You're home for the the Holidays, and you start to get that restless feeling. It's perfectly natural. The evening's winding down, and the Thanksgiving spread is now a pile of dishes you don't want to wash. Maybe there were kids running around all day and you'd like some grown up time. Maybe your judgmental aunt's had a few too many glasses of wine, and you're tired of her nagging your every move. Either way, you're a typical childless person in your twenties, so you're trying to step out for at least a couple of hours.
"We have some of our busiest nights with the 'home for the holidays' crowd," says Daniel Balvin of Caves Lounge in Arlington, "Every year, people just come and meet up in huge groups... That's what we like about Caves, it's the season for that right now."
Whatever small outlying city dive bar you're going to, it's flush with visiting classmates, childhood friends, and old flames this time of year. It's likely close to your parent's houses, and where you went to high school. Much like a friend's wedding or a high school reunion, these high spirited holiday nights at the bar can be really fun and nostalgic. But they're also rife with opportunities for emotionally charged and booze-fueled decision making.
Steve Steward is the founder of Fort Worth based WIZARDVIZION Records. When he's not playing in Oil Boom or Epic Ruins, he tends bar at the Boiled Owl Tavern.
"The crowd those nights is usually anywhere from 22 to 28... It seems like the older you get, depending on how misanthropic you are, those nights are like measuring sticks," says Steward, laughing. "For a single dude, it's like- who's gotten fatter? Who's gotten balder?"
Keep yourself in check. You're way more likely to have fun if you're not comparing yourself to others. Don't talk about work too much, and if you catch yourself doing salary math in your head, snap out of it. It's fun to look back at how far you've come with the people you grew up with, but everyone's definition of success is different. It's Thanksgiving, not your Reality Bites moment. Don't be an asshole.
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If you're one of those weird people who stays friends with their exes, then the potential for awkwardness might be substantially lowered. But you're still at risk for drunken mistakes. This is especially true if you run into a first love type, someone you may still instinctually have a soft spot for. Whether you get along with them or not, you don't want to end up drinking and talking to your old high school sweetheart all night. It's weird, and no good can really come of that. Catch up for a bit, then keep it moving.
"People definitely try to go for a record when they're out on holidays," says Steward, "There's all this nostalgia and feelings of general good will, so people generally try to throw down."
This the night to make sure you watch your booze intake. There's a lot to toast to with friends you only really see once a year, and the holiday spirit tends to keep the booze flowing. For starters, think of your bank account.
"Drinking at a dive bar is just cheaper and tends to be more fun," says Balvin
And let's not forget that you've got a stomach full of poultry, starches and pie. You're already going to be bloated tomorrow, so take it easy. Plus, you're going back to your parents' house. Do you really want to wake up on your mom's couch reeking of Wild Turkey? Or worse, have everyone remember Thanksgiving 2013 as the year you projectile vomited across the bar room? You've got to be able to walk back in here next year.
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Keeping all this in mind, there's no reason why your hometown holiday drinking experience can't be joyous and anxiety free. Though you're bound to these people by your past, toast to your futures, and the promise of many more holidays together. Tip your bartenders, and never forget how effective a good jukebox can be in setting a festive mood.
"The only holiday song on The Owl's jukebox is Fuck Christmas by Fear," says Steward.