It's a small world, especially on the crowded island of manhattan.
Got a call last week from an old friend from my hometown. Haven't seen or talked to him in years. Turns out he just moved to NYC.
Okay, people move here, it's that sort of place. No one ever dreams longingly of someday making it in Des Moine, but songs are written about moving here. People see New York on movie screens and TV's, looking chock full of beautiful softly lit artsy people and stylishly wet streets glimmering beneath clear night skys.
People see that and wanna come here. Of course they miss out on the little actualities of living here. Things like being jam packed on a 100 degree subway car, dodging boogers the four foot tall fry cook on your right is mining from his nose, and trying not to rub up against the sweaty bum on your left drinking his morning constitutional out of a paper bag. Meanwhile, the large black man in the polyester suit is screaming about loving Jesus and the need to kill whitey.
You know, the slightly less glamourous stuff like that. People see some coffee shop clerk on TV living in a swank apartment the size of an airplane hanger and buy into it. In my New York that quirky but lovable ditz would be living in a closet in Red Hook with no running water and praying that the neighbors next door mixing up their Meth don't blow up the whole fucking place cause it took her 4 months to find it and she emptied her bank account just to pay the broker's fee.
Don’t get me wrong, New York is cool, but those smiling blond 20 somethings glittering on your idiot box aren't telling you the real story. I'm reminded of the night I was riding the N train home and a drunk projectile vomited across the subway car and spattered a little latino girl in her white communion dress. I was spared. My finely honed New York instincts had picked up the signs of impending puke. The head in hands, the rocking back and forth, the stink of cheap gin, and the wet crotch of his pants. I guess they don't teach you to watch out for that sort of thing in Sunday school.
But people wanna move here, so the skeptical amongst you could be thinking, "big deal, so some guy from your hometown moved to New York. Happens all the time."
Sure, happens all the time if you grew up in the midst of civilization. You know, places with things like paved roads, walmarts, and mc donalds. You look at a map of Texas and try to find my hometown all you see is a blank space and the words "Here there be dragons..." So when somebody from my stretch of nowhere, somebody I partied with long before I turned my liver and lungs into midnight black hunks of charcoal, moves to my city, it's a big deal.
He, my GF, and I met in Queens Friday night for a couple of beers and some catching up. Of course a couple of beers turned into a couple of beers and a serious dose of whiskey. We were having a good time, laughing at stories of my buddy being mugged in Berlin, having his Jaw broken by a drunken bipolar carpenter in Texas, and getting his ass kicked by some guy in Philly. You know, groovy stuff like that.
We talked about the good old days in backwoods Texas. The time he and Ray knifed each other, the night he jumped into a wall at the local movie theater and left a body shaped dent just like a cartoon*, driving around all night talking about our dreams, our lives, and how maybe someday we could move someplace cool like Des Moine.
We drank until 2am when our wallets were finally empty, and stumbled back to my GF’s apartment for a nightcap. Unfortunately, the only booze she had in the house was a bottle of Absinthe brought over by a friend during our last poker night.
Oh, devil Absinthe.
We’re not talking about that pussy shit you buy at Bob’s Half Price Liqours. We’re talking about the real shit. The mind fucking green fairy. Friend and confidant to suicidally drunk authors and knife wielding mass murderers throughout history, illegal in all civilized countries. Wormwood and insanity convienently packaged in 750 ml bottles. Goes down like burning diesel, and makes tequila seem like Nestles Quik. After the first glass your taste buds have all been stripped which is good since it keeps you from tasting the vomit bubbling up the back of your burning throat as your body wisely tries to reject this wicked poison.
The first glass is all bitching and moaning about the searing pain in your guts. The second makes you hug everyone in the room. The third and you become a poet. The fourth, a philosopher. By the fifth, you have become a frothing madman wired into the great cosmic consciousness and all the mysteries of the universe, which explains why you are speaking in tongues. The sixth would probably make you into a multiple felon, but fortunately you have passed out and someone is carving a "Z" in your forehead with a penknife.
The morning after a serious Absinthe bender is usually spent, in no particular order, trying to figure out where you are, who’s blood it is, and what happened to your pants.
It is not for the faint of heart. There is no such thing as a social Absinthe drinker, and no one has an Absinthe night cap before bed. With Absinthe, there is no, "one more and I'm oughta here", or "Gotta get up early, catch you guys tomorrow." The first drink has already carried you too far down the road of insanity, and there is no turning back. 150 proof straight jacket, padded room racing fuel.
For me, things get hazy around 4am. I have a vague recollection of my buddy standing in the middle of the living room waving his arms and talking very fast like a mad preacher at a tent revival. His all black attire and strange half mohawk add to the general impression. He keeps pointing a book at me, as much as a book can be pointed, titled, in big red block letters, “Anarchy”. I briefly flipped through it, but the only text big enough for my eyes to focus on besides the title was the book plate at the front saying, “Property of University of Pennsylvania Library."
It all made sense at the time.
Round 5:30 he stumbled out to find the subway, another fresh meat drunk wobbling through the Saturday AM.
If he’s not dead, next time I see him I’ll probably get to hear another amusing story about being mugged. I just feel lucky that I didn’t wake up with anything carved in my forehead.
I did wake up the next morning cursing the cruel world out to destroy what little sanity I have left with screaming children, jackhammers, and childproof aspirin bottle caps much to complex fumbling hungover fingers.
I was going to continue this post with the swank party I stumbled into the next night, still stinking of anise and alcohol, where, lord help me, there was a full bottle of Spanish Absinthe and a raging fifth grade teacher from Jersey trying to convince me that the Nazi’s really shoulda won the war, Chairman Mao is the greatest leader to ever live, the U.S. built the concentration camps, and capitalists have murdered 300 million people across the globe, but, alas, I have to work tomorrow and it’s creeping up on 3am. Just consider it a bullet you managed to dodge. Hell, it's all hazy anyway. I seem to remember rolling around in a patch of grass on the roof until the security guards showed up and threw us out and some bitchy little drunk in a pink shirt looking at my girlfriend, pointing at me and asking her with horror, "You sleep with that?"
I did wake up the next morning to find myself covered in orange marker, but still nothing carved in my forehead. God truly favors the insane.
Off to my dirty futon and my discount K-mart pillow.
And to Todd Todd who was cool enough to drop a line, I suppose we’re as real as anything else bouncing around in Bob Saget’s dreaming mind. Good enough for me.
Any of you other creeps out there wanna drop a dime and let us know what you think of this little slice of insanity we call the strangelands, feel free to sign up and throw your mad ravings up here for the world to read or, if for some unfathomable reason you want to keep your sickness locked deep inside your reptilian brain, click the “contact” link to your left and send an email.
*In all fairness he doesn’t remember if he was the one who caved in the wall, but he was a solid bottle in and the hole was a couple of feet off the floor. Ray’s verticle leap is about an inch and a half, so he remains the prime suspect.