Food for Drunks: Clam chowder


Once upon a teenage year, I lived and schooled in New York City. I had a bad attitude with musical taste to match, and could cook nothing well except bagels and cream cheese, and the occasionally inspired Top Ramen with egg. One spring weekend I hosted an out of town Enthusiast. The first stop on the BlackOut Express was supposed to be a goth club, so we ripped holes in black stockings and smeared the crap out of our eyeliner. I don’t know why, but we never ended up at any clubs that night, let alone goth ones. This was awesome because it meant we stumbled to various, snobby college parties dressed like complete tools for no justified reason. The night ended as all successful weekend-visitor kick-off binges do, with sunrise-purchased 40s cracked open on a curb near my apartment. As we swigged, a waterfront fun run sweat past in the rising dawn, and I think we might have cheered a little, our angsty makeup and bottle-shaped brown bags betraying the illusion we were early-rising race fans.

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Enthusiastic entrepreneur

Sometimes you can take a good thing too far. In college I decided to man the helm of a weekly Wednesday on-campus celebration known as 40s Night. Typically this tradition started during orientation week and served as a way for the freshmen to meet the upper classes in a jovial and quite enthusiastic environment. It would continue throughout the first month of school before petering out as the Portland weather turned sour and everyone became entrenched in classwork. This particular year however, I was taking a semester off. And, through circumstance to be discussed at a later date, was not gainfully employed. Needless to say, I had a fair amount of free time on my hands.

Through the Enthusiast network at our school, I found out that one could obtain 40s of PBR at a very reasonable rate from a liquor distributor on the other side of town. Each week we would scrape together $100 or so, secure a vehicle, and make our pilgrimage.

The first week we were busted by campus security hiding the bottles in a freshman’s first floor room. So for the following week I devised a method of not only keeping the beer hidden, but keeping it cold and mobile at the same time. Every Wednesday we’d secure a large, rolling recycling bin, empty the contents, and line it with a garbage bag. Then we would load in the bottles, surrounding each successive layer with ice. At about 10 pm, after a couple of hours of chilling, we’d roll the thing over to our designated location and open up shop. The cut-rate supplier combined with fair, but inflated pricing allowed for over 100% profit—in no time I would make back the initial investment and then some, drinking for free all the while.

These were some of my happiest times in college. I quickly became know as The-Fucking-Man on campus and made some lifelong friendships with the entering class of that year. Weeks went by and campus authorities started to get annoyed by the Wednesday night complaints from people “trying to study” and who were “getting distracted” by the baudy noise that came from our revelry. Eventually I was told by the class president that the noise was a real problem and we had to do something about it. Rather than take this as a sign that it was time to shut it down, I just moved us to the Student Union where we could close the doors and minimize noise.

A handful more weeks went by and campus emptied out for Fall break. By this time, the administration had really started to put the heat on 40s night and  I was squarely at the center of the issue. I was determined that we should have one last, good run and intended to call the whole thing off when everyone got back. But the damage had been done. One thing led to another and, non-student that I was, I got banned from campus for the remainder of the semester.

Our school had a notoriously forgiving policy towards that type of thing, but I had clearly crossed a line. Naturally, as an Enthusiast, this is a line that I crossed on a handful of other, unrelated occasions in the future, but I did learn a valuable lesson from that first time. No matter how awesome an idea, and how well executed, you can’t fly too close to the sun without getting burned. That said, I was fortunate that even at that high altitude, I managed to only singe my wings, rather than go down in a ball of flame. In the end, I will forever look back on those nights of 40s fondly—as my most successful (drunken) venture to-date.


Case of PBR photo courtesy of 40ozmaltliquor.com.
Recycling bins photo courtesy of Dano, flickr.
No Trespassing photo courtesy of Daquella Manera, flickr.