By Jamie Swinnerton
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I was somewhat leery of meeting Bleary-Eyed Reader Matt K. at his favorite local bar, the Sundown Saloon (1136 Pearl Street, Boulder), because you'd think I'd have better things to do with my time than meet a complete stranger at a bar thirty miles away -- things like picking the lint out of my belly button and/or toenails. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. Since my body is relatively lint-free, I decided to head up to Boulder. Matt had been kind enough to offer an extra room in his house as a spot to crash, so I recruited one of the senior researchers from the Institute of Drinking Studies to join me in this adventure, to ensure that my noggin did not wind up hanging beside the shrunken heads of other drunken columnists that Matt had coerced into meeting him.
But as it turned out, Matt wasn't able to join us for a night of tax-deductible drinking because he was busy hugging his toilet at home. We, on the other hand, had a very nice time at the Sundown.
On the drive to Boulder, our excitement had built to the point that we walked right by this little hole-in-the wall bar. Turned out that the Sundown is in a basement, which always gives me the feeling that I'm descending into hell -- or worse. On the other hand, as my senior researcher noted, "There aren't enough basement bars."
To me, basement bars say "Delta House" -- and the Sundown wasn't far off. I wouldn't have been surprised to see John Belushi in a corner with mustard on his toga. Or a Stork-like geek in Buddy Holly horn-rims and high-water pants. The only thing really missing was a topless mermaid behind the bar with goldfish-filled glass breasts. The Sundown certainly had an array of stereotypical college kids with extraneous body piercings, too-cool attitudes and clothes dating back to The Donna Reed Show and the Animal House era. Unfortunately, I was probably the only one there old enough to remember that Donna had the best on-air bosoms until Barbara Eden hit the scene.
We grabbed a few beers, walked into the smoking room (the People's Republic of Boulder frowns on public smoking, apparently, and the Sundown gets a lot of business from those brave souls not cowed by socialist rule), had all the oxygen sucked from our lungs and started reminiscing. This happens frequently when Catholic-educated guys get together. I'm not saying that other people don't have good stories; we just have more of them.
Deep in our cups, my compatriot and I recalled our first drunks -- both in seventh grade. I remember mine vividly. I think. The Sundown's basement setting may have helped stir up those memories, because in the middle of that first drunk, I wasn't sure I was ever going to be able to leave my own basement. My mom worked nights, and we had a semi-stocked liquor cabinet, so a buddy and I had broken in and mixed up a volatile concoction of Southern Comfort, gin and peppermint schnapps, adding cherry Kool-Aid for color. Oddly, after puking and passing out, I woke up feeling great -- otherwise, things might have gone very differently for many people in my life.
From this early start, I continued drinking, learning in tenth grade that a little bit of facial hair made it easy to buy beer. Needless to say, I was very popular in high school as a result. (The only downside is that good facial hair in high school means hair in less socially acceptable areas later in life.) Our school tried to stem the tide by providing alcohol-education classes, but they only helped me realize I wouldn't be a binge drinker if I could find time to knock a few back on a daily basis.
We here at the institute would like to hear your story (of when you first got drunk, not whether you have back hair). And if you need help priming the pump for those memories, might I suggest a visit to the Sundown Saloon? Matt's got a room waiting.