Every so often in life you run across a significant milestone. At 16 you earn the right to test out your racing abilities, honed by countless hours of “Grand Theft Auto,” in the real world. At 18 you’re allowed to utilize your less-than-comprehensive understanding of national politics (or at least the bits you remember from your high school government class) to influence the presidential election. Somewhere between the ages of 22 and 35 you’ll finally graduate college so you can begin paying down three lifetimes worth of debt.
However, this weekend was an entirely different sort of milestone. This weekend I turned 21.
I’ll admit, I never thought I would be overly excited to turn 21. I mean, let’s be honest, the majority of people have tried alcohol before they’re of age, and the only reason I haven’t been declared anti-social is because that would involve socializing with a therapist; clearly bars hold little appeal to me. My analysis of bars did miss one key detail though: I was trying to understand the appeal of bars with a sober mind.
If I were writing this column as a truly representative account of that night, there would be a large gap of empty space in the middle section directly before one of my notoriously weak conclusions. However, in the interest of humor and plausible deniability I’ll just hit the highlights.
There were around eight of us when we began our journey, smashed into the backseat of a van that may have not been structurally sound. There was a subtle aroma of anticipation mixed with cheap beer as my giant oversized dollar sign and chain jangled ominously with every bump as if to warn us of the impending festivities.
Our first stop was Bernie’s to have a few quiet beers as a group before we began sliding from bar to bar across the ice. I’ll admit, there was a great deal of fun to be had in ordering my first legal beer, even if my beer snob friend did ridicule my choice for the rest of evening — as if ordering a Red Stripe and pretending to be at the beach was some sort of crime in his world.
Shortly after, we began our awkward penguin shuffle in order to find a new bar without cracking our tailbones on the ice.
My first thought upon entering the Avenue was that bars must just be large empty rooms for young people to get drunk (but seldom laid) in. This was also my last thought upon leaving. I then repeated this thought throughout the Pioneer and Gaslight — though I suppose the latter did have a dance floor for the more ambitious patrons.
Somewhere in the Pioneer I was gifted a free drink by an old friend from high school that miraculously appeared and then disappeared without a trace. Of the eight of us, only I and one other friend remember this person, with the rest swearing that they had never seen him. To this day (all of about a week later) he is known only in legend, existing in secret like the Sasquatch.
I distinctly remember visiting the Blue Fox (or South Hall if you like), if only because I had to be given a stern lecture about using designated restroom facilities by a friend who found me speaking quite loudly about needing to use the bathroom as I tried to extract myself from the van.
Once inside, we purchased a couple mystery shots, which seemed to be named for their effect on my recollection of the evening, rather than the blind purchase we made to get them. At this point we decided to call it a night (much to the relief of our designated driver) and head back to my friend’s apartment. And so we ended our evening in the same way it began: strewn across my friend’s apartment laughing about the hilarity of the evening.
None of this has changed the fact that I’m not going to be much of a barfly. The thought of paying inflated prices for drinks in a loud, crowded room really holds little appeal for me when I could be spending the money on concert tickets or a new tent, but that’s not the point.
The following week did feel a bit different though, as if I was suddenly more of an adult than I had previously been. It’s as if everything is the same as it has always been, yet overnight everything had changed.
Oh right, I can buy beer now.