Make no mistake: To drink at Institute levels without being arrested or causing harm to yourself, others or international relations, you must train. I am not going to reveal our official regimen here, but suffice it to say that unaccomplished drinkers need to know their limits. This job is not for amateurs.
The Head of Pathologic Drinking and I joined an ongoing disaster of co-workers one recent Friday night when all parties were already well lubricated. Things quickly progressed to birthday shots and an unfortunate incident involving a bride-to-be, a "Suck-for-a-Buck" T-shirt and a maid of honor hawking her friend like a professional carny. Despite obliging the bride -- partly out of fear that the maid of honor would bludgeon us -- we were able to hold down both our liquor and some alcohol-absorbing appetizers. The same cannot be said for the rest of the disaster, who were not able to join us at the next venue owing to one of their number screaming at the pavement on the way home.
The night before, I'd been fortunate to drink with two true pros: the Jewish and Oriental representatives of the Institute of Drinking Studies. (JP was conspicuously absent, and we are still not speaking to him.) But I needed pros, because we were at the opening-night party of 5 Degrees (1475 Lawrence Street), which has taken over the former home of Blue 67, a bar we could never return to after one fateful night -- not that we were to blame. There's a bank of large windows along 15th Street that we pretty much proved were shatterproof after we hurled ourselves against them repeatedly to reach attractive women or guys who thought they were much cooler than they were. With the amount of pedestrian traffic at that corner, window-side tables should probably be illegal, because they just encourage immaturity.
1475 Lawrence Street
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We're much more mature today, which is fortunate, because the clientele at this party probably wouldn't have gone for such behavior. Most of that clientele consisted of pretty people, especially women, which prompted the Oriental Representative to lament, "If I would've known it was like this, I would've worn sluttier clothes." But while there were several welcome, skin-baring/spilling outfits on women in attendance, the guys' attire was a matter of concern. Russell Crowe or some other celebrity dirtbag may be able to pull off jeans, a blazer and a cheesy T-shirt, but not your run-of-the-mill guy -- the kind who aspires to greatness by not combing his hair. There also seems to be a trend toward big, pointy shoes, which may be an attempt by their wearers to let the world know how endowed they are. In fact, they look more like distinguished graduates of Bozo's Clown College.
Such worrisome fashion trends didn't keep us from having a good time, however. In the reconfigured space, there's lots of room to wander even when the club gets crowded, as it soon did. Those dangerous tables near the windows were taken, but there were still plenty of other spots to put your butt and your drink, including the DJ's area -- which provided the additional entertainment of making said DJ nearly apoplectic every time I put my drink there. The best place was the patio in back, with ample seating and low-set chairs that caused hemlines to rise inadvertently.
Wherever we were, the drinks came quickly and, if made by Juan, often knocked us off our feet. I had a rum and coke that made me breathe fire, and a sip of the Oriental Rep's gin and tonic gave me whiplash from the grimace on my face. The aftermath was three zombies walking around much of Friday who didn't really get out of the dumb phase of their hangover until Saturday morning.
Despite the odd name (something to do with martinis, although any of these drinks will raise your temperature by at least five degrees), we recommend this bar as an ideal start -- or end -- of an evening. The Jewish Representative gives it high marks for his brethren. Several attractive women were noted; about half of them, he assured me, were MOTs. So next time you're out looking for companionship and stiff drinks, try 5 Degrees. Or your nearest synagogue.