Apr

22

Party Testimonial: A Very Special Midnight Train

Written by

The Q
The Q

The Q train, last Friday

Last week, a newcomer to Bacchanal recorded—or attempted to record—his revelry experience. Tonight, a slightly more seasoned Columbian shares his own weekend’s Party Testimonial, a raucous adventure that crossed boroughs.

I had the first fun I’ve had in months at Potluck House‘s annual Subway Party, last Friday, on the way to—and at—Coney Island. It was an earnest fucking night.

That night started at 11:30 pm—the dinner was ending, and revelers were forming up to march to the 1 train. But getting drunk people to do anything, especially follow through on plans, proved tough, and at 11:45 we had yet to depart. More people were still arriving! Outside the house, a few freshmen boys dawdle, conferring: should they hang at Potluck, or come along?

I’m fed up and I crouch, yelling at them: “The point of Subway Party is not to DELIBERATE, it is to ACT!” Before they respond, I run down 114th street, banging my stick against the railing of an apartment building. The freshmen followed.

Ten minutes later 30 Columbia students stood on the downtown 1 platform, nervously talking. I wasn’t drunk, but rather high on excitement. Some sort of spirit had gotten into me. I felt impulsive and confident like I haven’t since high school.

Boarding the 1, the 30 occupied a car. This was when the party really started. One subway partier started that call and response song from camp—”The other day / I met a bear,” etc—and we lustily sang along, for most of it. The crowd stomped, banged signs, sang, and hit sticks against the subway poles. We shouted “Speech! Speech! Speech!” to get one girl to give a speech. We were taking it and giving it out, rapping off of one another.

More people at Times Sq.

So we’re at Times Square, and a good number of people join us, and then we’re on the Q, and then we have something like 25 stops ’til Coney Island. But the party TAKES OFF. One kid is killing it on the sax, really keeping the beat and carrying the melody, improvising. He had really tremendous stamina—he played basically the whole hour and a half ride, buoying everyone else up.

Then the train car is really spicy, really sweaty, and we open the windows. The car is so packed, you can’t move, and you can’t help but be loud. The group has an energy all its own that it lacked on the downtown 1. People are passing drinks around, whiskey, cold beer, Nikolai screwdrivers, whatever. Some—non-Columbia students—are brazenly smoking pot. But neither of those things are THE POINT, the point is, there is no point, and this beats another night of dicking around on your laptop or sullenly shit-kicking your way to 1020.

The Q train hits stop after stop. Somebody’s put googly eyes on a smart phone advert, and the Combine look down on me. The crowd is swaying back and forth, and sometimes when the train starts, people fall over. We sing, “We all live on a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine,” and then reprise that, because that’s all we know of the song. Some girls and guys crowd surf; when one girl surfs by, somebody yells, semi-ironically, “Now everyone feel up [name]!”

Not a Columbia student

Not a Columbia student

I sort of hang/climb my way to the other side of the train via the ceiling bars. I feel impulsive, and I start doing pull-ups on the bar. People grok on that, and start counting, and cheering me on! I make it to 20. Another guy starts with chin-ups, and gets to 30. We high-five, and some other guy gets up there, and we count him out to 12. We were on the train, hardcore on the train, Ken Kesey on the bus shit, as it were.

Some soft asshole is pointing an iPhone at us, so I get in his face and can’t stop myself, I scream, “DOES IT MAKE IT BETTER TO FUCKING TWEET IT?” and he says yes it makes it better, and gives his companion a look like I’m crazy, and maybe I am crazed, but he put his fucking phone away, and I didn’t see him again later that night.

So we keep on fucking grokking our way to Coney Island. And none of us are tired, and it’s half past 2 am, and Tommy’s still wailing on the sax, and we’re still banging and clapping and stomping, and we’re sweaty and thirsty. And—

—we’re there. The last 10 stops have just gone by. The doors open, and Coney Island opens out before us, silent and empty and closed. We 30 walk down a long street, through the slumbering amusement park, and come out onto the empty, cold, dark beach.

People mill around for a little, refreshed by the night air, before some strip off their clothes and run into the Atlantic. Two by two, three by three, we bathe. Some stay out for a while; other submerge themselves and quickly run back.

A friend and I sprint in, bare-assed, and dive into the salty water. Breaking the surface, I feel enlivened. I look to my partner, and we smile at one another.

Walking back to dry land, some guy has his phone pointed at me, flashlight on. I approach him. I swat at it, missing. (Maybe I am drunk, after all.) He laughs and retreats a step, keeping the phone steady. I swat at it again, and this time knocking it into the sand. “Hey, man!” he protests, inexplicably surprised, but I’ve passed on.

People are getting dressed, getting undressed. People are going into the water again and again, myself included. It’s started to drizzle, and people are huddled together, talking and smoking. I can see some nude bodies out on the breakwater. Some partiers just look, ogle.

One guy is firing off bottle rockets. He gives me one. I take the bottle, set the little firework inside it, and manage to light the fuse, despite the wind. Holding it out, I close my eyes, and wince a little as the sparks and gas hit my face. It shoots out over the beach, popping and flashing in the air. People yell and clap in response.

The ride back

The ride back

Ineluctably, a voice yells, “The cops!” So we think, it’s time to go, and that’s fine, ’cause we were ready to go anyway. We leave the beach in staggered groups. I’m in the middle bunch, and we’re wondering where everyone is when the stragglers finally catch up, passing the silent squad car. We regroup with the vanguard at the Manhattan-bound Q that’s waiting at the platform.

The train’s moving, and we’re tired and gratified—the build-up was the ride down; the climax the icy Atlantic. A few of us lean on one another and nap. I and another few sit on the floor, sharing our families’ histories. It’s a calm ride back, and to our satisfaction, we see that the Q is skipping about eight stops between Coney Island and Times Square. But we’re content. We’re in no rush. I look at my watch, and it’s gone dead, the whole LCD panel lit up, shorted out by the salt water.

Photos kindly shared by a friend of the author

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17 Comments

  1. IRC kid  

    i feel like this is the only fun most of these kids have all year

  2. inspired  

    what a magical night

  3. Anonymous  

    i truly feel like i cannot talk about it with people who were not there. it was incredible.

  4. Funny thing  

    Is that these are the same kids who hate on frats (some admit to it sober, others not) but just because they can write about it they think they are superior. I know them. I am almost one of them. They think that getting fucked up and losing control has a special place in the hierarchy of human experience. A sage idea that has been around for millennia.

    They just don't allow the Greeks the same argument. Maybe the Greeks don't make that argument coherently, but it's plainly operative.

    • uh  

      greek life is institutionalized, sex-segregated, elitist/exclusive by nature, based on arbitrary groupings, and home to an unfortunate amount of fucked up ideas about gender roles and personal responsibility

      how is it hypocritical to enjoy "fratlike" drunken hijinks without wanting to sign on to all the baggage of greek life??

      • Sophomore Not Amused Guy  

        Clearly you've never spent time at one here other than the occasional party. As an openly gay brother, the perceived notions of Greek life at Columbia as being misogynistic and homophobic are remnants of a national stereotype that simply doesn't exist here, or at the very least, not at an institutional level. If you don't like "sex-segregation," (hope you don't like a cappella groups or MPE, by the way...) rush ADP. Or St. A's. Or join the band - they're practically one. Even Pike, the frat perceived to be the worst with gender issues, is by and large more accepting than the most progressive frat outside the Northeast.

        Also, "arbitrary groupings?" People you meet in classes are an arbitrary grouping. Your floor in JJ is an arbitrary grouping. MOST friends you make at Columbia are based on one arbitrary grouping or another.

        And being elitist/institutionalized isn't by nature a bad thing. We go to Columbia, a school in the IVY LEAGUE (an institution predating every frat). We can take pride in what we do without being obnoxious about it, and with such a low Greek population I don't see how you could be obnoxiously elitist about something that 90% of people voluntarily choose not to join. Speaking of which, the perceived exclusivity is largely a myth. Anyone who wants to join a frat can try, and though you may not get your first choice, it's likely to have been a poor fit anyway. The same costs that would make doing so prohibitively expensive would do the same for many other activities that host that many open events and take that much of a time commitment.

        Maybe you should get to know people in Greek life better outside their "fratlike drunken hijinks?" Or would that be taking on too much baggage?

        • sophomore not convinced girl  

          i'm really glad that you've had a positive experience with greek life here, and i know others who have really enjoyed their time as brothers/sisters and speak highly of the experience. our greek life is definitely leaps and bounds beyond other schools' in terms of progressivism, and i'm very, very happy that i dont go to dartmouth or penn state or university of maryland. but the fact remains that there are unsavory things about greek life that can't really be handwaved away that easily.

          speaking as someone who has experienced firsthand the misogyny that greek life is unfortunately correlated with (and who knows people both within and outside of the system that have complained about all those other things listed), i just dont think its fair to say that someone is automatically a hypocrite for not wanting to join a frat but wanting to get drunk and be a hooligan with their friends. yeah, you've had an awesome time, but that doesn't mean that greek life is right for everyone - or that drunken hooliganism is unique to greek life alone.

    • Anonymous  

      false equivalency

  5. Anonymous

    The tenses in this are all over the place. We get it, you got drunk once or something; now; try to write like a sober person

  6. Anonymous  

    Cool story, bro.

  7. Anonymous

    Great writing! A marriage of Hemingway and Kerouac.

  8. I want to do this!  

    This sounds so fun! Was it advertised at all? If so, I am sad I missed out. Maybe next year let more people know outside of Potluck somehow?

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