My head hurts. I have bruises on my body in random places. My left elbow has been throbbing for two days. I need water. I’ve earned a total of 1,200 minutes of sleep in the past five nights. Memories of the last 120 hours are hazy, at best. I’ve been surviving off Visine and Winterfresh gum. I got beat by a girl. I’ve never seen or consumed this much alcohol. I got knocked down by a football.
In spite of all that, I’ve never felt better in my life. Never.
I survived the greatest trip of my very existence. I’m 26 years old. I just partied like I was 18…for five consecutive evenings. I witnessed in-person the University of Washington’s first bowl victory in a decade. I enjoyed the Husky men’s basketball team’s demolition of both Los Angeles-area schools. I sat in a bar with Seattle fans and watched our Seahawks win the NFC West and, against all odds, make the playoffs. From that standpoint alone, it was an amazing stretch of sunrises and sunsets.
But after reviewing video evidence and speaking extensively with all the people I trust to help fill in my own memory gaps, there was more to this past week than just big-time sports victories. My own recollection is a little hazy, but I think I’ve finally pieced it all together. So without further ado, I give you a full, unabridged recap of the craziest vacation I’ve ever been on, organized chronologically. Reader discretion is advised (not really…okay, maybe).
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
4:00 p.m. PST: Land at Los Angeles International Airport. Proceed to baggage claim. Locate the guys holding a handmade sign that reads “Seattle Sportsnet,” standing amongst a throng of limo drivers, shouting at me as I descend down the escalator. This is Mikey and Matt, my roommates for the duration of this journey (the Three Amigos, as we will later be dubbed). We’re gonna have a good time.
5:30 p.m. PST: After considerable holdup with the car rental process, we’re left to our own devices in the parking garage of Alamo. Roughly ten full-size sedans sit before us for the taking. One is a Nissan Altima hybrid. None of us own a hybrid, nor have ever driven one before. Naturally, we select the hybrid. Five minutes later, we’ve started the car. Kind of. (FYI: Almost everything I say in the below video is either a) wrong or b) simply not factual.)
6:30 p.m. PST: Spotting a Buffalo Wild Wings sign just off the freeway, we cut across five lanes of traffic and make a beeline for the off ramp. We park our car in the vicinity of where we thought we spotted BWW. After cutting through a shopping mall, rappelling down a cliff side, crossing an 11-lane boulevard, and crawling underneath a tarp that covers the only set of stairs up to this mythical restaurant that we can find, we’ve arrived at our destination.
On the way back to our car, we cross those same 11 lanes, scale that same cliff side (inducing a scream from Matt as a rat scurries beneath his legs), and cut through the very same shopping mall before locating the hybrid.
8:30 p.m. PST: Arrive in San Diego, check into our room at the Mission Valley Doubletree, then head for the grocery store (Ralph’s) to purchase provisions. We sit in the Ralph’s parking lot to hear the end of the Washington-USC men’s basketball game. Overtime victory for UW. Game 1 of four big matchups goes to the city of Seattle.
We head inside, find the hard liquor (no state-controlled board in these parts) and stock up. Best part of the story: Ralph’s is affiliated with the Kroger chain of grocery stores. I type in my QFC Advantage Card number at checkout. Instant discount. California 1, Washington 0.
9:30 p.m. – 3:00 a.m. PST: Pick up some friends at the San Diego airport in our hybrid car, which we can now start without issue. Hit up one bar, head back to the hotel, meet up with some other friends, head to another bar, meet up with more friends, get hit on by a drunk girl that wants to use my cell phone as she’s falling on me (“Sorry, my phone is dead.”), dance for roughly 30 seconds, get last-called about thirty minutes too early, head back to the hotel, sleep.
Thursday, December 30, 2010 – Gameday
9:00 a.m. PST: Wake up. Head hurts. Need water. Shower off the alcohol. Sit and wait for the other two Amigos to arise. Contemplate putting on clothes.
10:00 a.m. PST: Head to another nearby provisional facility, Food 4 Less. Stock up on gameday provisions (beer and water), then search for breakfast. Eat burritos at 10:30 in the morning, then tote a mini-keg, a 36-pack of Bud Light, and a case of water down the street to our hotel. Get more than our fair share of weird looks along the way.
11:00 a.m. PST: Meet up in the hotel with our friends for a pre-tailgate get-together. Room 732 more closely resembles a bar by now. Pour drinks, watch football, and get increasingly amped over the next three hours. At one point, a summer sausage makes an appearance, though it goes uneaten. The sausage is merely a prop for entertainment’s sake. Greg Oden references abound. (“It’s not about the length or the size so much, it’s more about the weight.”)
2:00 p.m. PST: Round up our purple gear, round up our provisions, head for the trolley. Quality public transit: California 2, Washington 0.
Take the trolley to Qualcomm Stadium with a number of other Husky fans. Disembark and venture over to lot D3 (the Mighty Ducks are back!). This is the most expansive tailgating venue I have ever laid eyes on. It’s heaven for a party-loving sports fan.
3:00 p.m. PST: The tailgate is underway. Even without tents, without canopies, without RVs, and without a beer pong table, this is still one of the bigger tailgates in the vicinity. Three separate groups of hardcore Husky fans have co-mingled to form a Super Mega Tailgate. Food is limited; beverage is not. We proceed to get housed.
3:30 p.m. PST: A news crew shows up. The reporter, who I later find out is KIRO 7’s David Quinlan, looks like major league outfielder Matt Holliday. I tell him as much. He says he “gets that a lot.” Doesn’t seem amused by the comparison. I, however, am very amused. I’m in my friendly/honest/touchy-feely mode, on the precipice of drunkenness. Some people get emotional, some get belligerent, some get subdued. I become everyone’s buddy. My go-to move is the arm around the shoulder. If my arm is around your shoulder, chances are I’ve been drinking. It is what it is.
Quinlan interviews us for a story on the Holiday Bowl. As he asks me questions, I try and fail to form well-thought-out responses. At one point I hear the word “epic.” Shortly thereafter, I hear the word “revenge.” Putting the two together, I form the phrase “epic revenge.” I don’t remember hooking these two words up on their blind date. However, video evidence proves that my two-word quote is the closing tagline for Quinlan’s report (scroll to the 5:30 mark). I have succeeded in my media whoredom for the moment.
4:00 p.m. PST: Hunger creeps in on our group. We need food. Now. Bred to be hunter-gatherers, we begin searching for a meal. We find it roughly a football field away in the form of an amicable older fellow by the name of George. George is a Husky fan at a tailgate full of non-partisans. He’s from the Seattle area and went to UW, but has lived for decades in San Diego after being stationed there during his military days. He implores us to eat from his amazing spread of carne asada, chicken, tortillas, and more. We offer alcohol as barter. We have cigars. We sacrifice those in his honor, as well.
“Don’t smoke this ’til after the game, George,” I say. “It’s a victory cigar.”
“Nope, I’m smoking it now,” replies George. I’m pretty sure I put my arm around his shoulder, laugh, and tell him to have at it.
4:30 p.m. PST: My opponent arrives. She strolls into our tailgate like she owns the place. She hugs me, then proceeds to shove me. It’s on.
We compete in a variety of contests that make no sense whatsoever. Squatting a 230-pound man (we both win), throwing footballs at things (she hits a car, then drills me from point-blank range), being camera whores, and comparing posteriors. I lose the “Best Ass” competition in a blowout, though my fellow amigo Mikey gives me a half-point out of pity. It takes me three days to find out that having the second-best ass in a two-ass competition was the source of my fractional scoring effort, as I don’t remember any of this. Whatever. I’m wearing jeans. She has stretch pants. It’s not even a fair fight.
6:45 p.m. PST: After an hour of haziness, I realize there are men in parachutes flying overhead. People are going nuts over this. How did I get to my seats already? Who are these flying men? What the heck is going on? Why is everyone yelling?
7:00 p.m. PST: The game kicks off. The fever pitch building up to kick is loud. Loud-loud. Everyone’s going crazy. The clouds are starting to disperse. If my head was filled with cumulonimbus clouds previously, we’ve at least downgraded to cumulus.
7:15 p.m. PST: Mikey almost gets kicked out for yelling at Nebraska fans. You may have heard the story. Everyone in San Diego did. And their mothers, too.
7:30 p.m. PST: We’re down to stratus clouds, which will become cirrus clouds as the game wears on.
8:00 p.m. PST: This is the Huskies’ day. We score first, we hold the lead, our side of the field has all the energy and all the momentum in the stadium. Nebraska never has a chance. By the fourth quarter, in spite of just a two-possession game, their fans begin to file out en masse. With a couple minutes remaining, the celebration begins for the purple-and-gold. Few Cornhusker fans remain to spoil the party. Victory. Two Seattle victories in two days.
10:30 p.m. PST: A few sections away, we spot Hugh Millen. Yes, THE Hugh Millen. He’s with his family. My friends wander over to speak with him. Clearly, they are under a different set of rules than I am, as everyone knows that you do not speak to Hugh Millen unless you have been spoken to first. Making eye contact with Hugh Millen is also forbidden. Hugh Millen is above the rest of us. Do not question his authority.
Hugh Millen speaks. He wasn’t speaking to me, but I count it anyways, we were in the vicinity of one another.
“Excuse me,” I interject. “Are you Hugh Millen?”
“Yes,” Hugh Millen replies.
“Hi, I have a radio show at KJR and know a lot of the people you know (when you’re looking for an icebreaker, just name drop/lie). By the way, I think you’re the freakin’ man.”
Hugh Millen laughs. “Thank you.”
We chit-chat. Hugh Millen goes his separate way, I go mine. I turn around and Mikey has his shirt off. I instruct Mikey to put his shirt back on. He considers it, then obliges.
We walk out onto the concourse. Hugh Millen is saying good-bye to his family, headed for the local airwaves. He comes walking down the path towards us.
“Guys!” he shouts in our direction. Now it’s official. Hugh Millen has spoken to me, therefore I can legitimately speak to him. I am humbled. He also has a giant grin on his face. Our presence makes Hugh Millen smile. We are above the unholy. “Did we really just win that game?!”
I seize the moment. “Oh, we really f**kin’ won, Hugh!” Hugh high-fives me, heads towards the elevator, wishes us a happy new year, turns water into wine, and disappears with a golden aura surrounding him. We are not worthy.
12:30 a.m. – 4:00 a.m. PST: We arrive in San Diego’s Gaslamp District. Purple-clad fans stroll the streets, outnumbering the dressed-up natives who don’t know what to make of this Husky takeover. It’s absolutely glorious.
We party the night away and get back to the hotel in the wee hours.
Friday, December 31, 2010 – New Year’s Eve
9:00 a.m. PST: I can’t sleep any longer. My head hurts less than it did a day ago. I must be getting used to this.
I drink some water. I shower. I dress. I should probably do some work. I grab my laptop, stuff it in my backpack, and walk down the street looking for free wi-fi. I find it…at Starbucks. I beg the Lord for forgiveness before stepping inside.
I purchase a sandwich with a Starbucks gift card I’ve had in my wallet for more than a few months. My parents always give me these things. I appreciate the gesture, but that’s like handing your kid crack. All you’re doing is supporting terrorism.
I find a table and proceed to abuse Howard Schultz’s free internet for the next hour-and-a-half. I get stuff done. Good for me. Time to go back and wake the sleeping Amigos.
11:30 a.m. PST: Matt is awake. Mikey is sprawled out across the bed like a grizzly bear that’s been hit with one too many tranquilizers. It was a rough night for Mikey. He almost got kicked out of the Holiday Bowl. You may have heard.
Matt wants to hit the hotel gym to work out. As if to prove something to my body, I decide to join him. I put on gym shorts and a t-shirt and we head down.
Upon arriving, I spot my nemesis from across the room. Ah, the treadmill. We meet again. You taunt me with your speed and your ramp. Like you’re so special. I put in my headphones. I turn on my music. I run. For two-and-a-half miles I run. Minus the immense amount of perspiration (toxins escaping in liquid form), this has been the easiest two-and-a-half mile run I’ve ever enjoyed. I usually run for three miles, but why push it. This is vacation. And I’m still in awe of how I feel despite a hangover the size of Asia. I’ve taken the treadmill. Revenge for all the times it has taken me.
1:00 p.m. PST: Time to watch Husky basketball. We venture outside our hotel to Randy Jones’ Bar & Grill (Randy Jones, former Cy Young award winner with the Padres, former friend of Seattle Sportsnet’s on Facebook…until the great deletion of 2010). We sit. We eat. We witness a victory. Dawgs have now swept their trip to California. Unbelievable.
Jake Locker walks in with a few members of his family. Mikey and Matt man-crush. As we’re getting ready to leave, I introduce myself (but mostly them) to Jake. We bounce. Mikey and Matt will never be the same again. Jake’s like Hugh Millen to them.
9:00 p.m. PST – 5:00 a.m. PST: We get dressed in our nice clothes for New Year’s Eve. We each brought one shirt that would be considered nice. Mine is ridiculously big, something I didn’t realize when I packed it, so I am forced to tuck in. I look like a tool. Sigh.
We walk around the city and head to a bar. There’s a $20 cover charge. F that. Peace.
We head to Food 4 Less. Mikey and Matt get cheap bottles of champagne and proceed to drink them on a street corner. Classy. By the time they’re finished, their night is almost over. They’ll be up for a few more hours. But only slightly more coherent than if they were asleep.
We head back to the hotel lobby. A large contingent of Husky fans is celebrating at the hotel bar. We decide to join them. It’s the family of Jake Locker. Awesome. We get to know them as the night wears on. Great people. Super hospitable and know how to have a great time. They even make us come up to their room after the bar closes to keep the party going. How can you turn that down?
My opponent — the very same one who was winning the Breakin It Down With Bailey/Seattle Sportsnet competition at last check — shows up to the party early in the evening. I earn ten bonus points in our ongoing battle by kissing her at midnight. No one vouches for my scoring decision. Jerks.
Never ones to give up, we continue the challenges by thumb wrestling. We go for five minutes with no winner. We switch to arm wrestling. I nearly have her pinned when Matt — my Amigo, my confidant, my trusted friend — hands the victory to Bailey, claiming I have cheated. I am stunned. Seattle Sportsnet is not known as a cheater. Blasphemy. It’s me versus the refs in this competition.
We enjoy the rest of the evening into the latter hours of the morning. We’re back in our room by about 3:00 a.m. Matt has passed out on the bed to the point of neither moving nor making any noise. He’s gone. Mikey, on the other hand, has energy for days. We walk to Denny’s. We devour a sampler platter at 4:00 a.m. My figure is going to hell.
Saturday, January 1, 2011 – New Year’s Day
11:00 a.m. PST: What the hell is going on? Where the sh*t am I? Oh, right, San Diego.
Everything hurts. My throat is sore. My voice is scratchy. I need water. Water! Now!
I put on clothes. It seems like the right thing to do. I stagger around the room a few times. The Amigos awake. We decide to walk to In-N-Out. Matt’s Windows Mobile phone says it’s only a mile away. Lies. It turns out to be roughly two miles away, if not more. We barely make it alive.
Two bites into the burgers, no one is feeling all that good. Dear kids. Don’t drink. That is all.
12:00 p.m. PST: We head back to the hotel via a free ride on the local trolley. I call my family. We have a big get-together on New Year’s Day. I talk to both my grandmas. They ask how I’m doing. I say I’m doing well. It’s kind of true.
My opponent texts me. She’s about to leave for Seattle. First, however, we need to take pictures in our matching shirts. She made me a Seattle Sportsnet shirt. The first of its kind. I contemplate how often I can wear this shirt without being labeled a pretentious dick. Who cares. It’s an awesome shirt. I love it. We’re both camera whores so the pictures are straight ballin’. She leaves. I fail to win a competition that has been captured almost entirely on video. Video that no one can ever see. Because we were very, very inebriated while competing.
2:00 p.m. PST: The Three Amigos resolve to devote this day to recovery. We enjoy lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant that got good reviews online. You can get a full Mexican meal in SD for under five bucks, it’s incredible.
Later, we roam over to the campus of the University of San Diego. We take lots of photos. Camera whores. USD sits atop a hill near Mission Valley. It’s on amazing high ground. Seriously. When the U.S. declares war on Mexico, we’ll need to claim the USD campus before our foes to the south do. It’s that important.
We head back to the hotel, rest, do next to nothing for the remainder of the day, play Sockball (a good game of skill that involves bouncing on beds and shooting at a wastebasket with a sock…yes, we’re all 26 or older), hold a swimming competition, spend happy hour at Applebee’s, then go to bed. Our trip is nearing its conclusion. We have vanquished San Diego. It, in turn, has nearly vanquished us.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Check-out day. First, though, it’s time to hit the gym. My head only slightly hurts. I’m getting stronger. Like the Death Star at the commencement of Return of the Jedi.
I run two-and-a-half more miles, proving to my body that even under the worst conditions, success can be attained. Victory.
We pack our things and load the hybrid for the journey north to Los Angeles. We stop at the same Buffalo Wild Wings we dined at on the way down. This time, we don’t cross any lanes of traffic or crawl under any tarps. We’ve got this. We also use this time to concoct a plan for our own knock-off version of Buffalo Wild Wings which we will be opening in the Seattle area. After much deliberation, we decide to name our restaurant “Big Beautiful Wings,” or BBW for short. Enjoy that.
We make our way to the City of Angels, find a hotel for the night, settle in, then watch the Seahawks beat the Rams on national television. We’re going to the playoffs. Unbelievable. And every single one of our teams won this week. Couldn’t be more thrilled about that. Four-and-freakin’-oh. Never had a stretch like that before. Ever.
I have a 7:50 a.m. flight. We’ll spend this evening out until 2:00 a.m. or thereabouts. I’ll sleep for maybe an hour, then get up and leave the other two Amigos behind. I’ll get on a plane and return to Seattle where nothing will ever be the same again. Not after a trip like this one. Not after all the victories, all the debauchery (only a fraction of which was mentioned here). It’s been real, San Diego. You stay classy.