To any of you who were present at the Stout Pub (2052 Stout Street) the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I want to apologize on behalf of our entire group. I want to, but I won't. Because the blame really belongs to bleary-eyed reader Andy Anderson, a fellow Minnesotan who suggested this bar. As a former resident of God's Country, Andy is one of the few people who would not have been offended by our display.
My only beef with this bar is that it's nearly impossible to find. I circled around Broadway three times before I finally noticed the Stout Pub sandwiched between two dilapidated buildings. Normally this wouldn't have been such a big deal, but I swear I saw a pack of wolves trailing my car and waiting to pounce once I stopped. Apparently, the power of LoDo revitalization does not reach over to Stout. To help the other guys get there, I burned at least 10 percent of my monthly cell-phone minutes vectoring them in.
Our group of eight doubled the Stout's clientele that night but accounted for at least 100 percent of the bar's volume. This is a common phenomenon when guys drink. Guys are always in competition, even down to trying to dominate a conversation. Why do you think the Cold War lasted over thirty years? Because most diplomacy was done during official "receptions" where there was free booze. The Soviets hit the vodka, and the Americans were lubricated with Scotch or nasty American "beer." Instead of concentrating on saving the world from nuclear destruction, these guys (I'm sure a few men were present, but most diplomats are just guys looking for parties) were busy repeating the best jokes in their repertoire at increasing volumes until they got a laugh.
The antipathy shared by the Americans and Soviets pales in comparison to your typical family get-together over the holidays. My family is three generations of fiery Irish Catholics, with only a handful of women to maintain a sense of sanity. So we have lots of twenty-plus guys and a never-ending supply of alcohol. The only thing that could make our gatherings more dangerous would be the presence of firearms.
The competition always starts on Thanksgiving, while we're watching the Macy's parade. Without fail, someone will comment that the parade was so much better in his day, and someone else will counter, "Oh, yeah!? When I was a kid, this parade lasted over twenty hours! And I never missed a minute!" Fueled by a strenuous "warmup" of at least three Bloody Marys, the fight then moves outside. Nothing says "family" like a bunch of unconditioned former athletes trying to injure themselves and their loved ones in an annual football game. Within an hour, there are more cheap shots performed than by your typical Nebraska Cornhusker football player/aspiring convict.
Following the game, my grandmother will invoke an act of God to settle everyone for an hour-long feeding frenzy. A tryptophan-induced coma keeps the peace, sometimes for as long as five minutes. Once your first plate is demolished, you have to go back for seconds lest your manliness be called into question. The one-upmanship of gluttony results in burst buttons (unless you're smart enough to wear sweats), ulcers and near-fatal constipation. After letting our stomachs settle for upwards of fifteen minutes, we hit the Bailey's Irish Cream as part of "dessert." Groaning under the weight of our bellies, we're still able to insult each other from a distance. My uncle Pat is the most skilled, and at the end of the night, every woman present is ready to kill him by stuffing leftovers down his throat. Obviously, he's our favorite uncle.
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So I felt right at home at the Stout Pub, despite being a time zone away from my family. The conversation was deafening. At one end of the table, our friend Sean was demonstrating his eerie ability to divine birthdates. Most impressive was when he nailed his brother's with no more than thirty seconds of hesitation; this guy definitely has a future as a carny. At the other end of the table, another guy and I tried to drown out Sean by regaling ourselves with memories of our lecherous accomplishments in Memphis the weekend prior. Two of the guys who didn't have the vocal power to compete went with the next best thing -- dumping salt and pepper shakers over each other.
The women at the table were left to fend for themselves. One kept a lethal dose of alcohol from being consumed by one of the guys when she drank his gin and tonic with all the stealth of a thermonuclear device. The girl on my left was doubled over laughing or retching at our display -- I'm not sure which. My girlfriend just sat there shaking her head, wondering how she got saddled with such an idiot and his juvenile-delinquent friends.
Unbelievably, Sean's brother fell asleep at the table. When I pointed this out, Sean rushed to his defense by shooting me a dirty look and threatening me with physical harm should either of us ever be able to stand upright again. So as we left, I apologized before he could take a swing -- and Sean hugged me in the drunken fashion of intoxicated guys everywhere: "I love you, man!"
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the holidays are all about.