The Saturday morning after me and Keaton visited Travis in the hospital (that was September 7) I got a call from Josh, the Parrots’ captain, asking if I wanted to have a guys night out with him and his buddy Dylan that night. Dylan’s Travis’ older brother; I got to know him this summer when he filled in for several Parrots when they were on vacation. He’s a cool guy, and I reckoned that, with his brother in the hospital, he might need a night to relax and get away from his worries. Since Keaton was working, I suggested we ask Sloppy Joe to come with us. Yeah, he was a pain in the ass the last time we went out, but that was because his super hot girlfriend had just dumped him. He’s got a new girlfriend now, so I reckoned we could be pretty sure that we’d be getting the fun Sloppy Joe this time.
Josh said he’d been having a craving for Buca di Beppo. His wife’s from a real Italian family, so, she wouldn’t be caught dead at an American Italian restaurant like Buca…but sometimes you just gotta have a big platter of spaghetti and meatballs or veal parmesan. I know real Italians don’t eat spaghetti and meatballs, but, c’mon…spaghetti and meatballs is good. I was definitely down for some.
I told y’all before that Buca is a great place to take hungry softball players. The prices are pretty good, and you certainly get a shitload of food for your money. It’s the kind of place that serves portions they don’t expect you to finish…but that’s not reckoning with guys like me and Sloppy Joe. When we ordered our spaghetti and meatballs, the waitress asked if we wanted any extra meatballs with it. I reckon I gotta explain that Buca makes 8 oz. meatballs. That’s one big ole meatball, but they’re dang good. Josh and Dylan said they were okay with what came with the order of spaghetti, but then me and Sloppy Joe got started. We were definitely getting one extra…then Sloppy Joe said he could finish one by himself. So we were getting two. Maybe three…if Josh and Dylan wanted any extra. They said they were cool again, but then Sloppy Joe said maybe he’d want more than just one. I was about to say that maybe we should get four, when Josh broke in.
“Whoa…guys. Are you fuckin nuts? You’re gonna order four extra giant meatballs? I’ve seen you two pack it away, but it’s like you two are getting ready for some kind of fucked up meatball eating contest…”
Sloppy Joe’s eye caught mine. We were having the same idea.
“You game, man?,” I asked him.
“Game if you are, little guy.”
Maybe I need to remind y’all that Sloppy Joe weighs 275 to my 185.
“So we each order 2 for starters. Then we keep ordering ‘em until someone gives up.”
“Will you guys chill? You’re not having a meatball eating contest on my watch.”
“We’ve had meatball eating contests before,” said the waitress. “You can go for the all-time record.”
“I don’t even want to hear how many meatballs that is,” said Josh.
Me and Sloppy Joe looked at each other. We both looked disappointed…but it was Josh’s night out. We could always come back another time.
“We’ll have two extra meatballs,” said Josh. “Don’t you want to save room for ice cream?,” he asked me.
Josh doesn’t know me well enough to know that I could eat meatballs until I passed out, then come to and have a strawberry sundae lol.
Ok, so I’ll admit that the two extra meatballs was enough…although I could easily have packed away another one without trying too hard.
But that left plenty of room for ice cream…although we didn’t order that huge brownie sundae they got for me for my birthday. But what we got was big enough for me to think about challenging Sloppy Joe to an ice cream eating contest. No way I was losing that one lol.
You always get up pretty full from all the spaghetti and all the beer at Buca, which didn’t leave any of us in the mood for Rocco’s afterwards. We wanted something more chill, and Dylan suggested we head for the cigar lounge across the street from Buca.
I’ve lived in Pasadena all this time and I’ve never tried the place out; I’ve never been out with a group of guys interested in going there. Even before we got inside we got hit by this big cloud of cigar smoke, but cigar smoke smells good, and the place looked real nice and chill. There were two rows of comfortable looking leather chairs facing each other and a walk-in humidor at the far end. It wasn’t that crowded, so there were chairs for the four of us to choose from. Maybe it was early for a Saturday night. Or late. Hard to tell when you’ve never been to a place before.
I like cigars, but I’m willing to admit I don’t know a whole lot about them. The ones I know best are the Short Story ones Keaton likes, so all I knew was that I wanted to try something different. The humidor there is big, but it’s not big enough for four pretty big guys (Josh and Dylan are pretty solid like me…and Sloppy Joe is fuckin big), so me and Sloppy Joe waited outside while Josh and Dylan went in with the dude working there to pick their cigars. Me and Sloppy Joe went in next. Sloppy Joe does know about cigars, so I let him get something for me. I think the brand was Padron, and Sloppy Joe said something about it being ‘box pressed’, which I reckon means that it’s one of those cigars that are kinda square instead of being round. He told me he picked out the ‘maduro’ (he told me how to spell the word) wrapper, and that I was in for a treat. It was a little under twenty bucks, which seemed fair, judging from the prices on the other boxes. I got the feeling this wasn’t a place you came to when you wanted cigar bargains. (That’s probably why Keaton orders his Short Storys in the mail.)
There were some guys having a lively conversation at one end of the rows of chairs, but we settled down a couple seats down from that so we could go on talking to each other. That was actually pretty cool: cigars are relaxing, and I’ve never had a really relaxed conversation with Josh or Sloppy Joe. I see them most often at games, and you can’t have a really chill talk with your buddies in the dugout or on the field.
Maybe because it was a cigar lounge and not a bar, we got to talking about the women in our lives and how they’d feel about us having this kind of a guys night out where we came home a little drunk and covered in cigar smoke. Josh has been married for two years, and his wife gives him one night out a month with the guys, no questions asked. That sounded like a great deal to me, although Josh says that his wife enjoys the night with him out of the house just as much as he enjoys being out with his buddies.
Dylan’s not married yet, but he’s engaged to the woman he’s been living with for 3 years already. They’re going to have a Christmas wedding, and it sounds like it’s gonna be a fuckin huge affair. He and Josh have been best buddies forever (Josh is going to be his best man), so Dylan asked his girlfriend if he could have the same deal Josh gets. He said his girlfriend doesn’t love the idea, but so far she’s going along with it. Although he has gotten in trouble with his girlfriend for doing things like putting a smoky shirt in with the rest of the dirty clothes. (Now he knows to put his cigar clothes in the washing machine when he gets home, before he goes to bed. Unless he comes home too drunk to remember lol.)
I told y’all that Sloppy Joe has a new girlfriend. For once, he went and got himself a nice one after all the super hot ones he’s had since I first met him. He says he’ll try anything once lol. He showed us some pictures of the new girlfriend on his phone, so don’t get the idea that she’s nice but ugly. She’s definitely pretty, if you like the petite type. But she’s not supermodel material like some of his other girlfriends were. He met her through a dude he works with and that it’s been going good for getting on 2 months. He’s like me when it comes to being pursued, though, and this girlfriend talks about relationship stuff a lot. He’s not loving that. She also kicked up a fuss about our guys night out. They’re not living together or anything like that, but she asked a lot of questions about where he was going and who would be there and what time he was planning on getting home.
And what about me and my girlfriend?
Joyce is even cooler than Josh’s wife. She lets me hang out with Keaton and the guys practically whenever I want. I’m spending two or three nights a week at Joyce’s house these days, so she gets to see me a lot. But she has her own life and her hobbies and her own friends, and, just like she’d get in the way of me hanging with Keaton, I’d get in the way of her bridge game or crafting time. So we get time apart. Plus, no matter how much I hate them, MooMoo and NumNums don’t deserve to be locked up in the guest room every night.
So we decided Joyce won the cool girlfriend prize. I’m looking forward to telling her that.
We were only about half done with our cigars by the end of that conversation, by which time a couple guys had settled into the chairs between us and the group of guys that were there when we came in. So all the conversations blended and it turned out pretty cool. Me, Josh and Sloppy Joe are always down for talking about the Dodgers, and there was one guy there who was on his way home from the game wearing a Justin Turner jersey. The expensive kind with the number in red on the front. He was pretty interested when he found out I used to play pro ball, although he never heard of Hickory. Other Southerners’ll know what I mean when I say he’s the kind of Yankee who acts as though you’re the first Southerner they’ve ever met lol.
The dude who took the chair next to me was older, around 45 I’d guess, and he was wearing a silencer tshirt. That’s silencer as in guns, but nobody reacted to the shirt the way they would in some places in California. The dude was a lot of fun to talk to, even if some of the shit he said was way out there. He had a bunch of conspiracy theories…but the way he talked about them I was never sure he actually believed any of them.
We hung out in the cigar shop longer than I thought we had. It was past midnight when I looked at my watch…and Sloppy Joe had started getting texts from his girlfriend asking if he was home yet. He called an uber and said good night. I thought it was kinda weirdass that, when he was dating smoking hot models, he managed to hang onto his balls. It’s the nice girl who’s taking ‘em away from him.
That left me with Dylan and Josh…and the Volcano just around the alley corner as a logical next destination.