Friday, March 14, 2008

The earliest St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

Easter comes early this year and that means that Bogotá will be emptying out starting Saturday morning. That puts a crimp in one of the great moneymaking festivals of the year for the Irish Pub in the Zona Rosa – St. Patty’s Day. It falls on Sunday this year anyway, which isn’t a great day for out of control green beer drinking. So, The Pub decided to hold the “holiday” on Wednesday night. Attendance of this event is, of course, mandatory.

It goes without saying that partying on a Wednesday night is not the greatest idea in the world. Not only does one have to work the next day, but dealing with a hangover in a non-English speaking environment is much, much more complicated than one would expect. Language aside, there is a cultural aspect that bears mentioning. In the UK, when one chances to be hungover on a Thursday, the entire office knows it, understands it, and provides one a wide berth. But in Colombia, in a culture in which it is considered rude not to greet fellow co-workers warmly (over the top in many cases), there is no amount of hiding and/or dodging that can avoid the exacerbation of alcohol induced pain.

Therefore, I pledged to take it easy. Fatigue I can deal with. But I learned my lesson in the old job re: hangovers. Plus, last Friday I went out with a different mate to a British Pub in Usaquen, ate food, and spent the next 24 hours in bed or at the porcelain goddess retching my guts out. I will not be returning to the Eight Bells. Ever. Again. (Second time I’ve gotten food poisoning from that place.)

My friends, however, were of a different mind. When I arrived at a fashionably late 6:40 pm, I found my friends had already drunk half a bottle of Jamison. Now I don’t mind drinking Scotch – down here it’s the “sophisticated” drink of choice. And I have drunk my fair share (there are more varieties of Scotch available down here, on average, than you’ll ever find in the US – specialty shops excluded). But I wouldn’t say Scotch is my preferred beverage and I wasn’t particularly excited by it. That actually turned out to be a good thing because I drank very slowly which fit in with my “do not get FUBB” strategy. Later, we had the obligatory pint of green beer.

The Pub (its actual name) was packed, just like last year. It’s a great moneymaking event. Anyway, here are a few observations:

1. Once again, the security guard sized me up and let me pass without giving me the metal detecting wand. The one situation where being a gringo is an advantage.

2. At 730 pm, a friend went to the toilet. When he came back he told me that some bloke had puked green beer right in front of him, all over the bathroom floor. At 730. Way to party all night there tiger.

3. The Pub had a promotion on Jamison (we actually won a free bottle which my friend took home) and the promotion worked. Conservatively estimated, they moved 100 bottles that night if not more.

4. Virtually everyone at The Pub spoke some level of English. That’s generally what you find when you go to Zona Rosa anyway, but more so for the Irish Day of Drinking. It’s the closest one can come to an English speaking environment in a non-US Embassy event in Bogota, if you’re into that sort of thing.

5. My friend (the Costeño) talks louder and more gregariously than pretty much anyone I’ve ever known. He is royally entertaining and is the only English speaking friend that I have here that speaks like a native. He’s also a spitter in that when he gets all animated, the spittle flies forth from his mouth. Unpleasant.

6. In the middle of the night (say around 10:30), a “band” walks through the whole pub banging on drums and things of that nature. It’s about the least Irish thing one could see on St. Patty’s Day (or whatever). I’m guessing it’s prohibitively costly to get Irish music.

7. I’ve never seen the Zona Rosa so entirely deserted as I did Wednesday night. Aside from The Pub (which was overflowing), nary another bar or restaurant looked to be open at 11 pm, not to mention have patrons. Some people, it seems, have the good sense to spend Wednesday night at home with the family.

8. I genuinely miss the pub culture. Here in Bogotá, it’s essentially feast or famine. It goes without saying that I prefer the British way of meeting for a pint after work and then heading home. London makes that culture work in that it has the necessary public transportation system. Bogotá not so much. And that is a problem in that it’s basically a huge risk to take a taxi on the street (which I nervously did) and there is essentially no way I’ll ever ride a bus at night (exceedingly risky, especially for a gringo).

I think, however, that this isn’t particularly unique to Bogotá. US cities which do not have excellent public transportation (like say, Atlanta) also have a problem. In place of crime, it’s driving. And this highlights one of my general preferences. I like cities in which I can walk or ride, in comfort and with little concern, especially after having a pint or two after work. That partially explains why I love London so (ask anyone who’s lived there what they miss and invariably “The Tube” will come up, expensive or not). And it partially explains why I like some things about DC. And, ultimately, it partially explains why I feel a bit of a “siege mentality” here in Bogotá.

Overall it was a good night. I avoided the craziness, my friends got hammered, and at midnight we went to a nearby restaurant and ate a “picada” which is essentially a mountain of grilled, chopped meats. I got home around 1 am and was very tired yesterday but had not even a whiff of a hangover (3 scotches and 2 beers won’t do that much). And now the week is almost over, the wife returns tomorrow, and we leave for Peru on Tuesday. All in all, I can’t complain.



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