Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Return of Day Drinking!

Four years ago I found myself unemployed at the same time as several friends of mine. It began with Tom, who lost his job in September 2003, mere days before he and I went on vacation with our friend Chris to North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. Tom was very calm about his work situation and simply took the rest of the year off before beginning to look for a new job at the start of 2004.

I was let go from my job in December 2003 and was not nearly so Zen about my circumstances. I was rather well grounded at first, knowing full well that I'd land on my feet, but my positive attitude didn't last. I pretty much took the holidays off because you can't find a job during the last three weeks of December, anyway, and also began my employment search in early January. However, being a person who needs stability and a bit of control, I quickly became anxious. I had plenty of money saved, but spending it frightened me. And I began to wonder if I'd find a decent job in my chosen profession. As it happened, I found an even better job in my chosen profession, but back in those dark winter days of early 2004, who knew how everything would work out?

Since we were both unemployed, Tom and I did a lot of chatting during that time. One day he mentioned that he and his friend Jessica, who was also between jobs, had developed a semi-regular lunch habit during which they'd always have beer to accompany their meals. Somehow, that lead Tom and me to decide to take one day off from job hunting every week or two and find somewhere to drink during the day (forget lunch, you can eat at home). Day drinking came with some pretty specific rules: it had to take place in an actual bar on a weekday, and the imbibing had to begin by 2 p.m., at the latest.

Day drinking took us to a wide variety of watering holes, including the Gold Dust Lounge, the Phoenix and Zeitgeist. As winter turned to spring and then to summer, our family of mid-day partiers grew. Unfortunately, Jessica proved to be a short term day drinker when she landed a job within a matter of weeks. By mid-March, I began working part-time, but my employment was very part-time, and I certainly could still fit day drinking into my schedule. Sometime in the spring Suzanne jumped into the mix, and in May Chris quit his job. Even though she was employed full time, Gretchen would sometimes join us, as she worked at night. Even Irina, who lives in L.A. but was also without a job back then, would come up to San Francisco to day drink on occasion.

At some point, I'm not sure how or why, the other bars faded into the background, and the Orbit Room, with its floor to ceiling windows and cafe-like atmosphere, became our day drinking spot of choice. Over time, however, our schedules grew more congested, and eventually we all found gainful employment. Thus the end of day drinking.

Until yesterday, that is. Even though we all have full time jobs, Suzanne corralled us back to the Orbit Room for a few Friday afternoon cocktails. She and I are pictured to the left enjoying the return of day drinking. (For the record, my work schedule does allow me to indulge in the occasional Wednesday or Thursday day drinking, but it never involves the 2004 day drinking crowd.) Our day drinking this time around was more like a traditional happy hour, given that we are committed to our employers. I worked an early shift at my job and arrived at the Orbit Room by 4:15. Ronn, whom I know through Chris, was behind the bar and concocted a lovely beverage for me with fresh strawberries and basil (okay, and vodka). Suzanne showed up next at 5 p.m. with her coworkers Zeina and Alexandra. At about 5:30, Chris made his entrance, and Tom pulled up the rear at 6:00. More cocktails were enjoyed, including one with fresh peaches and ginger, and the day drinking tradition was revived.

While waiting for the others, I had chatted a little bit with a couple playing Scrabble at the bar. When Chris saw them about an hour later, he knew he had to meet them so he could play. We coaxed them to our table, where an intense game ensued. It was Chris and Zeina, pictured here deep in strategy, against our new friends Val and John. It turns out Val and John were either lightweights or several cocktails ahead of us because they were a bit tipsy. To the point that Val began telling us details of her sex life that definitely fall under the category of too much information. We were also a tiny bit scared when she asked us if we "like to party," but overall, Val and John were quite nice. Chris and Zeina won the Scrabble game, by the way.

After the sun set, Zeina and Alexandra had to go, Chris had a dinner date, and Tom, Suzanne and I hit Zeitgeist for Roland's birthday party. And here's what I learned: on a Wednesday afternoon Zeitgeist is one of the greatest bars on the planet, but on a Friday night it sucks. Between the wall to wall people and the incredibly rude staff (who were probably driven to said rudeness by the maddening crowd, but still), going home began to look like a very attractive option. The cold San Francisco evening didn't help matters; so after one beer and a two tamales from the Tamale Lady, I called it a night. That is the good thing about day drinking: you can have a full evening and still get home and to bed at a decent hour.

After all was said and done, however, I felt a bit like crap when I woke up this morning. I wasn't so much hungover as just very aware that I'd poured alcohol into my system. I think I've become more sensitive to liquor since I've only been drinking two days a week (by and large) for the last 14 months. And that crappy feeling kind of makes me want to quit drinking altogether.

Kind of, anyway. Day drinking just wouldn't work with lemonade.

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