Always Leave While You Can Still See Straight

Leave it to me to celebrate the occasion of my thirtieth birthday with inappropriate remarks to a coworker.

William Shunn

--

Since I turn 55 today, please indulge me in a brief birthday reminiscence.

A view straight down the line of red-leather chairs at a dim bar, with most everything except the nearest seat out of focus.
Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

On August 14, 1997, I had a lot to celebrate. I’d been living in New York City for nearly two years, I had a reasonably popular site on the burgeoning World Wide Web, I was making a small reputation as a science fiction writer, I’d had a screenplay about my missionary adventures optioned by a McKenzie brother, and I finally had a decent-paying job at a tech startup that came with the added benefit of lots of close new friends — not to mention the chance to meet rock stars like Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee. Oh, and I was turning thirty.

My crew of work friends took every opportunity to party hard, so despite the fact that it was a Thursday night I was able to recruit nearly a dozen to make the trek to my neighborhood in Brooklyn for some food and libations. A few of my writer friends who lived nearby met us early in the evening at a nice Mexican restaurant, together with my girlfriend, whom I was eager for the gang to meet. Our table was long and raucous. I believe I had a margarita with my chimichanga. I know when I tried to kick in for the check I was forbidden by the group from paying for anything the rest of the night.

After dinner, most of us trooped over to Mooney’s Pub, a quiet, friendly bar on Flatbush Avenue. My friend Teresa, a science fiction editor, was already there, and she wanted to be the first to buy me a birthday Guinness. This set the pattern for the rest of the night, a delirious and increasingly disjointed whirl of beers and shots, as everyone insisted on taking a turn buying drinks for the ex-Mormon. It had been less than two years since I’d tasted my first alcohol — a G&T on a trip to San Francisco — and while I had been certainly been drunk before, I had always kept it within reasonable bounds. Until that night.

There was Jack Daniels and there was Guinness, which were not new to me, but I was also handed a lot of things I’d never tasted before and have avoided tasting since — Jägermeister, Midori, Kamikaze shots. Sometime after midnight, a work friend I’ll call Astrid handed…

--

--

William Shunn

Writer, poet and puzzle maker. Hugo and Nebula Award finalist. Author of The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary. He/him/Bill.