Back when I was 19 or so and had just gotten off of work, a couple of Australians, a Brit, and a German at my bus stop wanted directions to Hooters, which I gave them. They invited me along, and although I was meeting a friend in an hour, I decided to see them to their destination and maybe have a bite myself.
A delightful meal and bus ride later, I was in a hostel with loads of foreigners, doing my shittiest and drunkest Irish accent, flirting obnoxiously with the beautiful German girl whose name was Jay, if I remember right. I met quite a few people from all over and had a good time sharing stories and listening. Doing my awful Irish accent, I attempted to charm a Bulgarian and the German simultaneously, and failed at both. I banged the bar counter of the hostel lounge a lot, laughed uproariously and pissed several times to my own acclaim.
Every beer I drank was kissed and therefore christened by the Jewish/Mexican hostel owner. I tipped them back telling dumb stories of bike accidents, estranged family, the beauty of travel, and how, by god, we wanted to be somebody. It was whimsical and the height of spontaneity. The president himself couldn’t have had a better night than I did with those worldly folks in the heart of Venice, California, getting wasted on alcohol and our own undying youth.
Some time later, after a couple failed bar attempts (I wasn’t 21 yet), I drunkenly stumbled into a full taxi and found myself talking to some women in a taxi van driven by a man I would later find out was a Ukrainian named Roman. One of the ladies was flirtatious and we made out to moderate, drunken success. She gave me $20 for her taxi fare and one last kiss. We didn’t bother exchanging information because that would have defeated the whole point, right?
Roman looked in the rear view and said, “Where to?” after which I replied, alone and therefore king of my taxi van, “LAX, my good man!” (I was so pompous.)
Roman was an intellectual who advised me to read Nikolai Gogol, and said that George Kennan didn’t see the complete picture of Russia. He said he came to LA because his brother was here, to which I said, still drunk, “He must have been someone you looked up to a lot to bring you across two continents and an ocean.” Roman replied, unflinchingly, “He was an extraordinary man.” Gone as I was, I managed to put together that his brother had died. “I’m terribly sorry, Roman, which sounds like nothing but drunkenness, but I can hear the choking love in your voice and can tell that he was a great guy. I’m very sorry that he’s no longer on this earth.” (Told you I was pompous.)
He was silent for a minute and said, simply, “Yes.”
A twenty minute conversation and $55 later, I found myself at home, drunkenly hopping my fence. After knocking on my mother’s window, I tried to pretend to be as sober as possible while gravity shifted all around me, threatening to send me into the floor with a smile on my face.
Once I made it to my room, which wasn’t quite stationary, I laughed at the infinite possibilities of this town and I loved everything. The world seemed to cradle me in its warm arms, whispering sweet nothings to me. It said: all is possible and adventure is as simple as saying yes to a few foreigners.
It was a great night of being young(er) and stupid(er).