New Drunk City, Part 1
If I’m going to get up and have a laugh with y’all on the topic of alcohol intoxication…and I sure as fuck hope I am, or this is going to be the longest 10 minutes of my life…I’d be remiss in failing to note that nine years ago today, on December 20, 1997, my 23 year old cousin, Doug Murray, was killed in a drunk driving accident in Longmont, Colorado. This was by far the shittiest birthday present I received that year, worse even than the army green thermal shirt my hippie boyfriend inexplicably selected for me. In retrospect, though, it’s become clear that some interesting lessons came of this tragedy. The one that’s relevant to this evening is that drinking is fine, provided that you’re not a total asshole about it, and sometimes, even when you are, provided that you’re not behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, operating heavy machinery, or in possession of a loaded firearm. All in all, I’ve come to believe that it is possible to be both a drunk and relatively functional…or, as I refer to it, drunktional.
This is especially true here in New York, where one never has to drive. Absurd drink prices aside, New York is one of my favorite places to be drunk. And maybe it’s partially because of the prohibitive cost of booze in many of our bars…when you’re shithoused in New York, goddammit, you’ve earned it. You’ve spent half your sorry paycheck, and you’re fuckin’ WASTED, and no one can take that away from you. (Unless, of course, you’re really pretty and someone else always buys your drinks. And in that case, well, fuck you anyway.)
There’s an edgy aspect to being a drunk chick in this city, too. Anything…literally anything, good or bad, can happen. Celebrities show up when you’re already drunk enough to try to talk to them. (Sorry, Susan Sarandon!) Subway trains break down between stops when you’re struggling desperately not to vomit and/or piss yourself. Wasted club guidos decide randomly that they’re gay and try to make out with your boyfriend. Transit strikes coincide with your birthday party, and you say fuck it and get hammered anyway. The stripper from the boy bar turns out not to be gay after all. The bar owner offers you a ride in the back of his customized Cadillac hearse, which you gladly accept. If I had a nickel for every time I found myself alone and piss drunk in a totally sketchy or bizarre situation in this asylum of a city, I’d have enough money to get drunk a hell of a lot more often than I already do.
I’ve been lucky, though. In most if not all of those dodgy scenes, things have turned out okay. Often humiliating, but without serious mishap, and nearly always funny later. My Irish mother says that God looks out for idiots and drunks, and I am living proof that she’s absolutely right.
My first serious drunk experience in New York occurred in the spring of 2002, about a month before I actually moved here. My friend Brando and I flew out from Denver to survey the scene, check out my new apartment, and presumably hook up with pretty people. We spent a few innocuous days shopping, bickering, and eating street meat before we met up with our friend O and hit the town. After multiple cocktails in multiple joints, we wound up, of course, at a boy bar. When the story of my life is finally written, people, it will be set in a boy bar.
As often happens at boy bars, I was in the process of getting lucky. Let’s face it…any and all straight boys in a boy bar are like ducks in a bucket for any vagina that happens to show up. This one happened to be a smokin'-hot part-time soap opera actor. Blake, or something. Brando, in the meantime, was busy making out with a total troll. That encounter was brought to a swift end when O stated quite loudly that “we were on vacation and had NO TIME FOR UGLY PEOPLE.” Brando, jealous of my good fortune, got pissy and stomped out. I decided, for reasons I’ve since forgotten, not to go home with Mr. Sands Through the Hourglass. O was headed downtown, and responsibly put me on the 1 train toward my hotel on the Upper West Side.
About two stops along, it occurred to me that I had to pee rather desperately. The urge grew more powerful by the second, until I could stand it no more. The train reached 42nd Street. “Hey, Times Square!” I thought. (My words were slurred, even in my head.) “There’s gotta be a bathroom THERE I can use!”
I dashed off the train and bounded up the stairs to the street, naively counting on there being a pizza shop or bar or SOMEPLACE with a pisser that would be open, even at 4:30 in the morning on a weeknight. City that never sleeps, right? No problem!
This is about as wrong as I’ve ever been about anything. And that, my friends, is sayin’ some shit.
Reaching the street, all I saw was dark storefronts and sleeping homeless people. The trip up the stairs had nearly gotten messy…I was fully potty walking at this point. Finally in desperation, I approached a pair of beat cops on Seventh Avenue.
“’Scuse me, sir?" (Trying my best to appear sober.) “Could I ask your help with something?”
Cop #1, short, young, and adorable, turned to me, theatrically swept off his hat and held it to his heart. (I’m pretty sure he was drunk too.)
“You can aks me any-ting, sweethaht. Whatevah you need, whatevah you want, I will personally make showah you get it. Dis I promise you, on behalf of da NYPD. Any-ting!”
“Uh…okay. I need a bathroom.”
“Oooooh...any-ting but dat.” He replaced his cap on his head and stared at the ground in somber dejection.
Cop #2, large, slightly older, and thankfully sober, rolled his eyes at Officer Broadway. “You see that sign down there?” he said, pointing. I followed his finger as best I could, spotting a blur of neon that appeared to be several miles away. “That there’s McDonald’s. You can use their can, but you prolly gotta buy some fries or somethin’.”
I came close to bursting into happy tears. “Thank you, officer, thank you!”
I set off in the direction of the Golden Arches, clenching my nethers so tightly that my knees were actually touching. I’d made it about half a block when I realized that there was just no.fucking.way I was gonna make it that far without pissing my pants.
And then…to my left, I noticed a boarded-up window and a small construction site. A small construction site, right on the street, with plywood walls and an ALCOVE in front of the building’s door. A dim bulb crackled to life above my addled head. I looked behind me. The cops were gone. Yessss.
I ducked into the alcove, nearly delirious in anticipation of the sweet relief I was about to experience. My jeans were halfway down when I heard the voice.
“Hey! Hey lady! You pissin’ back deah?”
Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck, fuck-a-doodle-doo. It was a male voice. The cops, I thought. I am soooooo going to jail.
I turned my head in trepidation, hands clutching either side of my zipper. It was not the cops. It was a teenaged boy. A big teenaged boy. A big teenaged boy and six of his friends, all peering at me around the edge of the plywood wall with looks of great interest and curiousity.
Clearly at a gross disadvantage, I mustered the flapping shreds of my dignity, looked up at the kid from mid-squat, and answered the question.
“Yes. Yes I fucking am.” I held my breath and my stream, totally unprepared to defend myself and waiting for him to respond.
“Awright den!” the kid said. “We’ll block for ya!”
Insert Scooby-Doo's incredulous noise here.
“Hey you guys, com’ere! Stand ovah heah! Dis lady’s takin’ a leak back heah, and she needs blockas!”
Next thing I know, I see eight or ten t-shirted backs surrounding the alcove as the boys line up to block the view from the street. It was more from shock than urgency that I finally let go and started pissing.
“Are you guys fucking kidding me? I TOTALLY thought I was getting gang raped for a minute there! How awesome are you?” Still pissing.
They all laughed. “Hey no problem lady! It happens to everybody!” Uh, okay.
I heard footsteps approaching. “What are you lookin’ at, asshole? Keep walkin’!” My underaged heroes!
Still pissing. Thirty seconds. Forty. A minute.
“That’s some piss you’ah takin’ back deah, huh?”
“Dats awright. You take yah time! We can wait!”
By this point I had descended into silent, hysterical laughter, trying at the same time to balance my drunk ass so as not to piss into my Chuck Taylors. (I was not entirely successful, by the way.)
Finally, at long long last, my bladder imploded and it was over. I wobbled to my feet, zipped up my drawers, and announced to my protectors the commencement of my urinary activities.
They all turned to face me at once, like a school of fish.
I was overwhelmed with shitfaced gratitude. “My god, you guys are an amazing bunch of gentlemen.”
“Of course we aah! We’ah from YONKERS!”
A cacophony of pro-Yonkers whoops and hollers erupted into the still-dark morning, and again moving as one, fish-like, they were gone. I stumbled back to the subway station and made it back uptown without further incident, now positive that my decision to move to New York was the right one.
Part 2 next week.