Last summer I tried to start blogging via Tumblr. It was a pretty unsuccessful endeavor. I did get a chance to experiment with some different post formats, though; that ultimately led to this blog, which is something I’m (mostly) proud of. I’m in Las Vegas this week for work and I don’t have a ton of time to write new things — although I want to try here and there — so I wanted to take an older post I did on Tumblr and re-share it here. It’s a little bit more personal than some of the main stuff I write, but I mean, isn’t part of the idea of having a blog to be more personal from time to time? (I definitely have been in the past.) Anyway, check it out below:
For me, the whole idea with getting a Tumblr and trying to write more was that I could use it to be transparent about my life and my fears and my worries and my ideas on the world, especially because I kinda considered that with all the digital clutter these days, no one would really read it that closely. That said, I also realize I’ll be applying for jobs a couple of times in the next year or so, so I didn’t want to put anything out there that was too awkward. I turned this over a few times in my head and decided there were a couple of stories I wanted to write, basically full boar, just to see how it makes me feel, if nothing else. Here’s the first one of those. It happened on Halloween 2009. I changed the names of people involved (i.e. I didn’t mention them), but it’s possible that someone out there could read this and figure out who is who. So be it.
This was about a week to the day before I turned 29. Sometimes I tell people that you come off your wreck era at 27 or so. I think that’s true for most people. It’s not really true for me. I may be coming off it right now, or I may not, and I’m 32 (33 in a few months). Regardless, this story is about the last week of my 28th year, and specifically, one night within it. Halloween that year was a Saturday.
I guess the easiest place to begin is to say that I sometimes have an issue with drinking. I wouldn’t call myself an alcoholic by any stretch, but I do have issues with knowing when to stop, especially if I’m in a social situation that seems (a) more awkward or (b) more comfortable. That A-B split right there really daggers me, because I can’t ever truly define a situation that’s gonna be more hairy for me. I’ve gotten better about this in the last 12-24 months (and probably much better in the last 6-12), but I still have slip-ups, and that is something I do work on every single day. I’m very comfortable in a self-reflection place, and in working on these things, and I think I’ve made strides, but I’m not there yet. That’s hard to admit but it’s true.
On this Saturday back in question, back in ‘09, I had plans to meet up with a friend from out-of-town (a good friend, mind you) for a college football game around 3:30pm. After that, him and his wife were going to Brooklyn for a Halloween party. I didn’t want to attend that (it was strict in terms of the rules for dressing up, which I thought I was “over” at the time), so I was going to meet another group of friends (good friends, again, mind you) for Game 3 of the World Series (Yankees vs. Phillies). That was the overall plan. I also had to work on Sunday morning, give or take around 8am.
At this particular time in my life, I had just started dating the girl I ended up marrying, but we were doing long distance. Two or three of my closest friends had moved out of the city that past summer, so it was a bit of a lonely spot, save for the 2-3 times every couple of months that I saw my girlfriend. I was working at a place I liked about 50 percent of the time (little more, little less on some days) and I was hanging out with some of my co-workers on Friday nights at dank-ass bars all over the East Side Midtown area. I was cutting that back as my relationship became more serious and relevant, even from afar, but still, that was pretty much my social world.
I lived in Queens at the time, and about three-four blocks down the street, there was a divey bar that had opened probably six-eight months before. It had terrible bar food (mostly fried shit) and a decent tap selection, but the thing is, before 11pm, it was never that crowded. It had good TV coverage and the people sitting at the bar were almost universally friendly. So, being a big college football guy, sometimes I would drop in there on a Saturday afternoon if I wanted to check out a game without watching it solo at my apartment. I’d go there and I knew a few regulars, but I’d meet other people in the process, and over a few hours, I’d probably have 4-5 beers and head home. I was ripping through The Wire and some other stuff on Netflix (not streaming, actual envelopes) at the time, so that tended to be my Saturday evening plan, along with talking to the girlfriend. Once in a while I’d have a more interesting social entanglement, or if the CFB game at night was good, maybe I’d slide my calendar and head to the bar around 7pm or so, as opposed to 3:30pm.
On this day in question, I went over there to grab lunch before I met my friend in the city. The plan was maybe 1 or 2 beers and food before hopping the subway and meeting my friend. I get over there and I have the 1, order the 2, and then a couple of guys I was “friends” with at the time — bar regulars — came in and were watching a Syracuse football game (fairly meaningless, in the grand scope of things) and we ordered another one. I had my work Blackberry for some reason (believe me, I wasn’t important enough at that time to be justifying carrying that Blackberry on a Saturday afternoon) and I remember I started getting some e-mails from a freelance writer in Washington state about the plan for coverage that evening of the World Series. I was responding here and there, chatting with the bar regulars, and before I realized it, I was on beer 4. I had it, but decided to stop there. I ordered a little more food, had some water, and bid my acquaintances adieu to head into Manhattan.
I don’t think I had seen my friend since his wedding, which was the summer before … so when I rolled up (it was a danker bar that I had picked, because truth be told, I do enjoy the dank bar culture sometimes), there was some catch-up: his married life, my new relationship, his plans, my plans, etc. He had brought two or three other friends. One I kinda knew from college and he made me feel a smidge socially uncomfortable. I don’t know why. Sometimes I just meet people and I feel uncomfortable around them, with no true rhyme or reason. That’s for another, longer post.
As we were catching up and watching this game, beers were flowing — slowly at first, but then a little quicker. I ordered some pub nachos, which were shit, but I mostly devoured them (I had eaten three or four things at this point in the day, if you count cereal, and probably not a single morsel of any of them had actually been good for me). One of my other friends called me during this time — a friend from the group I was meeting for the World Series, which would be in about 2.5 hours. We talked for a bit and then she texted me back when I hung up, “Have you been drinking?”
This was a warning sign to me — I guess I was giving something off in the way I had been talking. So I (unnecessarily) finished the beer I was on, ordered up a few waters, and finished watching the game with my friends. They had some time to kill before their Brooklyn party, and I had some time to kill before the World Series, so we headed to a craft beer bar about two-three blocks away. I had sobered up a bit more by this time, or so I was internally reflecting, so my plan was to order 1, drink it slow, and then head uptown to meet my other friends.
I got in there and I ordered one. I remember some of my friends, a group which had gotten bigger at this time (friends of friends, et al) were looking at me kind of weird, as was the bartender (who I knew a little bit). I had a plan in my head, though — 1 and done — so I was undaunted. I sat down with the drink at a table (a bit unsteady, if I remember correctly) and started having it. A few minutes in — and this memory is a tad hazy, minus the emotional implications — my main friend in the group said he wanted to talk to me outside.
We got outside and he said to me, rather simply and directly, “I think you need to go home.” I was a bit stunned. My face probably reflected it. I knew I had been drinking off and on since 1pm or so, but I didn’t think I was that bad, or that I had done anything that bad. But then I realized, I wasn’t even sure what I had done. Had I done something that caused people to look at me funny when I ordered that final beer? I wasn’t even 100 percent sure. I was living life second-to-second and I had a plan for my evening, but was I even really there? It was a terrifying, and (not literally) sobering thought. Plus, here was my friend, who I hadn’t seen since his wedding, and probably wouldn’t see for another few years (3, it turned out), and this was the image of me I was leaving him with? I was fucking stunned, and downtrodden, and confused, and out of it all at once.
He hailed me a cab and I got in it, apologizing profusely, and the cab took me back to Queens. I figured the World Series was a bad idea, but in my cab reflection moments, I didn’t text or call or otherwise contact that group of people.
When I got back to Queens, I went home for a bit, stared at the wall, then, convinced I was mostly sober and needed something to eat / needed to be out of the house, I went back out, to a bar, because I’m the smartest fucking person that ever lived when it comes to myself and my limits and my emotional needs. I went over there, had a beer or two and an entree, and went home. I passed out around 9:45pm or 10:30pm, somewhere in there, mostly just sad about myself, and my life, and the image I was projecting to others. I would say I was legitimately fairly depressed.
I woke up around 1:15am. Because I wasn’t totally sober (or remotely sober), and I knew I had to work at 7am or so, I thought it was probably 1:15pm and I had slept through the first six hours of my Sunday shift (this happened to me once and I guess it struck a deep chord of fear). I got up, got dressed hastily, and headed to the subway. Now, 7am — when I would be going to work — is a lot lighter than 1:30am — when I was going to work — but in my concern and my less-than-stellar state, I blazed towards the subway, not even contextually taking in my surroundings. I also probably passed six or so bars with people outside smoking, drinking, being loud, talking, etc. That typically doesn’t happen at 7am.
I rode the subway, at 1:45am on Halloween night, with basically a bunch of inebriated people, costumed people, etc. I think some of them may have wondered why I was on there with a backpack and a focused, if glassy-eyed look, but the culture of the subway kind of dictates that you don’t ever really question, so i rode in peace for the most part. I got to my office around 2am. I though it was 2am by now, and I was starting to realize that I had just committed to coming to Manhattan five hours before my shift really started, but I was already down on myself enough that I didn’t want to believe this was possible … so I looked for a Starbucks, but lo and behold, those aren’t typically open at 2am on a Sunday morning (although theoretically, a few should be), so I faced a choice: go back home, sleep for 3-4 hours, and come back to work? Or just go to work now, sleep there for a bit, and then start my shift? I chose the latter.
When I got upstairs, my ID badge wasn’t working (fuck), and the security guard was asleep, snoring loudly. At first, I contemplated just going back home, but finally, after about 14 self-discussions, I woke up the guard (“What DA FUQ you doing here?”) and went in. Remarkably, during this entire sequence of over 1 hour of going to work at 1:30am, I had never checked my phone. I had it on me, but I had never checked it. I had about 17 missed calls and angry texts from that World Series crew — I made a note to explain that to them in a 6am or so text about how I’d fallen asleep — and nothing from the friend who sent me home. I went into my boss’ office (she had a decent couch) and crashed, setting my phone for 6:15am.
I woke up moderately hungover at 6:15am, stumbled out of my boss’ office, and headed for my workstation to do my shift. As the computer was firing up, I texted the friend who sent me home. I said nothing about the rest of my evening. I just apologized for my role in his part of it. I texted the World Series crew some lame, bullshit excuse. I called my girlfriend to contextualize that I was still alive. Apparently my fingers were sloppy during all this, because I entered my password wrong three times, locked myself out, and no one was available in IT at 6:33am on a Sunday, so I had to find an unlocked computer left on for the weekend (one of my co-workers) and do my initial slate of e-mails from there.
That workday moved slow, but I was done by 2:30pm or so. I grabbed a burrito, scarfed it down, and headed back to Queens on the train. I contemplated stopping in at the bar that started the whole story and telling my acquaintances (the locals) about how everything evolved from when I saw them last, 24 hours ago, but I couldn’t. I knew it wasn’t a good idea. I went home, turned on the NFL, and stared at it aimlessly for a few hours.
I don’t think this is the worst thing I’ve ever done, or the worst night I’ve ever had as a result of drinking, or anything like that. But it’s a story I’ve never really full told until now, and it’s one that, when I look back on it, I still feel depressed. I feel like I let a ton of people down, most importantly myself, and I feel like while I’ve grown to the point that this sequence of events would never unfold like this again, I’m also not at the place I truly want to be as a mature adult.
I’ve heard people say that the process of growing up is one where “we’re all works in progress,” and I mostly believe that (I see it reflected in myself). But I hope if you read this story, this basic anecdote in the grand scheme of someone’s life, and you’ve ever felt that way about me or about someone else (that they were a person you needed to send home), realize that I’m still trying to grow and be better, and I do think about things like this all the time. You really are a work in progress from cradle to grave.
OK. I have a couple of other stories like this — some involve drinking and some don’t — and I’m going to roll those out in the coming days as well.
I feel a little bit better having written all this down, so thank you for letting me do that (assuming anyone even got this far).