Weekends were once the sovereign territory of the working stiff.
Every tick and tock between the Friday exodus and Monday was consecrated ground, where a worker could roll down his sleeves, put up his feet and take a well-deserved breather between dances for the Man.
But that was before cell phones, beepers and email crept into our lives. The borders between work and play blurred. Suddenly our employers could reach out and touch us at any conceivable moment and in any conceivable place. Presently we are happy to carry our bosses’ voice in our pockets, we are all but a speed dial away from the very thing we spend our weekends drinking so hard to forget.
The weekend has been reduced to an ornamental shrub sharing soil with a large and hideous work tree. We tend the shrub and crouch in its meager shade, but all the while the tree’s roots worm their way in, stealing precious time and solace; its branches spread ever wider until they block out all the sunshine and joy.
Then, one black Saturday morning, the phone jangles you out of a recurring job-related nightmare and it’s work calling—they need you to come in for the third weekend in a row and suddenly it comes to you in a flash: your weekend isn’t even a lousy shrub—it’s an offshoot of the work tree. Somewhere along the way we surrendered the deeds to our ancestral lands and became sharecroppers.
Which is why the lost weekend is so vitally important. Fueled by alcohol, it is a magnificent bonfire of irresponsible joy, burning to cinder the deepest of roots, consuming in flame the broadest of branches, leaving nothing but ashes in which you can redraw the borders that have been so crassly violated.
Of course, burning something down to get it back doesn’t seem to make whole a lot of sense until you realize the same principle applies to nearly everything. For example, one of the few ways to regain your self-respect after your best girl cheats on you is to set her car on fire. And if the Man puts a boot on your fully-insured car because you have thousands of dollars in unpaid parking tickets? That’s right. You take a cab over to that little tramp’s house and set her new car on fire. See how that works?
Before you start lighting matches, however, you must tell yourself this: The weekend is mine. I am not renting it from the Man, it is mine even if I can’t find the deed right this exact second.
For you cannot lose something you do not possess, and you cannot find something you have not lost.
The Three Cardinal Rules of the Lost Weekend
1.) A lost weekend starts the moment you get off work Friday and continues until the wee hours of Monday morning.
2.) While awake there should always be an alcoholic beverage within easy reach. Pretend it’s a crucifix and you’re weekending at Count Dracula’s one-bedroom bungalow.
3.)You must forget at least 80% of the weekend. This is essential. Don’t fret about losing all those precious memories, your friends will remember enough to make you want to get drunk and forget them all over again.
Planning Your Trip
Some lost weekends don’t require planning. They happen all by themselves. Just showing up at a bar on Friday night enters you in the Lost Weekend Sweepstakes. Isn’t it exciting? There you are, thinking you’re just going for a little stroll, when you may well be taking the first steps of a wild and adventurous trek to Peru (or possibly Alaska, depending on which direction you happen to be strolling in.)
Most likely the stroll will take you no farther than, let’s be honest, the nearest liquor store. What kind of nutjob, after all, ducks out for a twelver and ends up trading shots with Eskimos?
Nutjobs who plan ahead, that’s who. As every great adventurer knows, preparation is the most important part of any successful expedition. Do you really think Admiral Peary didn’t already have a few Husky Stew recipes in mind before he started whipping those tasty beasts toward the North Pole?
Get Up Before You Get Down
There are several good books that will get you in the mood for unfettered debauchery, namely: The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. If you’re not the bookish sort, check out the films Withnail and I, Barfly, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Watch Leaving Las Vegas if you must, just be sure to turn it off the instant you hear Nicholas Cage yelp, “I’m a prickly pear!”
Scour your local free weekly for listings of drinks specials and plot your bar hopping accordingly. Carry a cheat sheet if necessary. If you don’t know already, find out which bars open in the morning. Some have excellent 7 am early bird happy hour specials.
When the troops landed on Omaha Beach you can bet they weren’t thinking, “So, where do we catch the noon shuttle to Berlin?” They had to capture a great many objectives along the way and so should you.
Conspire at least one major event for each day of your adventure. Plan to meet your drinking cronies for happy hour on Friday, promise one of your arty friends you will absolutely attend her gallery opening Saturday afternoon, arrange a drinking dinner with friends later in the evening, swear up and down you will catch a pal’s gig on Sunday. Make promises so insanely lavish that sheer guilt will force you to keep them.
A lost weekend is a keenly social event that largely plays out in bars, so you won’t need to lay in the kind of alcohol stores you’d need for a bender. In fact, too much booze—dare I say it—can be a bad thing. You want enough on hand to carry you through those dark hours when the bars are closed, yes, but if you lay in too much you might feel disinclined to leave your home in search of adventure.
Lay in a daring mix of liquor, beer and wine so your palate won’t lose interest. And don’t forget to assemble a Drunkard Revival Kit (more on that later.)
Dress Up to Get Falling Down Drunk
Shorts, flip-flops and a sleeveless “I Lost My Ass in Vegas” T-shirt might be your idea of supreme comfort, if not high fashion, but it’s a bartender’s idea of a guy draped in a big red flag. Unfair as it may be, a respectably-dressed patron is much more likely to be grossly overserved than a guy who looks like he just flip-flopped over from a monster truck rally.
One Day at a Time, Sweet Bacchus: The Timeline of a Lost Weekend
The most logical place to launch your adventure is the friendly port that is a Friday afternoon happy hour. Not only are the drinks cheap, it is also very fertile grounds for recruiting soldiers to your cause.
For, unlike benders, lost weekends are very conducive to camaraderie and fellowship. While a solo binger will tend to underestimate his natural limits, a pair or group of lost weekenders can encourage, threaten and cajole each other to dizzying new heights of drunken tomfoolery.
Ask a friend to join you on a full-bore bender and he’ll act as if you’re trying to simultaneously get him in a headlock and light the fuse of the Acme rocket strapped to your back and pointed toward God knows where. A lost weekend, with its definite length and high survival rate, is a much easier sell.
If you have to sell it at all. Talk a friend into showing up at all your drinking checkpoints and he might not even realize he’s on a wingding until he’s calling off work on Monday morning.
If you do find it difficult rallying troops to the cause, don’t hesitate to use craven trickery and outright deceit. Around midnight take a likely prospect aside and reveal that something awful has happened to you. Tell him a loved one has passed away, that you’ve been diagnosed with neck cancer or you discovered your significant other has been playing patty-cake with someone your friend is likely to despise. Act brave yet suicidally depressed. Stare off into the distance, as if your envisioning what sort of bridge you might like to jump off of.
If he’s any friend at all, he’ll stick with you. He may even buy you any number of drinks to buck you up, especially if you can create the impression that alcohol is the frayed tether that keeps you from lunging headlong over the cliff of depression and doom. It might go something like this:
You: I’ve got to get this off my chest, I have to tell someone. It’s ripping my guts out!
Potential Recruit: Jeez, what is it, man?
You: Well, it’s just that—(a choked sob would do very nicely here)—when Karen found out about my terminal thigh cancer she bailed on me.
PR: Holy shit!
You: What’s more, she’s moved in with your goddamn boss!
PR: Mrs. Wigley? My God, she must be sixty years old.
You: How do you think that makes me feel? The love of my life left me for a sixty-year-old boss woman! Just because I have terminal elbow cancer!
You: It’s spreading very quickly.
PR: Holy shit!
You: I don’t know what I’m gonna do. (Take a gander at that distant bridge.) I might as well just . . . just . . . (Pause for brave yet suicidally-depressed laughter.) Don’t worry about me, buddy! So long as I’ve got you and my old friend Jim Beam, I’m not gonna . . . you know . . .
PR: Hey, buck up, buddy! Can I get you a—
You: Double Beam rocks, just a smidgen of Coke and tell her to take it easy on the ice. Ice is bad for neck cancer.
PR: Neck? Holy shit!
Now, all this may seem crass, or even cruel, but believe you me, he’ll thank you for it later. Deep down inside he really wants to spend the entire weekend drinking with you. We all do. We just need a decent excuse to bail on all the petty commitments and chores that clutter the typical weekend. We need the power to say: “I have to drink with him! The fucker is on the brink of suicide! At the rate his cancer is spreading he won’t make it to divorce court! If it was one of your friends, wouldn’t you want to hit McGillicuddy’s for their excellent $2 well, wine and draft late-night happy hour which starts in exactly fifteen minutes?”
Somewhere down the road, of course, your little fib will be exposed as a monstrous lie. When your hoodwinked friend is done hollering at you for tricking him into thinking he was saving your life, do this: place your hand firmly on his shoulder, look him straight in the eye and say, “Or maybe, just maybe, I sacrificed my weekend to save your life. Think about it.” Don’t wait for him to think or thank you. Just walk away. Quickly.
Whether your recruiting attempts are successful or not, Friday night will most likely unfold like every other Friday night. It’s is the binging equivalent of a running head start. You were going to get drunk anyway. The real adventure begins when you wake up.
If Friday night can be compared to parading happily through cheering crowds on your way to the front, then Saturday morning is comparable to arriving at the front to the fanfare of a massive, bowel-wrenching artillery bombardment.
Your first inclination may very well be to hunker very low in the trench, or perhaps even to attempt to burrow your way to a place where people aren’t so excited about murdering you. But that, my craven friend, is not how wars are won and weekends are lost.
Saturday morning is the lost weekend’s first great test, this is when weaker drunks fall to the wayside. But not you. You cleverly planned ahead and have the tools in place to rally your flagging motivation. I am, of course, speaking of the Drunkard Revival Kit.
Drunkard Revival Kit
One gallon of pre-mixed Bloody Bulls
Two large bottles of Propel Sports Water
When horrifically hungover, the simple act of assembling a revival cocktail can seem a gargantuan task. Just glancing at a bottle of vodka might gag you. You can bypass both of these obstacles by premixing and refrigerating a jug of Bloody Bulls before you go to work on Friday. A Bloody Bull is nothing more than a Bloody Mary (the spicier the better) fortified with 2 oz. of beef bullion. If you want to makes things real easy on yourself, place a large thermos of the cocktail beside your bed before you go to sleep Friday night. This will save you the inconvenience and indignity of shoving yourself vertical and taking the cure in the kitchen.
Depending upon how happily you marched to the front, you may have to force the first one down. Just keep the faith and remember: where there’s hooch there’s hope.
Once you’ve shifted the contents of the thermos to your bloodstream and the bull has chased the ache from your head, you must rise and replenish the vitamins, minerals and fluids last night’s happy little parade stripped away.
Pop your multivitamins and chase it with the Propel. You’ll find the sports water much easier to get down than water or its sweeter competitors.
Now that you’ve addressed your body’s needs, you must now take to task the other, often neglected component of a typical hangover—guilt.
It’s true. Somewhere along the line, some uptight guy (who obviously never had the keen pleasure of hearing your brilliant karaoke rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Fart” sang to the beat of 15 grande margaritas ) decided that drinking a lot of alcohol in one sitting was somehow a bad thing. What’s worse, he managed to convince a bunch of other uptight people and because of that society looks down on heavy drinking.
Which causes, consciously or otherwise, most over-imbibers to feel guilty about the thing that makes them so joyously willing to step on stage and subvert Bonnie Tyler’s songwriting legacy.
I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to feel guilty about it at all. Well, except for that time you howled “I just finished fucking all your cats!” at an old lady from the sunroof of your buddy’s Camaro. You should feel very guilty about that.
Other than that instance of shameful behavior, which we won’t mention again, drinking alcohol does not make you a craven beast. Indeed, you are carrying on a long and storied legacy that hails from the very dawn of human history. Realize that the vast majority of the great men and women of history, the very pillars on which every great society was built, partied hard. You are not following the example of the worst and the weakest, you are walking in the footsteps of the best and the brightest.
Make sure your comrades understand this too. If they happen to be sprawled on your sofa or floor, wake them up and let them know they don’t have to feel guilty about anything. And remember, nothing makes a soldier more eager for battle than a favorable recounting of their previous triumphs.
You: Dude! Wake up! I’ve got something to tell you!
Your Friend Who Is Curled Into A Fetal Position Around The Base Of Your Toilet: Fuggu.
You: What? That almost sounded like you said “Fuck you.”
You: What? Anywho, I just wanted to tell you that you don’t have to feel guilty about partying down! All the great people of history partied down! I think I even read once that George Washington and Ben Franklin used to ride around drunk as fuck in a bitching carriage, screaming mean shit at old ladies with cats!
You: That almost sounded like “I’m gonna fucking kill you.” Anyways — dude! You were awesome last night! Do you remember puking on the top of that fat girl’s head while trying to hump her shoulder? That was so triumphant!
Now, I know you may be thinking that you don’t require any special mixtures or mind tricks or motivational speeches to shove past a hangover. But that’s only because you’re an idiot.
Just kidding! Sure, you’ve pulled through plenty of mornings after with nothing more than a couple smokes and two hours of gentle weeping.
But realize this: you cannot just survive the beast, you have to kill it dead because you have two more solid days and nights of drinking and shoulder humping ahead of you. You don’t have the luxury hugging your Willy the Wacky Whale stuffed animal while watching Gilligan and the gang fuck up yet another easy escape from the island. You have to fully regroup, march right back to front and boogie down like Ben and George.
Ready to sally forth? Good. Because Saturday is Action Day. What sort of action is entirely up to you and your pal coming out of your bathroom holding your shower rod like a baseball bat.
A Quick Word About Cell Phones
They’re great for getting cabs, rallying the troops, reminding drunk-dialed ex-lovers why they left you, and calling the cops while being chased down the street by a lunatic with a shower rod, but also realize they are one of the roots you are trying to destroy. You should probably run in a big circle until you’re close enough to throw it on your lawn.
Putting a Name to Your Adventure
The Soused Safari
Spend the afternoon and evening exploring as many bars as humanly possible. A dashing pith helmet is certain to earn you respect from the local natives.
The Pie-Eyed Piper
Attempt to get as many friends as possible to join you at a bar. Unite the tribe and get them to lay brutal siege to all the shiny bottles while you wage your own very personal and extremely clandestine war on their bar tabs.
Take a tour of your town’s version of skid row. Slouch on barstools in dim dives and rap with the retirees. You might learn something. Like how to ignore some annoying drunk guy who keeps asking about “how people used to screw in the old timey days.”
The Running of the Taps
Settle down in the bar with the most taps in town and make a run down their length. Race your friends. A friendly wager (the entire bar tab, for instance) can only add to the fun.
The Cardboard Launching Pad
Convince yourself that this is much more than just a three-day spree—it is, in fact, the start of a whole new life. Swear to anyone who will listen that you’re quitting your job, cashing in your bank account and following your long-delayed dream of moving to Paris and becoming an artist. You are, of course, much more likely to be looking over a spreadsheet than the supine body of a nude model come Monday morning. But, at least for a few precious and wonderful days, you won’t feel like a big scaredy-cat loser who doesn’t have a chance in hell of ever having sex with a French model.
Drinking the Alphabet
Take an old-school bartender’s guide to a well-stocked bar and try to drink a cocktail from each letter of the alphabet. You’re likely to meet at least a few new friends amongst those pages. And don’t worry, bartenders just love it when you point out their professional incompetence by dictating drink recipes at them from a book that was published the year the Applejack Posset Flip was all the rage.
Plastered with Picasso
Buy a box of wine and a three-foot length of flexible plastic tubing the diameter of a drinking straw (readily available in your local hardware store). Remove the foil bladder from the box, push one end of the tubing into the nozzle of the bladder, then seal the space around the tubing with a large wad of chewing gum. Duct tape the bladder across your belly, run the tubing up under your clothes and tape the free end to your chest. Make sure you’re able to bow your head and reach the open end of the tube with your lips. Cover with a loose jacket. All you need to do is give your “wine belly” a gentle squeeze and can clandestinely drink at will while touring your local art museum. I think you’ll find that even the most dreary of paintings will “come alive” when you’re blasted on cheap wine. Just make sure you don’t bump anyone with your “wine belly” or the sudden spray of a fluid that eats paint might make the security guards “come alive” with their Tasers.
Hey, you made it! How do you feel, buddy? What’s that? I could have swore you just said you wanted to take a shower rod and—well, never mind that. Maybe you should go back to sleep for a while and try to wake up with a better attitude.
You will want to sleep in. Two days of hard boozing will have taken its toll and you’re going to need lots of energy for the final leg of the lost weekend.
When you finally do wake up, you’re likely to find your hangover considerably less blaring than its wicked predecessors. How come? Why, it’s because you’ve sustained permanent brain damage.
Just kidding! The real reason is Fitzgerald’s Fugue has set in.
Named for the brilliant, perpetually-pickled F. Scott Fitzgerald, you will find yourself feeling a tad numb, possibly even a bit light-headed. This is because your body has adjusted to the constant stream of alcohol pumping through your system. The way your body sees it, you’re not using your head for anything more intellectually challenging than trying to find out if dropping your keys five times in front of your door will make it magically spring open, so it has parked your brain in a sort of mental holding pattern.
Nothing much will concern you. Everything will seem rather silly and you will laugh for no apparent reason at all. You will feel as if you’re coasting through a light fog, mildly amused by the shrouded shapes drifting by. Which is fine so long as the shapes aren’t motor vehicles.
But beware. While Sunday may seem a cakewalk compared to Friday and Saturday, you are about to face a test much more dangerous and alluring than the most proximate of karaoke microphones. You must lean mightily into the oars and row past a bewitching siren who will attempt to lure your lost weekend into the submerged rocks of complacency.
I am, of course, speaking of the lifetime of programming that has tricked us into thinking that Sunday is not a day to be partied down upon.
From the moment we learned to tell one day from another, we’ve been taught to view Sunday as the great day of rest, recuperation and sucking up to God; the buffer zone between weekend revelry and ritual toil where much wound-licking takes place so you can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed enough to pretend you’re doing something job-like in the copy room.
You must fight this brainwashing with all your might. It is a tender trap and a terrible lie. It just so happens Sunday is a perfectly fine day for carousing. For one thing, God parties down. When Jesus whacked that water fountain with his stick, his dad didn’t hook him up with some crappy grape juice, now did he? No, he hooked up his kid with wine, and I bet it was a pretty decent vintage too. Do you know why he did that? Because he wants us to party down.
Secondly, all the amateur drunks will be at home weeping gently into their stuffed animals, so you won’t have to stand in line at the bar. And finally, it’s the best drink special night of the week.
A Place in the Sun
There is nothing quite like lounging on a bar patio on a Sunday afternoon. It’s a time for Bloody Marys and margaritas, for relaxation and casual conversation, for telling an endless string of winos to fuck off, goddamn you, I already told you I don’t have any change, this bulge in my pocket is my goddamn Taser.
But don’t just sit there threatening homeless unfortunates. You must plan. Secure a copy of the local free weekly and peruse the drink specials. There will be a variety to choose from because Sunday is for SINners.
Sousing with the SINners
About fifty years ago a clever bar owner realized that most service industry workers get Sunday off and thought it a good idea to lure them to his bar with drink specials just for them. And why not? They’re a very attractive group of customers. They drink a lot, no one tips better and they will enthrall you with how they brilliantly “covered not one, but two sections because that bitch Margie called in sick and of course a fucking twelve top of tourists saunters in and they’re obviously from Moosefuck, Canada or someplace else where no one knows how to tip and—you won’t believe this shit—they order cups of boiling water and bring out their own fucking tea bags—cheap fucks!—and you can’t even enter in cocksucking cups of boiling water on the D-Series Oasis Terminal and I just know I’m going to be boomeranging hella spit-fixes and whacking beaucoup weeds before I tag third base with this crap top of gack-backs!”
And just wait until you hear what happened in Section Two.
You might be thinking, “Gee, I’d love to take advantage of those nifty SIN specials, but I’m afraid I don’t work in the service industry.”
Well, that’s a shame! I guess you better run home and mail in that jury duty summons and answer all those promising business queries from Dr. Numbanktu, formerly of the Nigerian Oil Ministry.
Actually, it doesn’t really matter if you work in the industry or not. You just have to pretend you do. Very few bars will actually demand you produce a pay stub, and if they do, give them the dead-eyed stare a weed-whacking waitress gives a gack-back who’s trying to boomerang a spit-fix for the third time. If that doesn’t work, tell ‘em about the shit that went down in Section One. They’ll come around.
Overall, you’ll find the SINners a generous and convivial bunch, and you’ll want to befriend as many as possible. If you’ve never worked in the industry, they’ll lend you valuable insights, like how a spit-fix is when a cook turns your undercooked steak into a medium-rare steak by spitting on it and flipping it over. As opposed to the dick-fix, where he fixes it by touching it with his penis.
You’ll also discover service industry workers behave quite differently than when they’re not forced to serve you. Bartenders that you think are just a bunch of snotty pricks while on the clock, for example, can be quite arrogant and condescending when they’re off duty. Cocktail waitresses that meet your romantic queries with formalities such as “Do I have to get the bouncer?” while on the job will be much less uptight when they’ve let their hair down in a non-work environment. Instead, they’ll say, “Do I have to get Bruno?” You’ll note that Bruno will look a lot like the bouncer, except his hair will be down.
An additional benefit of mixing with this clique is if you become pals with an off-duty bartender, then visit her bar while she’s working, she’ll “take care of you” every time you come in. Make sure you tip her well because she’s going to want to have some drinks next Sunday while she’s telling her SIN buddies about the asshole stalker who keeps coming in her bar thinking he’s going to get some free drinks.
Monday Morning, Coming Down
The alarm clock will peal like Hell’s own bells and you’ll come to like a man drowning in cigarette-flavored Jello trying to claw his way to the surface. You can expect to be even deeper into the Fugue, but that’s okay because you know what? You took back your weekend.
Looking back at your achievement will be akin to peering through thick smoke, and it should—you burned that motherfucker to the ground. You fought your way across the width and breadth of your weekend like a liquored-up Genghis Khan, burning and looting as you went.
You will be powerfully tempted to call off work. Don’t do it. To do so is to steal a certain measure of glory from your triumph. You are a soldier returning from a vicious but victorious campaign. If you show weakness, the invaders will counter-attack, your next weekend may suffer in the form of a make-up shift or take-home work. Suck down a Bloody Bull, rally what little physical resources you have left, and advance into enemy territory.
The invaders will come skulking back, to be sure, and be certain you will have to mount future campaigns of reconquest.
You may already be counting the days.