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University of Wisconsin

Getting an education in libation

The recent Institute of Drinking Studies excursion to Madison, Wisconsin, had nothing to do with the much-publicized Halloween riots. I swear. We were there on an educational fact-finding mission, looking for ways to turn Denver into an even better drinking town.

Of course, the foundation of any research project is strong scientific work. We focused on physics: Even at our increasingly advanced ages, there are few sounds more satisfying than that of a pumpkin going to its maker -- especially when the pumpkin is dropped off a fourth-floor balcony outside the apartment of the Head of Drinking Regrets, who recently relocated to the University of Wisconsin. Sir Isaac never knew what he was missing by sticking with apples. Equally intriguing were the metallic properties of the railing that prevented us from toppling over the edge as we hurled bananas in a classic parabolic trajectory onto an adjacent building.

We conducted several chemistry experiments, too, mixing various boozes in our stomachs and recording the aftermath. By Saturday, we'd concluded that a steady state of intoxication, regardless of method, is advisable; JP inexplicably sobered late that morning, and for the rest of the day all he could say was "Owwee!" and "Water!" The rest of us remained under the influence of the bartenders at State Street Brats (rightly named Sports Illustrated's best college sports bar), who took five minutes crafting perfect Bloody Marys, adding all the classic ingredients -- including the pickle and beer chaser -- in perfect proportion. We also examined the effects of food, but found that our bodies needed little sustenance beyond nachos and fried cheese curds (a true Wisconsin delicacy); anything more healthy just put the finishing touch on our deteriorating relationships with our stomachs.

Our economics lesson was particularly eye-opening. Our first bar after disembarking Thursday night was Wando's, where JP and I ordered a round of six drinks and pulled out three twenties to pay. The bartender looked at us, puzzled, and explained, "I said sixteen bucks, not sixty." Denver, take note. At Bennett's Smut-N-Eggs, the Madison equivalent of Pete's Kitchen, breakfast (with more Bloodys) is another bargain, because it's served in a wonderful atmosphere created by numerous TVs showing ESPN's College Game Day and really bad 1980s porn. And then there's the Echo Tap, next to the Head of Drinking Regrets' apartment, where we learned that, based on a jukebox selection that ranges from Quiet Riot to Ronnie James Dio, the people of Madison are salt-of-the-earth types. But who wouldn't be, at a place where the drink of choice is a "chubby" -- a six-ounce bottle of Miller High Life taken as a shot and followed by a large snifter of Dr. Mcgillicuddy's Vanilla Schnapps (to make your breath more socially acceptable).

The economics we can work out; college athletics will be more difficult. Tailgating by Invesco Field is a poor stand-in for the pre- and post-game antics outside Camp Randall Stadium. Ideally, we should have a dominating Division I-A football team with a stadium at City Park surrounded by a row of houses hosting parties similar to those we hit on Randall Street. Here we quickly mastered the art of democracy, integrating the college-kid and aging-graduate (or "Old Guy," as younger students called the Head of Sleeper Drunks) societies. The Head of Sleeper Drunks led the senior delegation in honoring the local customs of Beer Pong and keg stands; to their credit, the college kids did not impose sanctions after he failed to last longer than ten seconds hanging upside down with a tap in his mouth (their most experienced diplomats lasted three times as long). We garnered respect, however, through our expert management of the keg's tap in a crowd of a hundred people. Some things are just like riding a bike.

It had been with no small amount of trepidation that we'd embarked on this journey, but after lots of hard work and 72 hours of intoxication, we managed to bring back a blueprint for improving Denver and, hence, the world. Some of the infrastructure is already in place here, and with a cadre of devoted Institute instructors showing the way, we can turn Denver into a utopia where cheap drinks, house parties and greasy food inevitably lead to free love, a trip to the Rose Bowl, and world-class riots.

 
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