Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bar none

Last night I was returning from a family event upstate, on a Metro North train, once again surrounded by people swarming into the city for late night recreation. One typically loud cluster had a large clear plastic container (the size of a gas can) filled with a sickeningly brownish yellow liquid, which I trust was beer, although the amount of backwash that must have accumulated by the frequency in which they passed it from mouth to mouth was just as disturbing.

I never participated in that rite, although I was a teenager who lived on the same commuter train line, during a time when the drinking age allowed for some high schoolers to legally drink (and their friends to easily assimilate.) My friends were band geeks and chorus nerds who thought wild times were grabbing the counter mikes at a Burger King stop during a marching band bus trip and reciting lines from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" while the girls who crushed on them giggled and swooned. We visited the city at least once, but it was daytime, and the most decadent activity I recall was a jaunt through Central Park (which, in the late 1970's, was pretty risky.)

When I finally reached the age when my entertainment revolved around drinking until I was sick, I was in college, "safely" entombed in an even more upstate school, far from access to the commuter train lines or the city. I "burst out" in a town whose claim to fame (at least rumored) was having the most bars per capita in a square mile, serving two colleges whose combined population was greater than that of the town's native population. (And not even a "cool" town, like Ithaca, where graduates and drop-outs stayed and put down roots and made an impact on the culture.)

When I first moved down here, as a late-twenty something, I did a bit of partying with my work colleagues, but it was primarily focused on happy hours after work. I can count on one hand the number of times I went to a bona fide "club," and almost all were connected to a work celebration. I so rarely go into bars these days that I still tell myself I don't like them because of the smoke, and there has been a smoking ban since early 2003.

So, there I was on the train, heading home to bed from a pre-schooler's birthday party in my jean skirt, ponytail, and flip-flops, while my seatmates, in their thigh-high minis, hooker heels and carefully straightened hair, texted their friends meeting times and places.

And, you know, I felt okay about it. I'm glad where I am, how I ended up. I don't think I missed anything.


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