Mastering the 4 a.m. bar close, or how to not pee your pants passed out at Cub Foods

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The Exchange in downtown Minneapolis is one of the 120-odd bars that'll bless you with two extra drinking hours this weekend. Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune

Minneapolis, as my elegant and dignified former lover, I feel I should warn you.

As you read this, an army of Atlantic Coast Bouls and Chowdaheads is descending upon your lake-kissed land. The visitors will come clad in backwards caps, demanding "wooder ice” and "Dunkie's coffee, regula."

In an effort to stoke this "wicked pissa," tonight you will open your arms and extend bar close from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., a special closing time for one brief, glorious Minnesotan weekend. A new bar close, later and more perfect, as the East Coast bro-down we’re calling the 52nd Super Bowl happens on top of you.

I’m writing to help prepare you for these two extra drunken witching hours; this nightly, wine-stained glass window of new drinking time you will enjoy, before you stumble home to your temporary car-beds, and lull yourselves to sleep on your pillows of Airbnb cash.

Yes, Twin Cities (and Bloomington, I guess?), you are all suddenly Katniss Everdeen, preparing for the Hungover Games, and I am your Haymitch Abernathy, longing for my District 12 beginnings from the cold glamour of the Capitol. I sincerely miss those halcyon days of 2 a.m. bar close in Minneapolis, where I cut my teeth, before moving to the scary 4 a.m. last call of New York City. Heed my advice, my Midwestern brothers and sisters.

Don’t laugh at me, for I was once like you.

1. Don’t Go Home at 3 and Order Food, It Takes Forever and You’ll Fall Asleep

Everyone on this earth has their own unique drunk nuclear half-life, and they're all different. Like a fingerprint or the wood grain pattern of your pubes, it is your own special truth.

On the way out of the bar, you are a volatile block of whiskey-soaked plutonium. The minute you get home, a doomsday countdown begins. Inevitably, it ends with you sprawled out on the couch, snoring softly while your cats eat Hot Cheetos off your chest plate. (Note: Not armor, "chest plate" is just my name for when you use your chest as a plate.)

Stop! Don’t get eaten by cats! Stay at the bar, and switch to what I call “rehydrating beers,’ lagers, pilsners, those that are mostly water so they’ll give you tons of energy and brain power. Science!

The beauty of a 4 a.m. bar close, as opposed to 2 a.m., is you get two whole hours for activities and adventures! Hooray! Bowling!

The problem with a 4 a.m. bar close, as opposed to 2 a.m., is that you have two whole additional hours for activities and adventures! Hooray! Blackout!

Not to worry though, fix-up and look sharp, Twin Cities! Don’t go home. Don’t throw in the towel and order Topper’s and then fall asleep waiting for Topper's, and then wake up to see the Topper's delivery guy left you a bunch of voicemails, and in each one he seems more sad. Carpe Diem! Do maximum activities now. (Bowling!) Worry about finding food once you’ve closed down the bar at your new cosmopolitan/gay/liberal conspiracy close time of 4 a.m.

2. In the Land of the Blind Drunk, the Empanada Man Is King.

One thing is clear though, my friends: Drinking and doing activities for those extra two hours is gonna make you hungy. That’s the main takeaway for all of this. You’re gonna be super hungy, hungy as hell! Not "hungry," mind you. Hungy. You’re living in the fast lane of 4 a.m. bar close now, no time for extra ‘R’s in words these days. We gotta use phrases like “super hungy” that are aerodynamic and slick so they count.

There was this wook crust kid with beaded hair who’d show up at the bar in Brooklyn where I worked. He'd get there at about 3:30 a.m., with a backpack full of empanadas. For this one beautiful half hour while I closed up shop and took secret shots, I’d watch him. And the guy was like a celebrity. Wook Crust kid gliding around the room hustling empanadas to drunkies was like ballet. He’d clean up, at four bucks a pop.

Bar kitchens are always closed by 4 a.m. Fill a backpack with empanadas if you want to make weird cash; that extra two hours of drinking makes people a lot more open to eating hot food pulled out of a backpack. If you're not ready to become empanada kid, look for empanada kid. I want to know if he’s real, because people don’t seem to remember empanada kid and I’m pretty sure he’s a ghost. I once asked him what kind of meat it was in the empanadas and instead of responding, he turned around and left. I never saw him again. Later somebody told me that a wook crust kid had actually died in this bar selling empanadas 100 years ago tonight...

3. Second Star to the Right and Straight on 'Til Morning

A 4.a.m. bar close is an eerie, enchanted time. Afterbars become stupid, food options become limited, and the search for food is not to be taken lightly. These streets is cold out here, and the Twin Cities is gonna be sad cold this weekend. Lightsaber open a tauntaun and slide inside for warmth… Eat a tauntaun cold.

Good eats at 4 a.m. are like the search for El Dorado. Once, I stumbled upon this magical Indian grocery store somewhere in the Lower East Side that stayed open 24 hours a day and sold cheap south Indian street food to cab drivers finishing shifts. It was probably the best day of my life, and I’ve never found it again. Maybe it was a dream, or maybe I grew up like Wendy and I wasn’t allowed back into Neverland.

The experience taught me that when the bars close at 4 a.m., it’s almost smarter to just push through straight to morning and go out for a spectacular breakfast, rather than wandering out in the Hoth-like temperatures of predawn or going home to eat crackers covered in dry packets of Swiss Miss in your underwear, in the dark and crying a little. Dry cocoa-and-cracker-cryfest no more! Wait for breakfast!

However, beware. Keep your head on a swivel. Use the buddy system! There’s a lot of weird animals out after 2 a.m., human and beast alike. This is the twilight time, that hour you never see normally, and you’re playing on borrowed time: their time, tread lightly lest you become one of them.

The point is, raccoons are a lot bigger from 2-4 a.m., and they get kinda meth-y and they steal hot dogs.

4. Play to Your Strengths and Swing for the Fences

Minneapolis, you’re a mill town! Being a mill town, you have diners that open for third-shift workers. Even with all those screwy Lutheran alcohol laws, you still have mill-town breakfast joints! Use your strengths, like Peta in The Hunger Games when Katniss reminded him he’s strong from all those years of throwing sacks of flour.

What I’m saying is, you have oodles of greasy-spoons that open right at dawn! I remember: Al’s Breakfast, Our Kitchen, Ideal Diner, they all open after only a two-hour wait from 4 a.m. bar close. In St. Paul you have Copper Dome (now the Randoph Griddle), and Mickey’s stays open 24/7, so if you’re partying down at the Children’s Museum, you’re good to go! Choose your favorite, hunker down, and wait out the hours until you can nosh.

5. Make the Time From 4-6 a.m. Work for You! Then, Glorious Breakfast!

In Miami, the bars don’t even have a close time, which is exciting and scary. Once, on a layover, I got real drunk and hungry, and with nothing open at 5 a.m., I walked to the beach and went swimming for an hour and then fell asleep wearing sunglasses in a plastic chair like the titular Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s.

I woke up an hour later and walked to a hotel, pretended to be a guest, and got a bunch of continental breakfast before heading back to the airport.

The lesson here: You have options. You’re drunk! Chase that feeling! Go sledding, build a snowman. Write "Tom Brady" on the snowman, in pee, and punch him up good!

I’m not gonna sugar-coat it for you. It’s hard to stay awake from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. when you’re drunk. Don’t watch a movie, unless you’re trying to make out, then fall asleep, then make out some more. Don’t watch The Hunger Games unless you plan on being glued to your frickin’ seat. Instead, get creative. Go ice skating, then smash open the ice and polar plunge! Hop a fence on one of those condo hot tubs in Uptown and try to make it into a time machine.

Seduce a key card for 24 Hour Fitness off someone and watch infomercials on the stationary bikes for a couple of hours. While all those Tide Pod-eating East Coast jabronies are chiseling frozen puke off the front of their jerseys next to the Mary Tyler Moore statue, you’ll be earning those breakfast calories! Then enjoy your glorious, well-deserved meal, go home, and sleep it off while the dumb sun's coming out.

Wake up hours later, in time for those Midwestern bloodies-and-beerbacks I miss so goddamn much. What’s the rush, anyway? You have till 4 a.m. The night’s a puppy. 


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