How I spent my new years

      Churchkey’s open bar, open kitchen, New Year’s Eve party.  2010/2011 NYE I was present like a gift-wrapped box under a tree and I had a blast, so when an email came from The Neighborhood Group, I jumped at the opportunity to return again.  The email said I could buy my ticket a week before they went on sale. I talked to my buddy Nick and we agreed that even if we made other plans, stopping by Churchkey on New Years would be well worth it.  I nabbed my ticket and didn’t see any promotions in November or December.  A bit leery, I asked Beer Dir. Greg what was happening.  LivingSocial had helped to sell out in 1 day.  More on that when we get to the front door.

Methuselah(?) of Pyraat and midnight keg drop 2010/11

Last year, I booked a room at the Helix which is a small, colorful and mildly bizarre place. It’s kinda like candyland meets the jersey shore. There were two framed portaits in our room. One of black ken (wiki reports that his name is Brad) another of barbie’s torso. I remember remarking on how many sharp corners there were in the room and what a bad idea it would be to play tag. This year we opted for the Westin.  Very close, but trying to use Starwood points was needlessly frustrating like a circular reference in Excel.  We opted for the much cheaper and pretty nice Holiday Inn.  As a rewards member, we got 2 complimentary drinks at the bar (which we would opt to use for Bloody Marys the next morning, a decidedly big mistake that we’ll get to later).  The room had a fridge into which we quickly deposited an plethora of beer.
Double Trouble is always a treat and Molotov Cocktail from EvilTwin was good enough to make me talk like a samurai (anyone who’s spent any amount of time with me knows this too well).  20th Anniversary from Otter Creek was rich, dense and made us sit down and look at each other ‘like whoa.’  After our final bottle taste test toast of 2011 we made a beeline for Churchkey.  It was 9pm.  The streets were filled with a number of outstanding individuals. Guys chest bumping, and high fiving. Girls giggling and stumbling along the sidewalk. Occupy DC types trudging along with their loaded backpacks and layers of clothing. Nick said to me, “I don’t know, I feel like to get a seat we should have gotten there earlier.” I told him he was crazy and that people wouldn’t arrive until much later. The year before we got there at 9:05 and had to wait until at least 9:30 to get a beer; 9:45 before a few hors d’orves started coming out. Climbing the metal stairs, Nick’s spider sense tingled. I told him it was probably the 8pm scotch he had and we continued to wait in line. When we got to the top of the stairs I had my license out and my ticket pulled up on my phone. A large gentleman with long blond curley hair who Nick later referred to as Blondre the Giant screamed into my face, “What party are you with?” I responded, “This one?” and held up my license and ticket. After a repetition of said lines, I entered into a staredown with Blondre then entered the bar.  Our names were the last 2 on the list.  It was 9:15.  Doors opened at 9:00.  People were throwing coats overs chairs like they were prospectors in the gold rush of 1849.

Nick and I looked at the menu.  Cujo 2 ways, Nogne-o winter, JW Lees Barleywine.  It was a smashing list. We ordered beers and went back and forth from window to lounge gorging on cheeses, meats, tater tots, flatbreads and some of the tastiest burger sliders I’ve ever had.  The place continued to fill up and I decided it was time to go outside and have a cigar.  On the way out, I gave another look to Blondraie as Nick asked if we could get back in.  Outside the streets had livened up even more.  People were milling about and smoking and laughing and in great cheer.  Amongst the frenzy we happened upon an idealist who was long from his flock.

Note distance kept from Mr. Crazypants

He wanted a drink so I went over to Barrel Liquor to show him that capitalism sometimes is pretty neat.  I jokingly pointed out a jeroboam of  Cook’s and asked him if it would do.  He replied that it would do fine and picked it up.  The cashiers eyes bulged.  Before placing it on the counter I retorted, “But it’s from California, don’t you want champagne?!?”  He cried, “Yeah fuck this shit, where’s the real stuff?!?!?”  After we perused a lovely selection of French champagnes I announced that [literally] beggars can’t be choosers (this is the most appropriate use of the phrase that I have ever heard).  I pointed to a $10 bottle of Cooks and gave him the, “take it or leave it before I walk out,” look.  He graciously accepted.  Outside he nestled into a doorway and took a binder out of his backpack.   As he removed the foil and cap…or cork or whatever on his warm champipple, he paged through his ‘artwork.’  If you haven’t seen the drawings by Charles Manson or heard his poetry then it would mean nothing when I tell you that this young man was a prodigy of Manson’s.   One art piece must have been titled Naked Female Torsos.  I say this because it was of legless headless female torsos.  “Guess how many wolves,” is another that comes to mind.  This was when I knew funtime was over and it was time to go.  You’ll notice in the pic that I didn’t accept his offer of a seat.  I couldn’t have been more pleased when Nick, blowing smoke from his cigar, corralled 2 lovely young ladies saying, “Oh, you have to check this out.  Look at this man’s amazing art!”

We climbed the stairs again, and this is where something truly amazing happened.  The large blonde haired bouncer/doorman said to me, “I think there was a misunderstanding.  I didn’t mean to disrespect you.”  My spirits lifted.  I gave him a sideways glance then asked, “Really?”  He was genuine.  I smiled and opened my arms saying, “Come here big guy!!!!”  Nick later told me that my new bestest friend in the whole world initially saw my exuberance as sarcasm, but once he realized that I was simply a ham, the room filled with love.  Ok, maybe that’s an overstatement, but I greatly enjoyed high fiving and giving the 2 thumbs up to the doorman the rest of the night.  Great guy.  More plummy beers and chocolatey beers and coffee beers and wine like beers and citrusy beers.

photobooth FTW

Many hoppy beers and cask beers and Belgian beers and ciders later, around 11:30, I asked a table if it would be alright to sit in one of their empty seats. I had been on my feet for 3 hours and just wanted to take a load off.  “No” a girl explained, “Those are our friends seats.”  I told her that I understood, but but just wanted the chance to sit down; I’d get up if they returned.  She refused.  Like a scene from Half Baked, I addressed the table with a loud booming voice.  “FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, YOU – DON’T EVEN LOOK AT ME.  ASSHOLES THINK YOU CAN RULE SCHOOL AND….FUCK IT, I WOULDN’T SIT NEXT TO YOU ANYWAYS.  HAPPY NEW YEARS DICKWADS.”  I went back to the bar where Nick had some ‘cool down’ beers.  John Bowen from Video Killers was vjing and after pumping reggae, started throwing on some dance tracks.  A little Michael Jackson Off The Wall, a little ABC, then some Beastie Boys and I started breakdancing.  This is where the 15/1 restaurant breakdancing rule came into play.  For every 15 people who are down with a breakdancer, there’s one prick who wants you to just do the Watusi.  Getting in my face, I believe I told him, “I’ll breakdance wherever I please,” to the cheers of, “Get out your cardboard!” from the crowd.   Before we ‘battled’ a tray of glasses entered the circle.  They were starting to pass out champagne.  It was 11:50.  After being handed a wine glass 1/3 full of champagne I toasted those around me and took a sip.  A weird sensation, not unlike eating rock candy occurred, when I realized the the glass had chipped and cut my lip.  I spit out the glass chip into the wine glass and rest it on a table while I probed my lower lip for additional fragments.  I got a tap on the shoulder as some douche said, “Hey buddy.  WTF.  You just spit into a glass and put it in front of my girlfriend!”  I looked at him and said, “Oh, I’m sorry.  I’m not finished with it.  You see?  I’m going to eat it.”  I then sunk my teeth in to the rim of the wine glass and applied pressure.  As Nick later told me, “You sure took your time biting into that glass.”  Well duh.  I’m not a reckless person.  After finally cracking a piece of glass into my mouth like a carnival geek, I flashed my best cheshire cat grin at the punk who faded away towards his table.  Looking over my shoulder I said, “Oh, wow, look at that.  The keg has dropped.  It’s New Years.”  Afterwards I danced some more and made out with some girl.  I think I almost started an other fight when her friends pulled us apart.  “She has a boyfriend in Ohio!!!”  Well shoot, we aint in Ohio.  Take it easy.  I think I mock punched somebody, but he then punched me so then I punched somebody who was totally not involved.  It was that kind of night.

As fuzzy memories go, about 1:15 I was across the street with Nick at the 7-11.  Emerging with my 2 Gatorade for $3 special, I removed my hat and placed the drinks in it (this is all according to Nick because I don’t remember doing this). “Here, take these, I’m going back in.”  I turned before Nick could change his expression from shock to one of respect and admiration. I proudly marched across the street, up those stairs and probably entered a scene of cleaning and shutting down if I didn’t start another fight first.  The best thing is that next thing I remember, I was shirtless, but with pants (this cannot be underestimated) in my bed, in MY hotel room.  Go figure.  I checked my phone which at some point in the night I wisely put in to airplane mode.  Turning it back on, I received the flood of like texts one would expect.  While scrutinizing the fuzzy parts of the night, an email caught my eye.  If this was a film, the shot would include a ‘dolly zoom.’ As Nick continued filling in the blanks his voice faded as my heart sank and time itself stopped in a way only Einstein could understand.

1-1-12 3:30am : email message
from Iseemedindifferent&

{email from the ex}  Yes that one.  The one who….sigh.

THANK GOD new Years only happens once a year.

At least we were able to return to Churchkey for their coup de grace; brunch.  NOT [keep reading]  We get there at 2:55 after spending the afternoon waking up,  laughing, reconstructing the night and getting our stories straight.  Remember the complimentary drink tickets we got when we signed in?  We sat down at the bar about 2:15, ordered extra spicy bloody mary’s and chatted with some cheerleaders who were waiting for their transportation.  Once we hit the ice in the bottom of the drink that matched the icey brush off we were getting, we made our way to Churchkey, arriving at 2:55pm.  “Hey guys, here, have a look at the brunch menu, while I get you coffee.  Take your time yadda, yadda.  Here’s your coffee, wanna take more time?”   I said, “Look, I know I’ve going to have the chicken and waffles.  I’ve been looking forward to them for months.  I had them last New Year’s Day and haven’t made it back for brunch since.”  That’s when the bartender took our order and walked away only to return 30 seconds later with a strange look on his face.  Brunch was over.  The kitchen was closed.  The email that said Birch and Barley would serve till 3:30pm?  A misprint.  The info that Churchkey would be open till 4?  An error.  I cracked a crooked smile and tilted my head, grinding out, “Gee.  Whadayaknow.  Guess we’ll just have to go exploring and find something new!” “That’s a great attitude man.”  Not wanting to strangle someone on the first day of the year, I left Churchkey half crazed identifying with the mask in the crazy carnival prize shop next door.  It’s gonna be a great year, I can just taste it!  
We did quickly come up with THE SPOT to hit.  The Hamilton was in full swing and had an eclectic menu, with some good sushi to boot.
  • Neighborhood Restaurant Group
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Dear Kris,
I’m sure other people told you this, but I was super bummed that the kitchen of Birch & Barley and Churchkey closed at 3pm on Sunday January 1st even thought the info in this email says otherwise.
Also the night before at Churchkey, one of the wine glasses that the champagne was served in cracked and cut my lip.  I didn’t think much of it, but my friends at other Neighborhood Restaurants were shocked.  Just wanted to offer some feedback.  It didn’t really hamper my New Year’s celebration.


—Hmmm.  No response.  Spam box?  Mentioned it to managers at Churchkey, Rustico Alexandria and Rustico Ballston to shrugs of shoulders

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