For my birthday last week, Joyce gave me an amazing present – a necklace just like the one Cody Bellinger wears under his jersey. She also took me out to an awesome steakhouse, decorated the house in a baseball birthday theme, and got me a Dodgers ice cream cake with 26 candles. She also had at least a hundred red balloons, since she knows red is my favorite color and I’m kind of a little kid when it comes to balloons. I thought there were a lot of balloons in the living room. Then I got a look at the bedroom.
When I got back home the next morning, I showered and used the razor that was Dad’s present (he’s right: it gives a really smooth clean shave.) Then I put on a v neck so I could show off he necklace at work. Since I work almost only with chicks, I figured it would get noticed. It did. They all said it looked great. And nobody went “ooh ooh black diamonds.” That was good: black diamonds sound gay, even if the necklace isn’t. Knowing what it’s made out of doesn’t make the necklace any cooler.
Since I’d celebrated on my real birthday with my girlfriend, the next night, Friday, was my buddies’ turn to celebrate with me. So they took me out to Buca di Beppo, which has kind of become a Parrots tradition. That means a ton of food, plenty of beer and a real fun time. You can get plenty loud at Buca de Beppo. Not exactly the same as the fancy steakhouse the night before with Joyce, but definitely a great way to celebrate your birthday.
Let me make it clear: it was my guy friends who suggested we have the Buca di Beppo party. So you (and y’all know who I mean by “you”) can’t say it wasn’t a case of me being super gay and telling everyone when my birthday is.
There were seven of us: Sloppy Joe, Josh and the whole outfield – Travis (right), Dave (right center), David (left center) and Trey (left) . So we weren’t enough people for the big table at the back with the lazy susan with the Pope’s head on it. (I’m not making that up. There really is a lazy susan with the Pope’s head on it.) Instead we got a table with in the room next to it, so I could see the Pope’s head from where I was sitting. I’m not sure what Meemaw would have to say about that…
Buca di Beppo serves great big platters of stuff like spaghetti and meatballs. It’s not fancy foodieass Italian food. But it’s a great place to take a hungry softball team. We ordered a ton of food – more than the waitress said we should – and we finished every last bite of it. 8 oz. meatballs don’t stand a chance against me and Sloppy Joe lol. We had fried calamari and mozzarella and shrimp for an appetizer, then veal parmigiana and spaghetti and meatballs (extra meatballs), baked rigatoni (with sausage)…and don’t forget the garlic bread. Then we got the giant brownie sundae that they don’t expect you to finish. We did. (Of course it came with a candle in it and a bunch of the waiters came over to sing Happy Birthday.)
I wore a black v neck, and it was Trey who first caught that I had a Cody Bellinger necklace. Everybody said it was cool. And nobody said it was gay.
Although I knew I had that coming. Keaton couldn’t come to dinner since he had to work. The Volcano is across Green and up the alley from Buca di Beppo, but the cigar shop that’s directly across Green from the restaurant looked real good after that huge dinner. The guys all wanted to check out Rocco’s instead. That was ok, but I only like it there when there’s a game to watch. Ok, sure, there was a game on the TVs, but it was the wrong sport lol. After a couple beers, the outfielders did like they do every Friday, and headed off to a strip club. That left me and Josh and Sloppy Joe and we headed over to the Volcano.
It was one of those nights when it gets dang cold for California. We get winter and snow back in Maryville, but when it gets under 50 here it feels freezing cold. I came prepared for hanging out on the Volcano’s patio: I had a hoodie over my v neck and one of our jean jackets over that. Keaton was at the door in just the kind of super beat-up looking leather jacket you’d expect him to have.
First thing out of his mouth: “where’s the gayass necklace?”
We got our drinks and sat out on the patio for a while, then went back inside to warm up and get refills. While Dani was getting them for us, Keaton came inside and got everyone quiet for an announcement. (He’s like 6’3” in cowboy boots and is real good at getting people’s attention.)
Once everyone was listening, he started in: “Yesterday was my buddy Hunter’s birthday. He gets all super gay about it and likes it when people sing Happy Birthday to him. So I’m gonna ask y’all to be super gay and sing Happy Birthday to Hunter. That’s Hunter. H-U-N-T-E-R. He’s the dude over there in the jean jacket. One…two…three…”
So the whole bar sang Happy Birthday to me. I was torn between thinking it was awesome and figuring out how to get Keaton back.
And Dani gave me a free birthday beer.
Since I wasn’t going to worry about how many beers I was having on my birthday, I took an uber to the restaurant and reckoned Keaton would give me a ride home. So I stuck around after closing again. Keaton gave me another of those Short Story cigars he likes to smoke after the bar closes, and Miguel told me again that I wasn’t gonna be so pretty no more if I got ash on the floor lol. He also must have said it was fuckin freezing 25 times.
Then Keaton and I headed out together to the De Lacey garage. I got a big surprise when we got to the truck and he took off his jacket. He had a gun in a holster on and was locking it in one of the compartments in back so he could drive.
He saw the look on my face. I’ve been cool with guns since Papaw taught me to shoot. I just wasn’t expecting Keaton to be carrying one under his jacket.
“If you think I’m going to work security at a bar this weekend without a gun, you’re fuckin crazy.” There had been a terrible shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks a few days earlier, and Keaton means it when he says he believes that a good guy with a gun is the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun. He’s had all kinds of experience keeping people safe (good guys and bad guys), so I reckon he knows what he’s talking about. But thank God he didn’t need to use the gun.
I wasn’t sure I should ask, but I asked anyway:
“Do you have a concealed carry permit?”
“Fuck yeah. Do you think I’d walk around with a gun under my jacket if I didn’t?”
You can’t always be sure with Keaton. Although I know he likes it that way.
“I just thought concealed carry permits were hard to get. And I can’t believe California accepts Alaska permits.”
“You don’t need a permit to carry a gun in Alaska. One reason I liked living up there.”
“All depends on who you know.”
I knew that that and a smirk was all I was going to get. And they say we Scorpios are the mysterious ones lol.
We hit the IHOP after that. I’m not sure how, but I was hungry again. After Keaton told her it was el guapo’s birthday, Alicia gave me a birthday kiss.
“I reckoned you still want to be super gay about your birthday even if it was two days ago already,” Keaton said when we were at our table. “Now let me see the necklace.”
We were sitting next to one of the windows, and it was kinda cold inside, so I just pulled it out over the front of my hoodie. The way I told Cody Bellinger not to wear his.
“It’s super gay,” he said, like I knew he would. “But pretty fuckin cool. That’s one hell of a girlfriend you got, bubba.”
I said I knew. We ordered our country fried steak, eggs and pancakes, then Keaton said he had to go get something from the truck. I reckoned he meant the gun, but he came in carrying a big box instead. I wasn’t sure if he was going to get me a present, and he’d kept me waiting for it, but he did after all.
“Happy birthday, bubba,” he said as he handed me the box.
I opened it…and inside was this fuzzy blue and white pillow with a big Dodgers logo in the middle:
It was actually kinda nice and soft, but…
“I wanted to get you the gayest Dodgers thing they made.”
I reckon he succeeded.