As all good Catholics know -- as do those who are not good, but are well-versed in church law after spending several years finding loopholes in it -- there is still plenty of time to give up something for Lent. For people who are neither good nor bad Catholics, Lent is the forty-day period leading up to Easter that Catholics use to purge themselves of evil by trying yet again to give up tobacco or, if you're a kid, a nasty candy habit. At the end of Lent, the Easter Bunny brings you fifty tons of candy or a carton of smokes, allowing you an orgiastic release from your pious, self-imposed cleansing.
Other favorite Lenten sacrifices are beer or hard liquor (never both at the same time), road rage, swearing, church, claiming Native American heritage of questionable veracity, loose women/bad boys, TV, fatty foods, and evenings on the town that you can't piece together without the aid of everybody else who was there. I had originally decided to give up church for Lent, but after the physical punishment we endured the other night at Martini Ranch (1317 14th Street), as a matter of survival I'm giving up nights that include a member of the Executive Council of the Institute of Drinking Studies' ducking into the alley to yell at his shoes.
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We'd been looking forward to gathering the troops after an arduous week for most Institute members, and we picked the two-month-old Martini Ranch because we knew it would be a good scene. We were not disappointed. Part of the appeal of this place is its diverse array of seriously attractive people, including the Dodge Hemi Girls who were hawking something we didn't care about because they treated the Head of Drinking Regrets and Sleeper Drunks with smacks to their respective rear ends. We'd showed up early -- which I highly recommend, because JP, who came maybe an hour and a half later, had to wait in line for so long that he was sober by the time he hit the door. And as JP will attest, you do not want to be the only sober one out of four guys with a collective IQ of 60.
As early tenants, we were able to stake out a prime table that was surrounded by many attractive people. Despite the excellent locale, however, we were in significant danger of sobering up, because our waitress came by with the regularity of Halley's Comet. For mere mortals, her schedule may have been sufficient, but for people who sought to regret at least one thing the next morning, it was woefully inadequate. She may have decided to punish us after I asked, "Do you guys make martinis here?," but we got around this tactic by ordering doubles or going directly to the bar. (As a result, the Head of Drinking Regrets had at least six different tabs in his jeans the next day.) In the escalation of this battle, our waitress -- I suddenly noticed horns poking out from under her bangs -- recommended the jalapeño poppers. While they were a huge hit at the time, within eight hours and for the subsequent 96, they were a major social liability, if you know what I mean.
1317 14th Street
During our quest for additional beverages, we explored the rest of the bar. There was a downstairs dance-club kind of space where highly intoxicated people danced poorly, probably because of the house music. On the main floor, there was a mix of '70s, '80s and '90s crowd favorites with accompanying videos -- Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher" got a huge roar of approval from us -- that inspired several drunks to sing along. You had to wait in line to get to the top floor (although entrance criteria can't be that stringent, because all of us got in). Up here it was a mass of humanity, with beautiful people in such close quarters that we couldn't make the requisite comments about nearby females without being overheard. We got several dirty looks for our observations, but such research was unavoidable. Despite the chilly February evening, skin was in, and most of the young ladies were displaying what the new Latin Representative to the Institute referred to as "movie boobs." No mortal man can resist their attraction, because women don't mean us to.
While you suffer through Lent, consider how you're going to reward yourself for your piety come Easter. Martini Ranch gets the full Institute endorsement for offering almost every legal vice under one roof, so all you good and bad Catholics -- as well as everyone else -- can celebrate the passing of the holiest day of the year in a single bar. Our night there was certainly a religious experience; ever since, I've had an inexplicable urge to go to confession.