9.19.18: a rebel alliance of quality content
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praia fest
festival time at lajes
by todd w bush

Lajes Field, a Portuguese air base basically run by Americans, is situated on a twelve by fourteen mile island in the Azores named Terceira. During the summer months, when the weather is pristine (giving the Air Force an excuse to call the posting “the Hawaii of the Atlantic”), the local towns and villages each have week-long festivals. These festivals are basically Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival in Brazil, and your local county fair all rolled into one. First, there are old men and women selling everything from home-made trinkets and souvenirs of the island, to hand-sewn rugs and blankets during the day, then there are parades that show off the local culture in the early evening, and lastly at night enough alcohol is consumed by each person there to kill a small to medium sized Asian family.

One of the best fests on the island is called Praia Fest, and is, of course, located in the town of Praia which is about five minutes from the base. Consequently, it’s the most popular of the events with the visiting American crowd. In the summer of the year I was there, I got my first taste of the best reason to be stationed at Lajes. Having to work the first Friday and Saturday of the fest, I figured I would just go a little during the week to experience the culture, and then blow it out the final weekend. How more wrong could I be? After working 12 hours on Friday, I was sitting in my recliner at roughly 7:30 pm when my buddy Bagger throws open my door with a shocked look on his face and says, “Get up, fucker, you’ve got an hour to get dressed.” I enquired what I had an hour to get dressed for, because I had to work the next day. He chastised my pussiness and said I was going to the festival.

Roughly an hour later, me and my friends Rachel, Bagger, Jessica, Muse, The Fireman, and SpongeBob, along with a host of others, headed down to commemorate the occasion in our own special way. First stop was an ATM, but since the festival was the only thing happening on the island, everyone decided it was also ATM time. We stood in a line roughly the same size as the opening night of Titanic. This particular machine, however, just happened to be the distant cousin to the truck in Maximum Overdrive. Rachel was next in line when four pigeons perched above the machine let loose with a Pearl Harbor style barrage, hitting her square in the arm and in her hair. She freaked, but had the presence of mind to still get her money. Not Muse, who got hit with the second volley. She jumped up and down like a kid in the grocery store when Mom says “No Snickers,” leaving her money and debit card. It would take us an hour to find her.

We started off at little fair-style booths, getting drinks and food (mainly because the girls had that “if I don’t get something to eat, I’m gonna go from 0 to bitch in 1.2 seconds” look). The booth we chose was named, translated from Portuguese to English, “The Sipping Drink.” SpongeBob started giggling and informed us that while the Portuguese to English translation was perfectly benign, the same words existed in Spanish and converted from that language to English, the place was called “The Penguin Dick.” About that time, our buddy Jim walked up from the place, chowing down on a pork sandwich he’d just bought.

Standing near the Praia harbor, drinking and eating, The Fireman and I noticed two local girls walking past us, dressed as dancers at a Britney Spears concert. One of them looked like she’d put her make up on with a paint roller and the other had penciled-on eyebrows that made her look like a reject from a Romulan casting call on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The Fireman smiles and shouts to the girls, “Hey! How much?”

The festival was set up with a few smaller booths up a slight hill from the main portion of the larger establishments. Being social creatures, we gravitated to the engorged mass of humanity, picking up more 75-cent beers along the way. When we reached one of the big taschas (Portuguese word for “place to buy lots and lots of alcohol”), The Fireman, Bagger, SpongeBob and I decided it was shot time. In 9 out of 10 tests, guy bartenders will give girls twice as much liquor as they give men. It’s the whole “I’m the bartender, I have power over you mere mortals” mentality. Not this time, as we got the only gay bartender at the festival. Double Johnnie Walker shots all around. Archie Bunker and Al Bundy would be having serious moral dilemmas right about now. A few minutes later, Rachel and Jessica’s turn to buy the shots came and they called for jello shots. For the uneducated, they consist of vodka and jello. The problem with these drinks is that there isn’t a less manly thing in the world than tonguing jello out of a small cup. The girls, having successfully emasculated us in front of every available female in a two-block radius, left for greener pastures.

After finding girls who really cared about us (at least for a night), The Fireman decided it would be a great idea to kill me. He calls for what’s known as a Car Bomb. A distant relative of the popular Jaeger Bomb, it’s a whole glass of beer with a shot dropped into it, you down the whole thing, then fall on the ground, and die. That’s the shot in a nutshell. I finished it and turned to talk to the girl in front of me. We’d gotten about two sentences into our conversation when I noticed something. I wasn’t moving, she wasn’t moving, but strangely, the world was rotating around us. There’s nothing worse than trying to concentrate on a hot girl talking, while the background is making like the Haunted House ride at Disney World. I half expected a ghost to appear beside her, grinning at me.

Making a hasty retreat, I found Bagger and told him that the world was doing the loopty-loop. Finding this uproariously funny, he told me the best way to cure it was, of course, more beer. I was only too willing to comply and within minutes I was back to reality. A hot Portuguese girl walked up and we started talking. I thought she was really cute, she apparently was into me, thanks to all the arm touching that was going on. Out of no where, my gay friend Patrick stumbles over and grabs my crotch like he’s checking for a hernia. Just as suddenly, he lets go, leans over the girl and says loud enough for both of us to hear, “Fuck him, honey. He’s huge.” Mission accomplished, he walked off. After that night, I’d never wanted to kiss a man more in my life.

The second night was much like the first, with Bagger banging on my door, and whisking me off to the festival again. I was supposed to meet a date that night, but after hanging with us for about an hour, she decided that she was “a little sick,” and split. Slightly depressed after my date blowing me off, I figured there was only one to cure this feeling. Why yes, Virginia, there is a beer man! We allowed the girls, Rachel and Jessica, to redeem themselves after the jello shot debacle the night before, and they hit a home run. It was called the “blue orgasmo.” Never has a shot been more aptly named. A mixture of some blue stuff at the bottom, Bailey’s in the middle and vodka at the top, it hit like, well, an orgasm. The vodka made you kind of clinch, the Bailey’s gave you the “oh man this is good” look, and then the blue stuff was so cold, you were doing the “oh-oh-oh-oh” face as you finished. Wonderful invention, that drink. So good, we decided to have two more right off the bat. After that rousing success in shot-picking, we let the girls buy us more drinks (hey, if they’re paying…). They chose “Energy drinks.” Much like Red Bull, these high-in-caffeine alcoholic disasters tasted enough like Kool-Aid, that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Jim Jones serving the damn things. The main problem with them is that you can drink about ten before you even realize that you’ve had alcohol at all. But once you start in on numbers eleven and twelve, you not only are shit-faced drunk, but bouncing off the walls.

That night, Nelly Furtado, the Portuguese version of Christina and Britney, was giving a concert. Reluctant to pay the ten Euro price for tickets, and being that we could hear her just perfectly fine from outside the main seating area, we decided to stay near the drink booth. Stupid, we are not. Dancing was starting up in the main open area between the lines of booths, but before that happened, me and Bagger needed to pee. Off to the parking lot we go to demonstrate one of the greatest things about being a male: the fact that the world is our urinal. Feminist thought invaded our grand show of machismo, as Rachel and Jess decided anything we could do, they could do too. In one of the most surreal moments of my life, Bagger and I are standing facing a brand new BMW Z3 convertible, peeing on the door, as Rachel and Jess squat in between us making sure that the lower half of the car is sufficiently coated. Hell of a time to have forgotten a camera, huh?

We button and zip up, then traipse back to the open area. Rachel and I start dancing. She’s gyrating back and forth, looking sexy as hell, even doing some kind of hot thing with her mouth that I still can’t fully describe. I looked over her shoulder and see our commander coming toward us. He’s smiling and having a grand time with his wife and another older couple in tow. I point at him, look at Rachel and say, “Look its Colonel ‘Big Man’!” Without stopping dancing, she turns, walks right over to the man who is her ultimate boss at work and immediately breaks into freak dancing. The horrified look on the commander’s wife’s face and the confused smile on the commander’s face was matched only by Rachel’s obliviousness to who she was dry humping in front of. About five seconds into the racy display, Rachel fell flat on her ass. Colonel Big Shot helps her up, the walks over to help me up as I wiped tears from my eyes.

The festival ended the next week, but roughly a month later, Rachel got promoted. At a squadron event, Colonel Big Shot was awarding the stripes to those who’d gotten selected. He saved Rachel’s name for last and announced that she’d been honored by saying, “The last set of stripes goes to Senior Airman Rachel, who you might not know, moonlights as Baby in Dirty Dancing.” After the small ceremony, I walked over to congratulate her, and she summed up the whole experience in typical, perfect Rachel fashion: “Festivals are the greatest, most wonderful, horrible things in the history of the planet.”


Todd's background includes military service, a stint at a movie theater, and getting turned down for a date by Sandra Bullock. All things that make him totally unqualified to be a writer. However, now that he's getting married in November, that might just do it.

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robert melos
8.4.04 @ 11:01p

It's not the size of the shot, but the way you tongue the jello that separates the men from, well, the men. Um, the girls will know what I'm talking about.

todd bush
8.5.04 @ 1:12a

I hope that they do, cause I sure as hell don't.

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