By Sean Wilkinson
For me, Thursday has become the entertaining hub to the rest of the week’s well-behaved Spokes of Sobriety®. Since the closing of The Bar Whose Name Will Go Unmentioned, I have been happily passing my nights at home, spending time with my lady friend. Drinking was once a near-nightly pastime involving 22-ounce draft beers served in a ceramic mug and, more often than not, some whiskey thrown in the sloppy mix. But I’ve spent the past several months as a part-time teetotaler. Sure, there are still the occasional weekends of excess, but usually “drinking” entails a glass of wine or two, or, on a particularly luxurious night, a dirty martini with about 86 olives.
On one of these recent Thursdays, I started my night at Slainte (pronounced Slan-Cha). Here’s a piece of advice from The Marketing School of Don’t Be Stupid: Don’t choose a name for your business that requires a pronunciation guide. The MSDBS encourages evocative names like Jimbo’s Sluttorium, or Drunky McFeely’s, or Digger’s.
After having a few bottles of Gritty’s delicious Halloween Ale, one of the few local brews that will tempt me away from Geary’s Pale, I headed up to Geno’s (pronounced Gee-Nose) with my fellow drinkers to check out the poetry night there.
OK, that’s a lie. We just went to support our editor, who hosts the monthly readings there. Much of the poetry read that night was the kind I try to ignore during amateur poetry nights. (Is there such thing as professional poetry?) I was pleasantly surprised, however, by one older gentleman who, holding the microphone in a headlock, proceeded to read his well-written prose with conviction and confidence.
I was even more pleasantly surprised by the infamous Michael Chadbourne’s hilarious 10 minutes on stage. Sure, he used to make us laugh while hanging out at the bar, but that night he commanded the stage and had a diverse crowd wrapped around his finger. At one point, Chadbourne announced that his next poem was written by “some famous Maine poet… probably Longfellow. This is probably why they built the statue of him.” He then recited the “16 Counties Has Our State” song, to the tune of Yankee Doodle, then flipped off the crowd, said “Fuck you!” and walked off stage.
Just after this, I got a voicemail from an unknown number. An acquaintance of mine was at a party, it seems, and they had all decided to swap phones and call someone from another person’s phone list. Thus, someone I didn’t know had invited me to a “No Pants Party” and said I could bring anyone I wanted.
Now, this prospect would go unconsidered on most nights, but, as you’ll remember, this was a Thursday: The Night Out.
I proposed the idea to my two drinking partners, and it was agreed that, because there was the chance this could be highly entertaining, we would go to Joe’s Smoke Shop, each buy a 40-ounce malt liquor (pronounced Foe-Dee), pound the 40s at this party — without removing our pants — and leave.
By chance, we encountered another party guest at the front door, and followed him up several flights of stairs to a small hallway. We could hear music and people talking. At this point, we could have been standing outside almost any party.
Now, I love nerds. I consider myself a bit of a nerd — a mélange of nerd and geek and some other things (you know, slugs and snails and puppy dog tails, etc.). Despite being a nerdlophile, the scene on the other side of that door took me by surprise.
Mind you, we were three guys, ranging in age from 27 to 29, each with his own 40-ounce and all wearing pants.
We walked in and encountered a lithe young man in a Superman outfit, sans pants. He wore thick glasses and had a mop of unruly, slightly greasy hair. He pranced across our path, then stopped, shuffled in place lightly from foot to foot, whispered a timid “e-excuse me,” and as we stepped aside, proceeded to complete his pranced lap around the apartment. A light trot, if you will.
I looked down at my feet and saw a miniature greyhound quaking in his little T-shirt. I pointed and chuckled, “Look, no pants on the dog.” That’s when we really started to take in the scene and feel truly uncomfortable.
There were two rooms in the apartment. The three of us were standing in one of them next to a table covered in open Domino’s Pizza boxes, soda bottles and plastic cups. In the other room was a most delightfully nerdy group of 18-to-22-year-olds. All in costume. None in pants.
There was a Wonder Woman and the aforementioned Superman. I vaguely remember a couple people in business suits, minus pants; a costume that involved a big, furry vest and no pants; a few boys and girls in dresses; and someone wearing a sublime, day-glo neon outfit that lit up a corner of a couch in the most bizarre way – also without pants.
We were chastised for wearing pants. We were stared down. Some kind of trivia card game began. We stayed there, standing in our separate room, by ourselves, wearing pants. We were still taking swigs from our 40’s. Shortly after the card game began, we all realized, at about the same time, that we were the only ones drinking. A look of surprise and bewilderment struck the face of one of my drinking buddies, who leaned in to share, in a whispered hiss, this urgent realization: “These are the kind of people who don’t need to drink to have fun!”
Within three minutes of receiving this urgent message — no more than ten minutes since we’d walked into the party — we ducked out and made our way back down the stairs to the street. We decided to go finish our beers in the park. On the way, we laughed and said things like, “That was the worst party I have ever seen! Those were, by far, the lamest people in Portland all gathered together!”
But as we thought more about it, we reconsidered those blanket statements and our derision subsided.
“You know, they were having fun,” we had to acknowledge. “We were the ones not adhering to the no-pants rule.”
“They’re probably saying what losers we are: ‘Those are the kind of people who need to drink to have fun.'”
“Yeah, they were really sweet, in a way. No one was judging anyone until we walked in. We were the immature ones.”
“Yeah. I was expecting like a porn party with sluts and stuff. Good old nerds.”
We did not, however, return to the No Pants Party. Instead, we finished our beers in the park, talked about other things, and by the time we left, we’d all but forgotten that nerdy, pants-less encounter.
So maybe we didn’t put aside our differences (or our 40’s) and party down nerd style, but I think the next time we see someone prancing, pants-less, towards us in a shoddy superhero costume, we will think twice before judging. And we just might take off our pants, too.