Thursday 29 September 2016

Throw away the key: That's when you have to go home. If you hear George Hook, the party is over.

If Donal Lynch had any sense, he'd go home early, but for him, it's all about the long night's journey into day

Published 11/07/2016 | 02:30

Donal Lynch.
Donal Lynch.

'Nothing good ever happened after 2am," was an expression which was first coined on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother and which has since been elevated to the status of general going-out maxim. It's supposed to be a little mental safety belt, to strap on when you're feeling close to being swept away with the impulse to live out that Daft Punk song, and stay up all night to get lucky. To my mind it's also one of the greatest lies ever told: 2am is when the night really begins. It's a countdown to when all the normal rowdy people go home. And the truly tenacious face into the dawn together.

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For me, this journey brought me into the world of lock-ins and after-parties. I never thought I'd enjoy being locked in anywhere. As a youth, my lone experience of the gates slamming shut on a night out came 15 years ago, during my student days in Prague, when myself and a friend refused to pay the 'exit cover' at some dingy backstreet bar, and were held prisoner for about eight minutes, during which time we held our arms out through bars in the door toward startled passers-by, and cursed the day they ever expanded the EU.

But these days nothing makes me feel safer, happier and more like I'm living the life God intended, than being whisperingly ushered into a bar, or a warehouse with the shutters down. The rougher the bar, and the closer to daybreak, the better. How do I manage to stay up this late and look so remarkably fresh without a serious cocaine addiction? I go to bed in the evening and set a clock. Seriously, you can rock up to these places with a breakfast smoothie. Anything goes.

This bizarre going-out schedule is worth it for the crowd and the witching-hour madness. Lock-ins and after-parties are where communities come together - gays and straights, who have been parted by convention and the desire to score, have now realised that horse is long dead and they may as well keep the party going together. Rich people mix with poor people. Drugged people mix with people who are confused as to why this conversation features so much tooth-grinding nonsense. These are the modern speakeasies.

The tinge of illegality is what makes it. The tiptoed entrance. The warning that you can't go back out (perfect, you never want to go back out!). And the coolest thing of all: people smoking inside. Nothing brings home to you that, the rest of the time, we are all just obedient drones, bitches to The Man, than watching people smoking inside.

"But is it safe?" I hear you squeak in a concerned voice. Generally, the whole scene is more peaceful than anything you'd find in mainstream clubland. This is because people aren't as drunk, everyone has their wits about them, and there's a feeling of conspiracy about the whole thing. If anyone causes trouble, everyone probably has to go home. So people are nice. They will hold your hair back while you puke, figuratively speaking. And, sometimes, literally.

The whole landscape of the long night's journey into day has as many colours as the dawn itself (which also doubles as BS to just throw out there, philosophically, as you walk from one place to another). At first, it just seems like a thrilling extension of the normal club. Then an after-party might hit its beat-driven high somewhere. And then, in the morning, a place might open, and eventually you have this strange mixture of couples in to watch the rugby and stragglers still on the razz. That's when you seriously have to go home, though. If you hear George Hook, the party is over.

On a wider level, it's probably nearly over already anyway. Some Maude Flanders somewhere will be sure of that. For some strange reason, these things tend to fade away when the economy is going well (maybe people have jobs to go home to).

When that happens, I'll just have to accept that middle age has actually happened. And look back, as Lot's wife looked back at Sodom, and remember how good it was.

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