Chapter 59 – Dining & Ditching
At the end of May 2013, when the month-long tour I’d been on with Dragoman Overland through Central Asia had come to its conclusion in Bishkek, the Kyrgyzstani capital, I had a couple extra days to kill before flying home on the nightmarish Bishkek to Moscow to Helsinki to New York to Chicago route that’d awaited me. After having said goodbye to the group with whom I traversed Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan as well as the extremely rural outposts of the Kyrgyz Republic, I checked into a hostel where I’d planned on taking it easy for the next couple days.
On the morning of the first whole day, I took a bus out to a place called Osh Bazaar which is one of the largest markets in Kyrgyzstan. I’m not a big shopper, but going to Central Asian bazaars ain’t so much about shopping as it is about browsing – just seeing what type of outlandish shit they sell in these countries that most of my friends and relatives back home have never even heard of.
In addition to old Sega Genesis games that I haven’t seen in years like “Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker” as well as shirts that just said “MUSLIM” across the chest – one of which I’d bought for a social experiment to see how long it takes for me to get my ass kicked when wearing such a thing in my xenophobic neighborhood back home – the most interesting thing I found at Osh Bazaar had been the hilarious assortment of male enhancement products.
One Altoid-sized tin had been labeled “USA Endurance” and had a picture of Michael Jordan holding a basketball on it and another manufactured by the same company had a photo of Daniel Craig holding out a gun with a silencer. It was labeled “Viagra 007” and said that the product “Thoroughly makes it big, thick, long-lasting, increasing sperms.” And although the one with Obama on it giving the thumbs-up had been pretty classic, my favorite box of political boner juice had been one called Arab Viagra that had a picture of bin Laden’s face on it, next to which his hand with only his index finger raised had appeared, making it obvious someone had taken this image from when he’d been giving some radical speech that was of dire importance to him and put it on this product that’ll be bought by guys whose dicks don’t work properly.
From Osh Bazaar, I ended up purchasing some Arab Viagra – it was too fuckin’ funny to pass up – as well as a nice, soft and snuggly scarf. While walking back to the area where the buses stopped, there’d been a drunk man with his fat gut hanging out the bottom of his Adidas jacket, laying passed out a couple feet off the sidewalk and no one seemed to care. Another thing that no one seemed to care about near the sidewalks had been the ubiquitous patches of marijuana that just naturally spring up here, there and everywhere in the capital of Kyrgyzstan. It truly is a sight to see.
When I got back to the hostel that afternoon, I laid in bed for a few hours before getting up to have a walk around the neighborhood and to look for some dinner. This is when I met three other guys who’d been staying at the hostel that asked if I’d like to join them to go to some local hamburger stand they’d all been to before. I said, “Sure, why not?” and we all went on our merry way.
All three of the guys had been in their mid to late twenties. Two of the guys were from Canada, one of whom had been a bearded fellow named Brandon from Vancouver and the other – a dark-haired dude with tan skin named Chris – from Montreal. Allen, the third guy, was a tall-ass dude with sandy blonde hair who hailed from Texas. He’s the only one I’ve stayed in contact with and, from him, recently received the following email.
“It’s all good. I’m here in Austin. Will stay here until July when the house sells. Then I think I’m headed to Puerto Rico. Just did a little trip from Panama to Nicaragua for a month. That reminds me…
About four or five weeks ago, I’m laying around the hotel in Managua, Nicaragua. It’s mid-morning but it’s already hot, as usual. We’re talking 99 according to android. My room doesn’t have AC, so I always have the fan on and door open. And I chill with no shirt on.
So on this particular day I notice something going on. I’ve been hanging around the room and the cleaning girl keeps coming around and has already mopped my floor like three times in the past hour. I’m laying on the bed, sweat glistening on my upper body. I decided to engage her. After a little talking she says, ‘I want to kiss you.’ I told her, ‘You can kiss me here,’ as I touched my zipper area with my hand. Next thing I know she kisses my dick through my pants then gets back up and keeps cleaning. After a minute, I tell her, ‘Kiss it again,’ as I pull my dick out. It was so funny, she would lick on my dick for a minute then poke her head out the door to check if someone was coming then come suck on it again with the door open the whole time.
So I decided this bitch was worthy enough to have it shot off right in her mouth. And she tells me, ‘Que barbaro,’ as she licks it a couple more times before I get up.
I love the opportunities travel presents.”
Over Kyrgyz burgers, as the four of us total fucking bros talked about bro-ass shit in tune with the email you just read, I brought up how weird I thought it was that weed just spontaneously grows all over the place in Kyrgyzstan.
“Yeah, it’ really good too,” said Brandon. “It’s almost as good as that Afghan shit. Have you smoked it yet?”
“I mean, I haven’t picked it off the fuckin’ sidewalk er nothin’…”
“Well, the shit you see growing won’t be ready for harvest until August so…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I added, pretending I already knew that so I wouldn’t lose any bro credit. “But uh, yeah. I smoked some shit while I was camping. And when I got tired from it, I counteracted it with this shit called nasvai. Have you tried that shit?”
Everyone shook their heads no.
“It’s like uh, this fuckin’ rancid tobacco that comes in the form of really tiny pellets. You can get it from pretty much any market around here for real cheap. And you take a palm-full, lift up your tongue and dump it under there and it burns like hell and tastes like shit, but gives you a pretty decent buzz.”
“Where’d you go camping?” Brandon asked.
“Lots of places, man. Altyn Arashan, Jeti-Oghuz, Lake Ysyk-Kol…”
“Yo,” he said, “Lake Ysyk-Kol is where they grow a lot of the bud I’m talkin’ about. Did you see any of the massive marijuana fields out there?”
“Nah man. Didn’t do much exploring in Ysyk-Kol. We just hung out and camped and met some tribal eagle hunter dude – like, some fuckin’ Kyrgyz guy who trained an eagle to go kill rabbits in a field then bring ‘em back to him, drop ‘em at his feet and tear the rabbit’s head and fur off with its beak and talons so he has less work to do when preparing it for dinner.”
“No shit, man. That sounds gnarly.”
“Yeah, it was pretty cool. But it wasn’t a wild rabbit. He brought his own and let it loose in the field to do a demonstration. Then he climbed up a hill with the eagle on his forearm and let it go and it could spot that fuckin’ rabbit in the brush from like a hundred yards away. It was just like a bull fight in Spain. The hunted didn’t stand a chance yet we all clapped when witnessing its demise.”
“That’s pretty cool, dude. But what I wanted to say,” Brandon rubbed the top of his head while leaning back in his chair, “was that near Ysyk-Kol they got this centuries-old way of collecting fuckin’ weed resin that gets you high as fuck.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked. “What’s that?”
“Well, it’s actually pretty gay, but I definitely wanna do it,” he laughed. “So like, before going out into the fields for the day, all the men shower themselves clean and they wash their horses as well. When they’re both dry, the naked men get on the horses and just ride back and forth all day through the marijuana fields. And as they and the horses begin to sweat, all the resin from the plants starts sticking to their bodies and has a fuckin’ chemical reaction or somethin’ and the shit turns brown or black.
“Then once they’re like, completely caked in the shit – their skin is completely covered, ya know – they come out and other dudes scrape the res off them and their horses and pack it into bricks and sell it. It’s supposed to be way more potent than smoking the weed itself. They say a match head sized piece of this shit rolled into a normal cigarette will get you stoned off your ass.”
“That sounds pretty cool,” I said, “except for the fact that you might be smoking res that was scraped off some fuckin’ Kyrgyz dude’s sweaty-ass dick.”
“Yeah,” he laughed, “that’s why I said it was pretty gay. But still, I wanna be one of those naked guys on the horses.”
After dinner we stopped at a supermarket to pick up some liquor. Since booze in Kyrgyzstan is so fuckin’ cheap – that night I got a big-ass bottle of vodka for around two dollars – we each grabbed ourselves some of the hard shit and took it back to the hostel where we began guzzling while smoking weed at a plastic table on an outdoor patio.
Following about three hours of consumption during which we regaled one another with crude stories of fornication and intoxication, we started to talk about taking the party elsewhere.
“But what’s open right now?” Chris asked.
“We could go to Bar Hollywood,” Brandon suggested.
“Aw shit,” Chris retorted, “I ain’t goin’ back to that place.”
All three of them laughed.
“What’s Bar Hollywood?” I asked.
“It’s this fuckin’ ridiculous place that this guy – some thirty-eight-year-old American dude who left the hostel a few days before you got here – loved to go to,” Chris told me. “He’d spend all his time either hanging out at Hollywood or going to sauna whorehouses. And all he’d do each time he saw us at the hostel was try and convince us to go to either one with him. He never got us to go to any of the sauna whorehouses but he did manage to drag us to Bar Hollywood.”
“What’s so bad about it?” I asked.
“Eh, it’s just tacky as hell. All the walls are covered in American pop culture shit and even though the place is almost always empty, they got reserved signs on every table to make it look fancy and they blast all this Russian dance music and shit. I don’t know. I mean, it’s a place to drink so in that respect it’s not terrible, but it just reminds me too much of that fuckin’ scumbag.”
“Ah, I see,” I said. “What about, uh, have you heard about that place here in Bishkek called Obama Bar & Grill? It’s supposed to be an Obama-themed restaurant. Everything’s supposed to look presidential and there’s cut-outs of Obama standing all over the place and they serve food on plates with his face on ‘em or some ridiculous shit like that. I think that would be a fun place to black out at. Anyone got the internet on your phone so you can check out what I’m talking about here?”
Chris pulled out his phone and began looking it up.
“Okay. Obama Bar & Grill. Here it is. Yeah,” he nodded, “this place does look as ridiculous as you said, but it closes at midnight and it’s already eleven-thirty. It wouldn’t be worth the trip.”
Following a momentary silence…
“Alright, well, Hollywood it is,” Brandon said.
“I’m in,” Allen added. “You gonna come check it out, Timmy?”
“Yeah, I’ll go.”
We looked at Chris.
“Eh, I’m flyin’ outta here early tomorrow and a trip to Bar Hollywood just isn’t worth being super hungover for my flight,” he said. “Sorry fellas.”
After saying goodbye to Chris, the three of us walked the mile or so over to Bar Hollywood where – out of the many they had in the place that was as corny as the Quebecois had prophesized – only one or two tables had been occupied. I was already pretty hammered by the time I showed up there, but after we pounded a couple more rounds, I kicked my buzz up to talk-to-random-people mode. At one point I started chatting with some shady dude who was about forty-years-old and only knew a few words of English. With what English he knew, however, he was able to convey that it was his friend’s birthday and that we should come over and join them. We decided to accept the invitation.
Seated in a red leather corner booth and expecting our arrival had been the shady guy we were talking to as well as his birthday buddy and birthday buddy’s girlfriend. Just above the booth had been photos of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Mohammed Ali right next to movie posters of Scarface, The Godfather and other classic Americana. Neither Birthday Boy nor his girl spoke a word of English which severely limited our interaction.
“Food? Drink?” Shady asked.
“Yeah, sure,” I didn’t have anything in front of me at the time. “Whatever you wanna order.”
Brandon too nods “yeah” and Shady calls the waitress over. As he’s rattling off a bunch of things he wants in a language I don’t understand, I look over and notice Allen doesn’t seem to be having too good a time.
“What’s up, man? You need somethin’ to drink?”
“Eh, I dunno,” he said. “I think I’m gonna get outta here. This feels kinda fucked up.”
“What feels fucked up?”
“This situation just doesn’t really feel right to me. Think I’m just gonna go back to the hostel and call it a night.”
“For real? Nah man, why don’t you have another drink?”
“Nah, I’m gettin’ outta here,” he said and then stood up from the table. “I’ll see ya guys tomorrow.”
“Ah, alright man. See ya tomorrow.”
Not long after Allen left, the waitress returned to the table with a couple bottles of vodka and a round of beers – both of which we immediately began to annihilate. After that round of beers which we’d drank with hardly a word said between the Kyrgyz camp and the North Americans, we ordered another. And during that second round of beers, a bunch of appetizers had been delivered to the table which we all started tearing apart. Once the food was gone and that round of beers finished, Birthday Boy and his girl took off. Right after they left, Shady went to the pisser and I was too impatient to wait around for the waitress to come around and ask me if I needed another beer so I walked over to the bar and up to the young ethnically Russian Kyrgyzstani guy who’d been manning it and let him know I was ready for another “pivo.”
“Eh, one minute,” he said in a thick accent, pulled out an iPhone and started typing on it.
For that minute, I thought he’d been tending to personal business until he looked back up at me and handed over his phone which’d been opened to Google Translate. On the screen there’d been a message that said, “He’s not your friend. He expects you to pay for all his food and drinks. You and your friend should leave right now.”
“Do you understand?” he asked me.
“Holy shit,” I said. “Are you serious?”
He didn’t understand the question. To clarify, I pointed at my chest and then redirected my index finger towards the door with an inquisitive look on my face.
“Yes,” he nodded.
“Whoa. Okay. Spasiba,” I thanked him then hustled back to Brandon at the table before Shady returned.
“Yo man,” I said to my bearded brethren, “the guy at the bar just told me the fuckin’ asshole who invited us over here is gonna make us pay for all this shit.”
“You for real?”
“Yeah man. Now that I think about it, Birthday Guy didn’t leave any money when he left. They probably do this shit to foreigners all the time. Let’s bail.”
“Whoa, shit. Alright,” he immediately stood up.
“Hey wait,” I said while pouring two glasses, “let’s chug the rest of this vodka.”
I poured ‘em and we slugged ‘em. As we were leaving, I decided to steal Shady’s pack of cigarettes off the table for good measure. On the way towards the door, I waved to the Russian kid behind the bar. He nodded in return, we exited Bar Hollywood and began running down the eerily quiet main road back toward the hostel.
In my life, this had only been the second time that I’d ever dined and ditched. The first had been back in February of 2008 during my sophomore year at Marquette University up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I think it was a Tuesday night because nobody was out partying but it was my buddy Cooney’s birthday and he really wanted to go out and get hammered. So four of us – me, Cooney, my buddies O’Shaughnessy and Dave – all went out and got trashed. That whole night while we’d been getting tanked, we’d been talking about how funny it would be to dine and ditch at an on-campus staple known as Real Chili once all the bars had closed. The more and more alcohol we consumed, the better the idea sounded.
Around two-thirty in the morning, as the four of us had been sitting at the counter in Real Chili polishing off fat bowls of guaranteed diarrhea, me and Cooney looked at each other, nodded and took off running out the door while Dave and O’Shaughnessy had been too fucked up to even notice what was going on. We giggled as we trotted down the block back to our dorm, Schroeder Hall, which was about two-and-a-half blocks away from the scene of the crime.
Once we’d reached the corner of 16th and Wells, we switched from a jog to a walk. We’d been on the right side of the street, heading towards Schroeder Hall which had also been on the right side of the street. But also on the right just before Schroder Hall is a building called the AMU and all along the sidewalk near the AMU are bushes and trees – mostly pine if my memory suits me correctly. And towards the end of this stretch of shrubbery – I actually wasn’t quite sure whether or not I’d been hallucinating on account of how drunk I was – but I was pretty sure I could see someone hiding behind the pines waiting to jump us. At the risk of sounding crazy and/or spoiling the triumph from our successful dine and ditch, I said nothing to Cooney.
By the time we got to about fifteen feet away from the end of the pine stretch, two public safety officers hopped out from behind the trees. I instantly turned around and took off running. At that point I was already in deep shit with the school for a number of incidents, the most recent of which had been documented as “jumping up and down on the hoods of cars in front of the bars at 16th & Wells.” But that’s not true. I was only jumping off the hoods of cars to give flying clotheslines to unsuspecting drunk people walking down the street. Regardless of whose account is correct, the point is I was already on probation and couldn’t afford to get in any more trouble. So I was as good as gone.
But Cooney on the other hand – I don’t know if he thought he could run between the officers who he figured would then simultaneously start running after him but then accidently step into each other, clunk heads and be knocked unconscious like in some fuckin’ slapstick Hollywood flick or what – started running right towards public safety and was immediately apprehended.
I knew that night I couldn’t go back to the dorms because they might be waiting for me so I instead ran over to O’Shaughnessy’s older sister Kathleen’s house and slept on her couch for the night. The following morning, I went back to the dorms to go and get my books and shit for my classes that day. To gain access to the dorms, you gotta hand over your ID to university personnel in the lobby who take a look at it, make sure it’s you and swipe it through a machine.
Many times over the years, drunk kids had accidently handed the officers at the desk their fake IDs, essentially busting themselves. My buddy Hoffman had actually done that one time but realized his mistake before the officer had even said anything about it and, in a panic, reached across the desk, slapped the security guard in the face, grabbed his ID back and went running out of the building.
My buddy Rob too had done the same thing and the guards went chasing after him. He made it out the door of the dorms with his ID in his hand and ran for the first sewer he could see on the street to dispose of the evidence. Before he could make it all the way there, however, he was tackled from behind by the officer a couple feet before the sewer. But before the officers could secure his hands, he reached forward and tossed his ID at the sewer where it ended up falling through the cracks. The officer then stood him up under his control and walked over to the sewer which happened to be clogged with leaves on which his ID sat just inches below the grate that swallowed it – the grate he thought had given him the assist of a lifetime.
I didn’t expect any drama like that when walking back into Schroeder Hall the following morning. I expected my arrival to be incident-free.
During the daylight hours, the security desk is managed by students, not guards, to one of whom I handed my proper Marquette University student ID, who then proceeded to swipe the card through the machine which ended up setting off some obnoxious fucking alarm.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
They wouldn’t give me a straight answer. They just told me to stand off to the side. It was there that campus security came to talk to me before they called the police who came over and gave me a ticket for something that they called “theft on an innkeeper” and I was given a court date and all these bogus-ass legal repercussions I’d have to deal with.
But the real question that’d been plaguing me is how they found out who I was. I mean, Dave and O’Shaughnessy didn’t know what was going on. They didn’t know we got caught. They wouldn’t have had any reason to give up our names. And although the campus has cameras, I doubt they’re so efficient that they could match my facial profile from the nighttime footage to the image on my school ID. I mean, this is fuckin’ campus security we’re talkin’ here – this ain’t fuckin’ CSI Miami.
All of these facts left me at the conclusion that Cooney had ratted me out upon his apprehension. But to this day, Cooney denies ever having done such a thing. I wanna believe him but can’t wrap my mind around any alternative outcome. On top of that, I’ve seen Cooney lie before. And he’s pretty good at what he does.
During the final week of our senior year, a huge group from our graduating class went camping in the woods. A lot of people brought different shit to keep us busy. Some folks brought beer bongs, some brought whiffle bats out of which we could play Louisville Chugger and a few had even brought tables on which we could play beer pong.
At some point in the night, I saw Cooney climbing up a tree above the currently unattended custom made beer pong table belonging to a dude named McKenna. Dave had been standing nearby watching him. I decided to ask Dave what was up.
“Cooney’s gonna dive off that branch up there through the table.”
“No fuckin’ shit. Are you kidding me?”
“No. For real. He’s gonna do it.”
“Aw man, I gotta see this. This is some hillbilly-ass backyard wrestling shit right here, boy.”
After Cooney got positioned about eight feet above this table, he dove off belly-first right towards the center of the thing which ended up cracking into about five pieces upon impact. For some reason or another, Dave had walked off and I was left there with a miraculously uninjured Cooney, congratulating him for what was, in all honesty, one of the coolest things I’d seen done in college. During this time, McKenna returned, was quite pissed off to find his table in shambles and, since we were standing nearby, decided to question us about its fate.
“Aw, shit man,” he said. “You guys see who did this shit to my fuckin’ table?”
“Nope,” Cooney shook his head.
“Yeah, no, me neither,” I added.
“Man, this is fucked up,” he said, looking all distraught and shit.
Moments later Dave returned to the scene.
“Yo Cooney,” he said with a giddy look on his face, “I just found another table you can jump through. C’mon, let’s go!”
Upon hearing this, McKenna shot us a dirty look as we awkwardly scampered away to go bust another one.
Back in Bishkek, since Brandon and I had been quite drunk and my lungs were pretty much shot from having smoked a pack of cigarettes that evening, we didn’t run for very long before returning to a casual pace. During this time, we remained vigilant. A car or two had driven past but neither of them appeared to be after us. By the time we were only a block or so away from the hostel, walking along that same main road, we’d completely let our guard down when another car pulled up and slammed on the brakes right alongside us. Brandon and I immediately took off running.
I could hear the slamming of the door and footsteps behind us as my Canadian counterpart and I turned down the first alley on our left. Whereas Brandon kept running straight down it, I reverted back to my days of childhood motherfuckery and sprung over some five-foot-high fence on the right side of the alley. At the time, I’d been wearing the scarf I’d purchased earlier that day at Osh Bazaar and, when I was flying over the fence, it got tangled on the branch of a pine tree and nearly strangled me as I went crashing onto the ground where I scraped the shit out of my hands. Not giving a second thought to the scarf which remained dangling from the branch, I got back on my feet and continued sprinting.
At that point the vodka we’d chugged when leaving started to kick in and I was too drunk to remember where the hell my hostel was. So, instead of walking around vulnerably in search of it on turf that I didn’t know with some pissed off guy chasing after us, I wandered into some Soviet-style apartment block and pulled on one of the exterior doors which led to a staircase.
Once inside, I climbed about three or four floors, sat down on the landing and pulled out the canister of mace I occasionally take out with me when I know I’m gonna get super drunk and do stupid things that make other people angry. There I sat with my trigger finger on the pepper spray waiting for the man to come seek his revenge on me. Even though I was scared shitless, the staircase had been quite dark and I was too drunk to keep my eyes open. I ended up passing out and waking up the following morning as locals casually stepped over my body on their way to work. I was just like the drunken slob I’d seen the day beforehand at Osh Bazaar that no one really cared had been passed out along the edge of the sidewalk.
After I came to, I went back to the place where my scarf had gotten tangled during the chase and it was gone. Someone had taken it. And after that, I found my way back to the hostel where, unlike my return to the dormitory sophomore year of college after a night incognito, I didn’t have the police called on me and I didn’t have to appear in court for charges of “theft on an innkeeper.”
Photos relative to the story…