9% ABV bottled
Argue with me if you must, and I roundly encourage it, but Queens is clearly New York’s most fucked up borough.* And, by “fucked up,” I mean it’s the borough where you are most likely to encounter some crazy “Am I in a movie?” “Did I just see that?!” oh-I-wish-I-had-my-camera-on-me bullshit. Now don’t get me wrong, I think this is a good thing. You may not, however.
Last time I was in Queens was a month or so ago. A girl had just ejected me from her apartment at 5:00 AM and I was drunk, banged-up, stuck in the middle of nowhere, and had no clue how to get back to Manhattan. After ten minutes of stumbling around looking for a cab, my savior arrived. A gypsy limousine. Literally I suppose. The Egyptian driver rolled down his window and all but ordered me: “Get in. Front seat.”
A weird request if you’re sober, but not when you’re drunk and lost. I sat down, “What a night, have I got a story for you,” I lamented. The driver interjected, “No, brother, have I got a story for you.” As we drove back toward Manhattan he lit up a joint which we passed back and worth while he spun the tale of his previous passenger. Seems he was chauffeuring around a married couple having a night on the town. Midway through the evening, the husband told the wife he wanted a divorce, they argued, he hopped out of the limo, and hailed another cab.
So, of course, she did the only natural thing one would do in that situation…she told the driver to pull over so she could fuck him as an act of revenge toward her husband. “Happens all the time,” he lasciviously smiled at me.
By the time we had crossed the 59th Street Bridge, the joint was finished. “How ’bout another?” said my new friend. I nodded. So, of course, he did the only natural thing and pulled off to the side of the 2nd Avenue where he proceeded to roll another doobie and soon we were again feelin’ groovy. Finally, dropping me off back at my apartment, my spirits were buoyed. So were his. “This ride’s on me, partner,” he winked as he drove away.
Most Manhattanites are snobs that refuse to ever leave our borough. I’m a snob, but I’m always willing to leave the borough, especially if adventure is promised. And, I rarely turn down an offer from my friends in Queens because in that borough depravity is all but guaranteed. So much so that I can’t visit it too often less my already suspect morals get even more corroded.
It was Saturday afternoon and I was bored. It was cold out and I had no plans. I had no personal initiative either. Thus, beer was in order. Carpe diem? Fuck that. That’s why alcohol is so awesome. It helps you seize the day. It helps you come up with plans. It is nothing if not “decisiveness juice.”**
I went with a bottle of the semi-rare winter special collaboration from master breweries Stone, Jolly Pumpkin, and Norway’s Nøgne Ø. It’s been my favorite winter beer this year and it is surely one of the most unique “warmers” I’ve ever had. Tastes of ginger, juniper (making it have some gin-like qualities, nice!), chestnuts (never heard of that in a beer before!), white sage, and caraway. Spicy, delicious, and goes down easy. Perfect for a cold night.
Around 7:00 I got a text from Stanton: “come to queens im trying to hit rock bottom tonight.”
I thought he was joking. Maybe not. But whatever the case, it sounded like a plan. “carpe diem” I texted back.
I put on my most disposable clothing, stuff I’d wear when painting a house, helping a friend move. I could tell this evening had the potential to be “one of those nights.” I own so little decent clothes, I couldn’t afford to ruin or lose the few decent pieces in my closet.
Queens is a quicker jaunt than people think. I can get there far speedier–from Hell’s Kitchen–than I can get to Brooklyn, Hoboken, Jersey City, or even the Upper East Side. Has any one ever done a “currency exchange rate” between the boroughs? If not, it should be calculated. Now, Queens isn’t exactly Oklahoma City vis-a-vis Manhattan but it’s significantly cheaper than it is in Manhattan. Getting off the N train stop in Astoria–site of another legendarily fucked up Queens adventure–I found a craft beer store cum deli cum Indian adult video shop. I was impressed with the selection, and amused when I had to wake up the shop owner who had fallen asleep watching a humiliation porn DVD at full volume so that I could purchase a sixer of Hop Devil for a mere $9.99.
Getting to Stanton’s apartment, I realized he had begun “Operation: Rock Bottom” without me. He was already quite toasted, ten beers deep. We aggressively dove into the Hop Devil as Stanton made me watch some “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” season four episodes, yet again trying to convince me of the greatness of the FX comedy. Look, I know it’s considered sacrilege in many circles, but I just don’t think the show is as funny as everyone claims. I watched all of season one and most of season two and, while I found it decent and semi-amusing, I didn’t think it was as iconoclastic as people so claim and it usually only gave me a medium-sized chuckle or two. Eventually, my DVR started stacking up with unwatched episodes and soon I quit the program altogether. Trying to prove the show’s worth, Stanton played me his favorite episodes from the most recent season, but again, I simply didn’t see any greatness.***
After the sixer was polished off, we went to watch my friend’s band at a legit Queens Irish pub. Irish pubs in Queens are quite different from how they are in Manhattan. It’s not something I can put into words, just a certain je ne sais quois, a visceral sensation. There is both less and more happiness among the denizens. There’s both more normalcy–like you’re just drinking in some one’s living room–and less–like you’re in some major sin den–it’s quite paradoxical. There, after countless beers and Jameson shots we came to realize something: it was literally impossible for the two of us to ever hit rock bottom.
You see, we may be drunkards, perhaps even borderline, semantic “alcoholics,” but we will never screw up our lives. At least completely. In totality. We’re smart enough, savvy enough, seasoned enough, and wise enough to be full-blown tipplers and still maintain jobs, incomes, solid health, and relationships. Yeah, we’ll get in mild trouble every so often, ruin entire Sundays sleeping it off, perhaps even miss a day or two of work, occasional offend those around us, send a dumb drunken e-mail or two, maybe even tarnish a friendship for a day or two, perhaps even get in trouble with an “authority” figure out two, but nothing large scale. You could say this behavior is why we don’t have wives, children, mortgages, even pets. But has it ever occured to you that we intentionally don’t have those things because we don’t want to bring any others into our selfish and decadent morasses?
It was both an enlightening eureka! moment and a bit of a depressing discovery. What to do when you realize you can never hit rock bottom? That you only have “warning track power” in the ruin-your-life game? Did Chuck Yeager feel this way before he punched through the clouds and hit Mach 1?
Thus, we had no choice but to cancel “Operation: Rock Bottom.” Now what to do? A shitcanned Stanton told me he knew of a Mexican dance club nearby, The Black Donkey. Hot Latino women galore. Only problem is, no gringos allowed. “Operation: Desert Shield” became “Operation: Desert Storm” and “Operation: Rock Bottom” became “Operation: Gringo Infiltration.”
I’m a swarthy Jew which makes it somewhat tough to completely pin down my ethnicity. I’ve been thought to be Italian, Israeli, Middle Eastern, Greek, even black (!), and from countless Latino countries of origin. Aside from my near six-foot height and liberal use of Yiddish argot, I could easily be confused for a Chicano. I wish I had a funny story about the infiltration of the club. Something that involved me standing on Stanton’s shoulders and using a huge trench coat ala Alvin, Simon, and Theodore to sneak into the club. Nope, we just ducked our heads down and threw out a quiet “hola” as we breezed by the bouncer and then passed through the metal detectors. Aye carumba! Unlike Plaxico, I typically have a rule about entering drinking establishments that see a need for friskings, but, when in Queens…
While Stanton got a bucket of the only beer available, I began ogling the women. Good lord! The club was like 70% female and all the girls were like Latino models. Hour glass figures with huge asses and fake breasts oozing from their leather tops. Why…if I didn’t know better…
“Stanton, is this…a strip club?”
Here was the deal, the bar was neither a strip club nor a brothel and there was no nudity whatsoever, but it was a “pay-to-dance” club. As in, ten bucks to simply dance–grind that is–with the hot women. Absurd! I loathe strip clubs, detest lap dances, and have no use for prostitutes, and now I’m going to pay to dance with a strange woman? I don’t even like dancing with women I love!
Stanton was wasted though and has a Latino fetish of a sort, and is actually a semi-accomplished drunken hoofer, so he perused the line-up of chicks to find one to dance with. Humorously, he was shot down by all of them. “Gringo too wasted,” they all muttered. We sat down at a dance floor side table to drink and begin surveying the scene for some further hijinks.
The next dance begun and all the minuscule Mexican men began to drag their purchased women to the parquet. And then, I saw one of the strangest sites I’ve ever seen in my life. I wish I’d had my camera on me, I wish the club wasn’t so dark that my cameraphone was rendered useless, because what I saw cannot be done justice in words, it was so fucking unbelievable.
The dozen or so men lined up hip to hip to hip to hip, etc. on the back wall as if pissing at a sports stadium urinal trough. But, instead of relieving themselves, their $10 women got between them and the exposed bricks and they all began to grind on the women’s asses. With authority. My jaw was so far to the ground, I was so amused, that I didn’t notice Stanton methodically removing each Corona from the beer bucket. I could not remove my eyes from the scene.
“How hard up are these dudes? Paying money just to grind on a hot woman? Seriously? How long do they get?”
I turned to Stanton just as he put the beer bucket to his face and ferociously threw up into the melting ice.
Pulling his mug back up he smiled, he must have felt great, like a new man, a Phoenix coming out of the drunken ashes. He answered my pre-barf question in the most matter-of-fact way.
“Well, they get to grind until they come, of course.”
Now it was my turn to barf.
“We better get out of here, Aaron. Last time I came I got 86ed and we’re on the verge of that now.”
As we stood I noticed several men peeling off the grind wall, each Chino with a most indiscreet speckle of crotch wetness on their chinos.
I awoke the next day on Stanton’s couch, still fully dressed from the night before, my wallet and cell phone even in my jeans pockets.
Looking and acting like one hundred million pennies, Stanton informed me that it was now time for “Operation: Find a Wii.” He planned to spend Sunday driving all around Queens and Long Island, hitting up Best Buys and gaming stores until he found the coveted video game system. It sounded like more adventure was in store, but, unfortunately, I had a lunch date so I had to leave my pal.
The next morning, I received an e-mail from Stanton:
Played some awesome Tiger Woods Golf last night on our new Wii. The guy we bought from was such a characture (sic) of what you would think someone in Queens who sells hot Wiis would look like. Met him in the back of a Steak House called Charlie Brown’s. He claimed he’s in the Adult Entertainment industry and if we ever needed any Blu-ray DVDs he could hook us up. He then gave me his card. His name is Lou Bricate. Get it? Lubricate? You have to see this guy’s business card. I had a hard time keeping a straight face when he was talking to us.
Queens is so fucked up.
*My anecdotal rankings:
2. Staten Island
3. The Bronx
**For that matter…alcohol is also bad idea punch, intellect intoxicant, insolence nectar, fighting fluid, boastfulness booze, smartass sauce, injury water, agressiveness aqua vitae, felony-committin’ firewater, and–of course–maybe above all else…depression drink.
***The greatest comedies of the past, let’s say, five years would be, in order: “Arrested Development,” “Extras,” “The Office” (British), “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “30 Rock,” and “The Office” (U.S.)