All I Got For My Birthday Was Pie and Vomit
If my calculations are correct, my birthday falls on a Saturday every seven years. This year I realized that my enthusiasm for Saturday birthdays is nowhere near where it was when it last occurred on my 22nd. That birthday was the last time I blacked out from drinking. Or at least, it’s the last time I can remember being told about it. My buddies had to deal with me that night, and so they earned the right to do this to me:
Now, on my 29th, I have found that my birthday spirit is a bit more weathered. The night before, I did some conventional chilling indoors with my homeboys and didn’t say anything when the clock struck midnight. When I got home later, I stayed up until dawn just fucking around with music stuff and decided I’d spend my birthday morning smoking a perfectly crafted joint on the waterfront. That was before I’d walked up and down several blocks and realized that you can’t safely smoke a joint outdoors anywhere in New York City. As I sat back in my room smoking this momentous joint, I thought about a previous birthday I spent in this area. Most people did something phenomenal for their 18th—or at least something stupid enough to make for a great story. That was the initial plan for mine. Promises of strippers and debauchery were made, but pies and vomit were delivered.
Bhai, my older brother who appears frequently in this column, taught me just about everything I know about everything, from how to play a basic kick-snare beat to how to roll a joint. There was, however, one glaring area that he left untouched. He’d never felt comfortable talking to his little bro about sex, and so in hindsight I should have realized earlier that his promise to take me to a strip club on my 18th birthday was an empty one.
We arrived at his friend Tono’s apartment in Greenpoint, where Tono was already chowing down on a nut roll from a nearby Polish bakery. He lived with his cousin, Fred, who was addicted to some MMO game and also sold trees. Tono welcomed us and gestured toward a collection of glass pipes on his coffee table. I’d seen them before. Our boy Prik had left the collection with the crew before he moved back to Thailand. At first glance they looked like pretty nice pipes, but even a slight inspection revealed countless flaws in the craftsmanship. The least mangled one was a bubbler that was offputtingly similar to an erect penis (the balls were the water chamber). Regardless of their appearance, they worked, so we hit all of them in succession, bowl after bowl, leaving burnt gobs of Fred’s weed tapped out on the table. We’d gone through a fair pile when my brother realized he hadn’t arranged for any sort of cake. At this point I was more concerned with the strip-club plan, which was still a mystery to me. He said that we’d head out as soon as we had some cake, so off to the supermarket we went. Here, we predictably grew distracted and ended up bringing home four dessert pies.
When we got back to the place we smoked and ate for about 40 minutes before all the pie was gone. We sat for a moment, amazed at our own capacities for trash food, before I asked my brother when we were going to roll out the rest of the evening’s plan. Tono smirked and informed us that no strip club worth going to would admit an 18-year-old. It hadn’t dawned on us that even though I could gamble, vote, buy porn, and smoke cigarettes, I still had a stretch of the youth gauntlet to traverse before I’d be able to enter an establishment that serves alcohol. So unless we were willing to rent a car and drive to a place in New Jersey called (I believe) Frank’s Chicken House, the birthday plan was dead. I glared at my brother and realized he never had any intention of making a man out of me, or whatever it is that happens to an 18-year-old in a strip club. He had just thrown out the idea, balked when I went for it, and then tried to distract me with weed and pie. I had been had.
When the sun went down we stepped out to grab a beer at a local dive that didn’t card, and as soon as we hit the sidewalk I stopped, bent over, and barfed out an assortment of pies into a neat pyramid. I think it may have happened again later, after I put three too many beers into my empty teenage stomach.
It’s odd that when I’m asked to recall what I’ve done for previous birthdays I always draw a complete and utter blank. This is the only birthday story that I can remember. It was the last birthday I looked forward to because it marked the end of my heavily supervised teenage years and made me a grown-up. I’ve been allowed to do whatever I want every day since, which has made it easy to lose track and forget that this one day of the year is supposed to be a special one.
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