A friend of mine in college used to refer to his father's "drinking buddies." This blew my mind. What adult had drinking buddies? College kids, sure. But adults? Not in my 18-year-old mind. Not my dad. My dad had friends and co-workers and tennis partners and networking associates, but drinking buddies?!
I quickly learned, once I became an adult (kinda), there's nothing weird about having drinking buddies. In fact, a drinking buddy is often the one constant in your life. A friend, a wingman, a therapist, a co-philosopher, a partner in crime.
I've drank with hundreds of people over the years, but these are the notable rocks I consistently held up the bar with until last call.
Karl (2000) -- Karl was one of three roommates my junior and senior year of college. As oddball Midwesterners (him from Eden Prairie, Minnesota; me, Oklahoma City) attending Syracuse, we both turned 21 well before any of our east coast friends. By the early 2000s, Syracuse had started cracking down on fake IDs, so few people even chanced it any more and Karl and I were the only two from our group legally able to hit the bar scene junior year. It was so exotic. Illicit! The excitement of drinks being poured. Cozying up to college girls in their stupid "going out" clothes. Getting educated on bar rules. The thrill of the unexpected. In real life, in the day time, Karl and I were friendly but we weren't the world's best friends. But, at night, at the bar, we had no one else to rely on and we were the best of friends. It was a magical time to be young, to be lucky enough to be born in the first few months of 1979.
Tim (2001-2002) -- I was friends with Tim in college but we truly became FRIENDS after college when we decided to forge a screenwriting partnership. We lived in a $500 a month four-bedroom shithole deep in the recesses of Hoboken where we were underemployed, wrote "American Pie" knock-offs (one called "The Good Life" was our never-produced "masterpiece"), and always found the best drink deals. Our first day in town, someone handed us a flier for a bar called Rogo's. $5 cover charge, then $1 beer and booze from 7:00 PM til midnight. We'd belly up to the bar at 6:59 and start Herculean drinking, singles littering the immediate area in front of us like a strip club stage. By, 12:01 we'd go from drinking buddies to: getting 86ed buddies, throwing-up buddies, falling-asleep-in-trash buddies, committing petty misdemeanor buddies. Now, that was the good life. (Amazingly, a decade later, the deals at Rogo's appear fairly similar.)
Kevin (2003-2004) -- When Tim moved to L.A., Kevin took his place both as roommate and drinking buddy. A well-raised kid from Cincinnati via Duke University, he dressed like a golf pro and knew about the finer things in life. He introduced me to high-end booze, Belgian beers, and flirting with women using as few of words as possible. 150 pounds soaking wet, he could still drink like a fish. He met his future wife one Memorial Day weekend we'd headed out to the late great Village Idiot as drinking buddies. I was so drunk that night I didn't even recall him having met her. That would be the last time we'd ever truly be close-the-bar-down drinking buddies.
Joel (2004) -- For the bulk of late-2004, every Friday and Saturday in the late afternoon I'd get a call from Joel. Formalities were ignored and we both quickly got to the point at hand: "Where are we drinking tonight?" It was my final few months in Hoboken, while Joel lived in Hell's Kitchen, so I'd PATH it into the city and we'd hit the bars hard. At the time, we both liked vodka tonic doubles and stupid women and a raucous bar called No Idea was our stomping grounds. Eventually, Joel started increasingly mentioning some girl whenever we were buddying up and, though I should have easily predicted it, that was soon the end of that. Every few months, the married suburban man still appears back on the scene and we tie one on like old times. He's the rare drinking buddy whose legend still haunts every night out without him, him now a mental drinking buddy.
alone (2005) -- With Tim in L.A., Kevin, Joel, (John and others) in the start of new relationships with their soon-to-be wives, and Jonn getting deployed to the Middle East, I found myself as a guy who had gone from tons of drinking buddies to none. Literally none. Bored out of my wits most weekend nights, I realized I had little choice but to go out drinking alone. That's not easy but I quickly devised a strategy for not looking pathetic, not getting bored, and not losing my barstool when I had to sprint to the loo to take a piss. I actually gained a lot mentally and socially from this time. Thankfully it only lasted a few months or I might have jumped into the Hudson. I had gained a new appreciation for drinking buddies.
Jonn (2005) -- In 2005 Jonn returned from his tour of duty and we voraciously made up for lost time. He'd been overseas for only a few years, but he returned to a social scene that had completely changed. One that had gone from a massive group of merry drinking men to now just me and him. He was stunned. He was also very skinny after several years of hard desert-living and a total lack of alcohol in his diet. He wanted to go out most nights of the week to make up for missed time with both beer and women. That was fine with me. We'd hit every happy hour in town, sometimes staying til close. We'd load up on the cheapest pitcher deals and flirt with every woman that would let us. For shits and giggles, we even adapted phony personas we liked to pull out when the mood tickled us and the booze pickled us. He now lives in Queens and we don't get to drink together as much as we used to but he will clearly be a drinking buddy for a lifetime. He's not gonna stop drinking any time soon. Nor will I.
Graig (2007-present) -- As I age, as we all do, you start needing "reasons" to go out. Getting drunk is a pretty solid one, and hitting on women is another, but meeting to root on your favorite sports team is an even better excuse for a decrepit 30-year-old who can't drink as good as he used to and has a girlfriend to boot. I didn't know Graig at Syracuse, but the first time we met (after a painful loss to Notre Dame which we watched at the late Town Tavern) I knew we'd be instant friends. Twenty plus times a year, we find ourselves just having "one more" to celebrate a Syracuse win or lament a Syracuse loss and next thing you know, our other game-watching buddies (Sal, Eric, et al) have called it a night and it's just us, beer, booze, philosophy, and a sober bartender trying to bilk a massive tip out of Graig. Graig has picked up my tab more than is reasonable--he's very generous when Syracuse wins, very drunk when we lose--and I probably owe him a back-tab larger than Norm owes Cheers.
Derek (ongoing) -- Derek is another friend from Syracuse who I didn't actually know at Syracuse. We quickly become drinking buddies over our shared love of the finer drinks in life and the drunker fines in life. Derek doesn't live in New York but he's in town for business (or, "business") so often he might as well be. Once a month, or so it seems, I'll meet him at his hotel and we'll polish off a few craft beer rarities before heading to Rattle n Hum or Blind Tiger to sample the wares. For his wedding, we put together one of the finest craft beer lineups either of us has ever sampled. That's a good drinking buddy, one who will let you be his drinking buddy even on his wedding day.
Craig (2010) -- Less a drinking buddy than a drinking teammate, from November 9 to December 10, 2010, during the 30 Bars in 30 Days book tour, my manager Craig and I literally spent every single day and night drinking together. We only got stronger as the days progressed, like Jordan and Pippen in NBA Finals.
Betsy (2010-present) -- I doubt she'd like to be called a drinking buddy, but one's final (and ultimate) drinking buddy in life is always going to be a girlfriend, wife, life partner. I met her at a bar, I first-dated her at a bar, and our increasingly decreasing "going out" lives still revolve around the bar. We're both beer connoisseurs, we both detest sitting at tables in restaurants, and we both consider a fromage and charcuterie plate to be an acceptable and well-balanced dinner. A perfect pairing. You say, "Your girlfriend can't be your drinking buddy." I say: if your girlfriend, wife, life partner isn't fit to belly up to the bar with you, then I feel sorry for you.
I'd be remiss to not mention John, Kyle, Brian, Mike, Michael, Tony, Jeff, Kingsley, Sal, Eric, Dave, David, Todd, Steven, and (surely the world's best ever teetotaling drinking buddy) Chris.
Who are some of your best drinking buddies over the years?