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Bar #23 – Churchkey – Post-Mortem

Churchkey is one of my favorite beer bars, easily the best beer bar on the 30 Bars in 30 Days tour, the best beer bar in Washington, DC, and perhaps the best beer bar in all of America.  So you can imagine I was beyond stoked for Saturday's event there and beer director Greg Engert rolled out the red carpet for me.  Unfortunately, this was not what I was thinking as I leaned haunched over between two cars throwing up violently onto 14th Street around 7 PM.

And it wasn't even due to drinking!  I swear!  Yeah, right, like you're gonna believe me.  Like you're gonna believe the guy that has been drinking hard every day for a month straight.  Like you're going to believe the guy who ended late Friday night with a Belgian quadruples tasting, who started Saturday morning with an exotic barleywines tasting and with his first ever bottle of De Dolle Stille Nacht (1999 vintage, AMAZING), who headed over to Churchkey at noon and abused an amazing menu with such delights as Stillwater's A Saison Darkly, Avery's Rumpkin, and Victory Storm King on cask.  But, I swear, you have to believe me!  And isn't the fact that I've done the same things mentioned above for the past month WITHOUT yakking even once, even more proof that this yakking was not drinking influenced or induced?

Speaking of repetition, I'd like to take a short break from this vomitus talk to discuss some repetitiveness I continue to see on tour.  First up, let's count down the top three things said to me when a bar patron notices "How to Fail":

"How long did it take you to write this?"

Such an odd question.  Such an odd question to be THE question everyone wants to know.  Not what the book is about.  Not even how much it costs.  Nope, just how long it took to write.  At first I was like, "Who gives a shit?  One month or one decade, the quality is the same."  And, I was confused as to whether people wanted to know that it took a short or long time to pen, like it would only be worth their $15 if they were getting several years of a man's blood, sweat, and adjectives on paper.  But, I finally realized that the reason this is the top FAQ of me goes back to the belief that everyone in the world wants to write A book.  Of course, very few people do ever write A book (despite the fact that millions of books are released per year).  So these people don't give a shit how long it took to write "How to Fail," they give a shit how long it took to write 400 pages of anything, because they too would like to think that they will one day write 400 pages of something.  So they want a short answer.  They want to hear, "Oh, it was easy, took just a few months."  They don't want to hear the real answer, "I'd been planning it since 2004, it took me about 3 years to write, and another full year to edit."  They don't want to hear that and they don't have any interest in putting that effort in.  So, at the least, even if I'm not selling books some nights, I'm sure preventing a lot of people from ever attempting their own crummy books.  And, for that, perhaps I deserve a medal.


Always said by someone with no interest in buying a book.  I didn't just get Bar Mitzvahed.  You don't need to congratulate me.  Congratulations won't keep me stocked in rare beer and cheap black t-shirts.  Just buy the book or don't.  I'm well past the point that a congratulations matters and you need to get better at blowing people off that are selling books in bars.  What, you've never encountered someone selling a book in a bar before?!

"I already know how to fail!"

Always said jokingly, as if the most clever joke in the world and one I've never heard before.  Nope, I hear it every day, countless times a day, from men, women, young, old, well-dressed, poorly-dressed, journalists, customers, it doesn't matter.

I know you know how to fail, we all know how to fail.  That's why I wrote "How to Fail," because failure is universal, whether you're George Clooney, Barack Obama, Jay-Z, Shaq, or that bum on the street corner.  So just cause you KNOW how to fail, doesn't mean you won't enjoy my book, or get something out of my book, no matter who you are.

No matter who you are.  Which is why I'd now like to touch on the three most frequent professions--purely anecdotally based--that keep buying "How to Fail."

Service industry professionals

Sure, you say, you are spending countless hours a day in bars and restaurants, of course I'm gonna be spending plenty of time schmoozing up and hobnobbing hostesses, maitre d's, waiters (excuse me, "servers"), cooks, barbacks, and the like.  But, they all do really love the book, really relating to the book's protagonist's struggles in "making it," perhaps because many service industry folks are also very much chasing unique dreams that all the detractors in their lives are pooh-poohing.

Military men/women

Educated, spend lots of time traveling and alone, frequently without access to more technological forms of entertainment (phones, computers, TVs, etc) and often need a good laugh.  Yeah, right in any author's wheelhouse, but especially mine.  And, they are all loving "How to Fail," and, as far as I know, the book is currently in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to name a few spots.


The younger grades the better.  This is another profession that is overworked and in desperate need of a laugh, especially an "adult" one.  After spending all week with children, these fine folks seem to enjoy reading a bawdy novel full of drinking, sex, and the like.  Then again, I greatly enjoy hearing their school tales of catching students talking about/engaged in drinking, sex, and the like.

On top of that, there's an (anecdotal again) gender breakdown of about 70/30 female/male in buying.  Odd.  Lots of male homosexual purchases as well, though that could just be due to their proclivities for working in the service industry.

But back to me, haunched over and vomiting on Saturday night, forced to leave an awesome and packed Churchkey event right as it was heating up, right as books were flying off the table, forced to taxi back to DW's house to pass out for the night on an air 8:30 PM.

On Sunday I would feel fine, I would look back at my Saturday and analyze what exactly had made me sick.  Sure, I drank a lot, but I always drink a lot.  Sure, I ate a lot of bar food--a grilled cheese, a heaping plate of tater tots, a flatbread pizza--but I eat greasy bar food every day.  Sure, I'm overworked and underslept, but big deal.  No, I think it all came down to the fact that on Saturday morning I was unable to get a cup of coffee before starting the day and event.  I start every day with coffee and drink it nearly non-stop throughout the entirety of the day until bedtime.  And, I didn't do that on Saturday at all.  So the intense headaches, the shakiness, the queasiness, the eventual throwing up, was all due to a lack of coffee.  How embarrassing.  I'm like one of those characters in "Trainspotting" once they start weening themselves off heroin.

I won't skip a Dunkin Donut morning stop ever again.


Lack of coffee leads to surfeit of throw up.


As I yakked on the street, a kindly bum rolled his wheelchair over to me and starting giving me health advice.  *YAK* "You know man, you can drink just not so..." *YAK* "...much.  And when you do drink..." *YAK* " sure to drink lots of salt water with it..." *YAK* "...yeah, that always helped me keep it down."

Life is clearly immitating art considering Chapter 2 in "How to Fail" is titled "How to Fail to Not Be Mistaken For a Bum."


De Dolle Stille Nacht 1999 vintage.  Whoa, baby!

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