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Hermann Hates Hangovers
Several drinks and one column later...

Blast Boston Bureau

I really shouldn't be writing this now. I have a headache that could make G. Gordon Liddy flinch. My left eyebrow feels like it was spot-welded to my forehead. Whatever bacteria is still clinging to life inside the scorched-earth ruin of my mouth is transforming itself moment-by-moment into new and increasingly malodorous taste sensations. And my stomach is seriously considering making a break for it.

When my roommate discovered me this morning, scattering coffee grounds in the general vicinity of a filter with trembling hands, she took one look at me and said, "My God."

"Good morning to you, too," I replied, in a voice that would do Beelzebub proud.

"Are you sick?"

I nodded and croaked, "Self-inflicted."

You would think I'm old enough to know better by now. But no -- somehow, ten years after my first close encounter with a fraternity toilet bowl, I STILL think that one last beer sounds like a great idea. And one last one after that. And maybe just one more if it's someone else's turn to buy a round.

Don't get me wrong. I don't make a regular habit of getting shitfaced, as we like to call it in our oh-so-quaint New England way. And how I feel this morning -- What? It's afternoon already? -- is precisely why I don't.

On the other hand, I do like a nice brewskie every once in a while. And sometimes, that first brewskie tastes so good that I decide I need another one. And then I get that nice little buzz going -- a pleasurable but deceptive sensation because it makes nearly everything seem harmless and pleasant and therefore incapable of inducing the kind of wrenching agony I find myself in the throes of the following day. And so I start having thoughts like, "Gee, that last beer sure tasted good. Hey, I'll bet another one would taste good, too." And down the inebriation ladder I descend.

"I'm a social drinker and most of my friends are lightweights and I make it a point not to break the I-Didn't-Drink- Any-More-Than-You-Did Rule."
Usually such thoughts don't get me into any serious trouble, because I'm a social drinker and most of my friends are lightweights and I make it a point not to break the I-Didn't-Drink-Any-More-Than-You-Did Rule, having learned from experience that when you do break it, you usually wind up being the unwitting subject of many stories that your friends find endlessly amusing despite their obviously tragic dimensions ("And then Andy threw up into the azaleas and we found him two hours later passed out in the bathtub! Isn't that the funniest thing you ever heard?").

Also, I'm saved by the fact that I live in a town where the subway stops running at 12:30 and the bars close up at 1:00. Many out-of-towners find this an irritating inconvenience and blame it on Boston's Puritanical origins, but I've always suspected that our Cinderella tavern hours are intended to keep all those hard-drinking Boston Irish from drowning themselves in Guinness. It certainly prevented me from doing any permanent damage to myself last night.

But four converging factors doomed me from the outset. I should have known I'd spend most of today lying in bed and praying Dr. Kevorkian would come soon.

First, we started early: six o'clock. This allows everyone to spend the next five hours saying, "Hey, it's still early yet! Let's have another round!"

"We see a pretty face and say to ourselves, "I must convince her I am manly, even though I sprained my wrist the other day opening a jar of spaghetti sauce."
Second, there were women in our party, and so of course I had to impress them with my drinking prowess. I realize women generally find heavy drinking the opposite of impressive, but I'm telling you, this is how guys think. We see a pretty face and say to ourselves, "I must convince her I am manly, even though I sprained my wrist the other day opening a jar of spaghetti sauce. Which of my many non-manly activities is frequently mistaken for the real thing? I know! Heavy drinking!"

Third, my friend Jeff was there. Now Jeff isn't a lush any more than I am, but when we get together we have a bad habit of egging each other on, until by the end of the evening we're clinging unsteadily to the bar and toasting our alcoholic fathers. We find it all outrageously funny, and the people around us move away -- which we also find outrageously funny.

"When we get together we have a bad habit of egging each other on, until by the end of the evening we're clinging unsteadily to the bar and toasting our alcoholic fathers."
Fourth, and perhaps most lethal, our first destination after a couple of warm-up drinks at Dakota's was a place called the Good Life that specializes in martinis, which they serve up in Alice-in-Wonderland-sized cocktail glasses. I rarely drink hard alcohol, so its effects on me are swift and often comical. By the time I got through my martini and another beer, I was already telling embarrassing stories from my childhood in a voice loud enough to suggest that I was doing it for the benefit of the kitchen staff and not the puzzled and somewhat frightened young woman who had the misfortune to be sitting next to me.

After the Good Life, we proceeded to an Irish bar called Paddy O'Shea's, and then after the ladies went home Jeff and I decided to check out the hoity-toity crowd on Beacon Hill. We wound up at a neighborhood watering hole called the 21st Amendment, which was decked out like a fraternity house from the eighteenth century. The place was wall-to-wall Eddie Bauer oxfords and Paul Mitchell dye jobs, which is to say that I was about as at home there as Janeane Garofalo at a Promise Keepers rally. I was sufficiently drunk by this stage of the evening, however, to think that the 21st Amendment was the perfect place to scrape some of the rust off of my rickety flirtation skills, so when two bleach-headed Ann Taylor waifs made their way towards us, I looked the first one straight in the eye and said, "No, I don't come here often, but if you're a regular I might change my habits."

Actually, I haven't the faintest idea what I said to her; I was so trashed that the whole thing was a blur. I do, however, remember the blonde's reply, which went something like this: "Actually, I was just wondering if you could move so we can get to the bar."

This episode called for one last pride-restoring round; then it was off to catch the last train home, where I peed for about 20 minutes and discovered to my horror that I was out of Advil. So instead I drank half a glass of water and spilled the other half over my tax forms and crawled into bed and held on for dear life while my room did its best impersonation of The Perfect Storm.

The next morning Jeff, who had spent the night clinging to the couch, ate toast with me in very small bites and watched Kids WB, which I must warn you all is NOT hangover-friendly television. It's like taking a Technicolor sledgehammer to your own skull, except that it's noisier. We probably should have watched the gardening show on PBS instead, but neither of us could move far enough to reach the remote.

It's funny, isn't it, how such exercises in self-abuse are so much fun to describe after the fact. Even now, with my battered stomach losing its battle to two pieces of toast and a cup of weak tea, I still can't deny feeling a hint of that masochistic pride we all felt as teenagers, regaling each other with can-you-top-this tales of our own foolishness. "And then we did Whippits and rolled around on the floor for two hours! It was so cool!"

It's easy to dismiss such behavior as puerile, but I think there's more to it than that. I think teenagers understand something that we mostly forget as adults: Sometimes it's fun to be stupid. Why else would we take such pleasure in sharing stories that begin with, "Dude, I got so trashed once that..."?

But I still really, really wish my friends would stop telling that one about the azaleas and the bathtub.