Thank God there's just over a week left until Christmas. The spirit has been beaten out of me by all the forced cheer on television and KOSI 101, in print ads and Internet pop-ups, at the Department of Commerce and even in my own holiday traditions. Don't get me wrong: I love Christmas. Typically, I put up my tree no later than Thanksgiving. Even before that, I set up the Department 56 Santa's Village that represents my entire retirement fund, since it's the only durable asset I own outright.
This year has been particularly tough for Christmas-lovers, what with all that's going on around the world. And at home. Mayor Hick got in trouble for merely suggesting the "Merry Christmas" banner be replaced with "Happy Holidays," and although he backed off, I'm sure the matter will come up again when the ACLU files suit on behalf of Festivus celebrants. The last straw was when I caught one of those annoying TV news crawls ("Barry Bonds caught on video massaging Paris Hilton with oil; Hilton kills Bonds in subsequent 'roid rage.") claiming that Target stores weren't allowing Salvation Army bell ringers outside their stores this season. I hate those damn bells as much as anyone, but they're no more annoying than Girl Scouts hawking cookies and at least are for a better cause than just proving who has the most competitive, conniving mom.
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Because there seems to be a concerted effort to make the holidays no fun this year, I've done what all good Catholics do when they're fed up: drink until they have to cover one eye to see straight. One night, in order to avoid any depressing discussions of Christmas, I called up the Jewish Representative of the Institute of Drinking Studies and told him to meet a few of us at Mead Street Station Grill and Pub (3524 West 32nd Avenue). This bar had been recommended to the Institute for some time, but we'd never made it there before -- probably because no one wanted to get saddled with driving responsibilities or the large cab fare from northwest Denver.
From the start, I was encouraged by the setting. The neighborhood has several bars and little restaurants and shops, and the area reminded me of the main drag in a college town. Which was good, because I was in a mood befitting a resident of Delta House. Mead Street Station fit right into this vibe. The place is small with a large bar, ceilings too high for anyone to hang from the rafters, and easily cleaned wood floors, tables and chairs. The hostess wisely sat us in a corner, where we froze our baguettes off all night because it was near the back entrance. Contrary to all medical science and our mothers' advice ("If you chew your fingernails, you'll get worms and nobody will invite you to parties anymore"), we knew we'd warm up with a few beers on board. Unfortunately, our waitress, k.d. Lang, only came by with each new moon, so it took us a while to gas up. Once we figured out her lunar cycle, though, we started doubling up orders and building our brown fat for hibernation with a few orders of artichoke dip, excellent fish and chips, and wings.
3524 West 32nd Avenue
As our core temperatures approached normal, we engaged in that favorite pastime of all drunks during the holidays: bitching about everybody who isn't there. This got started on the very first Christmas, when the Three Wise Men's wives met over several bottles of wine: "I can't believe they're out again chasing a damn star!" The revered tradition has been passed on by families across the globe, who sit down to wonderful meals and several gallons of liquor, then assassinate the characters of relatives and friends who couldn't make it -- especially those who sent really crappy gifts. In similar fashion, we took potshots at those members of the Institute who said they would show up but didn't, or who lacked the foresight to be available on fifteen minutes' notice. The only one with an excused absence was the Head of Drinking Regrets, who was busy adding another regret to his list. (My Christmas present came early when I caught him mid-regret at another bar that night.)
Until the great day arrives, I highly recommend that you find a bar like Mead Street (which will be closed over the actual Christmas weekend) and imbibe as much seasonal spirit -- and spirits -- as you can. And whether you deserve it (like me) or not (like Gary Barnett), may you find everything you want under the tree.