2003 planning meeting wrap party

There were green alligators, and long necked geese,
Some humpty-back camels and some chimpanzees,
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as your born,
The loveliest of all was the Unicorn.
— “The Unicorn”, The Irish Rovers

There are all sorts of smart things one can do on a school night. Getting drunk ain’t one of them.

For those of you no longer in the scholastic world, a “school night” is no different than those you experienced at school. Basically, most weekday nights (not counting Friday) and Sunday night. So named because you have to get up early in the morning, file yourself off to a building, and concentrate on things that you might not otherwise like doing.

For the last three days, I’ve been in all-day meetings. We’re planning out the 2004 projects for Mercedes-Benz. Now that I’m part of the lead team, I now participate in these meetings. They’re great, don’t get me wrong. We sort out all sorts of issues and really get a good feel for the direction we want to take the account.

But they are draining.

It’s like having a Martian Brain Sucker attached to your skull all day. By the end of it, you’re exhausted. The advantage is that you feel really good about the work you’ve done. All in in all, it’s a good experience.

‘Course, the best part is the dinner that follow the last day. That’s when the MB team goes out for dinner. Well, “dinner” is a subjective term, since we eat a little and drink a lot. (The amount of drinking varies, usually inversely proportionate to how smart you are about when to stop.) But it’s all fun.

To make things more interesting, I didn’t leave right at the end of the day. You see, irony of ironies, the site that I worked on directly (and for which we were having the dinner), MBUSA.com, was down. It had been down since about 11:00 that morning. All because of a database edit. A fairly simple thing, really, which is why we were so utterly puzzled when the “fix” didn’t work.

When 17:00 rolled around, the fixing was still at full speed. I got the skinny on what was going on (I only knew during the day that there was a problem, but not exactly what it was) and tried to understand what part of the problem was. (There was a lot of Java discussion, which I don’t possess enough of an understanding to truly grasp.) In a nutshell, there wasn’t much I could do to help.

So I went out to get drunk.

Well, that wasn’t so much the intention so much as the result. And lest ye be thinking I’m turning into a raging alcoholic, please rest your fears. Now I know there are a number of stories that always seem to start: “So we went out to get drunk…”, but that’s not always the case. I don’t live my entire week like that — I wouldn’t have made it 31 years if I did. Just that the drinking stories are usually the most fun.

The Wildwood Pub is one of the nicer places in town to meet. It used to be a lot better. Sadly, as I found out last night, their beer quality has begun to sink dramatically. Peter, our newest copywriter, was telling me to avoid the stuff. I should have listened. Between Peter and myself, we tried every variety of beer they had (there’s only six or seven of ’em). They were all bad. We both switched to Keith’s.

I think I ended up being the only technology person in attendance. (Most of the others, sadly, were trapped at the office trying to resolve the site problem. The fix, in case you’re wondering, was to restore a previous backup of the database.) So I guess I felt a responsibility to represent. [Insert cliched reference to LA gangland-style comrades here.]

That might have been what possessed me to drink beer a little too quickly. Either way, a good time was had. So good, in fact, that eventually, it was down to just five people: Dan (the Managing Director — the Big Kahuna, if you will), Mabel (Dan’s assistant), Jason (Project Manager), Daryl (Account Manager), and yours truly. That was when Mabel convinced us that we had to go somewhere else.

We retreated to two cars: Mabel’s and Dan’s. I rode in Dan’s — I’d never been in a Mercedes-Benz before. (Hey, he is the Managing Director. He kind of has to own one.) It’s nice … the rear seats are brutally cold, but it is nice. Don’t know if I’d ever own one, though.

Mabel and Dan zig-zagged through Calgary. I’m not entirely sure I knew where they were going, but we eventually ended up at Mabel’s apartment, where she ditched her car. The five of us continued in Dan’s to our destination: Aussie Rules.

Aussie Rules is an Australian bar. (Or at least, it’s supposed to be.) Now before you think that’s a little strange, here’s something else to make you scratch your head: It ain’t the only one in town. Yes, there is another one: The Flying Emu (okay, so technically, it should be a New Zealand bar), just down from my old apartment.

So you think I’d see kangaroos, drink Foster’s, and eat barbecued shrimp, right? Nope. We listened to dueling pianos.

Yes, dueling pianos. Perhaps one of the stranger things to see in a bar. Two pianos (baby grands), facing each other. Two player/singers. But it’s not a competition — they play together, banging out whatever songs people request (or whatever they feel like playing). Mabel led us to the table right in front of the stage so we could get the full effect.

We came at an opportune time (which I can only assume was in the vicinity of midnight), as these guys had been playing (and drinking) for a couple of hours. They were definitely well into their silly stage. While they did play great music (they actually did a couple lines out of Gowan’s “A Criminal Mind” on a request I shouted out; they wouldn’t touch Gordon Lightfoot), they also did a pub favourite. This was Mabel’s request.

At some point in your life, you’ve probably heard The Irish Rover’s “The Unicorn”. If you listen to it the way the Rovers do it, “The Unicorn” is a very nice song. If you listen to the way the Dueling Pianos do it, “The Unicorn” is an Olympic event.

When the request was made, one of the two pianists (a guy about 40 lbs overweight, I’d guess) climbed up on top of the piano (I assume it can easily handle the weight of someone on the lid), picked up a microphone, and hopped over to the top of the other piano, and prompted demanded everyone stand up.

Incidentally, I assume they’ll only do this song after people have been drinking long enough.

So here’s how it goes. It’s all about a couple of the verses (here’s a link, in case you want to know what the lyrics actually are), repeating the chorus often, making the audience mimic the animals mentioned in the chorus, and following the direction of the singer (for example, when he yells: “Where’s the bar?”, you point at the bar). If you manage to get to the end with all the motions without laughing yourself to the floor, you’ve done pretty well.

I didn’t make it. But I didn’t land on the floor.

Anyway, without going into excrutiating detail (‘cuz you know I could), we had a blast at Aussie Rules. Before we knew it, there was the Last Call. At the time, it didn’t really click with me what the time probably was. For some reason, I decided that whatever time it was, it wasn’t really that late. It didn’t feel that late.

Time flies when you’re drunk.

We upped and left (paying the bill, of course) and headed towards downtown, dropping Mabel off along the way. Then it was over to the Mercury, another Calgary establishment. I have no idea what time it was when we arrived. It couldn’t have been too late — the place was still serving. Dan decided we needed some Irish Whisky to finish off the night.

Dan drove us home. I live somewhat close to Dan, but saved him the trip through Sunnyside by having him drop me off at 2nd Ave and Centre St. From there, it’s a 20 minute walk home, which I really needed. It gave me enough fresh air to remember to drink a couple glasses of water and take a couple Tylenol to stave off the inevitable hangover.

Tamara had been home barely 30 minutes before I walked in. She laughed. I was a wreck, and she knew it. (Technically, I knew it too, but just wasn’t willing to acknowledge it.) I had the water, pills, quick run through the bathroom, and crawled into bed somewhere around 3:00.

Well, I assume I crawled into bed. I don’t really remember that step, but since I woke up in there, that’s about as close an assumption as I can make. My alarm — Chris’ stereo which clicks on at 5:20 playing the Tragically Hip’s “Music at Work” album (the entire thing — that’s over 45 minutes long) — didn’t wake me up. Not even remotely. I forgot to set my secondary alarm. Luckily, I have a backup.

It’s furry, has four feet, and purrs. She also meows really loudly in the morning when she wants to be fed.

At 7:37, I bolted out of bed in a bit of a panic, threw my head under the tap to get the bedhead down, dressed, shaved very quickly, ran a toothbrush across my teeth, and was in the process of about to run out the door when I realized Tamara was still asleep. We carpooled. I don’t drive to work usually, but considering we had to be at work for 8:00, I made an exception.

The hangover kicked in around 8:30. And it got progressively worse all morning. The more I moved, the worse it got. Fortunately, nothing so serious that I was ready to … well, y’know, but I sucked back a few aspirin with ginger ale to try quieten the body. It wasn’t until I had a greasy lunch at A&W that I started to feel normal again.

Well, as normal as anyone can feel after mimicking a chimpanzee in a Australian bar in suburban Calgary at some ungodly hour of the night because I’ve had too much to drink for my own good.