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.

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