or: [A Sometimes Dramatized Explanation of Why I Wasn’t at Ryleigh’s on Saturday, July 28 2012.]
By Kaboul Puke
Chapter 1: The Mission
This glorious episode in misery all started when The Blog assigned me an impossible task: to find the heart of Spurs and locate their missing WMD--Little Luka. (If the editors deny it, feel free to openly blaspheme their name at your next chance). At the center of the madness were Tottenham Hotspur--a toughish lot from the North of London--and Liverpool FC, whose unintelligible fan-base have a predilection to red--and delusions of relevance.
I quickly assembled a traveling team of the best fixers Milwaukee proper could offer: Ms. B, a known terrain scout; and Stysmanski, a master of demolition, impervious to all poisoning (alcohol included).
Weary of the task ahead of us we arrived at General Mitchell International Airport, eyes open and hearts hardened.
Chapter 2: The Travelling
As I put down my first Riverwest Stein with maddening intensity, Ms. B quipped about the speed with which the beverage had been consumed.
“What fun, racing while we wait.”
Storms shut down flight after flight to the East Coast that night prompting New Yorkers exposed to the rural charms of the Badger State to exclaim “At least we’re in Milwaukee”. How I envied the finality of their situation. Undesirable, but certain. Here we were, left in limbo, neither coming or going, much like the disappearance of Little Luka--whose whereabouts were of utmost interest to me. Alcohol, it was decided, was to be the crutch to hold us up. However, taken with B’s eloquent summation of our situation, I switched the drink of choice, momentarily solving the problem of rapid alcohol consumption.
“Three martinis, garcon,” I calmly said, catching the nodding approval of Stysmanski, a man whose comfort in a bar is only surpassed by his fits of insanity when deprived of nicotine. In one episode, poor B tried to console his shaken bones and foolishly asked if her consoling back-scratch had soothed him. Pausing briefly to fully digest the question he replied with all the calm of a serious man:
“It makes me want to rip off one of your fingers and smoke it.”
A true force of nature he is; but in this instance, at the airport bar, the fiend was on my side.
With no end to the wait in sight we dove into our booze. Was it the fear of being conscious in this purgatorious state that drove us to satiate ourselves at a perpetually quickening pace, or the masses cackling as they shoved Piccola pizzas into their greedy mouths that dictated our mania? Either way, we had stumbled again upon B’s awful paradox: racing to wait.
As we finally received the marching orders from the cruel master in the tower, we lumbered like oxen on the way to slaughter. We pulled out of the gate to a lash of lightning across the sky that Zeus himself would have marvelled at. All were awestruck except for one special case.
“I really hope the pilot knows what he is doing,” giggled a grandmother, perhaps a great-aunt, at this awesome show of nature.
Unnerved by her impervious nature, I produced a fleeting moment of sanity.
“Can I buy you a martini, Aunt Betty?” I asked, hopeful to add some optimism to the drinking trio. Cruelly she scowled, and I surmised that her great abundance in optimism had affected her sense of humor. With Betty’s charms or not, we were off, the plane rocking as if being struck by body blows from the next up-and-coming Mexican pugilist intent on ruining his opponents ribcage. If I hadn’t been drunk, I would have vomited.
Finally, after two hours of bouncing through the thin atmosphere like ping pong ball in the bin at Aunt Betty’s bingo hall, we dropped from the sky at Reagan International airport.
The mind dulling amount of travel needed to get to from DC to Charm City needs no embellishment. Ours was a commute of insanity. Donkey travel through rural Sicily would have been preferable--and perhaps better smelling.
I phoned my editors in a rage, demanding the head of he whose dastardly incompetence had caused our lodging to be so far from our targets.
“Spurs, you fools, are the objective. The Inner Harbor is where they are staying. Not goddam Kansas!”
While they tried their best to feign ignorance, they assured me that Otakon--the gathering of 30,000 anime and manga fans, dressed as recognizable fictional characters (at best)--was to blame.
“You council of charlatains! You’ve only yourselves to blame,” I screamed into the phone.
I was depleted and on the verge of psychopathy. I decided my only recourse was to down the complementary bottle of Nyquil left for us by the cleaning staff, seemingly to pacify the idiot hordes who were now prisoners to the hotel and all of its horrors. However, it only soothed my frayed nerves for a moment, until I realized all of the demons and hobgoblins that had haunted me on our trip to the hotel were in fact real, Otakon members, not terrible hallucinations brought on by fatigue and aggressive alcoholism.
I slept like Death--looking oddly like Arsene Wenger-- was outside our door.
The next morning’s breakfast was served with all the efficiency of a Catalan attacking move. Our server wavered back and forth, staring gape-jawed at us--the only customers in the hotel cafe--attempting to get us to leave with his truly inspiring incompetence. Eventually he produced coffee that tasted of boiled limestone, and orange juice that had the spice of hobo urine. The bastard forced us to drink again simply as a means to wash the rotten sensations out of our mouths.
It was with this that B retired to the room to vomit. Fates had aligned; Sytsmanski and I were unleashed. I cursed my editors and sought the heart of Spurs and the location of Little Luka.
Chapter 3: …
(The following is a edited dictation of recordings from the iPhone of the author, Kaboul Puke).
There are minutes of shuffling and crumpling noise, which we assume were accidentally recorded as the journalist and his companion stalked the streets of Baltimore, eventually making it to Federal Hill. The following is the only intelligible dialogue between them.
KP: Ryleigh’s on Cross St? There’s a building in the middle of it, man! They’re trying to trick us. Let’s turn around.
Five more minutes of rustling and references to “Eighthpool”
Stysmanski: (rough grumbling)
KP: Take those two cigarettes out of your mouth and speak, you addict!
Stysmanski: It’s right there, man. Right there.
Chapter 4: Ryleigh’s
Due to a bladder full of Dempsey’s Golden Amber, the fuel for our humid walk from Eutaw St. to Federal Hill, I needed the men’s room. Ignorant to the charms of this cantina, I asked the host for directions.
“It is right there, in the back,” she replied with the accent and intensity of a KGB torturer.
“Cheers, Svetlana,” I said. “And give your regards to the Comrades Roman--Pav and Ambramovich. COYS!” Her blank stare only confirmed my suspicions of her clandestine motivations at this establishment.
Post-relief, I stepped into the madness.
With music blaring and Spurs supporters about, I sauntered to the bar, soaked with sweat from the ninety degree heat. I found the local Ale and ordered.
A song rang out from the rafters:
Glory, glory Tottenham Hotspur/
Glory, glory Tottenham Hotspur/
Glory, glory Tottenham Hotspur/
And the Spurs go marching on!
Scanning the room, I gave in and let down my guard. I sang with arms outstretched; oddly calm, oddly manic.
It was at this point that I realized that this was not a mission to be completed, but one to be lost in. I downed my Loose Cannon and ordered another.
“That’s my favorite beer as well; I’m glad you like it,” said the bartender, a bit friendlier than the Gulag sergeantess at the door.
“In that case, make it two,” I replied.
“Oh, I can’t drink on the clock,” she said.
“I’m sorry for the miscommunication, miss; they were both for me. And, tell me, is the Ruskie at the door hiding Little Luka in the basement?”
Stysmanski, returning from a cigarette, grinned--and immediately switched to liquor.
Chapter 4: …
This section was meant to be an dictation of recordings from the iPhone of the author, Kaboul Puke.
We regret to inform the reader that this section has been amended in the editing process. Much of the recordings had been irreparably damaged by the time we, the editors, got ahold of it. What was salvaged was of such an objectionable moral fiber that we could not in good faith publish it. Also, the contents would implicate Mr. Puke in several ongoing local, state, and Federal investigations. We choose discretion over reality in this instance. His only demand for our massive edit was that he be singled out for furiously singing “If you hate Arsenal/ Beers up!” when the capacity to stand left him. Thank you.
Chapter 5: The Morning
I awoke to the sensation of chewing on a sponge. I should have been so lucky. That sponge was my tongue. I realized now that I was to miss at least one of my mission objectives.
There would be no finding Luka.
The unholy ruckus Stysmanski and I raised trying to find him blew our cover in that regard. Also, as I viewed B scowling in her sleep and Stysmanski caressing an unopened bag of takeout in his still sleeping hands, I knew there would be no second meetup at Ryleigh’s. I peered through the hotel window and considered the implications. And they were literally, positively alarming. Despite the defeat handed to me that morning, I felt optimism. The heart of Spurs is an ethos, an attitude--not any specific person or event. Perhaps I had found the heart of Spurs before the this savage trip East; perhaps I had found it that Friday night; perhaps I would never stop discovering the heart of Spurs now that I had started looking. I washed my tattered body and prepared for the day; and, as we marched toward the stadium in our beautiful, cockerel adorned kits, the knowledge that we, too, were the heart of Spurs spurred us on.
Chapter 6: The Continuing
Upon entering the stadium, my editors rang again.
“Mr. Puke, we have, on special authority, changed the objective. Conundrums and confusion are out as stories. Forget Little Luka. What we want is tangibility. Apparently, Spurs have a new weapon--one they can implement whenever they choose--the Townsend Tornado. Get the story, Puke, at any cost.”
While the tyrants had caused me bouts of insomnia and indigestion, I marched on. A desire to find the Townsend Tornado, and Spurs, my only certainty.
With a sun by Hades clamping down on all of us, I ordered my first Miller of the day, and stuck to the task.