I thought that headline was going to be about getting lost in New Jersey Friday night.
I stood in the middle of the Path platform waiting for a train. One arrow, pointing to Track 1 said â€œto WTC and 33rd Street,â€ the other arrow, pointing to Track 2, said â€œTo Newark.â€
So, crazy me, wanting to go to New York, figured Iâ€™d get on the Track 1 train to the World Trade Center or 33rd Street.
But this is Jersey, so instead, that train stopped at somewhere called Journal Plaza. Conductor announced it was the last stop and everyone got off.
I immediately searched for an authority figure to ask my standard â€œIâ€™m lost in Jerseyâ€ question.
â€œExcuse me. Umm..how do I get to New York?â€
â€œWhere do you want to go?â€
â€œ33rd? World Tradeâ€¦? Where in New York? â€
Look lady. Itâ€™s 1:30 a.m. If the look on my face says anything other than I want to get the hell out of the this state and anywhere into mine, including —heaven help me—Staten freaking Island, then Iâ€™m doing something wrong.
â€œUhâ€¦anywhere is good.â€ AS LONG AS ITâ€™S NOT JERSEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
â€œOk, stay on this train. Weâ€™re going back.â€
I got back on the train, went all the way back to Jersey City, then took a detour to Ho-freaking-boken, until finally the train crawled into the Christopher Street station.
I had won about $250 at a game that night, so I decided I could treat myself to a cab from the West Village.
At last I was safe in the bosom of my city.
And so it was, that when I accepted Timâ€™s invite to a Czech bohemian beer festival in Queens, I thought â€œno problem.â€ At least, it ainâ€™t Joisey.
Indeed, Queens is not Jersey. No, Sir. Queens is Oklahoma. Or Kansas. Orâ€¦Poland.
The streets are lined with white picket-fenced houses, with little old ladies sitting out front. American flags jut out from every second floor. I cannot tell you the depths of creepiness reached when one gets onto a NYC subway car and gets off in Kansas.
I checked my blackberry to look up the address that Tim had sent: â€œIt’s at 21-19 24th Avenue in Astoria, Queens and is really quite simple to get to (take the N train to the second to last stop in Queens.â€
I loved the â€œthe toast is done one minute before it burnsâ€ stop getting out instructions.
I looked at the map in the subway and noticed there was no 24th avenue, so I asked a black guy in a hospital workers uniform where I needed to go to get there.
â€œ24th avenue? 24th and what?â€
I checked Timâ€™s directions again.
Ummâ€¦I donâ€™t know. Itâ€™s an Bohemian Beer garden.â€
Black guy gives me the â€œbeer what now?â€ look.
â€œUmm..thanks. Iâ€™ll go ask over at the gas station.â€
The gas station attendant tells me to walk 12 blocks south, make a right and go three avenues East.
I start my trek in my very summery, but non practical for walking, flip flops.
Boy, that Tim has a very odd definition of â€œsimple.â€
I walk and stare, mesmerized by the borough that time and geography forgot. Unlike busstops in Brooklyn and Manhattan â€“which are usually encased in glass structures, with timetables and directional maps â€“ Queens stops just have a blue pole sticking out of the ground. I stopped into Papa Johns to get a slice.
Yeah, they donâ€™t sell slices.
I reached 23rd avenue, and was eager to cross over to 24th. I was parched, my feet hurt and the heebeegeebeees were strong.
Of course, I cross the street, walk another two hours and nothing resembling a 24th avenue materializes.
After circumnavigating Astoria park and crossing a crazy Triborough bridge highway, four times. I stop a group of hippie looking people to ask for directions.
For sure, they will know when the Bohemian Beer Garden will be.
â€œWhoa. That is also far from here.â€
â€œOh, we just got stopped by someone else asking for directions to somewhere that was really far away.â€
Damn Queens Twilight Zone vortex.
â€œSoâ€¦how far is far?â€
â€œUmmâ€¦look, all I can tell you is to go that way. You need Astoria boulevard.â€
Her finger pointed back toward the Papa Johns I had passed.
I saw a bus coming and ran to the nearest blue pole.
The driver opened the door. Oh.MY.GOD.
The bus seats were GREEN.
And metal. Yet further evidence that I had stepped through some portal to another universe and I had no hope of getting out.
The bus driver let me out on Astoria Blvd., and again, I looked for someone to ask. I was still far from the subway, starving, thirsty, tired and ready to quit.
Eh, I donâ€™t like beer anyway.
I found a hotel type thing and gave it one more shot.
â€œHey, do you know where the Bohemian Beer Garden is?â€
â€œyeahâ€¦it’s on the other side of the bridge,â€ he says pointing back toward the place I was when the group of hippies sent me back here.
Well, thatâ€™s it. Iâ€™m going home.
The nice hotel guy hailed a cab for me â€“an actual yellow, not green, cab.
I checked my cellphone and there was a text message from Kaz. One of her daily â€œthis is where I amâ€ messages.
She was at the beer garden. Turns out, I had the wrong address. I tried to tell the cabdriver the address, but he totally didnâ€™t understand—Queens addresses have like a 15 digit minimum. 293-314 on 24th avenue between 31st and 32nd
I hand him my Treo and he reads Kazâ€™s message.
Finally, I get to the Beer Garden. A renaissance style arena encapsulated by a huge stone wall—picture Monty Python throwing a cow over kinda wall. A line snaked around the outside.
I was tempted to scale the wall.
What a fitting end to my marathon wandering through the Queens desert.
But, I choose to wait.
When I get inside, itâ€™s a whole different kind of pandemonium. Row after row of picnic tables, surrounded by vendors and bars and two stages and a dance floor. I circumnavigate the â€œroomâ€ (park?) twice before finally running into Tim, who is on line for food.
â€œDid you just get here?â€
â€œWhy, yes. Yes. I did.â€
I tell him my whole sorted story and he sympathetically says:
â€œFunny. Youâ€™re the only one who had that problem.â€
â€œWell, yeah. Black people are dumb.â€
â€œOh my God. That is soooo true.â€
I promptly inform him that Al Sharpton will be boycotting his place of business first thing Tuesday morning.
â€œWell, if you guys can find it.â€
Turns out the food line is longer than the wall scaling line.
I am not quite catatonic, but the smelling of food without the eating of food, is starting to get to me.
Tim says heâ€™s having a Kielbasa. I decided I was too. But then I realized I was confusing that with a shish kabob.
â€œWhoa. Kielbasas are huuuuge. I canâ€™t possibly eat one of those.â€
Except. By the time we had reached the front of the line I was thinking one wouldnâ€™t be enough.
At the table I met up with Kaz and F-train, a bunch of F-trainâ€™s college buddies, Timâ€™s friend Tito and his brotherâ€¦wellâ€¦Jermaine, Timâ€™s long lost exchange student brother from high schoolâ€”Yoshi and Yoshiâ€™s platonic friend Chia. Like the pet.
Oh, what a merry band we were.
Chia talked about the key to good sushi (making friends with the chef.)
I made my usual mature face of tolerance for that which I do not understand.
â€œHave you ever even had sushi, Dawn,â€ F-train asks.
â€œThatâ€™s not sushi.â€
â€œWell, I think food should be cooked.â€
â€œYou at least have to try the food before you can not like it.â€
â€œNot true. I believe that food must be cooked, that which is uncooked, is not food. It is ingredients for food.â€
But this is a bohemian beer garden, after all, and our merry banter would turn to sloppy drunk before the nightâ€™s end.
F-trainâ€™s friend Seth was introduced to me in the best way possible â€œHey, Dawn. Heâ€™s a fan of your blog.â€
I love blog fans!
He was such a nice guy, one could not help but wonder how on earth heâ€™s friends with F-train.
Must be that whole opposites attract thing that makes me friends with F-train.
Speaking of attraction (did you see how I did thatâ€¦itâ€™s called â€œsegue.” Kids, do not try this at home.) F-train set his sights on Chia.
â€œWhat are my chances with the forty-year-old Japanese woman,â€ he asked me.
â€œUmmâ€¦forty? And single? Iâ€™d say good!â€
â€œYeah, but thatâ€™s more a product of her patheticness than my positive attributes.â€
â€œDude. Ummâ€¦yes. And itâ€™s time you embraced that lot in life.â€
â€œFuck you, Dawn. Whenâ€™s the last time you had a date.â€
Touche, F-train, touchÃ©.
With that pearl of encouragement he was off for an evening full of swapping spit with Chia, multiple looks down her shirt and her head on his shoulder â€“ I think twice â€“ but who remembers.
Seth played wingman, keeping Yoshi occupied with mindless chatter while F-train macked it up with Chia. (â€œI told my wife I was playing wingman for F-train and she said. Yes, thatâ€™s good. You talk to the middle aged Japanese business man, not the hot Asian chick.â€)
Unfortunately, Seth ran out of material around 8 and Yoshi and Chia prepared to leave. F-train sealed the deal with the very smooth â€œhereâ€™s my card. Hope to hear from you again.â€
â€œSo what are the odds Iâ€™ll hear from her again?â€ he whispers to me.
â€œTwo to one!â€
â€œIâ€™ll take those odds!â€
She stood up from the table and said her goodbyes.
â€œNice to meet you, Dawn, Tito, Jermaine, Seth, F-trainâ€
â€œOh, no. Iâ€™m Seth. Heâ€™s F-train.â€
â€œOk, three to one,â€ F-train and I recalculate simulataneously.
After my trek through Queens, I decided I was done with any activity that required standing for the rest of the week. So, I ended up talking poker with Seth and Jermaine. I also had a conversation with one of F-train’s college friends which either ended with the phrase â€œwell, you probably donâ€™t worry about making partner because you probably want to get married and have kidsâ€ or â€œwell, you probably donâ€™t worry about making partner because you can just marry someone who does.â€
Kaz, on the other hand, was playing social butterfly with some friends from college she randomly ended up sitting next to, and three tables of Timâ€™s friends. She played wingwoman for F-trainâ€™s friend Sonar, by finding him a dance partner.
â€œI just asked her if she would dance with you because you were a really good dancer, but I was messing you all up because I am a terrible dancer,â€ she said triumphantly after Sonar returned from dancing with the girl, â€œbut of course, that is a BIG lie. I am an AWESOME dancer, but I was playing a ROLE,â€ she reassured us.
And indeed, she did spin and spin around the dance floor — of course, she could have just been avoiding dealing with the now plastered F-train.
At this point in my story, F-train is now sprawled across our picnic table attempting to cut his wrists with a plastic knife.
â€œI canâ€™t believe I didnâ€™t get her number. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYâ€
â€œBecause youâ€™re an idiot?â€ Sonar helpfully offers.
â€œDid you see? She put her head on my shoulder. Twice.â€
â€œYes, you mentioned that.â€ When F-train is drunk, he repeats himself. A lot. Weâ€™ll call this personality the F-F-F-F-train.
â€œLook, if youâ€™re going to use a plastic knife, you are going to have to press harder than that,â€ I offered even more helpfully than Sonar.
F-train promptly gives me the finger in rapid succession to the oompapa beat of the Czech band.
Impressive for one so drunk.
â€œGod. I canâ€™t believe I didnâ€™t get her number. She put her head on my shoulder!â€
â€œWhat? No way! How many times.â€
â€œIâ€™m going to hit you Dawn. I swear.â€
â€œNo youâ€™re not. Cause then I will kill you, leave your body in Queens, Kaz will move into the big bedroom and put your stupid cat in the street.â€
â€œKaz wouldnâ€™t leave my cat homeless.â€
â€œWell, sure, sheâ€™d give the cat a couple of days to make other arrangements, but by weekâ€™s end, itâ€™ll be out on the side of the road with its kitty litter, scratching post and squeeze toys.â€
â€œArrangements? So, my catâ€™ll be typing away on craigâ€™s list â€˜meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meowâ€¦bitch meow, meow, meow.â€™?â€
He balled up his â€œfist,â€ I mean seriously, more bone than fist. I call it grist!
â€œYouâ€™re going to put someoneâ€™s eye out with that,â€ I said taking custody of his left arm and leg (both of which, by the way, I could firmly grip without straining the range on either of my hands.)
When he flailed. I beat him with his own grist. When he kicked, I kicked him with his own leg.
It wasâ€¦a sight to be seen.
So, really, no one could be too surprised when a Kaz ended up coming down with a migraine.
We were heading back to Brooklyn on the subway and F-train and Sonar were both making such spectacles of themselves that the Goth couple wearing black leather pants, heavy black mascara, with tattooes across half their face and arms, with interlocking nose rings, were staring at us like we were the freaks.
â€œDaaaaawwwwwn, has a coke nail!!!â€
â€œCoke nail. Coke nail.â€
â€œI wanna see Dawnâ€™s coke nail.â€
Yes, someone is a smite overdue for a manicure.
â€œShhhhâ€¦letâ€™s play a game. Who can be quiet the loooongest,â€ I said as Kaz collapsed into a ball of writhing brain pain in the seats across from us.
â€œFine. I LOSE!â€ Sonar exclaimed.
â€œYeah, yeah!! I LOSE TOO,â€ F-train, his two-year-old brother joined in.
â€œLetâ€™s see the coke nail,â€ he said grabbing my hand and refusing to let go.
One…Two…Let go, F-train…Fine.
â€œOw! She bit me!â€
He screamed, finally releasing my hand after I may or may not have bitten him.
â€œIâ€™m taking a picture,â€ F-train said grabbing his camera phone.
â€œDawn bit me.â€
â€œWell, to be fair, I have pictures on my phone of you trying to hit her as proof that you had it coming,â€ Seth replied. Have I mentioned how awesome and great Seth is? No? cause he is.
By now, the entire half of our subway car was staring at us.
But one woman, in particular, was riveted. And unfortunately, F-train noticed.
â€œWhy is that woman staring at us? That one right there in the green shirt.â€
Then he goes into his Christopher Walken impression. Which, since F-train will never do his Walken impression when I ask him–which is pretty much whenever I see him, this is the only redemptive quality of the F-F-F-F-train. He’ll just casually do Christopher Walken at the drop of a hat.
The woman stares more.
â€œWell, we’re probably teaching her some English,â€ Sonar says.
I cover my face with my hands, which is pretty much what Kaz is now doing â€“ but for non-embarrassed my F-train reasons. I think.
â€œWow. That lady looks real concerned about Kaz,â€ F-train loudly observes.
â€œYes, this is all your fault.â€
“No, itâ€™s not.”
Tito, the only thing approaching an adult in our group, went to get Kaz water.
That seemed to do the trick, and F-F-F-F-train took the opportunity to tattle.
â€œKaz, Kaz look what Dawn did,â€ he said showing her the camera phone picture of his bite.
â€œWhat is that?â€
â€œDawn bit my hand.â€
â€œThen, why donâ€™t you just show me your hand?â€
â€œCause itâ€™s gone now.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know, F-train. That doesnâ€™t really prove anything. You could have bit yourself,â€ Tito suggests.
Which, now that I think on it, is exactly what happened. I was on the train minding my own business, when F-train shouted, â€œwhy didnâ€™t I get her number???â€ and then bit himself.
As we waited on the platform for the F-train â€“not the drunken man-childâ€”but the actual train to arrive.
I noticed a woman with a baby stroller. But inside the baby stroller was a small, yippee dog.
She walked away to look at the map and the dog started yelping.
â€œGod dammit. You are like a child,â€ she said stomping over to the DOG in a STROLLER.
Yah. Canâ€™t imagine how the dog got the impression that it was child.
She wheeled the dog over to the large subway map and started having a hissy fit.
â€œCarmen, come here. This train doesnâ€™t go there,â€ she hissed to the Latina chick a foot away.
It was then we noticed the other woman who was holding like seven bags from the finest stores in midtown and pushing a shopping cart with yet another dog inside.
The woman quickly came over to the dog stroller woman and started apologizing and explaining something.
â€œMan, I fricking HATE rich people,â€ I say glaring at stroller dog lady chewing out Carmen.
â€œUh, Dawn. You are rich,â€ the newly unmigraned Kaz says.
â€œNu uh. I am working classâ€¦I workâ€¦andâ€¦I umâ€¦went to class.â€
Kaz, still watching the two women interact, mutters “classy” at something dog stroller woman did.
â€œOoh. Yes! Thatâ€™s what I should have said. Ok, do over. Nu uh. I am working class. I work and I have class.â€
Damn, Iâ€™m so clever.
Seats open up on a bench a few feet away, so we walk over there.
F-train crouches against the garbage can next to me.
â€œOh my God!!! THAT’S NOT A BABY!!! That lady has a dog in the stroller,â€ he says loudly enough for the entire platform to hear.
Kaz and I laugh and laugh.
â€œYes, dude. Weâ€™ve been talking about her for the past five hours.â€
Finally, the train came and we were on our way home. When the train pulled into their stop, F-train said â€œnow, youâ€™ll be all alone!â€
â€œOh, thank GOD!â€
I put on my ipod and settled back into my usual train ride of obscurity. What a crazy night.
The last time I bit a boy was the fifth grade and we ended up going out for a week until he let Tamara sit at our table at lunch and I punched him twice in the stomach.
Hmm, come to think of it, that was also the last time I had a date.
I thought that headline was going to be about getting lost in New Jersey Friday night.