Gut Instinct: Blame It on the Train

Written by Joshua M. Bernstein on . Posted in Opinion and Column, Posts.


During my early, drunken youth in New York, I made many decisions detrimental to my health.

Since I earned $10 an hour as a receptionist, answering phones as gracefully as a semi-deaf construction worker with an anger disorder, my nutritional intake consisted of dirty-water hot dogs and greasy pizza. What I didn’t spend on sustenance I wasted on gin-and-tonics and cut-rate beer at downtown dives such as Holiday Cocktail Lounge, Welcome to the Johnsons and Blue and Gold. I spared no expense to get smashed. Why earmark money for nutrition when salty pretzels and greasy chips were free?

When 2 or, more commonly, 4 a.m. rolled around, I’d be faced with dragging ass back to my then-apartment in Astoria. An empty wallet meant a cab ride was out of the question. Instead, I’d haul my alcoholwracked body to the subway and, once the train arrived, find a cozy corner seat and cinch my eyes. Just a few minutes, I’d think. Just sleep for a few minutes. A "few minutes" soon became 50. I’d awake at a far-flung stop such as Sutphin Boulevard or Union Turnpike, names that’d make no sense even if my blood weren’t 30 percent PBR and rotgut whiskey. Groggily, I’d decipher my location on the map and wait for a train to backtrack me to my bed. I’d arrive home after sunrise, my own mistaken walk of shame.

Though I never had my pockets cut and wallet snaggedit happened to my friend Chris, who awoke to find his jeans air-conditioned and his billfold goneI’ve stopped tempting fate. These days, the rare weekday that I’m out boozing till midnight, I’ll gladly pay for a $20 cab ride home. I’ve learned from my youthful folly. Well, I thought I had.

Last Wednesday, I was entrenched at Midtown’s Manchester Pub (920 2nd Ave. betw. E. 48th & E. 49th Sts., 212-935-8901). It offered sports on tons of TVs, burgers and wings and decent craft beers on tap. It was a decent neighborhood hangout but nothing worth traveling toexcept for a coworker’s going-away shindig. I know what you’ll say: "Coworker? I thought you worked at home, pants-less, clacking out stories with dirty, jagged fingernails?" That’s true. But working at home is a lonely lot. Entire days pass wherein I don’t speak a syllable, as nonverbal as my mutt Sammy. Thus, I copyedit twice a week at a Midtown magazine. I ensure proper grammar and punctuation. In return, I receive conversation and sweet, sweet cash. It’s a win-win for everyone!

As a loyal part-time employee, I’m often invited to work functions. Which is why I was toasting my coworker with a glass of fragrant Cigar City Jai Alai IPA. I should mention that this is a strong beer. Two glasses will make anyone a chatty Cathy. Four glasses and you’ll win a medal for impersonating a fall-down Bowery bum. By coincidence, I kicked back four glasses. This gave me the Nobel Prize notion to order a snifter of smoky Macallan 12 Scotch.

I’d awake at Sutphin Boulevard or Union Turnpike, names that’d make no sense even if my blood weren’t 30 percent PBR and rotgut whiskey.

"Sure you want that?" a friend asked, watching my eyes roll around like marbles.

"Yesh, yesh I do," I replied. No, no I didn’t. No sooner did I vanish my drink than I realized my mistake. My legs turned to Jell-O. My head felt as heavy as a bowling ball. It was time to go. Now. Not bothering to say my goodbyes, I slunk off. Cabs whizzed past. I should’ve extended an arm high in the air, as if I were a fifth-grader who knew the answer to a teacher’s question. But I didn’t have the intelligence of a fifthgrader, much less a five-year-old. Subway home, I thought, subway home. I set my body on autopilot and lumbered to Grand Central. I caught a Brooklyn-bound train in a jiffy, finding an open seat. I sank into the plastic like a sack of dough. I shut my eyes. Goodbye, night. Hello, nightmare.

The train trundled toward Brooklyn.

Stops came. Stops went. I slept. I could’ve slumbered all night, as snug as a bug in a rug. But then the goddamn train loudly squealed to a standstill. My brain sparked. My eyes flickered. Franklin Avenue. Subway home! I lurched from my seat and stumbled off the car, right before the doors closed. I guess you could call it a dream commute.

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