By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Charley's Last Stand: Music, Booze, Food and Fun was right across the street from our Oklahoma City Howard Johnson. There wasn't any way my little brother and I weren't going.
"Don't go to Booze and Fun!" Commie Mom implored from in front of the Alito hearings rerunning on C-SPAN. We'd already checked Fox News to see, as my little brother said, if they were being right-wing right this very minute! Surprise! They were!
"We have to go to Booze and Fun!" we explained. "You can't not go to Booze and Fun! It's the law!"
And we did. It was pretty much the same as going to an AA meeting anyway.
I saddled up and ordered my cranberry and soda; Cakeyboy kept to just two vodka tonics. The lady bartender carded his 23-year-old longhaired gorgeous Malibu self—like he was the star of a Hollywood movie—but not me. "It's because you're so old," he chirruped delightedly. "You're Oldie Hawn!"
"That's no way to get laid," our lady bartender drawled, to our simultaneous horrified screams of "I'm his sister!" and "She's my sister!" This made Skanky Brenda, sitting at the bar, very, very glad, despite the fact that her son, she said, is 27.
"Y'all wanna go to a titty bar?" Skanky Brenda asked me after Cake and I had been playing pool a while. "There's one right in walking distance!" I was kind. "We have an early flight back home," I murmured. "But thank you." Later, walking back across the street, I told John about Skanky Brenda's invite. "She wanted to get you all horny at the titty bar and then have her way with you!" I shrieked. "I saved you from Skanky Brenda!"
"Aw, thanks, Becca!" my little brother said, and I could tell he was touched, though not like Skanky Brenda would have touched him. I couldn't wait to get back and tell my mom about our Chuckie Booze's adventure! But it was 10 p.m., so she was sound asleep.
* * *
We had a good time, my mom, my little brother and I, jet-setting to the Bible Beltfor a 36-hour stay. We giggled so hard on the midnight plane from Vegas at the flight attendant who sounded like he was speaking Tagalog, hurrying like an auctioneer through the longest safety announcement in history—he was trading back and forth with a flight attendant who sounded like she was from Belize for going on 15 minutes, and every two minutes or so we'd recognize a single word ("seatbelt!")—that my mom went from trying to frown us into silence to having an asthma attack from laughing too hard herself. The flight attendant, who was standing behind us at the back of the plane, started to laugh too.
Our cabbie, at 3 a.m. Oklahoma time, was a giant cauliflower ear dressed as a man. He mush-mouthed his way through an explanation of why people from California weren't welcome in Oklahoma. "BoomhauerboomhauerboomhauerEPA!" he said. "BoomhauerboomhauerboomhauerCOCK-FIGHTS!" said he. From what we could gather, he was upset that people from California were coming in with their money, paying for advertising trying to ban cockfights in OKC.
"I'm sorry," my mother said, not sorry at all. "But we are going to have a fight!" Sometimes when my mother is fighting with strangers, I soothe her down. Not this time. "I think you should!" I said. This guy was a prick!
We told him my mom had grown up in Oklahoma, and she was a Democrat even then. We didn't tell him we were there because her little brother had died.
My mom made me tip him $7 on our $13 cab ride, to prove, she said, a point. I think, pissed as he was about California big shots throwing around their money, that we probably proved his instead. That meant that on our return ride, when our cabby was actually a gentleman, kind, and looked just like The Big Lebowski's The Dude, I had to tip him just the same. What kind of point would we have proved rewarding a man more for being an asshole than for being friendly and kind?
We went and saw ourUncle Daveyoff. Hehad been brilliant and loving, but always terribly sad. It was our second Oklahoma funeral in as many years. We'd been there a couple of Fourths ago to sing to our grandma at her death in her little twin bed. That trip had been a nightmare: the women quietly did what needed to be done, while the men didn't know how to do anything but beat fuck-all out of each other. My little brother, after a beating from my older one, had threatened to steal my mom's rental car and drive it back to Cali. Meanwhile, frail, tiny Grandma Jeanie had been too strong to die. When it was my turn to sit up with her, while my mom and aunt pretended for an hour to at least try to sleep, she would stop breathing for going on a minute, until I thought she had finally passed, and then she would gasp again. I nearly had a heart attack each time. "Mom!" I said, sure my grandmother had been waiting for just this, and it had only just occurred to us, "Let's say the Rosary!" We did, my Aunt Annie (formerly my Uncle Johnny) coming in quietly to join us. Uncle Davey had just walked into the apartment too, and he came in and started intoning the Hail Marys and Our Fathers alongside us. I was sure that the moment we finished, her spirit would be free.