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