I’ve never been a big drinker. Not in high school, not in college, not since. I’m not a tee-totaler in any way…I do drink, on occasion, but I’ve never been a person who just has to knock ’em back at every occasion. It’s probably a combination of my upbringing and the people I hung around with in high school, plus the fact that traditionally I’ve been too damn poor to afford alcohol. Growing up, it was mainly just me and my mom in the house, for many years. She very infrequently drank, so for that reason it should’ve been something of an exciting mystery to me. Then again, she also wasn’t the soapbox-standing, “thou shalt not consume malt liquor” type of person either. It simply wasn’t a big deal. In high school, my group of friends (known as the Peanut Butter and Jelly Crew, or simply The Crew) were thick as thieves, but drinking and drugs just weren’t a part of our existence. It wasn’t even something we consciously decided against – it simply wasn’t done. It was the equivalent of asking us to lick a walrus: we would’ve responded with “Why would we do that?”. Therefore, you could say I had a very low threshold for adult beverages. I was the quintessential cheap drunk.

Then came college.

I realize that I’ve already said that I wasn’t a big drinker in college, but I’m speaking in totality, over the course of the entire 5 years (yes, I was on the 5 year plan. I liked being a junior so much, I did it twice.). My first year was a year of experimentation. Lots of kids experiment upon tasting the new-found freedom life without the parents hovering. Things get tried, things get done. This is the time when “situational lesbians” are born – you know, the women who are totally, completely, 100% straight – except when they get drunk and end up eating at the Y after a frat party. These same women, once they’re in their late 20s/early 30s, will utterly disavow any type of hot girl-on-girl action unless, again, they’re drunk after a wine tasting or office party. This is also the time people experiment with drugs, interracial dating, and “Magic: The Gathering”. For me, it was alcohol. Which is not to say I was a binge drinker; in fact, my body seemed to know, generally, when to stop the intake. Except once.
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Bowl games were the ultimate reward for a good football season, but the football team wasn’t the only group who reaped the benefits. The marching band, that group of misfits so eloquently described in “American Pie” also got some bowl game love by getting to travel with the team and generally having a hell of a time. People, don’t let the NCAA lie to you. They say that the college football players don’t get paid or compensated, but I can tell you that’s utter bullshit. As we mingled with the players down in beautiful Tampa, FL, we heard more than one say things like “I’m gonna pay off my credit cards with my bowl money.” Hell, the band even got paid, sorta. We got nice-sized per diems (that’s money they give you for food and shit), and also received gifts like sweaters emblazoned with the logo of the bowl we were attending. If we were getting THAT, I bet the football players were getting imported Asian hookers.

We started drinking pretty much the moment we got there, despite our busy schedules that included parades through Disney World and pep rallies all over the damn city. I took the opportunity to start trying things I had been leery of before – rum, vodka, tequila, everclear. They all had varying degrees of inebriation for me, but out of everything, beer fucked me up the worst. Go figure – I can drink liquor all night and barely buzz, but 3 beers’ll have me dancing on tables and insulting people’s parentage. So naturally, in the interests of maximizing my drunk and keeping costs low, I drank beer. Still, for most of the trip, I was careful to avoid the no man’s land of blackouts and altered memories, saying out loud to people “I’d better quit now”. This went on for 2 or 3 days, until New Year’s Eve, the night before the game.
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We started drinking around 2pm. This wasn’t unusual, by itself – I knew of one guy who never stopped drinking, and his moments of sobriety weren’t pretty at all. What was unusual was the amount. That day we didn’t have a lot going on – we practiced, and basically just hung out on the beach, giving us enough time to just get tore up from the floor up. I have hazy recollections of the events of that day, but I’m going to try to timeline it for you, starting at 2p.

2:00pm – We start drinking. I’m drinking beer. The trouble has already begun.
3:00 – I’m buzzing off the 2 beers I’ve had. Yes, 1 beer per half hour. I’m a lightweight, but I was pacing myself, remember? Now shut up.
4:00 – We’re at practice, and I’m swaying like a palm frond in a high wind. But somehow I’m functioning enough to make it through the rehearsal without keeling over. The sun, by the way, is REALLY bright and hot when you’re drunk.
6:00 – Dinner. Buzz is gone. Time for more beer.
7:00 – 2 beers down. My pace is on. I’m now buzzed again.
8:00 – We have gathered in the hotel room of one of our compatriots, and we’re considering trashing it. 6 beers consumed. I’m feelin’ it.
9:00 – The party is in full swing, and I’m in Talk Mode, meaning my mouth runs, non-stop, about everything. To me, it’s not annoying at all – I’m informing the masses, after all.
10:00 – 9 beers consumed. I’ve now switched to rum and Orange Crush. It’s actually not that bad. I’ve moved from Talk Mode to Chill Mode, where I just take it all in, believing (rightfully) that I Know Everything. Soon I will share this with everyone around me.
12:00am – I am invincible. I am a demi-god. I am the funniest person alive. Oh, and I’m sitting at a 45 degree angle on a sticky hotel couch, watching bandmates throw furniture off the 3rd floor balcony to see if they can hit the pool. They can. It is an awesome display of geometry and physics, and I loudly tell everyone this fact.
12:15am – Hotel management asks us to stop throwing furniture into the pool. We comply.
12:30 – Hotel management asks us to stop throwing empty beer cans into the pool. We comply.
1:00 – Hotel management asks us to stop throwing people into the pool. We comply.
1:30 – I am now, by far, the drunkest I’ve ever been. I’m in full-blown Mack Mode, meaning I’m hitting on every woman there, even the ones with VBFs (visible boyfriends). I am shameless, I am bold…I am The Man. I am also slurring my words and spilling rum and root beer all over everything. By the way, rum and root beer is gooooooooooooood.
2:00 – We started drinking 12 hours ago. I’m now in Story Mode, where every sentence starts with “Did I ever tell you about the time…”. More often than not, these stories are bold-face lies. I was never an astronaut. Really.
4:00 – I truly have no idea what happened between 2am and 4am. What I do know is that I wake up lying face-down in the hallway on a floor of the hotel unfamiliar to me. No one can account for my whereabouts, either then or after the fact. My knee and elbow hurt. I shudder to think what I was doing in that time. I was awakened not by my body – on the contrary, it would’ve been fine right there – but by my roommate, Steeler. The conversation that ensued is why I no longer get that kind of drunk anymore:

Steeler: “Damian, get up. It’s 4am.”
Me: “…..So? No.”
Steeler: “C’mon, man…we’ve gotta get you back to the room before you get caught out here.”
Me: “Iownkare, man (I don’t care, man).”
Steeler [attempting and failing to lift me by my armpits]: “Dude! C’mon! We’re underage, we’ll get totally busted, let’s GO!”
Me: “Manyoucrazymanweaightleemelone (Man, you’re crazy, man. We’ll be alright. Leave me alone).”
Steeler: “Ok. Listen. If you don’t get up right now and come to the room, I swear to Christ that I’m going to piss on your head. I mean it.”
Me: “Goheaditllfeelgoodnwarmrunindownmynek (Go ahead; it’ll feel good and warm running down my neck).”

The good thing is that Steeler wasn’t as drunk as I was, and did not, in fact, piss on my head. He got me back into the room where I managed to get roughly 3 hours of sleep before having to put on wool and polyester uniforms and march around in 85 degree weather outside. “Hot” isn’t descriptive enough; “tired” only scratches the surface of what I was feeling; and “hungover” is just a placeholder for whatever more accurate phrase that describes the level and magnitude of the pain and discomfort I experienced. I paid for my drunk dearly that day. And here’s the thing – aside from that 2 hour block between 2am and 4am, I remember everything. Everything. Especially that disturbing, disturbing conversation with Steeler.

This is why I don’t drink like that anymore. Any questions? I thought not.

Peace.

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