Even with mud season well under way in Summit County, the small smoking patio in front of Red Mountain Grill (703 East Anemone Trail in Dillon) still sports a snow shovel and other all-weather tools. Through scratched sunglass lenses, I squint at this peculiarity in the early evening sun, run my index finger along freshly chapped, sunburned lips, and prepare myself to be in public. I'm finding this no easy task, having spent the past four hours at the A-Basin beach pounding PBR cans and fourteen-ounce plastic mugs of Wolf Rock and Dillon Dam beer as part of the seventh annual Festival of the Brewpubs. With Maggie behind the wheel as afternoon DD, I whiled away the short drive from there to here watching snowy peaks and rocky foothills blur by through the passenger window and wondering how anyone drives drunk. Now, as I rip through a second butt and steady myself for an evening of gratuitous drinking, I wonder how I'll ever stay conscious for the next three or four hours.
My ominous attitude spurs mostly from the knowledge that, thanks to two close friends behind the bar (whose names have been omitted here to protect their guilt), I won't be swilling myself into penury. In fact, I won't be paying a red-mountain penny, except maybe for food. Our farcical foray into free drinking begins (how else?) with shots of Patron Silver and pints of Molson Canadian, and just like that, my foreboding disappears in a beat of salt and squeeze of lime.
This cadence — shot-pint-pint, shot-pint-pint — continues through fits of hysterical laughter (such as when Chuck drops a seasoned chip's worth of spinach-artichoke dip into his beer and slurps it out with no hesitation), bizarre smoke-break conversations (with a dreadlocked guy who tells me, in the same breath, about the lines he just blew off a CD case and his newfound appreciation for Sunday-morning church services) and an especially mouthy moment or two on my part after a round of Irish Car Bombs. By way of illustration:
Red Mountain Grill
When the bartender helps himself to our bowls of buffalo and basian wings: "Hey, (name withheld), if you take any breaks between eating our appetizers, could I get another Molson?"
When the server sneaks a chip with dip on her way past our table: "This better not show up on our tab that doesn't exist!"
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And when one out of seven or eight rounds of beers doesn't arrive before the previous one is finished: "This waitstaff has absolutely no regard for the freeloading table of friends not paying for anything."
My last comment earns me an earnest glance or two of annoyance, so I excuse myself and dodder out the front door for a solo cigarette. According to my memory — which, without a witness or notepad, reflects as accurate a reality as I can attest to — I immediately teleport back to the table without ever stepping foot outside. I then sit in silence for two minutes or hours and goggle at the host of wicker lamp-basket things and spiky metal star votives hanging above the flat-screen TVs throughout the bar area. I then go to the bathroom, where a massive, puffy-cheeked, open-lipped stone mask watches me pee and creeps me out so much that I zip up without finishing. I then pull twenties from my wallet like tissues from a box of Kleenex and hand them over for a tip (so much for free, eh?).
Then, after another bout of teleporting, I'm ashing on myself in the back seat of a beat-up black Pathfinder cruising along Dillon Dam Road, watching snowy peaks and city lights blur by through scratched sunglass lenses.
And wondering why I'm wearing sunglasses.