honorary Hose Monster:
This is my favorite drinking story.
When I was a wee lad growing up in Southern California, I used to play hockey in Pasadena in a rink that must have been built around the turn of the century. Old place. But it's been in a ton of commercials. That latest prescription drug ad running on TV with Dorothy Hammil in it? Filmed in the Pasadena Ice Center, where bigger lads than me kicked the shit out of me for a number of years.
Anyway, when I was 15, the Southern California Amateur Hockey Association changed their aging breakdown, so I suddenly went from being a normal-aged Bantam to the youngest Midget in the entire league (these are dumb age bracket names, I know). I missed the cutoff date by 11 days. Suddenly I'm supposed to be playing against 6'4" 18 year-old dudes who are in community college and already working on the beer bellies. Not good times. Then the next day I find out my club in Pasadena is folding because of some "financial mismanagement" by our coach. I think he was embellezing money from the the club.
So all of a sudden I have no place to play. After some pleading phone calls, I find a coach willing to give me a tryout on his team in Burbank. I go to practice, skate my ass off, and then go talk to the coach. I must have done okay, because he told me that when I had called earlier, he was just being nice and had no intention of putting me on the team. Yet at some point during practice something must have changed, because he now thought I might have a chance to develop if I stayed on. He made it abundantly clear that I would get maybe one to two shifts of ice a game at the most, but I would get practice and a chance to play in the future. Not having any other options, I assented to the deal.
This was the toughest year of hockey in my life. Everyone on the team was at least 17, big, and good. Meanwhile, me the innocent subarb boy had never been exposed to much of anything; I had never kissed a girl or even had much of anything to drink. Now in the locker room, all I hear are stories of Jagrmeister debauchery and sex. I learned a lot that year. But anyway, the whole year was a struggle to try and feel like part of the team, especially when I did not get much playing time and thus could not contribute much to the team's success. I guess I did help out with our physical play because I pretty much served as a checking dummy in practice (which resulted in only one concussion, amazingly). But other than that, I always felt like I was trying to fit in on the team.
Then we went to Denmark.
See, we had this "brother team" in Herlev, Denmark, and every year either our team went over there or their team came over to wear short shorts while parading around Disneyland. This year, it was our turn to go, in the middle of February, to the land of Carlsberg and Tuborg we went. Our head coach could not go, and our two assistant "coaches" were freaks. One was a 23 year-old Toronto native who has since become exceedingly wealthy as a producer of porno movies starring his girlfriend (true story). Safe to say that they were not going to inhibit our fun in a land with many beautiful blonds and very few rules.
Fast forward to our plane ride on the way out there. We're flying KLM, so you can imagine that the flight attendants don't give much of a damn about what we do on the airplane once we are out of US airspace. It just so happened that pretty much as soon as we crossed into international air, our one stodgy chaperone did her bit for the team by falling asleep. The mass exodus of our team to the galley in the back of the plane was immediate. Someone stashed a Heineken in my hand and I went to work.
Up to this point I think I had only had maybe two or three beers in my entire life while sitting on the streets of gay Paris with my pop. I was tipping the scales at this point in my life at a mighty 105 lbs, so I was easily ready to drink all the other guys on my team under the table. I suffered through the first can of beer, accepted the offer of another one and went to work there. Remember, I'm trying desperately to fit in with these guys, and the fact that I was trying to do so at 35,000 feet never entered into my head.
Anyway, midway through about the third or fourth beer, one of the guys on our team (who we called "Woody") found the mini vodka bottles and started making screwdrivers. I was not much of a beer drinker in these days, and this stuff tasted so much better that I eagerly made the switch. After a few canned beers, this stuff was manna. I think I slammed about five or six of these suckers down in a 15-minute stretch. Weighing 105 lbs. At 35,000 feet.
Rock and roll.
You know that button on and airplane seat that makes the seatback recline? Man, what a ride that shit can be under the correct circumstances. I must have been bobbing back and forth on this thing for a good 30 minutes before Eric Connelly got the shaving cream out and we started lathering up the unfortunates associated with our team who had made the great error of falling asleep. In retrospect, I feel bad for all the people on that flight with us. We must have been really obnoxious.
Anyway, after another hour of terror, I amazingly realized I was not feeling all that hot, so I made my way to the loo. We were on a big 747, you know, one of those planes with the upper cabin, and the lavatory I happened to occupy was one of those ones in the center of the plane next to the galley and right next to a pair of seats. As I shut the door, I noticed an older woman knitting in the seat right next to the john. Feeling a little woozy, but not like I was going to yak, I made the snap decision that the floor looked very inviting. I sat down and leaned my poor top against the bulkhead.
After a few minutes, I felt better, and decided to return to my seat.
When I opened the door, the knitting woman's face turned ash white and she looked up at me and asked "Are you okay?" in an almost pleading manner.
In my best groggy voice that I have, I think I answered, "Yeah, I'm okay."
"No no, are you okay?"
"Ugh. Yeah, fine."
"No, I'm serious, are you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah lady, I'm fine."
She paused for a minute suspiciously, then looked me up and down and said "Okay, because you were in there for like three hours or something. I was beginning to get worried."
I stumbled my way back to my seat, sat down, and pretty much groaned my way through the remaining hour or so of the flight. When they served airfood breakfast, it took a lot of strength to avoid looking at it, because the smell of the aviation eggs pretty much sent my senses spinning on a fantasy ride back to the toilet. Amazingly, I managed to avoid tossing my cookies all over the back of the seat in front of me. I should have begged for a sudden change in cabin pressure. Them pure oxygen masks coming down from the overhead compartments would have worked wonders for me.
It was not until we were landing that I realized I had earlier passed out. On an airplane at 35,000 feet. When I was 15. After something like 8 or 9 drinks. For three hours. And the knitting woman was just beginning to get worried.
During our layover in the Amsterdam airport, I volunteered to stay with all of the stuff while the rest of the team scurried around the airport. Worse hangover of my life. Convinced me to never drink again. Until a few days later, when I found myself jumping into a four-foot high hedge while carrying a crate of beer back to the party.
And that my friends, is my favorite drinking story. What's yours?