My birthday is November 8. That was a Friday this year, and I spent it with Joyce. The next night was time to go out with the guys. Nearly the whole team took me out to the Dave & Buster’s in Arcadia; the only guys who weren’t there were our pitcher (who never does anything social with us…he’s Indian and we all figure it’s a cultural thing) and Adam (since it can’t be fun being the only sober person surrounded by a bunch of drunkass young guys.) Everyone else was there: Sloppy Joe, Keaton, Josh, Travis, David, Dave and Trey, plus Travis’ brother Dylan, who’s become a kind of Honorary Parrot.
It was Sloppy Joe’s idea that we go to Dave and Buster’s. We went to Buca for my birthday last year, and he said we should mix it up some. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a Dave & Buster’s, and we’ve never been there as a team…so it sounded like a real good idea. I reckon y’all know me well enough now to know that I’m not going to turn my nose up at an evening of wings, pizza, beer and video games. Especially if people are gonna sing “Happy Birthday” to me while I’m there.
Everybody decided to uber so we could drink and not worry. I live on the way from Keaton’s to Arcadia, so he came over to my place for a few minutes to drop off my present. The car was waiting, but I wanted to open the box in front of him as close to my birthday as possible.
I thought I was dreaming or something when I opened the box: it contained a Dodgers hat and tshirt, both saying ‘2019 NLDS Champions’ like they were from a parallel universe. Last time I checked, the Dodgers totally humiliated themselves and lost the series to the Nationals.
“The fuck??,” I asked.
Keaton was more grinning than smirking. “They’re from what the team would have put on on the field if they’d won,” he explained. “It was Game 5. They had hats and tshirts made up for both teams.”
“Yeah, but don’t they destroy the ones made up for the team that loses?” That’s what I heard my whole baseball life.
“I reckon they must.”
“So how did you…?”
“Connections, bubba. Connections. Just be careful where you wear it…you don’t want too many people asking questions where you got them. Now get your pretty boy ass in gear before the uber dude gets pissed off for having to wait.”
I wore my ‘backwards’ Dodger hat – the one that has the LA logo on the back so you can see it when you wear the hat turned around – along with a blue tshirt, jeans, one of our jean jackets, my super comfortable scuffed up cowboy boots and the necklace from Joyce. I had the new wallet in my pocket too. The uber dude didn’t seem to care that we’d kept him waiting, and it didn’t take long getting to Dave & Buster’s from my house.
I don’t think I’ve written about video games before, probably because they’re not all that important to me. Sure, I had an Xbox in my room when I was growing up, and I think I had every baseball video game there was…but I preferred the real thing so much that I’d rather of been out in the snow playing catch than inside in the warm house stuck to a video game controller. I’m not saying I was too smart or too into being fit for video games, and I played my fair share of them, but me and my buddies weren’t into them the way some other dudes my age were.
There may be another reason why I wasn’t so into video games: nobody wanted to play with me. I wrote a few posts back about how competitive I am, even if I don’t always show it – but to make it even as far as I did in the pro baseball world, you need to be pretty dang competitive. Dad taught me to be a team player and a good loser on the field, so I don’t usually let on about my desire to crush the life out of the other team. But, trust me, it’s there. And I can’t stand to lose. Still, I may get pissed off inside about shit that happens during games…but don’t look at me if you wanna see a Kung Pao-style hissy fit.
Video games are another story. Play one with me and you really will find out how competitive I can get. I play for fuckin blood…and I don’t just mean the blood that squirts out when you get attacked by zombies in Zombie Invaders from Outer Space lol.
Growing up, the one who was really good at video games was Gardner. He could kick both my and Turner’s asses at most games, which wasn’t ok with me. There were more than a few times when I wouldn’t let Gardner go home until I’d beaten him and Dad had to come and break it up.
So the guys on the team didn’t really know this side of me until we started playing at Dave & Buster’s. We mostly played two-player games, and I did pretty good at most of them. I didn’t win every time, but I had a couple beers by that point and they’d dulled my competitive instincts some.
Then we discovered Zombie Invaders from Outer Space (I wasn’t making the name up lol.) Ok, so the game is totally awesome. Like the name says, it’s a space game and a zombie game all at the same time. That means plenty of shit exploding (and the exploding graphics are awesome) and plenty of brains and gore when the zombies get out of their spaceship. The thing is totally addicting: it’s one of those games you can’t stop playing once you’ve started. Everyone thought it was the best game in the place, and we pretty much took it over for the time we were there. Sloppy Joe and Travis got just as addicted as I did, so, if I wasn’t playing it, one or both of them were.
It was all fun, and I wasn’t getting crazy competitive or anything…
…until Keaton said he wanted to play the birthday boy.
And he kicked my ass.
Then it was Gardner all over again. Nobody was going home until I had my revenge.
Everybody thought it was hilarious. Even the people working there, who finally let us play it for free. Everybody was telling Keaton to lose on purpose and let the birthday boy win…but that’s not knowing Keaton Penner. If he can kick your ass at something, he’s gonna kick your ass. He’s not gonna let anyone win. Least of all me. And even leaster of all me on my birthday lol.
We didn’t make them keep the place open just for us until 4 AM, but we did need to go until closing time before I won. Yeah, I finally beat him. Fair and square. Twice in a row. Ok, I totally kicked his ass the second time, and, yeah, that felt better than all the birthday presents I got. Of course he said we now need to go back some Wednesday for unlimited wings and play for him to give me a serious video game ass kicking.
Bring it on, man.
The time has gone so fast that it’s been two months since Travis got out of the hospital, and I’m real glad to report that he’s looking good. He was definitely into Dave & Buster’s, and was better at most of the games than most of us. (The real overall champion of the evening must have been Trey, but, according to Travis, he sits in his room and plays video games all day. Parrots games are like the only time he sees daylight lol.) Me and Travis didn’t get to have a private talk, but he did have a couple beers – after he told both me and Keaton that he’d gotten off the medication that was keeping him from drinking. He says he feels better and livelier without it. This was the best he’s looked since everything that happened over Labor Day. Still, I like to stay in touch with him: we text pretty regularly, I’ve been over to swim a few times, and it’s been a while since he’s said anything about being super depressed.
In case anyone was wondering, the wings are dang good at Dave & Buster’s; the pizza’s not bad either. The beer selection is very good…and you gotta admit the place is fun. It’s perfect for a birthday party, and we all had a great time. I bet Adam would have had fun if he’d come too. We got a little noisy, but nobody got stupidass drunk or anything. And it’s not a place where getting a little noisy is a problem. People even came by the table and wished me a happy birthday. Y’all know I like that. Even from total strangers.
We all ubered home at closing time. Well…most of us ubered home. David, Dave, Travis and Trey did what outfielders do and headed off to a strip club. I was glad to see Travis going with them again. They asked the rest of us to go along, of course…even offered me a free birthday dance…but no one else was in the mood. I had church and work the next day. And, besides, I have a steady girlfriend who might not understand about strip clubs.
So it was a great birthday – both days of it. I got an awesome picnic and an awesome present from Joyce and a great night out from my buddies. I even got a cool gift from Keaton: I can put the hat on and pretend we beat the Nats lol.
So now I’m 27. I don’t feel old or anything, but I realize I’m not a 22 year old jerkoff who gets into fights anymore either. Everything has its time; I reckon Ecclesiastes is right about that, and now I’m at the age where I’ve got a steady girlfriend and I’m thinking about maybe even getting a more responsible job than the one I’ve got. Hard to believe, but my decision to leave pro ball is three years behind me already.
Maybe I am old lol. Naah, nobody old wouldn’t have been playing Zombie Invaders from Outer Space the way I was at Dave & Buster’s lol.