10 Talking Points for the Impromptu High School Reunion That Happens at the Bar the Night Before Thanksgiving

Going to the bar the night before Thanksgiving? Here are some tips.

The night before Thanksgiving is one of the most important drinking nights of the year, right up there with Christmas Eve and Tuesdays. Thanksgiving is one of the rare blessed holidays that can be enjoyed while severely hung over because the basic idea of this holiday is to sit, eat, watch football and drink some more. It’s like the pilgrims wanted you to be drunk for 24 straight hours, God bless them and their shiny-buckle hats.

Where to drink the night before Thanksgiving is easy. You could drive across town to drink, but then you run the very real risk of sitting in a jail cell later trying to remember the phone number of that one DUI lawyer you saw with the ad on the back of a city bus–the one where he’s looking at you like, “DUIs aren’t the driver’s fault. They’re the cops’ fault. Hire me and my justice-y beard.”

The best option the night before Thanksgiving is always to drink locally. When you do, you will run into people you know from high school. And inevitably you will run out of things to say because there is a reason you don’t keep in touch. Not to worry. I gotcha covered.

1. So, what was jail like?
OK, not everyone you went to high school with wound up in jail, but if you’re out drinking the night before Thanksgiving, and you’re in a conversation with someone you went to high school with, and you’ve never been in jail, statistically, the odds are pretty good that the other person in the conversation has been to jail.

2. I heard ____ is pregnant again.
That girl who got pregnant 15 years ago your junior year in high school? She’s still getting pregnant. And now her kids are pregnant and even some of their kids are pregnant.

3. Is ___ dead?
There is always one kid–his name is Tony in my class–who everyone thinks is dead.

Every Thanksgiving or Christmas some girl who didn’t know Tony at all will start telling you that your class’s Tony is dead and isn’t it awful?

Then three hours later you see him while picking up your mom’s car at the mechanic, and you’re like, “I can’t believe you’re alive!” and he’s like, “What the hell are you talking about?”

4. I heard Mr. ___ finally got arrested.
You had at least one pervy teacher. If there is any semblance of functioning law enforcement in your town, he has since been arrested.

5. Did Ms. ____ really pose for Playboy in the 1980s?
This rumor started while you were in high school. There’s one foxy older teacher, and rumor has it she did a Playboy spread in the 1980s, and this one guy you know said he saw the spread one time, but when you ask him to produce it, he says he doesn’t have it anymore, and you want to call BS on him, but the confident glint in his eye seems to indicate that he did see it. And so you wander the earth going from garage sale to garage sale, flipping through stacks of old magazines, hoping…

6. I heard ____ is loaded.
No, not loaded as in drunk. Loaded as in made a lot of cash. And it’s not a kid you’d expect. The kids with the best grades in my class went on to become schoolteachers, pro bono lawyers and mimes. But some kid no one paid attention to invented a thing a bunch of people want and now he’s rich, and everyone agrees we all should have been a lot cooler to him in high school.

7. Do you see your ex much?
Again, if you’re pounding brews 10 hours before you’re supposed to be eating yams with grandma, and you don’t have an ex, odds are the person you’re talking to does.

8. I heard ____ is gay.
There was one guy in your class. You knew he was gay. He knew he was gay. The entire school knew he was gay, but because coming out in your high school would have invited daily beatings, he never came out, and everyone had to pretend he was straight even to the point where he took a girl to homecoming and everyone had to pretend it was a real date and their homecoming photo looked something like this.

9. I heard ___ is gay now.
This one is a bit different. This gay guy is one of the guys who would have or did beat up the flaming gay guy in high school. This one’s a shocker, because this guy hated gay guys so much he just wanted throw them violently to the ground and climb on top of them and thrust his hands and legs at them while yelling and screaming…hey, wait a second.

10. I gotta get out of this town, man.  
The short list of towns to escape to always includes Chicago, because we all have one friend who lives in Chicago, and even though it’s far from home, and the weather is terrible nine months a year and everyone there, including the women, has thick furry, ethnic mustaches, they’ll all tell you it beats living it at home. After Chicago, the list of cities people want to move to but never move to goes: Miami, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Boston, in that order.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

See you at the bar.

Joe Donatelli is the author of Full Griswold: Stories from a Honeymoon in Italy.

Bar photo via Nicole Yeary


Some advice for President Obama on His Visit to Athens, Ohio

Hi, President Obama. I heard you’re coming to Athens, Ohio to give a speech. I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you a little about Athens.

Hi, President Obama. American citizen Joe Donatelli here. I heard you’re coming to Athens, Ohio to give a campaign speech at Ohio University. My wife and I are living here this semester, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about Athens, from one non-college-student to another.

Athens, as you will discover when you fly in on Marine One, is a small city in Southeast Ohio. It is located along the Hocking River, which the Army Corps of Engineers moved four decades ago to 1.) Prevent the annual flooding that wreaked havoc on the campus  2.) Make space for an indoor recreational climbing wall. (I’m still not sure why anyone even came to school here before we got it.)

The rungs of the city are lined with residential houses, apartments, schools, businesses, churches and Beer Pong tables. Nature is on display here every fall with the changing of the leaves. A bike path provides an excellent view of surrounding area’s bucolic splendor, including the Hocking River, which occasionally contains water.

The pulse of Athens, though, is Court Street, which is known for its impressive 17:1 bar-to-Chipotle ratio. Court Street is one way, so make sure the motorcade is heading north or the Athens Police Department will be all over you. If you should decide to jaywalk (we all do — it’s a town of scofflaws, sir) then make sure you only look south, as looking both ways before crossing Court Street indicates to all passersby that you are freshman.

Should you decide to have lunch on Court Street, you will find that you have many options. Professors and townies tend to favor Jackie O’s, which serves craft beer and cheese plates, or Tony’s, a dive that has a drink called Hot Nuts, which Vice President Biden can probably tell you all about.

Last weekend was Homecoming, so my wife and a friend spent some time enjoying Athens’ Uptown (that’s what we call downtown Athens, and if you make reference to it in your stump speech by saying something like, “Mitt Romney, he wants to take our economy out-of-town. I want to take it Uptown!” then you can probably expect about 20 minutes of wild cheering and applause.) If I was you, I’d hit Lucky’s for cheese sticks (it’s a Steelers bar, so any photos taken there might resonate with Pennsylvania voters), The Union for a Schlitz (shore up the local working-class/hipster vote) and Casa Nueva for a sit-down meal. Now, I have to warn you, Casa is worker-owned, so the Republicans might use that against you, because it’s quasi-socialist. When they do, you are welcome to remind them, “Hey, they built that.”

College Green in Athens in the fall

Athens is best known around the state for its beautiful campus. Ohio University was founded here in 1804. The school has graduated successful politicians, business leaders, journalists and NFL punters. The Georgian architecture is consistent throughout most the campus, which is lined with trees and a squirrel population that, as long as it remains spread out over campus’s 2,000 acres, is in no way intimidating.

Baker Center, which is the student center, is the heart of Ohio University, and College Green, where you will speak, is its soul. College Green is used by students to walk to class, but is also popular for napping, eating, Frisbee, walking small dogs that you hope sophomore girls will notice, reading, photography and, of course, the Kissing Circle. Located near Chubb Hall (stop snickering, Mr. President) the Kissing Circle is a small space on College Green where any man used to be able to kiss any woman. (It was established before the advent of lawyers.)

Ohio’s rival is Miami. Paul Ryan went to school there. You know what to do with this information.

Normally I live in Los Angeles, which you visit often, so I understand how these presidential campaign stops work. You will probably only have time to arrive, shake hands with a few important locals and officials, give your speech and then take off for the big city (Chillicothe.) So if you only have time to do one thing in Athens before your speech, I would advise you to do this: buy a large burrito from The Burrito Buggy. It’s located right across the street from College Green.

You’re here to win votes. When Ohio University students go into the voting booth on November 6, they are going to have a choice: they can vote for Mitt Romney, a man whom America imagines eating a mayo-on-white-bread sandwich with water every day at lunch, or you, the guy who grabbed a burrito at The Burrito Buggy. Elections have been won and lost on stupider questions than, “Which candidate would I rather have an oversized burrito with?”

Good luck.

Enjoy your stay.

And remember to only look one way when (legally, wink-wink) crossing Court Street.

Joe Donatelli is a journalist who currently lives in Athens, Ohio. Follow him on Twitter @joedonatelli.

UPDATE: Getting messages from people who have seen cars and bikes going the wrong way down Court Street. I have never seen this, but I’ll take their word for it. Mr. President, please do look both ways. Or have your people look both ways for you.

More OU stories:

What a 2012 Ohio University football game looks like to someone who watched OU lose 5-0 to Utah State in 1994

The Worst College House Ever

The Junction: A Eulogy

Bobcat Fans Brave Tornado to Witness First Bowl Game Since 1968


Taylor Mali on how declarative statements sound like questions nowadays

Taylor Mali questions the use of interrogative tone during declarative statements at a poetry slam.

This video is five years old, but it’s so good, I have to share it. It’s poet Taylor Mali at the Def Poetry Jam talking about the popular use of the words “like,” “you know” and “know what I’m saying”? Mali has a great quote about people who use an interrogative tone to make a declarative statement:

“They’ve been infected by this tragically cool and totally hip interrogative tone. As if I’m saying, ‘Don’t think I’m a nerd just because I’ve like noticed this, OK? I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions. I’m just like inviting you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty.'”

Brilliant, know what I’m saying?


It’s about time everyone outside of senior class got to know Long Wang

I am a big fan of These Fries Are Good and this week the site posted an excellent roundup of the Best and Worst Yearbook photos.

I am a big fan of the humor site These Fries Are Good (even wrote a story for it), and this week the site posted an excellent roundup of the best and worst yearbook photos.

World, meet Long Wang.


Appreciating The Dive Bar

When it comes to drinking in a place where misdemeanor crimes are often committed outside in the alley and criminals feel free to plot felonies atop “Rockford Files” pinball machines, nothing beats a dive bar.

Poll college students and young professionals on their political beliefs and philosophies and you’re sure to get a wide range of preferences, from socialist to libertarian to Aristotle to Homer (Simpson, not the other guy). But the one thing they’ll almost all agree on is that there’s no better place to enjoy an adult beverage than a dive.

Why do people love dive bars? What makes them the social glue that binds a generation? And why does every one of these bars have a giant Pabst sign the size of Sammy Sosa’s head? Does anyone actually drink Pabst? Or are they now solely a neon-sign manufacturing company?

I headed down to my local dive bar for answers. And for chicken wings. But mainly for answers, delicious hot and spicy answers with sides of ranch dressing and celery.

My local dive is a sports bar.

This is an important distinction because dive bars tend to come in three varieties: sports, townie and biker. If you see a local middle school sports pennant tacked on the wall, you’re in a sports dive. If tourists and/or college students are not welcome, you’re in a townie dive. If the bar has tire marks on the ceiling, you’re in a biker dive.

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