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Monday, May 30, 2005

Drinking Can Be Great Exercise

I think I saw this guy hugging a toilet in a bar in Detroit.
Man 1/2 Way in Quest to Visit 1,000 Bars
By LARRY McSHANE, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- A bit of barroom philosophy, courtesy of Dan Freeman: The longest journey begins with but a single sip. Freeman should know. The Brooklynite set out Jan. 1 to visit 1,000 bars in a single year, a cocktail lounge quest that began with one scotch and soda in Mike's Pelham Grill.

Barely five months and 499 bars later, the Don Quixote of drink is halfway to completing his boozy impossible dream.

Why 1,000 bars, you ask? Why not? (link)
My answer would have been: "Because they have lots of beer and whiskey?"

I think my record - back when I didn't have to work too hard to set a record - was five bars in one night. It was Kentucky Derby week and the booze was flowing freely (hardly free but freely) in Louisville, where everyone, especially when they are completely inebriated, gets excessively hospitable.

A short story: I and a friend were at some bar there (very) late that night, minding our own business, concentrating on the consumption of great quantities of alcohol and down-home country music. The place was jammed with Derby partiers and local sots.

As sometimes happens when one has been occupying a bar stool for a considerable time, I had to run to the restroom. Once I found it, I walked (staggered) my way over to the urinal where I settled in for a moment of relief and relaxation.

While standing there in this rather vulnerable pose, some young guy comes bursting into the mensroom and says, to nobody in particular, "Hey, you know who's out at the bar?"

Now there is an unwritten rule that men never break that applies to conversation at a urinal. Proper etiquette calls for one to stare straight ahead - no peeking over the side of the urinal next to yours - at the tile wall in front of you, counting the groaty little green algaic formations ... uh, we'll skip that. Anyway, mensroom prescripts call for heterosexual men to not strike up a conversation with strangers in moments like this. Even if the place is on fire, we don't speak. Singing is permissible. Groans are accepted and understood. Babbling incoherently is even tolerated after 3am. But we leave one another in peace and tranquility.

So I turn my attention to this fella with the thought, "If he pokes his head over the side of my urinal with the intention of God-knows-what, I'm going to hit him."

But, rather than approaching me, he stands there in the doorway looking kind of ... drunk, with a non-intrusive glazed-over look on his face. He was, obviously, (drunk and) captivated by the fact that someone was at the bar and he had to pass on the news.

So, being brave and ... drunk, I looked over and said, "No. Who?"

With an excitement that only comes from a quart of Chivas Regal, he replied, "Paul Hornung and Lindsay Nelson!"

"Really?" was my only reply. I went back to concentrating on the cigarette butts in the bottom of my urinal. I didn't want this crazy person to think I was going to be excited by the thought that two famous people, one of whom had, years before, played running back for the greatest NFL football team in history (!), were nearby.

When I was finished doing damage to the urinal, I walked out of the restroom (after carefully washing my hands of course) and immediately strolled over to the bar.

There, as big as life, sat Paul Hornung and Lindsay Nelson. They were, in those days, calling football games together for Notre Dame and were in town to celebrate the Derby.

I can only envision, after these many years, how stupid I must have looked at that moment. Here was this smoke-filled, cacophonous tavern that had to have warehoused at that moment better than a hundred people all shoulder to shoulder, and here I stood in the middle of the floor staring at two (aging) drunkards sitting at the bar.

It was all I could do to keep from walking up to the Green Bay Packers "Golden Boy" and his sidekick who happened to be the best play-by-play announcer in history, offering to shake their hands, and saying something profound like, "Hey, you're Paul Hornung and Lindsay Nelson." Booze will do that kind of thing to you.

Instead, I caught myself and realized that I was not only looking really stupid at that moment, but I was about to embarrass myself for all time if I opened my mouth. So I went back to my reserved seat on the other side of the saloon. When I got there, I turned to my friend and said,

"Hey, you know who's over there at the bar?"

The lesson is: Don't ever strike up a conversation in a men's room. It can have deleterious effects on your self esteem.

Oh, and if you drink, don't drive. Of course.