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Hair of the Dog 

Al's Café, 2500 DeKalb Street, 314-776-4171

Nothing works.

Liter after liter of water: theoretically replenishing, but acres removed from the instant gratification you seek. Alka-Seltzer Morning Relief: typically as effective as a morning bump of cocaine, but somehow rendered useless today. Exercise: tiring and prone to temporary spats of morning-after physical retardation. Masturbation: wonderful for, like, five seconds, then it's back to the achy, flaccid doldrums. A greasy slinger in tandem with coffee: typically effective, but potentially vomit-inducing after the most robust of benders.

Ah, but you're not really using your head now, are you? Remember how you got there, and go there again. Put the post-Party Gras Lenten sobriety resolutions on hold and tilt once more, for the benefit of your body's supernatural equilibrium, earned via an annual streak of Phat Tuesday hedonism that has proven you can still run with the pups, albeit with a bit of a limp. Get thee to Al's Café, an oasis of sustenance in the vast industrial wasteland east of Soulard, a time-capsuliffic thatch of riverside blue collarism where motorcar operators must constantly be on the lookout for trains, some of which operate sans human engineer, like toy locomotives in department-store windows.

Those who enter Al's with a clean shirt and pressed britches are apt to get heckled by the ancient café's many masculine regulars, for whom a dermatological layer of dust and grease are as routine as a morning shower. You're in their ballyard now, and the silent ringleader is Al Beczkala, who opens for breakfast at five in the ayem and shuts the show down round about suppertime. His shift is the workingman's shift, as is the recreation he promotes behind the bar, where fishing bait, pork rinds and icy cool bottles of Michelob corral the lion's share of stock space.

Al serves a mean breakfast, or so says his son, Patrick, who works nearby and serves as his pop's bar back and chief apologist. Where the patrons may heckle, the gentlemen Beczkala quickly realize the new guy needs a cut man and a trainer in his corner, at which point they skillfully, quietly oblige. It bothers Patrick a bit that Al is quite shy, but perhaps he's misinterpreting his dad's stoicism. After all, Al knows. Knows you've had a rough one the night prior. Knows a beer on the house is apt to bring you back. Knows a wink and a smile in lieu of conversation are just fine by you. Come again, and the heckling might subside a smidge. Eventually, it'll all work out, so sip steady and don't try anything too drastic just yet.

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