Newly legal adults, Reina, Krista and Gauraa, recount six happy/sad/free/confused/lost/lonely moments from their underage past with neo noir pseudo-seriousness.
By Krista Caproni
You don’t know despair until you’re two months shy of 21, standing in the rain, while a Webster Hall bouncer decides whether or not you’ll be allowed into an 18+ Jonas Brother show (yes, singular Jonas brother). I have been there one too many times before. And almost equally tragic is being forced to forge a career as a backup singer just so you can attend your coworker’s show at a 150 capacity venue. I was 20 and working in music licensing, handling mechanical royalties, and while society deemed me responsible enough to handle TAYLOR SWIFT’S money, I was still somehow an unworthy belligerent maniac/liability to venue owners across America.
Cubemate Lo invited me to his band’s show, which just so happened to be– my favorite–21 and over. But I was going to get there. I write about music sometimes (see: this) so I thought it’d be worth a shot to drop the press thing on the venue, in hopes of blinding them with free publicity: “It would be great for you!” Unfortunately I was met with an email response reassuring my place as substandard citizen in this world yet again, letting me know I would need “a parent or guardian” to attend. Beautiful. Next plan of action was to get my sweet, angelic manager, only in her 20s herself, to claim me as her niece, thus providing the “guardian.” She was down. But then I had a bright idea. I would simply tell the venue I forgot to mention that I am in fact in the band! Must’ve slipped my mind! And by the grace of God they fell for it, or more probably, pitied me so deeply that they pretended to. #Bless. They replied, complete with exclamation: “If you’re performing that’s fine. Just speak with the doorman upon arrival!” Speak with the doorman I would.
The night of the show arrived and I put on my brave girl panties and marched down First Ave like the new woman I told myself I was. I made sure to arrive alone and extra early for maximum believability. I approached the older man at the door, smiled wide, batted a lash or two, and handed him my ID, casually throwing in, “I’m with the band.” He was all smiles–not yet knowing who he was dealing with. Soon the mood turned bleak as he asked “You’re not 21?” “No but it’s alright. I’m performing,” I said. “What do you play?” he asked, more accusatory than necessary. I stood my ground: “Backup vocals.” But it wasn’t good enough. I could see it in his eyes. “You’re going to be on stage right?”
I almost broke. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I’d gotten so far: “Yes, of course!” “You have to be on stage,” he said, looking deep into my soul, as he marked my hands with two black exes and held the door. I never stepped foot on that stage.
By Gauraa Shekhar
Since my only two friends in New York were “romantically engaged” in the scorching summer of 2014, I spent most of my weekends behind discounted Strand paperbacks at this bar within walking distance from the bookstore itself. It started off as a fairly innocent thing: I saw a cute twenty-something waiter through the window and decided to step in. I was having an off day (see also: my ever-growing sense of ennui) and since I’d already purchased a collection of short stories that included experimental narrative arcs about bestiality and post-apocalyptic London, it only made perfect sense to sit down with a drink. I kept my cool as I ordered a tequila martini (listed under “trouble” in the drinks menu, fyi) and hoped I looked jaded enough to pass for a twenty-something myself. The waiter looked at my ID, and to my dismay, asked me zero questions about the wondrous state of Ohio, for I was ready and willing to spew vivid details about my made-up childhood in Dayton (the German-Indonesian minority population, my obsession with Scat Records, transferring out of the Oberlin Conservatory, borrowed Guided By Voices lyrics, etc.) He came back with a shaker, gracefully emptied the contents of which into a martini glass until the tequila vermouth concoction danced along the rims without spilling. He asked me what the book I was reading was about. As provocative as reading In Between The Sheets may have looked, I hesitated before telling him the titular story was about a father’s suspicion that his teenage daughter is in a relationship with her older midget girlfriend. He was intrigued and revealed to me, in exchange, that he was a stage actor. The conversation escalated to flirtation.
It wasn’t long before my Saturday afternoon visits became a weekly occurrence. After leafing through a couple paperbacks and sipping through several free tequila martinis, he asked me out. He insisted on making reservations at nice places, the kind of “nice” places that would unflinchingly put up a nice picture of me on their respective walls of shame. My roommate insisted that I give in and take the chance, or at least stop pretending to be twenty four (“Nobody can be under the weather two weeks in a row”). I went along with the reservation and after sitting down at this bar, I finally hushed a confession. The lady who took our orders didn’t even look at my ID but that didn’t stop him for asking for the check. That’s life, I suppose: one minute you’re talking David Ives, the next your life itself becomes a one-act play. I was now a “teenager,” despite being only months away from twenty. And that’s my story. I lost the guy but found a new bar. As luck would have it, they had cuter waiters and a book shop across the street.
“The First Time”
By Reina Shinohara
Before I tell you about the first time I used my fake ID, I should probably tell you how I got my fake. We had a friend who had a friend who knew a guy, who, I guess makes fakes as a side gig. You know, as it always goes. She gave us a phone number and vague instructions. She said, “Call the number and tell them you want to ‘buy a baby’”, or at least that’s how I remember it going down. And I mean what better way to amplify the sketchiness of the situation than to imply that you want to purchase a human as a commodity, right? Anyway, we called, said we wanted to buy a baby, and of course the guy says he has no idea what we’re talking about. I mean, if someone called my phone and asked to buy a baby, I would probably call the cops, so props to him for not doing that. Long story short, our friend had to talk to her friend who talked to his acquaintance and sorted it out and in a few short weeks we met the guy in his time between classes and soon were sitting pretty with two mediocre Delaware IDs each.
The first time I tried to use my ID was funny. I decided to test it out at a corner store in a neighborhood that I don’t really frequent, so I would never have to show my face again, in case I got caught. It was also a store that I had heard from friends who heard from friends that supposedly is lax about the ID situation. I scrutinized my ID in my car before I went in, memorizing and reciting my fake Delaware address, trying to think of Delaware fun facts just in case they asked. I even came up with a story in case I was asked what a Delaware girl was doing in California. (Side note: Never in my legal aged life has anyone ever asked me about my address or where I’m from, but I’m willing to bet that every underaged delinquent with a fake birthday can also recite their fake address and at least 5 fun facts about their fake state of residency.) I finally walked into the store and tried to act casual, strolling along the aisles to pick something out. It was then that I realized I didn’t know anything about alcohol, beyond the shitty beers and cheap off-brand liquors that were abundant in my high school life.
I wanted to pick out something that would make me seem like I was in the know, so there was no doubt that I was of legal age to purchase it. I didn’t want to have to speak to the cashier except for when I was paying, lest my voice falter and I blow my cover, but I wanted a small bottle and they were all behind the counter. I finally sucked it up and asked for Bacardi Peach because I’m a classy lady. He put the bottle on the counter and looked at me for a good ten seconds and said “$10.” After all of that, this guy didn’t even ask to see my fucking ID.
“Lewis Del Mar”
By Krista Caproni
With newfound confidence from my first success, I attempted to tackle yet another 21+ not too long after. Lewis Del Mar were coming to Rough Trade, a venue I’d heard a bit about but hadn’t yet been able to experience. I knew they sold records and ignorantly assumed they’d be some type of Brooklyn vaping hipster organization with little to no regard for any age restriction. Still, I prepared for the worst. I copy and pasted my email from Lo’s show about the backup singing and sent it over to the venue three weeks prior to the show. That would be my ticket in for sure. But no response. And after a follow up, still no response. What was I to do?!
It was the day of the show and I still wasn’t sure. I asked my coworkers about the venue. They all told me not to bother. It was strict and there was no way I was getting in. Some even shared their own horror stories of friends being denied at the door. But I would not be one of them. I purchased a ticket before I left for the day and made sure to get down to Rough Trade as early as possible–key in any underage attempt. I browsed records and made sure to stay by the classics, so employees knew I was #mature and #refined. I stuffed my real ID in my bra and made sure to have my work ID easily accessible–one that beared only my name, picture, and place of work– The Trump Building. Despite the many negative associations the world as a whole may have with Trump, working there simply screamed “young professional, definitely over 21.”
I saw the band walk in after I’d been there for at least an hour and realized getting to a show two hours before doors was probably suspiciously excessive, but you live and you learn. People began heading in and I knew it was time to move. I made my way to the man taking tickets after nervously knocking over a stack of Sufjan Stevens records and handed him my ticket, and only my ticket, as if to say, “Being ID’d is simply below me.” But, “ID?” he asked. I laughed in fake embarrassment for forgetting. Silly me. I placed my hand in my wristlet, at first calmly “searching” for it. Then I made the natural progression to dumping all my shit on the ground, as any mature young professional would (also made sure to have cigarettes on hand and proudly displayed because only people over 21 smoke!): “I’m so sorry. I can’t seem to find it. I’m going to go see if I dropped it somewhere.” I went and paced back and forth through the aisles of records, even stepping outside for a bit to “check” the sidewalk. I came in frantic: “I’m so sorry I think I may have dropped it on my way here or left it at home!” “Where do you live?” he asked. I had anticipated the question and decided I would go with Westchester–where I once went to school, so I would be prepared if he needed specifics. Much too far for me to go back and look for it. He didn’t ask me to. “But I have this,” I said holding out my work ID. He looked, took a minute to deliberate, and I was in. And now I know there is one thing, and only one thing, Donald Trump is good for.
By Gauraa Shekhar
There is nothing good about Fontana’s. In fact, its description alone (“three bars, a pool table and live music downstairs [that] draws a diverse crowd to this funky tri-level club”) should already send you running in the opposite direction. You just know when they say “diverse” they really mean “entry-level bankers in dark charcoal suits with a penchant for funkreggaerocksoul” and god there’s nothing worse than entry-level bankers in dark charcoal suits with a penchant for funkreggaerocksoul. That said, I’ve been to Fontana’s too many times. I’ve also been kicked out of Fontana’s too many times. You see, an editor of mine is a massive “phan” and I can almost chalk up my LES musical misfortunes to the press requests he receives based of his status as a Phish devotee. Look, I’ve made my peace with Phish but these godawful cover bands and their equally awful names (not to snitch but, um, jahman brahman funked up) belong in the seventh circle of hell. It’s almost always the same deal at Fontana’s: an out-of-town jam band, probably from Miami, probably playing Phish and/or Galactic covers, probably on a Thursday night. Ties are loosened, sleeves are rolled, and nobody thinks about the band or the night ever again. Since I had nothing better to do in the summer of 2013, my Thursday nights invariable left me at a crossroads. Grand and Eldridge, specifically. Some nights I’d stand outside and decide against it. Some nights, partially fueled by boredom, if not self-hatred, I’d try again.
The first time I had successfully gotten in relatively drama-free because my date was significantly older (but had gotten kicked out once the bartender downstairs overheard my date ask me if I’d managed to get rid of the X’s on my hand). The second time, a punk band I was friendly with had invited me to see their side project. I presented my fine piece of laminated plastic at the door, argued extensively with a man double my height and width until he eventually decided he found my tenacity amusing enough to return my fake and let me in with two sharpie’d markings. But sobriety at Fontana’s is comparable to being all the way up the creek without a paddle so I let a banker (ALSO FROM MIAMI) buy me a drink. As you know, nothing restores an empty spirit like free beer. I made it through most of the show before a man came downstairs yelling, “The journalist is underage! The journalist is underage!” Now, I don’t know how or why their staff is so meticulous, or how they found out, or more importantly, why they cared so much that I was thirty months under the legal limit when there were HULA HOOPING ADULTS around. But they had their priorities in order and, apparently, those priorities included escorting a harmless eighteen year old, who happened to be writing about their show, and her legal pad (ha, ha), outside.
And, well, as much as I’d like to tell you this was my last time at Fontana’s, it was only weeks before I found myself on the F train, heading uptown from Brooklyn, upon my editor’s request. I made a call which triggered a series of calls, which, in turn, sent a burly man to mouth the word “press” to the doorman so he could let me in. Nobody checked my ID, nobody sharpie’d me. I was even laughably referred to as a “journalist.” I walked up to the bar with measured dignity and opened a tab. I left before the end of the show, but this time, voluntarily. I was never going back to this funky tri-level club again.
“One Night in Austin”
By Reina Shinohara
This is a joint story that happened to both Gauraa and me during our time at SXSW. We were obviously underage and Gauraa did have a fake at the time, but it doesn’t count because it was a New York fake, which is debatably the hardest state ID to try and fake. So you can imagine how “good” her fake was (RIP). It was our last night in Austin before we had to take a 7 am flight back to Syracuse, so we thought, why not try and do something fun? We read about Perez Hilton’s “One Night in Austin” party that was exclusive, ticketed, and 21+, so of course it was exactly the kind of fun we wanted to be having. All the hottest artists were going to be performing, and obviously we wanted to be there, so all inhibitions aside, we just decided to stroll down to the Austin Music Hall to see if they might be letting peasants like us inside.
The events that transpired next could only have happened to a dynamic duo like Gauraa and me, with our wit, our charm, and our cunning. I’m kidding. We just got really lucky. We found a badge-holders line and crossed our fingers that they wouldn’t be checking IDs, despite the fact that this was an exclusive, 21+ party (solid logic, right?). There were a group of girls in front of us who looked like they were in high school, and lo and behold they were a group of 16 year olds who claimed to have attended this event in the past. The poor bouncer/volunteer at the door was so distraught, he had no fucking idea what to do, but anything would have been better than what he did next. He said he would go ask his supervisor to see if he might be able to let in a few underage girls if they X their hands and swear not to drink (LOL!) and walked away from the gate. I repeat, this dude just WALKED AWAY from the gate where he was supposed to be checking IDs and told us to hang on a sec. So naturally, we all just strolled inside, because, well, no one was there to tell us not to. So several long island ice teas later, Gauraa and I were out on the balcony, and she discovered she lost her brand new pack of cigarettes and it was time to leave. We went back to the hotel to pack up our stuff and hop on a plane in a few hours, but we’ll always have the memories of dancing hard, spilling “iced tea,” and Perez Hilton in his plaid tracksuit. RIP SXSW 2013.