Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Remembering Independence Day

Well kids, April 10th is upon us again, and you all know what that means. Well, you do IF you’ve been paying attention to my life for the last fourteen years, which I assume you have been because its not like any of you have anything better to do.

But if you’ve been under a rock, I’ll fill you in. April 10th is what I like to call my Independence Day - the day I cast off the surly bonds of a really, really unhappy and dysfunctional relationship and propelled myself into a life of pure, unadulterated, unbridled freedom and fun. Just like the Croats and none other than Sir Paul McCartney, April 10th is the day your boy Joey set himself free (that's right, April 10th is not only Croatian Independence Day, but also the day Paul formally announced he was leaving the Beatles).

Actual Independence Day 2006 Party Flyer

Now for me, this used to literally be cause for celebration. I would have a party every year commemorating the day I finally took control of my life and decided to stop acting like a henpecked, whipped little boy, and start being a man (well, more of a man, at least). And, while I’ve finally grown up enough that I no longer want to be single forever, and I finally see the value and the rewards of settling down and having a family, I also still look back at this time, and those parties with fondness, because man did we have some good times. After the jump is the invite from my 2007 Independence Day Party, complete with the story behind it… which I have once again edited, revised and updated for your 2014 reading pleasure, because while I may have (pretty much) grown out of my "single-forever-player-til-I-die" attitude, my sense of self-indulgence is quite alive and well. NOW GO READ ABOUT ME!

Well, it's 2007, Spring is almost here and I am once again getting all geared up to celebrate what has become known as my "Independence Day"... if you're not up on things, that's the party I have every year to celebrate me breaking up with my ex girlfriend and more importantly, to celebrate the joy of being single and the liberating feeling that comes with it...

It makes me laugh when I think about the reaction I get when I tell people I do this, because on its face, it's a cruel, mean-spirited, horrible thing. I mean, if you didn't know any better, you'd think there's some poor girl out there whose ex-boyfriend is celebrating the fact that she's no longer in his life. Well, actually, that's exactly what it is. Yet almost everyone I invite thinks that this is an awesome thing, and they want to be part of it. I'm serious; in the past few years I've gotten a better turn out for the Independence Day Parties than I do for my birthday parties. I guess being in a bad relationship and knowing how good it feels to finally escape is just something a lot of people can relate to… even if most people aren’t unhinged enough to actually memorialize it with an annual party. Most people aren’t me (mores the pity).

The actual flyer from the 2007 party

In case you're wondering, none of this is really about celebrating the fact that she's no longer in my life. Not anymore, anyway (it probably was at first). At this point it isn't about her at all though. She's tangential to the story in the sense that it could have been any bitch, as opposed to her in particular. Aside from being a good excuse to get everyone together and party, what it's really about is me celebrating the death of my insecurities, and my doubts, and my fears and starting to act like a living breathing human being instead of someone who was essentially living in a state of paralysis, and really enjoying life only through the experiences of others. The whole story is below, it's long, but it's I promise its a fun read. So go check it out, and get yourself ready, because this year's party is gonna be bigger and better than last year! (2014 Joey... should I have another one this year??)

And the other side of the 2006 flyer as well

I've broken the story up into sections, and named them after song lyrics which are not only appropriately themed, but contemporary to the story. Now my tale has a soundtrack. Aren't I clever?

"I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?"
("Loser" by Beck from the 1994 album Mellow Gold)

Ok, the story of my subjugation and subsequent liberation starts in the hallowed halls of St. Francis Prep, the largest Catholic high school in North America. Before the story really begins, I want to give you some background about me, to let you know just who I was and where I was coming from by the time 1996 and senior year rolled around. To say I was insecure in my early teens would be an understatement. I had like, zero self-esteem. I mean it; my opinion of myself was abysmal. It doesn't make much sense in hindsight because I actually had a lot of friends, many of them quite popular. You could even say I hung out with the "cool" kids (in Howard Beach at least… I never quite figured out how that worked in Prep and the kids who had a range of friends from other neighborhoods confused me; I mean why even talk to someone from Bayside or Flushing??). Despite this, I was always walking around with this underlying feeling that the other kids really didn't like me, and it caused me to be quiet, introverted, angry and weird. This was probably really just projected jealousy. I saw other kids who – at least in my perception – had a much easier time socializing and fitting in and being "cool" (whatever that means). Part of me didn’t like them for that, and I also naturally felt like the feeling was mutual. Maybe "didn't like me" is too strong, but in my head I was a level beneath most of the kids I knew and hung out with on a regualar basis, and they knew it, even if it went unspoken. Man! What I actually was, was an emo little douche, before emo was even a thing, so I guess I was ahead of my time at least. Either way, right now I want to go back in time and slap myself in the face for having ever felt that way.

1993 Joey - Note the Bugs Bunny hip-hop shirt in an effort to be trendy. Tucked in. To what appear to be mom jeans. Ugh.

In Prep, I didn't talk to very many people outside the friends I already had from grammar school or from the neighborhood. Self-confidence was pretty much a foreign concept. I constantly felt out of place, I really didn't fit in, and rather than try, I would do the opposite of what everyone else was doing (hence the reason I “hated” rap back then and didn't touch alcohol until I was 19-20ish... Oh, I was SUCH a rebel). I pretty much purposely did things that made me stand out, which probably perpetuated my problem (if there really was a problem... looking back now, I really do believe it was all in my head). I don't recall ever getting picked on, which I always assumed was because I had popular friends that would have stood up for me. But then that's a contradiction, because logically if I had a bunch of popular friends, I was popular too, at least by default, no? Well, not in my stupid world, because I always felt somewhat awkward or inadequate, and it lead to a great deal of contempt for the people I perceived as the "cool" kids, even the ones I was friends with. Now that I can look back on it objectively, I don't think what I was feeling is much different than the normal bouts of self-consciousness that almost every teenager goes through, but for whatever reasons my coping mechanisms were faulty.

"The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care. Right? Yeah!"
("Self Esteem" by Offspring from the 1994 album Smash)

Now, if I was awkward in general, when it came to girls I was just BEYOND clueless. I mean it, I had like negative game. I could pretty much be counted on to say or do exactly the worst thing possible in any situation where me hooking up with a girl was even a remote possibility. I can think of a dozen instances off the top of my head where I'm 100% certain that if I had played things differently, I'd have lost my virginity long before the ripe old age of 21 (or at least made it past 2nd base!). I was hamstrung though, because haunting me was the assumption that right off the bat, girls just didn't like me (take a moment to digest that if you need to… it’s a shocking concept, I know). Even worse than them not liking me though was the sense that they were justified for not liking me, and really that I had no business even contemplating the idea that any female would want anything to do with me; an assumption that pretty much made me angry at the world. Unlike the issue of my popularity, on this one I actually had evidence. My first real kiss came just a few short months before high school started (summer of 92). After that I didn’t touch another girl until New Years day of my sophomore year (93-94). Then it was one final dry spell until April of my senior year (96), which is when the real hell (and the main focus of this story) actually began. So you see, there was tons of down time in which to form this horrible opinion of myself (and also to jerk off a whole hell of a lot).

1994 Joey - At least 93 Joey tried... 94 Joey is wearing a baggy, lace-up necked shirt like he lives in fucking Westeros

Strangely, my response to this idiotic situation (aside from the constant masturbation) was to crush on the hottest girls I knew, girls that were (in my head back then at least) way out of my league, which again just perpetuated my problems. And problems they were my friends, because I didn't just "crush" in the sense that I liked one particular girl for an extended period of time. No, no I went all out. I wrote poems, bad poems. Sappy, douche-chill inducing poems that were mostly re-worked Beatles lyrics in fact (so not only was I clueless, I was a hack). I also bought them presents, and I went completely out of my way to do whatever they asked and be great to them. Apparently all of my notions of how to behave toward girls came from pop songs and 80's sitcoms. If I had any musical talent I'm sure songs would have been written and sung too. So basically I would launch myself at supersonic speed straight into the “friend zone”, which if you don’t know will only increase frustration.  You see, girls that age are defective, and the last thing they want is a guy being nice to them. They want the bad boy, the asshole. I didn't understand how to be that, and I viewed it as a cosmic injustice that this is the way things were.  Hence, angry teenage Joey doing sociopathic things, like roaming the neighborhood breaking windows, and damaging property, but that's a story for another time (as soon as I research the statute of limitations on property damage). Thinking about it now, it was really dishonest too, because I wasn't being overly nice and sweet to any of them because we were friends, I was doing it because I wanted to fuck them. And the fact that they didn't fuck me was (again in my head) somehow simultaneously justified and unjustified. I was literally a walking knot of acne-ridden frustration. This all lead to me viewing the world as a cold, bleak place and believing I was destined to be alone. Oh WOE IS ME! (thankfully I avoided becoming one of those goth quiffs, which is the only way I could have been a bigger douche bag than I already was). Am I making it clear that I was a complete emotional train wreck in high school, because if I'm not I really don't know how else I can spell it out for you.

"Isn't it ironic, don't you think?"
("Ironic" by Alanis Morisette from the 1995 album Jagged Little Pill)

Naturally, by the time my senior year finally rolled around, I jumped at the first girl that showed any serious interest in me whatsoever. The girl I'm referring to sat in front of me in cor (cor is what they call homeroom in Prep... all these years later, I still don't know why). I suspected she 'd liked me since junior year, because her and her friend were dropping blatantly obvious hints, but I avoided paying attention to them for two reasons. One was that I was certain I had it wrong and that the hints were my imagination, because they had to be (see above). Two was that in my apparent infinite nobility, I thought it would be wrong  to hook up with her because I "loved" whatever girl it was I was crushing on at the time (it was Dayna). What a sickening little shit I was. Ugh. Anyway, the girl asked me to the prom by leaving me a letter in my locker. I had already asked Dayna (in the absurdly futile hope that prom night would somehow negate the friend zone factor… so pathetic). So I waited a week, said nothing at all about the letter when I saw the girl in cor, and then finally left her a letter in her locker saying sorry, I'm already going with someone else, but save a dance for me, and we never even spoke about it. Then came Spring Break.

1996 Joey. Nice Head, dick. Also nice inability to smile correctly and self-tinting John Lennon glasses. I wonder why they weren't lining up to get in your pants 

So, Spring Break in Prep is awesome. Because of the school's size, they can offer all kinds of relatively inexpensive trips to some pretty amazing locations. That year for our senior trip, my friends and I decided on Hawaii. Completely by coincidence, it turned out she was going to Hawaii too (or was it a coincidence… now that I think about it, she had  serious crazy stalker tendencies, this could have all been part of her plan). So on the plane ride there, I told Joe F about the prom and the letter, and his response was "and you said no?" He then said this phrase to me over and over again. Let me point out that I thought I was doing the right thing by turning her down. I didn't like her; I didn't really want to lead her on. Besides, I liked Dayna, and I wanted to go to the prom with her (and undoubtedly be disappointed when it all turned out the same way my crushes on Carissa and Lisa, and Deanna, and Tina and Kim and whoever else I'm leaving out did). So I stuck to my guns and told Joe to leave me alone, but his words stuck in my head. So, on our second night in Hawaii, Me, Joe G., Joe I., and Marc were getting off the elevator on our floor, and she was standing there. Motivated solely by Joe F.'s words, I blurted out the sentence that would change, and subsequently ruin, my life. "Hey, you wanna hang out with us?" "Us" somehow became "me", and she and I ended up making out. The next day she confessed that it was her and her friend that had been stalking me and Joe G around the neighborhood in their car for the past month. If I had been smart (instead of desperate and horny) I'd have ended it there.  Now that I think about it, she's lucky she confessed to the stalking thing, because we had a whole plan to lure our stalkers into a certain spot where I'd be waiting to drop a cinder block on their car. If only... But, this girl liked me for some strange reason, despite all the awful things I just wrote about myself above, and she wanted to be my girlfriend. So rather than figuring out how I could make myself more appealing to the girls I actually liked, I did what any insecure and horned up teenage boy would do and forgave the stalking and made her my girlfriend.

The date was April 7th, 1996 - The Day The Laughter Died.

I should point out that the first 6 months or so were kinda nice. I finally had a girlfriend! So what if we were spending every waking free moment together? So what that Joe G warned me like the third day we were together in Hawaii that we were together too much? So what that this girl and her weird, fat friend had spent the previous few months following me and my friends around in their car, and speeding off incredibly recklessly whenever we noticed them or tried to give chase? So what that our planned solution for mere weeks later would have been luring them down the block and dropping a cinder block or bowling ball onto their car? I finally had what I always wanted, right?  NO, WRONG! Because as I would soon find out, once the initial euphoria wore off, having a girlfriend wasn't quite what I expected.

"If it makes you happy, then why the hell are you so sad?"
("If It Makes You Happy" by Sheryl Crow from her 1996 self-titled album)

So like I said, I was enjoying having a girlfriend for the first few months. Having someone to make out with was fun. So were my first handjob, blowjob and fingering (of her... you might find it surprising that despite my complete emasculation, I never actually got fingered myself). It was in this department that I first noticed that, well, maybe she and I weren't going to be compatible in the long run. To put it bluntly, she really didn't like to fool around, and she had some very bizarre rules and reactions when we did. For example, on the few occasions she would give in and actually do something that caused me to ejaculate, I would have to warn her, and she would have to pretty much be on the other side of the room when it happened. I would then have to wash up very thoroughly afterward. With like industrial soap. Similarly, if my hand came in contact with her naughty parts, or worse my mouth did (this weirdo only let me go down on her exactly 3 times in the four years we went out), I couldn't go near her until I had washed my hands AND brushed my teeth. Back then I just thought she was boring, or nuts, but now I wonder if she wasn't abused or something as a kid. Oh well, SO not my problem.

Anyway, our first big fight came at the end of that summer, when she decided to insist that I stop watching porn. Because according to her, I shouldn't even really be jerking off at all, but if I had to, it should only be to thoughts of her. Yeah, because she was giving me such awesome material to jerk off to. See, this wackjob actually considered jerking off to porno to be a form of cheating (I told you, there was something wrong with her). Now, I have to say, indiscretions with the VCR aside, I was an excellent boyfriend. I mean I never put my foot down. I basically let her call the shots, or at least think she was (ok, fine, I was a fuckin pussy). But, this porn thing was different, and it remains the one time I actually took a stand in the relationship until the day I ended it. It's weird because it was absolutely in my play book to just lie to her and tell her I'd never watch porn again, only to continue watching as much porn as I wanted to when she wasn't around. Its how I handled pretty much every other disagreement she and I ever had (they used to call me the Passive Aggressive Kid). But instead I told her in no uncertain terms that I would NOT stop watching porn, and she should just get used to it, because frankly her aversion to porn was unhealthy, the sign of a repressed mind. It wasn't even like I was watching A LOT of porn, it was an average, regular, dare I say healthy amount. She was just a porn Nazi, and a prude and a square and I think she had some kind of hormone deficiency... boring asexual little bitch. Boy I'd like to... Whoa. Sorry, got off on a tangent there. Where was I? Oh yeah, by the way, her response to my refusal to give up the porn was to stop blowing me, pretty much ever (not that she was blowing me all that much to begin with, but the felatio well ran completely dry after that... her prudishness knew no bounds... AND, much to my chagrin, we went out for 4 years and two days and we NEVER HAD SEX... Why am I having a party? You do the math).

Going forward we settled into a pretty mundane, comfortable routine. She'd work, and I'd work. She drove and I didn't yet, so she would pick me up and pretty much chauffer me everywhere, which was ok (told you I wasn't a man). On weekends, she had to be home by 1 am, which was strange for an 18 year old, but also fine by me because I would then stay up until 5 am just because it was my only time to myself. Time to play video games, or draw, or read, or do other things I considered fun. She would constantly nag me to plan things for us to do, and then she would shoot down almost everything I suggested. She was a bitch, and I was miserable. A lot. Anything that distracted her from spending time with me I absolutely cherished. When she got a 2nd job at the Disney Store, when she had jury duty, that time she got really, really sick, these were some of the best times I had during that period. Things got progressively worse as the relationship went on.

"She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly"
("Brick" by Ben Folds Five from the 1997 album Whatever and Ever Amen)

By about a year into the relationship, she'd managed to alienate me from some of my closest friends, other than the ones she "approved" of. There was no rhyme or reason to where her approval came from though, so it wasn't something I could try to fix. She would just give arbitrary answers like, "he doesn't like me", without any real evidence to back it up. I would then try to confront them on it, in the hopes that whatever it was could be worked out and they would say they didn't know what she was talking about, and then she'd get mad at me for saying something. The whole thing then became self-fulfilling because they started to hate her because of the way she acted. Like I said though, I was a good boyfriend, and any time I wanted to be with my friends I included her too. So for almost the entire relationship it was either: she and I by ourselves; or she and I hanging out with my friends. Know what was really fun? When she would sit in a corner and sulk because one of my friends that she didn't like was around. Made for some great parties. In the beginning that made everyone uncomfortable, but by the end, we all just ignored it, and her. What about her friends, you may be asking at this point... well, she only had like two, so they rarely factored in, but when they did, they were included too. Days and weeks and months went by with me planning to break up with her, and then putting it off for a variety of bad excuses (Christmas is coming, Valentines Day is coming, her birthday is coming, I don't want to ruin her summer, she has the wrestling tickets, etc.). The real reasons were a combination of me feeling bad for her, and me still being a victim of my own insecurities (a.k.a. me being a little bitch).

Keeping with the theme of my Independence Day, what I just recounted for you is the equivalent of my taxation without representation... my stamp act, sugar act, currency act, intolerable acts, quartering act and Townsend act all rolled into one 4 year package (I warn you, this metaphor is about to snowball). Especially the 4 years, no sex thing. There was a lot more shit than what I just recounted, but to sum it up, she was a miserable, contemptible human being who made the people around her miserable too. Governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed. I was being opressed and I had a duty to alter or abolish her tyranical regime. The seeds of revolution had been planted my friends, and they began to take root in the stockroom of the Howard Beach Gap...

I started working at the Gap in September of 1997. I was already unhappy with the relationship but wasn't being very vocal about it. Not yet, anyway. It started to get to me that my thirteen-year-old brother Mike had a far more active and enjoyable social life than I did, and I was secretly envious of that. When I wasn't in school I was in the stockroom at the GAP, listening to the stories of Greg, my stock supervisor and friend, and further deepening my realization that I was in a prison of my own making. I would hear my brother's stories and I would hear Greg's stories, tales of drunken weekends, hooking up with girls, fights and pretty much everything that being young is supposed to be about. My weekends consisted of sitting somewhere with the girlfriend and finding a way to kill time until 1:00 am came and she would leave so I could actually enjoy just being by myself. I found myself living vicariously through Mike and Greg and also through my best friends from Brooklyn, Tommy and Michael and their friends, when Tommy would call to update me on their latest adventures. It was just like Norm and Cliff would live vicariously through Sam Malone on Cheers. That comparison used to make me so sad. I was forced to ask myself seriously, did I really see myself as Norm or Cliff? I knew inside I wanted to be Sammy, but my self esteem was so in the toilet that I almost felt like that kind of life, that kind of fun, just wasn't for me. Like I didn't deserve it or wasn't capable or worthy of it or some other such nonsense. By the time 1999 rolled around, I had hit my breaking point. Years of being consistently miserable had forced me to make the biggest and most important decision of my entire life.

"It's time I got back to the good life"
("The Good Life" by Weezer from the phenominal 1997 album Pinkerton)

I knew things had to change or I was going to go berserk. I was seriously losing my mind at this point. I was pretty much phoning in my relationship, trying desperately to get this miserable bitch to just break up with me already (that trick never works, incidentally). Before I continue I don't want you to think I'm knocking her just because I was unhappy with my own life. This girl really was a perpetual rain cloud. She was like fun kryptonite; a black hole of of good times. Mirth, glee and laughter all got crushed into tiny, super-dense, sub-atomic particles as they crossed her event horizon. It got to the point where no one liked her (including me) and she was moody and nasty to just about everyone. In turn that made me moody and nasty to everyone around me as well, because I was constantly unhappy.  For the last, oh, year and a half of our relationship, everyone I knew – from relatives to strangers - would ask me "did you break up with her yet?" (because I was telling anyone who would listen how fucking miserable I was) I can't emphasize this enough, it was like having another, much stricter mom. One who won’t blow you (wait... what??) I also just want to point out again, this isn't as much about criticizing her for the way she was, as it is about celebrating that I not only don't have to put up with that kind of crap anymore, but also that I never will again. Its a celebration of shedding my own perceived inadequacies.

In the summer of 1999 I went on a cruise with my family and friends of my family. That cruise changed my life. Leading up to it, I had started making tiny alterations to the way I did things, and implemented them mostly at school, away from her prying, judging eyes and interfering personality. It was almost a mini-midlife crisis, only about 30 years early. I got an earring. I became fashion-conscious, and started really caring about how I dressed and how I looked. Most importantly, I became more sociable, and I started to consider maybe talking to girls. Gee, I was only at NYU for three years at that point, you'd think the idea would've crossed my mind.

My first opportunity, which I still kick myself for screwing up, came that year, in the semester before I went on the cruise. Between classes I used to sit on the couches in this lounge that NYU had. I would put my headphones on and read or do work. I noticed this smokin' hot, tiny little blonde girl used to sit next to me every day, like clockwork. She'd sit there eating a bag of carrots or celery, and I'd sit there wondering why I couldn't get a girl that hot. I just didn't have the courage to just talk to her, but one day she took the decision out of my hands, and started talking to me. She started asking me all kinds of questions (what was I reading, what was I listening to, did I want some of her carrots, that sort of thing) that I know now were definitely designed just to start a conversation. Me being the clueless fucktard that I was, kept giving her one-word answers and then put my headphones back on when she would pause to no doubt wonder just what the fuck was wrong with me. I never even learned her name. This went on for 3 weeks and then she finally gave up. This beautiful girl definitely thinks I was some dick who was blowing her off when in reality; the possibility that she was interested was still such a foreign concept to me. By the time it dawned on me to talk back to her and oh, I don't know, ask the girl her name, it was already too late and she wouldn't sit next to me anymore. My chance with her was a half black, half Indian fellow named Crispus Attucks, and now he was dead, shot down in the snow by insecurity and self-doubt – and they were wearing red coats. The Boston Massacre had occurred my friends.

I carried my disappointment in myself over that with me going into that summer. I constantly replayed the whole scene in my head knowing that if I had just been the slightest bit receptive to this girl, if my head wasn’t crammed so far up my own ass, things would have changed for me. I 'd had enough and decided that the upcoming cruise was going to be a vacation from ME, from all my problems, my hangups and from my miserable life. I drank for the 1st time on that cruise (boy did THAT open a Pandora's box), I learned to make eye contact with girls and (dare I say it) NOT look away immediately. I learned to smile when they caught me looking. I talked to girls, I flirted, I ALMOST hooked up (I wasn't quite ready to cheat... mostly because I wasn't really sure how to make the jump from talking to kissing). The point was I got a taste of what my life could be like, and BY GOD I LIKED IT. If I was phoning in the relationship before I left, I was pretty much an absentee boyfriend when I got back. Still didn't have the balls to break up with her though... yet.

"She call me Heartbreaker..."
("Heartbreaker" by Mariah Carey featuring Jay-Z from the 1999 album Butterfly)

Ok, fast-forward through the really miserable end of summer and beginning of fall to October of 1999. I had been home from the cruise for three months now, and to say I was consistently unhappy since then would be a massive understatement. I know she felt it too, because I was going out of my way to be mean to her and to pretty much show her that I no longer gave a flying fuck about her or the relationship. The stubborn little bitch just wouldn't make it easy on me and go though. So, one night while sitting in TGI Fridays, she confronted me, asking what was wrong with our relationship and I got this weird feeling, almost like I was high (but I’ve learned since then its more like what someone feels when they’re about to have a panic attack... it was like the room was turning, and I had stepped out of my body to watch the scene unfold. Seriously, in my memory of it, I can simultaneously see it happening from over my own shoulder, but also remember sitting there as the table slowwwwwly climbed up the wall). So, as the right side of the room went up, and the left felt like it was sinking, I began to tell her in no uncertain terms that I thought we needed a break, and I went so far as to even suggest we see other people.

She cried. Good lord, she cried A LOT. I tried to get her to just leave me there. I could have gotten a ride home and really I wanted to kick off my newfound freedom as soon as possible (there were cute girls at the bar). She wouldn't hear of it though. So we broke up, but not before she had to drive me home, and then refused to drop me off for like an hour and a half while she sobbed uncontrollably driving around Howard Beach. I'd never contemplated diving from a moving vehicle before in my life. The complete devastation it caused eroded my confidence and I ended up calling her and taking it back three days later. We talked on the phone and I told her I would need at least one night to be with my friends and one night to be with her (which makes that phone call the Gaspee Incident, which coincidentally enough was committed by Joseph Bucklin, which is exactly what happened here… Badumbum ching! And if you don’t know what the Gaspee Incident is, that’s why we have Wikipedia). So, I hung up the phone with her and a voice in my head immediately said, WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU JUST DO??? Needless to say, I knew I'd made a huge mistake.

My tensions eased somewhat, but, in the back of my head I knew I still had to get out. I still had a bit more finding myself to do first. From October to April of 2000, Friday nights became friends night, when I'd jet off to Brooklyn and join Tommy and Michael, and Glenn and Mario and Tony and many of my other friends at Ruby's in Bay Ridge, surrounded by sickeningly hot 17(ish) year old girls, getting drunk and having a ball. I wasn't completely off the leash though. I would tell her I went home between 1 and 2 (even though it was really between 4 and 6). At around 1am, I would sneak away from my friends and go to the payphone (remember those?) and beep her (remember THOSE?) to let her know I got home just to keep up the charade. I LIVED for my Friday nights. Unfortunately on Saturdays I was back to going to insisting we go to the movies so I wouldn't have to talk to her for 2 whole hours.

Brooklyn played a key role in my liberation, and I owe a huge thanks to Tommy. Michael, Glenn, Jon, Paul, Mikey V., Mario, Tony, and Christian, because they gave me my way out. While most of my Howard Beach friends were away at school, or too busy with their own lives, my Brooklyn friends were there for me. They were living it up, partying every weekend, doing fun things and basically giving me more to do than sit around and wallow in my own my misery. In short, rather than sitting around thinking about having a life, watching MTV Spring Break and getting sick with envy (I would do that to myself every year, and it was terrible) I was able to go out and actually live one. There's another aspect to this too, one that I've only recently acknowledged. By having Brooklyn to escape to, I was actually able to escape myself, and this was essential, because while I was making a conscious effort to redefine who I was, this was much easier to do in a place where I didn't grow up and with people who haven't been around me on a consistent basis for most of my life. This made it so much easier to shed my own preconceived notions of myself and just, I don't know, "be". I'm not certain I could have done this if I was hanging out in Queens with my grammar school and high school friends (I could have. They say "wherever I went, there I was" and it's true. It was just easier in Brooklyn).

And oh, it was sweet!

In February of 2000, my Boston Tea Party happened (yeah I'm really running this comparison into the ground, deal with it). It was a Friday night, we were at Ruby's and I was drunk. I don't mean I was tipsy or buzzed, I was fucking BLACK-OUT SHIT-FACED ANNIHILATED. At that early stage in boozing career, I had no concept of tolerance or pacing myself and I didn't really know what I could and couldn't mix. We did shots that night and all different friends who were excited about me finally coming out wanted to do one with ME. Goldschlagger, Jack, Yaeger, Tequila, Blackhaus, Soco & Lime, and then finally 2 shots of 151. I remember talking to these 2 girls with Mario. One was Asian. Her name was Debbie and she had on a black button down shirt with only 1 button buttoned and no bra. She was hot. Her friend was cute too. The next thing I can remember, I was standing by the fish tank in Ruby's making out with non-Asian one (and trying to put my hand down her pants, but she kept stopping me... go figure). Half an hour later she had left and I was downstairs vomiting in the bathroom.

The next day was the worst day of my life. I was dry heaving my guts out until pretty much 10 o'clock that night, but inside I couldn't have been happier. I now had proof that there was life after my girlfriend and that my insecurities were really so much dogshit. The only problem is that the relevant info, how I made it happen, was lost in an alcoholic haze. The other problem was I had to switch to beer, because the smell (and the thought) of pretty much every kind of liquor I drank that night (which was all of them) would make me dry heave. But now, having hooked up with another girl, I knew I needed to get out. I never wanted to be a cheater, and I still rationalize it by saying I was true to myself. I want you to really think about that. This girl was my girlfriend for 4 years and two days and the closest we came to having actual, for real, honest-to-goodness, all-American, sex was naked dry humping in a tanning bed. This is not the stuff that epic relationships are made of. Epic breakups though...

THIS... used to be Ruby's. And my playground. Tear...

The next step was Miami. One night that March, Tommy, Mikey V, and myself (and I think Jon and Glenn too) sat in the Del Rio diner eating and talking about going away. Mikey V asked me if I wanted in on the Memorial Day Weekend trip to South Beach, and I answered with a resounding YES! Not only was I going on a sick vacation, I had now set myself a deadline on my time to break up with her (because lets face it, Captain Bring-Down would never have LET me go... "let" me go; isn't that disgusting?). The clock was ticking my friends. For those keeping track, this was my 1st Continental Congress. And yes, that's right it took place in the Del Rio, as all monumentally important meetings should.

Plotting the escape from soul-crushing relationships also done on premises

"You may hate me, but it ain't no lie. Bye, bye, bye"
("Bye, Bye, Bye" by N'Sync from the 2000 album No Strings Attached)

The weekend of our 4-year anniversary came. I knew she was thinking long-term, looking forward to getting married and a long life together. If that came to pass, I knew I'd be looking forward to jumping in front of the nearest bus. I decided to make the spring of 2000 the winter of my discontent (that's a Shakespeare reference you uncultured fuck!!). Our actual anniversary was on Friday, April 7th. However Friday night was friends' night, so we had dinner plans for Saturday instead. Now, that Thursday night, I had worked late at the Gap, and then came home and jumped on the Internet. Around 1 am, I got an IM from a girl I used to work with, and after talking a bit we decided to go to the diner. After the diner, when I was dropping her off home, we hooked up until around 5am. It was the first action I'd gotten in a long time. For the sake of argument, we'll call that the battle of Lexington. The next night, the night of my actual, for real, 4-year anniversary, I got out of work at 10, called that girl and we went down by Rockaway Beach and I lost my virginity to her in the back of my dads Blazer at the ripe old age of 21. Yes, if I haven't emphasized it enough already,  4 years, NO SEX. AND she wanted me to not watch porn too. The British were coming, and FINALLY, so was I! If I had followed her instructions I'd have died of semen poisoning years ago!

Anyway, the next night, I sat with my girlfriend at PF Changs eating our 4-year anniversary dinner as if nothing was wrong. I gave her a dozen roses and a card that said nothing except "thank you for everything". The next day was spent on the phone with Tommy, him yelling at me that now was the time to break up with her since I'd actually cheated and now I was in the wrong. I fagged out that Sunday, but at around 1 am I sat down and penned... yeah, you guessed it, my Declaration of Independence. We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident, BITCH!! (which is the original text that Thomas Jefferson wanted to put in, but John Adams made him take it out) The next day I got home from school around One in the afternoon, drove to her house, walked up to her door, handed the letter to her dad and asked if he'd give it to her when she got home from work. Then I got the fuck out of there. I swear, I think I floated across Sutter Avenue to my car, because the chains of oppression had been cast off. FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST, THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, FREE AT LAST!!!

At around 5:30pm I got a phone call from her, half yelling, and half crying. I stayed completely cold, saying things like "what can I tell ya?" and, "sorry, this happens to people every day though, don't take it personally". I'm kind of proud of what a dick I was. She had cracked me before by crying; I wasn't letting it happen again. After 15 minutes I said, "it's dinnertime, I'm going to go", and that was all she wrote (which makes the phone call my battle of Yorktown... ok, ok, I'll stop).

All right, was ending a 4 year and 2 day relationship by letter a shitty, cowardly thing to do? Yup, you betchya, but I regret NOTHING!! It was the only way I could make myself do it, and it makes for a nice symmetry, what with me having turned her down for the prom by letter 4 years prior (I really just wanted to avoid another crying incident and besides, it could have been worse, I could have done it by e-mail). Besides, Thomas Jefferson didn't go tell the King of England there was going to be a revolution in person, he wrote the Declaration of Independence and told old Georgie to go fuck himself from across the sea. It's the exact same thing. Really.

The Declaration I circulated at the 2004 party. Everyone signed! (yes, I probably took things too far)

I emerged from that whole experience a much more confident, self-assured, and happy person. It wasn't easy though. In fact it might have all come crashing down before it began. I knew that if I stayed in the house and thought about it, there's a strong possibility I would second-guess my decision again. I knew that I had to go out and have fun and live that life that I had been craving. I have Tommy and Michael and their friends (who soon became my friends) to thank for it. Fun times were had, and really it's those fun times that I celebrate with this party. It's being able to come and go as I please, without having to answer to anyone, or get home and have some inane conversation about what we each did that day. Its about having the freedom to stay in, or go out, or get drunk, or take a nap, or hook up with whoever I want, or see my friends, or read a book or play a video game, or do pretty much WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT WHENEVER THE FUCK I WANT, and not have anybody give me shit for it. That's what my Independence Day party celebrates... So why don’t you come celebrate with me?

So there you go. I'm not gonna lie, I briefly considered resurrecting the party this year, but it just wouldn't be the same. A lot of people wouldn't show up or would leave early, because they have other concerns than defiling themselves with me in some bar... And, if it didn't turn out as good as the old parties, I didn't want a bad outting to tarnish the legacy.

If nothing else, I hope my story inspires some of you out there who are in bad relationships to get the hell out! There's fun to be had dammit!
Also, at some point I plan on using what you just read in the novel I want to write... I've had too much fun; too many amazing, wacky, crazy things happen to me in my single life for me not to share them all. It'll probably be something kind of like "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" only instead of self-aggrandizing lies like that jerkoff Tucker Max wrote, mine would be more self-deprecating truths. Anyway, Happy Independence Day everyone!

1 comment: