The Teetotaller Groomsman’s Guide to Pubhunting in Sandusky, Ohio

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The duties of the groomsman are three-fold:

  1. Get the groom to the church on time.
  2. Ensure the groom is physically and mentally prepared to undergo the wedding ceremony.
  3. Throw a bachelor party that makes accomplishing duties 1 and 2 as difficult as possible.

All right, so I’m exaggerating. The recent bachelor party for my now-wed cousin was a rather tame affair, not involving any of the hazing, strippers, or minivans full of illegally-acquired donkeys that now seem so common to such an event. The most dangerous activity we did was ride the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point, which launches you from rest to 120 mph, takes you straight up 420 feet, hits a peak and then sends you screaming straight down to earth before you can grasp what exactly is happening. If there is a better metaphor for love and marriage, I have yet to find one.

I know what you’re thinking: I haven’t said a word about booze! It’s the fuel of most bachelor parties, after all; the liquid of fun with tendency to harden overnight into solid — or in some unfortunate cases, semi-solid — regret. We did try to make alcohol part of our festivities, but circumstances just weren’t with us.

Upon leaving Cedar Point, we stayed in a campground in Sandusky, Ohio. It was a beautiful location, with lush greenery and chirping cicadas — at least while you stayed on the grounds. As soon as you stepped out, you realized it was merely in an oasis on an industrialized strip in the not-so-shiny part of town. Still, it served our needs well all the way up until one of the groomsmen started inquiring about finding a “pub.”

For convenience and protection, I will refer to this groomsman as Euro. An anglophile through and through, he would never use the word “bar.” No, he was insisting upon finding a well-groomed establishment within which food and spirits could be delivered, through the pleasing din of background chatter and lively music, by lovely, mannered women in dresses whose lasciviousness may extend to performing a non-revealing fan dance onstage.

Let me just break you out of that description to remind you we were in the middle of Ohio, just coming out of a hot, humid day trying to escape our own sweat on roller coasters. Still, Euro kept bringing it up, and the thought of being in a “pub” was, honestly, somewhat inviting. The groom-to-be eventually conceded as long as — AS LONG AS — no one mentioned anything about him getting married or try to get him to drink anything particularly Mick Jaggerifying.

Euro went to speak with the manager of the campground for her recommendation, and was told there was a destination a little up the road. Whether it was from the habitations and the towns she knows, I was unfortunately not there to learn. So with varied expectations, we all set out to discover what this place would hold.

Not to toot my own horn, but I believe it was I who located the spot first and alerted my peers.

“It has a giant clown head on the sign.” I said.

Seeing clown heads on anything is usually a bad enough omen. Seeing them on empty, dimly-lit streets in unfamiliar industrial sectors is just asking for Stephen King to write your short and tragic biography. Yet still, whether through hope or stupidity, we decided to go in.

I don’t assume any of our expectations were still at “pub” upon entering, but they quickly dropped past “bar” and flirted with “craphole” before bungeeing back up to “dive.” The primary forms of decoration were darkness and old Dale Earnhardt Jr. signs. The jukebox selection I can only describe as “crap speckled with Korn.” And the bartender — a short, fluffy-haired woman in her late 20s or early 30s — was not the type who was against drinking the profits.

Since the only other patrons at the time were a few men in ragged T-shirts at the other end of the bar and a middle-aged woman who brought her own giant mug for her beer, we sort of stood out. Lisa started peppering us with questions, and we tried to remain as loyal to our groom as possible, but a man can only take so much heat and, after about 15 seconds of the barmaid’s browbeating, one of us yielded the fact that our groom was getting married.

Somewhere inside that addled mind, two dots were joined by a blurred, squiggly line and her eyes lit up.

“Oh!” she cooed. “Your bride musta been here earlier today! 5-foot-4, dark hair, with her father?”

Unless the bride and her father had taken a spontaneous cross-country bar crawl, they were still in Michigan. Six of us shook our heads. One of us, however, nodded. Let’s call him Jackass.

“Yeah, I knew it!” the bairmaid said, pointing at Jackass. Obviously, this was not a land of democratic rule. “They were in here earlier. She’s very good-looking! Father said something about getting a bus…”

She went down the line asking what we’ll have. Some ordered drinks. Others, myself included, ordered water — probably on the thought that we’d want to get out as soon as possible. Euro attempted the only means of salvaging his quest he knew how.

“Do you have any imports?” he asked.

“Corona and Labatt’s,” the barmaid replied.

Euro’s crests had fallen. “I’ll just have water.”

“You know, your best bet would be a Coor’s Light.”

“Nah. Water.”

The groom also attempted a water, but the barmaid would have none of it. She demanded from the rest of us what we should give him, but everyone was dumbstruck. We all know the groom doesn’t really drink a whole lot and no one seemed to have thought ahead as to what he should actually drink after being dragged to a bar. The barmaid, however, took matters in her own hands and said she’d make something “halfway between water and liquor.” This turned out to be a “Washington apple,” made with whiskey, apple schnapps and cranberry juice. The groom looked at it like it would burst into flames any second. The barmaid stared expectantly, then her mind switched to other… helpful hints.

“Oh, wow! You guys are so close to the ti–y bar!” she squealed.

She also pointed to the ring on her finger.

“This finger’s had a ring four times and I still haven’t been married once,” she said with murky pride.

After several more complimentary shouts of there being a “ti—y bar,” just in case we hadn’t heard, she went back to goading the groom to drink. Finally, he handed the full glass back to her and, in an educational moment, she downed the whole thing in three seconds and handed the groom a Twix bar from behind the counter. This he ate.

Some of us looked at each other, trying to figure out what the best “Let’s get the heck out of here!” face would be, when an older lady walked in from a back room.

“Hey, this guy’s getting married!” the barmaid yelled, pointing at the groom.

“Oh yeah??” the older lady said, smiling.

“Yeah! The bride was in here earlier, remember? Five-foot-four, dark hair, with her father!”

“Oh, right!”

“He was thinking of a bus!”

The older lady offered her congratulations as she pulled a tray out of the refrigerator, going down the line of young men with a warm smile on her face.

“I made these myself!” she beamed, placing two Jell-O shots in front of each of us. Again, the attention remained mainly on the groom, who wasn’t into Washington apple and didn’t want Ohio lime or cherry, either. In an attempt to draw some of the heat away from him (and, well… because the barmaid called me a puss), I sucked down the tequila-lime shot in front of me. It actually wasn’t that bad, and I’m not sure if it had much of an effect on me as I was tired at the time and the whole building was enough to put someone in a funky mood by pure ambiance. But the distraction did seem to work a bit and eventually some of the other guys got the barmaid to play pool with them.

We were able to leave afterward, so I guess you could say we spent part of the bachelor party letting ourselves be held hostage by a 4-times-engaged bartender and Kindly Grandma Hooch, but it’s one of those events we can look back upon now and laugh. I think. Yeah, probably. And even if not, the groom’s now married and on his honeymoon, so he’s definitely won out.

Just a word of warning, though: If you’re in a non-too-attractive, industrialized section of Sandusky, Ohio and find yourself behind a swerving bus with a 5-foot-4, dark-haired girl in a bridal gown at the wheel, you may just want to take the next turn out of there.

Everyone’s a music critic

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You can sell millions of records. You can even win a Grammy. But if the avian world doesn’t like you, the best thing to do is just keep your mouth shut.

The Kings of Leon now know this after a non-too-impressed pigeon reportedly defecated into the mouth of bassist Jarred Followill during a Friday performance in St. Louis.

The Kings cancelled their show after the incident, which has me mixed. I would definitely consider it a showstopper if it happened to me, but then I’m not a bigtime rocker. If a pigeon had pooped in Ozzy Osbourne’s mouth, he would’ve snatched the offending fowl from the air, ripped its head off with his teeth, crapped down its neck and swallowed it whole.

I apologize to anyone who is feeling sickened by this topic, but sometimes even the most modest of us writers must, now and then, talk about The Kings of Leon.

Honestly, though, I can’t say this was handled poorly. Fans have been offered a refund and band members have apologized on Twitter. If anyone, the pigeon is the one who’s going to lose the most face on this. Every bird groupie knows pooping in the mouth of the bassist is only, like, half a notch above nailing a roadie. Also, any bird can claim to be a music critic, really. It’s the ones who show their displeasure to male models and airplanes that are truly dedicated.

Accident spurs stereotype of whales as worst drivers in ocean

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Twitter has a new Fail Whale.

CAPE TOWN — All it takes is one little mast-bender with a boat to reignite old prejudices in the ocean.

A southern right whale (as opposed to the southern liberal whales found off the coast of Atlanta) recently belly-flopped onto a couple’s yacht off the coast of South Africa,  damaging the vessel but not appearing to injure anyone involved. Unfortunately for the whale, however, the accident was caught on film and has been spreading like a tsunami across the internet. Other creatures of the deep are nodding their heads — or head-like bulbous outcroppings — in what they believe is evidence  of the Old Gull’s Tale that whales are horrible navigators.

“I know they’re basically the biggest thing out there, but come on; you’re still in the middle of the ocean!” said Margaret Billings, a cape fur seal. “There’s literally miles of open water on either side of the boat. Are you telling me she couldn’t have just veered to the right or left? And then you try to dive over at the last moment or something? Like the Amy Winehouse of Free Willies. There’s a little move called ‘underwater.’ Try it sometime!”

“Cetacean drivers…” muttered seahorse Stanley Firkis. “Always riding your tail, sounding their blowholes at you. They have no respect even when you’re wearing your ‘Babies on Board’ sign! Look, I’m sure they’re not all so lousy, but how many beached dolphins or octopi do you ever see, huh?”

The National Association for the Rights of Whales, Heritage and Aquatic Life (NARWHAL) has decried the uprising of anti-whale-driving sentiment as speciest and unwarranted.

“This is just one incident after years of safe swimming,” spokeswhale Dimitri Miller said. “This is just one drop in the ocean. A huge, blubbery, ship-splintering drop, yes, but still a drop. And as you can plainly see, the ship had no visible turn signal at the time of the incident. There is clearly no one involved who doesn’t share some of the fault. The matter has been settled like mammals and I implore the rest of the ocean to keep their opinions to themselves.”

Lawyers for both sides said insurance information was shared at the time of the accident and that the couple has already received 5 tons of plankton for compensation.

Wife-carrying competition allows singles

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LATVIA — Organizers of the annual Latvian wife-carrying competition have agreed under pressure of protest to allow single competitors in the race.

While longtime participants have balked at the decision, citing that the object of the competition is to carry one’s wife (or an approved cohabitant) and that the unmarried (or mono-habitant) would have an unfair advantage, single protesters are seeing it as a victory for equal rights.

“For too long, married couples–and approved cohabitants–have enjoyed segregated privileges such as tax breaks, hospital visitation rights, conversation partners and the ability to make little copies of themselves,” said Ludis Kalnins, head of All For One, a singles rights advocacy group that is often mistakenly booked to sing at lavish weddings and state fairs. “Married–and approved cohabiting–people are allowed to participate in solitaire tournaments; why can’t we participate in their wife-carrying competitions?”

While some argue the move is right under political correctness, others dismiss the singles’ push as merely a veiled attempt to get in on action implied through event-related quotes taken entirely out of context.

“We do it two or three times a week,” one champion said in recent coverage. “We run in the stadium, we go with a bicycle, we go in somewhere together. Even when we come home, I lift her on my back and go fourth floor.”

Under the new rules, all single men who wish to participate must shoulder their own awkwardness and insecurities through the course, while single women, like their married counterparts, must cross the finish line without touching the ground. No single competitor placed in the first competition since the rules change.

To the People of Cleveland

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No doubt the imminent departure of your figurehead and hope for the future, LeBron James, has hit with full, soul-crushing force by now. LeBron has left you for Miami, a city that is much prettier, warmer and more fun at parties than you, and things are looking quite bleak.

You may be pondering at this moment just ripping the expensive LeBron jersey off your body and throwing yourself into your once-flammable river in despair, but I am here to tell you that is the wrong choice to make. For one, there’s probably a long line backed up at the river right now. But also, there are several things Cleveland as a city still has going for it. You just need to be reminded at this time of grief.

Things Cleveland Still Has Going for It

  1. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame–A building that is not only the bastion of music history and culture, but also serves as a pointy foot-spearer of any mutated creature that should rise from the sludge of Lake Erie.
  2. Drew Carey–A man who was able to rise from the ranks of inconspicuous, down-on-his-luck people from Cleveland by playing an inconspicuous, down-on-his-luck person from Cleveland.
  3. That new show on basic cable, “Hot In Cleveland”–I haven’t seen it, but it has Betty White. White can be your new LeBron!
  4. Um…
  5. Er….
  6. How do I turn the numbering off on this–ah! Here we go.

OK, so it’s somewhat of a meager list for now, but I’m sure there are plenty more reasons! And even if there aren’t, just take a look to your left and right. You’re in good company, Cleveland: Detroit and Buffalo are here for you. The Ladies of the Great Lakes have fallen on some hard times, all with industry not being what it once was in this great country and all of our sports teams abject failures. We’re sad to see you come back into the fold with LeBron’s departure–that last crush of hope is the worst–but we’ll get through. How about you wipe those eyes now, eh? We’ll go get some beer and wings, and then we can all make fun of Kansas City’s sports teams together.

Soon you’ll forget all about your turncoat prince. Just as long as you don’t watch ESPN for the next 8 or so years.

The Absolute Best Job in the World This Week

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AP Photo

Oooh... Ahhh...

If there is anyone who can not possibly have a cooler job as the Fourth of July nears, it is our brave officers and explosives experts who produce all those bits for the local news on how utterly dangerous fireworks can be in the hands of haphazard, ignorant rubes (i.e. us).

Many a mannequin and watermelon is sacrificed in this yearly ritual, but all vaporize honorably for public service… and entertainment. To say anyone whose duty is to blow things up to show people not to blow things up is not having fun is blasphemy against the very laws of the universe. The police are not only trained in explosives; they are trained in hiding their juvenile glee behind their mustaches as tiny crumbs of Molly the CPR Doll fly into the next county (which is all right since they likely stole the next county’s Molly for the demonstration in the first place). Blowing stuff up when you have the right conditions and opportunity is inherently and inescapably fun. It is the unwritten myth proven by the Mythbusters in nearly every episode they’ve ever made.

You know the only thing that makes this job not fun for the authorities. When after they spend a good day vaporizing produce and test dummies they still have to spend the next day responding to accidents where people blow off their hands and kill themselves with fireworks anyway. In fact, that kills everyone’s buzz. Seriously. So after you have your giggles with the safety videos, just take that extra few seconds, spark that bit of imagination that hasn’t yet been killed by quitting books and just superimpose your head over that mannequin’s. Yeah. When it comes to fireworks, you’re a schmuck. I’m a schmuck. Your Dos Equis-drinking uncle is a schmuck. DON’T LIGHT YOUR OWN FIREWORKS.

Maybe–just maybe–if we’re all good this year, the cops will be in a good enough mood to continue warning us about other things, like the hazards of walking under monster trucks, running in front of out-of-control flamethrowers or falling out of planes while strapped with live grenades.

Simple Saturday: Old School

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I sit on a flatbed pulled by a truck that has “Show Me The Twins” spelled out in large letters on its back liftgate. I am holding a euphonium.

All in another year of playing with the Pine Valley Royaltones Alumni Band. Band students from the history of the school make up the group, which play s in the annual Cherry Creek Independence Celebration parade down Main Street. We ride because marching would probably kill half of us.

I represent the Class of 2001. There are a couple guys still in the area who represent 2006. Everyone else is from the 1970s or back. We have no one who graduated from the ’80s or ’90s.

We play the same songs every year, which isn’t that bad since we only perform once per year. This time of year can get very repetitive, though. Yesterday I covered the same high school graduation ceremony I’ve been assigned to the past 5 years. I heard the same words. Saw the same processions. A one-time milestone for them; a reminder of my rut to me.

But sitting on the trailer, listening to the older members of the band as we waited for the parade to start, I watched the point to rundown, boarded up houses, describing how they were once vibrate homes and buildings. I haven’t seen much change around here, having stayed here through my life so far, but those who have left and come back, things have changed.

Things do change.

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