Trading carrots for chocolate pudding since 2012.
There is absolutely nothing better than a vacation with a group of guys.
For the past five years, my friends and I have taken a week every summer and made a pilgrimage to a small island in Lake Erie, called Put-in-Bay. Once there we play a game called, “Who has the best liver!?!” The only rule is to consume as much booze as possible for five days straight, and the prize is wondering how your liver can withstand such punishment (and an awful hangover).
The gang I travel with can make something as simple as going to the grocery store entertaining, so five days on an island in a rental cottage with nothing but beer, bars, grills and more beer leaves us with plenty of stories. None better than what we now refer to as, “The Tale of Ralphie and His Boys.”
Put-in-Bay is known to be a pretty wild place. For those unfamiliar, think of a smaller, not-as-nice version of New Orleans, and then put that on a 2 mile wide island in the middle of Lake Erie.
Weekends are crazy, but during the week, the crowd is much tamer and a little older. Cottage rental rates are much cheaper during the week, perfect for a group for 20-somethings looking to punish their bodies with copious amounts of alcohol and red meat. By the middle of the week, though, cabin fever sets in, so we always head out and hit the bars.
This particular year, after spending a few hours jumping from bar to bar, we stumbled across an establishment offering everyone’s favorite drinking game — karaoke. At this bar is where we met a man we still joke about to this day — Ralphie.
Our gang heads into the bar and sets up shop at a table. Drinks are flowing, people are singing, good times are being had all around.
While we are each combing through the karaoke book for that perfect song, there is one gentleman who keeps frequenting the stage. Ralphie.
Being the obnoxious bunch we are we started yelling his name after every song he sang, to which he responded with smiles and high fives. We exchanged pleasantries with this man until he and his wife left, and we never were to see him again. Or so we thought.
Thursday night, our last night in Put-in-Bay, usually ends up being the craziest for us. Mostly because we have to get rid of all the beer that has accumulated throughout the week.
It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
As fate would have it, we somehow managed to drink everything by around 9 o’clock in the evening. This left plenty of time to give an encore performance at the karaoke bar. So we call a cab (which was a giant school bus decorated in a Hawaiian motif) and piled back into the bar only to find Ralphie, and we were ecstatic to see each other.
We set up shop at the table next to him and his wife and started talking like we were old buddies. We found out they were in Put-in-Bay on their anniversary (which was a perfectly good excuse for three or four rounds of shots to be consumed).
After about an hour, Ralphie and Mrs. Ralphie decided it was time for them to return home for the evening. We all shook hands with Ralphie, who repeatedly joined us on stage that night under the name of our band, “Ralphie and the Boys,” and we never were to see him again.
After doing another shot in honor of Ralphie (seemed like a good enough excuse), we were all sitting around the table contemplating whether or not to pack it in for the night. Across the patio, I see an older gentlemen walking towards us with an armful of beers and a huge grin on his face.
Ralphie had returned!
Now keep in mind, dear reader, that this was his wedding anniversary. He sets the drinks down on our table and is met with more high fives and handshakes. I asked Ralphie what he was doing back at the bar. Ralphie said to us, and I quote, “I went back to our hotel and the wife and I were going to bed, but I turned to her and said, ‘Hunny, I’ve gotta go out with my boys!’”
Ralphie was one helluva guy, but keep in mind that two days prior to this we had no idea he even existed. At that point, though, who cares?
We drank more beer and did more shots with our new friend until we decided to go to another bar, a dance club (or Put-in-Bay’s version of a dance club). I can only imagine that sight as we walked in, 10 twenty-something-year old guys, the handful of girls we are able to convince to spend time with us and a man old enough to be any of our fathers walking into a dance club to end the night.
Closing time was called and, like cattle, everyone filed for the exit. Ralphie was right behind me up until we got to the door. I turned around to say something and he was gone. Our group got outside and stood around for a few minutes waiting for our cab, and there was absolutely no sign of Ralphie anywhere. As quickly as he appeared, he disappeared.
I like to think that Ralphie tells this story to his friends in the same way my friends and I all fondly remember it, and I also like to think that he didn’t fall face down in the lake that night either.
The gang continues to go to Put-in-Bay, partly because we hope to cross paths with one of the island’s favorite sons, Ralphie.