Eddie and I were on a gentleman's pub crawl, a recreation of one of the great pastimes of our college days, except now in the guise of gentlemen. On the surface this primarily meant no Doc. Martens or flannel shirts, but on a more fundamental level it also meant that we were less likely to get our drinks thrown in our faces by the captain of the girl's lacrosse team.
"So what's the deal with this one?" I asked as we stepped inside.
"It's another one of those gastropubs."
"Like the last two then."
"Like the last two, yes," Eddie acknowledged. No tables free, we slid up to the bar and ordered our drinks. Whiskey for me - an affectation of mine in college, but I'd lately grown a legitimate taste for it - and whatever was on special for Eddie.
"I can't help but notice that all the places you've picked for tonight are gastropubs," I said. "The kind of places that can't figure out how to make nachos without duck meat."
Eddie picked up the menu, eyes scanning over it. "It's foie gras here, and seriously, these nachos are insane. You shouldn't mock them."
"And yet I did." I rotated the glass in my hands, taking a sip. Another fellow slid onto the seat beside me, eyes locked on the television playing sports highlights. He wore a Patriots cap and looked happy about it. I cautiously took another sip of my drink. I always felt a little wary around sports fans in Boston, being originally from another town - one "so nice, they named it twice" - and thus always partially on alert for situations which could get my nose punched in.
"Pats are gonna eat the Fins up this week, hey?" he said to me.
"Oh yeah. Eat em alive," I agreed, being chummy. "Pats rule," I added, appending the traditional coda. It felt odd saying it; they did rule, but wasn't that a bit self-evident by now? Did we have to keep yelling it?
"Damn right they rule!" the Pats-hatted man said, answering the question for me. Yes we did need to keep yelling it.
An elbow on my other side. "Table's free," Eddie said, grabbing his drink.
I nodded. "Take it easy," I told my new friend. He grunted something noncommittal, and I slid away to join Eddie at the table.
"Boston sports fans," Eddie said as we sat down. He snorted.
"What, you like the Dolphins this week?"
Eddie shook his head. "It's just childish. Spending so much time watching a kid's game."
"Kid's games are fun dude. That's why they spend so much time running around like idiots playing them. Watching kids games is fun too, and I didn't mean for that to make me sound so much like a pederast." I took another sip, letting the whiskey wash over my ire gland. "You used to have fun once as I recall. There was even evidence, at least until it got laser removed."
"I'm still fun!" Eddie protested. "We're on a frickin' pub crawl, aren't we?"
I slammed my hand on to the table. "A high-fallutin pub crawl. Nowadays, you're all like 'Ooh look at me, I've got a wool coat, I'm better than everyone.' Bah."
"You're wearing a wool coat too!"
"Yeah, but I don't act it." An idea. I smiled. "You need to be taken down a peg, that's what you need. Old school. Some brave champion has to stand up against all you fun-hating, goose pate nacho eating bourgeois scum."
Eddie laughed. "You're talking about..."
"I'm talking about the only statistically proven method of identifying human worth," I said, waiting a beat. "Leg wrestling."
Eddie and I and everyone else in our dorm had gotten really into leg wrestling one semester in our second year, for reasons no-one was entirely clear on. Ample supplies of beer and legs I suppose. It had been a decade since we last crossed legs in anger, but I could tell by the glint in his eye that Eddie was game. He pushed back the table and made a show of looking me up and down, evaluating how often I'd been to the gym in the past ten years. The answer - never - warranted keeping secret, so I tried to suck in my gut very slowly so he wouldn't notice.
For the uninitiated, leg wrestling involves both contestants lying on their backs beside each other, facing in opposite directions. They swing the leg closest to their opponent up, and then over, legs locking in to each other at about the knee. The wrestlers than try to return their own leg to the ground, in the process causing their opponent to roll over. It'd be the Sport of Kings if there were enough fit kings left in the world for there to be a competitive league.
The arena was prepared, by way of pushing a single table aside, at which point a decent sized crowd gathered around us, because there's not a sport in Boston that won't quickly attract a committed fanbase. I think the bartender even turned down the television. "Best one out of one fellas," was his only stipulation, not wanting to encourage too much physical combat in his establishment.
A great deal of posturing commenced, during which several hurtful things about my bird-like legs were said, and someone, possibly me, suggested that Eddie's spine would soon snap like a stalk of celery. It was during these pre-game festivities when the guy in the Pats-hat slid up to me. "We did this a ton in college too. Don't push his leg straight back. Try and pull it away from his body a bit first, then push it back."
"Yeah. It's almost cheating, but it's also not." He slapped me on the back. "Pats rule."
Eddie and I took the floor, sliding into position beside each other. The crowd gathered around us, shouting advice and other miscellanea - I think I heard Eddie getting pretty favorable odds. "You ready for this bird-legs?" Eddie asked.
"I was born ready," I lied, briefly imagining the unfortunate life an infant would have to have to end up in this situation.
"One," Eddie said, swinging his leg up, my own leg matching his. "Two," and a repeat of the procedure. "Three!" We locked legs, pushing against each other. I felt myself start to fold over on myself, then remembered Pats-hat's advice. I twisted my thigh inward, turning Eddie's outward, at which point he magically weakened. I pushed down easily, folding him over like a pancake.
"Boom!" I shouted, rising to my feet triumphantly. "A round of drinks for the house!" I shouted, pointing at Eddie. "On that guy!" The crowd seemed to like that, although I probably could have predicted that they'd turn violent when Eddie reneged on the offer - which was also something I probably could have predicted. Really, they're both the best thing and the worst thing about drinking in Boston, those Boston sports fans - like a pack of surly, double edge swords.