As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a café in near my friend Cory Poolman’s house in Philadelphia. I’ve been hung over for days, I haven’t showered in approximately that same amount of time and having left my toothbrush at the hotel in DC, my breath is zombie rotten. This current trip I’m on is similar to a lot of short, wild drinking trips I’ve taken in the last decade, where I spend a few short days in a city with at least one old friend, drinking, eating, not sleeping, carousing, wearing the same “one cool” outfit I brought in my daypack for days on end, chasing the dirty hipster bars, the classy cocktail joints, the button-down-broseph brewpubs for (mostly) ironic purposes, the grimey weeknight dance parties, the latenight drunkfood hotspots, laughing, exploring the various neighborhoods of whatever city it is and pretending that if I actually lived there, it would be like this all the time.
Sometimes, the trip has been coupled with a work trip (usually to New York), meaning in between the roistering and bopping, there were times when I had to pitch a client or supervise a shoot or perform some other imposition of maturity. Other times, it’s been driven by an impulsive urge to skip town for few days, maybe by the chance to reunite with a larger group of friends or just a cheap last-minute airfare. These quick getaway benders could also be tacked on to other trips, an extended ticket after a wedding or an elongated stopover between an intercontinental trip. The current trip that I’m on is driven by the fact that I got a free flight to Washington, DC. I’ll come back to this trip, because it’s been exhilarating enough to recount the details, but one persistent thought that has continually come up during the trip, beyond, ‘where are we going next’ and ‘whiskey or beer’ and ‘god I feel like dogshit this morning’, has been, ‘how much longer do I get to do this’? I began writing for this blog because I was interested in the juxtaposition between how I both wanted to grow up at the same time that I didn’t want to grow up at all. But when I think about how much fun I’ve had on these little excursions, how hopeful I’ve felt about life, I realize this is a tradition I don’t want to grow out of.
Looking back, there’s certainly been an evolution to the trips, which officially began when I was still an undergrad, in the faraway land of Montreal, Canada. I’d take a train to New York City and crash with my friend David Larson or my older cousin Aaron, hopping from one lower-eastside pseudo-dive to another, always asking the bartender what their cheapest beer was before ordering, (ah, the forced frugality of youth!). I’d get hung up on girls I’d talked to for ten minutes at some bar, but hadn’t the nerve to pursue further, we’d run up and down the deserted subway cars in the time-honored tradition of young people in New York. Everything was equal parts vital and stupid.
After college, the east coast was further away, and in my broke early twenties, required more effort to get to. I took a couple epic, 10-day sojourns, where I’d start in Toronto or Montreal, and work my way down to New York by bus, before heading back west. Then, I got an actual white collar job, which paid what seemed like a mindblowingly large sum at the time, in the mid-30 thousands. Moreover, I GOT PAID TO TRAVEL. I remember I once convinced my manager to pay for a ticket to a First People’s Film Festival in Toronto (punnily named the “Imagi-Native film festival) that I had no real business going to, all because I had a place to crash with my pal Scott McCallum and a couple other friends to visit while there. The fact that work could possibly cover the flight, and all I had to do was cover the accommodation was a revelation. When I started a production company a few years later, trips to New York and elsewhere were, more critical for work, but because it was now MY money being spent, I was more budget conscious. I’d crash on sofas, in crappy guest rooms, living room floors, but it didn’t matter. I was living the dream of adulthood.
In the later twenties, though, standards became just a little bit higher for these short blasts of city drinking. Fast food dinners were replaced by long, leisurely meals, at restaurants with two to three dollar signs, where every 5th Yelp review didn’t include the words “food poisoning”. But that didn’t make them less rowdy. At a post-modern sushi restaurant, Shane Dixon Kavanaugh and I convinced a fresh-off-the-boat waitress to take sake bombs with us, a drink I don’t even like, but it was too fun not to. At Pied de Cochon in Montreal, my group outlasted every last patron and took shots of Calvados with the manager, before going off on a two-hour drunken midnight bike ride circumnavigating the whole of Mount Royal.
If me and old college friends are planning to meet in a town for a getaway, it’s no longer four dudes in one disgusting Howard Johnson room in Northeast, DC, where the hotel Chinese restaurant turns into a TERRIFYING nightclub on Saturday nights and you have to run a gauntlet of thick hookers in the hallway to get to your room (that’s another story, entirely). That budget-conscious way of travel has given way to actual hotels and Airbnbs (though the upgrade in accommodation doesn’t always result in an upgrade in maturity), Greyhound bustrips have been upgraded to Amtraks, PBRs have been replaced by $9 cocktails (at least at the start of the night). It’s an all-around a more pleasurable experience for late-twenties bodies that can no longer sleep on floors or digest fast-food or recover from hangovers with the grace of an inflatable blow-up-punch-dummy.
Which brings me back to this weekend. Saturday, my friend Dan came in from Richmond and we met up with my friend Kasia at her house near U-street. I’d previously warned Kasia that the plan was to rage like “24-year-olds, but with more money”, which maybe set the bar too high, because we wound up doing just that. We went on a proper pubcrawl, from a just-warm-enough German beer garden to a overstuffed, stylish cocktail bar, to a long, skinny bar that was playing great hip-hop, to a gay 90s dance party where we literally danced our faces off to middle-school-dance bangers we’d been too self-conscious to enjoy in our adolescence.
The next morning, before heading off to the train station (he was back to med school and I was off for this arbitrary two days in Philly), Dan and I got breakfast and went to the Ai WeiWei retrospective at Hirshhorn (yeah, we’re so mature now, we even go to museums!). At the museum, I couldn’t concentrate on the art because I kept thinking about how I don’t want this lifestyle to end. Friends are getting married and thinking about starting families. Some might move to the suburbs. Some couples have already moved to two-bedroom apartments in Oakland, which might as well be Celebration, Florida as far as I’m concerned (SHOTS FIRED!). It seems like as we graduate to our thirties (T-minus 2 weeks!!!!), there’s only a handful outcomes: we take family vacations together, I show up as the possibly-alcoholic ne’er-do-well old friend who drags people out to bars they don’t have any interest in, or we just stop seeing each other altogether, except at weddings and second-weddings. Maybe I’m just cynical, prone to overdramatizing growing older and prematurely nostalgic (I mean, I clearly am, but still). Maybe my life seven years from now will be just as fun and rowdy and silly and adventurous. Maybe there’s a way to have it all, to stay young and still grow up. As I stare down this box coconut water and try to beat back this hangover, steeling myself to turn it on for one last night hear in Philly, I can only hope.
Henry Goldman is the founder of YR AN ADULT. He smells so bad right now, it’s almost unbelievable.