This weekend was tough for all of us as we digested yet another horrific incident involving innocent people whose lives were cut way too short. Somewhere through the coverage surrounding the events in Newtown I thought about a post detailing what we as writers could do to make a difference. As I rolled it around in my head I realized those of you who read my stuff have been so inundated by the around the clock coverage, one more talking head wasn't needed.
Instead, I figured now would be the time for some well-needed levity. The question was what to write. I could have done another piece on my current projects, but gratuitous self-promotion didn't seem right. I briefly toyed with typing out the continuing adventures between me and my 12-year-old daughter, until I concluded it would be more soap opera than comedy. In the end I came upon the idea of writing about a chapter of my torrid, middle-class, white bread life. Specifically, the first and last time I got stupid, ass-falling drunk.
What does this have to do with writing? Um, give me some time to come up with a plausible answer.
The incident took place during my Junior year at college, circa 1850. It was Spring Break and I was involved in my usual ritual - sitting home in a state resembling frozen pudding. With cash somewhat limited and all of my friends getting drunk, naked, and arrested in various Florida locales, I relied on television of the day to keep me occupied. Oh, wait...I said this took place in the nineteenth century. Replace "television" with "duotypes".
Somewhere during one of the longest weeks of my early life my parents informed me they would be leaving the house over the weekend for business/family related trips. This meant two things to my young adult brain. First, I was responsible for taking care of the home I grew up in to make sure my parents' mortgage payments wouldn't be wasted. Second, the liquor cabinet was open for business.
My history of excess drinking was limited up to that time. I attained my first official buzz at a neighborhood party where my friends and I celebrated our high school graduation. About a year later I made the move up the inebriation ladder to the rank of High and Mighty Drunk. You know the type -- the guy or gal who touts their brilliance to other drunks while they stand barefoot in a puddle of stale beer while trying to figure out how to work the keg tap. This night of debauchery led to my first experience with the dry heaves and a car ride home with the driver side window open to let in the freezing, late March air to keep me conscious.
Needless to say I was unprepared for what was about to happen two years later when I invited my childhood friend over to the now empty house for some drinking and running of the classic Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines buddy-cop movie Running Scared. We began our night with wine coolers - the manliest of man drinks from the late 20th century, but realized they weren't giving us the buzz we wanted. This is when we made our way to the liquor cabinet. Being drinkers so casual they were practically dead, the parents' inventory was vast, with some items dating back to the Revolutionary War.
My friend and I decided on a crystal decanter filled with a clear liquid. Thinking it was vodka, because what other liquor was clear, we alternated between Screwdrivers and straight up drinking from 16 ounce water glasses. Like the wine coolers before them we didn't feel anything as we pounded down numerous glasses. That is, until I got up to change the movie.
Funny thing about the human body - very little happens to it while in a sitting position. Go from sitting to standing and you get a good deal of circulating blood. Once it starts to circulate the effects of heavy drinking begin to exert themselves. Within a few minutes I went from cognizant to heavily buzzed, to...well, all I can tell you is this; if the Internet were around at that time and my friend had a camera, the YouTube video of my drunken idiocy would go viral in seconds.
To this day I can recall small bits and pieces of what went on after I went into full s*#t-faced mode. There was a good deal of laughing, screaming, and running around. I know I held my friends head down while he got sick in the kitchen sink. I remember calling my younger brother at college, thinking I was spouting the most eloquent prose in my lifetime, According to my brother, what came out of my mouth was more in the realm of "Blsaofeowdlglgglsobowydoblsy! Hahahahaha!".
Somewhere down the line I got sick myself, and not in the designated household receptacles. I reverse drank in several places around the living room, kitchen and hallway, never coming close to the bathroom. At one point, after I woke up from a bout of unconsciousness, I found my friend pulling down my pants.
"What are you doing?" I screeched.
"You threw up on yourself," he replied. "I'm taking them off."
I pushed him aside and stumbled away to get sick and pass out in another part of the house. The thick drunken fog began to dissipate in the early morning hours. Finally making it to the bathroom and changing out my clothes I surveyed the scene while hugging the wall so the centrifugal force of the spinning house wouldn't throw me out a window. It wasn't pretty, and neither was the smell coming from the shag carpeting. At the time I didn't have five kids who simultaneously get stomach viruses, which meant I was clueless how to clean it all up. Shaking the vestiges of the alcohol out of my brain I came up with the most ingenious of ideas...I used the vacuum. Not a wet vac or a carpet shampooer, mind you; just a run-of-the-mill Hoover upright. In no time at all the sick was sucked away, and I passed out on a now-cleanish carpet.
Morning came clear and crisp for everyone in the world except me. Things did not go smoothly for the 1st half of the day, including a period when I needed to throw up in the midst of a phone conversation with my mother. Since my parents were several years behind when it came to cordless phone technology, I blessed the inventor of the 25 foot cord as it reached into the bathroom.
There was also the matter of my house feeling like an oven. No matter how many windows I opened the heat still blazed. Hours later I discovered my friend and I had ramped the upstairs thermometer to 90 degrees during one of our drunken chases. In addition to these dilemmas everything I ate and drank over the next two days tasted like the alcohol I pounded down. The final straw was the discovery that the the now empty decanter wasn't full of vodka after all. It was rum, my arch-nemesis and the liquor that coursed through my body during the first drunken experience. Like New Jersey Housewives Caroline Manzo and Teresa Giudice, rum and I are no longer on speaking terms.
What does this have to do with writing? Okay, how about this - everyone has a story to tell, even if it's one full of stupid events you'd prefer were buried in a box, under a rock, in the deepest ocean trench on a planet in the Alpha Centauri system. Don't be afraid to tell it, because you don't know how much good it will do for the person reading it. And if it makes them smile and you crack a grin yourself it may make you feel the world isn't so crazy after all.
EPILOGUE: A few weeks after Weekend at Richie's took place I returned home for Passover Seder. Somewhere between the tasting of the bitter herbs and hiding of the Afikomen, the subject of the vacuum came up. For some reason my parents were smelling puke every time they used the silly thing. Fairly honest person that I was, I admitted to the crime and spent several hours the next day scraping sick out of the vacuum's insides. They continued to use it for two more decades, despite the lingering aroma of vomit.
The moral of the story - get drunk at someone else's house. Or the moral could be - buy a brand new vacuum so you don't end up scraping puke out of it on Easter break.