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I write you this now, from the bottom of the black pit that is my soul and liver. It is Sunday night, just before 10 p.m. After a five and a half hour drive, I have arrived home to a house with no clean sheets, no food, and the knowledge that I put on about five pounds from eating and drinking over the long weekend I took beginning on the 4th of July.
While I spent the first half of that weekend in our nation’s capital, home of the defending Stanley Cup Champions (I’ll never get tired of saying that), on Friday my girlfriend and I made the pilgrimage back to my home state of New Jersey. We stayed at a very nice beach house provided graciously by one of her friends with her college sorority sisters (with me and some tag-along boyfriends in tow). During this weekend, it became incredibly evident that my drinking prime has long passed me by.
The headaches and cotton-mouth I was feeling this morning are long gone, thanks in part to some Liquid IV (not a Touching Base plug, but I swear to god that stuff is miracle liquid. Use promocode PUMP). But even after the hangover effects subsided, after a long morning and afternoon on the beach which left me with a sunburn, I began to feel the embers of the Sunday Scaries burn. Through the drive, on which we hit all the beach traffic heading back, I did all I could to quell a mild panic attack. Instead of coping by doing some laundry, light cleaning, playing some Minecraft, and watching one of the Fast and Furious movies for the hundredth time, I’m dealing with these feelings the best way I can: blurting them onto paper before I inevitably pass out from sheer exhaustion and terror.
Without further ado, here’s approximately how my body and mind held up during that long weekend.
The girlfriend and I wake up around eight, take our time making some breakfast and finishing up our last minute packing. We pick up a couple of her friends, pack up the car and we’re on the road by about 9:30.
Driving about four hours to New Jersey is cake. I did it every year in my youth when traveling home to see family. I’ve driven ten plus hours straight on multiple occasions. Four hours, even though I’m still a bit tired, is a walk in the park.
We arrive at the beach house before everyone else. It’s raining, which is great because I’m tired and kind of want to chill. So most of the early afternoon is spent unpacking my car and watching the historic upset of Belgium over Brazil before heading to the grocery store.
Now, as we are all aware, the shopping trip before a vacation weekend is absolutely crucial. Luckily, I am there to lead this expedition and help us strategically pick out our snacks and meals for the next three days. Of course, we get all the grilling essentials for dinners (although I was overruled on getting Nathan’s franks in favor of the store brand, which I continue to maintain was a crucial error), and then stop by a liquor store for the essential provisions.
Now, I am not much of a beer snob. But when my girlfriend, Jennie, her friend Lana and (most disturbingly) Lana’s boyfriend Rob suggested we get Bud Light Lime for the drink of choice I was…let’s say unenthused. Now, Bud Light is a fine drink for when you’re deep into a buzz at a bar and need to ride that momentum. But Bud Light Lime is Budweiser’s attempt to clone Corona that went horribly wrong, escaped the underground lab it was made in, and rampaged through the nearby town killing hundreds. To have it be the only beer to sip, with only spiked seltzers and straight liquors to accompany it, is a tall task. I made a hard push for a nice lager (Landshark is my unquestioned favorite beach drink) and was even willing to concede to something like a Corona or Mich Ultra. But ultimately, I was voted down and resigned myself to drinking beer that someone left an old, green-apple flavored Jolly Rancher in for the next 72 hours.
The burden, the honor, of grillmaster on the opening night falls to me. In some cultures, it would make me king of the tribe, but on this weekend it just makes me the guy everyone is eyeing to make sure they don’t get food poisoning. Navigating an unfamiliar grill can be as unforgiving and terrifying as navigating a foreign jungle. But using my wits, instincts, and grilling know-how, I’m eventually able to make my way to a successful plate of barbecue chicken, with no piece left too overcooked or raw.
After dinner, the night is pretty chill. It’s nothing but drinking out by the house’s pool, roasting s’mores on a fire pit, and reminiscing about the college days. Eventually, Jennie and I establish ourselves as the “old couple” of the trip by going to bed first at 12:30 a.m. I regret nothing, especially given how the following day plays out.
Game day. This is what I was warned about, heard the hype about, and had steeled myself to. After a hearty breakfast of real New Jersey bagels to fuel our endeavors, we set off on a half hour boat ride before arriving at F cove. Basically, it’s an inlet off the bay where you can park your boat and hang out all day while you get annihilated. And indeed that is what we do.
For six solid hours, it’s nothing but sitting on the boat drinking, floating around the inlet drinking, swimming and throwing the football around drinking. You get the idea. It’s the right mix of low key, with our group keeping to ourselves, and unbridled hype with tons of Jersey bros blasting their terrible techno music. Perfectly balanced. Thanos would be thrilled.
Eventually, we’re forced to leave with nothing but killer tans, a wicked buzz, and a ton of memories preserved on Insta.
On returning home, we still have a good amount of time to kill before we go out for the night, so I use the brief intermission to get in an hour and a half power blackout. When I awaken, I chug water, hop back on the grill, and start rebuilding the buzz much like DJ Pauly D and Ron Ron would build that beat. Yes, I am aware how big of a trashy douchebag I am coming off now. Don’t care. This is my one blackout day per quarter and I took fucking advantage.
Hoo boy. So dinner, pregaming, yada yada yada. Let’s get to the night out.
We end up at a bar called Leggetts Sand Bar in Manasquan, NJ. It is right on the corner of a collection of bars that my father used to frequent back when he was a rowdy rascal younger than myself. I can almost hear the ghosts of the bouncers throwing him out, and now confusing me for him with gasps of horror.
Leggetts is…God it’s just the best terrible bar I’ve ever been in.
You know those kinds of bars, the ones that are packed to the rafters, run down, beat up. You couldn’t stand to be in them for more than 10 minutes if you’re anything less than drunk, but they have the added benefit of serving up cheap, quickly mixed drinks at a rapid-fire pace. The clientele is both the kind of people I hate and yet has a familiar comfort.
Update: every dude in this place either looks like my uncle or like he’s going to challenge me to an arm wrestling contest at any moment
— Josh Tyler (@joshetyler) July 8, 2018
To my surprise, though, everyone is jovial and friendly. If you bump into someone, it’s not grounds for fisticuffs, and strangers are toasting us all around.
I’m instantly given two beers. I initially think it’s a mistake, but as the night progresses I realize that any time one hand is empty someone in our crew determines it to be a great insult that must be immediately rectified. It’s like a game of Edward 40 Hands mixed with hot potato and everyone is against me. There are also shots interspersed randomly. Shots. Though I protest every time (sue me, I’m old), somehow the others Jedi mind trick me into taking them. My liver screams like it’s being tortured by Jack Bauer.
So it goes pretty well. There’s a lot of dancing, a lot of rowdiness, the single girls in our crew are macking with guys, Jennie and her friends actually get on some chairs and dance (which I have evidence of for future…negotiations). But my god, that bar’s playlist is just the most amazing. In a half hour span, they play Celine Dion, Sum 41, Linkin Park, Michelle Branch, and the Lion King soundtrack. I didn’t realize how good of a drunk song “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” is, but it’s easily in my top 10 now.
Eventually, it’s closing time, so we hop out and get an Uber home. I desperately want drunk pizza, never passing up on a chance for a Jersey slice, but I’m again overruled and have to settle for some homemade grilled cheeses. We’re in bed by about 3 a.m. It was a night to remember, and unfortunately, I won’t.
Hangovers in your late 20s are debilitating. I’d rather lose a limb than suffer what I felt on Sunday morning again. Luckily, we’re able to recover (again, bless Liquid IV) and make it over to the beach for a little morning relaxation and some last tanning/sunburning before wrapping the weekend. This is where my anxiety/the Scaries begin to kick in. I’m not ready to leave and have to deal with an actual work week, especially when I know with traffic we won’t be home with enough time for me to decompress and play some video games. I’m mentally exhausted, because even though all these people around me are awesome, I’ve had to be “on” and socializing for three straight days. I’m tired and ready to go home. Luckily, that’s exactly what happens later in the afternoon.
This weekend was important to me, not just because it was a great time that gave me lasting memories, but because it also gave me some important insights into my perspective and life. First, I am old and washed up, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still go hard. Second, vacations can actually be fun if you spend them with good company. Finally, and this is critical, “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” fucking goes at 1 a.m. .