Hermann Hates Hangovers
Several drinks and one column later...
By ANDREW HERMANN
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
"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
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
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?").
|"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-
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
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!"
|"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."
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.
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.
|"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."
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.