Want to know the quickest and most sure-fire way to get drunk in New York City? I’ll tell you exactly how. You meet three of your friends there for dinner, one of whom is celebrating turning another year older. Then, when you walk into a certain Mexican restaurant on Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, you call out to the bartender standing just inside, “Hey, how are your margaritas? We have a birthday boy here.”
Because what will happen is that the bartender will decide you’ve thrown down the gauntlet. When you and your buddies order four margaritas to go with dinner, he will mix up four goldfish-bowl sized drinks that are actually nothing more than a salt-crusted glass filled with straight, lethal tequila, in the general vicinity of which the bartender has vaguely waved a lime that may or may not have been sliced at the time. And then, after dinner, both the bartender and the restaurant’s owner will come over to your table brandishing a bottle of tequila apiece, which they’ll pour directly into the birthday boy’s mouth until he’s choking and burbling like a fountain of Jose Cuervo.
No, I was not the birthday boy.
However, I was the most inebriated I’ve ever been that night, which admittedly isn’t saying much. At the meal’s conclusion, when I excused myself from the table to pee, I walked for several steps under the confused belief that one of my legs was suddenly shorter than the other. Then I figured out that it would help if I walked on the sole of my right foot, rather than its side.
And how do you follow up that kind of start to a celebration? Why, by walking a couple of blocks south to another gay bar, a saloon on the avenue’s east side. For the birthday boy it was a chance to continue the festivities. For me, it was a peaceful few minutes to chug down a bottle or two of water and hope that the world might stop spinning around me.
As I moaned slightly to myself and clutched the bar from my stool, my friends were having a friendly argument about power pop bands of the nineteen-seventies over by the jukebox. Then a fellow sat down next to me, ordered a drink, and pulled out his phone. He proceeded to doodle around on it with his fingertips. I looked him over for a moment. He was in his early thirties. Handsome. Jet-black hair that had been groomed into a swoop over his forehead. Dark eyebrows that formed natural commas at the brow.
I’d gone back to quietly praying that the floor would stop moving in ocean waves when suddenly the birthday boy loomed between me and the guy who’d just sat down. “HI!” he said, in the loud and confident way shared by both the inebriated and the developmentally challenged. “What’s YOUR name?”
“Steven,” stammered the guy, putting down his phone.
“HI STEVEN!” said the birthday boy. “You’re CUTE. Do you want to see MY ASS?”
For a moment I thought he was going to drop trou, right there in the saloon. But no, he thrust his iPhone into Steven’s face. On it was a picture of himself spread-eagle on a bed, naked ass up, knees digging into the mattress. “Oh, good god,” I said. Then I put my hand on the birthday boy’s wrist. “Put your ass away.”
“He SAID he wanted to see it!” said the birthday boy, all belligerence.
“Actually, he didn’t,” I said. Very persuasively, I got him to put away the phone. “Go back to the jukebox,” I suggested.
I shooed him along. Steven and I looked at each other for a moment, the broke out into genuine laughter. I’ll tell you—and those of you with considerate wingmen, take note—there’s no better ice breaker than if your buddy shows his ass photos to a perfect stranger. “It’s his birthday,” I told him. “He’s pretty wasted.”
“Ya think?” said Steven.
We talked casually for a little bit. He was an out-of-towner who was doing business in Hoboken for a couple of days, and he’d thought to take the train into the city to check out the bar scene. I told him about the bars I’d visited in the Hell’s Kitchen area. Nothing deep. I wished him a good time.
We were about to sink back into our anonymity once again when the birthday boy loomed between us. He put a hand on each of our backs. “Steven, you’re CUTE,” he boomed. People around us turned at the sound of his over-loud voice. “Did my buddy show you his COCK PICTURES?”
I gave the birthday boy a look that was intended to say, What the fuckety fuck? He ignored me and thundered, “He has ALL HIS COCK PICTURES on his PHONE. Did he show you HIS COCK PICTURES?”
Steven sat up straight in his chair. “No, he did not,” he said, humoring my drunk buddy.
“I don’t have all my cock pictures on my phone,” I told him.
His eyebrows shot up. “But you have some of them?”
That I couldn’t deny.
“You should get him to SHOW YOU HIS COCK PICTURES,” said the birthday boy with the general command usually given to the Voice of God in Technicolor extravaganzas.
“Yeah,” said Steven, smiling pleasantly at me. “You should show me your cock pictures.”
“SHOW! YOUR! COCK! PICTURES!” shouted my buddy, like some kind of horny male cheerleader.
“Cock pictures!” agreed Steven.
I sighed. I pulled my wallet out of my jacket. I keep my phone in a leather portfolio that doubles as a wallet. I opened the cover, pulled up my photos, and chose one of the shots. “Fine,” I said, acting like I didn’t flash my dick at strangers on a regular basis.
Steven jumped in his seat as if he’d been electrified. “Holy shit,” he said, genuinely shocked. Then he grabbed my phone out of my hands and cupped it in his own so he could study it.
“That’s my wallet,” I stammered.
“I TOLD YOU!” said the birthday boy.
“My credit cards. . . .” I said weakly.
“Is that really you?” Steven wanted to know.
“Holy shit,” Steven repeated. He looked at me, then looked at the photo, then looked at me again.
“My cash. . . .”
The birthday boy took my wallet from Steven’s hands. “That’s not even the one I like BEST,” he said, flipping backwards and forwards through the album. “HERE WE GO.”
He put the wallet back into Steven’s hands. I could see he’d found one of my fuck shots, in which I’m pointing the length of my cock, angry, red, and already covered in lube, at a boy’s ass. “Holy shit,” Steven said for a third time. Then a fourth. “Ho . . . ly . . . shit!” He began flipping through the album himself, looking at several of my self pics, a shot of me sucking dick, then lingering on a couple of shots I’d taken for friends: me grinning at the camera while I had my hand wrapped around my meat. I could tell they’d been taken very late at night, because the light was dim and I was wearing my glasses instead of my contact lenses. “Yeah, that’s you all right!” he said.
“HEY,” said the birthday boy to one of the other friends who’d been at dinner with us. “Have you seen his COCK PICTURES BEFORE?”
“No, I certainly have not!” said my other buddy. I shrugged and gave up as Steven handed over the phone to him. My other buddy looked at the late night shot, looked at me, looked at the late night shot, then raised his eyebrows. “Wow. Just wow,” he said.
“Wow what?” I asked. I can’t honestly say I wasn’t enjoying the attention. I just liked pretending annoyance.
“Wow. I didn’t know you wore glasses!” he commented dryly.
I gave him the middle finger.