Diary Of A Drunk County

Photo by James BunoanThe year 2004 was all Wild Turkey cowboy shots and sweaty smooches with strangers—but then we woke up 12 hours later, puking and laughing, and the year? Well, it never really was quite the same. But in between the bar tabs and cab rides, the hangovers and blackouts, there were some stories worth telling, we're sure of that much. Here's what we remember.

FRIDAY, JAN. 1, 12:58 A.M. THE RED ROOM, LONG BEACH. It looked like 2004 was going to be yet another year of sour, whiskey-Coked debauchery. And somewhere in the midst of it all, the ball dropped and my friends and I—adorkably sarcastic, relatively single and drunk as hell—forgot about finding someone to love.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 7, 12:34 A.M. 17 SECONDS, THE LIQUID DEN, HUNTINGTON BEACH.Did you know that nobody lies on Friendster, ever?

SATURDAY, JAN. 17, 11:38 P.M. GAMEWORKS, LONG BEACH. At the time, the idea of singing karaoke while backed by a live band sounded unbelievably appetizing—despite, even, the facts that I a) cannot sing, and b) can hardly read. I'd be the bestest rock star ever! P.S. They booed me.

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 11, 11:17 P.M. THE SPURGEON BUILDING, SANTA ANA. A party where everyone would be kind and respectful? Where the hipster lays down with the bro? Each with an ever-warming 12-pack of Miller High Life tucked under his arm? A willingness in his heart to discuss such high-brow topics as politics, art and music? Fearing my imminent hangover, I could only pray I was still dreaming.

SATURDAY, FEB. 14, 1:24 A.M. ALEX'S BAR, LONG BEACH.And now, for the best thing overheard upon leaving a bar EVER:

Lady No. 1: “So, like, everyone's upset because my brother has cancer.”

Lady No. 2, in response: “I still can't believe you don't wear underwear.”

THURSDAY, MARCH 18, 10:10 P.M. CLUB LIVE-WIRE, MCCLURE'S, TUSTIN. McClure's was a barfly's dream, with its red-leather booths, dangerously low lighting, velvet-curtained stage, inviting spot-lit dance floor and fantastically kitsch framed head shots of unknown Z-list entertainers. I ordered a vodka-pineapple from the charming Dottie, whose name actually isn't Dottie—but should be—and whose smile lines and decidedly Midwestern, all-the-time-in-the-world gait were a vision of pure dive-bar Americana.

FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 12:03 A.M. MODEST MOUSE, DETROIT BAR, COSTA MESA. Just then, a voice from above: “There's a fire at the doughnut shop next door. Stay calm, down your drinks, and exit as quickly as possible.”

SUNDAY, APRIL 4, 11:51 P.M. BAR 330, BREA. Instead, a friend calls. “What's the plan?” she asks, sitting alone on a couch not unlike yours, idly watching Dateline and sipping Wild Turkey and ginger ale. She wants to party. You? Only sorta kinda. What to do? Simple: go to Brea.

FRIDAY, APRIL 23, 11:29 P.M. MARLIN BAR AND GRILL, HUNTINGTON BEACH. By the time Heartless took the stage, I was a dancing, drunken idiot. Glancing around the room as their set finished at two minutes till closing, I counted at least half a dozen mouths still agape.

SATURDAY, MAY 8, 8:12 P.M. LAGUNA BEACH BAR CRAWL DIARY.Take CA-133 past the Laguna mountains in twilight silhouette. I can still spell silhouette!

SUNDAY, JUNE 23, 11:52 P.M. CLIFF'S HIDEAWAY, LA PALMA.Turning to the woman to my left, I decide to give it one more try. “Cliff?” she responds, staring blankly. I wait, staring back. “Sure you don't mean Tony, honey? He's been the owner since I've been coming here. What's this for? A school project?”

THURSDAY, JULY 8, 11:28 P.M. CLUB 1984, VEGAS, COSTA MESA.Despite our best efforts to remain jaded and dour—trashing Vegas was once a much-beloved pastime—we simply could not. The bouncers and bartenders were charming, and the DJs proved both brilliantly cocksure—Steely Dan is normally grounds for a drink in the face—and crowd-pleasing. Even the crowd itself—a fine mix of real-estate agents, lawyers and a gal-about-town in heels that would light up when she moved—was surprisingly friendly and refreshingly unhip.

SUNDAY, JULY 18, 2:34 P.M. J. KING NEPTUNE'S, SUNSET BEACH.A man approaches, drapes an arm around Terri and declares, “She floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. When Terri makes a drink, you just can't see.”

SUNDAY, JULY 24, 5:34 P.M. BEACH PARTY, SUNSET BEACH. Orange is still in! Anorexia is, too!

THURSDAY, JULY 29, 11:39 P.M. JONNY WAS, HOGUE BARMICHAEL'S, NEWPORT BEACH.“Fuck summer school!” Shane West joked, encouraging the summer-school-aged crowd to stay through the next bands' sets. It was jarring, especially considering the night and its music had been relatively G-rated. Turning back to the crowd, he mumbled, “I'm going to hell.”

SUNDAY, AUG. 1, 10:20 P.M. SILVER FOX, LONG BEACH. “He'll be back in two weeks,” we overhear bartender John Barnes tell a customer who had inquired about the doorman's progress. “See? Everybody misses him,” he turned to us, smiling. “They can't wait until he comes back. The new guy cards everyone.”

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 18, 6:43 P.M. AIRPORT DRINKING AT GULLIVER'S, IRVINE.Bottom line, unless you feel like paying John Wayne's cover charge with a cheap Southwest ticket to San Francisco—bearing in mind, of course, the “two-week advance purchase required” clause—your best option is curling up with a bottle of Maker's Mark, George Kennedy and an old copy of The Concorde: Airport '79. Or you could just walk across the street.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 4, 8:58 P.M. INTERNATIONAL STREET FAIR, ORANGE.“Dude, I'm telling you: you're not on Irish street. You're in Germany!”

SATURDAY, SEPT. 26, 4:03 A.M. HARBOR HOUSE, SUNSET BEACH.Four in the morning, and it's time for us to get going. We finish our eighth cup of coffee just as another wave of drunks stumble in. “Hey, man,” says one guy, “I'll pay you $50 to drink that bottle of Tabasco.” Amber clears our table, laughing as she says, “I love this job.”

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 20, 12:48 A.M. CLUB THRUST, QUAN'S ROCKIN' SUSHI, TUSTIN. In one corner stood an angst-ridden Britney babe snarling into her cellie (“I'm, like, so disappointed in you!”). Across the bar danced an average, cut-rate American Eagle paper doll, his prep-boy smirk offset by the “I Do My Own Nude Scenes” written across his chest—as though he were even old enough to contemplate the irony.

SATURDAY, OCT. 2, 9:47 P.M. C'EST SI BON, WESTMINSTER. The Bon is among the divey-est of dives, a half-century-old joint—the strip mall it sits in was built around it—where you get your change handed back to you in drink tokens; where Aerosmith's entire catalog waits for you on the juke; where you can still eat popcorn, buy a lotto ticket, throw steel-tipped darts and drink a 22-ounce beer for $3.50. “Hey,” says the bartender with a wave as we leave, “now you're a Boner.”

FRIDAY, OCT. 29, 11:56 P.M. MAIN STREET, HUNTINGTON BEACH.Sitting backward in a chair outside Momo's, his fingers tightly clutching a silver counter that—judging by the crowd inside—probably read 13, the bouncer was a portrait of absolute indifference. “I smell gas. You smell gas?” his friend asked, checking the power switch on the outdoor heater for the fifth time in six minutes. No reaction. “Well, I smell something.” It wasn't gas—it was boredom.

SATURDAY, NOV. 20, 12:14 A.M. SHADES, PEARL NIGHTCLUB, LAKE FOREST. And so it was that an empty dance floor—which is pitiful—became even more pitiful as the crowd picked up, gathered 'round in a dance ring, and then did nothing, save for one girl who looked like she was going to jump in the middle, bouncing to the music and counting beats like a cheerleader, and then still did nothing. Similarly, an already parceled-off crowd pushed even farther into their individual corners—instead of pushing toward one another and the bar, as routine social-binge-drinking behavior dictates—to the point it started to feel like we were in high school, too, and that's just about the worst thing ever.

FRIDAY, NOV. 26, 5:17 P.M. SOUTH COAST PLAZA, COSTA MESA.Of course, it was possible, we supposed, these women had braved the Black Friday SigAlerts and arrived at South Coast Plaza not to swill, but instead to shop. But, um, why? What with it being the second-biggest shopping day of the year and all, wasn't it the day for sloshed shopping? Apparently not. Maybe that was just us. Again.

SUNDAY, DEC. 5, 4:46 P.M. BREA MALL, BREA. “She's like Mary-Kate and Ashley,” explained Alicia, an 18-year-old from Chino Hills who had been at the mall since 9 a.m. in anticipation of Paris Hilton's scheduled appearance. “They can't act, but they've got . . . something. You know?”

FRIDAY, DEC. 10, 11:51 P.M. RODMAN'S, NEWPORT BEACH. “I'll have a blowjob [shot],” called one babe, who we were fairly certain we'd seen in Maxim or Stuff a time or two, all the while raising her hands in the air and waving them like—well, you know the rest: pouty lips; blue eyes; long, honeyed hair; no rhythm whatsoever.

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