Friday, September 23, 2011

Category Five Hurricane

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."

"Forrrrk Yoooooou," 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.

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Eva Gallant said...

You tell a great story! So vivid! the technicolor yawn was one of my favorites!

Eva Gallant said...

You tell a great story! So vivid! the technicolor yawn was one of my favorites!

ReformingGeek said...

Ralph ralphed.




Anonymous said...

I've read this one before, but it still reads HILARIOUS! And witty.

Foooooork You!

Gotta be my fave line and I usually don't like f-bombs, but fork bombs? Right up my alley.

hee hee

Anonymous said...

Great story. It's amazing how fast you can get wasted on hard liquor, and how it can really sneak up to you.

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

I'm pretty sure I could tell almost the exact same story, but without the band instruments and in different locations. Yeah, more than once... I'm a slow learner.

Andie said...

Ugh. Been there and done that more than once.

EmptyNester said...

I laughed the whole way through-I knew just where you were going with this and I kept wondering when y'all were going to stand up! LOL I'm laughing with you, of course. This is what happened to me with Long Island Iced Tea. Holy Crap!

Danger Boy said...

There's a reason they name hurricanes...because you have to have someone to blame. Good stuff today.

Fred Miller said...

I did those band tours and choir tours in college, too. Another tip when you're in a state that's too old: mix Everclear. Get a pound box of Domino sugar. You pour in two packets of unsweetened Kool-Aid. Just drop a tablespoon of sugar mix into a shot of Everclear and top of with tap water. Ice: optional.

We also named our hangovers alphanumerically, like monarchs. George IV, Louis XIV, John XXXIII, and so on.

Suldog said...

Hilarious damn story. And, with this line about a trombone player...

"He was the kind of guy who would do anything for a laugh, even if he were the butt of the joke..."

... how did you ever find the temptation to resist saying...

"... even if he were the sackbutt of the joke..."

... I'll never know. You're a stronger man than I am, Gunga.

Heidi Olivia Tan said...

Damn! I'm not gonna read your blogs while I'm sitting in a public place. People at the next tables are getting up and moving tables so that I end up surrounded by an insulating layer of empty tables.

I especially like your conversion chart line. May I borrow it to use on some bartender?

Like a few of your readers judging by their comments above, I too have had some experience with hurricane-like concoctions. Gotta go dig out my journal from back when and scan one particular entry to post up. Scan because it is one entry I couldn't read. I like to think I did automatic writing that night. Or, I was possessed that night and wrote some great message to save the world if only I could decipher it.

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