Rarely, if ever, do the best-laid plans go off without a hitch - especially when those plans come together after most of the participants have knocked back a couple of beers.
Yet, that's exactly - despite all logic - what happened.
Forgive the vague kick-off point to this story, but I'll have to backtrack for a moment.
The night started innocently enough; free beer at the Old German Beer Hall, where a couple of my friends saddled in for a quick Happy Hour stop. One of my guys ended up winning free beer for the night, so it stood to reason that we wouldn't be leaving any time soon.
Another friend was out, as well. The victim of a brutal and unforeseen breakup, the guy was hurting. Bad. He was doing all right though, engaged in a lively conversation about his days in the Navy with a random group sitting near us.
I myself had been home for most of this, stopping down after the Brewers game for a quick drink. Not long after I arrived, another person we know -- a close friend of our friend's now-ex -- showed up and immediately engaged him in a discussion about his breakup.
Now, any guy can tell you, nothing good comes of that situation.
Not long after the two disappeared to the back of the bar, the rest of us began plotting a course of corrective action. We thought about heading to another bar, or my patio, to help the heartbroken pal out. None of the ideas, though, really held water.
Me, thinking about the movie "Swingers" (the single-greatest breakup therapy I have known) quickly came up with the answer.
"We need to get (our friend) the $#@! Out of Dodge," I said.
Everybody at that point knew what was next. Vegas wasn't an option. We were headed to the Dells.
Fortunately, I had only taken about three sips of my liter of beer before this brainstorm struck. I was sober; I was driving. That was settled quickly. Step two was figuring out who was in. Done. Lastly, we had to get our friend out of the bar and into the car in a clandestine manner, which took a little effort, but we pulled it off.
He put up a little fight. Naturally, we didn't tell him what we were up to, but he quickly stopped complaining and dozed off. About 30 minutes later, he woke up and started freaking out.
We got him to start talking about his breakup, though venting might be a better word (or at least the word closest enough that's still allowed to print). Finally, he let loose. The vulgarities and tears started flowing. The rhetorical questions of "why" and "how" spewed from our friend's mouth.
Just like that, the plan was working.
We figured the Dells would be the perfect solution. It's a place we all know and love. We have our regular haunts with some change-of-pace friends that would help show us a good time.
We thought we were doing our boy a favor ... but as it turned out, we all needed this.
We got to the Dells around 1 a.m. Being the designated driver, I had a couple sips out of the first round and switched to water. Hit up one bar, moved on to another with live music. They finished the second round and we hit up our "regular" Dells bar. Sitting outside, the gang enjoyed a Schlitz while I sipped a Diet Coke.
Out of nowhere, we realized that this simple, stupid, spur-of-the-moment escape cleared everybody's head.
We're a pretty tight group of friends but, for various reasons (read: women), we've drifted apart over the last few months. We've stopped hanging out; we've stopped wasting weekends being stupid. We've stopped getting along.
But there we sat, four good friends, spitting out insults, citing random "Simpsons" and "Family Guy" references and forgetting, if only for a few hours, about all the BS that we left behind.
Just like that, it was time to head out. Another quick stop for snacks, coffee and water, and we were on the road; the iPod spitting out good song after good song thanks to a fortunate random play list.
About the time we passed Baraboo, my roommate summed things up perfectly.
"We all needed this," he said. "For the simple reason that, it's just going to get more and more unlikely that we won't get to do this anymore."
At that point, I realized that we weren't just helping a friend get over a girl. We were solidifying friendships, preparing for whatever twists life holds for us. Sure, there's nothing deep and meaningful about a random late-night trip to the Dells, but that didn't matter.
It was a mini-road trip, a couple of guys hitting the road looking for a good time and finding out what friendship is all about; realizing who and what was important to us and that we're not too old to do something random and ridiculous.
Seven hours after our decision to change scenery, we pulled back into Milwaukee, the sun up and the birds scooping up trash in our alley. It was seven hours, three beers and 180 miles. And it was absolutely perfect.
We told our suddenly single friend that at some point, when he's picked himself up, dusted himself off and moved on, he'll look back on this and thank us. Turns out, we might end up being the ones thanking him.
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