We Smoked Weed With Total Slacker at the Olive Garden in Times Square
"Are you excited to be here?" I ask.
Total Slacker Carbo Load Crew L-R: Emily Oppenheimer, author Jamie Peck, Zoe Brecher, Dave Tassy and Tucker Rountree
"I'm, like, fucking cumming in my pants," replies Tucker.
It is 8:45pm on a Sunday evening, and I am waiting in a fake Tuscan piazza with the members of Total Slacker (Tucker Rountree, Emily Oppenheimer, Dave Tassy and Zoe Brecher) -- a Brooklyn band who specialize in slowed down, fuzzed out '90s alt rock twirled around the fork of psych, grunge, noise and punk -- for a table at the Olive Garden's Times Square location. The lights of giant ads flash at us through picture windows which seem specially designed to let this happen. Foreign languages are being spoken, children are crying, and the three-story restaurant is filled to capacity with visitors seeking a taste of this most quintessential part of the American (if not the New York) experience. We have been waiting for nearly an hour (they don't take reservations) and the giant buzzing token has just gone off in my purse, making us feel like we've won the lottery. Tucker is especially excited.
This is just the latest chapter in the Brooklyn grunge-psych band's (or really, Tucker's) one-sided love affair with the casual dining behemoth, which first became public last month when he posted a screenshot of his correspondence with the chain on Facebook. He also called up a patient customer service rep who took a sincere stab at answering the question "How do you conceptualize breadsticks?"
Corporate policy being what it is, his dreams of throwing an all-ages show and/or afterparty at Olive Garden Restaurants were soon dashed. But that doesn't mean we can't party there anyway, provided we take the proper precautions.
My one-hitter is burning a hole in my pocket as we take our seats. I recall the part about "immediate police action" with some apprehension as I note the numerous conscripts in New York City's militarized police force patrolling Times Square like an anti-fun SWAT team. We are surrounded.
All Photos Terri Nguyen
Our server welcomes us to Olive Garden Restaurant, noting when asked that [cartoonishly Italian name redacted] is, indeed, his real name. We must look a little out of place, because he asks us what we're doing there. We say we like the food. "The guys who do the ads for Olive Garden are trying desperately to reach you guys," he says, showing us an in-house ad intended to convey the notion that young people like to drink wine at Olive Garden after work. That sounds like a great idea, so we select a wine ("red") from the three fine varietals on offer.
Approximately half of our fellow diners seem to be celebrating someone's birthday. Tucker isn't even high yet, but he goes around offering to take pictures of everyone: a large Hispanic family, a group of aging sorority girls, etc. The sight of a tall, floppy-haired manchild dressed like a nerdy third grader from 1990 makes all of them smile.
In that bowlcut festooned head of his, Tucker has hatched a plan: we will go into the men's room together, toke up as fast as we can, and then flush all remaining drugs and paraphenalia down the toilet. This will require the sacrifice of my one-hitter, which I reluctantly accept.
Only Tucker, Tassy, photographer Terri and I have elected to participate --"I have to be drunk to smoke pot," Emily explains---which is probably for the best, as only so many women can sneak into the men's room at once. When the coast is clear, Tucker texts me and Terri to join him. I feel simultaneously thrilled and scared in a way I haven't felt since my high school friends and I first smoked a joint in a public park. Time to blaze!
Tassy is the first to light up, and inhales with ruthless efficiency before handing the pipe to me. I'm too nervous to get a very good hit off it, but Tucker helps me light it, and I manage to inhale a small amount. Like Dave, Tucker seems calm, but his hands are shaking. One flush later, we exit the bathroom, only to run smack into one of OG's millions of managers.
"You know girls aren't allowed in the men's room," he says to us sternly. "They're transgender," Tucker replies without missing a beat. We return to our table. Are we in trouble?
The food we've ordered is starting to arrive, which is good because we're all very hungry. Our server has hooked up the unlimited salad and breadsticks for us despite our only ordering two entrees between six people, and we dig in. The salad is actually pretty good, as iceberg lettuce salads go, or we could just be high. And, as Tucker promised, the breadsticks with marinara dipping sauce are incredible. But just as we are beginning to discuss Breadstick Theory, our server interrupts.
"My manager says there's some issue in the bathroom, just so you guys know."
We thank him for telling us and continue eating, our lack of contraband giving us the courage to soldier on. But I remember that I still have drugs on me, so I swallow the half of what I believe to be a Xanax that's hiding in my wallet. This serves the double purpose of ridding myself of illegal materials and killing my paranoia.