As if feeling like I had been hit by a Mack truck wasn't bad enough, I had to wait for coffee on Sunday morning. I am not a patient guy by nature, but few things aggravate me more than amateur coffee drinkers clogging up the line with elaborate orders. For example: "I'd like a low, non-fat, half-caff latte mochafrappacino with a shot." Upon overhearing this, the first question I ask myself is whether it would be worth a few years in the slammer to kill this person with my bare hands. (Then again, no jury of fellow coffee drinkers would convict me.) Next, I ask myself what kind of shot this person's getting. I think it must be some sophisticated high-dose caffeine-delivery system. If not, I hope it's something potent like Everclear to blunt the pain of the inevitable rabbit punch from the caffeine addict behind him who needs coffee not just to look cool but out of medical necessity.
Obviously, I was psychotically irritable after a monumental night out -- so monumental that we redefined the Vortex. From now on, in order to claim that you entered the Vortex, your group must have a return-to-your-own-bed rate of no more than 15 percent (only one out of eight in our group made it home), and the next day, over half the group must have gastrointestinal discomfort on par with hosting one of those twenty-foot tapeworms you always read about in your junior high science classes.
In our Sunday-morning-quarterback sessions, the involved parties desperately try to figure out what the hell happened the night before so that we can initiate damage control as soon as possible. Although we were all pretty vague on what had happened on the particular evening in question, we were clear on one conclusion: We never should have set foot in Croc's Mexican Grill (1630 Market Street). Sure, we'd been drinking since early afternoon and had already blown through the margarita limit at the Rio Grande, then closed down both Oktoberfest and the Celtic Tavern, but I still firmly believe that Croc's should be held accountable for our behavior that night.
1630 Market Street
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That's because Croc's is the kind of bar you always hung out in when you were in college. There's no cover. There's a wide variety of relatively cheap beer and liquor. As a result of said cheapness, most of the young people (girls) have a progressive decline in both their character and their ability to discriminate between desirable guys and three-toed sloths. The dance floor is packed. The place plays music ranging from the discordant garbage of anything put out in the last fifteen years to the stuff recorded when I was in high school and college that everybody claims to hate but can't wait to hear. Don't tell me I'm wrong: Go to any cheesy dance bar and watch the floor fill anytime something like ABBA's "Dancing Queen" comes on. You'll see several guys whose most sensitive thought over the past decade was that they owed it to their girlfriends of five, six, seven years to break up with them over the phone instead of just avoiding their calls singing right along with the Scandinavian supergroup.
But at Croc's, it's not the booze or the music that tips people over the edge and leads to behavior requiring the Walk of Shame the following Monday. It's the whole atmosphere, which makes you believe you're back in high school or college again. The last time most of us guys had danced in public was at our senior prom; strangely, the last time most of us had drunk as much with impunity was around the same time. I don't know about you, but I feel even a couple of beers the next day. Fifteen years ago, those two beers would be the chasers for multiple shots of Toxic Schnapps. Today, doing shots results in me curling up on my bathroom floor with my head pressed against the cool tiles in hope of numbing the pain from the depth charges detonating in my brain.
But this time, every forgotten moment of the night before and each flare of pain the morning after were worth it. Once in a while, it's good to relive those days when your greatest responsibility was showing up in home-room class long enough to skip out for the rest of the day. Even for a short time, it's fun to let go of the burdens and expectations of the present. A place like Croc's can do wonders for your mental health.
I am proud to say that despite being the oldest guy in our group, I was the only one the next morning who did not consider intravenous hydration necessary to survival. I prefer to mainline caffeine; it's the quickest way to feel human again. Just make sure you order quickly and stay the hell out of my way.