Making up for lost time

Thanks for inviting me to your birthday, Shipyard.
Thanks for inviting me to your birthday, Shipyard.

I asked the seething masses a couple of weeks ago what, collectively, you’d like to read more of on the blog.

The overwhelming majority of my 25 faithful voters chose more stories about my adventures around Maine and the U.S. GOOD CHOICE, GANG!

Now, that came shortly after I kicked a revolting hangover earned during a three-day bender in Los Angeles, and I didn’t actually get around to chronicling that one, but you’ll get a perfectly good explanation after the jump.

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The weekend in LA had been planned for a couple of months, and I knew it was going to be a) a total shitshow and b) an extremely sleepless time.

I had to take a 6:00 a.m. flight out of Portland, an hour south of Augusta, on the Friday, which necessitated leaving around 3:30 a.m. to get to the airport with plenty of time to spare. With timezone changes, by the time I went to bed in California on Friday night I’d been up for roughly a million hours.

It was indeed a shitshow, for the record. I used some sneaky salesmanship to wrangle four or five free drinks on my flight from Chicago to LAX, which averages out to better than one per hour. Later, Johal, Nate and I drank 54 beers between us, give or take a couple, between my arrival at midday and around 10:00 p.m when we wisely went to The Venice Whaler for a few dozen more libations.

That was followed by beers the next morning, then brunch at Joe’s Restaurant in Venice with bottomless mimosas until mid-afternoon, followed by more beers at two different venues, then literally liters of rice wine and beer at a Korean barbecue restaurant in K-Town.

Sunday was more of the same, and you get the idea. While the compounding hangover was absolutely brutal, my wallet is hemorrhaging and the sunburn is finally starting to peel 10 days later, it was the perfect weekend hanging out with good friends, in unbelievably beautiful surroundings.

And while, on my red-eye flight home in the wee hours of Monday morning, I swore off booze for at least a week, last weekend I again found myself holding a beer in the sunshine in surroundings that just made me gawk.

Me and my friend Bonnie, who gets mentioned with relative frequency in these pages, had spoken a few weeks earlier about having a boozy brunch of our own at Slates Restaurant in Hallowell, which gets absolute rave reviews. We’d been there during Maine Restaurant Week for their prix fixe menu, and the food was incredible. My old landlord had told me the brunch menu was equally good, as were the cocktails, so we planned to get ‘er done the weekend after I was in LA.

With that locked in for last Sunday, we both begrudgingly agreed that we each had to do chores around our respective houses on Saturday. She has family coming to town, and I’m still not in a cleaning rhythm in this big-ass apartment I’ve moved into, and it needs work. Like…a fair bit of work.

But that constructive decision had flipped on its head by Thursday, when Bonnie had to do absolutely no arm-twisting to convince me that we should just take advantage of whatever good-weather days we get, and do something on Saturday.

So, foregoing boring household shit, we instead opted to head to Lisbon Falls for The Moxie Festival (go look at that link, I’ll wait here.) It’s a festival celebrating Maine’s official soft drink – which, for Aussies reading along back home, is exactly the same as Big Sars. All the Mainers here who find out I’ve tried it wonder whether I was disgusted by it, but frankly I love it and it brings back memories of Sunday afternoon fish and chips.

Anyway, we hung out in the glorious weather, had a sub with sausage and peppers and waited for the star-studded CHUGGING CONTEST. Awwww yes. This exhibition of gut-wrenching gluttony left me in a partial diabetic coma just by watching, that’s how damn good it was. Reigning champion Beau Bradstreet, with his family in tow, breezed through 10 cans (!) in the allotted two minutes (!!) – via the shotgun method, if you were wondering about strategy – to take his fourth consecutive title. Athletes are amazing to watch in person, folks. I’ve got a video that I’ll probably put on YouTube at some stage.

Anyway, after the excitement and the sugar rush had died off, we still had, like, five hours of daylight to make the most of, so Bonnie and I headed to Portland for the Shipyard Old Port Festival at Maine State Pier. Shipyard is one of the big guns of Maine brewing, and it’s turning 20 this year, and it invited us to its very exclusive (read: free entry in a public place) birthday party. Thanks, y’all!

After doing 950 laps of the Old Port looking for parking, before eventually jagging a great one thanks to my superior reverse-parking skills, we managed to find an ATM, grab a couple of beers and enjoy the free concert at the huge stage by the water under a very blue Maine summer sky.

Because Bonnie and I both have problems with eating self-control when we’re a) around each other and b) in Portland, we of course ended up at the eternally popular J’s Oyster, where I’ve been once or twice before. We’ve somehow become such experts on what’s good and what’s not that we finished up advising a couple seated next to us on what they should order.

Eventually we pulled the pin, knowing we had to save room for boozy brunch at Slates the next day. Thankfully we had that foresight, because the food was top-notch and the booze (peach ginger mimosa and tequila Bloody Mary for me, vodka Bloody Mary for Bonnie) was not weak by any means. So much so that we had to have a sobering-up nap along the Kennebec River and then a digestive walk back to my place before the forecast afternoon thunderstorm set in.

After a couple of movies – The Wolf of Wall Street (good, but long) and Sharknado (shit, but mercifully short) – we were back to being hungry again, because duh, I’d been drinking all afternoon, so Bonnie prepared and I grilled a bunch of steak, shrimp and corn on the cob on my landlord’s three-burner gas grill on the front porch. All in all, a delicious way to cap off another absolutely jam-packed weekend.

Shit. I didn’t set out to give a blow-by-blow account of my last two weekends – there’s a really observational point to all of this.

It struck me at some point, probably on Saturday afternoon on Maine State Pier, with a cold beer in a plastic cup in my hand, the sun on my face and an overly enthusiastic lead singer guiding a large band on stage, that this is what the entire decade of my 20s should have been like.

(Are you ready for the introspective part? C’mon. You knew it was coming!)

As I’ve probably mentioned once or twice in the past on this blog, I used to work in sports media back home. For four years, I worked evenings and upwards of 45 weekends a year, with my days off generally falling on a Tuesday and Wednesday.

That schedule, as you can imagine, was great for getting really drunk on a Tuesday night, but less conducive to any sort of regular social plans – be it boozing, casual sports, even dating – that generally must fall into the timeframe during which the majority of the workforce works: Monday to Friday 9-5.

Now, not for a second am I blaming the job. An old editor of mine used to say, “if you want to work regular hours, go get a job at a bank.” That was what I wanted to do, and what I’m good at, so that was the schedule I had to work. On top of that, I was very handsomely compensated for working until 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.  That job also enabled me to spend six or so weeks a year over here, drinking and acting like every day was my Saturday afternoon. That softened the blow…somewhat.

But ever since I got here, and to a larger extent since the weather started to creep above freezing sometime in April, having weekends off has been a reality check that sometimes feels like a slap in the face. A good one, though.

When the temperatures were below freezing, and I was still finding my feet literally and figuratively around central Maine, I could get away with spending a whole weekend inside with the heat up, ordering a pizza and watching shitty TV to my heart’s content.

Nowadays, though, even if I’m dusty on a Saturday morning from too many pints at the Liberal Cup the night before, and even if I want to just stay in bed, I haven’t once regretted making plans with Bonnie, or others, to check out festivals or go exploring or just try out something I’ve never done before.

In the two weekends before I went to LA, I went to the Great Falls Brewfest with some coworkers, who cajoled me into coming even though I’d intended to “have a quiet (cheap) weekend at home” right after I’d moved house; and then to a block party in Portland with Bonnie and the same coworkers the following Sunday with great beer, food trucks and a bunch of killer bands.

Finally it feels like I’m living my life and taking advantage of what’s on offer in the communities around me. Looking back, if I’d had weekends off while I was living and working in Brisbane, I have the sneaking suspicion that I’d waste most of them with a hangover and rarely branch out to do any of the types of things that I’m throwing myself into (and being thrown into), through apathy or lack of adventure or whatever.

It’s certainly not to say that Brisbane, or Queensland, or Australia, doesn’t have the same types of interesting events, but I think general laziness would’ve got the better of me. Now, I’m in a place where I might not be forever, so I really want to take advantage of the things that are here while I have the opportunity to do them.

The great stereotype about the United States is that people live to work. From what I’ve seen, and felt sometimes, that’s definitely the case. But when it comes time to do a little livin’, more and more I’ve been jamming as much livin’ in as I can.

I’ve occasionally joked that I had to move overseas to get a weekend off. I think I also had to do it so I could jam 10 years’ worth of “acting my age” into the final 18 months of my 20s.

I’ve got more than 12 months left…maybe after I hit 30 I can take a weekend off everything and clean my place.

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