So I was watching Manchester United and I am sure they won.

After watching the game I rolled back to bed for a quick nap before meeting up with some friends in a local park. Just before noon the 4 of us assembled. John the sports guy from the station, a local reporter for the newspaper named Kiley and a fairly prominent local athlete whose name is being protected so we’ll call him The Flash. The purpose of that meeting was simple. Bundled up as warm as we could get on the brisk winter morning we took advantage of the lack of snow on the ground for a winter’s game of bocce ball. That’s right. Bocce ball.

Now I feel like it is obvious that you the reader think it’s weird to pile on some winter clothes, gloves, toques, winter parka etc and go to the park to play bocce. But I would put it to you that it isn’t weird to put on those articles of clothes for other winter activities like snowshoeing and skiing. And bocce is just as fun.

John, Kiley and “The Flash” all partook of some coffee and bailey’s, one of the few drinks that I still to this day miss, while I simply enjoyed the delight that is coffee. Truly one of man’s greatest treasures. I am available at any time to talk to anyone about coffee and why it is the greatest drink hu-beingkind has ever devised.

The park we chose was not overly big. Roughly one city block on each side to form a square in the middle of a residential area. It was mostly a grassy area with a small swing set and slide type play area in the northwest corner. The grassy area was where we played bocce and it had the added bonus of pockets of trees to help us create interesting and varied bocce ball shots. Sort of like extreme bocce if something that non-extreme can get away with having extreme added to it.

“So two weeks without alcohol Feeney. How do you feel?” The Flash asked at one point.

As I prepared my shot I was hunched over with my eyes firmly focused on the jack. (that’s right I do know the names of the different balls in bocce) While fluidly letting my right hand and the bocce ball dangle I paused looked over and replied. “I actually feel amazing. I do not miss being hungover. At all.”

With a breath I took a small stride (I never once in my life thought I would be describing a bocce ball game in this much detail in my first ever book. Not in a million years.) and released my shot. The ball rolling first left, then right as it took the bank of a small rise in the grass due to a tree root swelling up from below, before settling in just short of being closest to the jack.

“Dammit. That was almost perfect. What a shot that would have been. They’d have been talking about that shot in bocce circles all over the world for years to come.” I joked as we walked to the balls to assess the score and prepare the next shot.

“Will you ever drink again?” asked Kiley.

“I don’t know. I think maybe in time I will maybe feel like I am mature enough or have changed enough to try and see if I can be a social drinker. But that day is a long way off right now.” I responded. At the time I can remember feeling like there was a chance I would drink again at some point. Now? Years later? I don’t see a scenario where I would ever touch the stuff again. The potential trouble that would be caused is just not worth the risk when balanced against the very minimal gains.

At that point a local police officer rolled by the park, did a double take, rolled on a bit, thought better of it and stopped. Our game continued as he approached on foot. Hand on his weapon in case our bocce playing was a cover for some sort of illicit activity. Or perhaps in case the bocce itself got a little out of control. “Officer guns down local athlete in bocce mele” could have been the headline. Except she didn’t have her hand on her weapon at all. One of the benefits of hanging with local news reporters is that they know the local police officers.

“Hey John. Hey Kiley,” the officer called out as she neared the field of battle. “What’s going on today?”

“Oh nothing much,” I chimed in, “just the most important sporting event of 2016 and perhaps the most important of all time.”

“Bocce. In parkas. In winter. In a park.” officer whats-her-name was clearly very good at noticing things and then stating them out loud.

“And coffee to help us stay warm.” The Flash held up his cup as he weighed into the conversation before cheerfully taking a massive gulp.

“Just coffee?” she replied. Clearly she was onto us!

That’s it. We’re rumbled. We’ve got two options. Play ball and try and get a reduced sentence. Or stick to the same story and hope this all blows over.

“Maybe a little special coffee for some of us,” Kiley said cheerfully.

Well there goes that plan. I guess we’re playing ball.

“Okay well make sure you keep it out of sight and don’t pour any more while you are out here, please.” Officer whats-her-name said with a smile as she turned to make her way back to her cruiser. (I assume they still call cop cars “cruisers”?)

“I thought we we’re in real trouble there, guys.” I said as I launched into a story. “That reminded me of the time I was drunk in Vegas. My friend Fraser and I were going from casino to casino all along the strip playing slots. We’d play a 5 cent slot machine until we got a free drink and then leave. Our goal? Great question. To hit up as many casinos as we could. I’ve had a drink in damn near every casino from Mandalay Bay to Circus Circus. But at some point as we were walking over one of the walkways that go above the strip so you can cross the street without affecting traffic I decided that I didn’t want my beer anymore. Why was I drinking Budweiser anyway? Maybe that’s the only beer crappy enough that they still comp it? Anyway. I smashed it on the ground. Just walking along calm as can be. Laughing and joking with my buddy. Decide that no. I don’t want this beer anymore. And then smash. Well guess what happened next?”

No one took a guess. Assholes!

“Well, the next thing you know quick as a whistle there’s some sort of security guard talking to me. He says, ‘what are you doing? What if someone steps on that and cuts themselves?’ To which I didn’t have a great response. So in a drunken sort of stooper/panic, a stoopanic or panooper if you prefer, I try and buy my way out of trouble. I say, ‘how much will it cost me for this to go away?’ I actually said that to the guy.”

At this point the whole group was hanging on every word. Officer whats-her-name had stopped her retreat and was hanging on the fringe of the conversation to hear the story.

“He looks at me like I am the biggest idiot in the world. Cause, you know, I was and then he says ‘it’s already been cleaned up.’ And sure enough it was. I looked over and a guy was just finishing sweeping it up. I tried to BUY my way out of a TALKING-TO over a mess that had ALREADY BEEN CLEANED UP!!”

Laugher ensued. A story well told. The officer loved that one.

True story as well.

It’s a wonder I survived my drinking faze considering how stupid I was when I got drunk. And how frivolous I was with my money. That whole Vegas trip was a gong show. That whole thing from the movie The Hangover where a guy says something to the effect of “some guys can’t handle Vegas” was an apt description for my friend and I on that trip.

~~~~~~~~~~

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