I can still see the plastic jumbo cup rotating as it descends from a balcony rail, golden beer raining out into space as if a sprinkler alarm system fueled by kegs started cutting loose. The cup keeps falling and it never ends, acting as a vivid metaphor for many wayward nights.
A stream of people move down below, the cup plunging into their midst to announce our presence. There is no escape for the anointed:
Donald Trump and his entourage.
The cup hits concrete flooring and several heads turn up to stare, their fingers pointing and voices calling out as Trump turns upward in anger, lips puckered tightly into that famous tycoon pout.
In a mind that can fizzle like faulty fireworks, it is still a vivid flashback.
My friend Buck was totally unaware of the heat about to descend upon us. His flailing arm had sent the jumbo cup cascading on a mission of doom, but he was still focused on Vinnie Pazienza and Roberto Duran in a distant boxing ring.
Raving like a bull moose in full rut, Buck’s bellowing antics weren’t hard to spot from the concourse below.
We were seated among several of Duran’s Panamanian supporters, seriously primed by countless rounds of drinks provided by their newest best friend, Buck. His generous nature would soon prove to be a very wise investment.
Security men wearing sharp blue suits huddled for a posse rush up the aisle stairs, so things were about to get dicey. Our festive fight night would most likely end with a swift kick to the unforgiving streets of Atlantic City, or slow crawl along the boardwalk.
“Buck!” I screamed, but it was useless. His blood-laced eyeballs were locked on the boxing match, and tunnel vision was in full display. Everything else was a distant roar beyond that seriously pickled brain.
I watched several blue suits ascending toward us with grim determination, and looked around for avenues of escape that allowed for stumbling feet and flailing arms.
A great roar sounded as Roberto Duran rallied with seconds left in the round, and his Panamanian supporters leaped up on their chairs like frenzied salmon through foaming rapids.
“Buck!” I screamed, pulling on his shirt. “We gotta problem!”
His massive arm slowly reached out for beer and found an empty, wooden rail.
“Yeah!” he shouted. “We’re outa beer!”
The single-mindedness was impressive, yet disturbing.
Down the row of seats past Buck, large, stocky men in blue considered the possible battle about to take place. The round was over now, and things had quieted down enough to hear loud screaming.
I waved and smiled like an idiot. “Is there a problem, gentlemen?!”
The point man’s face was bright red, pointing at Buck to yell, “He’s out’a here!”
Buck turned at the man’s voice and quickly responded.
“Seventeen beers!” he bellowed. “For all my little friends!”
“Hey!” the man screamed. “You gotta go!”
Buck nodded. “Jumbo cups!”
And that’s when his previous generosity paid off in huge dividends.
A voice hissed broken English in my ear, and I turned to find a Panamanian at my shoulder. He bared a strong resemblance to Al Pacino.
“They want to throw Buck out,” I explained.
The man glared past me at security. “So they want . . . El Amigo Grande.”
He quickly addressed the Duran crowd in a stream of angry Spanish, and a crowd of Panamanians started toward the blue suits, shouting words that are probably not found in any form of mainstream English translation.
The lead security man looked nervous, and yelled something that was drowned-out by the approaching army.
When I put a hand to my ear, he cupped his mouth and gave it everything he had:
“It was an accident, right?!”
“Yes!” I screamed, gesturing to show how Buck had knocked his cup off the rail by mistake. “He had no idea!”
The man gave a quick nod, a nervous smile, and a quick wave of dismissal.
And just like that, we were allowed to stay till the very end.
Now it’s all just part of several legends circulating among the people of Panama, and often told around smoldering camp fires in the darkest jungles of Central America and beyond:
The story of Roberto Duran, and a massive party animal they still call “El Amigo Grande.”
“He is like the Bigfoot or King Kong Monkey,” they whisper, gulping wine from goatskin bota bags. “Only more intoxicated . . .”