Families are odd things. You grow up together, then once you develop judgment, you realize that you hate these people because they tortured you by running away while you were stuck on crutches and couldn't catch them -- when they were the parties responsible for putting you on crutches in the first place, because they'd slammed a door on your foot when you were chasing them because they'd poured Kool-Aid into your treasured stereo. As the elder child, of course, you were the one who was punished; you were "bigger than they are and could hurt them" and "should know better." But your parents didn't realize that you did know better, that you'd run after your siblings because they deserved no less a punishment than to be strung up from the swingset in the back yard.
After you mature some, though, you reconcile with your siblings and decide to instead collectively hate your parents. Now that you are older, you all understand that the unfair favoritism your parents showed based on your athletic skills or academic prowess or ability to keep your nose clean is the root of all your sibling rivalry. So instead of taking potshots at each other, you deconstruct the foibles of your mother, father, uncles, aunts and cousins.
My brothers and I recently met at a Bennigan's to catch up, rehash the old stories, bitch about our extended family and determine if the women in our lives were really up to a prolonged commitment to this clan. Bennigan's is one of the better chains for this type of reunion and for other festive gatherings, such as that infamous St. Patrick's Day party whose memory still won't let you look about ten people directly in the eye. There are millions of these restaurants in Denver alone, and I swear the one at 3601 South Wadsworth in Lakewood is an exact replica of the ones on Mars or in Minneapolis's Mall of America.
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Every Bennigan's features the same things: a central bar that sequesters serious drinkers away from the family diners; a good selection of beer and chick drinks to keep everyone happy; a menu of grease-heavy appetizers, killer burgers and the naughtiest sandwich on the face of the earth, the decadent Monte Cristo; and annoying, sycophant waiters competing with each other to see who can wear the most items of "flair"on their person.
Our large group spilled over into the wholesome area, on the false pretense that we were your typical dysfunctional family. It was amazing how quickly the area around us cleared as our bar tab skyrocketed. After two rounds of drinks, our family reunion turned into that Saturday Night Live skit where drunken men extol the virtues of Bill Brasky as they interject embarrassing revelations: "I [note: not me] pooped my pants in the car because I didn't want to pull over." The volume soon exceeded front-row, Who-concert levels as we tried to humiliate each other as publicly as possible.
It was a great night, even if my psyche can only take such a great night once a year. The women were less pleased; I think they opted into the Witness Protection Program after learning about assorted family members' gastrointestinal indiscretions and that it's possible to spit great distances with great accuracy while making a really cool noise.
If your sibs are coming to town, schedule a few visits with your therapist before you take them to your local Bennigan's (which is no doubt just around the corner). And make sure the hostess keeps you out of the family section; it's no place for your family.