Chapter 8: How about a Cocktail? How about a Conversation?

“So I rushed past the pretty girls, and the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.”

-Jack Kerouac, from “On the Road”

AJ’s dreads swung across his shoulders as his head darted back and forth at each of us, unsure of how to approach the next question. He did his best to remain cool and confident as any young professional in the hospitality business would, but there was no doubt that there was a hint nervousness in his delay, an effect wearing all of us.

“Uh, so… are you guys looking for a single bed for the night?”

“Double,” both Bill and I promptly replied.

Ah… all right, cool,” he said shaking his head up and down as if he were satisfied with our answer. I have to say; he handled the situation rather well, leaving the customer un-offended (unlike SOMEONE we know…), especially during a time where the subject of certain political topics can be a bit touchy.

It was a well-graded first impression of the Econo Lodge, their professionalism fully intact even at such a late hour of the night; one that continued throughout the tenure of our stay. In the morning when I informed the front desk that the waffle maker wasn’t working, not only did they promptly fix the situation, but the lady at the front desk also saw to it to make and serve me a waffle herself! Talk about service! Not to mention our room came equipped with a working air conditioner, flat screen TV, and get this: shampoo, conditioner, AND lotion, of which Bill kept for himself upon our departure. I couldn’t blame him; that stuff comes in handy from time to time.

The Econo Lodge may only have a 2.5 star rating on Hotels.com, but it will certainly hold a 5 star rating in our hearts, preferring it 10-fold over the debacle called Motel 6. That being said however, we were on to bigger and better things, to a little place called Des Moines, Iowa, where according to Jack Kerouac, author of “On the Road,” lived the prettiest girls, a proclamation we were hoping to be true.

The drive started pretty much like all the others, a few hours of ripping on Ben Woodward with a few more of plotting our revenge against Gretch. Bill and I seemed to be in total concert over our thoughts and humorous anecdotes, working and feeding off of each other’s insults like we were shooting fish in a barrel (apparently, according to the old maxim, it’s easy to shoot fish in a barrel, but why you would ever want to shoot a fish after it’s already caught and in a barrel is beyond me). It was as if our minds were in perfect sync, and every thought that went through my head matched his, life, people, wisdom, you name it!

“Oh, it’s 11:00, one of my favorite radio programs is on!” I quickly changed the music playlist to AM radio, Bill eager to find out what was to come, for if I said it was good, it must be good; that he could trust. After an opening drum fill, familiar base line, and a swanky guitar solo, one of the greatest voices on radio came out of the gates swinging. Rush Limbaugh spent little time getting into his intended subject matter, talking up Donald Trump’s game, ripping on Hillary Clinton, and bashing the rest of the Democrat Party along with all of its policies. And man, he was on fire! “Yea, you tell em’ Rush! Bill, you hearing this? Bill?”

Bill all of a sudden became very quiet. His lower lip curled under his teeth and he sat back in his seat, looking forward at the road ahead as if he were basking in a world of fury. I couldn’t figure out what came over him? I mean, he was in such a good mood earlier, and I certainly didn’t say anything that offensive. And I thought the accommodations at the Econo Lodge were beyond adequate. What was the big deal?

Then it hit me. It had to be Gretch. I guarantee she gave him another stupid text that got him all upset. God, what is her problem? I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who enjoys inflicting as much misery on innocent people as she does. It makes me upset just thinking about it! Regardless however, I decided to keep my mouth shut. Talking about it would only infuriate the both of us further. Needless to say, it was a pretty quiet drive the rest of the way to Des Moines from that point forward, thanks to her.

Feeling as though we deserved something with a little more class after Motel 6, we booked a room at the Des Lux Hotel, coined appropriately as the premiere lodging establishment in the city of Des Moines. It certainly caught our eye on the Hotels.com website as a 4-star romantic getaway with a ritzy-looking bar, so of course I thought of it as the logical choice for Bill and I.

First and foremost, the weight room was above and beyond superior, particularly for hotel standards, equipped with a large range of weight machines, treadmills, ellipticals, personal TV’s, a sauna, whirl pool, locker rooms, and a bunch of other crap that nobody else was using except for some sweaty, hairy dude hanging out in nothing but a towel. His choice of outfit was probably considered inappropriate for the setting, given that his towel was borderline see-through, but I couldn’t blame him—he probably felt like he owned the place! The biggest shame in my opinion was that nobody else was taking advantage of such a nice facility, especially Bill! He was all too busy pouting in the room like a sucker! Not my problem though (I still couldn’t understand why he was so bummed out).

After a nice workout and a quick shower, I showed Bill a funny clip on YouTube, which seemed to get him to stop moping just enough to put on a nice collared shirt and join me for a drink at the bar. “Just one,” I told him. We were headed to Minnesota the next day and had a birthday to celebrate, so getting ripped tonight was out of the realm of possibilities.

“What would you boys like?” asked the bar tender serving the dimly lit establishment held together by wood-stained cathedral-like foundations, a rather fancy place, something you’d expect in New York City or one of those places where all the yuppies like to hang out in. Her style was sleek and sophisticated and her poise lean and proper. She was a master of her craft you could certainly tell; a skill set that served her quite well. And I can’t lie, she looked good… damn good, and the black dress she was wearing together with her years of experience only increased her attractive nature.

“I’ll have an old-fashioned,” my go-to drink, one that fuels the passion towards my Midwest bloodlines; a classy selection, one that you can never go wrong with, and that nobody would ever give you a hard time for ordering.

“I’ll have a Martini,” said Bill—wait, since when does he get a Martini? He’s into those bull crap drinks like Keystone light or whatever! I knew what he was doing. He had the hots for the bar tender—I knew it, that son of a B! She was a good-looking babe, especially considering she was at least 20 years older than us, so I can’t blame him, but still… no respect.

“With Gin or Vodka?” Bill froze; he didn’t know what to say!

“Uh, I guess both… or, well… whatever you prefer…” he replied with slight embarrassment. Serves him right!

“Yea, I remember my first one,” I told her. I couldn’t resist the quick little jab.

A growing smile grew across her face as she began prepping the Gin and Vermouth concoction. “Aw, that’s really sweet. I’ll make it extra special just for you.” Are you kidding me? I guess that backfired.

 

“Yea, it’s not my usual, but I just like to try new things every now and then.” Bill turned his head, shooting me a look of dominance. Is he knocking my Old-Fashion? How dare he—whatever, he’s just being stupid right now.

 

We went through the whole small talk routine, each of us hitting the topical questions of “what things are there to do in Iowa,” or “what brings you to Des Moines,” providing a brief tell all of our journey to the motherland and all of our adventures along the way so far.

“So what do you guys do?” she asked.

“Well, I’m an engineer, but also an aspiring writer,” I jumped right in before Bill even had a chance to answer. “I have a long-standing blog, grizzlychadams.com, and I’m currently wrapping up one the last revision of my first book.” Let’s see you top that Bill?

 

“Well, I’m an artist. I do a lot of abstract work that some people don’t always understand,” he said with a quick jerk towards me. Yea, nice try Bill. “But I’m sure you would. If you’re interested in any of my work, here’s my card.” A card? Oh give me a break!

 

She gave his card the nod of approval. I mean, it doesn’t mean much, at least it shouldn’t. It’s what everybody gets, so who cares? “You know, I’m working on a book myself,” she said after her thorough card examination.

“Oh really? By all means, tell me more,” I replied, this time giving Bill my own little look of dominance.”

“Oh, but first, may I have another Martini please?” Really Bill? How rude.

 

“I guess I’ll have another Old Fashioned as well.” If he’s getting another one, I might as well too. “And I would still love to hear all about your book, you know, writer to writer.”

“Why sure. I’m going to call it ‘Cocktails and Conversations,’ about all the bands and supposedly important people I’ve met bartending, you know, politicians, lawyers, doctors, the such.”

“Like, um, which bands?” Bill asked.

“You name them, they’ve been here. As a matter of fact, Dave Matthews band was here last night. I hung out with them for a while. All of those guys are really awesome and down to Earth. A bunch of sweethearts really.”

“Whoa,” pretty much summed up Bill’s and my reaction. This was going to get good. “I think I might need another drink soon.”

“So who was your favorite of all the bands?” Bill asked.

“Well, all of those older rock bands are pretty cool, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers were probably my favorite. Those guys are all pretty chill now that they’re older, a couple of ol’ wine guys for the most part, not so much the partiers I imagined they were. Their driver even let me hang out on Anthony Kiedes’s bus for a couple hours to watch movies. The place was immaculate, nicer than my own house. It even had marble floors!”

“No kidding! That’s pretty rad,” said Bill

“Who were some of the biggest turds you met?”

“Well, Michael Bublé refers to himself as Michael Bublé, and his wife kind of sucks too, always telling him what to do and where to go, expecting the world to drop to their knees and tend to her wherever and whenever.”

“Oh man, I know exactly what you mean.” What are you even talking about Bill? You don’t even have a wife!

 

“And then there was Snoop Dogg. I mean, I guess he wasn’t that bad, if you could ignore all the loud music and pot smoke coming from his room, the endless parties, the crowds of half-naked women hanging all around the hotel and doing greasy stuff with the bus drivers in the back alley, and the members of his entourage who think it’s ok to drop their pants and whip out their ding-a-lings in front of me.”

“Man, I would never do anything like that. I for one, treat women with respect.” God, this was just starting to make me sick. Bill was straight up sucking up now!

“Yea, since then, Snoop Dogg and his crew have been banned from the Des Lux. But as bad as they were, they aren’t as creepy as some of the politicians that stop by from time to time, especially during primary season. They all think they can get away with anything!”

“Like who?”

“Well, I’m not at liberty to say for the policy of the hotel, but you’ve heard of the names I’m sure, definitely some high-level members of congress and such. And you’d be surprised at the number of mistresses some of these people have. This hotel has been known to host its number of scandalous affairs.”

Man were we intrigued, getting the inside scoop into the dirty details of the Iowa elite. Both of us gazed into her lovely eyes as she spoke so eloquently of the high-profile executives who met their lovers in the very same bar stools we were seated in. Inside that slender figure of hers was a maturity foreign to us young adults still stuck in our late 20’s; a maturity that became most captivating combined with the wealth of discreet knowledge locked away under her shiny, golden locks of hair.

“We should exchange information, just so we can keep in touch about each other’s books. I’d really love to read yours when it comes out, and I can send you a copy of mine when it’s finally done.”

But Bill just couldn’t help but butt in. “Oh don’t worry about it man, I already gave her my card. Cheryl, just get a hold of me and I’ll pass on the word.” Oh what in the hell? What does he think he’s doing? Since when are they on a first name basis?

“Haha, sounds good boys. Let me take care of these ladies over here. I have a feeling they’re going to be bad tippers,” she whispered into Bill’s ear with a slight brush of his shoulder. Bill blushed. I sat in silence and pounded the rest of my Old Fashioned. Bill tried to make small talk, but I wasn’t having any of it.

She came back a minute later shaking her head in slight disgust. “Just as I thought. They decide to order the girliest drink they can. Sorry guys, this may take a while.”

She decorated the cocktail glass with stripes of chocolate syrup and poured in a shaken mixture of milk, Kahlua, vodka, and a couple other obscure liquors we’d never heard of from an ice cold strainer, a process that took nearly 5 minutes with all of the preparation and intricate ingredients involved, including shavings of chocolate and whip cream, a drink that no sane person would ever go through the heartache of making. “Isn’t that the same drink you order a couple days ago Bill?”

“Oh c’mon Bill. You’re a bartender’s worst nightmare! Please tell me that’s a lie,” she said in addition with a grin on her face.

“And what’s worse, he even thought those lady’s were ‘hott.’” She threw her head back and let out a giant laugh. Bill suddenly got tense again and his face turned beat red. She grabbed the ladies posh drinks and headed back to the ladies table, but not before she gave my arm a nice little brush. I tried to make small talk with Bill, but all he seemed to want to do is pound his drink. Who knows what his problem was.

“Well, I think it’s about time for us to retire, it’s getting pretty late and we have a big day tomorrow, so I guess we better grab the checks,” said Bill upon her return. Wait, we didn’t discuss this? Sure, it’s getting late, but hold on just a minute— “It’s been lovely meeting you, but we must be on our way.” Well, if he’s going to be all pouty about it, then I guess that’s the end of that.

 

I provided a pretty modest tip for her that evening. What can I say; she deserved it, $10.00 in addition to my $28.00 bill. I took a glance over at Bill’s final tab just out of curiosity. “Huh, $28.00 as well. That’s funny; maybe she gave us both a good deal—wait, are you serious? An $11.00 tip??”

 

We walked into the elevator, Bill still silent from earlier. “You had to one up me, didn’t you?”

“…I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, really, an $11.00 tip? Really?”

“What, she did a good job, what can I say, she deserved it.”

“Yea, I’m sure she did deserve the random amount of $11.00, which just so happened to be $1.00 over mine!”

“Like I said, I don’t know what you’re talking about, so how about you just shut up and get over it!”

“Geez, somebody seems a little moody tonight.”

“Dude, you do this every time. Every time!”

 

“What the heck are you even talking about?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Bill quite sarcastically. This was going to blow up, I just knew it. “Look at me, I’m all goody-gumdrops excited. Maybe I’ll tell everybody you thought the old dude’s at the end of the bar were ‘hott’ too, and you can be just as happy as me!”

“Oh calm down, dude. I was just joking around—”

“Dude, you totally Jonesed me back there! You knew I had the hots for her!”

“Dude, she was way out of your league! I was just trying to help you out!”

“Yea, a lot of help that did, dude.”

“Dude!”

“Dude!”

“TING!” The elevator rang and the doors opened, our mouths shut instantly and our angry demeanor ceased. In walked two teenage girls with Dave Mathews Band shirts on.

“Oh, you guys just get back from the concert? Oh cool… who, us? Oh no, we didn’t go, we’re just stopping through town. I hear they play an awesome show though… No kidding, three hours straight? Wow, that’s awesome. I’m glad you liked it. ‘TING.’ Oh, well, I guess this is our floor. Nice meeting you guys, enjoy the rest of your night.”

We exited the elevators and watched the doors close behind us, waving goodbye to our new friends. “Dude, don’t even start all of this talk about ‘Jonesing’ anybody. We were hitting it off just fine back there when you had to butt in with your whole ‘art’ stuff.”

“Yea, at least my ‘art’ is actually worth looking at, unlike some of your blogs.

“Oh that’s a new low Bill. That’s quite the new low you son of a B—”

“Oh please, like you had a real chance with her.”

“Dude, a better chance than you! Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little competition. It makes you stronger. It’s the capitalistic model for success!

“Oh yea, did your friend Rush Limbaugh tell you about that?”

“Wait a minute, you’ve been all pissed off this whole time because we listened talk radio earlier haven’t you? Now it all makes sense.”

“Gee, I glad you finally figured that out, genius.”

“God, I can’t believe somebody would get all that butt hurt over a guy giving his opinion. Here’s an idea, why don’t you grow up and grow a pair?” I swung open the door and stormed in the room. Bill did some storming of his own after me.

“I got an even better idea. How about I just pack my bags, and go home right now. I’m sick of this crap.”

“Ok, and you can listen to your sissy NPR garbage on the way out of here too, because as far as I’m concerned, the way you keep acting, we’re done.”

“We’re done? Let me rephrase that. I’m done. You hear me? I. Am. DONE!”

“Well that’s just great, real great. We’re in the middle of the damn country, and you’re treating me like trash and throwing a fit, and it’s MY BIRTHDAY IN A HALF AN HOUR!”

“Dude, maybe I don’t give two craps about your birthday!”

“Dude, maybe you should shut up right now if you know what’s best for you.”

“Dude, why don’t you make me!”

“Dude, maybe I will with a knuckle sandwich!”

“Yea dude, you would, because you DO THIS EVERY TIME!”

“Oh yea dude!?”
“Yea dude! I’M WALKING HOME!”

“Go ahead Dude!”

“Dude!”

“Dude!”

“DUDE!”

“DUDE!”

“Dude. Dude…”

“…Ok, ok, look, maybe I got a little jealous back there, and I might’ve pulled a Jones or two on you. If I ever did, I’m sorry dude. To be honest, I think she kind of thought that you were cute. Besides, she wasn’t really my type anyway.”

“Look dude, I think I just got a little stressed out back there in the car and I took it out on you and Rush. I mean, we really need to get Gretch good. She can’t get away with what she’s done, and she’s not going to play nice. We know that, and I just want to make sure we bring our A-game when the time comes.” It was true. I knew she was behind this all along.

“I think maybe all of this driving has just gotten us a little worked up. You know how it goes. So how about this dude, I got all of this liquor out just for you. Let’s relax a little bit, and I tell you what… I have some Third Eye Blind on my computer we can listen to, we’ll have a nice Pilsner, some Absolut on Ice, and we can just take it easy for the rest of the night. Like you said, we have a BIG day tomorrow. Because dude, it’s my birthday.”

“Dude…”

“Dude…”

We hugged it out, drank a little more liquor and listened to some Third Eye Blind, just like we said we would. I guess times like these are expected when you’ve spent thousands of miles in a car with somebody, which is ok. It’s healthy for humans to vent from time to time, especially when girls and talk radio are involved.

And maybe there’s some truth to Jack Kerouac’s words regarding the women of Des Moines, Iowa. They certainly had an effect on us that day.

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