By Jay Fox
Brooklyn, NY, USA
Jay Fox (credit: Josephine Paz)
The fool tries everything, meets his dangers at first hand, and thereby acquires what I’m sure is genuine prudence.” — Erasmus
It had already been a hard night of drinking when I arrived at the Turkey’s Nest (corner of N. 14th Street and Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg) sometime in those lean hours reserved for forgotten conversations and bad decisions. The Turkey’s Nest certainly caters to such things as they serve thirty-two ounce beers out of Styrofoam cups, which a lot of people initially avoid on account of environmental concerns. Such reservations, however strong, usually end up being relinquished once it becomes known that the bartender will happily fill one with Bud for four bucks. You can get them to go, too. A word of warning, though: If you’re going to drink one in McCarren Park, keep in mind that cops are hip to this fact, that there are no bathrooms open to the public at night, and that dogs named Django have been known to roam the area in search of anything they can drink—beer, water, or human piss that is so fresh that it’s still partially rented.
This particular night did not involve the park, however. February’s brutality had driven me to the barstool in an effort to get warmed up before hiking the rest of the way home to Greenpoint. I was actually somewhat nervous about going in, since it was the first time I had ever ventured into a bar by myself without anticipating company. I thought I was going to look like either a derelict or a drunken pariah, but the winter’s wind off of the East River proved far more menacing than any potential ostracism I faced inside the bar.
The reasons behind the solo expedition are rather esoteric. Suffice to say, I was not in a great mood. I did not want to see anyone that I knew. More importantly, I did not believe that I was going to run into anyone I knew, let alone anyone that would say more than a few words to me. This night was a big exception.
It started with the jukebox, perhaps the only real amenity the bar offers besides a myriad of televisions, keno, antique beer signs, and seasick green linoleum floors that begin to look more and more like concrete over time. A jukebox is a fine device, what some would even call an American icon. The more modern ones, like the one at the Turkey’s Nest, have a serious advantage over the older models, though. They have been connected to the Internet, which means that fifty cents will get you a lot of great tunes that everyone knows, while a dollar will allow you access to virtually any song that has ever been recorded—even live Phish songs that go on for over half an hour. That being said, I realized very quickly that I was not the only Phish fan in the bar (a rarity in the hip Bedford region of Williamsburg) and I found a seat next to the guy who had picked the song.
Turkey's Nest (credit: Jay Fox)
I hadn’t taken more than a few sips out of the Styrofoam quart before I found myself aligned with the other fan (let’s call him Phil because I can’t remember his name) who was in a facetious argument with the bartender that I managed to get drawn into. It resulted in a bizarre quid pro quo scenario in which I was given free booze to perpetuate an argument no one was sober enough to be having. The beers quickly began to flow, while the shots began to drop like dominoes. The music oscillated back and forth between genres—the bartender putting on epics by bands like Dream Theater and Iron Maiden, while Phil and I split the cost on the counterstrike of Phish and the Dead. When the bar finally closed—with perhaps fifteen or sixteen songs still in the queue—I found myself stumbling onto the sidewalk, properly inebriated, with Phil and group of his friends in tow.
Phil had recently fallen in love with a DVD of Phish playing in Keyspan Park on Coney Island. I had never seen it. This, to him, was a travesty. He had repeated this during our time at the bar. So, too, had he repeatedly told me that I ought to (yes, ought to) come over to his place to see it some time. I had humored him while we were presumably redlining the bar tab, but the offer crawled out of the shadowy realm of possibility as we tumbled into the night. In a more sober moment, such an invitation would have been politely refused, but inhibitions don’t swim very well, especially when they’re trying to wade through an admixture of Jägermeister and Bud.
It turned out that Phil lived about six blocks away from my place. He and his roommates controlled the entirety of the second floor of a vinyl-sided row house, and believed the seven hundred square feet they called home was more of an estate than a two-bedroom apartment. Once inside, the DVD was quickly put on, and for the first few songs I was under the impression that the plan was to listen to the music and drink beers until the sun came up—in other words, a normal night. Phil & Co. had other ideas that I only realized once a few picture frames began to disappear from the walls. Well, it turns out that Phil was not a particularly fastidious guy when it came to keeping a clean apartment, but he was a man of tradition. If he was going to do a rail of cocaine, he was most certainly going to do it off of a clean, flat surface. His friends ostensibly shared this preference.
Not me. I already have to spend twelve bucks a day to keep the nicotine addiction alive and well; I don’t really have the funds to try out a drug that is apparently just as addictive. So I stepped out of the situation, walked over to the window in the kitchen, and lit up a smoke. Things were getting weird really fast and I had to get out, but I didn’t want to appear rude. Phil had invited me into his home, after all, but in the other room, ideas were being concocted, bad ideas, terrible ideas.
A girl suddenly appeared as I stood by the kitchen window furiously smoking and trying to figure out a way to get the hell out of the apartment without upsetting a bunch of less than predictable dudes. She looked concerned, worried, out of context.
Who the hell is this? I thought. Has she been here the whole time?
“Do you know anybody here?” she asked. Her eyes were a glacial shade of blue.
“No,” I responded. “Do you know anybody?”
“No.” She stared to me for a while. “You have to protect me.”
Jay Fox was born in suburban Detroit. He moved to New York City in 2001. When he’s not working his 9-5, he spends his time writing fiction, playing with his band (Pistols, 40 Paces), doing the crossword puzzles featured in The New York Times, and drinking in waterholes around the city. If given the option of a PBR or a Budweiser, he would take the PBR. If given the option of an IPA or a Belgian wheat, he would more than likely take the IPA. Whiskey makes him charming, stupid, and then sleepy. He doesn’t particularly like writing in third-person, but understands that it’s necessary sometimes.
He would probably want to meet anyone who has bothered to read this, especially if it’s over a drink.