Absinthe (part 2)

So me and Joyce went out to dinner with Mrs. LaSalle last week. Mrs. LaSalle is the kind of woman who’s 87 and you’d never guess it. After dinner, we went back to her condo so she could show us pictures of the time she climbed Mount Everest with her husband.

And before we settled down to watch the slide show, she made me and Joyce some absinthe.

I know what y’all are thinking – what could be more boringass than some old lady showing you slides of a vacation she took 40 years ago? That’s because y’all don’t know Mrs. LaSalle. She has amazing stories to tell, and she told us stories about the trip and illustrated them with slides. What’s boringass is having someone show you a bunch of slides and tell you about them.

Here’s something else I know nothing about: mountain climbing. But neither did Mrs. LaSalle when she decided to climb Mount Everest. She and Mr. LaSalle took trips all over the world when he was alive, and, when they were on their second safari in Africa, she caught a glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro…and decided there and then that she wanted to climb Mount Everest. Mr. LaSalle went along with it, but Mrs. LaSalle made it clear that he didn’t follow her wherever she decided to go. They took turns choosing destinations. That safari was his idea. I know it’s totally uncool today, but that one was a hunting safari. Mrs. LaSalle even tried her luck with a gun of her own, but she didn’t bag anything. Mr. LaSalle did, and Mrs. LaSalle told us the trophies are still in the family house over on Orange Grove. She could have taken some of them with her when she moved to the condo, but she said she didn’t want a bunch of dead antelope heads staring down on her from 7 feet above the floor. I don’t blame her: that could be kinda scary. I reckon the ceilings in Mr. LaSalle’s trophy room are a lot higher.

So back to Mount Everest. Mrs. LaSalle said climbing Everest has become a lot more comfortable today than it was when she did it in back the mid 1970s. You still had to rough it big time then: the tents looked pretty dang basic in the pictures and Mrs. LaSalle said that most of the sherpa guides spoke no English. She says that today it’s more like staying in a hotel.

I always thought you just put on your mountain climbing shoes, got one of those axe things, then started at the bottom and climbed to the top of Mount Everest. Turns out it’s nothing like that. You spend most of your time getting used to the thin air – so there’s a lot of going up and coming down involved. (You don’t come down as far as you went up, obviously.) Even with that you need oxygen when you get towards the top: there’s something scary called a “death zone” at about 26,500 feet where you can get into serious trouble from lack of oxygen. That’s like when you start having to use an oxygen mask. So it takes over a month to get properly acclimated to the lack of oxygen, and, of course, you have to climb the 26,000 feet to where you need oxygen in the first place. The weather can be a problem too…but the LaSalles were lucky with that and were able to go straight up without having to freeze their asses off in a tent during a snowstorm. (The tents didn’t look too sturdy in the pictures. They weren’t exactly what we used as boy scouts in Smokey Mountains national park, but they looked more like those than you’d think.)

So finally, after a month of living in tents, camping in the snow and freezing cold, and eventually needing oxygen masks, you get to the last stage of the trip and get to climb your way to the summit. That’s the part of the trip that looks like what I thought mountain climbing always looked like – with the axes and the ropes and stuff like that.

Mrs. LaSalle has a picture of herself literally on top of the world. What’s really cool about it is the way everything else in the picture is below her.  She showed us a picture of Mr. LaSalle too. She said he played football and he looked like a pretty big dude, but it was hard to tell how much of it was him and how much of it was parkas and stuff lol. And of course they had those masks on, so you can’t see their faces. Mrs. LaSalle told the guides that she wanted to take her mask off so that people could see it really was her in the picture, but they wouldn’t let her. I guess that’s better than having your nose freeze and fall off lol. We could still tell it was her in the picture, and me and Joyce both thought it was fuckin awesome.

Then she told us the first thing she said to Mr. LaSalle when they got to the summit: “let’s never do this again.”

The way she told us had me and Joyce laughing for at least a whole minute.

One reason we were laughing so hard was because Mrs. LaSalle had been refilling our absinthe glasses, and, when I got up to stretch my legs and help put away the screen, I realized I was pretty dang tore up. I could tell Joyce was too – remember she never drinks anything. (Mrs. LaSalle waited until then to tell us that absinthe is 140 proof when it comes out of the bottle. Sure, what she gave us was diluted with water, but, still, no wonder I was as tore up as I was.)

I told y’all that hard liquor doesn’t do such good things to me, and that, if you give me a few shots of bourbon, I’ll probably end up getting into a fight. Ok, so I obviously wasn’t getting into a fight in Mrs. LaSalle’s living room, but me and Joyce did get into an argument, the biggest we’ve ever had.

The problem was how we were going to get home. Mrs. LaSalle said she’d make us some espresso (she had at least as much absinthe as we did and was totally fine, by the way), but when your dad is Wesson Block and your best friend is Keaton Penner, you don’t mess around with driving drunk. And, let’s face it, I was almost as drunk as a catfish at an Irish wake.

So Joyce got all worked up about what we were going to do. The Tesla was parked in that big parking lot behind the stores on South Lake, and Pasadena has a lameass law that you can’t park on the street between 2 and 6. Believe me: they ticket. Like most people, I found that out the hard way. So we couldn’t leave the car where it was.

Mrs. LaSalle said we could just put it in her space in her building’s garage, since she didn’t have a car any longer. That could have been easy, but we had the problem of how to get the car from the parking lot into the garage. It’s a super short drive, just out of the parking lot and across the street, but I didn’t trust myself behind the wheel even for that short a distance. And I certainly wasn’t going to let Joyce drive the way she was tore up.

Mrs. LaSalle volunteered to move the car herself, but she’d been drinking too. I also reckoned there could be a very good reason why her family took away her car.

Y’all know how chicks get stuck on a problem and keep going around and around? Joyce is usually pretty good about that, but the absinthe made her about as bad as any chick I’ve ever argued with. She was driving me crazy, and we both got pretty mad at each other. Not polecat caught in a bear trap mad, but we were both raising our voices. That’s pretty dang unusual for me. Y’all who’ve been following me for a year may have noticed: I almost never lose my temper.

(The thing I hate about losing my temper isn’t so much that I lose it, but that I instantly get mad at myself for having lost it. Dad taught me that you should never lose your temper: the minute you start yelling at someone, you put yourself in the wrong. Dad was one of those men who almost never lost his temper or raised his voice, but, if he did, watch out. I can think of only one time he lost it with me, the time me and Gardner got caught stealing a can of Copenhagen from the KenJo when we were 14. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that I never even thought of stealing anything else after that. And, believe it or not, the next day Dad apologized to me for having lost his temper. I still got punished big time, but he taught me a good lesson too.)

So I was mad at Joyce, I was mad at myself and Joyce was mad at me. My biggest problem was that there were two chicks in the room, and the two of them just kept going around and around in circles. When I couldn’t stand it anymore I went into the kitchen and took care of the situation: Keaton lives across the street, it was his night off, and I knew he wouldn’t mind moving the Tesla from the parking lot to Mrs. LaSalle’s garage.

So I texted him and of course he said he would be right over to get the keys.

I went back in the living room and told Joyce that I’d solved the situation, and that kind of got her to stop going around in circles. Keaton was there in a few minutes, and, a few minutes after that, the car was in the garage and Keaton went home with the keys, just in case I got any ideas about driving home. Joyce didn’t like that, but y’all probably know Keaton well enough to know that he wasn’t about to leave someone drunk with their car keys.

Then Joyce started going around and around and around about how was she going to get the keys in the morning. It didn’t matter that I kept telling her I’d get up early, Uber down to Keaton’s, get the keys, go across the street to Mrs. LaSalle’s and get the car, and then drive back home. It was simple. But Joyce wasn’t listening to simple, and we were back to being pissed off at each other when our Uber came.





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