The Hangover, 9nine9-style

My bachelor party was this weekend. As I type this late Monday morning into early Monday afternoon, my entire body is exhausted, but I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a great weekend, for a number of reasons.

The Hangover

My bachelor party did not include any of the following: strippers, midgets, farm animals, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, tigers in the bathroom, missing teeth (although I did spend four hours and 45 minutes in the dentist’s chair just prior to the start of the festivities Friday), hookers, lap dances, lubricants, road trips, gambling, strip clubs, blow-up dolls, law enforcement, prison, missing friends, and probably several other things stored in parts of my brain that haven’t been reached by the caffeine in my Dunkin Donuts iced coffee yet.

Some people may read this and think the festivities were tame and lame. As I said, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. For me, this weekend was all about spending time with my friends, many of whom beat me to the altar and are already well into raising beautiful families. What can I say? I was always a procrastinator. But when we reach this stage of our lives, it’s so difficult to get everyone together in the same restaurant, bar, or other location, and being able to spend time with older and newer friends was fantastic.

The last part of the festivities was a return to a place where I used to be bar furniture: Bar None. I actually only had two beers the entire time I was there, but I would be a poor writer if I left out the fact that those beers were entire pitchers of Guinness. I saw so many people I haven’t seen in years, and the time gap didn’t matter: We picked up right where we left off, and I was truly touched by the turnout.

Plus, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m 42: I love beer just as much as I did in my 20s, and I can still throw them back with the best of them, but back-to-back nights are really, really tough.

As for the absence of, shall we say, entertainment: I’m not morally opposed to strippers, strip bars, etc., and I don’t look down on anyone who’s into that stuff or think any differently of them, but it just never did anything for me. When I was single, I found the experience more frustrating than anything, because I found it to be pointless and a complete waste of money, and I felt like rather than relieving the loneliness and boredom of being single, all it did was highlight it and make it worse. So the exclusion of that stuff from this past weekend was 100% fine with me, and I’m not just saying this to score brownie points.

At this stage of my life, being able to share the whole weekend or parts of the weekend with good friends from all of the other stages of my life was a far more valuable, rewarding and fun experience than being tied to a pole in a strip club with my own belt (which did happen to me years ago and was pretty damn funny, actually, but would have been out-of-place this weekend).

And dealing with our three cats is enough wildlife exposure for me: I’m happy I don’t have to figure out a way to return Mike Tyson’s tiger.

Advertisements

Mc9?

I was adopted and never had the burning desire to research my natural parents. I’ve always been fine with the fact that I was adopted, and my lack of desire to pursue the truth isn’t based on resentment — rather, the opposite: I’ve always assumed there was a good reason for what happened and left it at that.

McJew

McJew

When I was a kid, a lot of people guessed that I was German because of my platinum blonde hair and blue eyes — practically Hitler’s wet dream. But since my hair darkened around age six, the guess I hear the most is Irish.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve actually found myself drifting toward many Irish traits and products.

I definitely like to have a few drinks, and my beer of choice from the first time I tried it has been Guinness.

I love Irish whiskey — John Powers, Jameson, Tullamore Dew, Bushmills.

I took a liking to Irish music after initially playing it on jukeboxes to annoy a friend of mine who hated it, and I consistently listen to The Pogues (just saw them this past Friday), the Dropkick Murphys, Black 47, the Wolfe Tones, the Clancy Brothers, The Tossers, etc.

And I love the way the Irish express themselves. They always seem to find a nugget of humor, often self-depreciating, in the direst circumstances.

I was brought up Jewish, but my family isn’t very religious and, after my Bar Mitzvah, I pretty much dropped religion. I still consider myself Jewish, although I love to tweak people by telling them Yankee baseball is my religion.

I’m certainly not ashamed of being Jewish, and I’d never even think about converting to another religion, but I find religion in general, frankly, to be a gigantic bore, and nothing I’ve ever heard in a house of worship ever really moved me.

Yankee baseball being my religion isn’t that far from the truth, actually. I’ve been far more moved by Yankee rallies, Nets buzzer-beaters and Cowboys sacks of the opposing quarterback on third down than by anything from any religion. If this offends anyone, it’s not meant to, but that’s how I feel.

So is it strange that I feel so much more in touch with the Irish — which I may or may not actually be part of — than with the religion of my childhood? Is it weird that being at the Pogues show Friday night almost gave me a sense of pride, or that I’m extremely excited to go to the St. Patrick’s Day parade tomorrow, while nothing in religion has ever given me feelings like that?

Before anyone makes any suggestions about specific houses of worship, religions or whatever for me to try, please save your energy: It won’t work. At the age of 41, I’m not about to suddenly see the light and find inspiration in something that I’ve found to be nothing but a bore, a chore and a task for most of my life. Religions in general make no attempt to change with the times, and they’re not for me.

Writing this almost makes me want to find out if I am, indeed, of Irish descent. But after 41 years, I will more than likely leave things alone.

That being said, I will not feel the least bit guilty while I’m hoisting a pint of Guinness in a pub somewhere in Manhattan after tomorrow’s parade. I just wanted to get this off my chest, I guess.

Unemployment Nine: A much-needed break

I had a great day yesterday. I took a much-needed break from doing laps around the Internet Explorer bookmarks under “Job Hunt,” and from staring at my résumé and wondering if further changes were needed. It doesn’t mean I’m being any less aggressive about this job hunt, but sometimes clearing my head is a good thing.

I met a longtime, very dear friend of mine and her boyfriend at a very unlikely place: The Irish Rail in Manasquan, N.J. The bar is, literally, the Manasquan New Jersey Transit train station. There’s a small waiting room and ticket booth, and The Rail takes up the rest of the building.

On Thursdays, The Rail offers $3 pints of Guinness, Bass and Smithwicks. Since Guinness makes up about one-third of my blood, and it would be unhealthy to risk fluctuations in that ratio, I decided to take the train rather than driving. I’ve always been very good about having no more than two drinks before driving, and I knew there was no way in hell I was limiting myself to a pair of $3 pints of Guinness (great pour, by the way).

Unfortunately, there are no direct trains between Hoboken and Manasquan, so the trip ended up taking nearly three hours each way, versus the one hour plus assorted traffic that it would have taken by car. But it kept me away from the PC and gave me the time to read a great book.

Slam

Slam

If you’re not familiar with Nick Hornby, become familiar with him. He is a truly fun writer who is probably best known for High Fidelity (the John Cusack movie) and Fever Pitch (the real one, about Arsenal soccer, not the gay-assed Red Sox disgrace starring Drew Barrymore). Yesterday’s selection was Slam, about a 16-year-old boy in London who gets his girlfriend pregnant. It’s a great, humorous, fun read, and I definitely recommend it.

I got a lot more reading done on the way to Manasquan than I did on the return trip, however, and it wasn’t because the Guinness was making me see three books and I was having trouble focusing on the one in the middle.

When I boarded the train for the second leg of the trip, from Long Branch to Newark, it was quite crowded, so I just grabbed the first available window seat. I couldn’t have possibly picked a worse location.

This bizarre ass hat proceeded to sit directly across from me. He looked like Bill Walton, only with short, dark hair. He was tall, thin, lanky and goofy. Despite being a big guy, the Phillies hat he was wearing dropped down over his head, making him look like a kid wearing his father’s hat. He was carrying a Sony Walkman — not an iPod, not an MP3 player, not a CD player, not a Sirius or XM satellite radio: the original Sony Walkman. I had to really fight the temptation to tap him on the shoulder and say, “Um, dude: 1982 called. It wants its product back.”

Sony Walkman

Sony Walkman

The train pulled out of Long Branch, and this tool started yelling — not mumbling, not singing, YELLING — the words to the songs on what I not-so-affectionately nicknamed the Solo White Man Mix Tape. I like all of the artists I’m about to mention, but not when the lyrics are being yelled by someone who sounds like his testicles are caught in a can opener.

The first number I was treated to was “Angry Young Man,” by Billy Joel. This was followed by the one and only Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, with “Badlands.” The worst musical performance I’ve ever been forced to sit through finally concluded with Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom.”

I don’t know if his four AA batteries died, the cassette tape caught in the spool, or it was an act of God, but the shrieking finally stopped and I was about to dive back into my book.

Anyway, all in all, it was a refreshing break from the monotony of searching for employment, and the bonus was finally checking my e-mail late last night and being offered the opportunity to interview at a well-known media company sometime next week. Keep your fingers crossed. Just don’t sing on a train while doing so.

An Irish wake: Last call (forever) for Ted & Jo’s

My favorite bar, Ted & Jo’s, officially closed its doors Wednesday, but there was a farewell party for staff and regulars Thursday night.

It was fun, happy, touching, emotionally draining and surreal. But, as always, it was home, for one last time.

These past few days have really felt like one long Irish wake. Everyone has been at the bar laughing, smiling, drinking and telling great stories, but as happy as everyone seemed, you just knew people were heartsick.

And for the record, there is really something wrong with this planet when Ted & Jo’s is gone but Bahama Mama’s lives on.

Among the highlights from the farewell party:

• The Port Authority bagpipes corps were there for most of the night. What a great and fitting touch. All we were missing was Ronan Tynan singing “God Bless America.” “As the storm clouds gather … ”

• After all the years of going to T&J’s, I finally got to go behind the bar and pour my own pint of Guinness. It was a lot of fun. I never realized just how narrow the area behind the bar actually is. It’s definitely not meant for fat bodies.

• Speaking of Guinness, my friend and I drank the last two pints of stout ever poured at T&J’s. Talk about bittersweet.

• We (as in the T&J’s community) unfortunately lost one of our friends on 9/11. I didn’t know him as well as some of my friends did, but I always have good memories of him and it’s easy to see what a quality person he was by the effect his loss had on everyone who knew him. I spent a good deal of time talking with his sister last night and met his parents for the first time. The fact that his family has gone out of their way to stay in touch with old friends for more than six years was really touching and just shows the kind of atmosphere that existed at T&J’s.

• Gerry, the owner, gave a very emotional farewell speech that this keyboard couldn’t even remotely do justice to. It marked yet another example of why T&J’s was so much more than a bar/restaurant to just about everyone involved.

• Newly appointed town crier Pat Fitzgibbons read the lyrics to a traditional Irish song that was perfect for the occasion, “The Parting Glass.” I included the lyrics at the end of this post. I honestly don’t know how he got through it without cracking. I couldn’t have done it.

• There was a big sign behind the bar that said, simply, “Thank you Hoboken, thank you.”

• I won’t even attempt to list them, because I’m bound to leave somebody out, but between the last “official” night Wednesday and the party last night, I saw so many old friends and familiar faces who don’t make it to T&J’s as much as they used to, but who came out for one last visit. It added happiness to a sad occasion.

One of the things Gerry said last night is a perfect way to close this chapter. In speaking about the family-like atmosphere of T&J’s, I can’t remember exactly how he phrased it, but he basically said that if you were there last night, you “got it.” All of the people who have said things like, “It’s just a bar,” “There are plenty of bars in Hoboken” and “You’ll find another place to drink” just don’t get it. There will never be another place like Ted & Jo’s and, even if something similar opens, with some of the same people, it just won’t be the same.

Farewell, my favorite bar. Here are the words to “The Parting Glass”:

Oh all the money that e’er I had, I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done, alas, it was to none but me
And all I’ve done for want of wit to memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

Oh all the comrades that e’er I’ve had, they are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve had, they would wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call good night and joy be with you all

If I had money enough to spend and leisure time to sit awhile
There is a fair maid in this town that sorely has my heart beguiled
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips I own, she has my heart enthralled
So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

My dearest dear, the time draws near when here no longer can I stay
There’s not a comrade I leave behind, but is grieving for my going away
But since it has so ordered been what is once past can’t be recalled
Now fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

If I had money for to spend, If I had time to waste away
There is a fair maid in this town, I feign would while her heart away
With her rosy cheeks and dimpled chin, my heart she has beguiled awa’
So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

If I had money for to spend, I would spend it in her company
And all the harm that I have done, I hope it’s pardoned I will be
And all I’ve done for want of it to memory I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

A man may drink and not be drunk, a man may fight and not be slain
A man may court a pretty girl and perhaps be welcomed back again
But since it has so ordered been by a time to rise and a time to fall
Come fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

Humbled by a beer sampler

Have you ever thought you were pretty well-versed in a subject, only to find out in a rude and quick fashion that you don’t know anywhere near as much as you thought you did?

Brooklyn Brewing was nice enough to host a beer tasting at Liberty Bar in Hoboken last night. In addition to tasting 10 different beers – you had me at hello! – there was a contest to see who could identify the most of the 10 (from a list of about 20).

Considering how much I love sampling different kinds of beer, this had to be a layup, right? Um, not so fast.

But with all the beer I drink, I had to get at least seven or eight right, didn’t I? Um, not so much.

Two people tied for the lead with five correct answers. I was not one of those two. Three people tied for second place with four beers properly identified. I was not one of those three. Are you starting to see a pattern here?

No, this self-proclaimed beer expert was able to properly identify a whopping total of one out of the 10 beers served. And the one I did get right was gift-wrapped – Brooklyn Brown, which I drank by the gallon a few years ago.

So, what went wrong?

First off, maybe I should have used water to cleanse my pallet, rather than several pints of Guinness. But I didn’t think my choice would present a problem, since my blood is around 30% Guinness anyway, give or take a yard.

Second, perhaps I should have guessed that more of the beers were produced by Brooklyn Brewery, since that particular company was hosting the event. Upon further review, that was pretty stupid on my part. Maybe I can blame that on the use of Guinness to cleanse my pallet, too.

All in all, aside from being completely humbled, it was a great night and a great event. And I wasn’t that far off with my answers – I usually had the type of beer correct, but not the brand. It wasn’t like I looked at a light-yellow-colored wheat beer and guessed that it was a chocolate stout.

But I guess I really don’t know as much about beer as I thought, which means only one thing: TIME TO STUDY!