Beyond TODAY is an extension of our weekly column for the TODAY Show food blog. Over there, we’re talking about our experiences at the New York City American Craft Beer Festival. Over here, we’re talking about the train ride from hell I had to take to get there!
The first sign that it wouldn’t be a normal train ride into the city came as I waited on the platform. Two girls appeared, each dressed in green, one sporting a pair of shamrock-shaped sunglasses and the other a bulky grocery bag. Next came two dudes, one wearing a shirt with a four-leaf clover – apparently someone was hoping to get lucky. Then three more girls in green, then two more boys, all carrying bags. By the time the train arrived, I realized that the bags were full of beer and I was about to step into a frat party on rails.
Even though St. Patrick’s Day was a couple of weeks away and it was only 11 o’clock in the morning, it was clear that the festivities had begun. The train was on its way to Hoboken, New Jersey, which used to hold a St. Patrick’s Day Parade a weekend or two before the big one in New York City.
This year, Hoboken’s mayor moved the parade to a weekday to cut down on the drunken chaos the event has become notorious for. The organizers canceled the parade in protest, but the wise citizen-drinkers of Hoboken decided to replace it with a Pub Crawl, which is where my travel mates were heading.
After a few stops, the train was packed with gangs of girls and boys, all wearing green, all quite pumped up, and all downing beers as quickly as possible to get a cheap buzz going before they hit the streets of Hoboken, where an open container would net them a $2,000 fine. Better to get loo-loo on the choo-choo than to get a ticket from the po-po.
It took about 20 minutes before the place was absolutely rocking, and I have to admit that I was miserable. I was actually on a bit of a drinking mission myself, heading to the New York City American Craft Beer Festival, but I was emotionally unprepared at that moment to be around so many people under the age of 25 who were getting their buzz on.
I’m only 40, but man did I feel old. I just wanted to go to the city, I didn’t want to be trapped in what’s best described as a day care center injected with hormones and flooded with grain alcohol. But there I was.
I think my main problem was that most of the kids on the train were less than bright, and more than a little into themselves. The sense of inebriated entitlement was overwhelming. The “conversations” happening around me were more like a series of statements, with each person impatiently waiting their turn to talk about themselves. I swear if one girl said she had cancer, the reply she’d get would be, “oh mah gahd! Mah dog’s birthdah is in July, and she’s a Cancer – she’s soooo sensitive – she gets it from meeee!” I’m not kidding. And for the record, the end of every sentence spoke around me ended on an upward lilt, like it was a question. Grating.
Still, I tried to hang in there, understanding that they were simply exercising their right to be young and have fun. I just happened to be caught in the crossfire, along with a couple of families who had small children with them. You should have seen how freaked out those kids were – apparently they’ve never been to an Irish pub on St. Patty’s Day. Babies cried as hapless parents kept pointing at the scenery, hoping to draw their attention out the window and away from chaos on the car.
The girls across the aisle from me poured Coors Light into shamrock-emblazoned shot glasses attached to festive necklaces and posed for a “doing a shot” picture. The awful British accents began. I didn’t have the heart to tell them the Irish don’t say “allo guvna!” I began to hear Jim Bruer stoner laughs erupting behind me, and I could hear someone say “oh my gawd!” every 10 seconds if I listened closely. The beer had clearly begun to kick in. Mission accomplished, kids.
I’ll admit I was relieved when my stop arrived and I switched onto the train that would take me under the Hudson into New York. I was even more pleased to see that there were no green-festooned twenty-somethings aboard. At least I thought I was in better company until the cloyingly sweet teenage couple across the aisle start talking about baby names (some from comic books) and the folks sitting next to me start talking about their infected nipple rings.
I realized then that I missed the party people. And I needed a beer – good thing I was headed to a festival.