[Before picking up where I left off in Pt. 1, I want to take a moment to thank my good friend Nitschke. A Pens season ticket holder, it was through his generous help that many of us, including TJ, Swag, Canada, and I, were able to buy tickets to attend the Pens/Blackhawks game. And without his assistance, this trip would not have happened. Nitschke knew right away that he wouldn't be able to make the journey himself, due to other personal commitments. But he didn't let that stop him from helping his friends in obtaining tickets. That's just the kind of guy he is. I did a great disservice to him by not including mention of this in Pt 1., and I'm humbled by this blatant oversight. He's a good man and a better friend, and he did a great thing by enabling our participation in this once-in-a-lifetime event. From the bottom of my heart: Thanks homie. I'm eternally grateful.]
By around 5 we were at Fire’s, filing into his one bedroom apartment. His place is a great bachelor pad…when only one bachelor lives there. When you add four more? Not so spacious. But where there are drunks, there’s a way. We moved a dining room table and other furniture out of the way, inflated two air mattresses, and headed to the bar.
We strolled down the street to the Old Town Burger Saloon and grabbed ourselves seats at the bar. Business was quickly gotten down to (Stella draughts for me); after about an hour or so of hanging out, we realized each of us had already bought a round.
Five rounds in about an hour? I guess things just move a little faster in the big city.
Before long, Fire’s sister, Weatherman, and GG each joined us. There may have been shots at some point…okay, who am I fucking kidding? There were definitely shots.
Our growing state of blotto can best be described by two separate anecdotes.
- The wall behind us was all mirrors. As I sat on a barstool facing that wall, talking to GG and Weatherman, my eyes caught a glimpse of a beautiful woman. Judging by the angle of her reflection, she seemed to be walking right towards our group. Just as I began forming the thought “Who the hell is THAT?” and my eyes began unzipping her jacket, my ears heard TJ and others yell Tennessee’s name. I had been eyeing up his girlfriend.
- Not much later, Weatherman looked at his watch. “You DO realize it’s only 8:30, and we’re smashed?” “Buddy,” I replied, “You forgot to change your watch to Central time. It’s 7:30.”
…But then again, this is Chicago. We probably looked like their weekly Sunday brunch crowd.
I don’t remember what I ate to go along with the beer I guzzled down, but it was miraculous, because it halted my oncoming blackout in its tracks. I was still drunk, of course. But my memories start becoming sharper from about halfway through that meal.
From there we moved on to Declan’s Irish Pub. By this point, it was somewhere in the 10:30 – 10:45 timeframe. On a Friday in Pittsburgh, the bars are just hitting their optimum levels at this point in the night. And, from everything the Chicago natives among us had been saying all night, Declan’s was no hole in the wall. The first four or five of us—being a minute or two ahead of the rest in transitioning, for whatever drunken reason—walked in expecting to see men, women, and rowdy drunkenness as far as the eye could see. Instead we just saw…men.
Maybe 30 people were in the bar, and 98% of them were guys. Weatherman and I looked at each other, and GG voiced our shared thought: “Ohh…I see what’s going on in here.”
It took another 20 minutes before one of us mentioned something to Fire, who looked at us like the idiots we were and said, “What? This isn’t a gay bar!”
And yet…not the dumbest thing I would do at Declan’s.
- (It’s only fair that I give some back-story to help explain my mindset going into this moment. You can judge all you want after that, but at least have all the facts first…
- In recent months, I’ve realized that I’m beyond the games. I don’t mean that in the way a 31-year-old woman with emotional issues who just got dumped by her fiancé because he caught her blowing his brother means it, as she slurps down a mojito at a T.G.I. Friday’s before a 9:30 showing of the latest Katherine Heigl film. What I mean are the “I-don’t-like-you-unless-you-like-me…No-I-really-don’t…What’s-that? …You-like-me? ...But-I-don’t-like…Oh-you-really-like-me-like-me? …Ok-maybe-I-really-do… Nope-just-decided-I-don’t-like-you…unless” games. I’m beyond those. Fuck those games in their ear.
- …I’m aware I sound bitter right now. Let me tell you, this realization wasn’t reached after a bad experience of my own. It was reached while watching two other people interact. So it’s not bitterness, it’s enlightenment.
- In summation, I’m just not in for the cutesy flirtation games with strangers. I don’t care what you’re here to do, I’m doing me. Period.)
And I felt…well, guilt is too strong of a term. But I def felt like I was leading her on. This beautiful creature—not knowing I was in an advanced state of drunkenness and a very advanced lifestyle of lacking fucks to give—surely expected me to be up for some fun flirtation and possibly a romantic rendezvous. I was not up for either. I wanted to drink in her bar, and then leave there and drink some more in a different bar.
When we called for our tabs, she brought mine with a smile that offered an unspoken invitation to settle it one-on-one someplace quiet. I felt like I’d be a dick if I just flatly ignored the interest in me that she was making painfully obvious. So, in an attempt to give a “Thanks, but no thanks,” I wrote on the bill, “Excellent service.”
*sits back and sips his drink while you—understandably—laugh at him*
*takes another sip while he waits for the laughter to die down again*
Everyone dispersed to their various shelters for the night, with Fire leading Canada, Swag, TJ, and I back to his place. The consensus, it seemed, was that Saturday would be a long day of barhopping, sightseeing, tailgating, watching outdoor hockey in arctic temps, and then more barhopping, so resting up would be the best way to go about things. Canada and I still had itches to scratch, though, and called an audible as we got to Fire’s door. He handed me his keys and wished us luck as the two of us turned around and headed back out into the night.
What do two young (shut up) pups do when facing the world alone? They go to what they know. And since neither of us had ever been to Chicago before that day, what we knew was Old Town Saloon. We went back to nearly the very same barstools we had occupied seven hours earlier, and ordered some beers.
By this hour of the night, the bar was a motley crew of dysfunction. Loud music played while a strangely diverse age range milled about. There really weren’t more people than had been there when we left. But they all looked worse, like they’d all collectively given up on life at the same time.
Without warning, a cute chubby brunette was in my face. It seems that she and her friend, a cute blonde, were being pursued on the other side of the bar by a light-skinned brother who looked like a broke Honey Badger (Tyrann Mathieu). To throw him off their scent, they told him that Canada and I were their boyfriends.
Involuntary participation in a cock block. Yayy…
When we got outside, Canada explained. “That chick might be the most racist garbage I’ve ever met.” Every other word out of her mouth, it seems, had been the n-word. Well then…
We set off in search of another bar, but had some trouble in locating one. We stopped some random guys walking past and asked them where to go, and they pointed up a street, saying that there were several bars up that way. We headed up that way, but soon decided—in our drunken stupors—that there were no bars up that street, and turned around. Never mind that we had only walked about a block and a half; we felt that was more than enough evidence that those strangers had no idea what they were talking about.
After another 10 minutes of wandering down streets we had already walked (and Canada repeatedly suggesting that a closed nail salon was a bar, simply because there were neon lights in the windows—lights which, of course, spelled “N-A-I-L-S”), we renewed our faith in the guidance we’d received from the two guys, and headed back up the suggested street. This time we went two blocks, instead of one and a half; that turned out to be the key. Because after two blocks the street turned into a roiling caldron of drunkenness, with bars lining both sides of the street and hammered people spilling out of each.
The Snuggery for a couple of beers. It was a nice enough place, staffed by some very attractive waitresses and bartenders, but it was almost 2 a.m. when we got there, and our full day of travel was catching up to us. By 2:15 we were heading out the door, and back to Fire’s.
[Pt. 3 coming soon...]