When my friend Dan asked me to be the best man at his wedding, I asked for a silver Mercedes for the bachelor party. It was gonna be just like The Hangover... except they sent me an R350.
If I'm being honest with myself, I'm not as cool as Bradley Cooper's character in the film The Hangover. I'm more like Ed Helms' character without the unhappy relationship. And no one in the wedding is as strange as Zach Galifianakis though my friend Galen does have a fantastic beard and walks around wearing a vintage Elvis Costello & The Attractions shirt. So points there.
Perhaps the R350 is a fitting vehicle for a bachelor party centered mostly around criss-crossing Austin, Texas in search of the best taco. And no, that isn't code. We love tacos. Instead of splitting up between two cars I'd be a great best man and play designated driver to five grown men drinking Shiner Bock out of cans set in a cooler between the front captain's chairs.
Problems arose immediately. Despite costing upwards of $60K the R350 (R stands for ridiculously overpriced) doesn't have an iPod hookup we could find. Nor a simple and easily locatable Aux-in. there's apparently one there but a search yielded nothing. What did it have? And SD card reader to load up the on-board hard drive. Oh, how quaint.
I had to run to a Walgreens in order to get CDs so we'd have the proper music to play. Unfortunately, inserting and shuffling through CDs on the Benz's multimedia interface is something akin to trying to make love to a mermaid; you know there's a way to do it but you're loathe to spend all afternoon trying to figure it out and not entirely sure it's going to be worth the effort.
Once the assembled crew got the Lil' Wayne and LCD Soundsystem pumping it was time to set off on our digestive journey. The first stop was Torchy's Tacos, which first originated in a sort of food trailer park. A mixture of taco culture and modern southern cooking, it's the kind of place were you can order up one called Dirty Sanchez (the only one of the night, I assure you).
Next was Papalote Taco House across town on South Lamar. If you know Austin well, you understand crossing a distance greater than three miles means sitting in traffic. The R350 excels here as the seats are comfortable, the windows are tinted, and the ride is smooth. I can see the appeal over a real minivan. You feel like you're being chauffeured even in the backseat. The kids who grow up in one of these are doomed to be totally self-absored pricks.
Papalote was fantastic and I highly recommend the Pork Pipian, which is pork loin stewed in a pumpkin seed and jalapeno sauce. Delicious. After that we headed out to a place called Smokilicious on South Congress, which offers up brisket tacos. Unfortunately, it was closed because, to paraphrase Patton Oswalt, people who live in Austin have no conception of the real world and think the streets are paved with marijuana and you can elect a hacky sack mayor.
So we moved on. Once more unto the breach, my now drunk friends.
I don't remember the name of the next place, but the tacos were delightfully greasy and there were two telenovellas on for entertainment, including one in which a woman clearly dressed as a man appeared to be selling an apartment. Unfortunately, the two panorama sunroofs kill the chance for a drop-down DVD player, and I'd really been hoping to run Stilman's Kicking And Screaming and Caddyshack during the day so this was the best we were going to do.
The final stop before retiring the car for drinking and Halo was a Korean-Mexica fusion truck called Chilantro you have to track down via Twitter. That night the truck was setting up near 6th Street, which is one of those drinking meccas near college campuses that specializes in the kind of hardcore drinking that inevitably leads to waking up next so someone who, like Ann Coulter, may or may not have an adam's apple.
There's no parking anywhere near sixth street without forking over money, but I immediately spot the truck pull into its corner for the night and decide to just park behind it in the empty lot. The owners of the truck try to tell me I can't park there but I say don't worry about it. I'm in a big Mercedes. I can park where I fucking want to park.
The bulgogi chicken taco was good, filling, and a nice blend of sweet and spicy. The kimchi fries were extraordinary but burning with oil. My stomach's ready to explode, so clearly it's time to abandon the minivan and drink some beer. On the way out I learn to appreciate the PARKTRONIC back up camera. The visibility in this minivan isn't great, and there are two drunk girls celebrating a birthday just begging to be run over as they accost random strangers.
I didn't host a bachelor party the equal of The Hangover and, honestly, the R350 isn't a 1969 Mercedes 280SE. It's a minivan with a lot of pretension, a little style and not enough utility to justify the price.
On the upside, there was never a high risk of a naked guy jumping out of the hatch and beating the shit out of us. Which is nice. We survived to party another day and witness a pastor who could break dance. I swear on my life. He did the rerun dance. It was awesome.
Photo Credit: Galen/Heather