Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Top 5 - Hangovers

Saturday night I went to a surprise birthday party for my friend Sammy. His birthday was the 26th of February, but his wife held the party on Saturday March 1st which made it an even bigger surprise. I've known his wife, Marisol, long before he moved to the mainland from Puerto Rico back in 1990. She was one of the first Puerto Ricans I ever met when I moved to Northampton Massachusetts from Boston way back in 1977. Her brothers Manny and Hector were amongst my best friends growing up. When I RSVP'ed for the party I mentioned that it was my birthday on the 1st.

The party was held at the VFW hall in Florence. Start time was 6 O'clock, but my wife took me out for a birthday dinner prior to the party so we showed up at 7 PM, fashionably late. A bunch of guys from my old neighborhood were there, plus guys I used to play softball with, so the beers started flowing...and flowing...and flowing. At one point the lights went down and Marisol came out with a birthday cake for Sammy. Everyone sang Happy Birthday then got back to the business at hand, drinking. A few minutes later Marisol came out of the kitchen with another lit birthday cake. In my drunken haze I didn't make the connection until she started toward me, laughing. My face turned from the pinkish glow I had from my slight state of inebriation to a deep scarlet brought on by embarrassment. It was a nice surprise and found out later that even my lovely wife had hidden the surprise from me. As soon as folks realized that it was my birthday too, the flood gates opened. I didn't spend another minute the rest of the evening without a drink in hand. What was going to be an evening of dinner and a few drinks with friends had morphed into a night of full blown Bacchanalia.

Sunday morning was hell. The dim light peeking into my bed from beneath the shades was blinding. My wife, taking mercy on me, kept the kids occupied while I lay in bed wondering if I were dying. I have always had a high tolerance for alcohol. I've never blacked out, but have definitely done some stupid, fucked up things while cocked. Saturday night wasn't one of them. I basically got drunk, went home and went to sleep. If I drink water right before bed I can usually avoid a prolonged hangover and function. Saturday night I was so drunk I walked in the house, walked to the fridge, looked in, looked at the sink and then walked to my bed. I didn't have enough energy to get a cup and turn on the water, thus massive hangover instead of run of the mill hangover. As I lay in bed past noon (my wife usually doesn't show much mercy, but it was my birthday "weekend", so she was extra understanding) I thought about how this hangover compared with other memorable hangovers. I can never rate which hangover was the worst because hangovers are like childbirth, once they are over you forget how bad they were thus get drunk/have a baby again. Here, in no particular order are my Top 5 Most Memorable Hangovers:

Spring 1980

You never forget your first. I had been a seasoned drinker since I was 13. Always in moderation, never drunk. We would steal beer from parents coolers or fridge's and drink one, two tops. Just enough to get the beginnings of a buzz. Half the time we wouldn't even drink a full beer, but faked it just to be cool. I was now fifteen and went up to our local ball field armed with two bottles of Donelli Lambrusco that me and my friend Rich had an older kid in the neighborhood get for us. The red wine was warm and tangy going down. It burned coming back up. I stumbled to my house and up the stairs to my bedroom. I woke up in the morning and the room was spinning. My head was pounding. This was the first time I told myself that I would never drink again. The next weekend we upped the ante and got a case of Narragansett.

Winter 1985

I had gotten a job at a nursing home. Two nurses asked me to go out drinking at a bar just over the Vermont border in Brattleboro called "Flat Street". Since we were all 19 and the drinking age in Mass was 20 it made sense to drive 40 miles to VT where it was only 18. Besides, these girls were HOT, how could I say no? The night was a debacle. After making out with one of them on the dance floor the other, who was the driver, stormed out. I asked my dance/make out partner why her friend was so upset. She said that her friend had a crush on me, then turned and went after her friend. I went back to the bar firing down 100 Proof Vodka Collins thinking that the girls would come back in and that maybe they were just hashing out the details of the menage a trios that was to follow. They never came back.

The details of the rest of the evening were too many and are probably worthy of their own post, but the highlights were running into an old girlfriend, more making out, smoking weed, hitching a ride back to Massachusetts, getting into a fight, and waking up in a snowbank outside my apartment with the sun coming up. I lay in bed for a good part of three days only getting up to puke, piss or drink water. I was shaking like a leaf on a tree. This was most likely alcohol poisoning coupled with hypothermia, but I never went to the hospital. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

June 1992

I was on the Cape for a week with some clients from a residential group home I was managing. While one of my staff stayed sober with the clients me and my friends spent Sunday drinking. We started the day with Cape Codder's (Cranberry juice and Absolute) went to the beach with a few cases of beer, went back to the beach house to have dinner which consisted of steak and beer then went out to some bars to drink some more. I woke up the next morning with a run of the mill hangover or so I thought. I went into the bathroom to take a dump. Like most guys when I was done I took a look into the bowl to see what kind of masterpiece I created. I did a double take. A cold sweat washed over me from head to toe. There was a white log floating in the bowl. At first I thought that maybe it was a balled up piece of TP, but upon further inspection it was indeed a white shit. I called to my friend Mike to confirm and he said "wow Sull, that's really bad". With that I crawled into my bed, curled up into the fetal position and started to shake. As the morning wore on I realized that when I woke up I was still drunk and the hangover was just starting. It was a creeper. I didn't get out of bed until that evening, drawn out by the sounds of the men playing poker. I wasn't the same the rest of the week and I even had to go back to Western Massachusetts on Wednesday, three days early. I didn't feel right for weeks after the Cape. I finally went to the doctor. Diagnosis: Dehydration brought on from excessive liquid consumption with depletion of electrolytes, possible alcohol poisoning. I can say that I haven't had a worse hangover since and that this event was a wake up call. From this point in my life on I drank with a new found, relative, moderation. Relative is the key word.

October 17, 1992

I know the date because it was a week before my wedding, the night after my stag party. The details of how I got drunk are once again worthy of their own post, but here are some highlights (or low lights, six of one half dozen of the other). Two kegs, fifty guys, gambling, strippers, Sambuca, ten cases of beer, race riot, ambulance, cops...I got home at about 3 AM and my bride to be was still out with her cousins who took her out, what else, drinking. When she did stumble in we took turns puking for the next 12 hours. We stayed in bed all day, cancelling plans to have breakfast with her mother, alternating between sleeping and barfing. The only thing that gave me comfort was knowing that she was feeling worse than me. We were already like a married couple.

March 1997

I was on a golf trip in Orlando with me a seven other guys. The routine was this: Wake up early, drive for an hour, play 18 holes at a spectacular golf course, head to the clubhouse for drinks, go back to the hotel for more drinks poolside. Take a shower with drinks in hand. Go to dinner. Go out to a stripper bar or some other bar. Get drunk. Go to bed. One night late in the week we had a particularly wild night which included much of the above. When morning came we were due to play golf at Metro West Golf Course which was relatively close to the hotel, so we had a little extra time to lay in bed. This was a mistake because I fell back asleep. When the men realized that I wasn't at the car they sent someone up for me. When I got to the car the men gave me a standing "O". I gave them a wave and then disappeared behind a bush for some much needed dry heaving. When I appeared back at the car the laughter was deafening. I closed my eyes and lay back in my seat. Instantly we were getting our bags out at the course. The first hole was a slight uphill par four. I mustered up every bit of energy and concentration I had and smacked a ball 250 yards down the middle, one of my best drives of the week. My approach landed ten feet from the hole. I just scared the edge of the cup and tapped in for par. As reached down to pull my ball from the hole I started to dry heave. I thought for sure my head was going to pop off. I walked back to the golf cart and put my head in my hands. I didn't get another par the rest of the day, but recovered in time to have some "hair of the dog" poolside. I took it easy the rest of the week.

As you see I haven't had a memorable hangover in ten years. Relative moderation, age and kids have changed my drinking habits. (Being hungover with kids yelling, banging and shitting in their diapers is the worst; in the five years since my oldest has been born I've had about one hangover per year) My life is too busy these days to spend a day in bed "recovering". I still go out on occasion and tie one on, but instead of weekly its now just a few times a year at an occasion or event. I haven't gone out for New Years in fifteen years or St. Paddy's in 5. The appeal of drinking for drinkings sake is gone. I can still throw 'em back and love to get my drink on. I drink strickly for effect as I'd rather drink milk or soda with meals and water to quench my thirst. I will still get drunk on occasion but with trepidation and caution. This is one Top 5 list that I don't want to add to. I hope the rest of my hangovers are forgettable.

My wife sent this to me in an email. I used to love "Cheers" and this is one of my favorites.

The Buffalo Theory

In one episode of 'Cheers', Cliff is seated at
the bar describing the Buffalo Theory to his buddy, Norm. I don't think I've ever heard the concept explained any better than this.

'Well you see, Norm, it's like this . . . A herd
of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.

In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells.

Now, as we know, excessive intake of alcohol
kills brain cells.

But naturally, it attacks the slowest and
weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine.

And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers.


Suldog said...

Great post.

My own first - as you say, you always remember your first - was also a red wine induced one. I was on vacation in Ireland with my parents. I was 14, I believe. We went to a Medieval Manor kind of place - food served on platters, eat with your hands, entertainment by actors playing serving wenches, the king, etc.

Well, they also served huge casks of red wine on every table. No drinking age. Add those two together and you get a very drunken 14-year-old Jim before my parents saw what was happening and shut me off. The rest of the night was a blur. I'm sure I became part of the entertainment myself.

Next morning? Sick as a dog. No matter how much water I drank, or milk, or whatever, I felt as shitty as I've ever felt, before or since. My head pounded, I had utterly incurable dry mouth, AND we had to fly home that day, so the compression in the airplane cabin didn't help at all.

Ugh. More than 35 years later, I still get a shiver reliving it.

Mushy said...

Wow, been there done most of that!

I've written about two of my worst on the blog (Keesler and Vietnam), but one of the top 3 was at a Christmas party. A friend told me to drink Pepto-Bismol before drinking and you could last longer. Well, the truth is, you can, but the bad part is that you become drunk all at once...just like flipping on a light switch!

It hit me and I was like that horse in Animal House...I knew I was drunk and I hit the front door for air. In the yard I lay in the frost of a 20 degree night and made frost-angels as my "friends" video taped me answering all kind of questions I shouldn't have answered!

David Sullivan said...

Yeah, but you guys never took a white shit! (well, now I have to remeber who I'm talking to, y'all probably have.

Dave said...

My worst was my first, the spring of 1989. A good friend of mine at the time lived near a series of highway roads that (at the time) had never been used. They were gated off, weeds growing through the cracks and the like. But you had overpasses you could huddle under away from the prying eyes of parents and police.

So he, I and a few of my friends score a case of Coors Light, a bottle of Peachtree and I am pretty sure that vodka was involved. We walk down the hill, hack through some growth and walk down one of the would've been two-lane roads to an overpass. There we proceed to drink everything. We then start staggering down the road towards what would've been the on-ramp about two miles away from my friend's house because it seemed like a good idea. At which point "The Sicks" began.

So it's a two-mile trudge back to my friend's house, punctuated by copious vomiting and people dragging their near-unconscious friends (sadly, I was a dragger and not a dragee). We reach the house, eat a handful of toothpaste (as if our breath was the concern) and pass out.

The next morning it was like a thousand little hammers were pounding on my head in unison. It stayed that way all day long. And all night long. It was my first ever day-long hangover. I've had harder ones of shorter duration, but nothing will ever beat being 17 years old, hung over and having to sit through a weekend high-school dance with the blaring music and flashing lights in a gymnasium.

That, my friends, is Hell.

Dave said...

Oh, Jim - was it Bunratty Castle where you got your drunk on? My wife and I went there on our honeymoon.

CapCity said...

Wowwwww! What an education I got here. NOW I KNOW i'm a light-weight! LOL!

Spanky McCloud said...

I can't remember where my first hangover occured, but I do remember (I think) it involved Southern Comfort, which is no comfort the next day. I've had numerous (and worse) hangovers since and every time I convince myself it will never happen again, but inevitibly, it does. My last bad one was 4 months ago. I usually have a bad hangover a couple times a year. I don't know if that makes me a raging drunk or what, but I feel like I might be due for another one soon.

I haven't ever pooped white, but I have woken up with a cracked lip and sandpaper tongue from breathing through my mouth all night. That's a fun experience when you're trying to drink gallons of water and your cracked lips are bleeding all over the glass. Good times, good times.

Andraste said...

I've had some pretty bad hangovers - used to name them like the weather service names hurricanes, using the name of whoever else was involved or the object of whatever party or concert it was.

"Hangover Elvis" was pretty bad, but "Hangover Nick" has the distinction of being the first hangover that was bad enough to make me call in sick. I'll spare you any real details, because some of these descriptions in your blog post and in the comments pretty much cover all that a hangover is or could be, and it doesn't bear too much repetition.

But I have NEVER experienced "Moby Shit" which I think would have sent me to the doctor post-haste. Or to start writing my will.

I salute you.