6B Wednesday October 8,2014 The Statement
Wednesday, October 8,2014 Thestatement 3B
ou're lucky I'm not an asshole," my
father said to me on my 21st birth-
day. "I could have easily black-
mailed you by takingsome photos."
Birthdays have always been a strange
occasion for me. I wouldn't say I've ever had
a "bad" one, but it's difficult to say that I did
anything remarkable or memorable.
As I neared my 21st birthday in August,
the feeling of actually becoming an adult took
over. And it was scary.
Having a summer birthday usually seemed
to take away the stress that came with becom-
ing older and gaining more responsibilities.
- always appreciated my birthdate - Aug. 18
- because it acted as a good divider between
the other major events in the year. It was also
a cushion before the new school year began.
The only time I can remember getting emo-
tional on my birthday was when my family
visited my auntcand uncle in the Bay Area dur-
ing the early 2000s.
After enjoying an ice cream cake shaped
like a watermelon, I went to bed that night
deep in thought. Maybe it was because I had
too much dairy or because I really felt upset,
but I went to the bathroom to let it pass.
As I sat there hoping the feeling would
subside, I suddenly began to cry. Thoughts of
death, getting older and becoming an adult
crept in my mind. Perhaps it was triggered by
the adolescent thrill of eating a fruit-shaped
cake that madetears flow. All I know was that
I had stayed in the bathroom for a good 20
Maybe it had to do with me being the baby
of the family. I would never complain that my
parents looked out for me more than my other
siblings and tried extra hard to imprint what
was wrong and right in my head. Being the
third child, I guess it all came with the terri-
Still, as Igot older and more birthdays came
and went, the momentous day was marked
with pretty reserved celebrations: going to
the Mets game, seeing David Beckham play
in person, going out for sushi, having my first
beer (at least according to my parents' knowl-
For my 21st birthday, my parents suggest-
ed going to a shuffleboard club in Gowanus,
Brooklyn, where I lived. Though I wasn't
opposed to theidea, it didn't exactly make me
giddy to hang out with aging hipsters at a place
that literally could only exist in Brooklyn.
As Aug. 1 neared and my time at home and
summer job crept closer to the end, I was
reminded that I had been summoned for
grand jury duty in Downtown Brooklyn.
I didn't think much of it at the time. I was
a student soon returning to Michigan for the
fall semester, so why would Iever get picked?
The only concerning thought that came across
my mind was that I had to wake up before 9
a.m. to get to the building.
With my paperwork and phone in hand, I
slouched down in a seat at the Kings County
Court building, waiting for the moment when
I finally gotto leave and get along withthe rest
of the month.
As the man in charge asked all students to
come up, I assumed I would verify that there
would be no way I could stay in Brooklyn long
enough for duty, and accordingly, get on with
"Are you in classes right now?" he asked.
"Well, no, but I'm leaving for Michigan on
the 20th," I replied.
"Great, this goes, from the fourth to the
15th," he quipped back.
As I sat back down confused as to what just
happened, I began to realize that, shit, I might
just get selected for grand jury duty.
As each name was called, my hopes began
to rise again that I would not be called. Then
"Daniel Feldman. Please raise your hand if
you're in the room. Daniel Feldman."
Slowly, my hand rose.
I wanted to be angry, but what good would
that do? I was later told to report back to the
building on Monday for orientation.
After never truly experiencing a stress-
ful August day in my life, I suddenly had two
weeks full of stress because my weekdays
would be spend in court, following by week-
ends of working at my summer job in a local
With that, my early entry into adulthood
had begun. Each weekday for two weeks
I woke up at 7:30 a.m., prepped my lunch,
packed some reading material and workout
clothes, then headed to Jay Street to decide
whether people should be indicted for a crime.
I won't lie, it wasn't the worst thing in the
world; albeit the courtroom was as cold as an
igloo and the vending machines only carried
All things considered, it wasn't a bad way to
make an extra $400 for sitting down in a chair
and tryingnot to fall asleep.
As harmless as it turned out to be, my par-
ents still felt guilty that I had to serve jury
duty. Even though I was basically being paid
to just sit there, my father said he'd give me
$100 if I had to sit all 1odays.
I don't think he understood at that moment
how grand jury duty worked but I wasn't
going to argue with two crisp $50 bills.
As my last day of jury duty came to a close, I
felt older for some reason.
Maybe it was because of the tragic nature of
some cases I saw. Maybe it was because I was
among the youngest on the jury, which made
me realize I wouldn't have to do this again for
a while. Maybe it was the concept of waking
up early, commuting to "work" and riding the
train home with the "work crowd."
Or, you know, maybe it was all just leading
up to the relief I felt because I was finally free
from responsibility. I could act young again,
like a soon-to-be 21-year-old.
With my last of work at the restaurant Sun-
day, I made plans to go out with my co-work-
ers to celebrate my last shift and my birthday
After getting cut around 10 p.m., I rushed
home to take a shower and freshen up before
hittingthe town. As I tied my shoes, my moth-
er walked in half asleep to wish me an early
happy birthday. She also gave me the usual
"don't do anythingstupid, be safe" speech.
While I took the message to heart, I really
had no idea what was going to happen in the
next five hours.
After a brief refuge back at the restaurant,
we walked to a bar down Flatbush Avenue.
With a SixPoint IPA in my possession and my
friends gathered around me, we waited forthe
clock to reach midnight, signaling the begin-
ning of the next stage in my adult life.
As the clock struck double 12s, I imme-
diately yelled out, "Shots!" The next thing I
knew a shot glass of whiskey was in my hands
with a beer in the other acting as a chaser.
I knew this could mark the beginning of a
path toward blacking out, but I couldn't care
less. After a month of acting like an adult in
some capacity, I was finally ready to act my
age and, well, do somethingI might regret, but
And so the parade of drinks began, with my
coworker Juan floating out the crazy idea of
hitching a cab to a strip club in Queens at some
point during the point of no return.
What did I have to lose?
From the combination of kind of knowing
I was at a strip bar and being very drunk, I
was very scared, despite my new legal ID, to
confront the bouncer at the door. But after my
friend Drea yelled for all to hear that it was my
21st birthday, the bouncer immediately let us
in. "Have fun," I remember him whispering.
So I sat at the bar in front of the stage,
drinking a beer and watching the show. I
would have enjoyed just sitting there taking
in the scene, but I was escorted into the side
room for, um, VIP service. I don't really know
how to explain a very drunk lap dance, nor do
I care to try.
Returning to the bar, I felt pleased but not
really sure if I experienced it all the right way.
Fortunately, my friends dragged back in there
again an hour later, before last call, to go for
round two. At the end of it, I wasn't sure how
to handle the payment.
When we finally left the club at 4 a.m. to
return to Brooklyn, I felt the most drunk I'd
ever been. Walking into the building's lobby,
I approached the doorman, who I'd had
many serious, deep conversations about life
throughout the summer.
Finally feeling like an adult, I could have
easily had a brief but serious conversation
with him. Instead, I have no idea what I said.
Just like when I was 16, I found myselfback
in the bathroom. But this time, it felt good to
grow up and embrace what would come next
in my life.
Oh yeah, I also passed out next to the toilet,