Sunday, January 4, 2009

Small town bar

An annual tradition in HomeTown is the Boxing Night Extravaganza. The various people home for the holidays all gather at the local pub early in the evening, generally heading down to the local "nightclub" (I use this word loosely) after a sufficient buzz has been accomplished.

This year I again find myself the recipient of multiple phone calls in the days and hours approaching Boxing Night. "What's going on tonight?" "Are we meeting before?" "Is so-and-so coming?" "Can I crash on your parents' floor?"
In high school, I was the resident co-ordinator, playing at being a social butterfly, knowing where the party was at, and offering up a sleeping bag and floor space to anyone without a ride home or too drunk to drive afterwards. It's a role I deliberately eschewed when I moved away, ricocheting into the opposite "going with the flow" orientation, as it gets exhausting serving as everyone's planning middle man. However, going home is like a time machine, where everyone treats you a little like your 18-year old self-- and, well, my 18-year old self was the party go-to girl, so my fate is sealed for the time being.

The first step of Boxing Night, though, is not pre-drinking and planning a meeting place. It is deciding what to wear. This is of the utmost importance, considering you are most likely to run into at least one of each the following: ex-boyfriend, ex-crush, and former stalker. As such, you need to look good. Very good. However, HomeTown is also a place where most people wear winter gear to the bar on a Friday night, which means you can't look too done up-- because then you are "too big city", and thus likely to be shunned. I was once deemed to have turned big city because my earrings were too big. This means that a delicate balance needs to be struck.

Deliberately casual yet coordinated, then the pre-drinking begins, as people arrive and squish into my bedroom, like old time sake. I have not drank on my bed in a long time, considering I have a living room and coasters now. We have taken a bit of a step up, though, drinking store bought wine and fancy mixed drinks, rather than whatever beer comes in an 8-pack or whatever homemade wine we could scam.

A little more nostalgia hits as we drive downtown, too many people in one car. Like old times, I am the one crammed on a friend's lap, my head grazing the roof. We teeter on icy sidewalks, and make our way into the pub around 7:45. There are already no tables, so we claim the corner by the foozball table as our own. My phone buzzes near constantly, as more people announce their upcoming arrivals. We all hug and summarize our lives in response to the countless times we are asked "What have you been up to over the past year?" I don't mind this question quite so much as the "How much more school do you have left?" or the much more direct "Aren't you done school yet?"

I notice this year that I don't know a good third of the bar like I used to. It occurs to me that coming back to HomeTown is no longer everyone's first priority over the holidays. People have their "new" families-- spouses, children, in-laws, or jobs that do not halt because of the significance of a particular day. Perhaps this is another one of the realities that comes along with the fact that it is my (yikes yikes yikes) ten year high school reunion this summer, and I am, in fact, getting old.

I stand by our territory of the foozball table and a guy of about 19 tries to start chatting me up. As he is getting his game on, and I try not to giggle too much, a friend hands me a drink. It is wet on the outside, as he has just carried up an enormous round from the bar, and seems to have spilled a little. Just as it occurs to 19-year old to ask me my name, the drink slides out of my hands and shatters to the floor. He actually backs away slowly. I go over to my friends, and laugh that I have inadvertently found the easiest way to get rid of a guy.

Except he comes back and tries again. Apparently he mistook my clumsiness as intoxication and figured he still had a shot. And tries to impress me by telling me all about the first year psychology course he had taken. Yes, indeed, guys, the way to impress the woman completing her PhD in psychology? Show her how much you know about psychology from your first year. Educate me, baby! Of course, this was after he pretended to run away when he first heard what I studied.

Of course, I run into the checklist of people, including exes, former crushes, and random people I hadn't thought about in years. There is also a guy I went to elementary school inexplicably wearing a polar bear costume. I joke with a friend that I just needed an awkward former drunken make-out partner to make the night complete.

It is soon after that I notice the Ex's best friend, who I have previously deemed ABF (Alcoholic Best Friend) at the bar. The vodka perhaps artificially enhancing my nostalgia, I go over to say hi. He is drunk and ecstatic. The first thing out of his mouth is the comment I've already recounted below about the Ex needing me more than ever. He then tells me he is buying me a drink, despite my claims that I am not in the mood for double fisting, as I have a fresh drink in hand. He buys me one anyways, and then proceeds to pour out his heart about his girl troubles, disregarding the fact that we haven't seen each other in two and a half years. He doesn't ask me a thing about myself, rather begging me for detailed plans of action about what he should say to his ex-girlfriend and current crush. As my friends come to extricate me from the situation, he slurs "Please just give me a few minutes with her. I promise I'm not trying to molest her. She's been my counselor for years."

A few minutes to closing time, we exit the bar. There is no hope of getting a taxi any time in the next hour, given you can count the number of taxis in the town on one hand. Two of us walk to the front door of another bar, where people have chosen to go instead of paying the unheard of $10 cover charge at the "nightclub". Seven of us set to walking up the enormous hill home.

Snow is tumbling from the sky, as we walk down the middle of the empty street. Despite the drunken cries around, it is strangely peaceful, as though the snow muffles it from our ears. We walk a half block backwards, so we can watch the snow sprinkling on the view below. As we make it to one person's destination, someone grabs a six-pack of beer, and someone else two inner tubes. We spin and slide down the steep street on the inflated rubber, a lone car beeping its horn at us as we skim by, our hair frosted in snow. I decide at this moment, despite my instincts earlier in the night, that I refuse to be too old for this.

32 comments:

Deutlich said...

It's NUTS how much coordination really goes into an event like this. Specifically the "right" outfit... my grandparents live in a small town. I know all too well what you mean.

the frog princess said...

I firmly believe that you are never too old to act silly with your oldest friends!

Another NYCer and I were both *ridiculously* overdressed for our 10 year HS reunion--though it's not like we were wearing prom dresses or anything. Instead of being embarrassed we decided to wear it as a badge of honor (of the "Yeah! We got the hell out of here!" variety).

I dare say it worked, as I spent most of the night chatting with people who didn't have a single friendly word for me in HS. Funny how time works.

Gladys said...

Seeing as I'm ancient and no longer go out like that it is great to read your adventure. Back in the day when I used to go home I would make up incredible stories to tell while some lout was going on and on about himself. One finally stopped the continuous stream of selftouting vomit long enough to catch that I had just said that I had spent the last 10 months in jail for getting stabby and shouty in a bar. He stopped made some excuse and walked away.

Paula said...

Sounds like a fun night!

I've never lived in a small town but sometimes I kind of wish I did. It would be nice to go home and know everyone there once in a while.

A. said...

I grew up in a small town in Sweden & funny enough, the experience seems freakishly similar.

Maxie said...

You're so right about the outfit thing-- we do our annual night out right before thanksgiving and we know everyone will be taking pictures so we have to look tip top. This year's night was out of control, but it was still worth all the trouble.

Meghan said...

This is exactly like coming home during winter breaks to my small town where everyone knows everyone.

Essentially Me said...

I sometimes wish I grew up in a small town so that I could have the experience of moving away and then coming home.

Caz said...

Ahhh small towns. Dare I say that I don't miss having missed this year's gathering in my hometown? Then again I just did the same in AB's small town. I just happened to not know many people. It's easier that way.

I too agree that I don't want to get too old for beer and sledding and all the rest. But occasionally now that I'm 6 years out and see kids I used to BABYSIT for, hanging out in the bar, it starts to feel wierd.

Brett said...

Wow, just what i read blogs for, love it.

M said...

That could soooo be my hometown gathering too, which usually took (takes?) place just before Christmas. The only glaring difference though, is that I only attended once or twice - only to be reminded of the reasons I had a couple close friends in high school and didn't care for the rest! It seems like once you're back in that setting, no matter how much time has passed, people just don't change that much, nor do the dynamics between former high school groups of people. They're just as annoying as ever! :)

Also, having only 1 or 2 bars in town means if you're not there by 8pm, you'll be waiting in line until closing time! I'm much happier to spend my pre-Christmas in my new "big city" way. Haha... :)

Matt said...

You girls are so funny with your outfit planning and make up stuff.


but that last paragraph was awesome. I hope I never get too old for that either.

t.k.foster said...

Now, now, can't you learn about something from anyone? No really, Pointful, a first year psych trying to educate you? You should have had some fun with his little mind.

Lisa said...

Isnt it akward when today you meets you from the past?

Lisa Chelle said...

and it's too much work for you that you were to still be coordintating!

EF said...

"The vodka perhaps artificially enhancing my nostalgia..."

I love that line- it explains so much, so concisely. I'm using it!

Kim said...

I love this post. Especially the last paragraph. Sounds like a really amazing time.

Kim said...

That last comment was from me...but I didn't use the right URL. I didn't want you to think I was crazy for typing in someone else's 20sb site.

Ugh...joys of copy and paste.

My URL is http://perfectlycursedlife.com/

Lizzie said...

Great, great post. I always look for random awkward hookups while I'm home. I think in the back of my mind I'm still hoping I end up with someone from high school...

Glad you had a good time at home :)

Crushed said...

It's funny how you almost subconsciously revert to studenty things at these events...

At a stag do a year ago, I noticed at one point we'd all seemigly moved from my mate's living room to his bedroom. No reason. Guess we just felt like students again.

Errant Gosling said...

Ah, that sounds perfect. I wish I were there. Thanks for bringing me part way.

Tough Girl 101 said...

Ha! I graduated from a class of almost 1000, so I only meet up with those that I like - which actually is a small group of about 4 people (including me). We'd normally be 5 people, but one of us moved away :-(

chasinglibby said...

i refuse to be too old.
i love it.

and we do need to plan a cross country visit FO SHO. ps will you be there for the olympics???

SMARTBuddy said...

I have the same night as this every year as well - but like yurs it is undergoing a transition to fewer of the old gang and a lot fewer friendly faces recognisable at the bar... It is a shame, but things have to move on, right? Happy New Year.

lspoon said...

Yes, good for you. You are never to old to enjoy how much fun life used to be before we went and got all crazy adult and everything! :)

Yoda said...

Seems like a really good tradition! Everyone deserves to stay in touch with the awkward make out partners later in life ... :-p

So@24 said...

My little brother (who is 23) and I bought a 12 pack of beer and went sledding down a giant hill over break.

And the 19 year old... persistence is key. Chicks love it.

...

Right?

Crashdummie said...

wow, sounds like you had an awesome time. You can NEVER get to old for having a spontanous giggling frenzy with your old friends and acting all goofy and silly.

My heart goes out for the poor 19 year old lad who tried to chat you up - the poor kid never knew what he was getting himself into.

You go get em tiger ;)

Katelin said...

seriously, sounds so much like my new years, so much planning needed among other things, so crazy.

Larissa said...

Now THAT sounds like a wild time. I come from a small town too, and miss those moments.

eric1313 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs4444 said...

Enjoy it while you can! :) You'll look back on these days fondly. There will be many more throughout your life, but none that are as carefree :)