Saturday, September 19, 2015

Curse of the Drinking Classes

As Oscar Wilde wrote: "Work is the curse of the drinking classes." I had planned to take a vacation day today in order to attend the Fifth Annual McLean Avenue Festival, which takes place on the main commercial drag in my neighborhood. I had planned to spend an evening bending an elbow, so to speak. That all changed when my co-worker, whose wife works in an office on the avenue, fell and broke his arm. Can't be taking off when we're short-staffed... that would be a dick move.

Being a community booster, and having an old high-school chum who is one of the architects of the festival, I headed out of the house at 1PM and walked a couple of blocks to the main drag. The street was closed off, with two large stages at either end of the festival route, and several smaller stages set up for students of local dancing and music schools. There were a couple of rides for the kids, and a bouncy castle. On the eastern end of the festival, I ran into a part-time co-worker of mine who was representing the organization she works for in her 'regular' full-time job. She was participating in a fundraiser, so I gave her organization a couple of simoleons, because they do good work.

As I wended my way westward, I stopped at one of the local taverns (I live in the pub district), all of which had sidewalk taps set up along the festival route, and purchased a beer. I figure that, if one sticks to two to four beers over the course of two hours, one may as well be drinking soda. Sadly, I had to turn down an invitation to participate in a cannoli eating contest, because I figured it would mess me up for the afternoon- fifteen cannoli in five minutes? I might have handled that... I did end up purchasing two cannoli, after stopping by a couple of local businesses for a moving breakfast- the local butcher shop was selling sandwiches made from house-cured corned beef, as well as sausage rolls and Scotch eggs. A small corned beef sandwich and a Scotch egg is a good precursor to a second beer, which I ordered from a former upstairs neighbor of mine who was slinging pints in front of a typical watering hole of mine.

Further west, I passed a couple of booths from which raffle tickets were being sold for medical benefits, including one for a five year-old girl who was stricken with a brain tumor which caused her to have stroke. The bars in my neighborhood run a lot of fundraisers for locals who have met with misfortune and need help with medical expenses, or families which face funeral expenses. The neighborhood is tight-knit, and people tend to look out for each other.

I also ran into the guy who runs the Tuesday night trivia contest that I attend when I'm not in Brooklyn at the Secret Science Club lectures. He's a great guy, and he was doing some pro bono MCing at one of the smaller stages, introducing step dancers and young musicians.

After two hours and four beers, it was time to call it a day and get ready for work. As I walked home, I jealously eyed the small groups which were walking to the festival grounds. In the next couple of hours, the character of the festival would change- the families with small children would go home, and the rides and bouncy castle would be deactivated. The action would slowly move from the sidewalks to the bars. It was this transition that I had hoped to make when I requested the day off, but duty beckoned. I made my appearance, showed some support for my friends and neighbors, dropped some coin in the local coffers. My neighborhood is a wonderful place, with a lot of mom-and-pop businesses. It's got a lot of character, and a lot of characters, both of which I cherish.

I can't really complain about having to work... I am fortunate to move in a bunch of social circles. Having obligations is a sure sign of belonging- occasionally, there may be schedule conflicts, but that's better than having an empty dance card.