Over last weekend, I engaged in an activity new to me, although I have become somewhat familiar with some peopleʼs takes on the situation through numerous Facebook photos appearing from various friends perhaps once or twice a month. I rode on a party bus and, uh, “partied.” Janet and I traveled to one of my former home towns to celebrate the birthday (actually today) of our dear friend Dawn.
At just about everyoneʼs suggestion, her husband (and my oldest and best friend) Kevin did not try to create a surprise party (Dawn probably could not be surprised, probably least of all by her devoted husband). At her instigation and under the supervision and creation of friends Dave and Elaine, the celebration became a trip to various seedy bars in southeast Iowa, culminating in supper at Murphyʼs Bar & Grill in Riverside followed by an hour throwing our money away at the casino (mine as always evaporating noticeably more quickly than anyone elseʼs). And it was a really great time!*
You would think that riding from bar to bar on a bus, drinking essentially the whole time (the reason for such “designated driver” vehicular arrangements), might be a fairly sleazy and regrettable situation, as some of the pictures I have glimpsed on Facebook make pretty vivid. After all, these buses are usually revamped school buses, with most of the original seats intact (and the vehicleʼs suspension, too), generally featuring an open space with a ceiling to floor pole (which usually in photographs from our blessed region appears to serve as a PG, periodically abused stripper pole during the driving times between bars). However, with a group, although ranging in age across many decades, effectively as old as ours, the wildness was relatively tame. And therefore the fun was, for me, palpably more pleasant.
Ours was a school “short bus” that had been thoroughly redone inside (no schoolkid bench seats) to permit seating around the exterior with an open center (and no goofy pole). Dave and Elaine had thought to provide sandwiches and chips to offset the alcohol consumption — very wise of them, and the food was tasty. Our bar visits were under a half-hour apiece (featuring two pitchers of beer each time; unfortunately at the first tavern, only Bud Light, so I refrained from that watery and salty horse urine, enjoying far more the Amber Bock** and then Guinness — ah, black and foamy paradise at last — at the next two joints). So the fun remained pretty unfazed by excessive booze for most of us (if not all).
We got onboard at 4:00 PM from Dawn and Kevinʼs, to find nearly all the others already seated and having fun. We stopped at one coupleʼs home (they couldnʼt come along) and picked up another pair shortly northward from town. Our first joint/stop was less than an hour from our starting point, the next only twenty minutes further along, and the third perhaps a half hour later. We reached our supper destination just at dark (maybe 7:00; I certainly wasnʼt watching the clock, although Dave had everything timed loosely to the minute), and enjoyed Murphyʼs for close to two hours. The Riverside casino entertained us from nine until after ten, and we were home around eleven, a little later.*** I enjoyed it all (except the first awful beers, of course).
My personal lowlight of the evening had to be the casino. The atmospheric residue of smoking smacked us all as soon as we entered the building, and the “nonsmoking” regions of the playing area were clogged with exhaled fumes. I was coughing constantly, and today my throat is sore. Besides, even playing penny slots, all I did was lose, as usual. Naturally. (So did everyone else, I believe, except Dawn who received a birthday gift of ten dollars, that she parlayed into seventeen, and a t-shirt.)
It was a great time. The guests onboard were fun and friendly, and “hosts” Dave and Elaine (he serving as our “cruise director”) made the evening really, deeply enjoyable for us all. Thanks to them, and to Kevin. And…
“Happy birthday, Dawn!”
* As I observed yesterday.
** Note, please — an Anheuser-Busch product. I play fair. I just prefer my beer good.
*** The timing was very wise as that Saturday night was the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, so we had to “spring ahead” an hour. I barely noticed the abbreviated night.