Friday, May 22, 2009

Beer Goggles Are No Longer the Correct Prescription

On August 18th 2006 I moved from Columbus, Ohio to Brooklyn, New York. My first New York apartment was on the edge of the hip neighborhood of Williamsburg, sandwiched between ever-increasing numbers of young transplanted hipsters and Puerto Rican, Dominican and Italian locals. 3, his fiancĂ© and I immediately made point of checking out as many local bars as we could to find “our place” and a week into our stay in the neighborhood we found it in one Bushwick Country Club.

What wasn’t to love? A divey bar that was dark and homey featuring a 2-4-1 happy hour from 5-8 - a deal that wasn’t as ubiquitous at the time as it is now and boasting one of the best all-round bartending staffs I’d ever encountered. Phillip was our first bartender, the nerdy but uber personable big man with whom we’d discuss Heroes back when it was good (circa right when it was starting) and Watchmen (long before it was a Major Motion Picture). He made us feel right at home and soon enough even made us “members” allowing us to get the specialty house cocktail for a dollar off and to drink free on hour birthdays. Heather – whose musical taste I always found the best of all the BCC bartenders – quickly became a favorite as well because of her disarming and quirky friendliness and her ability to somehow pay attention to everybody at the bar at once. Thomas, he of the Free Pulled Pork Sundays, Megan and Ryan filled out a stable of bartenders with home we were all familiar and with whom we’ve all spent countless hours and dollars.

As bad as it sounds, in those early days the BCC was my home away from home. Hating my job at Barnes and Noble I spent at least three nights a week four blocks from my house bellied up to the bar, chatting and drinking more than I should have.
It came as quite a shock the other day when I discovered that the place has started to feel like just another bar. It’s certainly still a good bar, but while Heather is still my bartender, BCC is no longer my bar.

It’s hard to put a finger on what’s changed. The jukebox is still perennially “out of order”. The lights are still low. The booze is still cheap. The grill in the back is still open to anyone with raw food and a desire to cook. The novelty miniature golf course still sits largely unused in the back. In the end I think the biggest thing that’s changed is me.

My job is steadier and pays more (though still not nearly enough). I hang out with more people in more places than just this watering hole that I no longer live close to. And really the BCC is a bar for drinkers at a time when I don’t want to drink as much anymore.

Is there such a difference between 23 and 26 that this place should seem so different to me, so less comfortable? That I should feel more at home at Second Chance up the block with the thirty-somethings that lived in the neighborhood before it was cool?

That case race last week really served to put in startling focus various parts of my life (the stupidly overdrinking parts) that I’m not terribly interested in anymore. I guess it’s time to find a new vice. Good thing I live in New York.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Speaking of Ridiculous

As the Cleveland Cavaliers finished off Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs by pounding the Detroit Pistons in dominating fashion at home one question kept bouncing through my head: "Did I really just agree to a case race against Kenny and his roommates?"

While I'd heard the term in passing during my college days I'd never actually had the urge to see if my friends and I could pound down an entire 30-rack of beer faster than another group of friends. Nonetheless here I was at 26 half drunkenly agreeing to rope my friends into this binge-drinking spectacular.

1 and 3 from The Oddcast agreed to join me, squaring off against Kenny (one of the most prolific drinkers I know) and his two roommates. Trepidation built as the the race neared and on the day-of we decided to eat a large meal at the BW3 in the Atlantic Center. 12 wings and a large basket of wedges later, I had my food cushion and was feeling as good as could be expected when facing a ridiculous amount of beer drank for absolutely no reason at all.

Disaster nearly struck when one of Kenny's roommates bailed though they picked up an alternate (who, not knowing he was going to be called in had just finished a sixer of beer at home) and we started off. 1 and I pounded our first beers just to set the tone though he quickly began to outpace me, finishing 3 beers in about 15 minutes. This forced Kenny's roommate Tilton to drink faster than he perhaps wanted to (getting him drunk faster and possibly limiting the final number of beers he drank) and also put us into an early lead that we would not relinquish for several hours.

These heroics were much needed as 3 and I were definitely feeling the meal we just ate. Stomachs full to bursting we were both plodding along as quickly as we could which, at that point of the evening, was not very fast. Around my third beer I actually began to feel nauseous and was probably the slowest drinker in the room. As the night wore on and dinner digested, however, team dynamics began to shift. 1's drinking began to slow to a normal human pace while 3 and I picked up. The meal which had earlier threatened to betray me became my greatest ally, allowing me to drink more than I normally would have been able to.

In the final hour I really picked it up draining Coors Lights with a quickness I never would have imagined, especially since I don't really like that beer. Reaching into the case for my final beer I saw there were only two left, but that we had lost our lead and the opposing case was already empty. Not knowing how much beer the other two had left and preparing for the worst I dove into the penultimate beer as quickly as I could. 3 had noted the tally as well, though, and finished his can to go for our final beer. 1 finished his. I finished mine. Tilton and Kenny's cans were empty (I think). It was down to 3 and their alternate, Jason. They stayed evenly matched at first, and the in a Herculean effort like a late-game Michael Jordan 3 took a deep breath and slammed the last quarter-can home. The final count:

1: 7 beers
3: 9 beers
me: 14 beers

Built like a gold-medal relay team we had our lead-off runner in 1 setting an uncatchable pace, a steady volume guy in me that kept us in the game, and 3 the lights-out finisher who blew them away in the home stretch.

All in all a fantastic performance of ridiculously pointless drinking.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New York and etc.

Crossing Broadway on 19th this evening, deep in M. Ward's Hold Time I looked up and saw a woman absolutely eat it. It was one of the most spectacular face-first falls I've ever seen in my life. From ten feet away I hurried forward to see if she was OK, only to realize that three other random New York pedestrians had already stopped to help her up and inquire if she was OK. They lingered as she gingerly tested her ankle and stayed with her as I passed by, secure in the knowledge that she would be taken care of. People sometimes say New Yorkers are mean. I say you can always count on them to give their help when it's required... though possibly not a moment before.

In other news, work is ridiculously busy. Staying late has never been my thing but it's becoming all too frequent and honestly I don't get paid enough for all that. Finding a job in recession seems like a daunting task but more and more it also seems like a necessary one. Next week looks to be at least two more days of staying late since I'm not working the full week because...

6, one of my oldest friends, is getting married next Saturday. I've had several friends get married but no one I've known since I was ten years old. I imagine it will be kind of a surreal weekend and I'm not sure I've really fully absorbed it. I guess this is growing up, eh?

Though in some situations I still feel like a 13 year old kid.