James, on the other hand, is finishing yet another tall-boy as he squeezes his way into the middle of a line of about a dozen other contenders. "I get nervous before every competition, so I drink a little to loosen myself up," he admits. "There's got to be some competition out there somewhere."
Then the MC, José El Rey — a local artist known for his silly/sardonic Spanglish techno tunes and a truly remarkable (and magical) mustache — grabs a mike and says, "I am the king! But where is my court?" The other two members of ¿Que Pasa M.I.A.? — Slim Biscayne and Aholsniffsglue — distribute quarts of Colt to the row of motley chuggernauts.
Next the 32-ouncers are pulled from brown paper bags, and wide mouths are pressed to eager lips.
"Go!" El Rey abruptly shouts as teeth clank on glass, heads tilt back, beer dribbles down chins, people cheer, shirts are stained, and poor little Alex looks like he should just surrender.
Then there's James. He's living up to his rep, but close behind him is a sloppy guy in a long-sleeve gray shirt and overgrown curls — dubbed Queasoid for his wobbly state — and a curvy, confident woman who calls herself Ms. Goobs.
After about 30 seconds, El Rey's voice booms across the patio. "James wins!"
All the freshly queasy chug-a-thoners lower their quarts, but then the ¿Que Pasa? judges look more closely. When James and Queasoid put down their quarts, there's a half-inch of amber backwash at the bottom of their bottles. Ms. Goobs, however, has nothing but foam in her empty Colt.
Everyone is confused — and drunk —so a rematch is called.
But Ms. Goobs ain't having it. "It's because I'm female!" she snaps and then waddles back into the crowd for sympathetic pats on the back. "You know what's funny? About two years ago on Halloween, I was in the Grove and I saw some guy dressed up as the Count of Monte Cristo passed out alone in front of [a club called] Cielo. Most of my friends couldn't give a shit, but I was concerned. So I tried to get him up and give him some water. But nothing was working. I found his phone and called the first number on it and told them they needed to come and pick up this kid.
"And that kid was James!"
Who is now chugging again, but after two tall-boys and a quart of Colt, the champ can't keep up. Queasoid beats him by a nanosecond and promptly pukes all over the floor, earning himself an upgraded name: Vomitron.
The audience laughs, but James looks annoyed. "I can't believe I lost to a drunk," he snarls.