Of all the ways you can entertain your 15 year on a Friday night in NYC, getting her drunk and then stealing a Christmas tree is not among the most responsible.
It started with Mexican Bulldogs at Benny's Burritos on Greenwich Avenue. A seemingly innocent drink that tastes sweet, but not too cloying and boozy, but not too strong, nothing like the usual firewater cocktails they serve up in this city. It's a frozen Margarita with a corona tipped upside down into it. Possibly on reflection, they don't seem that innocent and the name may be a clue to the trouble that lies ahead. Anything with bulldog in doesn't sound like a soft option. Come to think of it, there are no soft options in this alcoholic town. You can easily get drunk on two cocktails due to the lack of measures and the fast and loose pour of the bartender. They want you drunk so they'll make better tips. You want to be drunk. This is a mutually satisfying relationship.
The Mexican Bulldogs were discovered when The Welsh were in town. The fourth lot of Welsh since I arrived. This time my best mate's brother and his girlfriend, who patiently tried to explain the science behind the Mexican Bulldog. I just couldn't get how the Corona was going down as I sipped the Margarita through a straw. It was something to do with physics they said. I still don't understand now. In the middle of my second Mexican Bulldog, I also didn't care. I was still trying to fathom how I had not yet discovered these fast tracks to nirvana on my previous visits to the restaurant just two minutes from the apartment.
It was love at first sip. That night we went to the lighting of the Christmas tree at The Rockefeller Centre and despite being feet away from Aretha Franklin, Shakira Shakira and Rod Stewart, the only conversation was about The Bulldogs.
So the following Friday I take The Teenager to Bennys and we order up some Bulldogs. Well who else is going to appreciate a new booze experience better than a 15 year old?
I tell myself she is nearly 16 and if we were still living in Cardiff she'd be on first name terms with most of the bouncers by now. Such ability of sense and reason did not last for long. We must have only have two or maybe three Bulldogs and then the next thing I know we are trying to get into a bar. Am I trying to have a pub crawl with my teenage daughter? Who is not 3 but 6 years underage here? Yes, it appears so. There'll be no ID problems at this joint, we've gotton in before without ID.
''Oh no," I slur "This is my sister and she doesn't have any."
"She can't come in then."
"But she's British?"
''We're British, we don't do ID."
"You can't come in either then."
Fuckity, fuck, fuck. The night is young and I want to drink more.
''Let's nick a Christmas tree." says The Teenager, eyeing up the stall over the road.
I don't remember what I said in reply, but it can't have been much in the way of parental protest because after a quick tactics meeting we are grabbing an unwrapped 10ft pine from the end of the stall and dragging it away.
We haul it over the road and The Teenager falls on top of it.
''Get up, for fuck's sake!'' I shoo her off the road and grabbing the tree I run as fast as I can, in order to get out of the line of site of the stall holders.
We go the long way home to avoid detection and drag the pine by it's top, so it's shedding needles along the pretty cobbled streets of the West Village. We march past bars where people double take out of the windows and we surprise those sitting on their stoops smoking. Some people talk to us, cheer us, shout. I shout back that we have 'liberated the tree'. My reasoning is something along the lines of 'The tree began to nature, they stole it from nature, we are liberating it back'. This is fairly weak considering I planning to hold it hostage in a small 2 bed apartment, rather that release it back into the Norwegian forest.
We turn the corner onto 7th Avenue past the homeless medical centre and a manned NYPD police car. Then we bump into a couple who collapse into laughter and ask us what we're doing to which I shout 'Liberating a Christmas tree!'' and they ask if they can take pics and then The Teenager and I are standing in the middle of 7th Avenue posing drunkenly with the stolen tree and then we are talking to the couple and they are inviting us to a party in Chinatown and The Teenager wants to know if it will require ID and I say more importantly we have to get the bloody tree home. And then we are talking about Flight of The Conchords and how they would make a Liberating a Christmas tree song and then we are all singing that song and then they offer to help us get the tree into our building and then the lady is taking my email, cos she says I must have the pics, even though I know they will be awful and drunken and I think what a cool pair of Americans. That's a first.
Then we are dragging the pine through the front door of the apartment and The American is sitting on the sofa eating take out which actually falls from his mouth when he sees the giant tree, which now looks even more massive in our Manhattan broom closet. The Teenager and I are singing the Liberating a Christmas tree song and then we explain that we actually stole it and then he really is shocked.
But then he gets quite excited at the danger of it all and he insists on going to the 24 hour Duane Reade to buy a stand and I say
''Get me a Diet Dr Pepper!"
And The American goes off muttering how all Welsh are "fucking mental".
And I know that whatever else happens in our lives and however much we fight and she thinks I am uncool-The Teenager will never forget the night that her and her mother got drunk and stole a Christmas tree in New York City.
Liberating a Christmas Tree: That's how Christmas should be.