an ongoing celebration, part three
February 19th, 2009
16 June 2007, 12 am EDT, Revere MA
And we race past downtown Boston, tunneling underneath skyscraper and street, barreling eastward towards the Atlantic without breath wasted or moment savored.
And the smell of that sad and salty air! Fresh off the ocean vast and vacant! The distant streetlights of suburbs twinkle in the urban dark, not points of light so much as stars that spell out human constellation. Past Charlestown, past Everett, past Winthrop and Malden; old streets I’ve not seen in fifty weeks move towards me like adoring fans, pushing up for a rockstar’s smile and signature, and then flittering off again, ne’er to be known or remembered.
And at last the road that has been my guide for the past three thousand miles, dear Interstate 90, the vital eastern artery, shuffles off its concrete coil, ended. From Missoula past Boston, three days, seventy hours. Ever east. Godlike in perfect attainment, we pull over and park and catch our breath and look at each other, Sean and I, just lock eyes for the briefest of seconds, and know, and look calmly ahead, blankly into the dark street, human and vulnerable at last, some kind of simultaneous exhalation of the world’s breath, and just fucking know.
We step out of the car. We grab a few bags each. We walk, maybe two blocks to the apartment. Boyd is outside and he starts to get up to help us. The street and sky hang motionless. It’s that post-midnight softness of Revere, MA, my one-time home, that old and sacred humidity, the sad damp trees and the thick sidewalk, the silent flat street, the high buzz of the clustered power lines overhead, the sound and sight of the things I know and knew, the thin echo of indoor voices waiting for our late late late arrival, the orange glow of Boyd’s cigarette as he sits on the downstairs porch and smiles broadly, goddammit, all of this, this nostalgia, this tightness in the chest, this impending release, this bitter pill. Makes me feel like I have never left; I’m still living there, up on the second floor, my computer’s white cerebral glow giving the crimson red of the old bedroom that sweet vespertine pallor of long days and longer nights, those claustrophobic winter weeks when all five of us, Evan and Boyd and Alex and Beth and I, would sit and wait for the day to happen, those screaming summer soirees of drunken valor and terrible poker playing and midnight cigarette runs, all memories just buzzing through me now, torn in half, fucked, consumed, living both in past and present, oh yes. It is good to be back.
So we move all the necessities up into the apartment and make our appearance. The place is packed. Boyd, Evan, Alex, Gwen, Jess, to be sure, but also Raju and Pevner and Beth2, newer friends from the last two years I was at MIT, and Dmax, a good old friend of mine who spins DnB, and has these impossibly arcane insights about the modern world and its trappings, and is otherwise grudgingly pursuing what some would call a career at the time of this writing. I miss them all so much.
Everyone is impatient to get this party started, but I insist on distributing the gifts first. They are unwrapped to a combination of hysterical giggling and general awe. Lists are boring so I’ll just mention a few of the presents: I got Jess one of those Playskool basketball hoops that stands about four feet tall and comes with a rubber basketball about the size of a cantaloupe. Ages 3-7. Boyd got a baseball cap embroidered with the words “Living Legend”. And so on. The energy in the room at this point is starting to become viscous. People start floating, drifting around the room aimlessly, chatting and screaming and alive with this terrible powerful force. Elastic friendships, pulled apart only to snap back together tonight. Conversations between seperate beings that are so idiolectic and personal and revelatory and pregnant with multiple meanings that it’s like twins meeting for the first time. Fuck soul mates: this is a jigsaw puzzle of soul, complete in one flashing instant, the complete picture so intimidating and electric that it can’t possibly be described, only witnessed. An apartment of deities bursting at the seams. Plus like half of the people there are high, and Sean and I are running on sleep deprivation, and it’s warm and sweaty in the main room with eleven people and one cat all circling around, and it’s pretty late at night so people are starting to get the crazies, and there are six or seven bottles of liquor sitting there on the central coffee table, mocking and taunting and waiting to be opened and consumed. So we get to it.
This is a party that I have held annually in various locations, once a year, since 2004. Like all good parties, it has a theme, a theme which is pretty much necessarily a little self-loathing and -deprecatory and -aggrandizing. Also it’s flat out a great idea. To wit:
The Fifteen Minute Drinking Party
1. One cannot drink before the party begins.
2. One cannot drink after the party is concluded.
A few people get out stopwatches and keep track of the time. Normally the party is held in the smallest room available, but this year there are too many people in attendance. There’s a countdown in seconds, beginning with ten. The bottles are uncapped and uncorked, glasses are readied like musket shot. A handful of us preload. Exuding smiles. Vodka and Hpnotiq and Jager. Silence. Anticipation. Rum and gin and Crown Royal. Ssssh. Total glee, of a sort. That instantaneous moment right as you jump off the diving board, before your feet have left ground, but after you’ve pushed your center of gravity out past the board, your fate somehow both sealed and open to whatever may come. And then:
I take four shots of vodka in as many minutes, and then wait for a moment for the stomach to regroup. Sweat is pouring out of the walls almost. Someone breaks out a shot glass that stands eight inches tall. This does not end well. I lock eyes with various friends. After the first five minutes people start to talk, the pained grunts grow sparse. Unwritten rule: if you drink so much that you vomit, you lose. It’s a fine line. Fast music catalyzes the continued debauchery. I get into a brief but serious conversation with Raju and then Dmax about plans for visiting Montana. There is some screaming somewhere. I am hailed by someone as a king. A girl tries to get up but can’t. It takes about ten minutes for the effects to kick in. It’s very warm inside. No air conditioning. The main table starts to get caked with a thin layer of 80-proof resin. People knock shit over, things are upended. And just like that, the party is over. We all shout: “One minute!” “Thirty seconds!” “Five, four, three, two, one, stop!”
Of course most people forget to stop drinking. I’m sipping on a beer, but with no drunken intent; I’m thirsty and I haven’t thought it out. A metaphysical line is crossed. Pevner damages my shoes with long distance stomach acid; fortunately I took them off earlier. Someone leaves and falls down the stairs in lieu of walking. Sean and I get into a beer fight. People’s socks are sticky. A cake, which appears out of nowhere, is partially devoured and the rest smeared on various people and objects. Shit gets acausal. The tension built up from coast-to-coast car travel is partially responsible. Fury unleashed. Things don’t wind down; they collapse. I lived here for fifteen months in 2005 and 2006, and the poster that we original five taped to the door is still there, drawn crudely on a sheet of computer paper, albeit sticky and dusty: Welcome To The CDF: Competitive Drinking Fortress. Ah, youth.
I come to, knocked out of a coma, just like that. Asleep and then not. Somehow resting in my sleeping bag. Sprawled out on a futon, headaching, uneasy, but together and undamaged. The floor is littered with cans, bottles, colored liquids, food, dinnerware, clothes. I sit up and immediately regret it. Everyone has left except for Sean and the people that live here. My T-shirt is stained pink for some reason. The place slowly comes to life as we compare notes and clean up. It’s about noon. Alex cleans some cake out of his ear. I change socks and put on my backup pair of shoes. Four of us – Evan, myself, Sean, Boyd – go out to lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant and linger over our food like alcoholics in their fifties, heads down, burping and groaning, old clocks rusty with age. I could wax philosophical about the human need to alter consciousness at this point, or justify my bizarre and self-damaging choices as paneceatic, a treatment for my own personal ills accumulated through Western isolation and three days of endless gazing into the horizon’s maw. I won’t. There’s no need. This and all parties, regardless or in spite of their objective immaturity, are brought into being by a secret contract of camaraderie. The rules are personal, the societies veiled. The fact that I am not ashamed but proud of my stories, the way that we all relish our “this one time” and “I can’t believe that I” narratives, is so very vitally important. Book clubs, bar friends, best friends, bands. Community. Be all, end all.
Some other irrelevant things happen. We shop for CDs, play some strategic board games, indulge in a little beer pong. We eat at a Brazilian restaurant where the waiters bring out just-cooked meat, skewered on swords. A brief nod or motion tablewards grants the user endless chicken hearts, garlic pork, kielbasa. Evan chauffers us around Boston in my trusted Subaru for a whole day before realizing that the emergency brake is still activated. Sean meets up with a good friend of his, Black Metal Justin. BMJ and his girl live on a boat at the harbor, having sold most of their possessions. A subletted house pays the food and gasoline bills. We gaze across the harbor from his boat, watch the sun set, listen to Motorhead, drink shitty beers. I meet up with Chris for a little while, and we hang out in Central Square. Eat some Ethiopian food. Walk around Cambridge. And all of a sudden, two days have gone by. I have done nothing, it’s 6 am, I’m groggy from razor-thin sleep, Sean is still awake, the car needs to be packed, I need a shower, my clothes are dirty, the car needs gas, we haven’t packed any food; yet I can hear the low moan of the road just below us. I am on old time once again. The sweet siren beckons. We can’t resist. We head out into the summer dawn, Pennsylvania-bound.