“Christmas Shopping.”

Clearly this Christmas Shopping Tradition goes back a ways.

I have been a part of the Wenstrup family for 9 Christmas’ at this point and this is the first year I was invited to go along on the men’s annual “Christmas Shopping Adventure.”  I was so excited when I was first invited that I almost peed myself.  Finally, I get to take part in the time old tradition that always had good stories to tell afterward.

For you see, this was not any ordinary shopping trip.  For years these men have gone out under the guise of shopping for their significant others and got stupid drunk instead.  I of course can’t drink, but the stories that have always been told about this night are legendary, and I wanted in.  I suppose there are some years that people actually do have to go shopping, in that unlikely event he would be made fun of all night for interrupting or delaying the drinking for actual shopping.  LAME.  But of course the legend does have it that it did all start as shopping for jewelry first, which would take all of 10 minutes in Newport. And since they were already in Newport why not hang out and drink with the other three hours to kill.

So the legend goes.

So here is my entry to the mythology of  “Christmas Shopping.”

Cast of Characters:

  • John Wenstrup – The leader and worst organized.  He has a penchant for over drinking and cracking wise at the least advantageous moments.
  • Paul Clements – Second in command.  He easily has the biggest mouth, but swears to have never been in a fight.
  • Randy White – The peace keeper.  A new addition to the outfit, but fits in like a glove with the rest of the “Wild Hogs.”
  • Bill Meinhardt – The innocent.  I’m not sure Bill quite new what he was getting into.
  • Matt Wenstrup – The enforcer.  Knows immediately where all bottles are that could be weapons when entering a bar.
  • George Herron (Me) – The DD.  Due to a close call last year with the local police, my bodies resistance for any sort of alcohol, and I’m nearly positive Jesy “secretly” asking that John involve me.  The stars were aligned; it was my call to the big leagues.  If nothing else, so that they have a driver.

Would I blow it?  Being the DD with a crew like this would require focus and a swivel head, eyes constantly moving.  Closest exits, fire extinguishers, knowing where the biggest guy in the bar was, bathrooms, how many pool cues, where wallets were, you had to know all these things.  Driving a large car full of drunks of this magnitude through the back roads of Liberty Township.  Three different directions being thrown at you all at once, just having to kind of MacGyver the directions together and make my own.

I wish I could put this on my resume somehow.

Storage Unit:

Like all adventures, there is quite an auspicious start.  We were driving Randy’s Tahoe, since it was the only vehicle that was going to be able to contain the craziness that we were packing.  Randy, Matt and I had to stop at the storage unit to pick up the back seats.  First off, back seats were a little buried.   Not tragic, but come on now, it’s freezing out here!  Then there was the matter of, “it’s a lot easier to take them out than put them back in” issue that you always seem to have.  Matt and I just get to stand there and watch Randy wrestle with the back seats for like 15 minutes.  I mean, there wasn’t any room for us to actually help, and no one had a flash light of course, so we just kind of had to just stand there and quietly ask if he wanted us to look at it.  I mean you just can’t throw that out there, that’s like calling a man a less of a man, you just can’t do that.  So we just kind of stood there and our penance was freezing to death, but Randy got it and then we were off to our first stop to pick up Bill.  None of us could tell you how the seats work, Randy included, getting those seats to stick was luck.

Win, Place or Show:

The rest of the passenger pick up went as predictable.  Randy drove all the way to this the first official leg of the race, so I actually had to first test those back seats that were wrestled to submission installed by Randy.  I survived, so Randy won.  Being what I thought would be the safest of the bars to order actual food and the fact that it was 7 or after it just made sense to get some food here.  Horrible call.  It took FOREVER to get the order in and then it took FOREVER to get the food.  And this food wasn’t even worth waiting 3 minutes for.  Their covered cheese fries came 1/4 covered in the thinnest layer of cheese I had ever seen, with about 5 bacon bits on top and a half a cup of ranch on the side.  I ordered a bacon cheese burger plain.  I got it loaded and to make it worse that meant some weird sauce, either tartar, or some weird Italian concoction.  And the burger was sub par even without all those issues.  Then there was the matter of waiting for the checks to arrive so we could get the eff out of that nightmare.  While waiting for our waitress whose last name must have been Houdini, we had to suffer through the beginning of karaoke night.  I hate karaoke and already being annoyed didn’t help that.  This night had potential to get ugly before it really starts.

  • Mood(Group):  Annoyed.
  • Alcohol level:  A college junior after three beers.  Slightly buzzed, but feel that they have had enough to justify uglier girls hotter than they are.
  • Primary Discussion:  The GAWD AWFUL field that Eastern Washington has.  Boise State’s is odd and a discussion piece, but EWU has taken it too far.  The loudness of the karaoke.  Old men love to complain and especially about loud music, it was a recipe for disaster.

Peg’s Pub:

This picture could have been taken inside Peg’s Pub.

If I didn’t have lung cancer before, I do now.  But I knew what I was getting into, so I’m not laying blame here, just saying.   Highlights include; John had the first of a few Hudy Delights for the evening, cover band playing some good 60’s and 70’s hits, old man in sweater trying to get his bump and grind on with what normally would be considered cougars, but were just kittens for this guy, Doug standing us up for actual shopping, a man dangerously dipping a woman maybe three times his size and a guy dry humping a hanging banner.

Except for the pocket walls  of second-hand smoke,  this was a pretty good experience.  Peg’s does seem to be a hotbed for contestants for a show that could be called “So, America is pretty dammed sure you can’t dance.”  John also starts what will be a disturbing trend all night here at Peg’s, the bathroom run.  We would have been better served picking up some diapers for the man, or maybe next year look into having a catheter put in?

  • Mood:   Jovial.
  • Alcohol level:  A functioning alcoholic on a Tuesday night.  None could probably drive at this point, but I think they all could have passed the test.
  • Primary Discussion:  Sweater guys persistence and seeming skills.  Making fun of Doug for actually shopping.  Although him not showing up was probably for the best.  Had he shown up, I’m sure there would have been a billiards challenge and then all of us would have had to prove how big our penis’ were by trying to win, blah, blah, blah, you know the story.  Everyone is starting to notice how frequently John is going to the bathroom and the inevitable “let’s stop at Kroger and buy you some diapers” comments begin to fly.

Al’s:

Located in downtown Sharonville.  You will notice that we progressively go from worse to worse bar in terms of selection goes.   The place was a dive for sure, their tables were the old school tables that Wendy’s used to have.  But the band was surprisingly decent.  The bassist was crazy looking though.  Like Nick Nolte looking crazy, except older with a beard and he was wearing a crazy hat.  Smaller more “intimate” setting than Peg’s, but all smoking was outside and the band was an upgrade.  An apparent bar fly named Lacy was invited to sing a couple songs, she delivered a quite passable Patsy Cline and the rest was some rockabilly and Southern Rock.

The primary source of entertainment was John jumping “on stage” and singing Elvis’ “Are you Lonesome Tonight?”  He did quite well until he starts to forget the words and the guitarist has to help out.  Kind of a downer of a song, but I guess it’s best to stay in your wheel house, no matter how many beers you’ve had.

Bill might be thinking he’s out of his element at this point.  Bill is not a heavy drinker and I know he has had over 5 at this point, and while I’m sure he doesn’t want to start getting lapped he knows he can’t keep pace.  Bill lies low, knowing that people are still sober enough to notice him nursing a beer.  He’s certainly not regretting, but he is beginning to see why he can only do this once a year.

  • Mood:  Rambunctious.
  • Alcohol level:  After the bar closes drunk, but still ready to go to the after party back at the house and make some more bad decisions.
  • Primary Discussion:  John’s performance, the tables being from Wendy’s, the crazy looking bassist, the crazy looking bassist’s hat, John and now Bill are having problems not peeing their pants every 5 minutes.

Phil’s:

Closed.  The running joke was that we were going to have to take shifts going in and out of the bar because there was no way that all 6 of us were going to be able to stand in the bar at once.  But it didn’t matter because they had just closed when we got there.  Sad to think that a bar closes at 12 on a Friday night.  Paul of course is feeling pretty good at this point so he tries to argue his way into the bar, but to no avail.  So begrudgingly we head off towards the Gano Tavern.

Gano Tavern:

I was expecting worse that’s for sure.  While it’s not great, it’s bigger than it appears and just as smokey as Peg’s.  The bartender was nice enough, there were some that thought she had a nice smile.  I thought that her hair looked like she had just walked out of a White Snake video and that trumped any good feature she might have had.  After scaring off a couple of youkles we took over the bar with only Paul sitting on the opposite side.  This set up perfectly for sniping from all of us at Paul to continue for the entire time we are at the Gano Tavern.

Highlights include:  The largest man in the bar toasting to the greatest man he ever knew, his father.  This prompted the completely drunk and always sensitive John to toast the man’s mother.  The man stares daggers at John and warns him not to be a smart ass.  He had just buried his father two days ago.  Matt begins looking for weapons and I’m making sure people are paying attention in case this goes south quickly.  After another comment things die down and John shifts his focus to the lesbian who is also too drunk for her own good.  She stammers on about how her motorcycle is bigger than John’s, which delight’s Paul to no end.    Fortunately the rest of us knew that she really meant penis when she said motorcycle, so whatever.

As we were trying to leave John had made best friends with the giant angry man.  Of course he had.  So in an effort to try to break up their two-man love fest I begin conversation with the ogre.  Oh great we both work at Kroger.  He works in the store at Tylersville, I explain to him that I work in the IT department.  He asks if I know Meg.  I don’t.  Then it gets really weird.  He puts his arm around me and starts insisting that I know Meg.  I get loose of him and start walking outside to the car and he starts to follow me still insisting that I know and work with Meg.  Hell he might still be there right now yammering on and on about it.

  • Mood:  Freaked out.
  • Alcohol level:  John Daily drunk.  No one could pass a test and everyone were talking in decibels much louder than when the evening first started.  We had also entered the one ups manship zone of the night.  The time when they all had to try to out story the previous person.  Like a giant pissing contest.
  • Primary Discussion:  John’s ill-timed and sarcastic toast, the giant weird dude, the group of mid-late 20’s homely looking girls that were having a party in the corner.  Why were they there of all places? Was it the appeal of bad lighting and smokey atmosphere to give the vague appearance to really drunk men that you might be attractive?  I can see no other reason.  Paul screaming “bar bitch” at the guy behind the bar.

Liberty Inn:

Randy’s inspiration.

The last stop of the evening as far as the bars are concerned.  And coincidentally (due to the main conversation that took palce here) the only place that John was ever almost in a fight.  The legendary “Hold my Palm Pilot,” fight.  Paul spent most of the time harassing the waitress for Pizza that she had expressly told him when we walked in that the kitchen was closed.  John was starting to run out of steam and was falling asleep at the table.  Matt and Paul and Randy were talking about fighting.  Paul said Matt was dumb for getting in fights, Matt said that sometimes he just didn’t have a choice.  Matt called Paul a liar when Paul announced that somehow with as big of a mouth he has he has never been in a fight.  Randy tried to point out both sides of each of their stories to make peace, Matt can’t walk away so the arguing continued.  Then Matt played the “you hated me when I dated your daughter card.”  Paul denied any malicious intent and the rest of us just awkwardly laughed.

You could tell that the evening was coming to an end.  Too much alcohol mixed with the late hour was starting to take its toll.  I think everyone only had one beer before we decided to call it a night and head back to Randy’s so that I could pick up Jesy who was helping Jami and Dina with Mason and drive everyone else home.

Good news is that sometime during this leg I was asked to come back for next year.  So I must have passed the audition!

  • Mood:  Reflective.
  • Alcohol level:  A Catholic School teacher the day after classes are over.  So drunk Lindsey Lohan thinks you have a problem.
  • Primary Discussion:  Paul’s claim to have never been in a fight.  All of Matt’s fights.  Randy’s previous arm wrestling experience.  Food.

Randy’s House:

Getting there was a slight adventure.  I had the not so easy task of deciphering several different directions at once.  They were directions given by drunks on top of that.  We dropped off Matt and Randy.  We were going to have a billiards tournament at Randy’s house that would have happened at Peg’s but Jesy said hell no, cracked the whip and forced the drunks back out to the car.  On the way out Paul made sure to yell up the stairs to wake up Dina.  I believe Randy was yelling as well, which will probably get him grounded.  Not a smart play Randy, but eleventy seven beers later what can you do?

  • Mood:  Exhausted.
  • Alcohol level:  Waining at this point.  We’ve probably come down a little bit, so I would say we are back down to Liza Minelli in the 90’s.
  • Primary Discussion:  Where to pick up food.

Dropping off the rest of the crew:

Other than Paul NOT paying me (and you know what for Paul, it was for $5) and having to stop and get White Castle’s, the trip home went without incident.  John took turns passing out and taking bites of his sliders and Paul talked our ears off.  It was a nice conclusion to the evening.  I was concerned when we dropped John off however.  I had to get out to open the garage door for him and he was kicking stuff as he trudged through the garage.  I was worried he wouldn’t have enough steam to make it to bed.  but it wasn’t like I was going to help him either.  So away Jesy and I went to finally return home and reminisce on a pretty entertaining night.

A great time, with great men.  I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

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5 thoughts on ““Christmas Shopping.”

  1. Thank you for starting my Monday morning out with such laughs!! It is amazing the things you observe when you are the ‘sober one’…..it can be a great study in human behavior as well as a night of shaking your head in wonderment. And you are right about Bill……at 5 beers nursing a 6th he is triple a normal evenings alcohol consumption…..an innocent who had a great time watching the drunks (with video of John…I mean Elvis…..forgetting the words while belting out a song..)and funny stories to tell me the next morning! HoHoHo!!

  2. What a shame Phil’s was closed!!! I am sure there would have been a great story to tell!!! Thanks for taking care of them George!!!

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