By Brittany Spanos.
I wake up, early for a Saturday. It’s not the most painful feeling after spending my Friday night in and falling asleep before midnight. I take one look at the sun creeping in through my red curtains and another look at my phone screen, filled with drunk Snapchats and a couple unread message notifications from texts and Facebook. I think to myself “I do not have to live like this,” put on the new Drake album and fall back asleep.
I’m up again, my headphones missing from my ears so the faint sound of Drake rapping about his woes is coming from beneath a pillow. One of the simplest joys in my life is just laying in bed, listening to music before actually waking up. I think of it as my day’s soft launch, where I’m up and responsive but immobile, trapped in my cocoon with no obligations, no reason to be a person just yet. I don’t get to do it as often now that I have a Real Job, my dream job, but I don’t mind. I decide to savor my Saturday and Sunday morning private listening sessions as a reward for long weeks and early mornings.
I’ve gotten into the habit of needing something hype immediately when I wake up. It’s been my way of getting out of the winter blues, the dread of having to wear my coat and feeling slight numbness on my hands whenever I’m out of the apartment from the cold. It’s getting warmer now, so my morning bangers are like a day’s pregame. A Rae Sremmurd station is my most recently listened to in my iHeartRadio app. “No Type” comes on as I scroll through the middle-of-the-night messages I missed out on.
ILoveMakonnen’s “I Don’t Sell Molly No More” starts up. I had never noticed the lyric “When Straw-ber-ita dreams turn into champagne reality” before. Since I’m in the pre-coffee era of my day, this feels wildly profound.
Following a few plays of Young Money’s “Senile,” I’m up. I can hear my roommate, Esthela, blasting Coldplay and Muse. She’s getting ready to start her homework since her spring break is ending. Over the past week, I had nearly forgotten she was even in grad school.
There’s coffee made and some Cheerios in my section of our cabinets. I perch myself at the kitchen table with my laptop, which has a half-finished Mindy Project episode waiting for me from when I fell asleep before finishing it. At that point, I decided that nothing productive would be done today.
If Boredom Baking were a hereditary trait, I would say it runs in my family. There are browning bananas on our counter, leftover from my decision last weekend that I should eat more fruit. Like my mom or grandma would, I decided that instead of wasting them I’ll make banana bread. I load it up with flax seed and use whole wheat flour to make up for the sugary use of the fruit I intended to eat on its own.
With the batter in the oven, I’ve decided that I’ve officially done enough work for the day. I return to my bed with my computer in hand and Twitter open, ripe for the scrolling.
A BuzzFeed quiz titled “Which of One Direction’s Bones Are You?” tells me that I’m Harry’s femur. I’m pleased with myself for getting this answer.
I don’t feel like finding anything to read on-line so I search the web for shows or movies I can catch up on. I remember a friend recommending the Mo’Nique comedy special she did in a women’s prison and search for that. I find it on Hulu.
I love comedy specials. I go through phases where that’s all I watch. The Mo’Nique one (I Coulda Been Your Cellmate) is something a little more tender. All of her jokes are about prison, but she dives hard into telling some of their stories. It gets Real, more Real than I anticipated. My cackling is broken up by my eyes welling up.
The timer goes off, so I pull the bread out of the oven. The apartment smells like cinnamon, and luckily the bread looks edible. Esthela dances out of her room as Janet Jackson plays. She’s taken a study break.
Mo’Nique’s comedy special is still playing, but I remember that Melissa, a close friend since high school who still lives back in Chicago, had texted me yesterday. Sometimes when I’m at work, I check my messages, acknowledge that they exist and how I would respond, then forget to actually respond. I have no scientific explanation for this phenomenon, but it’s led to a lot of people thinking that I’m ignoring them. The truth is that I’ve gradually forgotten how to use technology.
Melissa had sent a throwback photo of us from our first college winter break. I had a Brazilian blowout then and was really into gaudy hoodies. “I love you and miss you,” she wrote. It was so simple and sweet. I feel awful all the time about how far I am from the people who have stuck around the longest. I return her message with extra exclamation points and red emoji hearts, emphasizing how much I mean it. We catch up on how our jobs are going, and I encourage her to come to NYC after promising to be back in Chicago for Pitchfork Festival. I miss home.
Mo’Nique started crying at a female inmate singing on stage so I started crying, too.
Esthela had recommended the new Aziz Ansari special that’s on Netflix. I make spinach for lunch and keep it on in the background. As he’s talking about his parents, I remember my mom’s birthday is in a couple weeks. Ever since I’ve moved to NYC, I’ve become awful when it comes to buying presents for her birthday and Mother’s Day. It’s so much effort to send something, especially when she hates flowers and is not much of an Edible Arrangements type of gal. I open another tab on my computer while I eat and start scrolling through Etsy, looking for a perfect present.
My grandma, a common victim of my forgetful texting habits, had sent me a message Friday asking if Drake would be attending EMP Pop Con, where i would be giving a talk on Drake. I had tweeted about her question immediately but never actually responded. I’m an awful granddaughter.
I text her back, saying no. Her response: “Drake has been on TMZ a lot lately.”
I remember that Esthela’s sister Nancy had posted an Instagram picture of a bracelet a while back. When I saw it, I had told myself that it would be perfect for my mom. I look it up and scroll through the website to find one with “You Are My Sunshine” inscribed on it. That was our song when I was a kid. She still sings it to me when I’m sick or feeling particularly pathetic. I buy it and have it shipped to our home in Illinois. I hope she likes it.
Tinashe-soundtracked nap break. I’m losing energy from all this nothing and close my eyes for a bit. My grandma continues to text me, making sure I have enough inhalers and tells me about how spoiled my aunt’s new cat is. I’m waning.
I have to be in Manhattan in less than two hours and awake through at least 9 PM. In my last ditch effort to regain some energy I had a few hours earlier, I put on a Blogilates video to help gain my Perfect Booty. It’s helping a little.
By this point, the workout has devolved into sassy arm pumps to Fifth Harmony’s “Bo$$” followed by squats and ~2 AM in the club~ twerks in time to Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap.” This is much more effective than Blogilates.
The sun is shining a little brighter through the windows, so I put on my Florida Georgia Line iHeartRadio station as I get ready. Bro country always sounds like summer in Illinois to me: pick-up trucks, dudes drinking Bud Light, people fishing. It feels weird how much I grew to adore country music once I left Illinois, a place where I was surrounded by it thanks to my aunt and a few friends. My first college roommate and I bonded over a lot of heartland rock artists and country songs, which may have helped me unearth this latent love of mine. Dierks Bentley and Blake Shelton are blaring out of my phone as I get blinded from the sun shooting through the bathroom window directly into the shower. It feels warm.
Kathy and Jess, my crew for the night, text to make sure we’re all set for the night. Kathy had purchased a Groupon for admission to a Bulgarian ice bar on the Lower East Side, but we were first meeting up for dinner at a Slovakian restaurant in the West Village. The three of us met while studying in Prague for a semester, hence our affinity for all things Central and Eastern European.
Kathy texts that she’s going to be running a bit late. I decide I should get my eyebrows threaded in the meantime instead of sitting around the apartment. I slip on my favorite electric blue dress, a body con one with weird geometric patterns made of soft velvet, and dip out of the apartment. The Pinkprint is playing as I hop on the Q train and zone out on my way to Manhattan.
Manhattan looks gorgeous. It’s sunny and a cool 50 degrees out. Everyone walking on Mercer looks like they’re thriving with the slightly warmer weather allowing them to reach their full fashion potential. I walk through the Village playing “Truffle Butter” on repeat. Kathy tells our group message that she’s running even later, having loaned her ID to her best friend’s little sister and needing to retrieve it for the bar. I tell Jess to meet with me at BrowZone.
Getting my eyebrows threaded has become one of the most essential elements of my routine. I go every two weeks and know every woman in the two lower Manhattan locations I go between. I consider them all my Glam Squad, like I’m an A-lister getting ready for an awards show red carpet and sharing her experience on Twitter. As I’m sitting back in the chair, Tori Kelly’s “Nobody Love” plays. I had just interviewed her on Friday, and it feels like a dope little secret I have with myself and the radio for a moment and a reminder of how much I love what I get to do. Jack U and Justin Bieber’s “Where Are U Know” follows. I feel fully awake now.
I fix up my make-up in BrowZone’s bathroom, take a quick selfie to show off how on fleek my curls look today to some friends. Jess is outside. The two of us decide to take a stroll along Houston to the West Village. I probe about her recent promotion and the boy she’s been seeing. She probes about my new-ish job and the longterm crush I’ve had. There are strangers along Houston who know too much about us now.
We make it to Doma Na Rohu and split a Bavarian pretzel with cheese. Kathy is crossing the bridge on her train from Brooklyn so we psychoanalyze our boy situations a bit, talking about vulnerability and how tough it is to let go with someone else. Over the past year, these conversations have been a staple between me and my friends. We meet someone, overanalyze and then typically talk ourselves out of whatever the relationship could potentially morph into. We’re all 22-ish, so I guess we don’t have to have it all figured out but the dream is to have some semblance of ~love~ clarity sooner rather than later.
We notice a cat roaming around the restaurant. Kathy arrives, and we order a bunch of meat and cheese plates to split between the three of us. We talk about traveling this year and our hopes to make it back to Montreal and Atlantic City. I had opened a friend’s Snapchat from Costa Rica and suggest a trip there. The city has us feeling a bit trapped.
A jazz band starts playing. We order more food. Kathy and Jess have been drinking huge mugs of Czech beer while I’ve been downing cans of Coke. For March, I gave up drinking in an effort to detox my liver and cut back my spending following months of extraordinarily turnt birthday parties every weekend and excessive karaoking. It’s also just been a fun test of my own will power and ability to be a fun & hype twentysomething without drinking. Surprisingly, it’s been successful. My two March weekends of no drinking have been overwhelmingly fun. Jess is a little wary that I’ll be willing to stick around all night. I assure her it’ll be fine.
Our server brings the check. I am the only sober one at the table, but I’m having the worst time figuring out how to split the bill. It’s a logical reminder of why I became a writer.
Walking to the train, Kathy sees a woman in an animal-print coat similar to mine. “Every time I see someone in a leopard print coat, I think of you,” she comments.
The three of us make it to the LES, which is already buzzing with the Saturday night crowds. We’re on Ludlow, where Mehanata is located. As I’m fishing through my phone to find the street number, Jess looks concerned. “I really hope it’s not in that sketchy building,” she says. Almost as if this were our own scripted sitcom, I note the number, and, naturally, it’s the one Jess had been referring to. A man with a heavy Bulgarian accent marks our hands with appears to be and feels like a water stamp before directing us to walk downstairs to the basement of the raggedy building.
The only facts I know about the ice bar are from what my friend Gabby had told me after she researched the place on Yelp. Mehanata would be the second ice-themed bar I’ve attended in the past year. The other was a kind of bougie one attached to a hotel which I now work in the building across from. All the seats, cups and tables were made of solid ice in that one so it actually was a full “ice bar” experience.
Mehanata is nothing like that. At Mehanata, the price of admission is for an “ice cage.” The cage is a tiny room where up to four people enter and have two minutes to take up to 6 shots of vodka each. They have about twenty bottles of various vodkas lining the shelves in the tiny room, which is not made of ice and is just given an icy ambiance thanks to a cranked air conditioner.
Kathy, Jess and I are the only people at the bar and the nice Bulgarian bartender explains all of the above to us. He proceeds to pull down some coats and hats, telling us to wear them. The options are either military coats or fur ones and same goes for the hats. Jess and I take the military coats while Kathy goes with fur. The bartender hands me a hat to match my coat and says “You’re the captain now.” This is the point where I realize how remarkably weird tonight will be.
We’ve taken some photos and are now locked in the very tiny ice cage with the bartender. He seems upset that I’m not drinking, completely negating the entire reason for one to enter an ice cage filled with vodka. I give my shot glass made of ice to Kathy who will take two shots at a time in my honor for the next two minutes.
The bartender describes one of the vodkas as the “Russian mafia vodka.” Jess and Kathy do not drink it.
We are out of the cage and handing back our uniforms. In two minutes, my friends have taken 8 shots each. Kathy insists we come with her to her friend Mehrun’s birthday party at Key Bar. Wanting to continue my streak of having attended at least one birthday party every week since December, I agree. Jess, beginning to feel the 8 vodka shots, agrees as well.
Kathy ominously says “I’m kind of scared of what’s going to happen to me because I just had 8 shots.” I offer to pay for a cab to the bar.
No one puked in the cab ride over, which I feel was the night’s greatest accomplishment. Mehrun and her party haven’t made it to Key Bar yet so we try to navigate the packed room to find a bathroom. Meh arrives and let’s us know that as soon as the rest of the group arrives, we’ll head to the club where she’s reserved a table right away. Kathy and Jess grab beers in the meantime.
I order a Red Bull and drink it through a straw because I’m classy as fuck.
My drunk friends become enamored with how soft my velvet dress is and begin stroking it in the middle of the bar. This is not the first time my friends have started casually stroking a dress I’ve worn in public.
Jess and I notice how old the median age of Key Bar is that night. There is one particularly elderly man with a red pocket square who seems to know everybody. The bouncer even went out of his way to get the man a stool. We assume he is a mob boss, quite possibly the owner of the Russian mafia vodka.
Meh’s party has all made it to Key Bar, so we hop in more cabs to the Flatiron district where Slate is located. When we get to 21st and 6th Ave, Meh’s friend Chris greets us as he’s running to grab cash for the mandatory coat check. He is one of several people I’ve met throughout the night who has said hello by kissing on both cheeks, and it all feels very european.
You know those stock clubs that always look too clean in movies and music videos? That’s exactly what Slate looks like. Everything feels metallic and cold as the DJ on the main floor is spinning last season’s hip-hop. There are people in blazers with clipboards at the door and all the lights are purple and blue. We check or coats for $4, and I realize I’ll need another Red Bull. When Meh arrives, a blazer’d woman takes us downstairs to the reserved table. The lower level turns out to be a high end sports lounge. Girls in stilettos and freakum dresses are playing pool, foosball and ping ing with dudes in misshapen flannel and pastel polos. The lower level DJ, in every sense of that phrase, is spinning extremely shitty, off-brand trance. Kathy, Jess, our friend Alex who had come early to Key Bar and I linger around the table as the group drinks the bottle of champagne given to our table.
The trance music is putting us all to sleep. Kathy nearly nods off on my shoulder.
Meh rallies her troops to head back upstairs. The strobe lights are popping off, and it reminds me of the cheesy club we went to last spring in the now-defunct Atlantic City hotel/casino complex Revel. The DJ plays a remix of Drake’s “Take Care,” so I’m starting to get a little more into everything.
Both Kathy and Jess seem to be on the polar opposite ends of the Completely Wasted 8 Shot Experience. Jess is exhausted, keeping to the edge of the floor most of the time. Kathy has grabbed everyone’s hands for endless twirling. We briefly lose her as we relocate near the DJ booth. A female DJ takes over, and thank God for that because she immediately played “Coco.” The Red Bull had settled into my system, and things were looking up.
“Turn Down for What” rolls through the mix, and I am officially In the Zone by Britney Spears.
Kathy finds us for what turns into an hourlong mess of every unattended girl in our group dancing with strange men for a minute before jazz handing our way out by the end of a song. Being sober at a High-End Douche Farm around midnight made me realize just how much I am too sexy for that kind of baby party, so I spent my time spinnin’ with my hands up even the DJ insisted on playing that one really famous DMX song more than once.
Still, I love to dance. I love to be at clubs and observe people and be surrounded by my friends. Everyone had been so worried that I would have an awful time being around so many drunk people, but they also seriously underestimate how much I enjoy hearing Ja Rule at any given moment.
Confetti spits out during a LMFAO song. What a time to be alive.
Since the majority of the party had migrated back downstairs, Kathy, Jess, Alex and I proceeded to do the same. Everyone had congregated to a room filled with pool tables that had a Fast & the Furious film playing on one of two TV screens. Jess is dozing off on the couch we’ve taken over. I pull her up, and we head out.
Bobby Shmurda is playing as we go through coat check. I hit the Shmoney as my one last act of turn up before heading home.
Jess and I have a hastened good-bye as she runs to grab the cab outside of Slate. I can’t use drunkenness or it being a time after 4 AM as an excuse to take a $40-$50 cab back to Ditmas Park, so I take a leisurely walk down Fifth Avenue to the Union Square station. The stores and lights are beautiful, and I remember the numerous late night walks I would take down that street when I lived in a NYU dorm at its 10th Street intersection.
I’m mostly alone, save a couple of lone men. I turn down the Reba McEntire song I had put on for my walk, just out of safety. I’m especially glad then that I hadn’t been drinking. I make it to the train station and the platform is currently being power washed by MTA workers. I still have enough energy to make it through the train ride back home without the threat of passing out on it and ending up at Coney Island.
I’m home and my hair is huge thanks to sweatin’ out my product. Surprisingly, my make-up is still in tact. I pour myself some water and wash my face before returning to my nest. Falling asleep is easy.
Brittany Spanos works at Rolling Stone and Rookie and is surprised she didn’t end up at karaoke this weekend.