I've never been one for public drunkenness. My embarrassment quotient is too low. My hometown, Hoboken, is LOUSY with public drunks. I hear some now, their strident laughter wafts through my air conditioner as they stumble back to their cars to join you on the roadways of New Jersey.
For years Hoboken's had a reputation as a party town. Actually, the first time I visited (1982 or '83) was to a party my friend Kit gave on Park Avenue and 13th Street. A few years later I'd moved to Tenafly and was headed down River Road almost every night to hang out with Kit or Tom and Jim on Hudson around the corner from Maxwell's, or Kaz on Willow. We'd get together, drink, smoke, talk. laugh - and sometimes play poker (we were WAY ahead of the poker curve). Even with all the cheap beer, cheap whiskey, cheap gin and cheap Foodtown tonic I wouldn't be caught dead puking or pissing on the street. Maybe it's because I once got a ticket for public urination.
I was 18, coming home from a club (was it the Silver Dollar Saloon? It doesn't matter) in Amityville, on Long Island. I had many beers in me and some wanted to come out. I stepped into the doorway of a shuttered store, out of view - or so I thought, until I hear - over a loudspeaker - "When you're done, come over here." It was an Amityville cop. I finished my business and stepped over to his cruiser. This guy wasn't even going to get out of his car to write me up. He asked for ID, I passed it to him, trying some bullshit: "Uh... the club was CLOSED, man. I TRIED to go back inside but they LOCKED UP!" He nodded and kept writing. After five minutes of scribbling he tore the ticket off his pad and poked it out the window. "See the judge." he said, pulling crisply away from the curb on his way to another Amityville crime.
I did see the judge. I'd decided to fight the ticket. I stood in the courtroom and pleaded financial difficulty: "Your honor, this is a $50 fine and that's a lot of money for me right now..." The judge publicly humiliated me: "Okay. Make it $100." I dared complain, he doubles the fine. I was too young and stupid to see it at the time: I'd pissed on his town and was bitching about how much it would cost me. I PISSED on his town.
Maybe it's that judge I have in mind when I see these jackasses stumbling away from the local faux Irish pub, refusing to double-back for the bathroom when the fresh air brings on urinary urges. Like the guy - no 18 year-old - I saw one night as I walked home down 6th Street. Pissing IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK, he gave no indication of caring the slightest who saw him. Maybe he never got a $100 public urination ticket. Maybe he's never been caught. Maybe he's just very drunk. But there's something about watching a guy piss on the sidewalk around the corner from my apartment that has me speaking up: "Why don't you go home and piss on YOUR sidewalk?" It sounds lame, I know - I get protective of my neighborhood. Or maybe I'm motivated purely by self-interest and don't want to smell piss on my way to work in the morning - or see the puddles of puke and empty bottles in the gutter. It depresses me, okay?
Drunks generally don't depress me. But the ones who don't realize or can't acknowledge they're drunk, who stumble loudly through the streets, pissing and puking and falling down... what's the remedy? When I get depressed about drunks I cheer up instantly with the hilarious German flash game called HomeRun or "Walk The Drunk Home". The object is to keep the drunk upright and walking as long as possible. Even if you can't read German, the concept is easy: Click START, center your mouse and slide it side-to-side QUICKLY to counter-balance Dieter (that's what I call him), who is VERY DRUNK (I was only able to walk him 20 meters).
Now if only those Germans would come up with a game where you kick a public pisser in the BALLS repeatedly, scoring points as his voice rises in octaves...