The best time I spilled a beer near Jay-Z


This story is about Jay-Z getting a drink. It is also about me getting the drink for him, even though at first I failed at that endeavor. I think Jay-Z may have enjoyed both of these things.

I’d just been hired at the swank downtown restaurant where Jay-Z is a regular, along with a cadre of other New York celebs. This is the kind of place where New York’s career servers plant themselves professionally, for years. I was assigned to shadow one of them, whose section included Jay-Z’s table. That day, this mostly meant running drinks.
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The Drunkest I’ve Ever Been: Best dormie ever


The story of the drunkest I’ve ever been is more depressing than funny. Same with the second drunkest, and the third. And maybe more than that. I’d rather not leave you feeling halfway dead inside, so I’ll tell you a different story: Let’s call it the approximately ninth to twelfth drunkest I’ve ever been.

It was spring semester of my freshman year in college in Manhattan and I was in a long distance relationship. What this means is that I spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone. My story starts with such a call, one weekend night when two friends and I had plans to venture to a goth club. They pre-gamed vodka and 40s for an hour or more while I told someone 3,000 miles away it was their turn to hang up first. When I emerged, it was time to leave, and the last thing I remember is proclaiming that I “needed to catch up,” and raising a mug brimming with cheap vodka to my lips.

When I came to, 12 hours later, I was in my bed, wearing my goth clothes from the night before, covered in crumbs and crumpled slices of potato bread. It was 11am. An empty bucket was perched next to my pillow and the windowsill was littered with several glasses of water in different states of fullness. “What, uh, happened last night?” I yelled across at my dozing roommate. “Ask me later.” She mumbled.

I made it to the goth club—just not through the front doors. Unable to stand and propped between two friends, the bouncer suggested they get me some food and come back later. “But I’m 18!” I insisted.
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Enthusiast of the Day: Albert Trummer


Sometimes a bartender takes it to the next level. The bartender in question here is named Albert Trummer, and he was the mastermind behind Apothéke, a Manhattan bar recently mired in scandal and intrigue. Transplanted from Austria in the ‘90s, Trummer has been working in New York for over ten years and quickly gained a reputation as a mixological savant. What sets Albert apart from the rest?

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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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It’s for charity


There is one call to arms (and I am by no means implying there is ONLY one … but I am sure you will agree that this one has earned a particular gravitas over the years) that no Enthusiast can resist, regardless of their age, social standing, and even their level of comprehension of the greater cause. This reason for revelry, this justification for joviality—dare I say it, this Excuse for Enthusiasm (not that one needs an excuse)—has all but dragged people from their deathbeds.

So what is it? Only that inherent belief in the simple phrase: “it’s for charity.”

Sometimes there is the prerequisite of a small investment in the “charity of choice,” but sometimes there is not. All that is required of you is to show up, drink up and try not to throw up.

The traditional staging of these affairs opens with the arrival of a hoard of glamorous, young whipper-snappers, and a dappling of elegant, seasoned antiques at a venue quite unsuitable for those at either end of the age spectrum. This provokes a chorus of “oohs,” “aaahs,” and “wows” accompanied by a wave of theatrical expressions of surprise, wonderment and humble gratitude. Niceties over with, the focus turns to the proximity of the bar, and an enthusiastic urgency ensues. The hardened drinkers on the circuit hit the scotch, those tortured by an inner conflict between wanting to appear cultured while secretly wishing for an intravenous delivery system head for the gin mixers, and the floozies who skipped dinner giggle their way towards the champagne (or the closest thing on offer).

Some of these occasions even call for dancing in honor of charitable giving and this will inevitably be to a soundtrack of covers of the shockers your parents used to get their funk on to, and take place on a waxed wooden surface that is just aching to get its revenge on your stilettos; simultaneously offering you a view of the ceiling—while giving everyone else a view of your nether regions.

But dare you complain? No, it is for charity, and if that charity is asking you to party and imbibe, and party and imbibe … then a dedicated Enthusiast will follow that gospel.

As the evening wears on, however, and the open bar begins to claim it first victims; the illusion wears off, things disintegrate. Come home-time, the rag-bag crowd that stumbles out bears an uncanny resemblance to the crumpled, disheveled, sartorially oblivious exhibitionists seen ejected from an underage gathering on New Years.

This slithering descent from glittering superiority to infantile subservience can be blamed entirely on that simple phrase, “it’s for charity.”

I mean, if someone offers you a beverage in the name of Breast Cancer Research, who are you to turn down libations so loaded with altruism and generosity? If your very presence at the bar is going to lead to a breakthrough in genetic science, is it your decision as to how long to stay? Has vodka ever tasted better than when it is laced with pure, organic self-satisfaction?

And the best thing about benevolent drinking has to be the fact that no matter how late you show up to work the next day, how much like a distillery you may smell and how green a complexion you may have … a simple utterance of that invaluable phrase—the pained whisper of just four harmless little words, “it was for charity”—will instantly relieve you of any guilt, any remorse and any strenuous activities.


Bottles photo courtesy of  de la Ronde, flickr.
Bucket photo courtesy of tray, flickr.



Does booze give you superpowers?

For those of you too drunk to read any further, the short answer, according to my empirical research, is an unequivocal duh. But allow me to elucidate.

I’m 19 (back in the day when the drinking age was a sensible and civilized 18) and get an invitation to an open-bar party at my old Catholic grade school in NYC. Open bar. I don’t have to tell you that those are words to set an Enthusiast—particularly a broke-ass college kid—to a-trembling. I am so there.

Since the cocktail party is scheduled for only two hours—and since it’s my pre-heat for a Friday night frolic—there’s a lot of work to do. And I set about it enthusiastically: Jack, chased repeatedly and relentlessly by Miller High Life. Pretty soon, my skinny ass is wasted. In fact, maybe the most wasted ever, before or since. And pretty soon, I’m in trouble. Or they are.

A lot of this has had to be reconstructed later with the help of my schoolmate/drinking buddy who came with. But I have no doubt about my motivation: I’m looking at an older, irretrievably square crowd—uptight, wine-swirling mackeral-snappers in striped ties. And rather than being engaged in some bullshit conversation about my progress toward respectability, I decide to bring some “conversation” of my own.

So I circulate around to each happily chit-chatting couple, stand close to them for a moment, grinning, watching, pretending to be interested, politely waiting my turn to enter the discussion—only to issue forth with an ungodly shouting that makes all conversation impossible. Not a little whoop or yelp. This is a long (30 seconds?), high-volume, non-verbal, unremitting vocal drone, a weaponized yelling designed expressly to destroy cocktail party palaver. And when I say loud, you have to understand that people think I’m loud when I’m just talking (I once got a note from a woman at a restaurant that read “your loud voice wrecked our dinner!”) and that, once upon a time, I sang in front of a very loud rock band.

I work my way around the room, assassinating comity, one conversation at a time. And it’s not just the loudness that’s disturbing, it’s the randomness. My beef is at such a conceptual—and dubious—level that these poor Catholic partygoers are like: what the fuck?!? If they ever said the word fuck.

On and off, the sonic assault continues for maybe 15 minutes, until the principal, a gentle, caring, middle-aged gent, approaches and throws a friendly arm around my shoulders and says, with a genuine smile, “I think it’s time for you to go.”

Let me explain that when this man was younger he had been afflicted with an illness (TB?) that resulted in one of his lungs being removed, which evidently carried a certain morbid, if heretofore unrecognized, fascination for me. So he’s easing me toward the door when I fling off his arm and throw mine around his neck and drag him to the floor. I have the kindly principal in a headlock on the floor, and now I’m yelling at him: “No one-lunged bastard is gonna throw me out!”

I gotta admit, if it’s comical now, it was mortifying the next morning, and for many mornings after. In any case, it’s my buddy and our unfortunate dates who ultimately disentangle me and the principal and get yours truly the fuck out of there.

But, alas, the night is still young.

The four of us pile in a cab, headed downtown to the Village Gate, where one of my all-time favorite bands, NRBQ, is playing a couple of sets. On the edge of Union Square, we get stuck in traffic. Stopped cold. Lots of honking and yelling, but no forward movement. Suddenly, without notice, I fling the cab door open and start running into the darkness and crowds of 14th Street. My friends and my date, not surprisingly, are happy to see me go. And after patiently waiting out the traffic jam, the cab deposits them, 10 minutes later, at the door of the club.

And I’m there to greet them!

This is the superpowers part. Apparently, I flew like Superman or ran at supersonic speeds like Flash to beat them to the Gate. No other explanation is possible—unless you subscribe to the crackpot theory that I ran around the traffic jam and grabbed another cab a block or two away. But that strains credulity, not to mention the rules of super-hero science. No, the facts point incontrovertibly to me acquiring temporary superpowers through the liberal application of booze.

Once inside the club, I barge into the dressing room to tell the band (I think) how much I love them, only to be physically threatened by a visibly agitated lead singer who is restrained by his band mates who are yelling at me to “just get the fuck out!” I return to my friends, who’ve found a comfortable booth, and, at some point during the set, go to sleep. On the floor. The ushers clear out the club for the next show—my friends finally making good on their escape—but somehow no one notices me. As the room begins to fill for the second set, I rise up off the floor and, looking around for my companions, discover instead some unwitting acquaintances from high school, to whom I attach myself for still more bar- and party-hopping until six in the morning, when, my superpowers depleted, I stiff them on a cab ride uptown.

—Toots Shor

Superman photo courtesy of rustman, flickr.