I was hosting a party at the Cuervo Nation when I got the call. In the Caribbean on a private island dancing the limbo, drinking in excess, playing bar games, diving naked from the top of a docked ship into the deep blue sea with anacondas swimming just under the surface awaiting discarded burgers and bread and me.
Tan, young, happy, drunk, naked, fearless, free.
Then I got a call. At the Cuervo Nation. A place that isn't listed in the phone book. Has no air conditioning. Has no television. No radio.
"Who died?" I thought. Then quickly, "This had better not be about Grandma."
"Hey, Kambri." It was my brother. I hadn't spoken to him in a year. If this were about Grandma, my mother would be the one calling. Why isn't she calling? She’s the one who's dead. Or my dad.
This is about my dad.
Christian's friend John Hodgman (buy his book) once told a story on This American Life about meeting another Cuervo Nation host, Ryan. When I listened to his account, I was at once proud and embarrassed. I had a coveted gig but one with no merit, morals or intelligence required. A debaucherous and bawdy lifestyle in a bikini doing tequilas shots off a wooden ski, dropping poker chips out of my butt crack into a beer stein and jumping off naked from the upper deck of a boat into a pool of anacondas swimming in the deep blue.
From Hodgman's radio program:
And so Ryan joined a shadow industry of party professionals. The kind you might meet on resorts or on yachts leading surfside limbo competitions or at reunions encouraging people to dance...people’s whose job it is to force us to interact to touch one another because apparently this is something we’ve forgotten how to do.
It is absolutely true that, the moment I saw Ryan screaming from the docks of Cuervo Nation, I thought it would be the greatest job in the world...this job was better...because it involved yelling at people for money while drunk.
...Ryan's is a job that seems so intuitive and skill-free that you initially think anyone can do it. It's only when you are trying and failing to get someone to drink a shot of tequila off your head that you realize how hard it is to be Cuervo Man.
Or in my case, Cuervo Woman. For me, it was just another stop off the double decker tour bus. A distraction from my mundane day job that led me to the Cuervo Nation that night in July 2002 when I got the call.
It is strange how in the still anticipation of gaining unwanted news how crystal clear the message is before a word is ever exchanged.
I climbed out of the vacuum of that phone call and tried to focus on something else. The reggae music, the pattern of the wood grain table, my half-empty bottle of tequila. I stopped my brother from saying another word.
That bottle of tequila was only half empty and it wasn't gonna drink itself. After all, I was working. At the Cuervo Nation. The anacondas were waiting.