Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Good Friday Disagreement.

Ireland has come a long way in recent decades. From being a poor agricultural backwater on the outskirts of Europe, Ireland has developed into an economy that revolves around technological development, accounting&auditing and business services. From the mid nineties until the global economic recession hit, Ireland was one of the richest countries in Europe. Now that the country is recovering from the financial meltdown of 2008, the economy is not as strong but, in general, the future looks bright.

There are times, however, when you are reminded that part of Ireland still operates in the past. Divorce was illegal until 1995. Abortion still is. Gay couples can’t get married, though this will most likely be repealed by referendum on 22 May.

And then there are those laws that that date back to the infancy of the Irish state and somehow are still in effect. One of these, for example, is the prohibition of the sale of alcohol on certain days of the year. The most famous of these was, believe it or not, St. Patrick’s Day. This one was overturned in the 60s, on behest of the marketing department at Guinness if the rumors are to be believed, but there are still 2 days in the year when it is illegal to sell alcohol. One is Christmas Day, but nobody really cares about that because most people spend Christmas with their families. The other one, however, is cause for much debate. This day is Good Friday.

For some reason, the people of Ireland are not allowed to buy alcohol on Good Friday. When you ask around why this is, you usually get some mumbo jumbo about religious piety and observing whatever it is exactly what happened on Good Friday according to the Bible. When I first moved to Ireland, I was unaware of this. It wasn’t until Thursday before Good Friday that one of my then flatmates told me that if I wanted to have a drink on Friday, I’d better get going because the liquor store would close in 15 minutes. At first I didn’t believe him, but he insisted, so I walked across the street to get some provisions.
Let me tell you this: If you want to practice for what shops will look like when the third World War breaks out, or when the alien invasion finally happens, go to a liquor store in Ireland at 10 to 10 the day before Good Friday. It was unbelievable. The place was packed and everyone in the store was basically just trying to get their hands on anything available. Ladies of my mother’s age were loading boxes of cider on trolleys, old men were grabbing at whiskey bottles on the shelves and young people were grabbing all the beer they could carry. It was insane. The thing is though.. the pubs are only closed for one day.

And that’s were the problem is.. because the government says “Hey, you can’t drink on that day” everybody goes “Ah.. we’ll see about that” and organises house parties, barbecues and other alcohol infused festivities. People who would normally go to the pub and drink 4 pints or so, now drink an entire case of beer or, as we shall see, an entire bottle of whiskey.

The thing is, people want to drink anyway. If alcohol sales are prohibited for the day, people will take other measures. And there are many ways to circumvent the law, believe me. Bars in trainstations and airports are open. The only thing you need is a valid ticket. So what many people do is buy a trainticket to, say, Newry or whatever, and then spend the whole day drinking in the bar at the railway station. Some people simply leave the country, which is something I have done on numerous occasions. In the airport, you can drink as much as you want. I once ran into a group of guys who had all bought single flights to Birmingham or Belfast or some such for 3,99 and did a pub crawl at the airport. When midnight came around, they simply walked out again and took the bus back to Dublin.

           The Gate Clock being the only decent one

There are other tricks you can use, like checking into a hotel. Hotel bars are allowed to serve residents. You can take the ferry to Holyhead or Fishguard and drink all you want on the boat. If there’s a rugby game on (as has happened twice in recent years) you can go to the stadium and drink yourself senseless- stadiums have an event license for occasions like that. Or go to the dog races. Dog tracks, too, have event licenses, which means they can serve from 2 hours before the start of the races until 2 hours after the card ends.

                                                       Party with the dogs!

And then ofcourse, there is the one pub that opens at 23.55 on Friday and starts selling booze again at 00.01.

As you see, the possibilities are effectively endless for those with a bit of determination. I normally use one of the options above. Last year I went to Belfast which doesn’t fall under the span of this law. I went back to Holland twice, to Scotland and England once each but this year, I decided, I was staying in Dublin. Ofcourse, I had to come up with something to do, and to take a stand against the Forces of Evil. After some brainstorming, I came up with the following idea:

A bottle of whiskey has 20 shots in it. That would be sufficient to get me well drunk. Then I needed something to frame the drinking with. I thought about downloading all 7 Police Academy movies and watching them back-to-back, to commemorate the movie marathon me and my friend Vincent once completed when we shared a house. The problem was though, that I still don’t have a Chromecast and I didn’t fancy staring at a laptop screen the whole day. I considered watching 4 or 5 Tarantino movies, but that didn’t really work well in the distribution of the whiskey. Without any clear plan, I switched on the tv and there I found the solution: my Digibox automatically switches to Comedy Central upon activation, and there I was treated to an episode of Friends. Ofcourse.
75% of the programming on Comedy Central is Friends.

So there was my plan: If I started at noon, I could watch 20 episodes of Friends, have a shot of whiskey with each episode and see what would happen. I would get assorted mixers to see which was the best and report the progress live on Facebook and Twitter.

And so it was that I sat down on my couch, on Good Friday the 3rd of April 2015, with a bottle of Bushmills Whiskey and a shelf full of mixers in the fridge. This is what happened:

Episode 1: The one with Phoebe’s rats
This Friends episode is not one of the greatest, but still has plenty of laughs. Phoebe’s kitchen rat has baby rats but the rat trap kills their mom. Phoebe being Phoebe, she brings them to Rachel’s birthday party. Joey chases Ross and Rachel’s nanny, only to find out she is gay.
Funniest moments are of Chandler sucking helium balloons and singing ‘I will survive’ in a chipmunk voice.

Drink: Straight whiskey.
Sure, nothing can go wrong when you start with a straight whiskey in the morning, right?

Episode 2: The one where Monica sings.

Ross goes mental over Rachel kissing a guy from her office. Classic Ross. Not really a classic episode though.

Drink: Whiskey and Coke. Ah, now this is a true classic! Nothing wrong with a nice full flavored Coke to water down your whiskey. It went down very well.

Episode 3: The one with the blind dates
Ross and Rachel go on blind dates that were set up by Phoebe and Joey, who intentionally coupled them with horrible people in order to make them realise they should be together.

Drink: Another whiskey and Coke. The first one tasted great. I’ll have another one.

Episode 4: The one with the mugging
Drink: Whiskey and ginger ale.
The whiskey&Cokes were going down well, but I have to give the other mixers a chance. Also, I really like ginger ale with my whiskey.

Joey has an audition with a big shot Broadway producer. Ross and Phoebe get mugged but it turns out the robber is an old friend of Phoebe. Chandler starts his new career in advertising. Ross found out that he was robbed by Phoebe in high school.

The first faint traces of a whiskey buzz are starting to appear. Which is good, I already drank 1/5 of the bottle.

Episode 5:  The one with the boob job
Drink: Whiskey and ginger ale. Ginger ale is probably my favorite mixer for whiskey. It’s not as sweet as Coke or Sprite and complements the whiskey well.
Chandler and Monica run into financial trouble and borrow money from Joey. Phoebe and Mike move in together. Joey makes up a bullshit story about why Monica needs the money.

Episode 6: The one with the lottery
The friends pool their money to buy tickets for the $300 million powerball lottery. A classic episode.
Rachel wears an MC5 t-shirt.. odd.

Maybe she is to blame for the annoying fad of trendy bimbos wearing rock band t-shirts. If you don’t know the music, you shouldn’t wear the t-shirt.

Drink: Whiskey and orange juice. Not a very obvious choice of mixer, but I thought I’d give it a try. It’s not the greatest combination. OJ goes better with vodka. Or tequilla. Still not terrible though.

Episode 7: The one with Rachel’s Dream.
Monica can’t get time off work so Chandler takes Ross on a weekend away to Vermont. Ross acts like a crackhead after eating himself senseless on maple candy.
Drink: Whiskey and orange juice. Just finishing off the bottle of OJ, I can do with some vitamins. Whiskey buzz is definitely on now. I’m going to make a sandwich.

Episode 8: The one with the soap opera party
Drink: Whiskey and Cherry Coke. Much better than the OJ. Cherry Coke is a drink I loved when I was a kid. It was discontinued in Holland when I was about 17, but still sold here in Ireland. Good stuff.
Joey hosts the Days of our Lives stars at a rooftop party to the dismay of the other friends. Ross meets a hot girl at the coffee house for work.

Episode 9: The one with Charlie
Not sure about the exact title of this one. Charlie is hot though. She starts going out with Joey after the DOOL rooftop party.
Drink: Another Whiskey and Cherry Coke. I love it. Definitely on my way to intoxication now.

At this point, I heard my flatmate Laykin in the kitchen. A friend of her was over from Holland and had scored a litre bottle of Jameson at the airport tax free shop. They asked me to join them for a shot. Sure, it would be rude to turn it down. After doing a shot, we did another one. I had gotten 2 beers myself, to break the constant whiskey with something bitter.
My flatmate now offers me a beer out of their stash.
This is the definite point where things start to blur. My notes are getting vague and so is my memory. We sit in the garden for a while to catch the last of the day’s sun.

Episode 10: The one where Rachel goes to the massage clinic
Missed the title of this one too. It’s a good episode. Joey tries to be an art connaisseur, which is hilarious.
Drink: Whiskey and Fruit Shoot Apple. Fruit Shoot is a rich-in-vitamins drink for children. It was only 29 cents in the store. Whiskey and fruity drinks don’t mix. It doesn’t taste right.
I don't have a picture of this drink and I don't mind. Fruit Shoot sucks and I don't want to advertise it.

Episode 11: The one where Ross and Rachel get married in Vegas

I’m hungry.
The Vegas marriage slowly comes back to them. I can imagine this happening.
I can remember Vegas and checking in at McCarran airport at 10PM on Saturday night. The next thing I know is I woke up at 6AM on Sunday in a Philadelphia subway train. Vegas Rules.
I want to go back.

Drink: Whiskey and Sprite. Fortunately, the Fruit Shoot came in a kid-sized bottle so I only had enough for 1 mixer. I would have thrown it out otherwise. Sprite is much better. Samuel L. Jackson drinks Sprite in Pulp Fiction, just before he shoots Flock of Seagulls.

This is the point where I put a pizza in the oven. My flatmate and her friend are in the kitchen again. I am offered another shot of Jameson. Jameson is good. It is a Dublin drink.

Episode 12: The one where I try to figure out what  happened.
Ross and Rachel try to get divorced. This is a very funny episode. I must remember to take the pizza out of the oven.
Drink: Another whiskey and Sprite. There’s a nice smell coming out of the kitchen.

My Digibox has a ‘Pause’ button. This is a handy feature because it allows you to fastforward commercial breaks after a while. It also makes sure you buffer enough Friends episodes to last you all day. Unfortunately, I pressed the wrong button so I get back to real time tv, killing off all my buffered Friends time.
Fortunately, Friends is still on tv and I have 2 seasons recorded just in case.

Episode 13: Our favorite drunk Friends episode
This is not really the title.
Joey has to get out of work to go to Chandler and Monica’s wedding. Meanwhile, Chandler goes missing.
Drink: I decide to take one of my own beers to break up the whiskey intake. Also, beer goes better with pizza. My pizza is just about done. Dinner time!

Episode 14:  
Rachel hates Charlie, which is not surprising. Rachel is a horrible person. Don’t care what the title of the episode is. I have pizza. Pizza is good.

After episode 14, and the intake of 16 whiskeys and 3 beers, I can not find any further notes. This was around 8PM. I remember watching some more Friends and, evidently, drinking some more.

Judging by the chronology of my photos, I must have followed up my pizza&beer intermezzo with another whiskey&Coke

Followed by the strange combo of whiskey and store brand energy drink:

It didn't bring me much energy, because I can't remember drinking it. Or much after that, for that matter. 
After this followed another whiskey&Cherry Coke:

And then another one:

And that is when any record of the rest of the night stops.

The next morning, I woke up with my clothes on. I did it make it to bed. It is only about 15 steps from the couch to my bed, but that’s still quite a distance after that much whiskey.
Back in the living room, I noticed that I left about a quarter of my pizza. My beers and the entire bottle of whiskey were polished off though, seeing I found the empty bottle:

There is a reason I don’t normally drink strong liquor in large quantities. I get 2day hangovers from them. I was still half drunk the next morning and with a day of football in the pub just hours away, I already knew it would take until Monday to wear it off.

So, here’s to the Irish Government, and their archaic laws that intend to stop people drinking:
Your mission is a failure. It costs the economy millions and no one drinks any less.
Give it up.

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