Drunk in London
It’s easy to booze it up on the road trips I take. The poker world is full of people who only know two things: poker and partying. As I get older, I have to pick my battles and the trip to London was a fight I chose to sit out (for the most part). There was too much work to do. Still, I enjoyed the company of my friends in many a different pub and bar over my week in London. During that time I experienced three events that could probably be filed under the heading “Drunk in London.”
The Pub–It’s a brightly lit pub called The Old Swan. Chalkboard signs warn customers that bag thieves operate in the area. I have a hard time figuring out if it’s true or just a kitschy decorating trick. The first bell rings about 11:45pm. This is typical in London. Although the laws have changed and pubs can stay open late, most choose to stick to the early closure tradition and use security measures like retractable stanchions operated by bouncers to keep latecomers at bay. At first bell, drinkers have a chance to get their last pints. Don’t wait until the second bell or you’ll go thirsty. By the time the Last Orders bell rang, I had sampled three different varieties of traditional English bitter, the best of which was London Pride (Bombardier came in a close second). When the bell rings, two men in work shirts stand from their seats on the far side of the room. One of them is drunk. The other is a combination of Dudley Moore’s Arthur and something out of a How to Blackout handbook. They stumble toward the door like they are being directed in a high school play. They laugh, they hold their gorge, they carry their pint glasses toward the door. One of the pub workers intercepts the drunker of the two and kindly offers to get him a plastic cup. “Plashtic cup? Why do I need a plashtic cup?” He holds two fingers up in the direction of the pub man. “Fuck you. I’m the king of the world.” They still gave him his cup.
The rap bar–After hours in London, you can still find open places, but you’ll have to accept the cozy pub atmosphere you’ve come to enjoy will not be easy to find. So, you end up at a hip hop bar that requires a long, dark span of stairs–down, not up–to find. The place is packed. Big men who look like they came out of central casting as “Gangsta #1-#6” sit in half-moon booths with bottles of champagne in big stainless steel buckets. Rows of girls sit along the wall. A DJ mixes in what was at one time probably a broom closet but now has a small open-air window looking out over the small dance floor. In the back room, men and women sit close–close enough that you can assume what is going to happen, or very well may be happening right then. That’s when a woman–tall, thin, and black–sways down the stairs and onto the dance floor. She doesn’t stop for the bar, to chat, or to pretty herself in the ladies’. Her trip downstairs moves into a dance that carries her over the few feet to the DJ’s window. She steps back, laughs maniacally, and kicks a long leg high in the air. When it snaps back down, she catches it on the window of the DJ closet. From a few feet away, it’s easy to imagine she will flip over backward and crack her head on the floor. Instead, she defies physics and plants her heel firmly on the window ledge. She laughs again and gyrates for a second before letting the DJ free of what surely has to be a very special vaginal exhibition. She sways such that I don’t know if she is just a hooker, a drunk dancer, or a gymnast on ludes. She stops at the bar for a second and cackles in a way that could easily be someone’s peyote hallucination. She sways away from the bar, past me and my friends on the perimeter of the room, and into a table full of glasses. Even the prettiest of champagne flutes won’t stand up if you tip it far enough.
The casino–Admittedly, we are a big group of people who specifically went to the Empire Casino to find a place to have a late night cocktail. Admittedly we are in a good mood. Admittedly, we’ve had a few drinks. But in no way is any of us acting inappropriately. So when we (read: me) are stopped at the front door by two big bouncers and denied access for having had “too much to drink,” it doesn’t compute. We are an eclectic group representing six countries on four continents. I am the only person from the United States. Despite the fact I feel pretty confident in my relative sobriety, I’m also feeling a little tilty. I don’t like being told I can’t go somewhere I should be able to go or accused of something I didn’t do. The best negotiator among us takes over the discussion and over the next five minutes, I gather things are going badly. Finally we just decided to leave. As I turn to find a cab, I hear one of the big bouncers say, “Say hello to Bush for us.” I stop in my tracks and turn around and ask him to repeat himself. “Say hello to Bush for us.” I feel something akin to rage building up in my chest. I don’t want to embarrass myself, but I can’t stop myself from saying calmly, “You realize he isn’t our President anymore.” My head is starting to pound a little bit. Finally I’m rendered speechless. As I turn to walk away, the bouncer says again, “Say hello to Bush for us.” To this moment, I’m impressed that I didn’t get arrested.