If the first weekend where my brother arrived was the lighting and the smoldering of the fuse to the Festival Balls fireworks display, and the subsequent Monday - Thursday was the THUNK of the mortar being jettisoned higher and higher into the night sky, then the day of Friday, September 14, 2007, was the colorful explosion of magic in an array of shapes delighting all who witness (with the last night, Saturday night, being the pleasant crackling of the fiery morsels burning away into blackness).
My brother had been looking forward to this day for some time now, as this was the day we'd see Underworld play in Central Park. Underworld, for those of you unhip, is a trio of musical masters from England who play what's known as Techno Music. Two guys spin their DJ shit and the third guy chants lyrics and plays the occasional indecipherable guitar.
We started off this day the way we pretty much started off every day of this trip: waking up having received too little sleep, with varying levels of Hangover, clawing our way out of the apartment in desperate need of coffee and honest to goodness food. We did this around noon (but didn't actually get out until a little after one). Our first stop was Central Park, where we found right away where the concert was taking place. It was about 1:30 at the time and we still had three hours until the gates opened. That put us on the eastbound trek for food, walking down 69th Street towards 3rd and eventually 2nd Avenue. There, we spotted an ATM so Josh could check his balance and take some cash out, then we crossed the street to an outdoor cafe where we both ordered club sandwiches because we both love frilly toothpicks and we both hate mayo (but he takes his with a little dab of fancy mustard every now and again).
Eventually, we managed to kill enough time to make it worth our while to sit in a recently formed line outside the gates. After a half hour to 45 minutes (depending on who you ask, this could also be a million billion years of waiting), the crack security team put us into four lines - three of them for men, the other for women - and proceeded to have us empty our pockets. Fortunately - or more accurately because I was worried I'd barf on the train - I had a couple plastic grocery bags in my front cargo pocket. So Josh and I put our crap in there and stood rigid as the short black kid reluctantly gave us a couple pats around our waist and let us through.
Inside, I made a bee line (shouldn't it really be an I line?) for the nearest Honeybucket and released all that soda and water I had at lunch. Then, we staked out our seats on the hard, uncomfortable, ass-numbing metal bleachers at the back of the venue. We estimated the outdoor, fenced-in area could hold about a thousand people, so we weren't too far back, and we were sure as shit too hungover and weary from the long week of partying to tangle with the mob around the stage area. As a reward, we got to shift our buttcheeks every 20 seconds by the end of the 4-hour concert, but it was worth it.
So, it's 4:45, we're sitting on the bleachers next to the press area that had zero famous writers I've ever seen, we're not opting for beer because it's $7.00 for approximately 8 ounces of liquid (it was $5.00 for a little bottle of water and $7.00 for a small can of Red Bull ... that's Manhattan for you), it's a little cloudy but there appears to be no cause for rain, it's a little chilly but I'm still doing okay in my black Emerald Queen Casino t-shirt I got for free at the Bite of Seattle and my black polyester shorts that are chock full of paint splatters from that time I painted some boards of wood for mom a couple years ago (remember this outfit when I tell you about the after party). The place is still pretty devoid of people, which is awesome because off in the distance I'm seeing the most attractive woman I've ever seen eating a kebab. Remember, I've got a different taste in women than your blonde skirt-chasing frat guy; I like 'em looking a bit strange. Distinguished in that She Stands Out kind of way. This one has just a gray t-shirt on over a hip-hugging pair of blue jeans, nothin' fancy. Her hair is pretty short, jet black, and she's got these oversized black Bono sunglasses. Not too thin, nice rack, and she walks in a manner that should attract attention wherever there's attention to attract. I couldn't take my eyes off of her, but I surely couldn't walk all the way over there and talk to her - she had a less-attractive, larger friend with her - the kind who's there for the sole purpose of providing the Pug-faced muscle against guys like me (or, more accurately, guys with the balls to go up and talk to the most attractive woman they've ever seen eating a kebab). I stare at her until they walk to the front of the stage and sit down, then I lose them in the growing mob of New Yorkers chatting and drinking their dollar-an-ounce cups of beer.
The show doesn't start until 6:00. Josh and I are smoking his cigarettes, shooting the shit like usual, then finally James Holden comes on. He's another DJ who spins a solid set of tunes for 90 minutes or so. Just long enough to get us over the top of the hill and fully immersed in Dusk. We approve of this music, but we didn't pay $50 each just to see James Holden. We're here for Underworld, and man were they ever something. I think they played a lot of new songs from their upcoming album, but we eventually got to the classics like "Rez/Cowgirl" and "Born Slippy" and "Shudder/King of Snake" and, I believe, "Dirty Epic". They had these long, inflatable tube things that were closed off at the end and during the song "Two Months Off", they turned the air on and pointed these things in a variety of directions. They had lights in there changing colors, and then they turned on the smoke machine. As the singer kept repeating, "You bring light in, you bring light in, you bring light in," I'd have to say that I ceased being me and instead became a mass of disconnected molecules floating in the air.
It's when I made my revelation.
Underworld ended the night promptly at 10pm, probably having to do with some kind of curfew laws or park laws not allowing concerts after a certain time. Also, I'd have to believe it's a safety thing, as who really wants to be in Central Park that late at night? Anyway, while we were waiting for James Holden, I walked around the grounds a little bit - presubably in the process of gluing my eyes to the most attractive woman I've ever seen eating a kebab - and I noticed a table with what I thought were free stickers. Instead, they were advertisements for upcoming DJ shows at various New York City venues. One of them in particular grabbed me, as the date on that one read September 14, 2007. Yes, this night and this night only, at Webster Hall on East 11th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues in the East Village, for the low-low price of $45 at the door, my brother and I could attend the Underworld After Party and see an array of DJs spinning music until all hours of the night (and I ain't talking 5:30pm either, Mr. Seinfeld). Right away Josh wanted to go, because he's actually heard of Webster Hall on the techno/trance/Boy-I-sure-do-enjoy-hearin
g-rave-music message boards he reads occasionally. And because he wanted to get his drink on and listen to some fat tunes. And because this was our fucking day to blow out the city of New York in style.
So, we made the 10-block journey south through Central Park, we stopped quickly at Starbucks to use their bathroom and leave without buying anything, we got on the D-Train that took us to the N-Train that took us to 14th Street/Union Square, and we walked south the three blocks to Webster Hall. There, we stood in line near the door, behind these really really REALLY drunken Slavic guys and their dates. How could we tell they were drunk? Well, the one guy in the green polo shirt had a ripped area near his left pectoral muscle thanks to being repeatedly tackled at the Underworld show - during the James Holden set - and kicked out twice. Once for being a drunken nuisance, once for sneaking back in after they kicked his ass out the first time. I thought for a minute that he'd be too drunk and obnoxious to be let into Webster Hall and wondered with Josh if this would be the third time he'd be kicked out of a place in the same day.
After like a fucking HOUR in line, waiting for the fuckheads to set things up, they started handing out wristbands to the growing mob: one that said we're 21, one that said we were okay to go inside. This was a coup for me because everywhere I looked, all I saw were guys in jeans and collared shirts and ladies in dresses and fabulous outfits. Fabulous. There I was, black t-shirt I got from the Bite of Seattle and the black shorts with the paint splatters. The riff raff had finally arrived. Of course, I felt so good about my big victory against proper attire laws, I almost didn't even care that much that everyone who was being let in practically had to strip down to their bare asses and take a rooting finger to the sphincter. I shit you not, in a tiny, cramped little hallway, with people trying to buy tickets from booths and people bitching about their tickets they bought online being no good and demanding repayment, we all squeezed together wondering why the two security people were making us take everything out of our pockets, unfold every piece of paper, and then patting us down like we're being cleared to go to prison. Buy me dinner first, please!
Once inside, Josh and I scoped out the dance area, looking for places to sit along the outskirts because neither of us are much on dancing. We're much on drinking and music, but not dancing. They didn't have any tables, which disappointed me, and they didn't have any cushy booth-like seats, which disappointed my sore buttocks. What they had were big wooden structures, about 4 feet up off the ground. So, we collected our spots at the left edge, next to this little raised up spot where people could dance and not be mobbed by the main dance crowd. Then, I proceeded to order Double Jack and Cokes the entire night, seeing as the place was sure to fill up and I didn't want to keep walking back to the bar every two minutes to renew my single-shot Jack & Coke. We were five Double Jack and Cokes into our evening before I realized that each one was costing me $20. After five, and the one vodka cranberry I bought for Julie, and after an $11 tip (because, seriously, I'm only tipping a buck a drink if it's gonna set me back that much), I was out $220. I should've known the drinks were gonna cost a bundle when the bartender said - upon hearing my request to start a tab - that their Bar Policy is to charge $150 up front, and then reimburse you the difference should you spend any less than that.
Oh, who's Julie you ask? She's just my new girlfriend, that's all! Actually, I'm lying, she's not anything, but I bet your heart just skipped a beat for a second there. Julie is this pretty little lady who actually reminds me of a friend of mine in the looks department. Anyway, as Josh and I were sitting on our wooden structure, she came right up to me - paint-spattered black shorts and all - and was kind of drunkenly dancing. Mind you, we're way off to the side, and at this point it's not yet crowded. Anyway, she said something to me and I couldn't hear because the music's so loud, so she leaned in and repeated her request (at this point, I was trying to keep my composure as her boobs comfortably rested on my left thigh as she leaned in). She wanted to know if I could watch her coat while she danced and I said Sure and she put it on the floor just next to this giant wooden structure I was sitting on. It was out of sight and in no danger of being stolen, but I told her I'd guard it with my life. Then, for a little bit there, she continued dancing in front of me and smiling the whole time.
This is uncharted territory for the Dude, you see. Girls don't approach me; they flee in terror. They hide cowering with their girlfriends and link arms with the next available guy who walks past. Surely they don't pick me to talk to unless they need me for something (such as watching a jacket), and SURELY they don't stick around for a bit, dancing and smiling in my general direction. So, simple minded me, I took this as an open invitation to make a move, as opposed to the standing open invitation from every other woman in the world to go Fuck Myself. And, as is customary with my style, I made a move. That should actually read: I sat there, smiled back at her, made sporadic eye contact, wishing that SHE'D make the first move (which, really, she kinda already did in her own way), and then I let her go off and dance away into the floor full of other dancers.
Yes, I was kicking myself. Yes, I was berating myself in my mind. No, I wasn't going to go after her. No, I was just going to sit there and continue swirling my half-full plastic cup of Double Jack & Coke.
Then, shock of shocks, she came back! Like, ten minutes later. Maybe twenty, I dunno, but she returned. She leaned in and yelled something into my ear (boobs on the lap once again), and then she continued dancing and smiling in my general direction. At this point, my mind was screaming
MAKE A MOVE YOU FOOL!!!
and still I sat, and still I smiled, and still I swirled. A couple of her friends happened by (she'd apparently, in her drunken state, lost track of the guy/girl pair) and off she went. My mind continued to scream
MAKE A MOVE YOU FUCKING TOOL!!!
and for the longest five seconds of my life, I sat there on the edge of that wooden structure trying to will my dangling legs to the floor. I almost didn't. Talk about the hesitation of all hesitation shots; if this was basketball, I would've looked like a statue there behind the arc. The ball would be halfway down the other end of the court and I still would've been standing there facing my goal with nothing in my outstretched hands. But, I did. I tracked her down - about ten yards away - and asked if she'd like to dance. She said yes, then I asked what her name was. She said Julie, I said Steven, and we danced for ... about a minute. And then she made haste towards the front of the stage. I didn't receive that "Come on, follow me" glance over the shoulder, so I took that as a sign to sit my ass down on the giant wooden structure.
How should I take that? There could be any number of reasons explaining the behavior. She might have a boyfriend. She might not find me attractive enough to dance with. She might just be the kind of dancer who's always milling about the floor. She might be nuts. I'm telling you, there are reasons out there, I'm just dumbfuck blind to what they could possibly be.
I'm too sincere around girls. (I'll stop calling them "girls" when they stop calling us "boys"). If I had to best describe why I'm so inept around them, approaching them, talking to them, I'd have to say it's because I'm too sincere. Like, I can't seem to joke around or make fun of them - unless I'm around other guys who have this ability, and then I just pounce on whatever they have to say like an eager little fucking beaver. This is a huge problem for me because, if you discount the bullshit line they give you that looks aren't very important (I'll buy THAT for a dollar), then it ultimately DOES boil down to personality. And, I have no personality. I can't be funny around girls unless I'm being myself or unless I'm being self depricating (which kinda defeats the purpose, no?). Being myself doesn't work, because "Myself" includes all the warts of my warped sense of humor. My kinda humor revolves around the runny shits I had after White Castle, or the dozen or so times I Prison Masturbated in the top bunk while Nate was fast asleep on the bottom bunk Sophomore Year in college in the dorms, or dead babies dead babies dead babies penis vagina penis vagina HEY NOW!
So I have to be guarded. Guarded and sincere. I'm guarded and I'm too sincere around all girls I want to have sex with (so, if you're in that special minority where I'm not too afraid to say Penis Vagina within the reach of your hearing ... well, I probably wouldn't throw you out of bed either. Let's back slowly away from this topic ...).
You take away my arsenal of dirty humor, then all that's left are the pop culture references I've accumulated across a lifetime of sitting on my fat ass watching television (there's that self-depricating bit again). But, I can't count on some chick I just met in a bar understanding where I'm coming from when I say, "I'm your huckleberry." In fact, the thought of saying, "I'm your huckleberry" never even crosses my mind because usually all I'm thinking is:God damn it, don't screw this up. Don't make a fool of yourself. Gotta say something. Go talk to her. Just say anything; anything that pops into your head! Anything? Anything? OK, just go over there and say, "Hi." Shit, I can't believe I just said, "Hi," what the fuck's the matter with me? Say something else. Say something interesting. Say something funny! No, not that Hooker/Onion joke again, dammit say something genuine. Don't be corny, please God don't be corny! Fuck it, you're always corny! Man, this music's really loud. Not that it matters; it could be stone silent and I still wouldn't have anything to say. My mind is a gelatinous block of refried shit-for-brains. OK, quietly sit back down and order another drink. Drink yourself into being funny, or just fucking drink yourself into a giant stupor. A giant stumbling drunkenness; maybe then the personality will become more appealing.
But, it never does. It doesn't matter how drunk I get, I could count on two hands the number of Double Jack & Cokes I've drank and still felt stone cold sober. When I'm in the mode of, "I gotta get out there and meet women. I gotta get out there and get my dick wet. I gotta get out there and disappoint in bed," - which, I'll admit, isn't as often as most Pussy Starving men - I become the frustratingly mundane Quiet Drunk. And, if it gets to the point where she wants to talk to me for an extended period of time, then I run out of shit to say pretty fucking quick because it's hard to sugarcoat my life. I'm a temp. I came from Seattle (Tacoma actually, it's just south of Seattle). I went to the University of Washington and graduated with a degree in English. Creative writing; yeah, I want to be a writer. No, I haven't really been published in anything ... a couple of small-time literary journals. Well, I guess more than anything I want to be a novelist, or a sports writer, but really at this point I'd take any kind of writing job that comes to mind. Yep. Yep. Want another drink?
Going back into that whole sincerity angle, that therefore means that I'm unable to lie. Would I LIKE to lie? Sure, if it helped me seal the deal. Would I like MYSELF if I did so ... probably not, but that stinging blow to my self esteem would be salved should I achieve post-coital bliss. Anyway, it doesn't matter, because I can't lie around girls. I can lie to myself and think that maybe I have a shot; I can withhold the fact that I'm enamored with someone for an excruciatingly long time without ever uttering a single word on the topic anywhere within their hearing; but I can't straight lie to them.
And it doesn't help when people tell me, "Oh just be yourself." Believe me, I'd like to, but I can't. My body physically shuts down and I'm left on Safe Mode. Just the basic functions to get me through any social situation - occasional eye contact, speak when spoken to, simple sentences, goofy ass motherfucking grin on my face at all times. It's like trying to pee in front of a crowd of people all with their eyes on your johnson, no matter how close your bladder is to exploding, your penis just won't cooporate. Maybe one of these days I'll be able to say to myself, "Fuck it," and go up to a girl and say Penis Vagina Penis Vagina and she'll laugh and know exactly what TV show that line's from and we'll go off and hump for a few hours, but until then I'm stuck in this constant limbo of not knowing what in the fuck to do with myself around the female population.
Getting back from that little diversion into my personality, I'm once again relegated to the giant wooden structure on the side of the dance club with the DJ spinning the fatass tunes. I've peed a couple few times, I've gone back to the bar two more times for our drinks (we're up to three at this point, but it's time to start slowing down because Josh and I haven't eaten since those club sandwiches at 2 or 3 in the afternoon and it's 12 hours later practically and we're REALLY starting to feel the groove of all this Jack Daniels), and there she is, shimmying her way back into my life. Little blonde-haired Julie with the smile and the boobs. She stands on that little platform next to the giant wooden structure, puts her arm around me and I tell her that her jacket is safe and sound. She asks me what I'm drinking and I say Double Jack & Coke and she winces but asks to try it anyway. Julie doesn't like whiskey, she's a Vodka Girl. I ask her if she'd like a drink and she looks kinda embarassed, like that's not REALLY why she's here, she's just being friendly. Obviously, she doesn't want me to think that by this little gesture, she's obligated to stick around, but what she doesn't realize is that I could care less. See, I too am just being friendly, and I like seeing people drunk and happy and dancing, so without waiting around I go and get the vodka cranberry she says she wouldn't throw out of bed. When I get back - after having received a questioning look from the bartender who's only seen me order Double Jack and Cokes; to which I reply, "It's not for me," with a wry smile - Julie is much appreciative. She bear hugs me and plants a sloppy one on my cheek. A little more dancing, and then she's off again into the crowd.
Around 4am, the party's still goin' because my mama ain't home. The next DJ gets on the stage after the first one did a marathon 4-hour set. The second guy says, "We're gonna be going until 10am tonight!" and I'm thinking how amazing it's going to be to stagger out of Webster Hall and see the sun. I couldn't be more thrilled with this prospect, but there's one thing I didn't account for: my brother's empty stomach getting the better of him. See, after our third Jack and Coke, I knew we should take it easy. Maybe just one an hour. But, I'm drunk and impatient and I'm not NEARLY as hammered as my brother - who's whooping and hollering and screaming and taking pictures with his camera phone of EVERYTHING that walks by and texting the hell out of my phone even though I'm sitting right next to him - so when I tell Josh I'll get us more drinks in a half hour, it really means I'll look at the time on my phone fifteen minutes later and say, "Good enough." We've made it through five of those hummers and Josh is spent. He NEEDS to go home, right now! It's 4:30 or 5am (depending on who you ask) and I reluctantly lead my brother down the stairs and out the doors of Webster Hall at least 5 hours before I would've liked.
Right away, I know we need pizza in our bodies. We scarf down two slices apiece like we're starving African children and then we go around the corner to the Union Square subway terminal. It's a nominal wait for the N-Train (for Saturday morning, 5:30am or so, a half hour wait ain't bad) and my brother is passing out in his seat. His seat faces me and mine faces the other wall, so when he leans his head forward on my shoulder, I do my damnedest to keep my body steady so he won't wake up until I want him to. Somehow, I wake him up and practically drag his ass down the street; he collapses into the cot and immediately passes out. I take care of some business on the computer for a minute, then follow his lead, with a pile of clothes as a pillow and a poncho as a blanket. The fan is buzz buzz buzzing and the window is letting in the cooling night air of transitional autumn.
I fall asleep wondering what might've happened if I were to have stayed. Did Julie hook up with somebody else? If she ever returned for her coat, might I have received some tongue action? Hey, a guy can dream, can't he? He pretty much has to, when he acts as he does around girls like I do.