If someone told me how fucked 2009 was going to be I would have done a couple of things to prepare myself better for the spirit crushing listlessness that will forever define the end of this decade. After 10 months of wasted purpose and constant rejection by a steady stream of automated human resource department response emails, my poor ego can be found mending at a hospice on Kingsbridge Avenue in the Bronx after enduring the vicious gang rape gleefully dolled out by a quarter mile long line of enraged, speed snorting, Hepatitis B-infected, Section 8 clutching drill sergeants. Seriously, this year has sucked so much anonymous dick I can barely conceal my shame when I walk to the grocery store.
I picked up the phone one morning not too long ago knowing it was my mother on the other end calling to remind me of how unemployed I still was. As I said hello I remember hoping it would be news of a death in the family instead. That’s when it occurred to me that things were not always like this. In the middle of her well intentioned verbal quartering I realized that I was wading into dangerously shark infested psychological waters. I clutched the phone with my cold sweating hands and closed my eyes, patiently waiting for the Zen to kick in. Her voice faded to a whisper as the light radiating from my minds’ eye slowly opened, illuminating the inside of my head with the best parts of my life so far. Laughing and fucking and fighting and winning and losing and plotting and dancing and loving. I remembered in that instant the Devil-May-Care-Me that I am. Then a warm sex-drenched voice whispered softly into my ear from the receiver, “It’s just a ride. Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s fun, but rest assured, it’s just a ride. You’ll never see a U-Haul hitched to the back of a hearse. This too shall pass”.
The line grew quiet and my mother’s voice came back. I was smiling. I told her I loved her and hung up. It was time to reshuffle the deck. After a quick shower I sent my soldiers a mass text:
“Bring your best music and a bag of 22’s. Leave your bullshit elsewhere, when I find the right stoop to pollute you’ll know where to go.”
If I was going to spend a day drinking in public it was important to look as inconspicuous as possible. Cops tend to only notice the mid-level offenders, kids cutting school and business types wandering into the park to get blown by transient faux gutter punks from Seattle. These are easy collars, I’m an adult now I must be smart. Thanks in part to the Giuliani dragnet of the 1990’s me and mine learned to hone these skills under the most rigorous and cruel conditions. I got dressed in my Saturday best which comprised of jeans, a button down white-striped shirt, brown Sketchers and a black Kangalo. This quasi-adult look is great for blending in and easy to move in if you have to make a run for the nearest fire escape. Looking like you’ve got it together is absolutely essential when you don’t. Of course you could always err in the other direction and just go out looking straight up homeless but that consumes more time and effort than you think.
I grabbed my North Face bag, flipped on Tribe Called Quest and rolled out. Time to hit the corner store: Circa 97’. Back in the day most of these items were stolen at different spots around town but being that I’ve paid into the system since its okay to buy the essentials with my fresh unemployment check: Two packs of Newport, Honey Buns (still 2 for a dollar), a Hustler magazine, pack of Dutch Masters and, of course, booze. Ballantine Ale only.
The best place to start a day of care free drinking is the Upper Westside, right smack in the middle of Broadway. The little parks between traffic running north and south are a perfect place to collect your thoughts as you wait for inspiration. Since no sane person would ever start getting wasted in an intersection at noon on a Wednesday the locals will avoid you. The more wrecked I got the more company I seemed to attract; unwanted, piss soaked, mentally ill company. I needed my people to get a move on. A couple text messages later I was off.
We began to assemble. One brought the boom box and another came correct with the cassettes. Those of us who had jobs called out sick. Friends will do that when they know how close to the edge you are. Our spot is something of a relic in New York. Situated in a dead zone deep in Alphabet City, it’s devoid of trains, buses and police. The building’s stoop is wide and inviting with absolutely zero tenants. The projects are just far away enough from a school to give strange visitors solitude on the periphery of chaos. There’s even a place to piss unmolested. Perfection.
Turning up the BDP and tuning out our problems it was a regular day in the sun. Everyone passing by wanted to stop and drink in our good time. Even the cops looked on in awe. All of the energy of a back yard barbeque without the hassle of family and kids. We went on like this for hours. The stories never get old and the stupidity past fuck ups vanishes. Laughing is all I can remember now.
No wasted weekday is complete without a totally pointless trip to nowhere. After an hour of drunken debate we settled on a destination. We were heading to a magical place, Queens. I’ve always liked the A train. Heading to the end of the line is a journey few ever think to take and a privilege reserved only for the Howard Beach/Rockaway warrior class who grind ass in and out of Manhattan all week to do jobs you forgot existed but wanted when you were ten years old, running around whatever suburb you came from. Cop, firefighter, train conductor, DMV file clerk. You know? Shit jobs with benefits and a pension.
Straight to the middle of No-One-Will-Ever-Fuck-With-You-Ever-ville. Running across the bay between JFK and the ocean is as close to flying as one can get with a Metro Card. If the sun is going down on a clear day the urban sprawl falls away and you forget where you just were. Last car on the ride to the end is always best in late summer. Everyone else has gotten off long ago and you are left with nothing but old friends and a view.
Getting off near the ocean we stopped to reload in the middle of a fenced off vanishing neighborhood. The music was still going as we hauled ourselves through the weeds towards the dunes past the broad walk. The waves growing larger than the city beyond them, leaving just us basking in the last remnants of our former selves. A little shard of life jutting sharply between your fingers. Remembering the joke you just told.