This was one of Jim's first "Fear and Loathing" pieces, which is generously ripped off from Hunter Thompson, as far as style was concerned. He's argued that he's paying an homage to the late cultural icon, where as the rest of us on the editorial staff call it blatant plagiarism. Anyway, with Jim out of the office for the next week or so,(work related stuff at his OTHER job...) we thought it would be appropriate to run this old post this weekend because it is La Kermesse back in Maine through Sunday. Enjoy- Ed.
All names have been changed to protect the guilty.*
If you live in Southern Maine, passed through on your way some place else, or are vaguely aware that what some consider to be a suburb of Boston, is in fact a totally different state, you might've heard of the little shin-dig the locals up this way call "La Kermesse."
I don't know what the name means, but I can tell you it's a big French festival complete with rides for the kids, poutine for the people who know what the fuck that is, and a beer tent. The festival itself is preceded by a "block party" on Thursday night, followed by a parade that will open up the fair grounds come Friday afternoon.
Basically, it's an excuse for people to be drunk in public. Not that anyone who lives in the greater Biddeford area really needs an excuse to do so.
So over the last few years (aside from the fact I was living in New York) I've pretty much stayed away from the neon colored orgiastic culmination that is La Kermesse. I really have no desire to see people I went to high school with, whether they're doing better off than me or not, nor do I want to run into the citizens of Biddeford on the whole.
But last night, Thursday June 21st, I found myself smack-dab in the middle of the fray, on the York Street Bridge with some friends, most of whom I didn't even know two hours prior, standing and looking at fireworks through blurry bloodshot eyes, and surrounded by Parliment smoking, stroller pushing, tank-tops-with-skinny-arms having trash. How did I get here? Allow me to illustrate.
I get home from the office at about five, and my pocket buzzes just as I'm pulling off of 95 at the Biddeford exit. It's my friend *John*, a guy I went to high school with and is probably the most genuine guy I know, other than Hokie. He asks if I'd be interested in hanging out, and at first I'm thinking he's putting a card game together, and being broke, I say I'm going to pass.
Instead, however, he asks if I want to go to the fireworks "and shit" tonight. I totally forget that it's the La Kermesse weekend, only passing the giant fucking yellow billboard at the 95 on ramp everyday, twice, for the last two weeks. I say sure, and get a time, and proceed about my evening per usual.
I have dinner with mom which is just pizza out of the box. I manage to burn the roof of my mouth.
I get to John's house a little after 1930 and park in front. He calls from the window to come up stairs and I do so, only to find his drunk younger brother sprawled out across his bed, jabbering on about something. He's dressed head to toe in American Eagle and sports a frat-boy tan. I'm not exactly sure what's going on, because John's busy playing Counter Strike on his computer and his mom is yelling at his brother, who's managing to be at his most incoherent.
Apparently, John's little brother just got home from college for the summer. And he's totally shitfaced.
So that being said, I dig into my back pack and produce a can of PBR and sip on it as I wait to see what's going to happen for tonight. John escorts me out, and his mother calls out that she doesn't want his younger brother getting outside. Dumbly, I stand at the door, with it wide open, as like a cat, the little brother scampers out into the bright wilderness.
We go down into John's basement where he has a pool table, as well as other assortments of entertainment displayed about. It's like your grandparent's rumpus room, if this was the 1970s and people still had rumpus rooms. Or even put those two words together. You know what I mean.
Low ceilings, beer cans littered about, a used and tired looking punching bag propped up against a far wall. The door to get in is never locked and requires a leaned in shoulder to pop it open. We stand around, discussing his younger brother's lack of alcoholic tolerance.
"I told him not to come home. I sent him a text. 'You're shitfaced, mom's home, don't come home'" John says as he works some chalk on to a pool cue. I sip my beer and nod along, thinking back to my kidney destroying first year of higher education. At the time being, John's little brother is sitting, splayed out on the back yard, telling everyone who asks if he's ok that he's in fact, twenty-one years old.
"Dude, you gonna be good?"
This brings us to John's other two friends who show up at about this time. *Jerry* and *Dan* know John from college and I guess all play musical instruments together. Dan's a tall dark haired guy who still looks collegate and Jerry's built like a keg, and reminds me somewhat of a guy I went to high school with. Both of these guys are cool shits.
A game of billiards breaks out and John hooks his iPod into a stereo and we take turns talking about stupid shit that guys talk about when they play billiards. Who we've fucked, who we want to fuck, how fucked up we are, how fucking gay something is, how fucking gay you are, and how fucking gay we all are. It's a regular round table of fuck patois.
Suddenly, John's mom appears downstairs, visibly upset. She states that the younger brother has "taken off" up the street, with some female friends of his. She wants him back at the house, pronto.
Allegedly, according to John, his brother started drinking around four in the afternoon when he went to a friend's house, and came back stumbling. He's not much of a guy; he's probably 6' even and 150 lbs tops. Also, he's only eighteen, and although belongs in a fraternity, probably can only muster to hold down four Bud Lights at the most. Also, he probably likes to kiss men (John's words, not mine)
Like an crack army assault unit, myself, John, Jerry and Dan climb into John's Mazda and tear off down the street looking for his brother. It doesn't take us long to come up on him from behind, as he's leading a pack of about four high school aged girls down the hill towards the festivities below. He's weaving all over the side walk, hands out to his sides, head lolling from side to side.
John, who is also a former Law Enforcement Professional, expertly puts the car up on a sidewalk blocking his brother's path from furthering. We all step out of the car as if it was planned. We look like something out of a cheesey cop drama on syndicated television. One of the girls in the pack that was behind the little brother even exclaims to no one:
"Wow, you guys are like a SWAT team!"
You're fucking A right we are, missy.
John makes contact, and Jerry and Dan are quick to block the brother in like a wall of flesh. There's a little bit of a confrontation with a young girl who's obviously on something, but I take her aside and keep a perimeter. The girl says to me "I'm not scared of you guys, my dad's a cop."
"So are we."
With some explanation on my part and some coaxing on John's part, we snatch up his brother and pull off down a side street and get him back home. Where he will pass out sitting on a toilet ten minutes later.
Fast forward to later in the evening. The other gentlemen and I have been playing billiards, shooting the shit (shit patois), and throwing ping-pong balls at water filled cups on a ping-pong table. At some point in the evening, purely due to my inebriated state, I produce my scrotum and announce that I've seemed to have gotten gum on my shorts.
This psyches out Jerry, and leads Dan and I to take the title of Supreme Champions of Beruit, 2007.
John then receives a call from a girl he has some history with, and I encourage him to have her come over. My thoughts are that if she gets here, gets drunk enough, we could probably run a train on her.
*Celeste* shows up about forty-five minutes later, and she's your typical cute college girl. Nothing remarkable or unremarkable about her at all. Cute body, cute face, cute personality. John puts her on "myspace picture duty" as we continue to play Beruit.
Soon after, five strong, we make our way down the hill into the pit of sin, all while glittery explosives go off over our heads. The entire time the five-some is together, we're busting balls, laughing, clutching our stomaches, and weaving all over the road as we walk. People are lined up on both sides of the street, heads tilted skyward as they watch the pyrotechnics from their properties.
Almost as if, years ago it had been planned out, we pass by the sewage treatment plant as the entrance to the lower downtown area of Biddeford, where the "block party" is being held. All around us, carnivale-style games, people, food, etc surround us. The booms and sizzles of fireworks rain down on us from over head. The air is coated slickly with a haze of residual burning Marijuana, and it makes your skin feel greasy. Cheap looking, broken people shuffle their dirty-faced children past us. Each one of them clutching a plastic sword and swinging it expertly at crotch level.
We weave through the crowd and make our way to the bridge. Along the way we, inevitably, come across people we know- high school people, teachers, neighbors, etc. A guy I haven't seen since early on in college, comes up to John and I and puts us both in a head lock and squeezes. He goes on to tell us that the next day is the day he's signing his papers to be released from the Army. I tell him good luck with that.
We get offers to go drink at bars and parties and so on. But the collective mood of the five-some is to march back up the hill to John's, play a few more games of Beruit, and possibly clusterfuck.
We weave our way back through the crowd, heading back the way we've come. The fireworks are over now, with a substandard "grand finale" which lit up the sky like it was day time, and twice as loud, and suddenly I become aware of the increased police presence.
It seems all around us, cops in polos and standard uniforms, with ear pieces for their radios have materialized out of thin air. There's probably a ratio of every three people, one cop. It's startling.
Jerry is probably the most drunk out of everyone, and as we pass some carnivale-style games, the chatter starts to pick up.
One game involves a small inflatable pool filled with water containing rubber duckies. I'm not sure the premise of the game but that's exactly what it is. As we pass by, Dan says to Jerry, something like:
"I'll give you twenty bucks if you jump into that fucking pool,"
Of course, Jerry turns him down. It's going to take a considerably higher amount of money for him to engage in such baffoonery.
"Dude, back me up!" Dan slaps John on the chest and John grudgingly agrees to go in on twenty bucks as well. Now the dare's up to forty.
All eyes turn on to me. I look around, knowing that I don't have even ten dollars to my name, because I just paid all my bills today, I nod absently, and the crowd seems to go wild.
"Sixty bucks dude! Just jump in!" And Jerry still throws up the block.
This whole time, the only voice of sobriety and reason is Celeste's.
"You're so going to get arrested. There's cops all over the place," and this seems to hit home with Jerry immensely.
"Yeah dude, I don't want to get arrested on this dumb shit," He says and starts to balk, heading back towards John's house.
To be completely honest with you, gentle reader, I don't know why I chose the words to say at that particular moment, but maybe deep down, I wanted to see a little chubby guy jump into an inflatable pool filled with little rubber duckies. Maybe my dark side came out of me at that instant. Maybe I wanted to see if he'd get arrested, based purely on my deeply routed curiosity. Maybe I just wanted to call his bluff.
I lean over, touching Jerry's shoulder, placing my lips next to his ear lobe and say this:
"Do this, and you'll be the stuff of legends. People will talk about this for the rest of their lives. People you don't even know, but they're standing there, waiting for you to jump into that fucking pool. You'll be remembered forever. This is your legacy."
And with that, Jerry's eyes glazed over. A slow, goofy grin spread across his fat Donkey Lips lips and suddenly I glanced down and saw that he was standing in stocking feet, his shoes somehow coming off.
You see, men strive to leave a mark on this world, no matter how big or small. We want glory in all shapes and forms. To us we live for the conquest. This is why men climb Mt. Everest.
The psychological erection I gave him proved the jolt he needed. Much to the protest and physical strikes I was taking from Celeste, Jerry turned and started at a good trot towards the inflatable pool, some fifty yards back. We all stood watching in mixed disbelief, drunken grins pasted on to our faces, all of us chanting in unison "he's not really gonna..."
And then, he goes sideways in midair.
That's when I turned away, shocked, scared, knowing he was about to be swarmed upon by a mass of trigger happy Nazi, Nixon-esque Biddeford Cops.
What felt like an eternity passed as we four stood looking at each other. John starts to walk off, turning around only to say "I cant be caught up in this, I just applied to these guys like a week ago. Call me when you find out what his bail's going to be, and I'll come down and bail him. But I can't be here for this."
It's Dan who stands tall on behalf of his friend Jerry, stating "dude, we can't ditch him," and Celeste is quick to agree. Admittedly, my feelings were with John, and I teetered on the edge of staying or going, my vote being the decider.
But then, out of the crowd, as if it was the end of the film "Rudy" our pudgy counter part and La Kermesse Carnivale Terrorist remerges, soaked head to toe, jogging back to catch up with us. A roar goes out, as we collectively welcome him back, slaps on his back, hugs, and "holy shits" had all around.
Jerry ends up scraping his knees, and as he takes a seat by the sewage treatment plant, he retells of what happened:
"I fucking jumped in, and this guy, this guy grabs my collar on my shirt and goes 'you're not going anywhere' and I tried to run, but this cop comes up to me and goes 'do you have three hundred dollars for bail?' and I say 'no sir,' and he asks me my name and I tell him, and that was it." And for as simple of a story as it is, we're all huddled around our new hero in total awe.
"That was some pretty stupid shit," he finishes. He also makes it known that he wants his money ASAP.
We climb the hill back to John's house where things eventually wind down. Jerry and Dan decide to go out to Old Orchard to meet up with some other people to retell the tale of the night. Celeste, expertly deflecting my drunken horny advances, decides to go home ("I've gotta get home," she says "You can come back to my home," I come back with, "it's a home....") and I pick up my bag, wish everyone a good night, and manage to drive myself home without getting pulled over.
...And that's why I don't go to La Kermesse.