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AND SO IT BEGINS: Impoverished students should make the local liquor store, and possibly Alberta Genuine Draft, the first stop on any night out.
Aaron Whitfield/The Gauntlet

Editor's choice kick-off crawl

Strange but true adventures on 1st Street

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Among the countless luxuries of heading up the Gauntlet's annual week of organized inebriation is the chance to relive old glories. There was a time in the not too distant past when the question wasn't "should I go out tonight?" but where. Now that I've mellowed in my old age, a chance to do it up again brought all the youthful enthusiasm rushing back.

The evening began inauspiciously enough with a trio of friends sipping gin and tonics, unwinding after a hard day. Then the masses started their descent. The initial threesome expanded to a dozen people, drinking, chatting and getting rowdier with each shot of tequila and shotgunned can of Canadian.

This copious drinking before the evening truly began is a staple of student drunkeness. You see, cash is in short supply for most students, so splitting a two-six of tequila or gin, pounding a sixer or the always classy 40 gets the night off to a cheap, yet flying, start.

After witnessing 12 people get right tipsy in less than an hour and a half, everyone piled into two cars (driven by the sober elements) and we were off to the Ship and Anchor, where all truly great eveningsbegin.

The Ship, as it is affectionately known, was once an English pub like any other. Somewhere, somehow (some say divine intervention played a role; others the KGB) it acquired an unmistakable energy and an irrepressable mystique. For years now, every walk of life, from squeegee kids to oil executives, has been represented on its patio. It's kind of like Cheers to the tenth power and without the irritant that is Ted Danson.

So our protagonists sauntered in the back door and dispersed. Grabbing pints of light lager, dark ale or fruity cocktails and shots of all kinds (the selection is endless), the evening now began in earnest.

Some nabbed a picnic table on the newly expanded patio and drank in the night air while others slid into a booth in the dimly lit, always loud and more-comfortable-than-your-living-room interior.

Here, the night escalated and inhibitions melted away. Couples became more affectionate, violent tendencies displayed themselves, yes-sir things were getting going.

The next stop was my favourite haunt, the Night Gallery--coincidentally the best night out in the city. I was so enamoured with this fine establishment that once I appeared there over a stretch of seven consecutive nights. Some might cringe and call me a lush, but I assure you I had a blast each and every time.

On this evening however, the trek to 1st Street had a few casualties. You see, 11 of us left the Whip and Spanker (another clever nickname for the beloved pub) yet only seven managed to make it to our third destination. Where they disappeared to, no one knows, but these are the perils of walking the 10 club-riddled blocks from point A to point B.

Once inside, the Gallery was bumping as usual. Breaks and hip hop had the hot and sweaty masses moving while the bar had its usual sea of people elbowing their way to their tallies of Newcastle or the super chic Stella. Christine, a Night Gallery bar-tending legend, was tearing it up and everything was as it always is--as we have come to love it.

The evening continued in the same vein as it began. Yours truly was pulling on his Newcastle (what else my friends, what else), while my partner in crime had Jager-meister on the go chased by rye and gingers. And the always surprising Andrew Ross was just picking up steam. The music was pumpin', the asses were shakin' and a good time was had by all.

By 2:30 a.m., the Night Gallery was dying down and our stomachs started to rumble. Hunger on 1st Street means one thing and one thing only: it's time to pay Shaq at the B&E Grocery a visit. The "Godfather of First," Shaq doles out the best drunken pizza in the city, bar none. And, as it was so eloquently stated that fine evening, "Shaq is the glue that holds 1st Street together."

Our initial dozen had by this time dwindled back down to three so it was back home by cab for a nightcap or three and some well deserved sleep.

For truly the most fun you can have in Calgary, I implore anyone with a free Thursday night to retrace our steps. You shan't regret it, until Friday morning that is.

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