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My Philly Wedding Weekend: Sandwiches, Sins, And The Groom’s Sister, Part 1

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Part 1: Declaring My Sexual Intentions and Orientation, and Determining a Cheesesteak Rivalry

It took eight years for one of my best friends, Willa, to finally get me to come visit her in Philadelphia, the city in which she had attended college and then decided to make her permanent residence after graduation. After all that time, what finally got me up to the City of Brotherly Love, which might be a the most ironic translation of any city’s name in the world, unless Mogadishu translates to something like “Happy Smiles Garden,” was Willa’s wedding. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that what finally got me to visit Philadelphia was the promise of several days worth of open bars. That the open bars were stocked with Yuengling and Dogfish Head didn’t hurt either. I am not a great friend.

“What’s that, friend I’ve known my entire life? You’d like to extend to me the honor of witnessing you pledge yourself to your soulmate for all eternity? Eh, maybe. What’s the beverage situation looking like?”

Forget not being a great friend, I’m just an asshole.

I landed in Philadelphia on Thursday afternoon and spent the day running around town taking care of various errands with Jimmy, Willa’s fiancé. Jimmy is a Philadelphian through and through, so much so that he takes great joy in recounting to me, an Atlanta Braves fan, the story of the time he witnessed a girl, who made the colossal mistake of wearing a Braves hat into Citizen’s Bank Park, endure a hailstorm of dollar hotdogs rifled at her by antagonistic Phillies fans sitting in her section. According to Jimmy’s gleeful retellings (there have been many), some fans were coming back to the section with five or ten dogs in hand, loaded with condiments and ready to be launched at that poor, sweet, naïve Braves fan. Eventually she had to be escorted out of the section, because it was easier for stadium security to get rid of her than the dozens upon dozens of Phillies fans who had been pelting her with hotdogs.

City of Brotherly Love.

Don’t get me wrong though, I love that story. I love Jimmy too. He’s a really genuine, funny guy, and he endeared himself to me quickly, when we first met years ago, by buying a whole lot of drinks, which he continued to do consistently all the way up to his actual wedding reception. There is a very direct, very easy way to my heart, in case you hadn’t noticed. At this point, I’m more or less convinced I would attend an execution if there were free drinks involved. I’ve actually already planned out that scenario. I would drink enough to blackout before the actual execution so I wouldn’t have any haunting memories. Boom! Problem solved. If I were one to reflect, and I’m not, I think the simple process of planning out a drinking scenario that dark is what even the most liberal of AA members would consider a moment of clarity.

Along for the errands with Jimmy and I was the bride’s brother, Nate, who is as foul mouthed as he is friendly. The sort of combination that, when you experience the former, because of the latter, makes you wonder how he’s capable of the verbal atrocities he commits. Every time he said something fucked up (often), it was like finding out your kindly old foreign neighbor was in the SS, and liked it.

Nate had absolutely no filter on him all weekend, and was easily the most entertaining person involved with the wedding. Of course, that lack of filter wasn’t quite as enjoyable when it took aim at you. Holy shit did it ever put its crosshairs on me while we were running errands.

“Rob, my dad thinks you want to fuck Willa,” the bride’s brother said with chuckling nonchalance.

He said it in a tone that seemed to imply that he was unaware of the giant awkward bomb he had just dropped.

I, as well as Willa’s fiancé, who was sitting a mere two feet away, nearly spit out our beers (we were taking a booze break from running errands, errands are hard).

At this point I’m more or less convinced I would attend an execution if there were free drinks involved.

Nate had a point. I certainly fit the bill of “sad male best friend who couldn’t get any but tagged along hoping desperately for a shot.” In fact, I was the only St. Louis friend of Willa’s to attend the wedding. To an objective observer I probably came off as pretty pathetic. Oh God, did everyone think I was the Ducky of her life!?! If people think you’re like the loser from a John Hughes movie then they think you’re a pretty huge fucking loser.

This is not something I was oblivious to. I knew as a male friend attending a female friend’s wedding without a date (thanks a lot, Tinder women of Eastern Pennsylvania), people would assume certain things.

Family and friends would likely ask things such as, “Who’s that? Willa’s friend? The guy? Is he gay? NO!?! Aw, well how sweet of the lil’ champ to attend. Hope he doesn’t off himself in the woods after the nuptials.”

Actually, most of them probably didn’t even ask and just assumed I was gay out of politeness. God knows the amount of bowties I had packed for the weekend wasn’t going to be helping anything.

I was aware that this is what some people had to have been thinking. Apparently the bride’s father was one of those people, and presumably the bride’s brother as well.

“Uh…no, I don’t,” I explained as flatly as possible.

And I really don’t. Thankfully this was something Jimmy, Willa’s fiancé, had figured out long ago. He too had every right to be suspicious when we first met, because 99% of the time that’s exactly the case. The guy friend is some “nice guy” (read: pussy) ass-hat who desperately wants to bone his supposed female best friend. But Willa and I? Nope, never. It’s not even a brother/sister type thing; it’s just a mutual, “Let’s not,” sort of thing.

By the way, ladies, if any of your guy friends says, “Oh yeah that’s totally just like us too,” they’re filthy liars who want to do filthy things to you. I am the 1%, and only with Willa. I either have hooked up with or gladly would hook up with (though I may not put overt effort into it) every other female that I make a point to see or contact.

Thanks to Nate’s complete lack of tact, I now had the pleasure of knowing that the next time I talked with the bride’s father he would be silently suspecting I wanted in on his daughter, figuratively and literally. I also had the onus attempting to keep myself from drunkenly explaining to the bride’s father that, “and oh by the way, it’s cool, I totally don’t want bang out your daughter,” an assurance that I would probably have put in only slightly more eloquent terms than the above. Maybe.

After our errands were finished, Nate wanted to hit a bar called Side Car to watch the Rams play the 49ers on Thursday Night Football. Jimmy and I were of course down to drink. Willa, however, was in no mood to go out, so she decided not to join us. She let Jimmy out though, which was unnecessarily nice of her. “You want to go blackout two days before our wedding despite us having a full day’s worth of wedding prep to do tomorrow? SURE HONEY!” That’s how you know she’s a keeper.

Once the plans were set, I texted one of my fraternity brothers, Mike, who is a 2L at Penn Law and lives near the bar, to see if he wanted to join. As fate would have it, Mike was already there. His inclusion was only sure to escalate things.

Over the course of the Rams game, we drank lots of beers and took lots of shots. Mike and I shot the shit about God knows what as Nate bitched about the Rams and Jimmy responded by gushing over the Chip Kelly Eagles, which, apparently no Philadelphian yet realizes, is like if Dr. Frankenstein exclaimed, “This monster is gonna be SO TITS, you guys, shit’s never been done like this before,” just prior to putting the electrical charge through its bolts and a few chapters before the creature murders everyone the doctor loves.

Family and friends would likely ask things such as, “Who’s that? Willa’s friend? The guy? Is he gay? NO!?! Aw, well how sweet of the lil’ champ to attend. Hope he doesn’t off himself in the woods after the nuptials.”

After Side Car we made our way to a few other bars, the names of which I completely forgot, though apparently they were popular (some locals might even describe them as touristy) bars. The rest of the night through that point is a blur. There were a lot of beers, Rumple Minze shots on me, and some miserably unsuccessful pick up attempts.

By the time our night was nearing its end Nate, Mike, Jimmy, and I were all browned out and every bit of obnoxious that comes with that state. In the dark shoreline nearby a rotating lighthouse lamp that was my sloppy drunk mind by that point, the one moment that remains illuminated was Jimmy declaring, “CHEESESTEAKS!”

According to Jimmy, I needed to eat at a famous Philly cheesesteak eatery, those being Pat’s and Geno’s. I didn’t argue. He was right. I did need to have a cheesesteak while I was there. I would have enthusiastically agreed to this sober, but being drunk, I was ready to commandeer a car Grand Theft Auto style and speed through sidewalks, opposite lanes, and clusters of hookers to get there. We ended up just paying for a cab though.

The corner or intersection or whatever the hell the crossing Pat’s and Geno’s sit on is defined as, is every bit as amazing as you would imagine, assuming you are a person with an enthusiasm for sandwiches, steak, and cheese, otherwise known as an American.

The Geno’s v. Pat’s rivalry is an intense one. According to Jimmy, he has seen fistfights break out in between the two establishments over which sandwich is better. In other words, these cheesesteaks are the sort of food Philadelphians hold in far too much esteem to throw at some dumb bitch in a Braves hat.

City of Brotherly Love.

After we got out of the cab, Jimmy led me to Pat’s, his favorite of the two. This was it. My first cheesesteak experience. I excitedly ordered, received the steaming pile of steak, veggies, and cheese, and took down that meaty tube with the sort of enthusiasm most of the wedding party probably assumed I would have for taking down meaty tubes.

According to the others, I also informed the cab driver who drove us home that I liked Geno’s better.Apparently he was a Pat’s fan, and apparently my insistence was sort of aggressive, because he tried to fight me.

The Pat’s cheesesteak was incredible. It was by far the best cheesesteak I had ever eaten, and probably one of the all-time great drunk meals, as well as sandwiches in general, that I will ever eat in my life. It was all the succulence of steak combined with the gluttonous gratification that is drunkenly consuming thousands of calories worth of food so unhealthy that the establishment serving it should be equipped with a defibrillator. I was feeling some sort of odd but wonderful satisfaction that, like the cheesesteak itself, was several layers of enjoyment. It was as if my brain’s pleasure center had been double penetrated by taste. I was completely and totally satisfied. What a way to cap off the night.

“Okay, now you gotta go try Geno’s,” Jimmy said, tugging my arm in the direction of Geno’s.

What? Are you serious?” I asked, assuming he was not.

“Yeah! You gotta see which is better,” Jimmy insisted.

“You do man, you do,” Nate agreed.

“I just ate, like, a huge two-thousand calorie sandwich. Plus we ate at the bar. I’ve been drinking beer all night. I’m completely full,” I pleaded.

“You’re only here once,” Jimmy countered. “ You need to see.”

“You should do it,” Mike, now being a horrible (or typical) fraternity brother, approved with a smile.

And so I trudged over to Geno’s to buy a second cheesesteak, to determine which was better, Pat’s or Geno’s, because my opinion on the matter was of the utmost importance to the three fucking drunk people I had come there with.

I walked up to the window, drunk and full and pathetic, and meekly asked for the smallest cheesesteak they had. Unbeknownst to me, Geno’s only has one size of cheesesteak. That cheesesteak is not small. I was handed my second heart stopping sandwich of the night, or more accurately, of the half hour, and reached for my wallet. I pulled out my debit card and handed it to the cashier.

“We only take cash,” the cashier informed me, likely annoyed.

I don’t know for sure whether or not the Geno’s cashier was actually annoyed with me. At that point I was too drunk to pick up on even the most conspicuous of social cues, such as whether or not a temperamental East-coaster wanted to whip the drunken tourist with hot steak tongs, it just seems likely.

I raised my arms in relief and declared, “I don’t have cash! Guys I can’t eat this, I don’t have cash. Oh well.”

I was saved, for about four seconds.

“Oh I’ll fuckin’ pay to see this,” a laughing Nate said, bounding over with bills in hand.

God. Dammit.

To my taste buds, the Geno’s cheesesteak was unbelievable. I was eating another top-notch meal, surely one of the best sandwiches in the country. However, I was so full, and no longer nearly as drunk, thanks to the first giant sandwich I had eaten roughly five minutes earlier, that I took no true joy in eating it. There was a part of me that appreciated the taste, and again it was as if my brain’s pleasure center was being double penetrated thanks to all the different palates coming together, but this double penetration wasn’t the same as the first. It was as if it happened late in my brain’s pleasure center’s porn career, like it was agreed to because my brain’s pleasure center needed the money, because it was desperate and hadn’t ever finished that online dental assistant’s degree thanks to its heroin addiction. That’s the sort of double penetration the second cheesesteak gave me. My endorphins were about as enthusiastic as the moans late in Linda Lovelace’s career.

After that force-fed feast, my consciousness went AC/DC: back in black. I was informed the next day that I chose Geno’s over Pat’s in the great, or rather, wildly unnecessary, cheesesteak debate. I don’t know if I meant that or if it was just out of spite because in the moment I fucking hated all the Pat’s fans who had forced me to eat both. I would have taken your words for it, dammit!

According to the others, I also informed the cab driver who drove us home that I liked Geno’s better. Apparently he was a Pat’s fan, and apparently my insistence was sort of aggressive, because he tried to fight me.

City of Brotherly Love.

Only in Philly would someone want to fight you over a sandwich, and only in America would someone complain about eating too many delicious sandwiches. It was an interesting way to kick off the weekend.

Originally published on Post Grad Problems


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