Friday, September 30, 2011

Beat the broke kid blues: money-saving tips for your weekend

Last night I went to dinner with my stepdad and mom at Portland’s Five-Fifty-Five. After I finished slurping (yes, slurping) down my bangs island mussels, I impatiently awaited the truffle lobster mac n’ cheese* I had ordered. Upon the delivery of such a heavenly creation, depression set it.

*Side Note: I previously blogged about best cheap mac n’ cheese in the city. While all the macs I mentioned in that post are truly great, this Five-Fifty-Five mac n’ cheese really takes the cake. However, I can’t really justify recommending it as a cheap dining option in Portland, as it’ll run you about $31. What I will do is recommend you suck up to your parents, find a sugar daddy/momma, or start sleeping with your boss in the hopes that one of these older, more financially-established individuals will purchase the meal for you.  That’s right—I just told you to essentially throw away your integrity for a plate of mac n’ cheese. But damn, was it good.

At what should have been one of the better moments of my eating-life (from at least a mac n’ cheese stand point), it occurred to me that I had an embarrassingly small amount of money in my bank account and a lot of bills.  Essentially, this means not only no more truffle lobster mac n’ cheese, but the denial of many fun things.  And to top it all off, rent is due this weekend. Shit, I hate the first of the month!*

*Wow, what suburban white girl problems I have—complaining that I can’t eat at Five-Fifty-Five on the reg?! I know, I know. But this is a blog called “Things I heard in the Old Port,” not “How I Freed Tibet,” so just relax.

As the first of the month approaches, you may be finding yourself in a similarly depressing situation: broke, hungry, and pissed that you aren’t living the twenty-somethings lifestyle Friends lied to you about. Basically, leaving the apartment seems like a distant dream, as it usually requires money being spent. However, as you reluctantly hand that rent check over to your landlord, don’t lose hope of ever having fun again.

Turns out, being broke isn’t the end of the world! Just ask Joey from Friends; he’s a struggling actor who lives in a fabulous Manhattan apartment and frequents Knicks/Bulls games in the 90s! That could totally be you! Ehh…anyway…to have fun in REAL life, you just have to know where you can go for free stuff in this town—thank God you have me. Don’t worry, I got your weekend covered:

Tonight: FREE dance party at Flask Lounge! Atomik and Hjort & St. Pierre (formerly Secret Weekend) will provide sweet tunes all night long for you to boogie to for free.  This place is the official home of the Moxie Bomb, so if you’re a real Mainer, you will try this incredible creation. Oh wait, you’re broke. Bat those lashes, and shamelessly flirt, in the hopes of some stranger purchasing the beverage for you. You can’t afford to be picky, either, because you probably can’t  even afford shampoo at this point. Moxie + Jager will be worth the exchange with a creepy stranger. Party starts at 9 and is sure to be a fabulous time. Don’t believe me? Fine, you don’t have to take my word for it, check out Dispatch Magazine’s latest News by the Nunz for confirmation!

Saturday: You will wake up tired from all the Moxie Bombs, your feet will hurt because you danced all night long, and you will still have no money. Oh, also, it’s going to rain, so Saturday is looking grim. False! The Nick has $6 matinees! I’d say check out Drive because Ryan Gosling kicking ass is pretty much guaranteed to cure your broke-kid blues; the soundtrack is also pretty awesome (click here). If violent movies aren’t for you, skip the Ryan flick and check out 50/50 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. JGL was almost capable of out-cuteing Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer, not an easy feat, and he is, I think, a fantastic actor. Plus, who doesn’t’ like a good bromantic comedy? Ooh Judd Apatow, look what you started you sly dog!

After the movie, take a nap. It will prevent you from spending any more money, and it’s Saturday afternoon—you deserve it, damn it! Once you arise, resist the urge to pay for food outside of your apartment—unless it’s a $3.50 slice from Otto’s (believe me, I’m as devastated as you are about the fifty cent price increase).

Evening plans: Sunset Hearts CD release party at SPACE. While my brother would describe this venue as “RFH,”* I like it.  Try to look beyond the hipsters, and enjoy yourself. It is Saturday night, after all! This show’s only $5, and the wonderful Kurt Baker and Mango Floss join Sunset Hearts—so that’s 3 bands for $5. I bet the Marshall’s lady would agree when I say that’s a wicked bahgain.

*Really Effin Hip adj. Describing somewhere likely to be crawling with skinny jeans wearing, thick-rimmed glasses donning, MECA dropouts (or worse…currently enrolled students), who most likely aren’t enjoying themselves at this RFH hotbed because the amount of people in attendance might suggest the band playing is now too mainstream, and obviously way less “legit.” RFH can describe a place (Congress Street), a thing (messenger bags), a band (Foster the People before “Pumped Up Kicks” was ever played on the radio), a state of mind, etc. 

^You might see that guy at SPACE.

Sunday: It is supposed to be a lazy day. Sleep in. Watch Netflix; Breaking Bad is now on Instant Watch! Score! If you HAVE to spend money on breakfast,* skip the cluster-eff that is Becky’s Diner on a Sunday morning, and head to Uncle Andy’s over the bridge in South Portland. Not only do you not deal with the annoying leaf peepers waiting impatiently for a diner meal at Becky’s, but you also get to experience a deelish breakfast for very cheap. Personally, I’m an Uncle Andy’s girl over Becky’s, any day. Not just because I hate crowds, but because they have a sign on the back wall that says “Where the Elite Meet to Eat.”

*Here’s a hint: you don’t—eggs are cheap and widely distributed in the state of Maine. Purchase some. You will save money.

Come nighttime, head to your parents' house, or to a successful friend's who has Showtime; it’s the Dexter season 6 premiere! You’re broke, so you should probably not do anything but watch Dexter tonight. Payday is five incredibly long days away, so slow down on the spending and mooch some dinner wherever you go to watch this highly anticipated episode of excellent television. Make sure whoever cooks makes a lot---you’ll probably need leftovers since you can barely afford groceries.

Until next time, good luck out there...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Crawlin' Forest Ave: a pub crawl for the chronically broke

This summer I spent way too much money, didn't read enough books, ate at too many restaurants, and as evidenced by my blog, never wrote. Now, my toes are cold in sandals, the leaves are changing color, and I can't afford the delicious pumpkin-flavored beers now on draft everywhere. Thank you summer for leaving me completely penniless for the fall. 

The weekdays aren’t so bad—go home, watch Netflix, overdose on the sodium from yet another Ramen Noodle dinner, fall asleep on my blow-up bed. However, after bopping around all summer long, staying in every weekend will get old fast. The Old Port has too many bars for my debit card to handle at this point, and like many twentysomethings in Portland, I don’t actually live downtown; God knows I can’t afford the cab rides to and from town. Do I stay in? Do I surrender to yet another Mad Men marathon?* Heck no—not every weekend at least!

*Though staying in with Don Draper actually doesn’t sound so bad…

So what’s a broke girl do? Well let me tell ya: venture out to Forest Ave—for a cheap, slightly slummy, pub crawl!

            Contrary to popular belief, the Old Port is not the only fun place Portland has to offer. I know the possibility of stumbling into Gritty’s for the same semi-high school reunion you have every weekend might seem really enticing, but maybe try something different for once. I did this Forest Ave pub crawl myself, and it was actually pretty awesome. And when I say pub crawl, I don’t mean just go to one or two bars—make your way down that beautiful strip of Asian restaurants, dive bars, and conveniently placed ATMs (some of these bars have yet to discover debit cards). Let your hair down and really make a night of it.

On my pub crawl, we wisely started the night at Samuel’s (a bar not unfamiliar to this blog), for some 50 cent wings and cheap pitchers of Miller Lite. It was a great, if not fast start,* to a fantastically cheap evening.

*If you know me, you know I love Samuel’s with all my heart (I have taste buds and a soul, don’t I?). However, their service is oftentimes…unbelievably slow. I once watched a waitress fill about 200 cups of blue cheese before bringing us our tab—but the wings are only 50 cents and they serve food until 1 am, so who’s the asshole complaining?

            After I wiped the buffalo sauce from my face (this took a while), we left Samuel's and made our way to The Frosty Pint. The scene was pretty much exactly what you would think it’d be: middle-aged alcoholics posted up at the bar, a few trashy-looking twentysomethings from Hollis or some other slightly out-of-the-way Maine town which refers to Portland as “the Big City,” and a couple college douchebags wearing the typical “look how funny this is that I’m slumming it” shit-eating grin you might come to expect from such individuals. However, if your friends are cool, who gives a shit what the rest of the crowd looks like. With 20 beers on draft, and splendid drink specials, this place is a win-win! If you’ve graduated college, technically Thursday is no longer a weekend—however, if you do find yourself on Forest Ave Thursday night, definitely hit up The Frosty Pint for their Talls for Smalls special, running from 7 PM-close. Also, Wednesdays they feature a different draft beer for only $2. Everyone likes $2 beers! Just ask the alcoholic sitting at the bar next to you!

            After we drank our fill of Talls for Smalls, we ventured to our next destination: The New Venue. I’d never been in the “old” Venue, and wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. The beats were bumpin’, the dancefloor was huge, the bar looked great, and the drinks were only $1!!! The only downside (for some) was its emptiness—I literally saw more staff than patrons! In all fairness though, it was a Thursday night before USM had started up again, and I’m pretty sure the place had just re-opened. Anyway, it didn’t really bother the group I was with as we weren’t in a meet-and-mingle mood anyhow. We sat at the bar and enjoyed the $2 Blue Moons and $1 PBRs. All in all, a fabulous find. Plus, now that school is back in session, I’m sure their business has picked up. Check out their Facebook page to see their sweet daily specials!

            Our last Forest Ave stop on this crawl was exactly where you would want to end the night: Ernie’s Pool and Darts. Though we played neither pool nor darts, we did play a riveting game of ping pong, or at least our version of the game. Not only do they have pool, darts, and ping pong, but holy moly, they’ve got pinball! Gritty’s doesn’t have pinball! One point for Forest Ave, zero points for downtown!

No one was really there but the bartender was just genuinely pumped to have some new (or any) faces in the bar—excitedly telling us they stayed open til midnight, “or later, if we wanted!” They don’t serve hard liquor at Ernie’s,* which is probably best because there are a lot of pool tables and I don’t really want any balls flying in my face which just might happen if hard alcohol were involved (that’s what she said?)…But seriously—that has happened to me. Pool ball to the face, that is. Didn’t feel great. Black eye for an entire summer. And you better believe booze was involved, so beer is best when billiards are a factor.

*But they do sell mini-bar bottles of KahlĂșa?

            While I’d like to say we ended the evening on Forest Ave (which was kind of the point of this Forest Ave pub crawl), we failed and wound up in town. That’s only because our last planned stop was the Great Lost Bear; we had all forgotten they close stupidly early. So, we cabbed to Sonny’s, then sadly, cabbed back to our USM-area apartment. Sorry bank account. However, you don’t need to make the same silly mistake. If you don’t want to end the night at 11:30 PM (which no one does, Great Lost Bear), begin the night at GLB! Then make your way down to Samuel’s. As previously stated, they serve alcohol AND food until 1 AM; you can’t lose with this plan! Plus, by the time you reach Samuel’s, I bet that waitress has already filled her 200 cups of blue cheese so I’m sure the late-night service will be fabulous!

One more tip: if you find yourself with a horrendous hangover in the morning (you will), make one last stop on your Forest Ave adventure: Mekhong Thai is open and serves alcohol before 11 am.* While White Russians are not on the menu, believe me, they serve them. And they are dee-lish; just ask my friend Caroline (pictured above). You will thank me later.

*Why do I know this? Mind your own business. But really, I’m serious when I say it’s one of the only places on Forest Ave that serves this early, aside from Valley Chinese. But if you can handle the smell of Valley so early in the morning, you’re probably not hung over enough to need the White Russian.

Until next time, keep pinchin’ pennies and maybe I’ll see you on Forest Ave…