The Great Upper West Side Catastrophe of 2009

March 6, 2009

By the end of February 2009, my friends and I had begun to look ahead to the coming month to start placing bets as to how many of us would still be able to walk by the close of March and, more importantly, who of us would be the first to die. You’re more than likely confused by this, so allow me to explain:

Our group of friends consists of mostly March babies, which meant that a lot of birthday celebrations coupled with Saint Patrick’s Day and the busiest month of shows that my band at the time had ever seen were all going to meet for a thorough month of drinking and poor decision making, the likes of which none of us had seen in quite some time.

The first weekend’s celebration belonged to none other than my best friend and roommate at the time, affectionately known to all of us as “Wandering Panda” sheerly for the sake of his ridiculous dumb-luck, which has afforded him oppurtunities that many of us drool over in jealousy. He was turning 23 at the time, and this had really been the first time all of us had gotten to see each other on our birthdays outside of college, so we wanted to make sure to not remember any of it, as was our usual style.

The party began without me, as I’d been stuck at band practice the entire night against my will and wouldn’t be back down to the city until around midnight. After finally arriving, well equipped with a headache and exhausted after having already been awake for 18 hours, I walked into a sea of my drunken friends in the living room and was immediately greeted by The Yorkie, my overly hyper, uber-post-collegiate sorority type, spoiled rotten girlfriend at the time. Still somewhat enthusiastic about my interaction with her, I gave her a loving kiss and was immediately handed a shot of tequila and a beer by my very good friends, who we’ll call “Piff and Baul” for reference sake. And so, I was on my way to catching up.

A few more arrived after I did, and the party was definitely an enjoyable time, save for one awkward little gem: Spasian (See this) was there. What was worse? She and The Yorkie had not only met, but were bonding. So, my new girlfriend is interacting with a girl that had used me for sex as recently as three months ago. There was only one thing left to do: drink and see where this one went.

We were all having a reasonably fun and chill time, until every great night’s famous last words were inevitably uttered: “Alright everyone, get your shoes and coats. We’re going to the bar!” So, we collected ourselves, bundled up in our winter garb, and made our way down to 108th and Broadway to a cozy little college bar we used to frequent that was often packed with Columbia kids looking for a good time.

While at the bar, the drinks started flowing and I quickly forgot about the fact that I was smack dab in the middle of an awkward situation.

One person I was really happy to see was my friend, who earned his nickname in my eyes because of this night, The Flash. Flash was one of the nicest and most sociable guys you will ever meet, the kind of guy that can round up a group of girls with absolutely no problem in any bar. He had Piff and Baul, who aren’t exactly known for being “Men of the Ladies” exchanging numbers with girls, which all of us were ecstatic about.

I had bonded with a random group of girls who I’d overheard reciting Dan Deacon and Liam Lynch’s “Drinking Out Of Cups” (If you haven’t seen it, here. You’re welcome.) and joined in.

In general, everyone was in fantastic spirits, we were meeting a ton of new people, and all seemed right with the world, until a series of seemingly unrelated stupid actions led to its immediate downfall.

I’ll begin this portion of the story by giving a background of the two people it refers to, a boyfriend and girlfriend I’ll refer to as one unit: Higgilly. Higgilly, collectively, are two extremely nice people… when they’re sober. When they’ve been drinking, especially in large groups of people in a city-like setting, they become very stuck up, over-privelaged, snobby white kids with a sense of entitlement who will smart off to anyone regardless of how snotty it comes across or, in the case of this story, what kind of weapon the person they’re talking to may or may not be holding.

So, the major transition of the night happened when Female Higgilly went to order a drink. Now, I’m a big believer in the concept that the location in which you are choosing to drink should reflect on your drink order. Not sure what I mean by this? Allow me to explain. For example, if you are in the middle of a college bar where they’re serving draft beer in clear plastic cups and the majority of the crowd is either sticking to that brew or a drink with the type of alcohol and mixer in the name of the drink (i,e: Jack in Coke), chances are that the bartender is not going to know how to make that drink you saw Carrie order on Sex and the City or Blaire drinking in Gossip Girl, so don’t bother. (PS: I have no shame in admitting that I have actually watched and occasionally enjoyed both of those shows.)

Now, if you’re going to order one of these types of “girly” drinks, and the visibly confused bartender whose been pouring head off of shitty draft beer all night doesn’t know how to make it, don’t mock the man for not knowing how to throw together your flavor of the week concoction of future thigh jelly and mid-50’s diabetes. Either order something else or kindly explain to the poor guy how to make it. But no, female Higgilly proceeded to get snippy with him. After she was denied her first type of drink, she proceeded to order yet another ridiculous concoction, which the bartender of course also did not know how to make. Apparently, this would just not stand with Female Higgilly, and she responded with a snotty, “Well, what DO you know how to make? Because apparently it’s not much.”

Cue: Male and Female Higgilly being thrown out of the bar.

And that’s how this all began. One snotty comment, one spoiled sense of entitlement, and the good time that all of us were having, all of the awesome people we’d met, the potential prospects that my single friends were nursing, all of that had to end because primadonna just couldn’t take drinking a beer. Lovely.

So, we all passed the word around that The Higgilly had been collectively kicked out of the bar, and now we had to relocate. We chose to go to a place just around the corner from Wandering Panda’s apartment at 106th and Amsterdam, a neighborhood that is not exactly favorable to a bunch of post-collegiate white suburban kids at one o’clock in the morning. But, we went anyway, and were determined to have a good time.

Now, what I wasn’t aware had happened at the time, was that Spasian had gotten upset at something and had started crying. As we were arriving at the bar, I noticed Male Higgilly outside the bar having a cigarette alone. Knowing the neighborhood, I decided to keep him company while The Yorkie awkwardly let Spasian cry on her shoulder about whatever it was she was crying about. Some of our other friends were already in the bar and a few more were coming over in a few minutes from the bar we were just at once they closed their tabs and got the numbers of whatever girls they were talking to.

With those two just out of my line of sight, I engaged in a brief conversation with Male Higgilly about whatever stupid movie everyone was talking about at that time, I believe it was The Watchmen, which had just come out, when all of a sudden I heard a commotion and turned to see a rather unfavorable looking character who some might call a “Thug” making passes and nasty comments to The Yorkie and Spasian. Now, at first I figured I’d let him get told to fuck off and he’d go away, but then I realized he was not taking no for an answer and began to worry about the possibility of this guy getting forceful with them.

Fuck. I was now in the situation that every white boyfriend always worries about when being out with their equally white and pasty girlfriend in the middle of the night in a bad part of town. I was going to have to take matters into my own hands.

It was at this moment that Piff, Baul and The Flash walked up with several of our other large male friends and a few girls they’d picked up from the other bar. The Flash gained his nickname for having a knack for knowing when I’m in trouble and somehow just magically appearing. This was one of those times. We now had safety in numbers if we needed it.

Casually, thinking quickly, I calmy strolled over to the girls and our new friend, put my hands on the girls’ backs, and started walking them into the bar while saying, “Come on girls, we’re headed inside now. Have a nice night, man.”

“Why don’t you mind your own fucking business, white boy!?” he replied to me angrily.

Now, at this point, I would have been perfectly content just going into the bar and letting the guy get heated, unable to get past the bouncer, but this was our social circle’s first experience in a situation such as this, as we’d all grown up in very nice areas, and none of my friends seemed to know when to shut their fucking mouths. So, what did Piff do? He started talking back to the guy. Great.

“Well, that’s his girlfriend and that’s our other friend, so that is his business, chief.” Piff told him.

Visibly outnumbererd, now wanting a fight, the guy I’ll now refer to as Thug #1 turned around and called to his friends down the block that we had not seen initially and 3 more of them came running across the street to assist their angered brotheren. Fuck.

Now, at first, I thought this was going to be another one of those stereotypical testosterone driven displays of smack talking that are seen all too often in bar settings and high schools across America, where everyone shouts at each other while screaming, “Hold me back! Hold me back!” and nothing comes of it as everyone eventually walks away, muttering insults to themselves as they part ways. For the first minute or so of this exchange, it really looked like that was how it was going to turn out and, as these guys started to make their way back across the street, Male Higgilly muttered the dumbest thing he could’ve ever conjured up in that situation.

The fight was over. These guys were crossing the street. People were on their way into the bar. And what did Male Higgilly say at the height of a media firestorm involving one of the rap world’s most famous couples at the time?

“Yeah, whatever bro. You look like Chris Brown.”

And that was it. That was the moment in every movie where you hear the record scratch, the music stops, and it becomes deathly silent, enough to hear the veritable fucking pin drop. I immediately knew what was going to happen, and the first thing I thought was, “You. Fucking. Idiot.”

As I expected, Thug #1 came running back and caught Male Higgilly by the back of his shirt as he proceeded to punch him in the back of the head repeatedly. Honestly, he deserved it, and I halfway wanted to see him get pummeled for being so stupid, but of course we had to help him. So, a few of us jumped in and pulled Thug #1 off of Male Higgilly and played defense as he tried pushing us back. He was at bay, but now we had ourselves an issue with the others coming to take care of their friend.

The group broke into several sections. Somehow, The Flash, the tallest guy in our group ended up against the shortest and shrimpiest guy in their group. Short Thug was somehow convinced he was going to beat the crap out of Flash, who theoretically could have literally just extended his forearm and held the guy back by his forehead as he swung and missed. The only comical portion of this part of the night came when Short Thug turned his hat from sideways to backward, then began to put his fists up and enthusiastically welcome The Flash to come at him, to which Baul replied, “What, does that activate your magical midget powers or something? The two of us could take you in a heartbeat!”

I and a couple of others got stuck with Fat Thug, who was wearing enormous amounts of bling and talking monumental amounts of shit to us. I, like an idiot, made an effort to talk some sense into him.

“Look dude, your friend got his shots in, our friend got punched, justice is served. No reason to get all heated about this.” I said to him.

“Shut up, motha fucka! I’ll bust ya face!” he intelligently replied.

I shot back with, “Dude, why? What’s going to come of this? There’s a cop on every block in this area. I’m sure the bartender has already called them to break us up. What’s the point? We’ll all get a few shots in, it’ll get broken up, and some of us will potentially get arrested and brought down to the station and have to be bailed out by our parents for assault and public intoxication. Is that all really worth a couple of punches?”

Fat Thug paused for a moment, thinking about it, and said, “Yeah, aight. I guess you’re right.”

I breathed in a quick sigh of relief that was quickly cut short when I realized I had somehow ended up on the ground, covered in my own blood.

The asshole sucker punched me. Right in the nose.

In a few split seconds, I looked up and saw fists flying everywhere and all I could hear were screams and the packing sound of punches. Some of the screams were coming from none other than The Yorkie, who was now crying hysterically and screaming at the thugs, calling them cowards. Great idea, hun.

I’m not really sure of what went on while I was on the ground, or if I had passed out when I hit my head, but the first person I did see throw a punch was Baul, a small blonde haired suburban prince who I’ve never seen raise his hand in anger to a fly, avenge my death by decking out Fat Thug. I was so proud.

The next thing I knew, I had been pulled back up to my feet and was trying to stop the blood that was projectile pouring out of my nose. The thugs had made their way off, and now all that was left was a group of our friends shouting and freaking out, mainly The Yorkie, crying and screaming at the top of her lungs that her boyfriend was defeated. I only had on my leather jacket and a t-shirt, so I removed the jacket and took my shirt off, revealing my hairy, pasty, fat stomach. Immediately assuming that I was trying to act tough and go after Fat Thug, my friends started trying to hold me back and scream, “No, John! No! It’s not worth it!” to which I demonstrated step by step what my intentions were by crumpling up the shirt and plugging my nose with it for the lack of anything better to do so with. Idiots.

I put my jacket back on and started to make my way around the corner with Piff, followed closely by Wandering Panda’s girlfriend at the time, another good friend of mine we’ll call Timon. Timon was making her best efforts to calm The Yorkie, who was shouting down the street at people who were no longer there and uncontrollably sobbing.

Somehow, I was the only one who was calm and reserved in this situation as I also made my best efforts to calm her. The difficult thing was not being able to look at her for reasurrance that I was fine, as every time I’d turn around, she’d see my face and all the blood she’d shriek like she was being murdered.

Of all the people in this situation, I felt the worst for the poor doorman in Wandering Panda’s building, who first saw Piff and I walk in, me covered in blood, followed immediately by a sobbing and screaming 110 pound blonde girl and a tiny asian trying to calm her, followed finally by a massive continuing line of testosterone driven young men screaming, “Did you see the shot I got in on that fucking guy!?” and things of the like to each other as they poured into the front door. Well, personally, I’d find that kind of hilarious if I were the doorman, but not everyone tends to share my sense of humor.

Once we got upstairs and I managed to stop the blood and started to clean myself off, people began to pour in from the bar and express their concern that I might have both a broken nose and a concussion.

Timon came up at one point and started cleaning the blood off of my stomach before looking up at me and saying, “This is awkward.” throwing me the towel, and running away.

When I finally sat down on the couch, I relaxed for a brief moment amongst the madness, and everybody began to crowd around me to see if I was alright as Timon went into the closet and got a pair of my boxers, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt for The Yorkie to change into, preferably ones that weren’t covered in blood. At this point, Spasian threw herself across the coffee table in front of me, knocking over empty cups and video game controllers, and began to hysterically cry as she apologized to me for being the reason the guy stopped in the first place.

“Spasian, it’s not your fault, now please go away.” I said.

Female Higgilly came into the room to ask me if I wanted to go to the hospital.

“I think I’ll be fine.” I said to her, just before a massive wave of nausea overcame me and I grabbed a Solo cup to puke into. “Alright, I changed my mind. Maybe we should go to the hospital.”

Still calm, we organized a small group of us and went out to fetch a cab. In the cab were Female Higgilly, The Yorkie, Baul and I. The Yorkie was still sobbing and complaining about Fat Thug and how much of a coward he was, while I was calm as a hindu cow, explaining to her how karma works, and that he’d get his in the end.

When we arrived at Columbia Presbyterian, they immediately took me in to get me registered and give me a wrist band. When I was all ready to go, the nurse told me, “Okay, now you’re allowed to bring one person into the actual Emergency Room with you and, by the looks of it, I think you’re probably going to want to bring in that crying and whimpering little thing out there in your boxers.”

“Do I have to?” I asked.

Damnit.

So, I brought her in with me and she sat with me on the stretcher, finally calm and showing some signs of being tired. For what felt like hours, we shared some soothing silence together for the first and only time in what would become a year and a half long relationship, as well as the first time in what had become one crazy night.

When the nurse came over and asked me what happened, her first question was, “Wait, she didn’t do it, right?”

I was tempted to say yes, but I’m not that evil. Instead told her no as she apologized, stating that it was a standard. She then took a quick look at my nose from all angles without touching it and told me that she didn’t think it was broken at all. Oh, really? Are you living in my head right now? Go get a man.

We waited for what seemed like another 2 hours for this doctor to come over and take a look at it. He moved it back and forth once, stuck a Q-tip in each nostril and took a quick look before saying, “Yeah, no, that’s definitely broken.”

Told ya bitch.

He asked me how much pain I was in on a scale of 1 to 10, and it was at that point that it occured to me that I wasn’t really in any pain, at least not for someone who had just gotten his nose broken and hit his head, so I responded 3. In retrospect, that was not the best response, considering the adrenaline I had coursing through my body at that particular moment. He said they’d perscribe me some pain medication, sent me to the MRI to check for a concussion, which thankfully came back negative, then sent me on my way.

We walked out into the lobby to find Female Higgilly and Baul sprawled out asleep on the waiting room chairs. We woke them and went our way. While we waited about 20 minutes for a train, I realized that it was almost 6am. It had been 5 hours since we started walking to the new bar. I had officially been awake for 24 hours.

As we got off the 1 train back down at 103rd street, I reached into the pocket of my jacket and felt something strange. I pulled out a handful of condoms and immediately came to the conclusion that somehow I had ended up with The Flash’s leather jacket. Strange.

We got into the street and were immediately greeted by the greatest thing we could’ve possibly seen at that point: the soft glow of McDonalds’ golden arches, calling to us as if to say, “I know you’ve had a rough night. Come let our grease make you feel better.” So, we made the game time decision to go in.

All The Yorkie wanted was a Big N’ Tasty. But, when she went to order, LaShounya behind the counter said, “Hold on one second.” as she walked slowly over to the menu, turned a little lever that squeaked something fierce, and we watched as the regular menu rotated over to the breakfast menu, taking all of our hopes and dreams with it, before LaShounya came back and said, “Yeah, we dun have that.”

Bitch. Do you not understand how long it took me to calm this person down!? Now you’re going to deny me the last 5 minutes of peace and stability that this night held? Karma will fuck you too.

So, we ordered from the breakfast menu and walked out, defeated by LaShounya’s lazyness. As we were walking out the door, we encountered their supply truck loading boxes onto a thin wheeled slide that led down into the basement’s open trap doors. The delivery guy gave us the okay to walk past the gap in the ramp and we made our way, but right as I was passing by, I heard, “Oh no! Watch out!” and turned to my left only to see a large supply box coming right at me that was sure to knock me clear into the basement. In the split second of time I had to think, one of the delivery guy’s managed to stop it just shy of hitting me dead in the face. That would’ve been the perfect end to the night.

We got back upstairs and went to sleep only to wake up to Wandering Panda and Timon looking down at my nose, almost looking curious as to whether or not I was even alive.

I sat up and immediately wished I had told Dr. Dickhead that my pain was a 10 out 10 so they’d perscribe me something better than Tylenol with Codiene, as a massive headache like I’d never felt before took control of me. The rest of that weekend was spent in recovery. The nose eventually healed properly, and throughout that month I discovered a few things:

1) Playing shows and rehearsing absolutely sucks with a broken nose.
2) John drinking wine on Tylenol with Codiene makes for a jolly John.
3) When out with friends, encourage everybody to keep their mouths shut.

Fin.

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