Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Category Five Hurricane

Note to my mother: The events described in the following story are completely made up. Just keep telling yourself that.

When I regained consciousness, I was curled up in the corner of an upward-bound elevator in the Orlando Sheraton.

The year was 1985. I was in college.

Our jazz ensemble traveled from Southern California to Orlando to participate in the Walt Disney World Jazz Festival. Now, you’ve all probably heard the stereotype that band members are geeks, dorks, and various types of goobers. This, of course, is a stereotype and as is the case with most stereotypes, it’s absolutely true. Most of us were nineteen or twenty years old, so we were still a year or so away from being of legal drinking age.

In California.

In the great state of Florida, however, the legal drinking age was twenty, a detail that did not escape our attention. The first night,we were sitting around in the hotel room, plotting the evening’s activities. When you’re underage, opportunities for obtaining alcohol are somewhat limited, and you get used to bumming booze off the older siblings of your party buds, or bribing someone of age to make a beer run. With our new found freedom, though, it was much simpler.

“Hey, let’s go down to the hotel bar and get hammered!” suggested Alex.

Alex Harrison was a trombone player, and I mean that in the nicest sense of the term. He was about six-two, and vaguely resembled Frankenstein. He was the kind of guy who would do anything for a laugh, even if he were the butt of the joke, which he often was. Alex owned a gold Volkswagen Beetle with a sunroof. Just for shits and giggles, he’d open the sunroof, pop his head out, and drive around like that. It was hilarious, as well as ridiculously stupid.

We hooked up with two more guys, Ralph and John, piled into the elevator and headed down to the Zanzibar Lounge. The hostess seated us at a table in the back, and we perused the drink menu. Gator Wizz. The Swamp Bomb. The Barracuda.

“Hey, check out this one,” said John, pointing at the drink menu. He was the lead trumpet player, incredibly arrogant, and among the four of us, had the most experience with alcohol. None of it good, but experience nonetheless. “The Category Five Hurricane. This looks pretty potent.”

The Category Five Hurricane, Zanzibar’s specialty, consisted of three kinds of fruit juice, rum, vodka, peach Schnapp’s, a shot of grenadine, and if I’m not mistaken, turpentine and nitroglycerin. The menu was not particularly specific.

Up to this point in our young, foolish lives, most of our drinking experience was with beer, and we all knew (more or less) what our personal limits were. For example, I knew that three beers gave me a nice buzz, while five had me doing the Technicolor yawn on someone’s carpet. Through an unforgivable oversight, the Zanzibar Lounge did not provide a beer-to-Category Five Hurricane conversion chart, but as it turns out, Budweiser and Hurricane do not have a one-to-one correspondence. It’s more like a one to a very tiny sip correspondence.

We did not know this at the time.

“You fellas gonna trah the Hurry-kine?” drawled the waitress. According to her gold name badge, she was Amanda. A bit on the pudgy side, not spectacular looking, but nothing you’d throw a bag over, either. Let’s call her a soft six on the one-to-ten scale.

“Yep,” said John. “A round of Category Five Hurricanes please, Amanda. We’re ready to party!”

A couple minutes later, Amanda brought out the hooch, and we were in absolute fucking awe. Though it wasn’t made clear by the picture on the menu, the Category Five Hurricane is served in a glass that’s approximately the size of the Stanley Cup.

Oh, were they tasty. Peach, orange, lime, just a hint of turpentine. We blew through the first round of Hurricanes like Anna Nicole at a Viagra convention.

“Okay, the next round’s on me,” said Ralph, although it came out more like, “Oh, kay. Zhuh neft rowd’s agh meh.” Ralph was a throwback to the 1950’s. Leather jacket, slicked back hair that he was always combing. He was a neo-Fonzie, if Fonzie played the tenor saxophone, wore an earring, and had an acne problem.

Amanda carted out the next round, and we dived back in.“Mebbe we orta get zub food zo we don’ get too wayshted,” suggested John, as he stared into his drink.

“Good thinkin’,” mumbled Alex. “Don’ wanna ged sick er shumfin.”

We ordered some hot wings, onion rings, potato skins, and the seafood platter. And, of course, another round of Hurricanes.

By this time, things were getting a little fuzzy. Okay, a lot fuzzy. We knew we had to get up early in the morning for our performance at the Tomorrowland Terrace, so we didn’t want to do something irresponsible like staying up too late.

“You boys ready fer one mo-ah round?” purred Amanda. Over the last half hour or so, she’d somehow gone from a six to a solid eight, and rising.

“Who’sh gudda buy duh nesht round?” asked Alex.

Ralph passed out face first in a plate of fried clams and cocktail sauce. We took that as a signal that the next round was on him.

By the time we polished off the last our Hurricanes, it was approaching one o’clock in the morning.

“Grf bulla frubba gut googa,” suggested John.

"Waff stroffa," replied Alex. "Bub dubba burble gorp."

“Merf,” I added, reluctantly. “Blubba gunk friff brap.”

Ralph said nothing. He was still asleep in his seafood platter.

We paid the check, which was astronomical, tipped the waitress, splashed some water on Ralph's face to revive him (somewhat) and stood up.

Have you ever been really, really hammered? Not tipsy, not buzzed, hell, not even merely drunk. I mean blurry vision, room spinning, jelly-legged, I-can’t-feel-my-fucking-face blasted. That kind of covers our state of being as we attempted to navigate our way out of the Zanzibar Lounge.

"Oh, Earl, look at those boys," said some blue-haired old bat. "That's just embarrassing."

"Frushk yoooou," mumbled John, drawing a shocked gasp from Gramma Moses.

We somehow made it to the elevator and headed up to our rooms. The sudden movement made me even dizzier than I already was, so I sat down in the corner and stared at the ceiling. It seemed to be melting.

The next thing I knew, I was in the elevator by myself. Nauseous. With a screaming headache. I stared at my watch and waited for it to come into focus.

Five o’clock AM. Those fuckers had abandoned me.

We were all supposed to be in the lobby at eight, so we could go over to Disney World and be ready to perform by eleven. I got off the elevator at the eleventh floor and stumbled to my room. When I opened the door, I noticed an unusual smell. Vomit, mixed with the unmistakable scent of fruit juice and cocktail sauce. I went into the bathroom, and there was Ralph, asleep with his head resting on the toilet seat.

Ralph had ralphed everywhere. The shower curtain. The bath tub. The sink. It looked like “The Exorcist Meets Psycho”.

I kicked him in the ribs to wake him up.

“Fuuuuuuuuuuucccckkkkkk,” he mumbled.

“Yeah, I know, me too. Let’s clean this shit up.”

We did the best we could. When the bathroom was passable (to us) we took turns showering and got about an hour of sleep. We got ready and barely made it to the lobby on time. John and Alex were asleep on one of the lobby couches. Everyone else was milling around, chipper as can be, ready for an exciting day in the Magic Kingdom.

As we dragged ourselves onto the bus, the band director noticed our condition.

“What the hell happened to you guys?” he asked. “You look like you’ve been hit by a tornado.”

He was pretty close. Actually, it was a series of Category Five Hurricanes.

Looking back on it, I'm not particularly proud of our indulgence.  While we did tend to go overboard once in a while, this story is an exception not the rule at least, not for most of us.  A few of our friends, however, didn't seem to know when to stop, and this led to all sorts of problems later on.  If you or someone you know has a drug or alcohol problem, California Drug Rehab could be their step back into life.


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f8hasit said...

Ahhh, the exotic juice and excess liquor experience...

We've all had one (or two?) of those. Try doing it in heels. That's a soft 9, 'fer shure.

Kathy said...

I got a headache just reading that. And I knew when I read this "We ordered some hot wings, onion rings, potato skins, and the seafood platter," that it was going to reappear later. Literally. So glad those days are over!

Expat From Hell said...

Dear Chris: I hate you for many reasons this morning: 1) You're a Yankee fan, 2) You live in California (and I don't), and 3) You continue to write knock-out blog postings. I need to go take an aspirin or two to knock out the vicarious headache you have given me....EFH

Maggie said...

Ohhhhhhhhh ewwwww! I hate that I can relate to this....

And I gave you an award whcih you can pick up at my "shoes/purse" blog!

otin said...

EWWW! I got sick on Alabama Slammers when I was 18 and to this day, I cannot stand the smell of Southern Comfort!

Little Ms Blogger said...

Alcohol+sugary drink= VOMIT.....

Loved the recollection of the waitress going from a "soft six on the one-to-ten scale" to eventually a 8.

Bet you can't have a hurricane.

Quirkyloon said...

She was "a soft six"!!!


ettarose said...

Oh do I remember those kind of nights. Every male I saw was a ten. I got that way once and thought I could go party with a bunch of dudes we met at the bar. Glad I did not make it because I then spent the entire night ralphing everywhere. Needless to say I quit drinking not long after.

KaLynn said...

You are a killer writer! Even though I'm ancient, I remember a time or many like this!

Keep up the blogs! They are great!

CatLadyLarew said...

Whoooah! Elevators + being wasted = barf fest!

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Ah, those days. I remember getting into medical school, and going out with some friends to celebrate. One of the bars near Big State U. offered 1/2 price pitchers to all seniors showing their graduation receipt, and we shoor tik 'vantaj ovit.

Jules said...

mmm... turpentine. Brings back so many foggy memories, I think. So were the kids at Disney World awed by your performance? I am, just knowing you were able to stand upright mere hours later.

ReformingGeek said...

Ralph ralphed?


Samsmama said...

Oh, geez, I've had more nights like that than I care to mention. Those mixed drinks will sneak the hell up on you. And I can't even imagine how miserable it must have been to not only perform, but to listen to band music. Live and learn, band geeks, live and learn.

Phillipia said...

Funny post...brought to mind some of my own ralphing experiences...

Moooooog35 said...

That's why I don't drink.

Actually, I THINK I don't drink.

I'm usually too drunk to remember if I do or not.

Gaston Studio said...

Too many nights like this in my youth, too many headaches, too many "I'll never do this again!" said.

Mike said...

Awesome, remembering better times!!

corticoWhat said...

19 tequila shots and Linda Ronstadt! Nuff said.

Suldog said...

Pure hilarity, made even more hilarious, to me, for having been there and done that far too many times.

Buckskins Rule said...

Oh...the Hurricanes. Imbibed one or four of those at Rosie O'Grady's circa 1985. Had a roommate do the same puking all over the rest room, too. Looked like blood spattered everywhere.

The worst ass kicking drink is a poison called mojo served in the Phillipines. Tasted like fruit punch, and the drunk sneaks up on you and sucker punches you when you are about a quarter of the way through the second pitcher.

Janna said...

It's been a looooong time, but yes, I remember having times like that too.

I would totally have tried the "Gator Wizz".

I'm pretty sure I would NOT have paired it with any seafood platters, though. :0

BTW, thanks for awarding "Post of the week" to my Jannapedia post! :)

Michelle H. said...

Oh, that was just too funny! You'll probably hate me for saying this. But I've only thrown up once in my life, and never from drinking. I don't get hangovers either.

Pearl said...

Yikes, I have a similar story, having traveled with a jazz band right out of high school (bari sax) but mine involves a bus and a bottle of tequila...

Musicians rock. :-)


Jenn said...

Yup, sounds a lot like the "AlabaMER SlammAH" night I had which is consequently (albeit sadly) not the last time I drank like that. Luckily the Cape Codder night that followed a few years later was. Since then I stopped ordering drinks named after places; too tasty so they are far too risky.

Candy's daily Dandy said...

ooooohhh.....Category 5? never a good thing.

The technicolor yawn..hilarious.

Chrissy said...

Now I remember why I stopped drinking. I honestly can't believe I'm still alive.

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