Walk Like Waldo

On a gorgeous Saturday morning, I embarked on the Waldo Walk. Billed as the “original Waldo pub crawl,” WW covered nine bars and spanned nine-plus hours. Now in its 22nd year, the event is organized through word of mouth, which is how I first heard about it. “If you attend, you won’t regret it. You may not remember it, but you won’t regret it,” wrote one of the organizers in an e-mail. Sold!

So at 10:45 that morning, I boarded the Max and took it to the tour’s first stop: Waldo Pizza. I met Research Assistants Tracey and Caroline in the Tap Room, the cool new addition to the restaurant. After I paid the tour’s $20 entry fee, I received a souvenir T-shirt and a white visor, which had “WW 22” handwritten on its band. (The WW, by the way, is not associated with the similar and competing Falldo Waldo Crawldo.) One of the tour guides also gave us name tags, upon which he drew cherries to indicate our new-to-WW status. Other name tags had “eat my” and “break my” written before their cherries.

The entry fee included food, so we got some pizza from the buffet. As we built up our alcohol-absorbing base, another organizer named Pete came up and asked us to be Slasher Girls. Upon exiting each bar, we were to keep track of what everyone had drunk by marking their visors. A slash stood for beer and an X marked a shot. We agreed, and Pete entrusted us with Sharpies.

At 12:30, we headed next door to Tanner’s. The bar was packed, thanks to the plethora of TVs broadcasting college football. I sidled up to the bar and ordered a $2.50 Bud Light draw. The WW drinkers — which numbered about 80-90 — spread out and kept to their own cliques. Our fellow drinkers ranged in age from late 20s to early 40s and included parental types, singles, young professionals and people who’d flown in just for the event.

We stayed at Tanner’s for about 45 minutes. Then the organizers yelled a five-minute warning. The RAs and I positioned ourselves by the door to mark the hats. So far, everyone seemed to be pacing themselves. At the last slash, we left and followed the crowd across the street to Bobby Baker’s Lounge.

We squeezed through the crammed bar and ordered the special: $1 Miller Lites served in small plastic cups. Later, Pete came around with a tray of Rumplemintz shots. While we drank, we chatted with 39-year-old Tami and her boyfriend, 43-year-old Gary. He sported a black Bikers for Babies T-shirt and lauded our Slasher status.

“You’re like census takers. Or beer accountants. You’re CBOs!” he said.

“I’m putting that on my business card,” I said.

Gary turned to Tracey, who sat at the bar. “Turn around,” he said and looked at her chest. “I wanted to see if it was cold in here.”

We gawped at that. “Ooh! I’m naughty! Spank me!” he said as he comically stuck his ass out. Caroline swatted him on the butt.

Then Tami came over, and we filled her in on what had happened. “He likes erect nipples,” she said.

As the clock struck 2:14, we went next door to Fin’s Waldo Bar. At Fin’s, I asked Tami how she met Gary. They were on a canoe trip, and his slogan for the weekend was “Get to know Gary.”

“It was marketing for my wiener,” he said.

“It was not marketing your wiener, dumbass,” Tami countered.

Gary contended that on the first day of the trip, the drunk Tami flashed her “boobs and cooch” at him, then passed out. Lurve sprang from the weekend, and here we were a year later, talking about nipples.

“He is all about the nipple,” Tami said again. “He loves large nipples. Not areola — nipple. No pancakes!”

As if to emphasize Gary’s boob fascination, he put his face into Caroline’s cleavage and did a brunski. Afterward, he broke out the “I’m naughty! Spank me!” bit again. Uh — how do you say? — so not cool. What a jerkhole thing to do. In the meantime, Tami remained unfazed by that bit of sexual harassment. Later in the tour, Caroline got fondled again by some young, drunk D-bag. Who are these people, and why do they think that’s OK?

Our journey continued at Lew’s, where I chatted with a guy who said he was a veteran of “between five to seven” walks. The guy — whose name I didn’t catch — said we were reaching the critical three o’clock hour, when drinks would kick in and people would either drop out or soldier on. “Plenty make it to the end. They’re the weaker players,” he said. Apparently, the hardcore pub crawlers hit the alcohol hard at the beginning. “While it’s a badge of courage to make it to the end, the hard players don’t make it,” he explained.

I didn’t feel like passing out at 6 p.m., so I paced myself through the next few bars. We walked over to Tommy Farha’s, then headed to Jake’s Smokehouse for dinner. We all sat on its awesome patio. By this time, the dropout rate was noticeable.

After dinner, we walked into the smoky, packed Piano Room. I met a few people who had flown in specifically for the walk. Lori was from St. Louis, and this was her third year. Stephanie, from Los Angeles, was in her fifth year. Both used to work with Pete. I also met David, who hailed from Chicago. He did the WW 11 years ago and had recovered sufficiently to do it again. “It’s a tough day to get over,” he said.

Around 8:15, we crossed the street to the tour’s last stop, the Village Lounge. This smoky dive was still packed with WW walkers and bar regulars playing Texas hold ’em. The RAs and I loitered outside and marked off visors. Naturally, by this time, all the other hats were filled with slashes and X’s. My visor bore the paltry marks of just three beers and half a Rumplemintz shot. One woman marveled at her 15-beer, 10-shot total.

After nine hours of WW, we turned in our Sharpies and called it a day. On the way out, we spotted a guy pulling his button-up shirt apart, revealing a hairy chest. His blond surfer duder friend got sandwiched by two chicks. Then, a young blond woman sporting the souvenir T-shirt and a red skirt stumbled out of the bar. She was utterly trashed. As her friends helped cart her out, she kicked off her flip-flops and shuffled in bare feet to her husband’s waiting car.

My friends and I were also Waldoed out by that point. We made it nearly to the end, though. So we walked back to a friend’s nearby car, with the weaker-player badge of courage in hand.

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