There was a time when three straight days of alcohol-sodden, brain-left-at-home fun was the gold standard for a “staycation” holiday weekend.
If you’re at the beach or on a cruise, all bets are off. You’ll go a week without even stopping to feel the first twinge of a hangover—I’m speaking from experience here. But when you haven’t even traveled out of your area code? Three days is the max. The human body just can’t take more than that without being recharged by ocean air and drunk strangers from other states, who you know you’ll never see again.
That used to be what I believed. Fourth of July Weekend 2013 changed my religion. I have been to the mountaintop.
Wednesday, July 3rd
You gotta get up to get down. How do you get everyone primed for a weekend full of shenanigans and alcohol? Throw a house party—correction: “a small get-together,” according to TD—full of shenanigans and alcohol in the middle of the week.
The location: TD and Boy Toy’s new townhouse. I chose to wait and arrive fashionably late (most everyone else was tweeting or facebooking about drinks as I was still sitting at work). So I wasn’t the least bit surprised by what I found as I carried a case of Canoe Paddler through the front door: a dozen or so people kicking the ever-living shit out of sobriety.
- When I walked in, Mitch Canada and TJ pointed out the half-empty little cans scattered about the kitchen. Apparently the newest product coming to these boozing streets is cocktail-in-a-can. Martinis, margaritas, Cosmopolitans, etc., in small aluminum cans. It appeared the first half of the party had served as an impromptu product test.
- Marty was awake for about the first 20 or so minutes that I was there. He then passed out while sitting on the couch, and slept the rest of the night. I was told he had started his night by drinking glasses of straight whiskey. People put props on him, people took pictures of him, girls gave him lap dances; none of it had any effect.
- Jay Swag was drunk. Very drunk. And he was guilt-ridden. Very guilt-ridden. It seemed like every time I tried to engage him in conversation, he’d just look down at the bandaging on my shin and say, “It’s my fault.” I finally had to pull him aside and explain that all of his self-flagellation was ruining the fun I was trying to have busting his balls about the accident.
- TJ had brought a friend with him: “Fried Green Tomatoes” (FGT), a new coworker who had just moved to Pittsburgh from the South. I'd already met her once before, but this was her first introduction to everyone else; being that she’s blonde, sassy, buxom, and cute, everyone else took notice.
And she’s young—24, to be exact. That night was a crash course, like a rookie backup seeing her first action against all-pros. She was okay when I got to the
partyget together, but rapidly declined thereafter. At one point she asked for my Twitter handle, followed me, and tweeted to me, “It was nice meeting you” (again, I was the one person besides TJ who had already met her before that night). I tweeted back, “It was nice to meet you, too.” Two minutes later, while still standing next to me, FGT showed her phone to TJ and said, “Look, this person tweeted me—I don’t know who this is!”
Her first night of sitting at the grown-ups table ended with FGT falling down a small flight of steps on her way out of the townhouse, and then sleeping it all off on TJ’s couch.
- I don’t know when, where, or why this became a thing, but TD and Boy Toy taught us a new ritual. “Slap the Bag” consisted of passing around a plastic pouch filled with punch drink [A cocktail party ball?]. While one person holds the bag in the air, the player smacks it like a john who’s paid extra, and then pours a shot directly into his or her mouth via the built-in tap. Pass the bag, repeat.
Thursday, July 4th
I felt no guilt over being slow-moving that day. The trial-by-fire that I had given my weekend, in hindsight, was probably for the best. But… FUCK. When TD texted me impatiently around 4 p.m. asking where I was, I laughed it off. Fourth of July or not, the simple fact that I was upright and moving was a victory in my eyes.
I pulled up to Swag’s with another case of Canoe Paddler. Let’s go. I found a host of people in the backyard drinking, listening to music, and playing cornhole. Oh, and this was just the pregame. After a couple hours of killing most of the case, we walked up to Belle and Finger Bang’s for the actual Fourth party. Get it.
- I had decided to get festive for the occasion, though I quickly learned the difficulties of writing upside down.
- My injury is more of an inconvenience than a health concern. Case in point? I can’t run while it heals, which means any gains I’d made in personal health in June bled out with the cut. Combining that with a hilly ten-minute walk through stifling heat and humidity meant I was wheezing and sweating like a Kevin James movie by the time I reached Belle and Bang’s.
- I cooled off in Belle’s air conditioning, and took in her gorgeous view. I may have to put aside my rule against dating friends just to marry her and bask in that prime real estate. [#TrueLove]
- One of Belle and Bang’s friends showed up in an American flag cape, with an Uncle Sam top hat and wearing red and blue shorts—and not much else.
This did not shock me. That he showed up with his kid and his baby mama, though, did.
- Belle & Bang’s neighbors were having a party of their own, complete with beer pong games in the front yard. Boy Toy reportedly ran their table like a boss for most of the night.
- FGT made a subdued appearance, barely drinking anything despite the mayhem going on all around her. Welcome to the league, rook.
- I remember drunkenly babbling at Belle and Bang’s parents. I didn’t get slapped by any mothers or chased by any fathers, so I’ll chalk that up as a win, though I have no clue what I may have said to them.
- …my Wednesday night drunk may have combined with my Thursday drinking. If this seems obvious to you, and you’re wondering why I’m bothering to mention it, the simple answer is: I hadn’t even considered that possibility until just now, as I sit here writing this.
- I know we walked back to Swag and Canada’s after the fireworks, though I remember very little for the rest of the night. The one thing I do remember? Well, I’ll get to that. But first…
Friday, July 5th
FURRY DAY, BITCHES.
I may or may not have awoken on Swag’s couch shouting that. After going home for a power nap and a shower, I hopped into TD’s car around 11 a.m. and chugged liberally from a Mountain Dew Kickstart as we headed for our Furry Safari mecca, Tonic.
- While lying on my couch that morning, I’d suffered the sudden memory flash of trying to kiss someone. A few seconds later, the full picture came back. “Well…I owe FGT an apology.”
- A block from my place, I realized I’d made the mistake of leaving my shades at home. TD stopped at a gas station so I could pick out the finest pair of sunglasses $12 can buy. I rocked it out in my Sunoco Chanel’s the rest of the day.
…I then lost them by the end of the night. And this is why I buy my sunglasses at gas stations.
- TD and I grabbed a smaller table in the sidewalk seating, our traditional big corner table having been reserved by another party. Our primary goal—well, secondary, when you factor in furry chasing—became the command and conquer of every other table and chair we could get our hands on as other diners left. A couple of hours later we held command over 90% of Sidewalkistan.
- The first furry I got my picture taken with this year? A black unicorn wearing a kilt. I could’ve retired off that one.
- I started with Red Bull & Vodkas. After two I switched to Corona, because there was no way drinking vodka while sitting out in the hot sun all day was going to go well for me.
- Boy Toy started with Bloody Marys. After one, he switched to Bloody Marys with a double shot of vodka. Then he started pounding shots, including those bought for him by a cougar at the bar. His drunk went from 0-60 in 3.4 seconds. He’d eventually recover, with the help of food and glasses of water. But for a while there I kept expecting to look over and see him sleeping on the sidewalk with his arm around a furry.
- Some among our crew started their day with Molly. Why they chose to snort MDMA before partying with people in animal costumes is something only their future court-appointed psychiatrists can tell you.
- Special K was our Rookie of the Year. She eagerly chased down furries for hugs and pictures, and grilled them with questions about the lifestyle.
- A big blue dog with a GoPro camera rigged on his chest hugged TD. From the gallery I observed, “He just got a camera full of boob.”
- That furry and his furry buddy had a camera crew with them that we hardly noticed. We would find out the next day that the camera crew was from a local news station, and that all of us—minus TD’s cleavage—were in a piece that aired that night. That’s right: Our Furry Safari has now attracted media attention.
- Dupa made an appearance, albeit three hours later than he was supposed to. He immediately got up to speed by sexually harassing the guys and doing some furry chasing. You can take the drunken W&J grad out of Pittsburgh, but you can’t take the drunken Pittsburgh out of the W&J grad.
- Half of our crew made a break for the South Side around…well, if you think I spent all day furry watching in the July heat while pounding drinks and still had some kind of grasp on time, you’re at the wrong blog site. Dupa, his lady, TJ, and I hung back.
- A blonde girl in a trucker cap, shades, and leopard-print stretch pants took residence at the table closest to us, which our friends had recently vacated. She looked like Paris Hilton, if Paris Hilton was the Sidewalkistan ambassador to Furmany.
- A girl Dupa went to high school with appeared, and sat down with us. After a few minutes, he leaned over to me and said, “We gotta get out of here right now—she’s about two minutes from dropping an n-bomb.”
- TJ and I headed for Rumshakers to meet up with Belle, Swag, Canada, and others. At some point, the racist chick showed up. And at some point after that, she started dancing at the bar with Belle’s homegirl, a sister who is more “Da Brat” than “Lil Kim.” (…ya follow?) The world I thought I knew was hanging by a thread.
- After a while we made our way to the White Eagle, where the other refugees from our safari were located. I drank until I just couldn’t drink anymore.
- I caught a moment alone with FGT and apologized for the night before. She graciously accepted my apology, and then gave me a ride home. I passed out in my own bed for the first time in what felt like six months.
Saturday, July 6th
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Well, he partied on the 3rd; but that was the last workday of the week, so why not? And he partied on the 4th because, well, he’s ‘Murican. And the 5th just happened to be the day of the Furry Safari. He had no choice but to drink all day that day. It was just a scheduling anomaly that he had no control over. But the 6th? He probably just stayed in bed the entire day with an IV of Gatorade, and put it on cruise control. There’s no national holiday or annual celebration of people in animal costumes on 7/6. What could he possibly do to punish his liver on that day?”
Three words: Whiskey. Distillery. Tour.
In June, Alex and I had kicked around the idea of taking Wigle Whiskey’s tour. But July 6th was the earliest set of tickets available. So we did what any sensible-minded adult would do: laughed at the devil and bought tickets to ride into Hell aboard a chariot loaded with dynamite.
- When Alex picked me up, TD, Joel, and Gaelic Gangsta were already in the car. The latter two had not been active (read: shlammered) participants in the previous day’s mayhem, and seemed fine. I loathed them for that. Me? I was a pause away from being declared mentally-handicapped.
- Have I mentioned that TD is my little sister from another mother? She tried to verbalize a thought, and got met head-on by her inability to form a sentence. A few minutes later, I ran into the same roadblock, proclaiming, “Vehdf floi shfff bnff shffid aookd.” Without missing a beat or showing a trace of sarcasm, TD nodded her head and said, “Mmhm, yup.”
- We reached an intersection and saw the distillery off to the right. TD pointed at the building and proclaimed to Alex, “It’s right there, on the left!”
- When you walk into the lobby, they offer you one of three free cocktails, made from either their whiskey or their genever. We managed to get some of each, including an extra drink for free. (Tell me you expected anything less.)
- The tour is fun and informative. If you plan on being in Pittsburgh on a Saturday afternoon, I highly suggest it. The 128-proof glass of whiskey they gave us at the end was worth the price of admission alone.
- We were joined on the tour by Alex’s parents and her good friend Jerry. While Jerry had other business to attend to afterwards, the rest of us walked over to the Harp & Fiddle to further wet our whistles. And, being that we were in the Strip District with moist whistles on a Saturday afternoon, TD and I quickly decided an all-day bar crawl was in order. (Tell me you expected anything less.) The other five people had made plans to go to GG’s house for a small party; after two rounds we bid them adieu and ordered ourselves another.
- Our next stop was The Beerhive. There we grabbed several rounds of beer, as well as some food to help channel the boozy floodwaters. Boy Toy, Under The Porch (UTP), and MoPaddle soon arrived to give us some backup.
- Next up: Luke Wholey’s. Probably not bad for a business lunch or dinner date, but…nah. One beer and done.
- Next: A place called Lefty’s. Arguably the least well-known of our destinations that day, its relaxed atmosphere (read: nobody there) made it cozy and welcoming. I mean, how many places advertise $4 Strong Islands? Okay, okay…the fact that the bartender gave us a couple of rounds of free shots may have swayed my opinion. And the fact that they had sex in the bathroom may have swayed TD and Boy Toy’s.
- It was getting dark, and the decision was made to move the crawl to the South Side. UTP drove us over, but then made up an excuse and dipped after dropping us off at Rumshakers. Boy Toy theorized that his homie had left to hook up with a girl he’s involved with. Is that really what the new generation [he’s 25] of drinkers does? Lie when they are getting ass? Really?
- Everyone at ‘Shakers seemed subdued. Even the homie Joe. I tried chatting with some girls there for a birthday, and the room stayed lukewarm. Given my history with Rumshakers, it felt like I’d stumbled into the Twilight Zone. After a couple of rounds we got the fuck out.
- Next, The Smiling Moose. I grabbed some dinner to go along with a few more beers. MoPaddle, on the other hand, highlighted her time there by sitting her purse too close to a candle burning on the bar. Did you know leather was flammable? Thankfully she caught it pretty quickly, and the damage was minimal. But if you think a drunk girl is going to be calm about her Coach bag getting singed, well…
- Stop #8: Casey’s Draft House. This crawl had suddenly become segregated by gender. Distraught over her purse, MoPaddle had a moment, and had to be chased down by TD. They would end up at Primanti’s. While that was going on, Boy Toy and I got ourselves beers and shots at Casey’s and talked about the world, being really, really good looking, and other deep, philosophical things.
- I don’t remember what possessed either of us to suggest Skybar as our next destination, though I do remember Boy Toy reconsidering when we got to the doors. That the South Side’s latest attempt at having an “ultra lounge” expected us to pay a cover charge to get in wasn’t too shocking; it was the fact that they wanted $10 a piece that made us pause. My response, though, was “Fuck it. I’ll gladly pay $10 now for the experience, and to be able to say I did.” And I did. I probably never will again. But I can always say I did.
Look, it’s not that the place is all that bad. Once you’re inside, Skybar is a good time, especially if you have money to throw around recklessly, and/or you’re an inexperienced drinker under 25. But this is Pittsburgh, and the environment will never support their business model for multiple years of existence. Ultra lounges in this town are the bastard children of the overly ambitious, and the naïve who think this is a city as into “scene” as a New York or L.A. Pittsburgh doesn’t want a “place to be seen”—the blue collar heritage is too deep.
Hell, I’ve seen Pittsburghers bitch over having to pay a $3 cover at bars and clubs. If you’re a tourist, Skybar probably seems like a great night out on the town. But, as a resident…nah. One-and-done.
- We rendezvoused with the girls, and went to Jack’s Bar. I don’t know if I caught a contact high off a roofie’d drink at Skybar, or if 12 straight hours of drinking was just finally catching up to me, but I have very limited recollection of the tenth and final stop on our path of (self-)destruction. I had a beer, but shortly thereafter we were back out on the street, hailing a cab.
- Once back at the townhouse, Boy Toy, MoPaddle, and I
called it a night and went to bed at 2 a.m. like somewhat-sensible adultscracked open a handle of premixed cocktail (some kind of fruit punch, though we appropriately christened it “Red Drank”) and didn’t stop ‘til it was gone, close to 4 a.m. It felt like a poetic close to a maniacal weekend that had started there.
The next morning TD drove me home. I climbed out of her car with bright red lips and a bright red tongue, shuffled into my building, and fell face-first into my couch. That’s the problem with reaching the mountaintop: It’s all downhill from there.