Just because I knew the guy from way back when didn’t mean I wanted the conversation to proceed, but he continued to stand in front of me, blocking my way. “Excuse me,” I said.
“Jeff Bridges died.” He spoke fast. “Order a White Russian.”
Towering over me, I had to look up at him to meet his stare. He took a large, slow sip of his American Double Stout, the liquid like chewing tobacco spit, and smiled. I expected the thick, dark brew to be clumped up in his mouth, sticking to his teeth. It wasn’t. Even his beer projected disingenuousness. I didn’t smile back.
“Did you hear me? I said Jeff Bridges died. Go order a White Russian.”
“I heard you.”
“So. . . .”
I joined Giovanni at the bar.
“Did he try that one on you, too?”
I took a sip from my beer and glanced at the televisions around the bar – all tuned to the Phillies game – nothing out of the ordinary. “I don’t believe him.”
So we played with our smartphones for a second and then placed them on coasters, not surprised that there was no news about Jeff Bridges – good or bad – online.
“I should have said ‘Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man,’” I mumbled. Giovanni laughed, flagged down the bartender and ordered sweet potato fries.
We finished our beers, ordered another round, talked about our women – or lack thereof – and comics.
I let the door swing closed behind me on our way out. He was standing outside, as if waiting for us, leaning against the wooden facade, smoking a cigarette.
“You guys leaving?”
I had to ask. “What do you have against Jeff Bridges, man?”
He explained that he and his friends would do this frequently when out late. “Do you know how little milk a bar normally stocks? They have to send a guy out just to get more. The more people we get ordering White Russians, the more they send some sad sack out for milk. You know how hard it is to buy a gallon of milk at one a.m. in this town?”
He laughed and spat on the sidewalk.
I shrugged. Giovanni and I walked away, down 15th Street.
“Why doesn’t he just say it’s his birthday? Why’s the joke have to be about death?”
(Lee Porter is the writer/producer of the award-winning comedy Web series My Ruined Life and the founder/editor of the food/drink site Chocolate Covered Memories. Lee’s work has been featured on Zoo With Roy, The Gaggle, Philly.com, Comcast SportsNet, Shmitten Kitten, and even tweeted by Questlove. Lee lives in Philadelphia.)