Beyond TODAY: My Drunken Train Ride from Hell

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.




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Categories: Beer, Event, Lifestyle


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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25 Comments on “Beyond TODAY: My Drunken Train Ride from Hell”

  1. John King
    March 8, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    See also: How I Met Your Mother “drunk train”

    Good article though. I laughed gubna.

    • March 9, 2012 at 10:41 am #

      Thanks, John.

      And holy crap, full episodes for free on CBS? Sweet!

  2. March 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Jim, your trip probably wins the trip of the… (fill in the blank) Coors light sounds bad enough without the “kid” factor. Enjoyed the read!

    David Ivey
    Black Bucket Brew Inbox Magazine Editor

    • March 9, 2012 at 10:43 am #

      Yeah, I didn’t see it coming. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have even cared, but I simply wasn’t prepared to walk into a bar car!

  3. March 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Wow, that guy in your intro image drank too many shamrocks.

    • March 9, 2012 at 10:43 am #

      Yeah, you really have to pace yourself. Rookie!

  4. March 8, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    If that kind of thing bugs you at 40, just wait kid, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! 😉

    Neat story though. I especially like the part where every sentence sounded like an interrogative–that one drives me crazy too, ditto with “goes” instead of said, and “like” interspersed between every other pair of words. It seems as though the Valley accent has spread across the entire nation. What drives me especially crazy is that even well-educated youngsters (like my 24-year old granddaughter who gets her masters this coming May) talk that way.

    • March 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

      Agreed. As someone said in a (Disney?) movie, “I’m so over the hill, I can’t even remember the hump.”

      Still, Jim, as a writer you have to learn to listen to those, umm, like, conversations. They make for great stories later.

      It’s nice to be amongst craft beer drinkers, innit?

      • March 9, 2012 at 10:46 am #

        What do you mean – they make for great stories NOW!

        And it was better at the beer festival for sure. People probably had more booze on board there, but they handled themselves with festive grace (mostly).

        Translation: you kids get off my damn lawn!

    • March 9, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      Yeah, I’m sure I was annoying too at that age, but I’d like to think that my kids won’t be. There were a couple (like 2%) of the kids that seemed to be smart, chilled out and having a good time. They talked normal and sounded like they had brains. But they were greatly outnumbered by the OMG! crowd. Probably the same everywhere…

      • March 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

        As to whether you were annoying at that age, why don’t you ask your big brother–I’m sure he remembers. And you really think that when your kids get together with their peers that they won’t sound the same as all the rest? It is to laugh–Hah!!

        • March 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

          I’ll let Don smash that volleyball you just lobbed up there…

  5. March 8, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    “Better to get loo-loo on the choo-choo than to get a ticket from the po-po” ! Brilliant 🙂 As an Irish girl I was intrigued, to say the least by the image of the man puking shamrocks! Great post, nothing like a good ole rant about drunken eejits!!!

    • March 9, 2012 at 10:47 am #

      Thanks, Roisin. Perhaps it’ll become an annual tradition (but I hope not!).

  6. March 9, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    I feel your NJ Transit pain. My remedy is usually a can of Sixpoint and a good set of headphones.

    • March 9, 2012 at 11:20 am #

      I needed the Crisp!

  7. March 9, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Sounds extra special annoying. Shoulda asked em for a Kerrs Light, may have helped to soften the blow. Wonder what beverage it would take to make OMG! girls tolerable?

    • March 9, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      Actually one girl yelled out “does anybody wanna beer?” After a second or two with no takers, she said in her most tempting voice, “it’s Coooors Liiiight!” like it was the good stuff. Ugh.

      I dunno which beverage would be best to make them easier to take – it was 11:30 am, so all I had was coffee!

      • March 9, 2012 at 11:59 am #

        I love the thought they stopped drinking Busch and Natty for the special occasion to enjoy the sweet nectar of the rockies. If you gave me a bottle of Dancing Man from New Glarus, I’d be giddy enough to ignore it. (moved away from Sconnie last year)

        • March 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

          Maybe what I needed was a can of Ensure, because the whole thing made me feel really, really old!

  8. Greg H
    March 9, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    I just want to know how they kept that Coors and Bud Lite ‘icy cold’ on the train. LOL

    • March 9, 2012 at 11:37 am #

      They had so many of the damn things, the thermal mass took care of it! I’m sure their mountains were blue!

  9. March 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    Commenting on the Today article here, because screw that sign-in process:

    I think you have to be picky when choosing beer festivals to ensure that you get the best experience. GABF is a no-brainer, since you’re guaranteed to get something you’ve never had before. Outside of that, I focus on smaller, more specialized fests. Tonight, I’m headed to the Boulder Strong Ale Festival at Avery, where everything on tap is the biggest and best beer from breweries all over the country. I make sure to hit that up every year. Avery also puts on a Sour Fest every year, which was fun the one time I was quick enough to get a ticket (free TUMS for everyone!). The Strong Ale Festival is limited to 500 people per session, which makes it easy to get around and ensure short lines for whatever beer you want.

    There are lots of different beer fests that come through the Denver area, but I tend to avoid the ones that showcase beers I can already get on my own. It just isn’t worth it.

    • March 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

      Agreed on all fronts, but the Today Show asked me if I was going to attend this one. First I said that I usually stick to the bigger shows like GABF or the cooler little ones for all the reasons you listed. But they said another writer would be there and I got competitive and felt the need to protect my craft beer editorial turf. So I went, knowing it was a little show and I was a little miserable there, which bled over into my post for Today which got me called to the carpet in the comments.

      So there’s the lesson – don’t go unless it’s a primo show.

  10. Phillip
    March 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm #


    What about your experience AT the festival? Did you try any good beers? Meet any cool people? See anything unusual?



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