The Weekly Stranger: Don’t Drink Malört

Hostels are pretty freaking rad.

My first time was a one-night stay at a Hostel in Chicago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Hostels, and the travelers that stay there, generally create a very welcoming, eclectic environment.

If you’re traveling solo, there’s no better place to stay: It’s more cost-effective than a hotel or motel (or Holiday Inn), and you’re surrounded by interesting people.

My weekend in California was the offspring of boredom and impulse— which in my experience, leads to questionable decisions and great stories. And boy, I definitely have some stories.

The first night, I didn’t spend much time at the hostel— but I did meet a lovely Australian couple from Melbourne, and subsequently learnt that I’ve been mispronouncing ‘Melbourne’ and ‘Brisbane’ my entire life. They’re on their way across the country to celebrate the wife’s soon-to-be 30th birthday. She’s been across the US before, but it’s her husband’s first time in the states. After San Francisco, they’re off to take on New York.

His rating of the US so far: Loves it, and for those of you meme-lovers: A perfect 5/7.

Slight tangent— apparently right now the US dollar is very strong against the Australian dollar. Their advice: It might be pretty expensive to fly out there, but once you do— it’s actually very affordable. Also, go to Melbourne or Sydney if you’re looking for culture, and to Brisbane if you’re looking to holiday.

After dinner, I met a friend— someone who I had never actually met in person before— at an alleyway party and went straight to an Art Gallery opening. Turns out this gallery is attached to one of the biggest clubs in the area, and it also turns out that when you talk to the intoxicated Art Coordinator and compliment the ‘genius’ of her selection: You get free wristbands to said club that allow you to skip the line and $20 cover charge.

To be fair: The collection was very cohesive, though a lot of it reminded me of the galleries at various Art schools— Good, but nothing really groundbreaking.

Later on in the night, we stepped into a different bar and was met with a free shot from a Chicago native who—when he learnt that I didn’t like cheese and that I live in Wisconsin— was very offended. But honestly, we should have been more offended. The shot he offered? It was Malört.

To quote a friend and seasoned alcoholic: Malört tastes like Satan’s asshole.

Malört is always a bad decision, and not one that will ever lead to a good story for the person drinking it. PSA: Don’t drink it. Just don’t do it.

The rest of the night was filled with rooftop gatherings, ukulele playing, new friends that I barely remember, and an overuse of the words ‘Dude’ and ‘Fire’.

The next night, I hung out at the Hostel and made friends with some of the people there: An aspiring journalist from just outside London named Alex, a man by the name of Scott who was party personified, their friend who lives in the Bay Area, and then a group of friends from Pittsburgh who were roadtripping across the states for a month or so.

The more we drank, the bigger the group became.

Alex, Scott, and the girl whose name I want to say is Alana, all met in South Africa about a year ago and were having a mini reunion. Before they left to go out, I chatted with Alex for a bit. He’s an active writer, and actually has his own travel blog.

He and I talked a lot about writing, traveling, dreams and general life stuff. I’d been thinking about the questions I want to feature in these segments, and until that conversation— I had no idea what I wanted to ask. But, now I do.

What’s the dream?

For him, it’s to see as much of the world as possible, and to spend his life writing— with no real plans other than the very immediate future. When he returns to England, he’ll be going into a Master’s program for Journalism in Cardiff. But for now— travel and write. That’s life.

After the South Africa Reunion trio left, two Canadians and a guy from New Zealand showed up.

That sounds like the set-up for an offensive joke— maybe even a black card in Cards Against Humanity.

Anyway—after we were all sufficiently intoxicated, and my Wizard Staff was in second place (Thanks Boddington’s) to a Canadian’s, we decided to go out to a bar.

Somewhere between our Hostel and the first strip club we passed, we lost the Canadians.

“Who follows Canadians anyway?” – One of the girls from Pittsburgh.

Eventually, we found ourselves at Kel’s Irish Pub. It’s got a very smokey college-basement vibe that I really dig. We danced there for hours, until I decided to go off on my own. I found myself at a cigar bar, and for the short time spent there—I was whisked into a salsa dancing with a few strangers.

Apparently, I can only remember how to salsa dance if I’m more than fairly intoxicated.

When I arrived back at my hostel, around 1:30AM, there were two guys playing guitar and an English man chilling out on his phone.

I played some piano, and sat down with the guys playing guitar— and was given an eight string ukulele in the shape of a turtle to play. We jammed out and sang a couple songs (‘Riptide’ and ‘Sunday Morning’ by Maroon 5), before I resigned myself to the fact that I needed to hit the hay in order to leave my heart behind in the morning.

Leaving San Francisco on Sunday morning was a surreal heartbreak. More than any other city I’ve been to— this one felt like home. ++

 

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