When we got to Old Town following dinner, the vibe was pretty dang weird. I didn’t know if there was gonna be a whole bunch of people and lines to get into the bars, or whether the place would be deserted still from people used to the lockdown. It was more the second. We could see that there were a few people in White Horse Tavern from where the uber dropped us off, but the place looked super empty at 25% capacity. Sloppy Joe suggested we walk down to the corner to check the cigar lounge out. It had a few more people, but maybe cigar lounges operate at bigger capacity than bars at this point. I have trouble keeping all the lameass rules straight.
We then all met up in the alley and headed for the Volcano. There wasn’t a line, but there was Keaton standing in front, along with another dude I never saw before. Since he was wearing a black tshirt like Keaton, I figured he was Miguel’s replacement. Neither he nor Keaton were wearing masks, so I could see the new guys was a good-looking latino dude and just about my size as opposed to Miguel’s 300#…but no one said that a light heavyweight can’t take care of himself and a few other people if he needs to. He also looked real young…like almost too young to be working at a bar.
25% capacity is not a whole lot of people in a place you’re used to seeing very crowded on Saturday nights. There were people standing at the bar, but not three or four deep as they sometimes were before COVID. I was glad to see that Dani was at her regular post, but she was working solo. I forgot to ask about gayass Robert, so for all I know, he could have moved out of LA too…or gone into a totally different line of work. Remember: the last time anyone at the Volcano saw me, I was all proud about my new job at the hotel.
“I’ve been following you on TV, Heartthrob,” Dani said. “You certainly look good on camera. I even checked out your Twitter…but tell me you don’t write that shit.”
“Nope,” I said, “there’s a woman who’s in charge of the social media content for everyone on the show. She’s a lesbian too…do you want me to fix you up?”
“No thanks. I’ve got a girlfriend. Lucky for me she was an essential worker or we’d have gone down the toilet when they cut unemployment.”
“Ugh,” I said, “don’t get me started. That’s how I ended up living in Maya Bedrossian’s pool house. Not that I object to having a roof over my head…especially the kind of roof I’d never be able to pay for myself. What I need is more pupils.”
“What about your TV fame? You should parlay that into something, Heartthrob,” she said, after she’d gone to get someone at the other end of the bar a refill. “You could be in movies or shit like that. You’ve got the look…and you know it.”
“And what’s really cute is that you blush when someone calls you on it,” Dani continued. “The usual?”
“Yes, please,” I said. I looked around the place. “It’s weird having it so empty.”
“Yep,” Dani said. “And 25% of capacity – if we’re even at that – means 25% of my usual tips. They just don’t give a fuck about people needing to eat. And you’d think a bartender would have been an essential worker all along.”
Dylan and Josh came over to tell me they were going out back, and I followed them. We filled up one of the picnic tables and some of the next one, although we were separated by lameass plexiglass partitions. I was sitting facing Dylan, who asked me:
“So you guys really went and beat up the dude who fucked up Travis’ car?”
“It was mostly Keaton’s doing,” I explained. “He hits harder than I do.”
“It’s all Travis has talked about all week. He’s not used to people standing up for him like that…but not a lot of people stand up for their friends by beating up the dude who jacked up their cars.”
Before he could say something else, I got a huge slap on the back.
“Yo, bro,” Carter said when I turned around. I figured he wouldn’t miss the Volcano’s reopening, and I was right. He was in jeans and a USC hoodie…and no Make America Great Again hat. (Come to think of it, I never found out what happened to his first MAGA hat and if Keaton ever gave it back to him after he used it to start a fight that Keaton had to finish for him.)
“Hey, man.” I was real glad to see him, not that we’re anything near as close as me and Lucas are.
“I guess you know Lucas made the team, right?,” was the first thing he asked me.
“Yeah,” I said. I didn’t tell him that I was the first person Lucas called.
“What have you been up to?,” I asked.
“Still living at home,” he said, stretching with a beer in one hand. He didn’t look as shitfaced as he usually gets. “It’s cheaper living with Mom and Dad, and it would have been pretty fuckin lonely getting through the lockdown all alone in my own apartment.”
“And you start business school in the fall?”
“Yeah,” he said. “So much for my year between college and business school for having fun. I asked Dad if I could have another year and he said absolutely no. So fuck COVID for messing that up for me. My social life has gone to shit too…although,” he continued, doing a pretty gayass thing with his eyebrows, “maybe it’ll pick up tonight. There aren’t a lot of chicks here, but there are a few. Maybe I should ask you for some tips,” he said with a laugh.
“You don’t want him for a wingman, bro,” said Sloppy Joe, who was able to overhear us despite the partition. “He totally sucks at it. But I’ll help you out, if you need someone.”
Carter got a look at the new Sloppy Joe.
“Didn’t you used to be a lot bigger, man?,” he asked.
“Yep,” Sloppy Joe said.
“Nutrisystem and a girlfriend,” I explained. “How much did you lose?”
“85 pounds,” Sloppy Joe said, proudly.
“Fuck, bro…they should put you on the commercials with…what’s that chick’s name who does them? Old chick, but she’s still kinda hot…?”
“Marie Osmond,” said Sloppy Joe, looking down as if he was ashamed he knew the answer.
Me and Carter looked at each other; the name didn’t mean anything to either of us.
We sat down, with Carter taking the seat opposite from me so we could be on the same side of the partitions.
“I gotta thank you for helping Lucas out with his girlfriend,” he said. “He may suck as a wingman,” he half-yelled at Sloppy Joe through the plexiglass, “but he helped my little bro out big time so he could get laid even though his roommate is fucked in the head.”
“He was raising caterpillars in the room,” I explained.
“The fuck?,” asked Sloppy Joe. “Caterpillars?”
“Yeah,” explained Carter, “he’s saving the non-endangered golden monarch butterfly single-handedly.”
He put that better than I could have.
“But leave it to Hunter to come up with a bunch of ideas that got him out of the room long enough for Lucas to bang his girlfriend.”
“Hey, man…it’s not ‘bang’,” I corrected. “Not when it’s your first girlfriend.”
“Oh yes it is…and as often as possible,” said Carter with a laugh.
I dunno…it’s not like I haven’t banged plenty of chicks since, but there was something special about Shoshanah, even if she did break my heart.
“If anyone knows about getting laid in college, it’d be bubba,” said Keaton, passing by to make sure that there was no trouble forming around Carter, to who he said: “you behaving, cowboy?”
“Yeah, I’m being good,” Carter said. “I want to ease into going out again and not fuck up everyone’s first night out.”
“I’m gonna hold you to that,” Keaton said. “Start something tonight and I’m not getting you out of it.”
“Scout’s honor,” said Carter, holding up the wrong amount of fingers. He clearly had never been a boy scout lol.
“Keep it that way,” Keaton said, moving into the crowd to continue his rounds. I use ‘crowd’ lightly…the place felt dang empty. I didn’t even know where the hot chicks Carter was talking about were. But I was out with the guys…and I have a girlfriend…so I wasn’t wasting too much time looking for chicks.
Ryan, who was sitting on the other side of the plastic partition facing Sloppy Joe started knocking on it. I laughed.
“Am I wrong, or does this feel like visiting day in jail?,” he asked. I was able to catch what he was saying despite the partition, since the Volcano hadn’t invested in super thick plexiglass. Actually, the plexiglass was making the place weirdly loud since everybody’s conversations were bouncing off it. Carter hung around across from me and I thought about sounding him out to see if he was interested in joining the team in centerfield…but then I remembered Lucas told me once that his brother couldn’t hit a baseball if his life depended on it. I think Carter’s game was tennis, although I had no idea if he was any good.
Dylan stopped talking about Travis once Carter sat down, but that was ok…I mean, we’d said what we had to say about him, and the reality is that I’m a lot closer to Travis than I am to Dylan, so if I was going to talk to one about the other, it should be talking to Travis about Dylan, not the other way around. Don’t get me wrong: Dylan’s a great guy, but Travis is my friend, and I do know that he doesn’t want his family knowing all his business. (They still don’t know about his escapade with that sketchyass Lola chick…and they’re not gonna find out from me. I know they worry about him, and I also know that they think he’ll never be able to take care of himself…which isn’t what I think about him at all, and, like Keaton said when we were driving home from seeing him last week, he’s tougher than he wants us to think he is.)
Mostly we hung out, moving around the partitions so we’d all get a chance to talk to everyone else, and it was nice and chill. Although I reckon it wouldn’t be the Volcano if there wasn’t a little excitement before the night was over.