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Tag Archives: old friends

The Greatest Drinking Scam

15 Mar

Sometime last Spring, I decided I wanted to drink much, much less than I have through my teens and twenties. It was a culmination of things. As I get older the hangovers are getting crippling, I hated how it affected my kickboxing, I realized how much money I was dropping at bars, etc.

This had rather bad timing with the arrival of my best friend Zach in New York City. Friends since the first week of freshman year, we once got so drunk together that we took turns vomiting in the same toilet. Talk about bonding. He’s a bartender by trade and decided to move to New York after going through a rough breakup. He arrived wanting to hit the town hard. A precarious situation for me, trying to stay away from the sauce. How could I say no? Two of his cousins who I’m also close with (Brian and Jeff) live here as well, and they love to order and take shots. The worst! Even when I was going out a lot, I hated taking shots. It felt like the express train to illness and hangover. But weekend after weekend, we all go out, and they insist on shots. I protest and say no, but eventually give in.

Late in January, on the eve of the biggest snow storm of the winter, we went out to Brooklyn to celebrate Zach’s 30th birthday. I sipped on my beers and was enjoying a happy buzz. As I made my way back to the table from the bathroom, I spot Brian at the bar. I sidle up next to him, weighing whether I want another beer or not. I can see the bartender with three shot-sized glasses.

“No, Brian, no. I can’t do shots. I can’t.”
“Don’t worry about it. I got Zach whiskey, and I got us shot glasses of water.

It takes my mind a moment to wrap my head around this level of genius. While I’m catching up, Brian tells the bartender to add limes to the side of the glasses, for added panache.

“Why has no one thought of this before?!?!” He exclaims before we head back to the table. I’m known for my ick face when taking a shot. So I pulled out my best acting chops after throwing back the cool, refreshing water. I contorted my face and yelled “Poison!” Zach laughed and pointed at me, as he likes to do. Happy birthday, buddy.

We left the bar well after midnight, the blizzard starting its rage. We trudged through the empty streets, facing an onslaught of flurries. Despite the water scheme, I felt nicely buzzed, and we all laughed as we shoved handfuls of snow in each other’s faces. A pretty epic snow fight ensued. Finally in the train station, dripping from the snow melting on our coats, we all embrace in a group hug.

Genius. Genius! Water masquerading as tequila. But of course, as any true crime aficionado knows, criminals love to brag about their victories, and I got this text message when I was in Savannah.

IMG_3229

Brian gave us away and bragged to Zach about the ploy! Alas, the Great Water Con of 2016 will have to be retired. But for one night, as are most ideas during a night out drinking, it was the best idea ever.

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Risk Averse

2 Sep
Burning of the Witches Festival, Prague, 2007

Burning of the Witches Festival, Prague, 2007

About two weeks ago, I had dinner with a friend of mine who has a knack for popping in and out of my life. We fomented our friendship in Prague and for a while when I was new to New York, he was living in Brooklyn.

I admire him a lot. He can lean towards the hipster side of things, but he leads a life that I envy in a lot of ways. After college, he cultivated his bartending skills. He spends a couple of months in one place, living a meager existence while squirreling away as much money as possible, working at as many bars that will take him. Then he heads somewhere new to him with one tiny backpack and wanders wherever he wants to go, until he has barely enough money to fly him back to the states where he can crash on someone’s couch until he finds a bartending gig that will start the cycle over again.

During desperate times in my life, I’ve thought of his travels and adventures and thought that’s exactly what I should do. But for better or worse, I like my things. I like my life. I like the friendships that I’ve established and the career (however humble it may be) that I’ve built. So I stay. I settle for the vacations here and there and go about my daily routine.

Back to our dinner. We went to a Himalayan restaurant near my apartment, and we caught up. I heard about his upcoming travel plans which include train hopping and road tripping across the country and then booking a flight for Southeast Asia where he’ll ramble at will. I asked him for Central American travel advice. I want to go to Costa Rica, or Nicaragua, or Ecuador. Anywhere new! But I can’t find a travel companion, and I’m nervous about going alone.

“Well, that’s because you are risk averse,” he told me.
“RISK AVERSE!? That’s not true.”
“It’s absolutely true.”
“I took a boxing class today for the first time!”
“That’s spontaneous, not risky. You’re spontaneous and brave. But you are risk averse.”

I spent the rest of the night making him regret he ever said that. I somehow found a way to repeatedly circle the conversation back to “risk averse” and how I could not be risk averse, what are the steps I could take. He couldn’t give me a real answer on it and resorted to teasing me for trying to plan out how to be less “risk averse.” They Type A in me just can’t hide.

Risk averse. I have spent the last two weeks walking around thinking about that. It pops up in my head like a catchy pop song. I’ll be buying a salad for lunch and as I order, I think, “risk averse?!” Part of me wants to say I’m not. I’ve taken risks, tis true. Staying in New York after a devastating break-up. Risky. Battling evil cats at work. Risky. Drinking whiskey after beer. Risky.

But another part of me wants to be mature enough to take it as constructive criticism. I tried to think about how he must see my life and my choices. While I know he respects them, they could seem risk averse. Some of them are. I see the choices in my life that have been the easiest path or the path of least risk of pain. And while I don’t believe that I am one to be labeled as risk averse, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that he got that annoying phrase stuck in my head. My life could use a few more risks, a few more hasty decisions.

He left for Chicago yesterday morning. I have no idea when our paths will cross again. But when they do, I can’t wait to enumerate to him the ways in which my life in the interim has NOT been risk averse. Knowing me, I’ll probably have an outline.