Snow Drinking

Blizzards can't close Philadelphia bars

It was Wednesday night when the text came through from a buddy of mine: “Where you at?” The snow was piling by then, and unless you were looking for a snowball fight or some sledding, most folks were indoors. My friend wasn’t concerned with my safety. He was looking for a barstool buddy. He was snow drinking.

For those not familiar with the term, snow drinking is the time-honored tradition of getting drunk when there’s little else to do, thanks to blizzard conditions (and our tendency to pull the emergency brake on our lives when the flakes start falling). This works best in the city, where there’s always a neighborhood bar within stumbling distance that’s open, snow emergencies be damned. Dirty Frank’s is a classic snow-drinking joint: no windows, open year-round, cheap booze, bartenders that don’t suffer fools or snobs. There’s no wine list. The menu ranges from small bags of chips to small bags of Cheetos. When the front door is closed, you have no idea if it’s 80 degrees and sunny or thundersnowing outside. Everyone there is united by a singular purpose — getting a load on, be it small or, in most cases, epic.

I really had no good reason to say no to my buddy’s offer. He usually sticks close to his ‘hood near Old City, but on this night, he was in my backyard. McGillin’s was one option; Fergie’s another, both just a few blocks from my front door. While other people called in sick or left work early to begin the long commute home that day, I worked through the storm. It seemed I deserved a beer or five for all my efforts. No excuses looking ahead, either — if I needed a little extra time to snooze in the morning, my schedule was wide open.

But then I thought of the inevitable result of snow-drinking, at least with this particular friend. He’s one of those guys who makes it impossible to have a few casual beers and then call it a night. Shots and late-night diner trips are usually involved. The last time he launched a snow-drinking excursion, it turned into a ten-block bar hop, with a flask of whiskey passed around between stops. I think one guy in our posse missed a train and slept at a SEPTA station overnight.

That’s when the question hit me like a day-after headache: Am I just too old for snow drinking? Like drinks with “bomb” in the name and beer bongs, has my window for getting sauced on a weeknight in the snow closed for good?

In the end, I wussed out. Any momentum I’d built up during the day had slipped away. I’m not ready to officially swear off snow drinking yet, though. I’m just old enough to give myself a pass when a marathon swilling session is just too exhausting. I told my friend to throw back some Jagermeister for me, heated up some leftovers and cracked open a winter lager (no shots, no chugging). The only thing I’m somewhat ashamed of is what I did next. Have you seen J-Lo on American Idol this season? Luminous. I also may or may not have cried when singer Chris Medina introduced his wheelchair-bound fiancee. Must have been the couch drinking.