Amidst great familial fanfare and some novice indulgence in shots of liquor, I celebrated my 21st birthday in November, 1985.
It took me a couple of months to get up to speed with this drinking bit, but by the Spring of 1986 I was well on my way to an epic streak of Weekend Warrior-ism. Barely a weekend went by that I wasn’t spending Saturday and/or Sunday mornings nursing myself out of another spectacular and mind-numbing hangover.
Bad enough, right? Not very unusual for a young man in his early 20s.
Nope, you see what killed me was my weekend schedule.
I worked in the mailroom at the Bank of America from 1983 through 1988. My shift?
Why 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
From 1983-1985 it was all good.
Every Saturday and Sunday morning I would sleepily jump in the shower and make the trek to work, a job which gave me money that was difficult to spend by virtue of the fact that I was stuck under fluorescent lights while most guys my age were actually enjoying their weekends…what a concept.
I wasn’t bitter about it because I didn’t know any better.
Until I turned 21.
And whereas most normal people, faced with the balancing act, the fork in the Partying road, which consisted of 2 options, 1) get blasted, crash about 2:30 in the morning, sleep 3 or 4 hours, trudge to work, 2) stay home, go to sleep early, wake up at 6 in the morning to get ready for work, would most likely choose option 2.
Ah, see, I wasn’t typical. Or normal.
I chose option 1 over and over.
In the span of time between 1986 and 1988, I estimate that I dragged myself to work in varying states of hungover at least 75% of the time.
Feeling and looking like absolute shit. My job consisted of sorting mail and punching a 10-key pad in order to transfer a bar code to the envelopes. Mindless shit job filler and I learned to complete my tasks with one eye open (while the other was actively passed out while I fumbled through the day).
And my stomach always on edge. Many times it was all I could do to traverse the entire day without wretching. By the time the day was over at 3:30 I usually felt better and by the time I got home I might have a small greasy snack or soda.
Not that I couldn’t have greasy and salty snacks at work. We had vending machines that sold every sort of crappy-assed, processed junk food you could ask for.
Funny thing is I happened to work with my good buddy, Mark. My drinking buddy, the same dude who I hung out with the nights we should have been home, sleeping.
Each morning at work, we were both jacked up. I don’t know how we managed. What a pair we must have looked as we wandered in to work with matching slumping shuffles and 5 o’clock shadows.
We started hanging out with another guy who worked in the mailroom. His name was Joe and he was about 4 or 5 years younger than us. We introduced him to alcohol. The first time he drank he vomited all over the parking lot of his apartment complex. That’s how we brought him home to his mother, and she always loved us for that.
So it was us three ruffians, working in the Bank of America mailroom every weekend, bloated and baggy drunks seeking this strange anonymity in this most obscure of weekend jobs.
One Sunday it was the same old story. I don’t remember where or what I did the previous Saturday, but let’s just say it involved alcohol. Lots of it.
I spent the entire Sunday mired in alcohol toxicity agony, barely doing my job in a manner which could be construed as productive. Being the weekend shift, we had minimal supervision. I could look like I did, smell like I did, work like I did…no one would know any better. Our supervisor was some flunky who was our age as well. Chris. He didn’t give a flying fuck.
This Sunday was grueling. Like they all were. For lunch I couldn’t eat much, so I bought a microwave popcorn from the vending machine and ate the whole bag.
Finally 3:30 rolled around and I still felt like crap. Usually by this point I was starting to experience the first signs of post-hangover recovery…not today. I felt just as bad as I did at 7 in the morning.
We all walked to our cars. Joe accompanied me since he didn’t have a car and our routine was that I would give him a lift to the bus stop, or sometimes, a lift all the way home.
Joe lived in Pasadena, on Summit and Mountain, a really scary part of Pasadena people don’t talk about. People think of Pasadena, they think of Cal Tech, the Rose Parade, the Rose Bowl…they don’t think of the area of Summit or Lake or Mountain. Rough and crime-ridden, prostitutes, gangs…a slice of South Central here in the San Gabriel Valley. I would give him a ride home and then double back and drive back to my home in Montebello.
Made for a long, hungover day.
This particular Sunday we walked to our cars and I was not feeling good at all.
I reached my car and Joe stood at the passenger door so I could unlock it for him.
The second I opened the driver’s side door, the odor slammed me in the face. During these times, my car smelled like a brewery most of the time. An acrid and sun-baked alcoholic stench from the previous night. Spilled booze, speckles of exhaled booze which had ingrained themselves in the fabric of the car, whatever, it was always something and my car always smelled like a distillery.
The smell that greeted me was Jack Daniels, I believe. That Oaky, earthy, fiery scent. Which might make me salivate most of the time. A sharp smell which could conjure images of a Good Time.
But today, the smell immediately made me gag. It was as if the odor of Jack had mysteriously solidified, become a long sinewy finger which laughingly stuck itself deep into my mouth, into my throat, triggering the gag reflex.
And gag I did.
And it all came out. The entire bag of popcorn could not contain itself any longer!
I vomited loudly and violently, all over the parking lot and I could hear the guys making exclamations of disgust and running from the scene. Joe ran and told someone, “I’m not driving with him.”
When the dust settled, everyone had pulled a Starsky & Hutch dive into their car and hauled ass right outta there.
It was a relief, I could drive straight home. No long detours to his Pasadena hood.
I was feeling much better.
Before going home, I stopped at der Wienerschnitzel and bought 3 Kraut dogs and a large order of fries. Yum!