It was a perfect day to get tanked, trashed, blitzed, blotto, soused, schnockered, to arrive with imperial designs on life and love, to stagger away tired and emotional, libido unrequited, stomach keen on some permutation of dough, cheese and marinara. It was Tres de Mayo, and the bar crawlers could’ve been extras from a Fellini movie or a “Swingers” sequel or “Veep,” or subjects in “The Young and the Restless Keg Syndrome,” a Werner Herzog documentary that doesn’t exist but should.
I have seen the greatest minds of my generation destroyed by Miller Lite.
“ANNA WHERE ARE YOU GOING.”
Anna forded Wilson Boulevard like the Delaware, holding out a bright yellow plastic cup as if it lit the way to a constitutional republic. Anna was wearing dog tags. Ten friends followed her through traffic, around the landscaped obstacles of suburbia, up to the door of Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill. There was an hour left of the Cinco de MEGA-Crawl on Saturday, though there were six hours left before the bars actually closed.
There was also a line to get up to the roof.
“Eleven people have to come down for 11 of us to go up,” said one of Anna’s friends, a guy in a red polo shirt, when they reached the door. “I’m a ‘no’ on this one.”
“Well, 18, really, with the guys in front of us,” said another friend, who’s wearing a gray T-shirt with a monkey on it.
The group bailed and headed for Clarendon Boulevard. Their yellow cups said “MEGA CRAWL EVENT” and “This brew belongs to ___________.” At a side street, red-polo guy jumped in front of a Prius to play crossing guard. A guy in a teal polo sprinted after a rabbit, then bellowed “MY FRIENDS SUCK; CAN I JOIN YOU” when a Trolley Pub of woo-hooing bachelorette partiers pedaled down the street.
There is neither a moral nor a story in a bar crawl.
Except when a bar crawl delivers to a neighborhood both disturbances of the peace and heaps of money.
Then maybe there’s a story about having one’s pizza and eating it too.
But there’s still no moral.
“So far there have been no arrests, no one coming out publicly drunk,” said a Fox 5 reporter into a camera outside of Clarendon Grill.
No arrests! No drunks! Film at 11.
“Is this really Fox News covering Cinco de Mayo?” said a bro in a green shirt as he fished out his ID for the Clarendon Grill bouncer.
“Hard to believe?” replied the TV reporter, weary of something.
“Slow news day,” a woman in red sunglasses said with just the right amount of cattiness.
Ding ding ding. Last weekend’s Cinco de MEGA-Crawl was not news. It was not as “MEGA” as March’s seven-hour Shamrock Crawl, which flooded Clarendon with 5,000 revelers who, according to Arlington Police Capt. Brian Gough, yielded 205 “incidents,” 105 “folks too intoxicated to take care of themselves,” 25 arrests, 10 reported episodes of public urination — one of which was committed at 7 p.m. on a squad car attended by a police officer — and the delirious tableau of a 26-year-old Reston woman, wasted and naked, trying to bail her drunk husband out of the Arlington County jail. There are normally six officers walking the Clarendon beat on a weekend night, but 51 were needed for the Shamrock Crawl, which prompted an April 30 meeting between the Clarendon Courthouse Civic Association and the police, who wanted to be prepared for the Cinco de MEGA-Crawl.
“This is not the streets of New Orleans,” said Arlington County Police Chief Doug Scott before the meeting. “We expect a degree of civility here. If they leave and go home after the bar crawl, it’s not a problem. But if they continue drinking into the evening, they get s---faced. We’ll figure it out.”
What’s to be figured out? The balance between profitable debauchery and gracious living, of course. No one at the meeting was dead set against bar crawls, which are growing in number every year in Clarendon, though most neighbors were opposed to the litter and the after-hours noise — revelers howling down side streets looking for their cars, for example.
Arlington became an urban county because that’s what citizens wanted, said Hard Times Cafe’s Richard Kelly. The old county is gone.
“We wanted this,” he told those in attendance.
Tobacco barns become Pottery Barns. Prosperity begets idleness begets vice. Lobby for a Metro station. Zone for commercial. Accept the sight of a yuppie stranger passed out on the front porch in the morning sunlight. (“David! There’s a Ballstonian on the chaise. The chaise, David.”) Bar crawls bring in cash and outsiders who might return and spend more cash.
The takeaway from the meeting? There is no legislative way to prevent a bar crawl from happening in Clarendon, which last month was deemed the best D.C.-area neighborhood for millennials by a peculiar Web site called Niche Ink, which weighed education levels, median rent and income and the percentage of population between 25 and 34.
So how to prevent a bar crawl from becoming a slow-motion riot? One woman at the meeting suggests replacing “crawl” with “hop” or another word that does not connote infantilization or incapacitation.
“Crawl” suggests that “our expectation is that these young people will become so inebriated that they have to pull themselves on all fours to the next bar,” she says.
Cue Flo Rida. Cut to the Cinco de MEGA-Crawl, three days later.
No one’s on all fours. Chris Little, 22, has stepped back against a wall of the outdoor space at Clarendon Grill in the 6 o’clock hour. He’s in a teal tank top and plaid shorts. He was an anthropology major, so the scene sorts itself in his brain.
“You’ve got the typical bro, the typical biddie,” said Little, who lives in Ballston and works for an online software company.
Biddy? Like an old, meddlesome woman?
“A biddie is a sorority girl who may be intelligent but is socially dumb,” Little said. “She wears Uggs and North Face and leggings no matter what the weather is.”
He looks around at the bar crawlers, who are diverse in age and ethnicity but share a common blue bracelet and yellow cup.
“Then there’s the people in between who don’t know who they are.”
He pauses, takes a swig of Dos Equis.
“I’m in between. I’m living life as it happens.”
Over at Mad Rose Tavern, the Lana Del Rey track “Young and Beautiful” moaned loudly through the speakers. A blonde woman named Chelsea Cantrell waded through the sweet haze of hookah smoke to offer some age-appropriate authority.
“Arlington was not a thing, growing up,” says Cantrell, a 26-year-old D.C.-area native, born at George Washington University Hospital. “Arlington has seen a complete boom in the past 10 years. This is a young people scene. Hill interns. People who work for nonprofits, defense contractors. But Clarendon is not D.C. It’s cheaper than D.C. It’s the same thing as Brooklyn is to New York.”
Whoa there. Okay. Maybe Clarendon is in the eye of the beholder. Can it be all things to all people? Or do the bar crawls signal some kind of urban saturation, or social fraying, through which a balance is upset?
“They bring the college mentality,” Cantrell says. “They bring the drinking. But everyone gets up and goes to work Monday.”
Next in Clarendon is the All-American Bar Crawl on June 28. It will be two hours longer than the Cinco de MEGA-Crawl and have nearly double the number of participating bars. The organizer, Project D.C. Events, promises a “signature freedom mug,” patriotic party beads and “star-spangled shenanigans,” which, one assumes, might include ample opportunity to urinate on a police car.