“Hey, man,” Pierce said, “let’s go to the cabin.”
“Let’s go, to the fuckin’ cabin,” he repeated, referring to his family’s old place up around Newry.
“It’s fuckin’ midnight,” I said. “You always want to ‘go to the cabin’ at, like, goddamn midnight or 3 a.m.”
“So what, man? Let’s go.”
Pierce mumbled a few protestations and lit a smoke. I stared into space and thought about it for a few beats, then said, “OK, let’s go.”
“Man, you nev— really?”
“Yeah, man, let’s go.”
Pierce practically leapt from his seat. I grabbed the bottle of Oban single-malt Scotch my ex-wife had given me, the bottle Pierce had tried to get me to crack open nearly every day for the past 18 months that I’d had it. “I told you the time would come for this hooch, and now is the time,” I said. “But we gotta grab Karl, and we need some beers.”
“And we need chips. Smokes too,” Pierce said. “I can drive, man.”
I looked at Pierce and we both laughed. “You, drive? No fucking chance, pal! Let’s get Karl.”
I grabbed the weed, the Scotch, a blanket, my dog Delta, and we hopped in my ’91 Grand Marquis to get our buddy. It didn’t take much convincing to get Karl onboard, so our next stop was the Big Apple for a six-pack of Bud pounders, a pack of Camel filters, a few bags of chips and some Slim Jims.
We hit the road. I drove the first leg of the 90-minute trip, then let Karl take over about halfway through. Pierce was as happy as a kid on Christmas and, truth be told, so were Karl and I. The three of us had certainly shared some interesting times together, years of late-night conversations, the laughter as plentiful as the beers and the brilliant ideas. Most of those nights ended with Pierce mumbling, “Let’s go to the cabin.”
We flapped our gums the whole trip, Delta sound asleep in the back, and as we got close to the cabin Pierce filled us in on some details about our destination. There’s a woodstove, he said, and some bunks with blankets. Should be some wood for a fire. And it was near a roaring river, so the sound of the water made it an awesome place to fall asleep.
Arriving at the cabin with a few beers left, the untouched Oban and most of the chips, Pierce was absolutely beaming — we were there at last. It was early January and cold, so we grabbed the supplies and went in to check out the digs. The cabin had a woodstove alright, but the pipes were all rusted and spotted with holes ranging from the size of a dime to a baseball, so a fire was out of the question. The bunks and blankets were pretty dusty, which was to be expected, but the amount of mouse turds bordered on jaw-dropping.
No matter — these problems were exactly what the weed and hooch were for, so we dove in. We lit some candles, talked about Pierce’s “wallet insurance” idea, and took turns slugging on the Scotch. Eventually we all passed out on our mouse-shit bunks, full of good booze and crappy snacks, warmed by thin blankets and laughter. In the morning we woke, freezing, to the river’s rage and winter sunshine streaming through the windows and the cracks in the walls. In the daylight you could really see the rough beauty of the cabin, and in an instant I understood why my friend loved the place so.
Pierce Sunenblick wasn’t a fan of anything or anyone normal or safe. He found that boring — irritating, almost. He liked things and people with blemishes and bad luck. He loved true misery of the heart, and had more faith in our ability to correct that than he led on. He was a dark motherfucker at times, but at the right times, if you ask me. If you sat down with him, ignored your watch and just riffed honestly on damn near anything, well, you would feel better, you would laugh harder, you would understand the root of the problem, and you’d be a step closer to being comfortable in your own skin.
Pierce was a great friend, a best friend, and I feel truly blessed to have spent so many hours of my life in his company. Rest in peace, pal.