Thursday, January 06, 2011

Top Five Mornings After

My most loyal commenter over the past couple of years, JES, kindly sent me a link the other day to an article in the UK's Guardian newspaper on The 10 Best Fictional Hangovers.  (I do read The Guardian online fairly regularly, but this had somehow passed me by.)  All the expected entries are there: Kingsley Amis' Jim Dixon feeling as if he's "been expertly beaten up by the secret police", and Richard E. Grant in Withnail & I announcing, "I feel as if a pig shat in my head."  And there were a few that were new to me, too.  An amusing waste of 5 minutes.

And this got me to thinking, What incidents from my own experience might I compare to these?

Well, the problem is - as any long-standing readers of the blog might just conceivably recall - I don't get hangovers.  Not really.  I had ONE, an oh-god-NEVER-again humdinger after my brother's 21st birthday party (when I was only 14); and I think that set my pain threshold so high that I've never really suffered any post-drinking unpleasantness that seemed worth complaining of since.

However, I have - a handful or so times in my life (mostly in my first year or two at college, funnily enough) - drunk so much that I suffered a near total blackout about what had happened the preceding evening, and had to try to piece together the "unfortunate events" from the fragmentary clues in my immediate environment when I returned to consciousness the next day.  I think I can probably muster a Top Five from those experiences.

My Top Five Strange Morning-After Experiences

5)  How did she get there?
Well, I was a pretty wild drinker on occasion during my first year or two in Beijing as well.  I was too poor to drink anything other than the piss-weak local beer, but I'd often stay up half the night shooting the shit with my two best buddies, drinking solidly for 6 or 8 hours at a stretch.  After one such occasion, I was mildly alarmed - on rising shortly before dawn to stumble to the bathroom for an emergency piss - to discover a naked woman sprawled on the floor of my shower.  (Full story here.)

4)  TRAPPED - in my own trousers!
I had a good couple of years in Oxford in the '90s, returning to the scene of my wild undergraduate days to work as a private tutor for a while (after a nasty illness had punted me out of my schoolmastering career).  Because my old college buddies were not long out of that carefree world of drinking every night (far enough distanced to be starting to feel nostalgic for it, but not yet encumbered with the mortgages and marriages and so on that would get in the way of occasionally reliving it), I became a fairly regular focus of weekend reunions - often having three or four buddies crash out with me in my small (two single beds and a couple of armchairs) flat on Walton Street.  After one of the best of these - the exact details of where we went, and how much we drank, and WHY have always remained foggy; but there must have been A LOT of booze consumed - I found that I had stupidly hobbled myself by attempting to take off my jeans without removing my shoes first.  The jeans were stuck fast, wrapped around my ankles, pulled only a little way past the end of my toes; the legs of the jeans had somehow become so twisted that they were practically cutting off the blood supply to my feet.  And I found I'd given myself horrible rugburns dragging myself to bed.  I rather feared I was going to have to cut open a nearly new pair of jeans in order to extricate myself, but - with some difficulty - I eventually managed to slide a pair of scissors up inside the bottom of the trouser legs to snip through my shoelaces; after which, I was (not without some further struggle) able to remove the shoes, and finally the trousers.  That was probably the most angstful first twenty minutes of consciousness I have known the morning after a heavy night.

3)  Mysteriously neat
After one of the heaviest of my early college drinking experiences, I awoke the next day feeling remarkably tranquil and refreshed - far better than I had any right to, after the excesses of the night before.  Remarkably good physically; morally, I confess, I was a little troubled - there were nagging doubts that I might possibly have behaved badly the night before.  As I looked around my tiny student room, the first indication that something was seriously amiss was my clothes: they were folded neatly on the upright chair beside my desk.  Not casually draped over the chair back (as I'd usually leave them, if I went to bed moderately sober); not discarded in a rumpled heap on the floor (as I'd usually leave them, if I went to bed moderately drunk); not still on my body (as I'd often leave them, if I went to bed very drunk); neatly folded.  Further investigations revealed that I didn't have my room key, either; how on earth had I got to bed the night before??  Well.... as near as I can piece it together, a group of my new friends called down to me from an upstairs room (where they were, I believe, having the also popular but much more genteel tea-and-toast kind of undergraduate party - tea and toast at midnight??  oh yes, we were young and crazy then!) as I returned to the Freshmen's accommodation block after an evening of over-indulgence at some 'cocktail party' or other (all the rage in '80s Oxford, in the wake of the enormous success of Granada TV's adaptation of Brideshead Revisited - and a particularly dangerous phenomenon for the inexperienced drinker, because you never quite knew what you were imbibing or how strong it was; plus, these things tended to be all-you-can-drink deals, and an 18-year-old knows no self-restraint!).  One of them had lost or mislaid her room key, and we had already ascertained (don't ask me how) that her key and mine were a match (there were a lot of these key pairings in that building; not awfully secure, really), so she asked if she could borrow mine.  Recklessly, I tried to throw it up to their window 30 ft above.  Amazingly, I succeeded (though probably only after umpteen botched attempts; this detail is not recorded).  The friend only took a minute or two to open up her room, while I waited down below, in the small courtyard inside the building gate - next to the rubbish bins. Then she threw the key back down to me.  And - unsurprisingly - I had missed the catch.  It seems - although at this point my friends' versions of events became very sketchy, and not entirely consistent - that I convinced myself that the keys had fallen into one of the giant wheelie-bins (no lids on the darn things, or the lids open!!), and so I'd climbed inside it to try and retrieve them; I failed to find them, but made rather a laborious effort of climbing out again, and may have fallen and hit my head slightly as I did so.  At which point, two of my friends from the room above descended to rescue me - escorting me back to my room, undressing me, putting me to bed, and folding my clothes up for me.  Yes, they were  both girls - I blush for shame.  One of them was the one I'd been lending my keys to; hers, it seems, had somehow been locked inside her room, and she'd used them to open my room for me (convenient!).  My keys - which apparently hadn't been in the bin at all, but lying on the ground in more-or-less plain sight - were recovered by someone else, and returned to the College Lodge for my collection later.  Gosh, we were a friendly and helpful community - the joy of being a member of a small college!

2)  You don't want an audience for this
Fast-forwarding several years again to my spell back in that second-floor flat on Walton St in Oxford in the '90s... this was where I first started hanging out a lot with my two good buddies (and occasional commenters on my blogs) James The Nags and The British Cowboy (although he was yet to become The Cowboy), who were both stalwarts of the Oxford Union, and thus regularly managed to get themselves invited to the weekly freebie debauch of the Presidential Drinks (this was nominally a thank-you party for the celebrity guests who'd spoken in that evening's debate; but in practice the star speakers almost invariably headed straight off to a hotel somewhere, or tried to catch the last train back to London, so it was just an enormous piss-up for the Pres, and his friends, and the friends of his friends...).  A few times one or other of my new pals would entice me along to one of these (I didn't require a lot of persuading, truth be told).  And on one particularly extreme occasion... just as I was about to head home, at 1am or 2am, already severely pissed, The Nags lurched up to me, barely capable of speech but with an excited gleam in his eye.  "Look what I've found," he burbled, and produced an unopened bottle of Highland Park whisky from behind his back.  I think we drank at least half of it over the next couple of hours, with only a little help from a couple of other revellers.  In fact, the lion's share of it was mine.  I didn't have to work until the early afternoon the next day (a 16-year-old student was coming to my flat for a private Latin lesson), but, after consumption like that, I slept deeply until very shortly before then.  I found that on getting home I had managed to disrobe, but hadn't made it to the bedroom; I had crashed out in an armchair, wearing only my boxer shorts.  I had only ten minutes or so before my class was due to begin.  And I had a nagging feeling that I must have thrown up somewhere when I got home.  So, I spent several minutes running all over the flat half-naked, madly searching in every obscure corner I could think of for potentially embarrassing patches of vomit.  Mercifully, I appeared to be living in a vomit-free environment after all.  But I now had only about three minutes to spruce myself up and put on some clothes.  It was at this point that I noticed a pair of window-cleaners had been enjoying my strange performance...

And the doozie of them all....

1)  Ships that pass in the night
During my second year as an undergraduate (we don't use that 'sophomore' terminology in the UK, you know), I was very unhappy in my studies, and drinking.... well, for a while, way too much, I admit.  I think I was sort of experimenting with it as a drug, seeing how blitzed I could get with it, rather than just enjoying it as a mild buzz and a social lubricant.  I was - on just a handful of occasions - doing things like drinking a third  or more of a bottle of vodka, and then going down the pub for the night.  On one of these occasions I achieved a complete memory wipe - a blackout period whose contents I was never able to piece together, because I had apparently not been hanging with any of my usual friends (at least, not after the early evening), and so didn't have anyone to give me helpful reminders.  As with No. 3) above, I felt indecently well on waking, positively serene.  But the scene that greeted me in my room was even more puzzling than in that earlier instance.  I was naked in bed, apart from a pair of boxer shorts and my socks (I usually took my socks off, but put a t-shirt on to go to bed).  I was wearing a pair of sunglasses (at night, indoors, in bed??  and I didn't own any sunglasses!).  Two empty bottles of white wine were on my coffee table (I hadn't had any wine in the room, so I must have bought them from somewhere that night).  Strangest of all, dozens of my record sleeves were strewn across the floor; and some of my records were out of their sleeves (I would never, never, NEVER treat my records so disrespectfully!).  Ah yes, and there were two wine glasses on the table - one of them with lipstick on it.  I had evidently had one of the great music-enthusiasm-sharing evenings of my life with an entirely unknown young lady (but a lady, it would seem, of some taste and discernment).  I was very disappointed that I was never able to discover who she was, that she never came back to see me again.  I do hope I didn't do anything to scare or offend her that night.  (I think it's very unlikely; I'm just not that sort of guy.  Anyway, I like to fill in the gaps of that strange night with positive fantasies...)


JES said...

It's early in the year, of course, and I don't get around to The Barstool very often, but I must at once put this post on your roster of Froog's Greatest Hits. Well done!

(It did occur to me while reading the ships-in-the-night entry that you should have checked yourself out in the mirror a little better. Just to be sure, you know, that you weren't wearing any lipstick.)

Like you, I don't get hangovers. But I also don't usually drink enough (or maybe I just hold it too well?) to have really interesting drinking stories of other kinds. The one people really love to tell, though, took place at the "bachelor party" (you have them, yes?) a couple weeks before my second marriage. We were at my friend Jimmy's, and after a certain amount of libations we were to head off to some disreputable night spots. I'd started out drinking beer, but someone had brought a fifth of Wild Turkey (my bourbon of choice then), and there was this tumbler on the counter, and...

Well, I never made it out of Jimmy's that night. Apparently I managed to get to his guest bed and collapse there on my back, fully dressed. They couldn't rouse me -- one fellow even put ice cubes on my eyelids, which I thought an amusing detail -- so off they went without me. At each establishment they visited, they positioned an empty chair at the head of the table. "That's the groom," they'd tell the wait staff. I hope he didn't do anything to embarrass me.

Gary said...

Dude, you realize that girl in the last story was probably just very, very disappointed that you didn't take her to bed. No wonder she didn't come back. You probably turned her into a lesbian.

Gary said...

Oh dang, past my bedtime. I just spent an hour catching up on here! Gotta try to remember to check in more regularly.

Xin nian kuaile, man!

Froog said...

Ha, JES, skipping your own bucks' night because you got too toasted at the pre-party?! That could be a very wise stratagem. Will have to remember it if I ever find myself facing that situation!

Despite the odd reference to surviving Thanksgiving stress with Cranberry Old Fashioneds, I hadn't figured you for much of a drinker!

I had been a bit worried that this post might be a bit alienating for a lot of people (possibly you included), a bit too apt to invite censure. This is, I acknowledge somewhat embarrassedly, pretty extreme, potentially self-harming behaviour; and I haven't got into this sort of territory very often in my life. And, with the exception of the 'Cynthia' incident (which was really far more mild), the most recent of these stories comes from nearly 18 years ago; the others (and the couple of dozen or so that didn't make the cut!) all date back to my undergraduate days, around 25 years ago.

I have been contemplating another list post about some of my 'dark side' experiences (maybe over on Froogville), but again am concerned about the response it might arouse. I have sunk pretty close to the rock bottom of society at a number of points in my life, and have had to resort at least very briefly to behaviours which are... well, legal but socially stigmatized (sleeping rough, squatting in a derelict building), or technically illegal though fairly ubiquitous (moonlighting jobs while claiming welfare - more or less unavoidable given the crass inflexibility of the UK benefits system), or just downright illegal (shoplifting food, fare-dodging on public transport).

Yes, I think I might skip that topic. Not proud. [I suppose I just stealthed it in here!]

Froog said...

Gary, I don't think a man, however unsatisfactory as a boyfriend or a lover, can 'turn' a woman into a lesbian. I hope not, anyway! A girl I dated briefly at law school shocked me by having converted to full-on lesbianism (the hardcore, cropped hair, dungaree-wearing style!) when I next saw her, just a few months later. But she'd been dabbling both ways for a while, and I think she'd just decided - not unreasonably - that she preferred girls. A rather more serious ex - the most serious one, "The Evil One" - used to talk about "switching teams" a lot (in all seriousness, I think; not just to tease me); but for her it was more a kind of appropriate or necessary lifestyle accessory (it fit with her image of herself as a feminist academic man-scourge) than a natural predilection.

Froog said...

JES, Gary, of course it occurred to me that this might have been a romantic/erotic encounter - and I am tempted to emphasise this possibility in my fantasies about the incident.

But I'm pretty sure that nothing very intimate in fact occurred. (Well, I hope it wasn't another instance of a girl having to undress me and put me to bed because I'd lapsed into a coma!!)

Although I concede it is highly likely that the encounter was charged with some such potential, and that the lady would likely have been eventually alienated by my preference for drinking more and talking about Tom Waits. (Hm, I don't believe I had any Dead Kennedys in my collection at this point...)

Actually, I have long harboured the suspicion that the whole thing was a practical joke perpetrated by some of my male drinking buddies - although, if it was, they were uncannily convincing and persistent in bluffing their ignorance.

Froog said...

Thanks for all the comments yesterday, Gary - you certainly were busy.

And DARN - it took me a long time to respond. I sympathise with commenters who've been complaining of late about Blogger's glitchiness. I had a couple of these disappear into the void; and - foolishly! - I hadn't done a precautionary 'cut & paste', so had to rewrite them from scratch!

Also, Firefox has developed a worrying propensity to freeze/crash every couple of hours. I'm probably just running too many open windows at one time (over a VPN, on a slow connection). Whatever - it's becoming a major bother.

JES said...

Are you familiar with the American author J.P. Donleavy, especially his The Ginger Man?

I meant to mention this when I stopped by earlier in the week. A certain faint whiff of familiarity in some of these stories.

You're right, I've never cared much for Tying One On. The Missus and I went through a phase, oh, 10-15 years ago, during which we regularly stayed up until all ungodly hours (the greeting-sunrise sort of hours) playing cards with friends and drinking quite a bit. But it's different drinking at home; it doesn't have that little knife-edge of danger which comes from being "that way" before strangers.

When we're out at nights, I'm driving pretty much all the time. This tends to discourage imbibing, too (at least for me!).

Teddy said...

You didn't include any examples of after-drinking occasions of the most common kind, when you decide to be honest, look straight into her eyes and say: "Hell, I was drunk last night. What did you say your name was?"

Teddy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Froog said...

No, believe it or not, Teddy, that has never happened to me.

I very rarely get that drunk that I'm no longer fully in control of my behaviour or likely to have a seriously compromised memory.

Even more rarely have I taken a young lady to bed in that condition - not since college, anyway.

And I can honestly say I have never forgotten - or omitted to find out - the name of someone I've gone to bed with. It might have been a close-run thing at times, but I don't think it's ever happened.

My last story here is the one case where it might have happened; but the memory-wipe was some complete that I don't know. I don't think anything happened there... but it was probably a squandered opportunity.