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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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DON’T DON’T DO

The Tale of the Strip Club Birthday

Sparky’s friends took him to a strip bar in Florida at the end of a long 21st birthday evening. When his buddies told the DJ that Sparky was celebrating his 21st, the strippers brought him onstage, told him to strip to his boxer shorts, and sat him on a stool at center stage. Then they pranced around him in a kind of birthday dance.

Sparky just sat there, grinning and enjoying the attention. But it somehow entered his alcohol-fogged mind that he should do something to, you know, participate. So when one stripper bent over close to him, he decided to give her a slight nip on the butt.

“The music screeched to a halt,” Sparky said. “The dancers ran off stage. All the lights came up. The room was deathly quiet. I was alone on the stage, still trying to grin.”

The next thing he knew, two giant bouncers appeared from nowhere, picked him up bodily, carried him out of the club and tossed him onto the sidewalk. His clothes followed close behind.

When he skidded to a halt and spit concrete out of his teeth, he was left to ponder the following moral: Even on your 21st birthday, you can’t go around biting a stripper on the butt.

Think of this as a metaphor for all rash, drunken behavior. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to have a good, and reasonably sane, birthday outing:

Keep the pre-function to a minimum

By pre-function, we mean drinking at home before going out to drink more. It’s usually a bad idea.

“The reason is two-fold,” said one Spokane college student. “Many, many people will be buying you drinks at the bars, and there’s no need to waste money and get too drunk before you even go out. Secondly, you will undoubtedly have fun when you first get to the bar, whether you’re sober or tipsy, but things could get ugly if you’re already drunk.”

Celebrate the Big Day the night before

If your birthday is on, let’s say, Friday, you actually turn 21 at the stroke of midnight Thursday night. So that’s when you can legally hit the bars. Besides the head start this gives you, it also has the advantage of cutting your celebration to a maximum of two hours before the bars close. Theoretically, you won’t have as much time to make a sodden fool of yourself.

Of course, if you insist on making a sodden fool of yourself, you still have the entire next night available.

Pace yourself, pace yourself, pace yourself

With all of your friends buying you drinks, it’s easy to – as an Olympic runner might say – go out too fast in the first lap. One local bartender advised drinking slowly and resisting the urge to immediately knock back every shot set before you.

One 21-year-old advised drinking pints of beer instead of shots.

And under no circumstances should you try to drink your age in shots. People die that way.

Drink plenty of water

“It helps you not get as drunk,” said bartender Lyndsey Thompson of O’Doherty’s Irish Grille. “Sometimes their friends say, ‘Don’t give them water!’”

She doesn’t listen to ‘em. She supplies a big glass of water along with every drink.

Don’t trust your friends when it comes to the Cement Mixer

One bartender said that guys, especially, have a way of ordering the most disgusting drinks possible for their birthday buddy.

“The Cement Mixer is made of Rose’s Lime Juice and Bailey’s Irish Cream,” said one Spokane bartender. “They tell you you’re supposed to keep it in your mouth and swish it around.”

Bad idea. The lime juice curdles the milk in the Bailey’s. The drink solidifies into chunks. Chunks that you will have the urge to blow.

“It’s kind of mean,” Thompson said. “People never order one for themselves.”

The attributes of the Irish Car Bomb

On the other hand, a similar drink called the Irish Car Bomb is considered a classic 21st birthday drink.

“It’s a half-pint of Guinness, a half-shot of Irish whiskey, and a half-shot of Bailey’s,” Thompson said. “You drop the shots into the Guinness and it foams up, and you have to chug it or it’ll curdle and get chunky. The key is to drink it fast. It tastes like chocolate milk.”

“It’s the perfect first drink at the bar,” said one Spokane 21-year-old who tried one, although she added that it may be less than perfect as a second, third or fourth drink.

Pick your first bar wisely

Some places, such as Fast Eddie’s in downtown Spokane, cater to birthday partiers.

People celebrating their 21st (or any birthday, for that matter) are allowed to spin the Fast Eddie’s wheel. They can win $5, $10, $20 or $50 in Fast Eddie’s money, applied to your group’s food and drink tab (or used later). There’s even one $100 slot on the wheel.

“The birthday person is usually there behind the wheel, and pictures are being taken and people are going ‘ooh’ when that $100 goes by,” said owner Dale Kleist.

Thompson said that O’Doherty’s has a ritual in which a birthday celebrator is asked to stand on the bar and sing a song – any song. Then the birthday boy or girl takes out a dollar bill, signs it and asks a cute member of the opposite sex to nail it on the wall above the bar.

“We refer to it as getting nailed,” Thompson said. “Then you become a family member, and you get half off your first drink every time you come in after that.”

Bar-hopping or not?

Opinions are mixed on this issue. One Spokane 21-year-old said she chose just one bar for her inaugural evening because she liked the atmosphere and “the walk next door to the neighboring bar seemed much, much too hard after a certain point.”

However, bar-hopping can make the night more of an event.

“We get a lot of parties where people come in and go, ‘Wooohoo!’ and then go on to the next place,” Thompson said.

Make it a family affair

Jody Kurtz of Spokane had an inspired idea when she turned 21 two years ago. She reserved the back room at The Onion restaurant and invited her close friends as well as her parents, grandparents and 7-year-old brother.

“I wanted to invite my family and not have it be a total bar atmosphere,” she said. “I could still have a drink with my mom, but my little brother could come and play pool.”

They all had dinner and then “all the people who wanted to go on to different bars could do that,” she said.

Make sure you have people who will take care of you

This does not mean people who will come out for the “sole purpose of buying you tequila shots until you are drunk and weepy,” said one 21-year-old.

“They will leave right before you get kicked out of the bar for wrestling a dog,” she said.

You need to have people who truly will watch out for your welfare, which means they will help “hold your hair back when the tequila shots re-surface.”

Also, they will serve as – very important – designated drivers. They will take you home before you can slam any more tequila shots.

Do something else besides drink

Listen, just because it’s your 21st birthday, you are not obligated to drink yourself sick or even to drink at all. Treat it like any other birthday. Catch a movie or go to Silverwood or go backpacking or throw yourself a big party with a cake.

Maybe you won’t have any wild stories to tell afterward. But it’s smarter than biting a stripper on the butt.

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