The First Blackout
I distinctly remember the first time I got drunk. Unsurprising, it was also my first time being violently ill and browning out (though far from my last). I was 18 and living in new york. I had been accepted to prestigious NYU Gallatin School of Individualized study. This program was full of students who were being encouraged to design their own major, taking courses in science, engineering, arts, education, and even outside courses for credit to create a program of study that would lead to synthesizing ideas and innovative practices. Honestly, most of my classes were filled with glorified undecided majors who’s families had ample money and connections to get them into the program. My freshman seminar (required course) was ‘On Creativity’. We had to read about great minds, artists, philosophers, writers, scientists, and the like to better understand the creative brain. I, being the stubborn creative I was, just wanted to jump into making things already (turns out the art classes were part of the education school, not Gallatin). But there was one girl in the class I couldn’t get enough of: Joanna. She was curvy with wild red curly hair. She had a pierced nose, expert cat eyeliner and a penchant for saying ‘mer’ with a mischievous grin. She was in love with Franco, a tall brooding musician in the class who we both agreed would be better in bed if he didn’t talk much.
Joanna was 19 and grew up in the city. Her friends were all locals who didn’t attend NYU but were tribeca (i think) club kids. They had tabs open at local bars. There was no fear of getting caught underage drinking. She would eventually show me restaurants where no one asked for id and the tequila and sangria flowed.
On this first night we had attended a film hosted by Gallatin. It was Friday and early when we got out. I was having a hard time making friends as college. My group back home was very close knit and still there (including the bf). Most weekends I would watch tv alone in the dorm and go for walks during the day. This particular night, Joanna suggested that I go back to her dorm and hit the town with her friends. She lived in the Water St location near the financial district (as opposed to my place in Union Square). Her place looked like a million dollar condo. She had high ceilings and giant windows overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. She, like myself, ended up in upperclassman housing because we were willing to pay more for ensuite bathrooms.
The kitchen was near the front door. Joanna told me to make myself at home and suggested that we start with some drinks. Her roommate was home and joined. Friends were on their way. We started with shots of 99 Bananas, a sugary liquor that tasted like those yellow runts. It’s not banana but sugar masks the burn of alcohol. I don’t remember how many we did. They weren’t big. I think we were shooting a half ounce at a time. The friends came and heavier drinking started. I didn’t feel anything yet. Joanna offered me a gin and tonic. The juniper almost knocked me back. But I thanked her and drank.
It was decided that we would head towards the west village (closer to where I lived). There was one guy in our crowd who would go as far as that and head home.
I don’t remember much of the details at this point. We were on the subway, one of the cleaner newer early 2000s ones. With digital signs. We were subways surfing. Joanna was talking to the guys near us and inviting them to join our festivities. Then I was on the south west corner of west 4th street. There were cops across the intersection. I laughed. Then I threw up. And I kept throwing up. I was sweating and couldn’t stand up. The guy who was going home put me in a taxi with him and took me to my dorm. I can’t imagine what I looked like blowing past our 24 hour security guard, flashing my id, and stumbling to the elevator. Being drunk for the first time and having the g-forces hit me nearly knocked me over. I made it to my room and my bed. I was safe.
The next morning my head hurt in a way I had never experienced. My roommate was salty because I had thrown everything off my bed onto the floor. I languished between the couch and my xl twin bed. Somehow the happenings of the night before made the rounds on my floor. One of the filmmakers from down the hall came to check on me. I said ‘I’m never drinking again’ he said ‘ha, just wait until next weekend’.
I can gladly say I never got that drunk again while living in new york. It would be another decade before the brownouts and blackouts presented themselves as problems.