Debauching with Dudes in the Desert
It finally arrived, the moment we had all been waiting for: Diego’s bachelor party. After getting a good night’s rest, I was feeling fresh in spite of the 3,000 train miles, 200 bike miles, 500 car miles, 10 foot miles and 10 horseback miles I had put on over the past week. Our friends flew into Phoenix’ Sky Habor International Airport on Thursday, employing what seemed like the sole means of transportation that I hadn’t yet utilized on this trip.
Day one of the bachelor party was our orientation in Tempe. Despite the heat we did a brief hike up Hayden Butte. We appeared extraordinarily out-of-place; all seven of us were wearing our "Diego's Bad Hombres" tank tops, Danny was limping on a bum leg that was injured while practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and the soles of Diego's 20-year-old Nikes had melted and were falling off of his shoes. Based on how we looked on the way down you would have thought that our half-mile roundtrip hike on the paved trail was a death-defying journey up Everest. After surviving our brief jaunt to get a view of Tempe, we grabbed tacos at Loco Patron, then went out on Mill Ave; the premier go-out spot for Arizona State University students.
The highlight for me had to be karaoke at 414 Pub and Pizza. I did a white-boy rendition of Outkast & UGK’s “International Player’s Anthem” that was fairly well-received. I dedicated the song to Diego, of course, in honor of his bachelor party, which prompted the DJ to come over and inform us that he had something embarrassing in-store for Diego. Diego, being averse to the spotlight, grew antsy and urged us to leave the bar. We all stalled as long as we could, but to no avail. Diego ultimately popped up and stomped out of his own bachelor party. As we were getting up to follow Diego, the DJ returned with the surprise; a jumbo, phallus-shaped breadstick drizzled with creamy garlic sauce and the inscription “Happy B-Day”. Though there was obviously a miscommunication with the kitchen, I chose to interpret “B-Day” to mean “Bachelor Day”. We found Diego outside and presented him his gift…to which he commented that he wasn’t hungry.
That night wasn’t exactly a reminder that we were old, but it was definitely a heads-up that we weren’t in college anymore. We were seven out-of-place goobers wearing stupid “Diego’s Bad Hombres” tank tops lurking around some college bars. This place would have been great a decade ago, but in the present I felt a bit out of place.
The next day was forecast to be in the 100’s, so we decided to go tubing down the Salt River. We drove about 30 minutes Northeast of town into the Tonto National Forest, rented inner tubes, then were shuttled a few miles North to the point of departure.
Before jumping into the river we asked a lady to take a picture of our group. She asked who was getting married, which we responded to by pointing to Diego. Her supposed husband then commented, "Sucker." I was sort of taken aback, not by this individual comment, but by the fact that these sorts of insinuations had become commonplace over the past 24 hours. People had humorously urged Diego to get a prenuptial agreement and others expressed sorrow that he was getting married. Yes, there were some people who were celebratory, but there were just as many who were bitter and sarcastic. I found it saddening; high divorce rates in this country have reduced marriage to the butt of a stale joke.
I shared my observation with Diego, who was surprisingly undisturbed. "Oh, you know, everyone has their own experience." Cool, calm and collected as he's always been, Diego didn't let the naysayers get to him. Being one of the most loyal people I've ever known, I had little doubt that Diego would have no reason to be jaded like so many of the Arizonans who had proffered their lame comments.
We hopped in the river. The scenery was unbelievable, we were in the middle of a "National Forest" that lacked a single tree but was overrun by Saguaro cacti, in the distance were rigid desert peaks. I don’t know what was better about the lazy river experience: the relief of floating down a river in the middle of a cactus-covered desert or being forced to abandon our cellphones and appreciate our company for four hours. It was a highlight of the trip.
That night we went out in Scottsdale, the supposed party capitol of Arizona. I won’t lie, the place was pretty over the top. Nightclubs and bars blasted rap and techno music into streets which were flooded with bachelorette parties and chiseled men who were being chauffeured from destination to destination in golf carts. We got a table and bottle service at Hi-Fi, one of the many high-energy nightlife spots in the district.
Some of the guys laid low while others decided to prowl around the bars in search of a dance partner or perhaps a companion for the weekend. I couldn’t help but to acknowledge the abundance of attractive women, not just in Scottsdale, but in Phoenix in general. Never before in my life had I seen such short shorts. Every young lady had a physique to show off and had no reservations about doing so. It caused me to stop and reflect: How appropriate that a bunch of young men would navigate the Sonoran Desert to arrive in Scottsdale and discover such an oasis. Here there was the appearance of the company and affection that would save any young man, yet when he approaches her it turns out she was never there in the first place. Scottsdale was a mirage. There was no one there to hydrate and nourish the desert-weary soul of a thirsty young man, just over-priced booze to intensify his disillusionment.
After the bar we returned home. We chatted and played ping pong and listened to reggaetón through the night. By the time the early rays of the sun were bending their way about the horizon, there were just three of us left; Sam, Danny and myself. Sam was busy showing off his air guitar skills while Danny was raving about Credence Clearwater Revival, also known as CCR.
“Dude, come up here and pluck the air guitar with me! It feels so good.” Sam’s leg was raised on the table, his left hand grabbing the imaginary instrument’s neck and his right plucking the cords.
“We need a cowbell! I got the cowbell!” Danny sprung to his feet and started dinging the air cowbell with gusto, each stroke provoking him to let out a loud “tink”.
The two were fully engaged in their performance, and I was tired, so I went to sleep in the living room, probably around 6:00 am.
At some time around 8:00 am I stirred. I was laying on my air mat on the ground with my feet extended toward the television set which all the furniture in this living room was oriented towards. Between the television and me were Sam and Danny, both furiously playing their air instruments and giving off a medley of “baner-naner-naner”s and “tink-tink-tink”s. I was an audience of one, bearing witness to a live air-performance of CCR. I raised my hand to them as though I were going to employ a Jedi Mind Trick, rapidly shook my hand and said, “No”.
The two adjourned their song, then vacated the living room.
Saturday was the last day of the bachelor party. Some of the guys chose to go out day-loading, while others hung around the house and prepared for a cookout. Andres and I bought groceries from Safeway then headed to Home Depot to get more propane. It was a nice opportunity to get to know Andres, the fellow in the group that I was least familiar with. I was sort of blindsided by how nice and engaging he was. He’s one of those guys who has a way with words and makes you feel interesting.
When we arrived at Home Depot, Andres made his way inside to change out the propane tank, while I hung in front of the shop with my shirt off, taking in the Arizona sun. I’m not sure why I wasn’t wearing a shirt, but I found myself standing in front of Home Depot shirtless, so I decided to take a very rough picture of myself in front of a set of grills and the American flag. When Andres came out he refused to get near me, despite his kind manners. His avoidance was merited: I looked really dumb taking shirtless selfies in front of Home Depot.
That afternoon we grilled and chilled, that evening we went out, again, to the mirage of a desert oasis that is Scottsdale. In a lot of ways it was a repeat of the previous night, which was a great time.
And so ended Diego’s bachelor party. A bunch of dudes in the desert, eating breadsticks, playing the air guitar and having an unforgettable time together.