The Art of a Bender: Thoughts From the Maritimes

It hit me yesterday at St. Francis Xavier University Homecoming. I had been partying every day for five days straight. My teeth were sticky, my eyes were reduced to blood-shot slits, my hair was oily, my t-shirt was nasty with sweat from a mini “curls for the girls” workout a couple days before… I was on a bender.

You know you are on a university bender when you realize that the peanut butter you finger-banged at some random afternoon pre-drink was the last time you ate since the three strips of bacon you absolutely needed at breakfast.

—————–

Summer 50% off deal on Porter Ottawa to Halifax cost me $266. Can’t go wrong with that! 

Getting the voyage started off right with some free beer and the healthiest thing I’ll eat all week.

I was inspired to go because so many of my fellow suburban bro(hemian)s have made the pilgrimage out east for the scenery and the fishing so I thought I’d check it out.

Ya right! Who am I kidding? They are there for the booze, parties and to get as far away from Ottawa as they can afford. I wanted to find out for sure…

As a recent university graduate who attended a party university and who has attended the two most famous homecoming weekends in Canada (Queens and St. Francis Xavier University), I wanted to “live the dream” once more and party like I just changed from Poli Sci into Accounting for the money (isn’t everyone in business these days?).

Perhaps when I rushed to hand in my final exam paper at Concordia last May I was hastily skipping out on the best party times I will ever have.

Handing in my final academic paper this past April got me pretty pumped up. I was definitely glad to be done.

Or not… Who cares if I’m still partying with people who are in my age bracket. No one cares if someone is 20 or 22…at least they shouldn’t. Judge me if you want. Since graduating in May I have never felt awkward for partying with university students. The window of opportunity, though, won’t last much longer.

——————

Sitting in the Halifax airport looking back on a five day bender where I met dozens if not hundreds of people I may never see again, fallen “in love” on at least six occasions (seven if you count my airport soul mate from 30 minutes ago), and, of course, poisoned my body to an extremely inhuman extent, I wonder if there are lessons to take away from it…

At the same time, I insist that drinking and drugs is not necessary, at all. In fact it can take away from the experience. All drinking does is put you into the now. If you can keep your spirits up and enjoy yourself there is absolutely no reason to do it.

Eckhart Tolle wrote The Power of Now. Read it.

And what a NOW experience I had!

St. FX is like an American university that you would expect university to be. Everyone plays sports, drinks copious amounts of alcohol and owns every piece of clothing and paraphernalia from the campus clothing store. Blue X’s are everywhere. X is probably the coolest letter to have in a school name followed closely by Z like at the Zoo in UMass Amherst.

You know I had to get into it too! My favourite white T was smothered in blue and white paint – a sort of rustic looking X. I also painted my face blue and white under my eyes and wore an X bandana. There are photos out there somewhere in Facebook land, but I haven’t been able to locate them just yet.

School spirit at its best.

Each student counts down the days until they get their X-ring. A gold square ring donned by every single one of the university’s alumni. But get this. For a guy with a larger finger, they could spend up to $1100 on a ring! Yikes!

The X-RING for a modest $1100.

As for the town of Antigonish, where St. FX is located, it is extremely small with a local population less than its student population. Its rolling hills and blue skies (when it’s not raining and mucky) really do honour to the stories of the Maritimes I hear and watch in many Heritage moment government-paid-for commercials. I can see why my good friend who I was visiting fell in love with it.

On this particular weekend, Antigonish was howling. Saturday morning started with 8am morning pancake mixers for many. For others that couldn’t peel their face off the carpet floor they found themselves sleeping on, the day started a little later.

Pancake mixer. Green pancakes? Glad I wasn’t there for this guy…

The morning rituals vary on any given day-drink bender… Smoke a bowl of weed, drop a shot of vodka in some OJ, finish the beers on the counter… all allegedly cure the hangover and pull your screaming stiff muscles into a shithole of fuckedupness even when it hasn’t yet recovered, let alone ceased being intoxicated.

DON’T try and remember what happened the night before. That time will come later.

Jellow shots following a pancake mixer. Some of these little blue cups were double shots. Oh by the way, this was at an all-girl household.

Make sure that you try to attend as many house parties as possible. Predrinks and house mixers are definitely the best way to meet cool and fun people. The bar/club/pizza parlour outside the club is never ideal, but you should go to them later anyways.

If you are worried about the music at a predrink/party, step up and plug in your music. Some words of advice for this. First, don’t use Youtube unless you are prepared to be there to change the next song with another tab open to avoid the awkward silence. 8tracks.com will work well enough. Second, don’t cut off songs midway you jerk. Third, acoustic/rock/hip hop is totally fine to listen to at a party. Fourth, don’t play dubstep. Ever.

Like any bender there were songs that come up again and again. One of them was Old Crow Medicine Show “Wagon Wheel,” another was “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers, another was one of my favourites of the summer: “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore. I can’t believe how big this has gotten! I’m so proud of Macklemore. #Sharkfacegang :P.

How places like Antigonish can build up a downtown core with cafes, antiques and poster shops without planning out an affordable grocery store in the area never ceases to amaze me. The same can be said for North Hampton, Massachusetts – the lesbian capital of America neighbouring UMass Amherst – where there are more yoga studios per capita than in all of India (not a fact).

Cool little granola cafe in the Nish.

Now, the same can’t be said for Halifax. It seems, from my short-lived three-day experience there, that the old harbour town was well thought out. They centralize the students in a pure, stereotypical student ghetto as far away as possible from the downtown core. They also have crunched drunk food to one small strip, so anyone with a craving for a sloppy Willy’s poutine or the Halifax classic, donair, with a huge shot of its famous jizz-like sauce substance can get it close by.

Photo by My Sous Chef is a Dog WordPress blog

But, in the end I did not really like Halifax as a city in my short few days there. I found it too much like Ottawa, the place I have experienced most in life, by far.

I had to try all the spots though. At Maxwell’s Plumb you can get a Brewmaster 80oz beer contraption for 23 bucks along with a steak dinner that costs just $6.99! It kind of made me sad cause I will never ever chow down on delicious cow muscle for that cheaply in a restaurant again.

80oz Brewmaster pitcher at Maxwell’s Plumb in Halifax

Similarly, at Ale House you can get a pound of wings (literally the best wings I’ve ever had) and a pitcher for $15! The also have the waitresses dress in cute little Scottish dresses that are oh so wrong, but oh so right! I’d like to make a shout-out to the first love of my life on the trip. The waitress who served us – the rowdy group of 7 brohemians. I will always love…your wildly interesting name!

Group photo at Ale House with our amazing server.

After we left her, we went to Split Crow where you can get 26 pints for $65! What a deal!

A small portion of the tray of beers at Split Crow.

Except before you go running there, the waiter there is an absolute jerk. The guy refused to split the check. Apparently, after 15 years this is the first time anyone has asked for a split check. It’s a button on the waiter screen buddy, its not 1845. I’m a waiter, I know.

A crappy thing about the East Coast is that the obsession with beer does not translate to good prices at the beer store (NSLC). Any American racking up a 30 rack of Keystone for $14.99 or a $10 bottle of Rubinoff vodka would cringe at the sight of the $21 12 packs of the cheapest beer. Regardless, the beer is pretty cheap at the bar, so that’s good.

The best time I had in Halifax though was at the Pogue. The Pogue is the definition of what the Halifax hype is all about. It’s the definition of what university hype is all about. Hundreds of gorgeous (and pretty nice) girls, a live band and cheap beer. If you were there last Thursday, I probably talked to you.

Something to note for any bender is to no matter how drunk you are, do your best to pull your mind away from the initial judging and remember their name. No matter how much everyone hates when they forget a name, everyone still calls you out on it. An easy trick is to associate the name with something you can think of quickly like Diana = Princess Diana or Barbara = Ba-Ba-Ba-Barbara Ann (for the last one remember not to sing that out loud). You will also likely, have a discussion about the name. My sympathies out there for all those with a difficult to pronounce name! But when you get it, those are the easiest ones to remember. The thing with names is that you don’t know if it’s useful to remember them if it’s going to be a one second encounter, so you pass it off until you get remotely interested and its important to remember. Avoid this impulse and just remember it!

Another thing. Don’t fall in love.

No matter how much you both think jellyfish are cool animals, like doing shrooms at the cottage and listening to Bon Iver you cannot invest yourself emotionally into people you see at bars or parties or airports. I’m not saying to be cold, but you have to remember that you probably won’t see these people again and that the strongest validation comes from within, not that random hookup.

Screw it! Fall in love.

Forget what I just said about not falling in love! When that person throws on Gangnam Style and knows the entire dance and you think it’s the coolest thing ever, go tell her! When you see that cute guy/girl, go up and talk to them! If I have learned anything from meeting thousands and thousands of people throughout my life, the most liberating and fun times are when you completely release any inhibitions and be utterly and wholly honest. Talk to them on the bus, in the airport, on the street, in the bar, wherever!

To repeat: Talk to everyone. There is absolutely no reason to be shy especially on vacation. As a friend I got to know on the bus back from Antigonish to Halifax put it: “Its crazy how you meet people that you know you’d be close with or have a chance with if you met under different circumstances. Makes life cool though.”

Indeed :).

For example, at Homecoming I saw this cute, jean jacket-wearing hipster girl and immediately went up to talk to her. We hit it off immediately and went up to her room to look at her hat collection…

“I can’t,” she said.

“Why, do you have a boyfriend?”

“No, a girlfriend.”

Stop the presses!

Whatever though, the girl was awesome and we hit it off immediately. I had found a new partner in crime at Homecoming :P. No harm, no foul. It’s never a waste of time to meet a new person, so go for it!

There is also nothing wrong with adding them on Facebook afterwords either. You may see them later on, who knows. You can always block them if things get weird…

That’s enough random thoughts for now.

I’m about to touch down here in Ottawa. Back to work and a break from benders.

Next stop, South America! Stay tuned :P!

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