A mug for a mug

Each one of those tally marks represents $4. PRIORITIES.
Each one of those tally marks represents $4. PRIORITIES.

As evidenced by my history of column writing, sporadic blog posting and, in another life, grading university students’ papers the night before they’re due to be returned, I work best under deadline pressure.

In most cases, this brings out the best in me. The adrenaline flows, my brain kicks into a higher gear, and I end up producing something of a reasonable enough quality to be published in an actual newspaper.

But I’ve got a different sort of deadline looming, in one month’s time from today’s date. My brain will be in a considerably lower gear, and the only thing flowing will be bullshit.

You may have figured it out already: I’ve got 30 days to drink 47 pints.

Let me give you a little background on why I have to do this at all. For that, I’ll have to take you all the way back to December 13, 2013.

It was my first Friday night in Augusta, and after a hard few days of learning to drive, battling the cold, house-hunting and buying homewares for my eventual apartment, I was ready for a cold beer or 30. Closer to 30.

I had zeroed in on a couple of venues, one of which I still haven’t been to, but opted for the Liberal Cup in Hallowell due to my familiarity with the place. I’d had an unofficial job interview there a couple of weeks earlier, and I’d stopped for lunch two days before during my apartment search.

After bumbling the taxi-ordering process, and then marveling at the fact that the fare gave me change from a $5 bill, I eventually managed to get hold of a beer and, after awhile, a seat at the bar.

I had a book with me, but I was equally content just to take in my surroundings and familiarize myself with a place I figured I’d probably be spending a bunch of my weekend nights over the next few months. (I figured right.)

Hanging from steel pegs in the roof were rows upon rows of ceramic mugs. The bottoms of some mugs had simple wording with what I presumed were the owners’ names, while others had more intricate and colorful designs.

I asked the bartender, Kim, who I’ve come to know quite well, what the story with the hanging tankards was. She explained that they belonged to the members of the Liberal Cup’s mug club, and they couldn’t be bought, only earned.

The benchmark was 250 of the Cup’s house-brewed pints, in a 12-month timeframe. The bar staff keep tally on an index card stored in a box full of hopefuls behind the bar, and would mark them off as you go. The upside of being a member of the mug club – apart from the status symbol, of course – was that the vessel held more than the regular beer glasses, so you’re getting more for your buck, and on Sundays and Mondays, they’re even cheaper than normal.

Now, I’m not much good at mathematics, but I do know there are 52 weeks in a year, and 250 beers in 52 weeks equals less than five beers a week. Given I was halfway through my third pint by that point, hubris took over and I decided that this wouldn’t be so hard, right? So I asked Kim to start me up a card, because I wanted that mug.

And for the first few months of 2014, I was chugging along (no pun intended) at a fairly good pace. The Cup was my Friday night haunt between 10:30pm and 1:00am, and the necessary five pints were pretty easy to squeeze into two and a half hours, especially given the fact that, since I was going in straight after work, the first two rarely touched the sides on the way down. I’d often return on those snowy Sunday afternoons when I had had enough of Netflix and wanted to get out of the house, and I’d knock down a few more.

There were slip-ups, of course. Before I became a somewhat more familiar face around the Cup, I didn’t realize that I’d be best served to remind the bartenders to check off my tally as I went. Through no fault of theirs, I definitely let more than a few slide by. There were other times, after we all became friendly, where I flat-out forgot to ask. Again, my bad. But despite that, I was on course to clinch my mug well before winter came around again.

And then summer happened.

Remember all those times I wrote about drinking in the sun, and beer festivals, and all those other little side trips I took throughout the warmer months? Yep, well while I was drinking elsewhere, I wasn’t scratching off tally marks at the Cup. There were points where the bartenders told me they thought I’d moved away, because I hadn’t been in for weekends at a time, and for “health reasons” I try not to go out on weeknights. What an idiot.

Unfortunately, when you’re away in some facet for six weekends out of eight through the end of summer, that’s a good way to get 30 or 40 beers behind your average. When you’re on a tight schedule and you let it slip, they stack up on you, and suddenly “4.8 beers per week” becomes “12 beers per week.” Oh shit.

And that’s how I got myself into this situation. By December 13 (or December 12, I have to confirm this), I’ve gotta do another 47 beers. My pal Johal and I have strategized about the best way to go about it; his opinion, last week when the target staring me in the face was considerably higher, was to “have X nights out at 10 beers a night.”

The problem with that approach is that I don’t get to the bar until well after 11 on Friday nights now (thanks, high school football), which isn’t enough time to do 10. A long session Saturday to make up numbers would leave me hurting Sunday morning, and since I’m now working Sunday afternoons at the Maine House (right next door to the Cup), I don’t want to be under the weather, because being the inexperienced new kid is hard as shit.

So I’m trying to settle for some middle ground. Maybe five Friday night, five Saturday, and a couple at some point mid-week. That keeps me mostly in good shape, doesn’t require a lot of hours or a marathon weeknight session, and it should see me hit the target almost dead on.

There’s nothing like a challenge in life. I’ve got my work cut out for me the next few weeks.

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