Jake and his wife were playing pool in the corner when we walked into Brews n’ Screws in Hayfork California, trying to line up a ride between our put-in and take-out spot. I recounted how we’d heretofore struck out on lining up said ride, despite our generous offer of 30 bucks.
The bartender had called everyone he knew with our amazing offer and despite enthusiasm from various folks, we huddled around the bar mildly depressed (or was I happy?) that we weren’t going to be rafting the mysterious class TBD rapids of the deserted canyon. Perhaps we should have been more concerned that E wasn’t quite sure how “rapid-y” this off-the-grid spot on the Trinity River was, but we weren’t, we were laser-focused on lining up a ride.
Scotty and I meandered outside and struck up a conversation with Jake and his wife as they were smoking. Jake’s wife appeared to have a bun in the oven, but we were not there to judge. The conversation pretty quickly veered into our ride sitch.
To say Jake was violently enthusiastic about our generous offer would be a major understatement. “WHOOOOOOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
The feeling was mutual amongst Scotty and I as we walked inside to tell E what we had just lined up. As our “driving member”, E should have been wildly excited to have secured a shuttle, but he appeared to be shaking his head as we came back inside.
“You got us a ride?”
“YEAH! That guy and his wife are going to shuttle us tomorrow!! Awesome, right!?”
“Did you notice that swastika tattoo on his hand?”
…….. dramatic pause ………
E is Jewish. More accurately, he’s a devout atheist whose mom’s side of the family has been non-practicing Jew for at least a couple of generations. He’s also my friend who is probably least tolerant of assholes and unafraid to start something with someone who is much much bigger.
I may have neglected to mention that, yes, I did notice that Jake had a bunch of tattoos. Tattoos that could very believably been given in prison, with very limited supplies, and lots of free time. I did notice that they were terrible, but I did not notice that one of them was a swastika. I also forgot to mention that Jake was the size of a small Grizzly bear.
I’m 6’7″ and over two hundred pounds. Not small. A beefcake really. Jake is a couple of inches shorter and pushing 280 and covered in ink.
Now, E is a principled and pretty stubborn guy, so it seemed that the Jake shuttle was going to have to be cancelled. I was not looking forward to disappointing a man of his size. Because I had been the one interfacing with Jake, I was going to have to be the one to cancel on him.
Luckily, E is willing to forego principles pretty easily if there is a worthwhile incentive. An incentive like our only shot at a ride is pretty incented for E. So E (really easily) relents and we set about trying to get to know Jake and his wife.
I tried to assuage E’s fear of how he’d feel if he didn’t confront our new driver. “Maybe he’s Native American and it has a different meaning? You never know, this is a weird place.”
“Yeah right, let’s just get him to give us a ride.”
So I buy a round of bud-heavies for us all and Jake wonders if we might like to play some pool with them on, “his table?”
He says this very non-menacingly though, and it pretty quickly becomes clear Jake is a boy trapped in a man’s body. A very large man with some bad, racist, and just plain weird, prison tattoos, who generally we might feel a bit threatened by, but we weren’t. We start to feel comfortable around them and eventually Jake actually buys us all a round in friendship.
His wife actually seems really smart and occasionally embarrassed by her husband, but you can tell they really like each other. She doesn’t call him out meanly, and he is really self-deprecating, if completely unaware.
After a couple of regular games of pool, Jake wonders if we might like to watch him make some “trick shots”?
“Sure!” we say.
The trick is him racking the balls and at the moment when the cue ball “breaks” he violently thrusts his belly/groing region into the table, thusly knocking the balls even harder. Some balls shoot violently off the table like fireworks, some additional drop into pockets, and he keeps violently thrusting until every ball is either in a pocket or somewhere across the bar.
He beams with great pride and sweat pours down his face.
“You guys should just set up your trailer out back of my Daddy’s land! That way we can all hang out and have breakfast and stuff! And I can come with you guys tomorrow! Do you guys need someone to steer the boat? I can do that! I’ve been tubing this river since I could walk!”
He may or may not have mentioned something about the government, his daddy’s militia, the mill, the klan, and quite a few other things – but I’d had quite a few bud-heavies myself at this point, and it all sounded like a reasonable idea. I couldn’t wait until they came and visited my girlfriend and me in San Francisco.
After the round Jake bought us, E was getting a bit antsy to get on the road, because we still weren’t exactly sure where we would be sleeping and the thought of setting up the trailer at the Trinity Militia Neo-Nazi camp wasn’t as appealing or potentially exciting as it sounded to me.
The drive to our eventual camp spot is another story unto itself, but we were significantly freaked out about our location and convinced that either the Blair Witch or the rapists from Deliverance or perhaps some evil spawn of them was going to overtake us. I also woke up the next morning with the sense of regret usually reserved for a night of much more drinking and bad decisions — because I was the one that was going to have to do the 3 hour car ride with Jake.
But after the round that Jake bought us at the bar, I was feeling like we needed to say thanks and have a show of good faith.
“Hey Jake, we have some delicious and warm Keystone Lights out in the trailer. Do you want to share a nightcap with us? Then I think we’ll get on the road and go to our campsite.”
“Oh hell YEAH, that’s our favorite!”
When we got out to the Cab-over-camper and grabbed the beers, there was a bit of smoke starting to come out of E’s ears.
He really really wanted to get on the road. “C’mon, let’s get going! Let’s pound these!”
“Sure! Watch this!” And Jake reached into the warm Keystone Light 24 pack and grabbed a 2nd beer and proceeded to shotgun both of them — still fully pressurized. Just sucked the beer right out the hole’s he punched in them with his thumbs. Amazing
“YES! Can I take a picture of you doing that? That was awesome!”
The opportunist in me dug out my camera and snapped the following photos of Jake showing off his amazing beer-shotgunning trick (that’s 3 beers in about 30 seconds), and both his and his wife’s tattoo’s. Many of which he had done himself and proudly described their meaningfulness to him. “This shotgun shell signifies how I like to shoot shotguns.”
Tattoos are one thing…
I’m the kinda guy that really appreciates when people let me take photos of them, so I was feeling waaaaay more comfortable with them then I probably should have, considering the ink.
But you can’t control your feelings, or your bromances. They just happen. Just as I was preparing to encourage Jake to join Friendster (we had already exchanged digits to secure the rendezvous spot the next morning), so we could K.I.T. in the most real-time way, things quickly veered south.
“Phew, Jake, man, awesome times. I’ll call you tomorrow morning. we’ll plan to meet up somewhere around here at 9. Sound good?”
“Yeah, but before you go, I gotta ask you something.”
“Sure, of course, anything.”
“I bet you $50 bucks I got a tattoo of your name on my dick.”
**************SCREETCH, record stops, there is one chair and 3 of us scrambling to sit in it*******************
“Uh…. no, that’s ok. I think we’re going to leave. I don’t have $50.”
“C’mon man! Bet me! Fine. I’ll just show you.” Of course I had to get a photo of it.
This ended my side of our bromance before it really had a chance to start, and we beat a very very hasty retreat.
The next morning after a fitful night of nightmares, caused not only by our last image from the bar, but an extremely dark, creepy, and secluded drive to our camp spot, I admitted I couldn’t do it. I was not prepared to ride in the car with Jake.
Luckily Scotty and E were eager to pull the plug on the planned rafting. And it’s very lucky we did, because after we got back to civilization we found out that that stretch of the Trinity had class VI rapids (unridable) in canyons. We would have died rafting even if we had made it out of the car ride alive.
We honored our agreement though, and met up with Jake and he had his entire family near the bar. They were all sitting his running-car, smoking. He looked so excited. We said thanks, but told him we were canceling. His mom didn’t even take her cigarette out of her mouth, but you could tell there was deep disappointment in the car. We gave Jake a $20 and ended up rafting a sweet little spot called Hell Hole and we didn’t die.
I actually still have Jake’s number and dream of one day following up to make a documentary about him, or his penis, or both. I hope they’re both doing ok.