Now that I’m basking in the glow of my new PS2 and feeling overcome with nostalgia, I thought I’d take a moment to recant one of my favorite Christmas stories. My story doesn’t actually land on Christmas itself, but it happened really close to it. As far as I can remember (and my memory is extremely fallible), my best guess to the year that all this fuckery went down was somewhere around the tail end of 1998. I had finally turned 21, my band was finally starting to gain real traction on the scene and was gaining a decent fan base, and I finally begrudgingly got rid of all my Vanilla Ice merchandise that I’d been hoarding over the course of a decade.
The first six months of legally being 21, coupled with having gigs booked every weekend led to a little bit of…heavy drinking on my behalf. I was ecstatic to be able to play in bars without having to get a permission slip filled out in advance for every show. We had been grinding through enough practices and material to finally be able to run two to three hour sets of songs, with varying levels of quality. We were finally getting famous by headlining top-tier dumpster venues like the Broadway Grill and C’s Lounge.
Life was good. I was in real band, and I finally landed a well paying (albeit shitty) full-time job. I had ten different pairs of sweet JNCO giant-leg jeans, and I even had a college girlfriend! I had finally turned the corner from being an idiot teenager into a full-fledged idiot adult! In retrospect, it doesn’t seem like much of a personal accomplishment, but at that point in my life, I felt like the only thing that could stop me was the horizon.
So sometime in the winter, close to the Christmas of 1998, we went on an alcohol-themed adventure that came pretty damn close to killing me. Fa la la la, la la la la!
My college girlfriend Samantha (name changed for obvious reasons) wanted to go to some stupid gathering in a town that was far, far away. I knew this party was likely going to be full of nothing but rednecks, frat bros, sleeveless shirts and Budweiser. I was really against going, because the roads that night were snow-packed nightmares. I really didn’t prioritize risking life and limb to go party with a bunch of assholes as being high on my to-do list. But relationships make you compromise stuff, so after agreeing that she would drive, I would begrudgingly go, but only if I could bring my professional third wheel J.R. along as a chaperone.
The three of us piled into her sweet Geo Metro three cylinder teardrop car and proceeded to make the long and perilous journey to the sticks of Parker at the blistering speed of 20 mph. It seemed like it went on forever, driving into the empty night with nothing but a wide streak of white road ahead of us and a sky full of stars overhead. The three of us fought a lot about which music to play on the CD player. The age old argument of Tupac vs. Megadeth were beacons of simpler times.
After what seemed like an eternity of terror-filled alpine driving and arguing about the truth of the directions scrawled on the cardboard packaging of a 12 pack of Bud Light, we finally reached our destination. As we pulled up, a humanitarian smashed a window of the house with a rock and we were assured that we had finally arrived at Asshole Manor. Walking towards the door, I automatically put on my game face for walking into a party of people I’ve never met before. It’s a face that says “Leave me the fuck alone, but please point me in the direction of the alcohol” in a friendly way.
All of these parties during the 90’s and 2000’s consisted of the same shit. We would end up at a scary dilapidated house full of strangers, listen to some blaring terrible house music and drink somebody else’s beer until we came up with a better plan. This party was no different. All the interior lights were dimmed, and there were questionable sounds coming from any room with a locking door. This was par for the course in the Denver party scene.
Once we had settled in after an hour, we got funneled into a large bathroom with a pretty big group of people. Suddenly, everyone around us was sipping gingerly on Corona bottles filled to the top with red liquid. I turned around and noticed that Samantha had procured one of these as well. As she took the initial sip, she had one of the most pained look on her face that I’d ever seen. The beer bottles contained homebrewed schnapps that the host of the party had made himself. He claimed his “amazing” cinnamon rotgut had a proof of 190 and you couldn’t taste any trace of the bathtub in which he brewed it.
“I cant drink this crap. This is fucking gross. You drink this” pleaded Samantha.
“Fuck no. I hate cinnamon. You remember that time I got sick after eating 12 Cinnamonsters, right?” I said. “The toilet is right over there. Dump it.”
“I don’t wanna waste this. HE MADE IT WITH HIS OWN HANDS! We need to show him a little respect!”
“So if I drink this, and visibly pretend to enjoy this, we can leave this disgrace of a party and do something cool?” I said with a grin of a guy who just beat a guilty verdict with a technicality.
“Yes, Mr. Best Party Boyfriend. We can leave” she stammered, with a defeated look on her face. Under her breath I heard her mumble something under her breath about how she hoped her next boyfriend didn’t have the social skills of Gollum. It always irritated her that I despised all social events with a passion, yet I could go onstage, rip clothing off and harass anybody in the crowd with ease.
I took a tiny sip of the Red Death, and yes this drink tasted distinctly of both cinnamon and bathtub. But the only thing blocking me from the front door was this bottle, so I pulled it back and slugged down the entire thing in one big disgusting shot. I found J.R. in another room arguing with a guy over the how awesome the band Creed was. The three of us promptly gathered our stuff and made our way towards the door.
“Holy shit dude” said the host. “I wouldn’t have drank THE WHOLE THING! Better make sure you know the number to the coroner!”.
I called him a pussy or something as we made our way to our snow-covered Geo Metro. I was glad, like I am at most parties, that this one had finally come to a close. As the car warmed up, I was still unable to get the taste of cinnamon out of my mouth and complained about how long it would be until we were all in the warm apartment, back on the couch doing important shit like playing Zelda 64.
Halfway home, I started to have a religious experience.
I suddenly got one of the worst headaches I’ve ever had in my life, coupled with becoming drunk to levels I’ve still never managed to top twenty years later. Even with my eyes open, everything was spinning and my vision was warped and distorted. I started absolutely flipping the fuck out in the backseat. We must have pulled over at least three times so I could throw up on random driveways. I was bouncing all over the place trying to keep from blacking out. I’m pretty sure I was physically carried upstairs to J.R.’s apartment and left there by an angry girlfriend. To this day, I still don’t understand her animosity that night. This whole episode was entirely her fault.
24 hours later, I woke up and was still violently drunk. I crawled into the bathroom and threw up blood all over the place. I collapsed in there for a few hours and eventually I woke up, threw some more blood up again, and made my way back to the bed where I slept for at least another 14 or so hours. J.R. continued to play my Playstation copy of Xenogears and was mostly concerned with leveling up my Gear with all the best shit.
When I awoke again, I was still supremely messed up. I ate some old pizza and helped J.R. find a few hidden skulltulas in Zelda before I blacked out on the couch. When I woke up, two full days after the party, I finally crawled into my car and drove home.
By this time in my life, I was the new guy on the legal drinking scene. However, over the course of six months of being a booze hound and part-time musician, I had built up a decent tolerance. I didn’t go into this party looking to drink two wine coolers and get white-girl wasted. Even back then, I could hold my own. After pounding 16 ounces of almost pure alcohol, I logically should have gotten pretty wrecked. But not wrecked and mostly dead for three days. The best conclusion that I can come up with is that when the guy brewed his shitty schnapps, he either used dirty toilet water or forgot to burn off or dump the methanol. That’s a byproduct of moonshining that is basically acetone that human beings aren’t equipped to process. I just looked up methanol poisoning on the internet and I’m extremely lucky I didn’t go into a coma or have complete organ failure.
So, happy holidays to all of you! And stick to drinking name brand booze, and avoid drinking anything that tastes like it was created in someone’s bathroom!