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2006-03-09 - 1:42 p.m.

At eight o’clock in the morning, me and my compatriot sat in stunned silence, sipping Gatorade and watching the sun finish its climb over the horizon. All that social lubrication and wild screaming into the poor jukebox choices of the night, all had trickled down into the kind of exhausted self-satisfaction that usually coincides with a belt buckle being loosened on Thanksgiving.

We started at six on the previous evening, plodding through the bars in the village, adhering with zealous fervor to the “one-pee rule.” Once you’ve both taken a leak in a bar, it’s time to continue the crawl. Our adventures led us past hipsters on Red Bull, and college girls on bars; beer pong played with serene concentration, and someone being called an “ass-hat” for his love of“The Fountain Head.” Past the East Village, and Greenwich, past Tribeca, through Gramercy, over to Murray Hill, traipsing through Times Square to watch the wandering rubes, and down to a hovel on Ninth.

We smoked inside when midnight hit, and left for Brooklyn at three, when the after-hours really hit. Underneath a quaky J train, we invaded the places where swank goes to die, and droogies would feel at home guzzling milk before deciding the most British way to gut someone.

And by eight, we’d be there, on that same bench as we always end up. Out of words, booze and energy; the subway home just across the street. Numbers were given and received – at least two were actually that rejection line. We'd left cryptic half-pithisms written on dank bathroom walls, in the srawl so illegible it resembles sanskrit. And now it was done. Plastic glunks against plastic in the last toast of the journey, downing electrolytes in a desperate attempt to stave off the scraping hangover that stands as penance for such evenings.

That was three years ago. Now I call my mom for cooking pointers, while half-napping on the couch, watching re-runs of Project Runway. (Oddly, though this is not the show that garnered the moniker of Big Gay Show from my roommates. That honor goes to the Gilmore Girls. My defense? Sure Rory’s got a hump and an over inflated sense of entitlement, but her mom is still a hottie.)

Which leads me to wonder, in this city, these days, is twenty-six the new thirty?

Also is the phrase “________ is the new _______,” way too nineties?

My days are filled with work, work, and sometimes work. I’ve even managed to turn my recreational activities into work, as I now schedule them, and become disappointed in myself if I haven’t had the allotment of fun that I had prescribed for that particular time slot. Were this but my own affection, I would simply cast myself down upon the stone and beat myself with reeds until revelation came. Epiphany in tow, I'd play with a slinky for hours on end giggling manically. But it’s spread like the flu, and all the infected are casually entering the stock market, considering real-estate, and mandating an earlier bed time so they can get up early and make themselves breakfast, therefore negating the need to purchase expensive coffee-cart crullers. We’ve been domesticated.

No really, my girlfriend bought me a litter box.

Our forebears began their crazy lives at this age, sprouting the cash and pomp that comes from high end Wall Street jobs, and Conde Nasty-type assistant positions. In Armani and Prada they descended to the lounges of the districts, dripping with affection and self-congratulation. The oyster had finally opened to them, and they intended to shuck it whole, guzzling down the delights of the city as publicly as possible. Rumors persist of a man who made just made partner, and began pinning his new business card to each couch he defiled, thanks to his new position.

My friends and I, though, have settled in the lower-middle class. No longer subsisting on Ramen noodles, but still using rabbit ears to watch the Oscars. Ten different kinds of HBO seem like a far off dream. We watch how much we spend at the bars, still selecting locations that offer PBR at a price befitting it’s ancient blue ribbon status. We splurge by buying two DVD’s a virgin, where depressingly, the best deals in discs remain. We stay in most nights, trying to invent new sauces to spice up our usual pasta. We have just enough to make ourselves content. (Content. Such a vile word.)

Most depressingly, we wake up just before the alarm clock goes off.

Our body knows.

The evenings I spent out till morning light would throw off my world now. Even the idea of gathering up the crew for a night of debauchery that lasts past ten o’clock without people glancing with a yawn at their watches seems a dream.

Are we lame? Is this our fate for the next few decades, only to slowly be saddled with marriage and children and…

This is why people buy those expensive cars and leather jackets and Sam’s Club sized crates of Viagra, to stave off this feeling. My mere understanding of that is fearful enough. Unfortunately, due to my limited means, the only sporty red vehicle I can afford is a Radio Flyer.

Then again…if X-ibit can pimp a Honda…

Is simply reaching your mid-twenties such a death sentence for youthful exuberence. Or are we just smarter now. More reserved, careful, wisened? Where is the line drawn between moving with careful slow precision, and simply being a wuss? This is the question, my dear friends, for which I now quest.

If you'll pardon me, I have an appointment to bare back ride a shark. Moments after jumping over it. Don't worry I'll do it in a careful precise manner. Exactly the same manner, in fact, that the shark will bite my face off.


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