Friday, September 30, 2011

To Health!

As announced in February, Belvedere has teamed up with (Red) to produce special edition bottles of their premium vodka. 50% of all proceeds go to fighting AIDS, Malaria, and other diseases in Africa. Bottles are now on shelves. Do your part to improve the planet, and then clink a few glasses of the good stuff with your peoples to celebrate.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wifey Material: Hayden Panettiere

She's always been a sweetheart. Apparently she's also a quality boozehound, as this picture of her partying it up at Oktoberfest (and looking delish in the process) proves.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spin Cycle

Oktoberfest is a magical event. And, as you can probably guess, it's on my bucket list. But, if you're like me and haven't gone yet, you might do well to make the same mental note that I just did: When you finally get there, stay away from the funhouse.

If only this guy had the same foresight.

Wasted Man's Nightmare: Stuck In A Funhouse - Watch MoreFunny Videos

Friday, September 23, 2011

In It for the Long Crawl

It may surprise you—considering how large and popular a part of boozing culture they are—to learn that very few bar crawls have found their way into the On the Rocks archive. And, to be clear, I’m not talking about the random act of barhopping. Everyone has those episodes where you start the night at a rooftop bar in Shadyside and end it asleep on a set of steps in the South Side…

[*looking around for the link* What the…? Wait… I never wrote about that night. Damn I’m lazy…]

…No, a true bar crawl is fairly organized, with a predetermined itinerary of bars and a time limit set for imbibing at each stop. I’ve taken part in a handful over the years, but they normally aren’t reported. Not for lack of material, mind you; I think lack of memory is a more likely culprit. Because a bar crawl, when done properly, is almost more of a punishment than a privilege. A gregarious terrorist could likely use one to torture top-secret information out of a hostage. There’s just no way to abide by the rules of “drink as fast as you can in 15 – 20 minute intervals for six straight hours” and not lose all control over any and everything you hold dear. I went on a bar crawl with Mrs. TC’s family in July of last year; and, while I can tell you where I slept that night, I honestly don’t remember how or when I got there. And I have a sneaking suspicion that her parents’ dog now knows the PIN to my ATM card.

So when they invited me back for this year’s crawl, was there really any question as to whether or not I was going?

The Route 837 Bar Crawl is the brainchild of TC and his brother-in-law, J Sun. Route 837 is an at-times-industrial, at-times-rural stretch of road that meanders along the Monongahela, through Western PA’s river towns and backwoods. Mrs. TC and her siblings grew up just a few turns away from this road, and one day six years ago her brother and then-boyfriend decided that they should explore some of the many dive bars that dot this innocuous line on the map. In fact, why not make it a bar crawl? They determined which watering holes to visit and recruited some family members; before they knew it, a tradition was born. This year’s crawl was nearly 50 people strong, and featured “Sons of Anarchy” themed t-shirts (considering that some of these places are frequented by actual bikers, though, I’m not sure many “outsiders” got the joke).

To start the night, I met up with the “gang” at Pit Stop. But, because I was late and had to temporarily leave the bar to drop my car off at Mrs. TC’s parents’ house, I only got to enjoy two Miller Lite draughts before J Sun was whistling us to attention and motioning towards the door.

J Sun and his wife are the parents of three adorable little boys. As you might imagine, then, an event like this is a beautiful oasis on their calendar; a rare opportunity to take a break from the kids and be their old selves again for a few fleeting hours. But as J Sun’s sister (Jacqui), his cousin (“LL Cool K”), and I climbed into the couple’s Dodge Caliber to head to the next bar, the infrequency of their bar nights was beautifully illustrated. I took the front passenger seat, Jacqui grabbed the seat behind me, and LL Cool K sat behind J Sun. Mrs. J Sun? Well, she sat in the backseat between the other two ladies…perched in her infant son’s car seat. In their haste to start the night’s activities, she and J Sun had neglected to unlatch it. A grown woman, in a child’s car seat. And we’d only been to one bar. Here we go.

Next on the tour was Scotty's Bar & Lounge. It had been the favorite watering hole of Mrs. TC, Jacqui, and J Sun’s late grandfather; for years, when his shift at the steel mill down the road ended, he would park on one specific stool at the bar, flanked by his oldest friends. In tribute, J Sun added Scotty's to the list of stops last year. Drinking shots of whiskey and rounds of Stoney’s (their grandfather’s favorite drinks) in a toast to “Pap” have now become an annual tradition.

If you wanted to find a picture-in-the-dictionary example of a dive bar, Scotty's is it. When we showed up last year, they were about to close up for the night—at 9:30 on a Saturday. This year was quite the contrast. It was positively jumping with activity, with no less than seven customers on hand. And one dog. Our bar crawl flooded the establishment in a sea of black t-shirts, increasing the lone bartender’s revenue sixfold. She seemed less-than-thrilled, though. In fact, she was…how you say, a tad bitchy? After ordering six shots, J Sun attempted to explain that his grandfather had been a regular; the bartender quickly cut him off with an “I know who you are.” Her dad, as it turns out, is a friend of J Sun’s parents. But she was not the least bit interested in extending the families’ friendliness to the next generation. In fact, she didn’t so much as attempt a smile the entire time we were there. Apparently, we ruined her Saturday night with all of our money, and expecting service and such. How selfish of us.

We were only at Scotty’s for about 30 minutes, but I managed to down a Miller Lite, a shot of whiskey, and a half a Stoney’s (which is a half a Stoney’s more than any human should ever consume) before we were off to our next bar, Beer Belly's Bar & Grill. This was one of the larger establishments on the tour, and one of our longer stops. Since it’s also the midway point, it carried the feel of China Beach, with our people spread out among various forms of R&R. Most of our platoon stationed itself at various barstool-posts around the large bar, while a small group played games of pool and others mingled with locals. I found myself sitting between Dupa and “Smashley”, having my innocence shattered (only these two could have a conversation about anal sex packed with so much gusto and detail that it makes me blush). J Sun eventually wandered over by our seats. We joked about his and Dupa’s bromance, which eventually made me ask, “Where is your wife?” After a brief search for Mrs. J Sun, he replied with a head nod, “Over there, playing the naked photo hunt game.”

Me: “Look how focused she is!”
J Sun:That’s my lady.

Since arriving at Beer Belly's, I’d been putting away Red Bull & vodkas; I had been up until 4:30 the night before, and now felt myself dragging. The beauty of drinking at dive bars, though? Each RBV cost about $4. They say that, in the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king. Well, on 837, the man with a $50 bill is a god. A very drunk god.

After another couple of rounds—and an unsuccessful attempt by TC and I to get the cute bartender to join our caravan in relocating—we made the move to Tim’s Corner Bar. TC and I tossed back Duquesne Pilseners while talking to Rocky’s dad, who had spotted some drunk young tough guys who had tried to start a fight with him at Scotty’s earlier that night. Uncle Donnie is hardly a fighter; he’s more Jack Tripper than Jack Bauer. So the fact that two drunk, skinny hicks in their mid-20s tried to bring static to his front door was simply hilarious. And when they saw us standing next to him at Tim’s, laughing in their direction…they left the bar.

We all squeezed another couple of rounds in before J Sun whistled one last time. We were pointed towards our finish line, the Elrama Tavern. The final two hours would be spent here, and we got down to the business of making those two hours count. Our troops were quickly ordering themselves food, doing rounds of shots, posing for celebratory group photos, and jabbering drunken nonsense in every corner of the establishment.

Several of the married guys who live in TC’s neighborhood were out for the crawl, and were now gathered around a table with J Sun’s attractive, 21 year old female cousin. While she politely laughed and humored them, they worked hard to keep their chins free of drool and relive their college days—back when they actually had a chance.

As a thank you to our fearless leader, I ordered J Sun a “bear fight” [for the uninitiated, a bear fight is an Irish Car Bomb followed in rapid succession by a Jager Bomb], and upon learning of this he gave a bear-cub-fierce growl and clawed up the empty air in front of him. Then he grabbed the shots and tossed each back decisively, and without hesitation.

I’ve never been prouder of the guy.

His wife, meanwhile, was having fun messing with a drunken TC. She pointed out to him that a high school flame of Mrs. TC's was there at the bar. As Mrs. J Sun sat at the bar less than a foot away from the both of us, laughing heartily at TC’s look of annoyance over being teased, TC looked at me.

TC: “Hey, you know [Mrs. J Sun]?”
TC: “FUCK [Mrs. J Sun]!”

With the crawl at its end, participants started dropping like flies. Even Dupa and Smashley called it a night earlier than most and drove back to TC’s house to crash. Eventually TC and I climbed into Cool K’s mother’s SUV; the passenger seating being full, though, I jumped—by all accounts, voluntarily—into the storage space in the back. I curled up my 6’6” frame and lay there, growing more and more disoriented by the truck’s rear wheels bouncing over bumps (not to mention all of the alcohol in my system). Shortly after the bouncing stopped, Cool K’s mom opened the hatch. After another beer or two in TC’s driveway with him and the boys from his neighborhood, I finally passed out on a couch in his TV room, muttering to his dog (something about ATM cards, I think…).

When he finally shuffled down the steps the next morning, TC found me alone in the kitchen, charging my phone (Dupa and Smashley had disappeared earlier in the morning like ninjas). When I reminded him that my car was at his in-laws’ house, TC paused. “Well, then we have a problem, because I’m pretty sure my car’s there, too.” He called J Sun, who was at that location, to see if anyone could come and pick us up; as he talked, he walked outside to see what kind of cleanup was necessary. About three minutes later he came back inside, letting out a slight chuckle as he did. “We’re fine. My car’s in the driveway.”

Bar crawls, man.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Quitters Never Win

Think you're properly soused? Before you stumble away from the bar, you'd better consult this handy chart.

From Sex, Cigars & Booze

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Buyers' Market

This home may be where the heart is, but the liver is across the street. In today's tough economic climate, with the housing market in shambles, sometimes you have to get creative as a salesperson.

From The Huffington Post:
When little interest was being shown in her three-bedroom north suburban townhouse after several months on the market, one homeowner took matters into her own hands by offering an unusual perk for the home's buyer: a $1,000 tab at the bar across the street.

Homeowner Melanie Gravdal told the Chicago Sun-Times that frustration fueled her idea: offering $1,000 in food and drinks at Grandpa's Place, a bar located across the street from the home she shares with her husband and two children.
Personally, I think being a homeowner is drastically overrated in today's society. But if someone were to offer a deal like this in my area...can't lie, I'd be a little intrigued.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Home Game

This is the home bar of Zane Lamprey, host of "Three Sheets". #Win

Yeah, I'm just a little jealous.

Friday, September 16, 2011

House Brew

Lawyer. Senator. President. Brewmaster. Barry is the man.

From The Huffington Post:
Barack Obama and the White House chefs have been brewing beer for quite some time, and on Wednesday, the president shared some of the White House Honey Ale with a Medal of Honor recipient.

Former Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer had requested to share a beer with the president before the ceremony, CBS reports.

...Early reports of the White House-brewed beer began circulating after Obama offered it to guests guests during the Super Bowl this year, CBS reports. The beer was also consumed on St. Patty's Day.

Obama Foodorama, a blog focusing on the administration's food and nutrition initiatives, reports that the Honey Ale isn't the only beer that's been brewed by the chefs. A White House Honey Blonde and a White House Honey Porter have also been created.
Mr. President, is there any way I could come over for a cold one? Other than winning a Medal of Honor?

10 Simple Rules

Learn them. Live them. Love them. Salud.

From Sex, Cigars & Booze.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wifey Material: Jessica Burciaga

This was inevitable. Loyal readers know I'm a huge fan of Jessica. She may even be the one for me—THE future Ex. Mrs. D.E.F.I. And this is true, deep, and mature devotion—her flawless beauty has nothing to do with it, I swear.

Okay, a little to do with it. ...A lot to do with it.

But my schoolboy crush obsession love isn't based solely on shallow, sexual infatuation. No, this is a true pairing of soulmates. My evidence?

From her Twitter feed:

Love ya, Jess. Holla at ya boy.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Worth Every Penny

That sound you hear? That's me smacking my lips.

From Bonhams:
An exceptionally rare bottle of The Glenlivet, distilled in 1883 and bottled in 1931 by George & John Gordon Smith, is to be auctioned by Bonhams at their whisky sale in Edinburgh on 12 October. It has a pre-sale estimate of £15,000-20,000.

The bottle has an impeccable pedigree. It was originally owned by Captain William Smith Grant, the great grandson of Colonel George Smith founder of The Glenlivet Distillery and has been in the family ever since.

Bonhams whisky specialist, Martin Green, said, "It is very rare for a whisky of this age with such an excellent provenance to come up at auction. It will still be perfectly drinkable though at several hundred pounds a dram it is perhaps more likely to remain in the bottle."
In case you don't happen to know the current exchange rate off the top of your head, that pre-sale estimate equals $24,000 - $32,000. That's about $250 per year of aging.

I think that officially makes this the cougar of scotches.

Assist by David Voth of Sex, Cigars & Booze.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Take Me to Another Place, Take Me to Another Land

I love road trips. I grew up with them sort of being standard fare. When my mother and I moved from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh, we did so by 5-day, cross-country drive. Though he still lived in California, my dad would often fly out to Baltimore for events (much of his family resided there, as well as in other eastern seaboard locations); part of his itinerary would then be to make the four-hour-each-way journey to pick me up. I’d spend summers back in my sunny native land of SoCal, where my dad’s job as a Xerox sales rep (he was responsible for slangin’ photocopiers to universities all over the region) regularly meant I was riding shotgun with him from UCLA to Cal State Northridge and back, logging hours upon hours in his BMW 325e as it charged through the tan hills and long-blonde-haired valleys. And a portion of every summer seemed to find us back in the east, driving across upstate New York on our way to a weekend in Boston, or down I-95 on our way to a family reunion in Raleigh.

When I got old enough to be behind the wheel of my own car, it didn’t take long for me to forge my own paths. Washington & Jefferson College was only 30 miles from my mother’s house—a pittance to an experienced road warrior like me; but I trekked the roundtrip at least once a week, just because I could. Soon, with or without a copilot, I was making the four hour sprints to Baltimore for familial gatherings, or just to kick it with my cousins. And a couple of times, cousins strapped into my little Ford Escort LXE with me, I’d make the drive down to North Carolina. Eventually there would be many of the crazy trips with my crew that have been highlighted on this page—Ocean City, MD (twice); Washington, D.C. (three times); Ohio University (12 hours of madness); Thousand Islands, NY (oddly enough, no real great stories came from the weekend, which disappointed on countless levels); and various others.

What I’m trying to get at here, is that I like travelling by automobile.

And yet, with all of that, I was none too excited about my scheduled drive to Tennessee at the end of July for my father’s surprise 75th birthday party. For starters, the travel time (about nine to ten hours, depending on what state troopers are watching) from Pittsburgh to Chattanooga was daunting for a solo mission. And although my cousin, Mrs. Bluemoon (MB)—normally my closest ally in our family’s boozier episodes—would be there, she was most certainly going to be sticking to water and un-rummed Cokes, being that she was seven months pregnant. Which brings up another knock against attending this family gathering: MB’s pregnancy means that I’m one of the few 30+ year old members of our clan who have never had kids and/or been married. And I was rolling dolo. The last time I saw my family, I had The Ex with me. Though, I can’t say for sure whether or not that was seen as a step in the “right direction”…

Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to miss my pops’ big day. Nor was I going to pass up a chance to see a lot of other family who I hadn’t seen in years. So on the last Friday of July I soldiered up, tossing a suitcase in my trunk and a couple of newly-burned CDs on my passenger seat. I did over half of the grueling drive that night, stopping at a rest stop several miles past the Tennessee border at around 2 a.m. to sleep. By 6:30 I was back on my way, and by a quarter to 9 I was waking up my brother, “Big Bro”, from the front desk of The Chattanoogan so he could let me into our room. I showered the previous 14 hours off me, and then I crawled into my bed and slept until about 1.

For lunch, Big Bro, my stepbrother (“Step Bro”), my sister (“Sis C”), her boyfriend Mike, and I stopped at North Shore Grille; the guys tossed back beers (Red Stripe for moi) while Sis C used the Bloody Mary bar to ease the hangover punishing her for the previous night’s bar fun. Step Bro and I soon found a fun game to play while we waited for our food: “Pin the Tail on the Bar Slut”. I quickly identified my preferred practice target; she was sitting at the bar in a short and complimenting white sundress, her modest-but-beckoning curves highlighted by the portions of skin tactically put on display. She sat with a male suitor whose dingy mop of blonde hair would’ve made Kurt Cobain proud. Our booth was located at an angle that positioned me in a line of sight just a few degrees left of her mismatched beau, and I frequently caught her eyes straying over to treat me like an amusement park. I enjoyed the innocent (on my part) fun, and the smug satisfaction in knowing I could, if I really wanted to.

Step Bro found a practice target of his own. Well, actually, he found several. Being relatively fresh off a divorce, my 41-year-old stepbrother has been living life to the fullest, fearlessly flirting with and pulling tail in various states. His newfound freedom has turned him into the proverbial kid in a candy store. In this particular aisle he eyed up several treats, but the biggest gobstopper of all sat at the far end of the bar. She wasn’t a perfect ten in looks, but she was a perfect piece of low-hanging fruit: she was of impressive physical characteristics (…below the neck), she was sitting by herself, and—as I quickly discerned—she was one-step-forward-two-steps-backward-drunk. And remember, we were there for lunch. It was maybe 4 pm at the latest now, and she was doing a dead-on “drunk Sweet Dee” impersonation. From the little pieces of her slurred passing conversations with the bartenders that I could hear from our booth, I picked up that she was a server or bartender at some nearby bar or restaurant (maybe even that one), who was finally off-duty and taking full advantage of the liberty she had been granted.

Eventually, the other people at our table picked up on Step Bro and I discussing her merits. Sis C simply called us “dogs,” but Big Bro contested the woman’s physical qualifications. “She’s not even hot!” “You’ve gotta remember, though,” I countered, “it’s not about quality; it’s about quantity.”

(*pause* My sister might’ve been onto something.)

After lunch we did some shopping —well, Sis C did; the guys just tagged along—and then headed back to the hotel to clean up before making our way to St. John’s for the party. Somehow, I was put in charge of (1.) getting my stepmother’s laptop and a projector set up in the restaurant’s private room, where the party was being held, and (2.) getting everyone neatly tucked away in the room before the birthday boy arrived, to ensure a quality surprise. I couldn’t help but wonder just what it said about my family that I, of all people, was the one entrusted with these vital responsibilities. But, like a good sailor, I shouldered the weight. As I worked with a waiter to get the electronics connected and operating properly, I frequently sipped from a glass of Grey Goose and tonic and periodically checked on the arriving guests to be sure they were safely in the dining room and out of sight before the Admiral got to the restaurant. [Note: “The Admiral” is a nickname used for my father within our family; though he was a naval officer, he retired as a Chief Warrant Officer. But he is the oldest of his parents’ seven children, and therefore often stands atop the family’s chain of command, especially since the passing of my grandparents several years ago.] Guests continued to roll in, and trays of drinks rolled out; before long the Admiral arrived to a raucous “surprise!” With my work done, I ordered a third Goose & tonic and set about having some fun.

I caught up with aunts and uncles who I hadn’t seen in some time, I laughed with my dad and his friends while eating an excellent meal, and I repeatedly availed myself of the open bar. …So you can imagine my surprise when, near the end of the party, “the kids” were asked to stand up and say a few impromptu words about our beloved old man. I was light on my feet; my buzz fully pulsing in and around me, I started my speech with, “I’ll keep this short…” “Good!” interjected Uncle Red, as he dug his spoon into his dessert dish. Talking to a room full of people—family, no less—with Grey Goose feathers lulling my brain to sleep is an experience I hope to never have to repeat, though I seemed to make it through without any hiccups (figurative or literal).

Around 10:30 we moved the party to the hotel, where a jazz band was playing in the bar. Since just about everyone from the party was staying at The Chattanoogan—including the Admiral and my stepmother—for the night, the bar overflowed with my extended family. Step Bro identified “targets” all around (including our waitress, a cute Latina with a slight southern drawl); Sis C. (who was easily the drunkest among us) accused each of her siblings of taking pictures from her Facebook page for use in the night’s slideshow tribute to our dad; Uncle Red chortled from a barstool about one thing or another; MB sat taking it all in, occasionally sighing because she couldn’t fully enjoy the moment like she’s accustomed to doing; and I downed Stella draughts and just soaked in a rare night of being drunk with my family. The afterparty’s limelight fell on the older of my two sisters, though (“Big Sis”), who joined the band for a song, her beautiful voice expertly rocking the bar to its foundation.

But, being a hotel bar, the place closed at midnight. As people filed stumbled out, Step Bro spit some game at the waitress while I talked to our cousin Sherri and finished my last Stella.

Sherri: “So where’s [The Ex]? She didn’t make the trip down this time?”
Me: *choking, as I try not to spit beer all over her*

After closing out my tab with our waitress—who shot down Step Bro, but seemed to give me a sly smile—Step Bro and I returned to our respective rooms to change into casual clothes before venturing out. When I stopped by his room to collect him, he handed me a jar of Tennessee’s finest clear liquid and told me to take a whiff. The 130 proof moonshine inside proceeded to rape my nostrils. Step Bro laughed when I recoiled in shock. “Take a sip.” I took a quick one, expecting to digest gasoline. But, to my surprise, the garage whiskey was much smoother than its scent had led me to assume. Step Bro took a quick nip himself and then sealed it back up. “Just enough to warm you up.” He wasn’t kidding; after five minutes I felt like my liver had clicked on a heat lamp.

We headed to T-Bone’s Cafe, a small bar within walking distance. While Tennessee didn’t overwhelm with its percentage of desirable women [in fact, by contrast it helped make me realize, upon returning home to Shadyside, just how many beautiful women populate my neighborhood], a solid 75% of those I encountered during the trip were at T-Bone’s that night. The problem, however, was that it was mostly a “local” crowd as well, which meant Step Bro and I made little traction. Nevertheless, I was satisfied with watching him engage girls in conversation without a moment’s hesitation, offering them an opportunity to sit down and get to know us. The fact that none of them were taking him up on the offer was of little concern.

…Well, it would’ve been of some concern, if Stella and her new buddy Garage Brew weren’t slapping around my central nervous system like two rogue cops looking for a lead. Our conversation as we walked home to the hotel that night is precisely the type of event I want a camera crew on hand to cover; the slurred, nonsensical stream-of-consciousness coming from both of us must have been absolutely riveting. As Step Bro peeled off at his room’s door, he offered me another shot of moonshine; the only reason I’m alive to tell this tale is because I said “Fuck off!” and shuffled even faster towards my own door.

A few hours later I found myself in the middle of a terrifying dream: I was trapped in a pitch black tomb, all by myself, with no flashlight and no hope for escape. As I clawed at the walls in a panic, confused as to how I had gotten here and shaking at the idea of the slow and agonizing death sure to befall me, my fingers smacked a switch.

I was in the bathroom. I opened the door, turned off the light, and shuffled back to my bed.

Sunday saw Step Bro and I squinting when we stepped into the daylight; we weren’t the only ones hungover, but we were by far the most hungover members of the family. We joined several others in checking out of the hotel and moving into The Admiral’s house, which comfortably slept nine guests that night. The entire cast of characters, however, was at the house that day for a family barbecue. We polished off more than a case and a half of Fat Tire (Step Bro and I were largely responsible for that), more than half the Mason jar of moonshine (Uncle Red and my cousin—“The Lieutenant”—were largely responsible for that), a case of Rolling Rock, and a whole “mess” of ribs and chicken (stereotypes be damned, we went all-in on that shit), as the party rolled on, well into the night. By 4 a.m. I was falling face-first into my bed in one of the guest rooms, slurring to myself, “god I love my fam!”

I love a good road trip. And so does the Mason jar sitting in my liquor cabinet.