Friday, March 22, 2013

The Worst: Probie'd

[If you missed my earlier post: This series of stories will explore some of my more embarrassing achievements in the category of "drunken fail". And if you're wondering what "probie'd" must not watch NCIS.]

There’s a bit of a contradiction to this story: Of the tales in this series, it occurred most recently, and at a time when I had already cemented my status as a star in the drinking game. In fact, it’s the only one that took place post-college. And yet, it all happened because I was young and naïve. …And stupid, basically (though that particular characteristic is sure to be a running theme throughout these stories).

It was the fall of 2005, and work had brought me to sunny San Diego. This was the fourth business trip of my young professional career, and by now I had earned the trust of customers and coworkers, having shown myself to be someone who could hold both his booze and his tongue. Most of them were either married, respected within the professional community, or—in many cases—both. If you have ever watched Mad Men or House of Lies, then you know that those are precisely the type of people that get the craziest after business hours, especially on the road.

But they were also old. Now, in fairness, I was 26 at the time; back then, anyone over 35 had one foot in the grave. At my current age, I see things a little differently. But the plain fact was that almost all of my coworkers and customers were on the other side of 40. And now that they had let me into their circle, surely I’d easily prove my superiority. Hell, I’d rise through their ranks and take the throne! Yeah! I could out-drink them with one liver tied behind my back!

*draws an arrow back to the earlier part about being stupid*

On Tuesday, the second day of the five-day conference at the Omni San Diego Hotel, we held an evening reception for attendees on the outdoor terrace. San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is magical at night from an elevated vantage point (as I would further confirm in 2008); when you add in the perfect weather and the glasses of 12-year-old Glenfiddich I was swimming through, it was damn near euphoric. Want to know the best part about being the most junior person at a business party? Everyone else is buying. Corporate credit cards were still warm, dry blankets of financial irresponsibility back in ’05. And there was plenty of room for a 26-year-old “kid” to curl up under one like a stray cat brought in from the rain.

After the party, a coworker (we’ll call him “Work Unk”) and I moved downstairs to McCormick & Schmick's, where the rest of our cool table—the bad boys and bad girls of the professional development conference—were to meet up. It might have occurred to me that my dinner had consisted only of several neat glasses of scotch and a few appetizers, but that didn’t stop me from waving off the bartender’s offer of a menu. No need, my man—I already know my order: scotch!

We were joined by Ms. Purple. She was a punk scene party girl in her earlier years; but now, in her 40s, she had “quieted down.” Now she focused on being an industry professional by day and dedicated mommy by night. But the wildchild gene was still in her blood, and on business trips she was dangerous. She had begun treating me like a little brother (to this day, in fact, she calls me “Little Bro”), and was now about to do the most “big sister-y” thing to me she could: Set me up for an epic fail, all for her amusement.

She bought a Buttery Nipple for Work Unk, who refused to take the girlie shot. Ms. Purple had barely motioned the shot glass in my direction before I was removing it from her hand and tossing back the concoction like a damn man…well, a man drinking a Buttery Nipple. Unk’s refusal to do the shot earned the kind of derision from Ms. Purple that was only to be expected. When pushed far enough, he defended himself by planting his foot in the turf and stating that he could go shot-for-shot with her all night.

Here’s what happened over the course of the next 97 seconds, in precise order:
  1. Purple accepted Unk’s challenge.
  2. Purple ordered up two shots of Jager.
  3. Purple reminded us that she was the only one with a rental car, and was therefore the night’s designated driver by default.
  4. Purple announced—without my warning or approval—that I would be taking her place in the challenge.
  5. Purple let loose an evil cackle from atop the cliff while watching me sail towards the ground below, with a fresh bootprint on my back.
Before leaving the hotel bar, another two rounds of Jager shots were done. They would not be the last of the evening. It was like the Jagermeister Hunger Games. Ever hear of immersion therapy? Well this was that in reverse. I didn’t fear Jager before that night, but now I flinch like a battered woman any time a bottle of it is raised in the air.

We eventually met up with the rest of our group: Papa, in all of his grinning glory; a sassy, cougar coworker (“High Heels”); a sassy, cougar customer (“Cowgirl”); and a quiet-but-funny customer who was openly gay (“Turtle”). The only thing anyone seemed to know (or would tell me) about the club we were going to was that Ms. Purple had picked it out. A wise man would have considered that more than enough information with which to draw up a few theories; but a wise man also would not have gotten into a shot-taking contest on an almost empty stomach after drinking scotch for a few hours.

The seven of us squeezed into Ms. Purple’s rented Toyota, Cowgirl sitting on either Papa or Unk’s lap [I just don’t remember anymore] in the backseat, and High Heels sitting on my lap in the front seat. I should probably take this moment to note that High Heels would, several years later, become my manager at my previous employer—more specifically, my team manager, who repeatedly reintroduced me to her husband in St. Petersburg last fall. Back in ’05, we’d worked together for over three years, but really hadn’t spent much time around each other. Now she was in my lap. As unusual as it all was back then, when the memory pops into my head now, it’s flat out surreal. The woman who signed my timesheets and conducted my performance reviews once sat in my lap in the passenger seat of a cramped midsize rental car while I was obliviously screaming towards my drunken fate like Major Kong. Life’s something, ain’t it?

We made a stop on the way to the club…at a sex shop. I was merely a passenger at this point—in both the car and the night in general. Ms. Purple had a specific purpose for stopping, but I (a.) didn’t want to know, and (b.) didn’t ask. …Though I think it involved nipple clamps. The rest of us toured the aisles of dildos and whips like tourists in a fuck toy hedge maze. I’m fairly certain Ms. Purple made a purchase before we left, but… That’s one of the rarely-acknowledged benefits to booze: Selective memory becomes that much easier—and merciful.

When we finally walked into the nightclub, things seemed...dull. It was hazy (could’ve been a smoke machine, could’ve just been my accelerating inebriation—flip a coin) and music was pumping, but that’s about it. There were some people, but if attendance numbers were in the double digits, I’d be shocked. And the chicks that were there…woof. They were rough-looking. They were the face “rough-looking” makes when it smells a really bad smell. They were a train loaded with ugly traveling south at 30 mph colliding head-on with a train loaded with butts that's traveling north at 27 mph. They were…men?


I tried to process everything I was relearning about the world. To that point in time, I had never been in a gay bar. Mind you, I wasn’t against gay bars, or homosexuality. I’m a cheerleader for gay rights, actually (the more guys that are into other guys, the more chicks there are for me! …oh, and basic human decency, equality, blah, blah, blah). There was a gay bar a couple of blocks from the apartment I lived in at the time, and I always wanted to check it out. But I had no gay pals back home, and I was far too much of a pussy [ironic phrasing] to go in alone.

The people in this establishment fit into one of two categories: either men dressed as women, or men dressed as themselves, their selves being men who had no interest in women. I was in the “men staring at women” category. Make that “woman”; as in Ms. Purple, who was with Turtle at the bar, the both of them laughing their asses off at me.

I knew they were interpreting my expression as me being uncomfortable about being in a gay bar. Keep in mind, my customers—and many of my coworkers—at that time were computer nerds, systems and software programming geeks, etc. A lot of them were nice people, don’t get me wrong; but these were not men and women with varsity letterman jackets collecting dust in their closets. So me being a big, towering, former college athlete, obviously I was in some way homophobic, right?

No, my stare wasn’t about being in a gay bar, it was about someone feeling I needed to be tricked into being in a gay bar. Purple never bothered to ask if I’d be interested in going, she just assumed I wouldn’t be; and, therefore, she conspired to win some kind of comedic victory fueled by self-righteousness. The irony, of course, was that she was being closed-minded by assuming that I was closed-minded. But whatever. I walked over to them and began hacking away at her smugness. “This is awesome! I always wanted to check out a gay bar!” I watched the feeling of satisfaction drain from Purple’s face a bit, before she called to the bartender, “Two shots of Jager!”

Fuck…I forgot she could do that.

I remember at least one more round of shots while we were standing at the bar. Then, at some point after that, I remember standing with Cowgirl, Papa, and Unk as we watched something happening out on the dance floor. What we were watching, I don’t know—thanks again, booze-induced selective memory. Though at that point of the night, my memories aren’t just selective, they’re mostly erased. I was blacked-to-the-out.

It wasn’t even 10:00 pm. *sigh*

I do, for whatever reason, remember stumbling through the hotel hallway, towards the door of my hotel room. Everything for hours before and after that, though, is gone. My alarm somehow went off the next morning, and my Wednesday…well, you’ve already read that part.

While Unk, Purple, and the like had a healthy arsenal of jokes that they threw my way for the rest of that trip, the postscript, on the whole, was fairly tame. Sure I had blacked out—early—at a gay bar with customers and coworkers; but I hadn’t vomited, I hadn’t gotten lost or arrested, and I hadn’t pulled a “Bangkok”. On the whole, those results weren’t bad.

Then, a few weeks later, a new story finally reached my ears. It went like this:
At some point late in the night, I had disappeared. Not for real long, but for long enough for it to be noticeable. Amidst this, High Heels went to the ladies room. When she opened the door, it slammed into someone on the other side. When she leaned into the bathroom, she saw me, standing with Cowgirl, with a guilty, sloppy grin on my face.
How can I say this?…

Let me see if I can put this into perspective for you: I, the most junior person on my team, had just gotten caught making out with an older female CUSTOMER, in the women’s room of a gay club, by a coworker of significantly higher rank who (at that point) had absolutely zero loyalties to me, all while blackout drunk.

You know that unshakeable little touch of paranoia that eats at your soul for the 24 hours immediately after you awake from a bad blackout? Well for the next couple of weeks, I began updating my resume every time senior management walked past my cubicle. I saw something different in High Heels’ eyes when she looked at me. You could say it was newfound respect for my virility, but I’d dated her secretary the year before that—my virility wasn’t on trial. No, this…was power. This was, “I know something that could jeopardize your ability to pay next month’s rent.”

I didn’t relax, really, until a few months later. Cowgirl emailed me for the first time since the San Diego trip. The topic was a work-related issue, but once we’d resolved that our conversation became more casual. Summoning courage, I admitted that I had heard “the story”, and apologized for my actions.

“Oh, no,” she replied, “You don’t need to apologize! I dragged you into the bathroom!”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Worst

The worst night, ever.

I’m rarely far from random hyperbole. To an extent, it’s just part of the gig. Booze, in those moments when it has hold of you, usually makes things bigger and bolder. And when you’re writing about the moments when booze has had hold of you, well… But I’m also a product of the society in which I live. And in today’s social-media-infused, live-tweeting day-to-day, each new moment is the funniest/saddest/most exciting/profoundest known to mankind. Ever.

But my worst drinking night—or, better yet, nights—ever? That, young Skywalker, is what you call “real talk”.

I began thinking about the topic while writing my hangover post.
Three tales immediately jumped to the forefront in my mind.
None of them has been published in its entirety before now, though certainly not for lack of entertainment value. And, while I’ve had terrible nights that have been broadcast at On the Rocks—like, say, my birthday in 2008—I rank these three higher on the overall list. Maybe that’s because all of them happened back when the therapy that comes from writing about my debacles just wasn’t available. Or maybe, by subconscious tally, I’ve determined these to be the three tales I reference most at parties and other moments with friends. Whatever the reason may be, these are the crème de le crème of my boozing fails.

[Coming Soon...]

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I did my celebrating yesterday, and as such am either dead in a gutter or dead on a couch at this moment. Slainte!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The New Normal

Sometimes, I feel as though I’m misleading you.

The nature of this biz—I say “biz”, of course, to blindly reassure my ego that this site is somehow a relevant part of the entertainment industry, despite what our paltry page hits suggest—is that the mundane gets filtered out. If I’m writing about a story, well…there has to be a story involved. Something spectacular and interesting has to have taken place for it to even be worth the time it takes to type it up.

The vast majority of the average human life, however, is filled with the boring shit that no one wants to read about. What I love about my friends and me, though, is that we don’t live average human lives. If 5% of a regular person’s life is reportable, my friends I are somewhere up in the high teens. …As is our maturity. But that’s a topic for another conversation.

Last Saturday I awoke looking to turn booze into happiness. I eagerly texted several friends, sure that they would be feeling the same way. One after the other, they shot down my hopes with little thought towards how my feelings would be affected. Selfish bastards. I hit up my one constant, my road dawg, Alex; surely SHE would be down to help me drink.

Me: “You putting on pants and drinking tonight?”
Alex: “Lol no I think I’m laying low…I have something going on almost every day in March.”
Alex: “So I’m taking advantage of the fact I have nothing to do today and being a huge bum.”
Alex: “Pantsless.”
Me: “All of my friends are disappointing me today.”
Alex: “Lol no one is on the drinking boat today?”
Me: “TD isn’t. Mitch & Swag are out of town.”
Alex: “I wish I was…the week was so stressful I’m ready to just veg out.”
Me: “I did that last night. Got it out of my system. Now I wanna put my dick in some Long Island Iced Teas.”
Alex: “I won’t judge you for drinking alone.”
Me: “Why would you? That’s like me saying I won’t judge you for not wearing pants. It’s just what we do.”
Alex: “#sotrue”

Eventually, Tony hit me up wanting to indulge in some Shadyside imbibing. Thank you, Baby Jesus. He came over in time to catch the second half of the Pens game, and to supplement his beer intake with a shot of Beam. We hit our first bar…I normally would give you the name of it, but I’m going to plead the fifth while giving you his and my exchange as we left for bar #2:

Me: “So I was looking at the bartender, and I kept thinking, ‘She reminds me of someone.’”
Tony: “Okay…”
Me: “I tried doing, like, word association, to think of who she reminded me of. ‘When I look at her face, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?’ And all I could think was, ‘Ham!’”

We hit Shady Grove, and Tony was well on his way to being me-drunk. “Hey,” he proposed, “Let’s do a shot!” To hang out with Tony Drunk Tony is to have shots thrown at you once or twice repeatedly throughout the night. It doesn't matter if you’re out to calmly forget about the workweek, or to get Bonnaroo-drunk; if Tony sees bottles of alcohol nearby, he’ll want to do shots.

I declined, knowing the kind of hell at the end of that path. “I’m not trying to go there tonight. I’m staying chill; no shots.” After listening to my words of wisdom, Tony agreed whole-heartedly. “Ahh, you’re right. Shots are a bad idea. Forget it.” Approximately 18 seconds later, the bartender walked past.

Tony: “Hey—can I get a shot of Crown?”


Drunk Tony is basically a two-legged version of “Dug” from Up. The rest of the night went as you might predict: me gently nurturing my buzz with Heineken and the like, and Tony dry-humping the night while wearing a big sloppy grin. My friends being above average, though, one last tale presented itself before night’s end.

For several months now, the running joke among some of us—particularly Swag and Mitch Canada—is one of Tony being a meathead. Now, to know him is to know that’s not true, though in recent years he has become seemingly more self-assured in feats of strength due to his continued dedication to weight training. He’s not a fitness nut preaching about flaxseed and posting workout quotes in his Facebook statuses; but the homie’s been ridiculously disciplined about his workout schedule over the last eight or nine years, after about 28 years of hardly ever glancing in a gym’s direction. And the resulting boost to his confidence is noticeable. …Especially when he’s been drinking…and when he jokes about flipping cars.

Back to Saturday. He and I were at Mario’s East Side, having beers at the bar and reminiscing about ten years ago, when we were the age of most of the people in there with us. I saw Tony engage in conversation with a guy who had walked up to the bar, but didn’t hear what was said. He was an average kid in his mid-20s, clean-cut with a regular build. Whatever words of charm Tony laid on him seemed to strike a chord, because the guy added two shots to his drink order, and then handed them to Tony and me. We tossed back the shots and thanked the stranger for his generosity, though my friend felt the need to offer more than that. “…And hey,” he said, momentarily halting the kid from returning to his buddies at a nearby table, “If you need any help tonight, if anyone gives you a hard time, you let us know!”

While the shock of what he’d heard caused the guy to pause and stare at Tony, my shock caused me to fill the silence. “Wait, what the—did you just offer to be his bodyguard?!”

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Hangover Part III

Yeah, I know a thing or two about hangovers. So you can guess where I'll be when The Wolfpack's grand finale is finally released.

Wifey Material: Mila Kunis

Jennifer Lawrence is probably the only A-list Hollywood actress with a personality more grounded than Mila's. This isn't just how personable and funny guys want a beautiful celebrity to be; this is how personable and funny we want every woman to be. Sadly, ladies, 90% of you just aren't.

And the girl knows her booze (4:30 mark). *sigh* I give this kid a lot of credit for keeping it together as well as he does. If I were in his shoes, I probably would've fainted the second she shot that eyes-narrowed, I'm-about-to-make-you-love-me look.

Mila, please kick Ashton to the curb and marry Chris Starks. A woman as awesome as you deserves better.

*on the floor*

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Social Drinking Excellence: Jamie Jeanette Craft

An Arkansas woman running around with no pants on? Somewhere out there, President Clinton's grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

Start the clock...
  1. To be fair, if you were stuck in Arkansas, wouldn't you drink at least three times the legal limit, just to cope with being stuck in Arkansas?
  2. ...In fact, shouldn't the "legal limit" be a minimum, and not a maximum, in Arkansas?
  3. Wait, she crashed her car into a mobile home? First of all, the term "mobile home" has always seemed a little inaccurate to me, since I don't think I've ever seen one on the road. I know they have wheels, and it's not the tornadoes that are delivering them to the trailer parks. But every time I see one, it's completely immobile. And second: If these things are mobile, how are they always in harm's way? Tornadoes, hurricanes, drunk drivers, and childhood obesity just seem to have a radar lock on mobile homes.
  4. SHE GOT AWAY?! Who was the officer in pursuit? Clancy Wiggum?
  5. You know, last year some of us bought TJ's son a Power Wheels for his birthday. Looks like I have an exit strategy.
Jamie, your Rummy Award's in the mail. I included some extra batteries in the box, for the next time you're on the run from Sheriff Buford T. Justice.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wifey Material: Maria Menounos

I mean, do I even have to explain why?

Just look at the flawless form she shows while holding her glass of front of her flawless form. You've even got to give it up to her for the cleverness of the caption she included: "Life is good."

Nasir Jones couldn't have said it better himself. And if you think life is good now, Miss Menounos, just wait until you're Mrs. D.E.F.I....

...or when you're eventually ex-Mrs. D.E.F.I. That, I'm sure, will be pure ecstasy.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Hangovers

I was legitimately concerned. I had awakened after a night out with friends—a night in which I had slammed empty glass after empty glass on the bar—with no ill effects. Maybe I had a slight twinge in my head, at first. But that went away after a few hours on the couch. I should have been half-dead in a nauseous haze. My friends certainly were. But I was fine.

For a split second, I wondered if I was a superhero.

A high alcohol tolerance sounds awesome, until paranoia takes over and you start thinking about your uncle who died of cirrhosis. It’s incredible how removing something you loathe can send your world into chaotic unbalance. (This also applies to ex-girlfriends…)

Luckily for my sanity, my imperviousness to hangovers was only temporary. The wretched aching of mind, soul, and body soon returned, bringing even more torment with it the next time around. (…this also applies to ex-girlfriends).

The hangover is a strange animal. You’re (normally) guaranteed to come face-to-face with one the morning after your drunken fun, but you never quite know how sharp its claws will be. Or which of your vital organs it’ll bite first. The brain is its favorite prey, but we’ve all had stomachs and intestines ravaged by the beast. Regardless, you know pain and hatred of everything are the two constants that you can count on the morning after a good boozing session.

Some people like to brag about knowing of surefire hangover cures. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Those people are full of shit. There’s no easy way out—aside from drinking more booze. This past New Years, my hangover was remarkably downgraded. Typically, New Year’s Day is a 24 hour struggle to think a thought without falling over, crippled by a crushing weight of pain. This one, though, was a breeze. It took me a day or two to realize what I’d done differently. The answer? I’d started the first morning of the year by taking a shot of whiskey at Shannon’s. Those Irish…they have the instruction manual to the world that the rest of us have been longing for.

I’ve had, of course, a litany of hangover experiences. Although drinking more booze works best in the short run, it usually just f’s you in the long run (though I’m thinking of experimenting with this solitary shot of whiskey thing, pending a returned phone call from Shannon). The most common remedy I employ, of course, involves throwing lots of food at the beast, and hoping it’s distracted as I float away on a tide of Gatorade while wearing aspirin floaties.

As you might expect, quite a few of my best and worst hangover moments have been covered before. Like Sunday at Ohio University; or the day after my 29th birthday; or the flight home from Vegas in ’11; or the Wednesday of my Savannah trip in ’10; or…hell, spread out all of my On the Rocks tales and throw a dart, and you’ll probably hit a morning and/or afternoon when a hangover was using my skull like a blowup doll. Of the unpublished tales about my encounters with the spirits of spirits passed, here are some of my more noteworthy moments:
  • One winter day, in early 2003, was a prime example of “let’s eat so much that our hangovers leave out of sheer disgust”. As per usual in those days, we’d spent Saturday night drinking our faces off in the ridiculous Mt. Washington house where my homie BlahBlahBlah lived. And, as per usual, we all awoke late Sunday morning in a state of, “What-the-everloving-fuck did I do to myself last night?!
    Besides me, only Affliction, LRG, our boy Michael T., and BBB were still in the building. Feeling the need to replace our bodies’ missing hydration
    with grease, the four of us triaged in the living room—on the first floor of the house—beckoned to he with a bedroom (BBB) for leadership. Without moving from his bed—on the second floor of the house—BBB directed us to the stash of delivery menus he and his roommates kept in the kitchen.
    We soon found a deal to our liking: two pizzas, one hoagie, 40 wings. We called in that order like a boss. Shortly after it had arrived, BBB made his one and only trip downstairs that day. He tore off the top half of a pizza box, shoved half a pizza, a quarter of a hoagie, and a share of wings onto it (in seemingly one swipe of his hairy arm), then sauntered back upstairs to his room. When the last of we downstairs-dwellers left the premises that afternoon, nothing but discarded pizza crusts, hoagie lettuce, and chicken bones were left on the kitchen table.
  • That, of course, hadn’t been my first time going to battle with these gents against marauding hangover armies. In 2001, all of us (minus LRG) had been at Thiel College for homecoming weekend, crushing beer pong, winning bars, and cuddling dogs. The next day, before returning to civilization—well, something like civilization—in Pittsburgh, the four of us and Sales Machine stopped at a nearby Pizza Hut.
    My assfucked-sideways state, and the avalanche of mozzarella, pepperoni, and tomato sauce that buried my cerebral cortex, have forever hindered my ability to remember any specifics regarding the financial or quantum metrics of our feeding frenzy. I do remember Sales having a hookup with the manager that resulted in us eating at a drastic discount, though. Aside from that, the only commentary I can offer: If you mention that event to any of the five of us now, the immediate response is, “Uggghhhhhhhhhhhh…
  • One of the more blissful moments of the 2003 Ocean City trip was the very first morning in town, when I realized that the hangovers had stopped at the Maryland border. When you drink all day, sleep for 4-5 hours, and then wake up and start drinking again, hangovers want no part of you. The problem, though, is if you keep that up for a week and then spend the entire car ride home without booze, you go through legitimate withdrawal. By the third hour of the drive you’re hallucinating and yelling racial slurs at the magical llamas dancing along the side of the highway while the Easter Bunny slaps you and demands that you tell him where you hid all of his PCP-filled eggs. You may have avoided a hangover for seven days, but withdrawal is its angry, sadistic, rapey older brother.
  • In late-2001/early-2002, I was fresh out of college in a post-911 world, and thus still looking for a full-time job. This meant working temp jobs for a local college—manual labor/warehouse jobs, for the most part. In those days, Wednesday dollar-drink nights were a regular staple of my diet. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Manual labor on a hangover at 8 a.m.? That doesn’t sound like fun!” (a.) You’re right, but I was 22/23 and unconcerned with self-preservation; (b.) fuck you.
    Thankfully, the office admin for the warehouse was a middle-aged woman named Sandy. And Sandy was a sweetheart. And Sandy treated me like her favorite nephew.
    I walked into her office one particularly bad Thursday morning; she looked me over and said, “Go lay on the desk.” There was a spare desk in the far corner of the large office, tucked out of view from the office windows. I laid down on it and let the alcohol fumes coming off my skin lull me into a vegetative state. After 10 minutes Sandy warned, “Here comes the boss—get up!” I rolled off the desk and into its accompanying chair. The boss carried on past the office; Sandy gave me the “all clear”, and I returned to my prone state on top of the desk, where I rested for another half hour.
    We found one within a few miles of us, plugged in the GPS coordinates, and snarled louder and more angrily at the computer lady each time the turn we took wasn’t into Ponderosa’s parking lot. When we finally arrived, tiny angels floated us from my car to our booth.
  • At the time, Dupa and I thought we had created a new tradition. Indeed, the following year Chappy, TD, Baby Joey, and TJ joined us in the buffet line. Sadly, though, that “tradition” halted in its tracks in 2011. I honestly can’t remember how I spent 1/1/11, but I can guarantee I didn’t spend it hammering through plates of wing-dings and lumpy mashed potatoes.
  • As for 2010; after Dupa, Chappy, and I left Ponderosa, we congregated at my place. And since I had just purchased A Very Sunny Christmas on Blu-ray and there were bowl games on…we ended up camped out in my living room all day like refugees in the war between booze and livers, watching Always Sunny and college football while noshing on hoagies, calzones, French fries, etc.
  • One of my worst bar nights during a work trip came in San Diego in 2005. The night itself has been mildly referenced here from time to time, and surely deserves its own moment in the spotlight. But for now we’ll focus on the aftermath, which came early the next morning.
    We were in town to throw our annual fall conference for our customers, which meant I had to report for work at 7:30 that Wednesday morning. I shuffled/stumbled down to the hotel’s conference space lobby at 7:52, wobbly and reeking of booze—despite having showered. My friend Michele took one look at me and abruptly said, “No.”
    “Go back upstairs and go back to bed,” she ordered. “I’ll call you in a few hours for lunch.” I obediently turned around and shuffled/stumbled back; I awoke four hours later in a confused—but much more alert—state, to a ringing room phone.
  • I, of course, was only following the precedent set before me by my coworkers. One of the first times I traveled for work, in March 2004, I was too new to be invited to the parties our customers threw. And since I hadn’t played in any of the reindeer games, I was in sound condition when my program manager—a former colonel who had spent part of his career in the Pentagon—stopped me in the main hall of the posh Orlando hotel where our conference was being held. In his often gruff and direct tone, he growled, “So you’re alive?”
    Me: “Yeah…”
    Him: “Weren’t you at the party last night?”
    Me: “No sir.”
    Him: “Ah, that explains it. *smiles* From what I hear, we have a few men down this morning.”
  • After a bachelor party in 2004 where I got hit on by a stripper and blacked out before reaching the Pittsburgh city limits, I awoke on the porch of my mother’s house. And it’s not like I was sleeping on a chaise lounge chair; no, I was passed out on the hard concrete…in full view of her neighbors.
    My car was at Tony’s, 18 miles away. My phone was…well, I didn’t know where my phone was. It was MIA. Most of my recollection of the night was, too. When I’d come out of my blackout, I had been leaning against a random van parked in the backstreets of the South Side at 3 a.m., waiting for I-don’t-know-who to come take me home. My mother looked out her kitchen window at 7:30 on a Sunday morning to find her 25-year-old son snoring on the concrete porch, next to a bottle of Miracle-Gro.
    Then, to compound her pride, she had to drive me out to pick up my car from Tony’s wrecked house (the bachelor party had started there with three kegs and two strippers doing wonderfully lascivious things to each other) while I chugged Gatorade from her passenger seat and ruined her car’s upholstery with my booze-laced pores. I wonder if, in that moment, she regretted not having other children? You know—just so she could’ve hedged her bets.
I’ve always said that the hangover is god’s little way of telling you, “Job well-done.” Of course, the true measure of a man isn’t whether or not a hangover knocks him down; it’s how fast he picks up his next drink.