he's a saint - the harsh overhead elevator light illuminating his curly red locks like a halo - and then he and his friends exit.
"That was beautiful," says Luke, without irony.
Finally, we get back to the tenth floor, where we have almost convinced Vaughn to come up to the roof with us. He only makes it as far as the steps, however, and tells us he'll meet us up there later on. He just needs to rest. We agree and race up to the roof.
And the view is spectacular. I mean, truly outstanding. The Williamsburg Bridge stretches before you at almost eye level, and the famous New York skyline is picture postcard perfect.
Luke immediately lights up the joint and holds it above his head like a torch, Lady Liberty reduced to a goateed stoner on a tenement rooftop.
"Come and get it," he bellows dramatically.
Everyone gathers around him, looking on adoringly, waiting their turn. It is both amusing and sad.
I don't really want any so I walk to the far side of the roof and stare out at Manhattan, at the familiar buildings that adorn calendars and coffee table books all over the world, the countless lives existing inside and around them. How many microcosms like ours are out there I wonder, the little groups crowded into apartments, on rooftops, in backyards, throughout every city, every state, country and continent? How many have spent half the night in an elevator?
I'm lost in thought until someone taps me on the shoulder and I spin around. It's Vaughn, recovered from his malaise, with a fresh joint in his hand. He hands it to me and we smoke, together, looking out at the city in silence.
Suddenly, Lane comes over and wedges himself between us.
"Goddammit," he says in his thick southern drawl, "imagine all the fucking pussy down there right now waiting to be had."
And, for the next few minutes, we do.