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Drinking in Pasadena, redux

I spent last weekend in Pasadena, visiting the same buddy I saw in August. I’ve spent the time since then sobering up.

When my friend and I started planning this trip a few weeks ago, I reserved one of my club airplanes, intending to fly out there. I was looking forward to getting some good cross-country experience, and flying into the crowded Southern California airspace was a challenge I felt I was ready for. However, the week before the trip, the weather forecast started to deteriorate, and by Wednesday, I decided just to abandon plans to fly and simply drive there instead.

Meanwhile, I accepted an invitation to join some of my co-workers for drinks after work on Friday, the day before I was scheduled to leave. At the time, I told them I wasn’t going to have more than two beers because I’d be flying the next day. When Friday rolled around, I had already canceled the flight, so two beers was no longer a strict limitation, as far as I was concerned. So when the waitress came with the third round, I said, “Why not?” Seven beers and a tequila shot later, I had the answer to my question. I don’t want to tell you how I got home, but fortunately the bar was only a half-mile away. It was 10 pm, and I had planned to be up at 5:30 am. My feeling was that the trip to California was not going to be pleasant. The good news was that I woke up around 1:30 am with my head pounding, so I drank a liter of water and took about a half-dozen Tylenol. By the time my alarm clock rang, I was feeling reasonably okay. I had a couple cups of coffee, more water, and stopped at McDonald’s for a breakfast sandwich before I got on the freeway. By that time, I was actually feeling quite normal.

When I left Phoenix, I was kicking myself for my flying decision. The weather was perfect. No clouds, no wind, visibility unlimited. However, as the trip progressed, I came to realize why I had bothered studying all those weather reports. By the time I got to Blythe, the sky was overcast and the visibility was declining. By the time I got to Palm Springs, the clouds were at the surface and it was raining steadily. In fact, it rained off and on all day Saturday in Southern California. It turned out I made the right call.

I arrived in Pasadena at noon, and I had a nice afternoon with my buddy and his wife. We had some Mexican food and saw Blood Diamond. I didn’t especially like the movie. I thought the story was all over the place. However, the characters were good-looking, and that counts for something, I suppose.

After the movie, we went back to their place, and my buddy had invited one of his co-workers to join us for dinner, which he was cooking. When his co-worker arrived, there were before-dinner cocktails, of course. Unknown to me at the time, that moment was the beginning of night two of a weekend-long bender. I was finishing a gin-and-tonic when the co-worker, who’s several years younger than the rest of us, started talking about some guy she has a thing for. My buddy is a natural-born psychologist, and has a tendency to listen to people with a patient, sympathetic ear. As most of you know, my tendency is quite the opposite of this. When the co-worker started talking about how this guy flaked out on a date and then called twice to apologize, my buddy told her, “That’s a good sign.” Immediately I chimed in, “Yeah, a good sign he’s a fucking pussy.” Not surprisingly, there was a moment of awkward silence. My buddy’s wife was the first to break it with, “Have another drink, Curt!” She made my second one a double. I think she thought I didn’t notice.

Dinner was great. My buddy made pad thai while his wife made a side-dish of vegetables, and it was awesome. Knowing the two of them, it was probably all organic. Whatever. There was wine with dinner, of course.

After dinner, we went back to the scene of the crime from my August trip, Gordon Biersch. This time, their seasonal brew was Winterbock, which was a wonderful cold-weather beer with its dark color and its sweet flavor, but it had an alcohol content higher than most malt liquors. Inner-city gang-bangers probably drink this stuff when their forties of Colt 45 aren’t giving them the buzz they want. I had two half-liters, which they served in German festival-style mugs. Once again, those bastards at Gordon Biersch kicked us out way before the regular closing time. At least, I think they did. Frankly, I have no idea what time it was. I was in a very happy place.

At about this time I remember having been somewhat amazed by the fact that my buddy’s co-worker had become smoking hot over the previous few hours, and I was wondering exactly how such a metamorphosis had come about and why I didn’t notice it. However, before I solved the mystery, my mind had wandered on to other pursuits. Like where exactly to find more beer in Pasadena at midnight.

The four of us went to another bar, which happened to be the same bar we went to after Gordon Biersch kicked us out in August. Someday I’ll have to suggest we go to this bar first so that I have a decent shot of remembering the name, although if you put me in the middle of Pasadena, I’ll bet you I could find it again. I don’t remember how long we were there or how much I had to drink or what we were talking about, but I do remember that at some point it seemed uncomfortably warm inside the bar, so I decided to go outside for a bit. I sat down on the sidewalk, and the sidewalk seemed awfully cool and refreshing to me, so I decided to lie down. Then I puked. Unlike my buddy, who in August had the decency to hurl in the neighbor’s hedges, I regurgitated my previously delicious dinner directly onto the sidewalk of a busy city street in Old Town Pasadena. In all fairness, though, it was my turn to puke, and I’m probably getting too old to be out drinking hard-core two nights in a row.

I don’t want to tell you how we got home Saturday night any more than Friday night, but suffice it to say we all did get home and I went straight to bed. A few hours later, I woke up, still quite drunk, and I had absolutely no idea where I was. We were all staying at the home of my buddy’s wife’s parents, who were themselves asleep, and I’m lucky I didn’t end up in their bedroom. I walked up and down the upstairs hall about a half-dozen times looking for the bathroom, and every time I thought I’d found it, I was either in the utility closet or back in the room where I started. Eventually I did find it, and I drank as much water as my stomach could hold, but since I no longer knew where I or my Tylenol was, relief from my pounding head would have to wait until morning.

Since misery loves company, it was a relief that we all woke up with identical hangovers. It turned out that everyone went to bed about 90 seconds after I did, and the co-worker was still there too. Even the parents-in-law looked like they had a rough night. So that morning we all engaged in activities that didn’t involve bright lights, loud noises, or sudden motions. There was a lot of newspaper reading, quiet conversation, and contemplative introspection. When we got some of our strength back, we took a stroll through a nearby garden and looked at flowers and clouds. Then us boys watched some football on television and took turns napping on the couch.

When my head was feeling better, I decided it was time to make the trip back to Phoenix. However, my stomach still felt like shit. I asked my buddy if he had any Tums, and he didn’t, so I decided to suck it up. I started driving back, and I was stopping regularly because I felt so shitty. I had a late-afternoon breakfast at Denny’s, but that didn’t help as much as I thought it would. I even considered stopping for the night at one point. When I got as far as Blythe, I decided to get off the freeway and look for a drug store. I found a Rite-Aid, bought a bottle of Tums, went back to the car, and ate about eight of them. I wish I had done that in Pasadena. It really settled my sour stomach, and I found a second wind. I pressed on, stopping at a rest area in Arizona to have a couple more Tums, and finally getting back in around 10:30 pm. Despite lighter traffic, my trip home actually took an hour longer than my trip out there because of all the stops I made.

My buddy comes to Phoenix for the first time next month to run the marathon. We’ve pledged not to drink so much this time. However, it’s worth noting we made a similar pledge prior to last weekend’s trip.

Curt Gilman
Curt Gilman