Twelve hours of beer
A binge of questionable importance
by Dave McAwesome
A binge of questionable importanceby Dave McAwesome
The day begins at 3:30 PM in a beer garden at the end of the world in Astoria, Queens. My drinking partner for the occasion is Bart Swillington, no stranger to the alcoholic arts. The highlight of this open-air joint is the eternal grilling flame firing up gigantic wursts. I'm not going to pretend to enjoy the characteristic bitter palette of true European beers. The beer is okay. The wursts are great. I enjoy my little feast. I do not, however, take to the crowd--a mix of family-types with their little children and little children attached to their parent-types. Unacceptable. I'm not a fan of the bouncer/gatekeeper system, but if ever there were an establishment in need of such services, it is this beer garden at the end of the world in Astoria, Queens.
Our drinking is quick and savage, and we are in ready speed for a change of venue. The next stop is a lower east side bar with a much lower percentage of family-types. Zero, to be exact. That's exactly the percentage of family-types I demand at my beer-swilling establishments.
Bart and I are joined by a third party whom we'll refer to as Third Guy, on account of him failing to leave any laudable impression upon the evening.
A gaggle of clucking women forms around us, trying to chat. They're no more than moderately attractive to begin with, but when they open their mouths to speak, they become hideous medusas, paralyzing with stupidity. Bart is married and, therefore, immune to their poison. I am able to deflect their nonsense with my Persean shield of arrogance. We leave Third Guy to his doom.
Bart and I are momentarily distracted by the bartender, who, we hypothesize, is attempting to keep us occupied while his pseudo-girlfriends chat up Third Guy. The bartender is a sad individual. It's bad enough that he thinks all his female patrons are his legitimate friends, but he's also a film geek who can spout trivia about every actor and script and director and key grip without possessing a single insight on the relation of a cinematic story to the human condition. He is soulless.
Several minutes into Operation Distraction, the jukebox stops. A member of the gaggle veers off formation and enters the Bunker of Cynicism Bart and I have built at the bar. "I'm going to take a few dollars for the jukebox," she says drunkenly. She's holding some bills in her hand, so I assume she means she needs change. I am wrong. She intends to fleece us, dollar by dollar.
To appreciate her crime, one must understand the philosophy of leaving money on the bar. This knowledge was imparted to me by Bart Swillington himself, an expert in the subject of bar-ology: He is rewarded whosoever establishes a rapport with the bartender. Sit at the bar, not away in a corner. Say hello and goodbye. Most importantly, pay for your first drink with a 20. When the bartender returns with your change, leave it on the bar. Further drinks will be tallied from this money. Put fresh money on the change pile when necessary. (Of course, don't forget to leave a tip at the end of the night. I shouldn't have to mention that.) This advice yields a high percentage of buybacks and general positive consideration ("nah, the taps need to be cleaned, have a bottle instead" is an example of a bartender looking out for you).
Hence, our money is on the bar. Hence, this sloppy tart is sticking it in her paws. Hence, Bart is angry. He stares at her, "What are you doing?" She looks at him as if HE was stealing HER money. "Put that money back. To. The. Dollar." She freezes. It's an ugly scene. Her entire bar-going history flashes in front of us. She has used her tits to pickpocket no small number of naive guys out of cash and drinks. Today, she's met her match: a married guy who's happily married. Capitulation is swift and immediate. She shambles away, trying to act the innocent party. Bart and I are left staring at each other, slightly amazed. Clearly, we won. Our money was intact. Her dignity? Not so much. She dances awkwardly and alone at the jukebox as she feeds single after single into the mouth of the beast.
Things return to normal shortly after this ugly episode. Third Guy has enough common sense to turn a shoulder at the clucking clique. We all resume our meaningless conversations. Our money is safe and the beer cold. At the seven hour mark, Third Guy fades away while Bart's wife arrives and begins her diet of fruit-based liquors. We settle at a third bar to hunker in for the duration.
Our last stop for the evening would ruin me, both physically and emotionally. Bart decides to call a girl who has been nothing but an irresponsible tease towards me. Unfortunately, she answers her phone.
Bart and his wife call it quits not long after The Tease arrives. Bart is loud and obnoxious by this time, several times pointing to me and shouting, "Dave, you're hot." (Which, of course, I am.)
I remain at the bar. Alone. With The Tease. It's okay at first. Drinking. Chatting. Then she decides to bare her soul to me. Normally I don't mind a dollop or two of soul-baring, but I know The Tease to be an inveterate liar. Who knows what weird concoction of balderdash she's mixed up tonight?
Between hours nine and twelve, my drinking slows. I have no desire to put myself in any of the awkward positions The Tease habitually steers me towards. Nossir. I shall be my own master of loneliness tonight.
My guard still up and her teetering on my arm, we stumble raggedly to her apartment. More "let me tell yous" and "you have to realize somethings" and "I always want you to knows." I had been ducking and blocking her manipulative jabs all night. Now it's the tenth round, and my defense is sluggish and tired. I am, however, sober enough to recall that I hate boxing metaphors.
That's how it passes: she crying in my arms about nothing of which I can confirm, veracity-wise, and me staggering home in a blind rage, cursing the girls with whom I keep company.