I spent Independence Day last week up in my old stomping grounds, Boston. I went up with a friend from college to visit some other friends from Boston University. Nothing major planned, just some good times with good friends. It was a good time, although the fireworks on the 4th were dampened by rain. But all in all, the trip has gotten me thinking about things.
For one, I don’t do hard drugs. It’s a decision I made when I was young, only a 6th grader. My parents had been divorced for a few years, and I was spending the day with my father in the city. He took me over to his friend Bruce’s apartment, near the East River. Well, you can tell Bruce never had children, because when pops and I went up to his apartment, he pulled out a vial of cocaine. In front of me. Smooth Bruce, smooth. I can remember my father turning to him and saying, “Not in front of the boy.” So my ever responsible father gave me a wrist rocket, to go play with up on the roof of Bruce’s apartment. Smart guy.
Well, it was from there on out that I decided not to do stuff like that. These were two regular buffoons, and I could already see that at the age of 12. And to this day, I’ve never gotten into any hard drugs, which is exactly what made this past trip up to Beantown so odd. All my friends up there were blowing coke. That I don’t mind. I’ve got plenty of friends whose substance of choice happens to be alcohol back in New York, so it’s just another fix to me. That’s what got me thinking, tho. The underlying thread between both my friends in Boston and New York was they appeared happiest getting wasted.
Now I’m far from an angel. Although I probably shouldn’ broadcast this on the internet, I smoke pot. Too much, some would say, although that’s a subjective statement. I also come from two alcoholic parents, and have a knack for blacking out. So I tend to stay away from the booze, lest we have a repeat of this scene.
The New York Mets have an International Week, where they celebrate different ethnicities at games during the week. They used to have Irish Night, with a 7 p.m. game. The year after this gem was taken, it was changed to Irish Day, with a day game. It’s tougher to get blind drunk before noon. Irregardless of the semantics of it, I know that liquor and I, while chummy, bring out the worst in each other. Yet as I reflect on how people live their lives, alcohol and drugs are their path.
For many, life is a marathon. For some of those marathoners, it’s a drinking binge, an endurance test to see how long you can stay standing, drink in hand. This endurance test I’m losing, not that it’s the end of the world. Yet to a certain point, it’s turning my back. At this juncture of my life, there are two tracks: the responsible adult track, and the sophomoric adolescent track. As people couple off, get married and have children, they begin the long, dull walk down the responsible adult track. Then there’s the adolescent track. While I’m not on the adult track, being single and childless, I’m struggling on the adolescent track.
While I clearly realize that I’m fighting a losing fight, life isn’t about getting blind drunk. Nor is it about taking key hits in the bathroom stall of a bar. Nor is it about ripping bonghits until your brain’s fried. Yet when you look around, it appears people are racing towards blackout, towards oblivion. Is that all there is? If you’re not shacking up and having kids, are you resigned to spending your time getting wasted? Perhaps I’m a fatalist, but that looks to be the prevailing trend.
So Boston was fun. But it also showed me how cold and lonely the path can be. Sadly, these days respect is earned not on thoughts and insight, but on how many shots you can down. Maybe in other places, different things carry more worth and value, but not here in America. It’s an alcohol and drug fueled funny car down a long highway.