A Night With Pink (or How I Got My Drink On Wrong)

Ah, nothing like the first time! The joy and wonder of entering into the unknown, that cornucopia of sensory delights that can never be equaled in their sheer... ignorance. Well, yes, there COULD be that - even if such a lack of serendipity when entering into the wide world of DRINKING really shouldn't come as a surprise.

Not that it was supposed to happen that way, however. Or not exactly: I had just moved from Michigan to West Germany at the "tender" age of 16, rousted from a high school clique of band geek solitude to join a school almost completely composed of military brats. Fortunately my new classmates were all too busy packing and unpacking to form such tight social circles of exclusion that I had left behind; Things had actually been rolling along quite swimmingly.

The reason was simple: I had left an aristocracy of old money and connections to enter a meritocracy of sorts. That is, if you were reasonably friendly, funny, and interesting, you fit in as much as the next guy. This made complete sense, too, since popularity takes time to establish and work to maintain. The vast majority of kids in this new school just didn't have the energy to devote to either. I was thus officially IN... enough, anyway.

Besides, they were probably too busy drinking. This was soon true on my behalf as well, happily leaving behind those few occasions where I had downed a foul American "macro-brew". Now I had massively upgraded to hoisting respectable German lagers, pilseners, and hefeweizens - even if those were just as much acquired tastes at the start. Regardless, this new mode of socializing increasingly made sense as the school year progressed. Moreover, in living on the cusp of downtown Kaiserslautern, what with its handy bars and strictly unenforced drinking age, the transition couldn't help but be a cinch.

So I made some friends, wandered down to the local hangout - the Alte Munz, a gasthaus (pub) now suffering from an invasion of simultaneously both Americans and high school punks - and sat down for some beers. Uh, on more than one occasion, let's say. I meanwhile steadily got bolder with the quantity of brew consumed, having an increasing laugh at my own expense (to no harm's end) even if I found myself repeatedly shaking off some woozy cobwebs the next morning. Still, aware that I was new to this game, a cautionary and go-slow side of my former life still held some sway: I held the line at drinking, stopping when I felt it had gone too far.

On the other hand, it probably didn't help to have made a best first friend like Eric - possibly the most willing participant stoner at school. He was ever ready to put a new cocktail of drugs into his system, recounting with glee such things as, for example, how he tried "nitro" once and bonked his head on the window sill as his body joined his mind in going... southward.

But he was hardly alone in such a mentality: MOST of my new "gang" of friends - while otherwise coming from the sort of honorable parenting stock that bore high rank within the military (i.e. mostly fathers that were colonels and generals) - weren't terribly far behind. As for MY inclusion to the circus? It helped immeasurably that stoners, like hippies, were (and are) an accepting lot. I wanted acceptance to this new society I had entered; booze would be my trusty steed. I think this is the definition of enabling according to some textbooks, but so be it - I certainly didn't analyze it at the time.

Beyond acceptance and such textbook adolescent desires, meanwhile, I also wanted Eric's sister (from a different textbook, perhaps). So, when offered to tag along with these two siblings and sister Kristen's hot friend Leanne - who Eric coincidentally had an interest in - I was completely, absolutely, resolutely, and irrefutably game. The plan was to get ourselves drinking, assume a loaded position of inebriety, then go watch Pink Floyd's The Wall at a theater in Vogelweh. It'd help immeasurably that Vogelweh's location - a hodgepodge of shops and services for military members and their dependents - wasn't exactly on a military base. If it WAS, we would've been subjected to things like ID checks prior to entry. Or a bunch of slaphappy drunk schoolkids in a car might've been given a second look and questioned.

Then again, maybe not - this was 1983! Numerous states hadn't felt the wrath of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and changed their drinking age from 18 to 21 yet. You only got in trouble AFTER you got in trouble was how the drinking-driving score went then. It's not like this was a good thing - the last part, not necessarily the arbitrary age - but my shabby and weak-kneed defense NOW would be that our plan was hardly unique for the time. In any event, so it was that we found ourselves up beyond the farmer's fields, several minutes from our homes, under the autobahn, in a parked car. Jug of Bacardi rum? Check. Coke (-a-cola!)? Check. Pot...?

Uh. Hmm. Not yet. See, I was game for ONE change to my squeaky clean regimen - accepting liquid libation without great hesitation - but I wasn't for the other. Or not yet, anyway. Thus, after we'd made a good stab at the rum-n-cokes and the joints were pulled out, I declined... in favor of more rum to "keep up". That seemed the acceptable solution, even if trying to match my body weight in fermented sugar cane wasn't. Indeed, somehow a 1.75 liter jug of rum was mostly gone by the time the last joint got fried to its nub. But by then I was laughing as hard as the rest of my friends, not necessarily knowing or caring why: We were going to see The Wall! And Eric's sister was... even hotter!

In such spirits, then, when Kristen mercilessly pulled out a hidden piece de resistance - a bottle of apple schnapps - I joined in with the rest. It probably helped that this final shot-glass salvo of apple happiness was a nice change from the steady rain of stiff rum-and-coke mixes I'd been piling on. Merrily putting them down, then, yet not making a particularly impressive dent in the bottle in doing so, we were finally ready to resume our riding stance in the car: This was the signal for Eric to turn the car's engine over, even as cars raced above us nonstop on the 'bahn. In moments we found ourselves slowly rumbling back through the fields for a few minutes, only before catching Alex Mueller Strasse's pavement for the twenty minute drive to the theater.

The plan was moving right along: At the theater we got to the ticket window just in time - and perfectly primed, we all agreed. Moreover, we were each excited in anticipation because, even though the movie had been out for a bit, its showings were still considered a good time. (Mind you, this WAS still the during the age of Rocky Horror's continuing heyday of less-than-passive movie going. Apparently this is even still true today, too, with The Wall joining laser light shows of (Pink Floyd's) Dark Side Of The Moon at the random midnight show in a planetarium near you.) That none of us had seen the flick as of yet made us all the more eager for a good ride, too.

We took our seats. Then, not much later, began the thunderous introduction of the music, boldly entering with its one-two "Ta-da!" of heavy guitar and drums: THE WALL! We probably should've waved lighters - if we'd been allowed, which of course we wouldn't - as we soon didn't need no education, pesky teachers needed to leave them kids alone, sausage got made, and eventually Pink became a bit older, sadder, and wiser. So I became myself in the interim, by the way, right about the time that the marching hammers started making their way across the screen. One-two, one-two, hup-hup, hup-hup, and...

Hmm. Things WERE starting to get a just a mite uncomfortable. For instance, why was the ceiling beginning to spin? And why wasn't I laughing as much... or only doing so when I flopped around in my chair, much like a fish out of water? What was with the suddenly intense sweating? That couldn't be the heat, could it? And what about the massive urge to pee? Well, THAT did it: I got up and stumbled my way down our row, gaining the aisle to haphazardly make my way to the toilets in the back of the theater.

There, in the spacious lavatory's cooler - if not fresher - airs, I beelined my way over to the urinal. Ahhhhhh.... PEE, GLORIOUS PEE!!! I peed. And... I peed some more. Then... yeah, more. Since this was starting to take a while, I soon rested my head on the back of my palms, both already splayed above the urinal for... support. More peeing. Some room spinning. Then it got hot again, plus the sweats became more insistent. Hmm - maybe I SHOULD head over to one of the stalls, I thought. I could put down a lid and just... sit for a bit to get my bearings. Yes, this sounded like a capital idea.

And that's what I did: I bore right down on that throne of justice, hurriedly flopped its lids down, then seated myself to rest my head awhile against the stall's side wall. And wouldn't you know it? Like magic the spinning eased up, calm returned, and I closed my eyes with relief that this charade had met its match in you-know-who. See? I DID know best.

Then, from nowhere, came an unpleasant interruption: Bam! Bam bam! Bam bam bam! "Dave! Are you in there? Dave! DAVE!" Those words came from a netherworld, eventually bringing my reverie to a halt. Huh? Whazzat you say? And here I had been so comfortable! My eyes blinked as I shook my groggy head. Had I fallen asleep or something? I looked around me and at the stall walls, looking for a clue.

Instead I got more of Eric: "Dude! I had to ask the manager to reopen the theater so I could look for you! You left us THREE HOURS ago without saying a word! We thought you had left!" Well, this did indeed bring some focus back: Apparently I had blacked out. Well, THAT was a first. But I accepted this stunning novelty with aplomb, shakily coming to a stand to make my way out of the stall. Immediately Eric and I made our way out of the bathroom, I gingerly crossing the lobby as we exited the theater, Eric shooting me bemused looks all the while.

Outside the theater, things sped up a bit: "That guy is FUUUUUUUUCKED up!" is what I believe I heard when, only moments after the door shut behind us, a small group of soldiers stopped their conversation to look my way. As they took my pale visage in, I took in their gaping smiles. Unquestionably, a response was in order, so I opened my mouth to do so: Th-f-whap! Cuh-rooof! Apparently my congratulations for their discerning appraisal was a volley of vomit that covered a good amount of the ground between us, emitted forcefully as I nearly doubled over. They immediately did about the same - laughing.

Ooh... I don-na feel-a so good, I thought, next trudging down the handful of steps to walk through or by my mess - I'll never remember precisely - as Eric and I eased our way past my supposed tormentors. Truth be told, though, I couldn't care in the least about their mirth. Certainly not when another round was making its way from about my toes to my throat: Wh-oof! Re-etch! Yes, things were moving RIGHT along, right about exactly at that speed called "instantaneous", and directly from my stomach to the ground via the interlocutor called my mouth.

I gathered that dinner likely exited along with lunch about then. Certainly breakfast had to be in there, too, I'd muse, right along with the PREVIOUS night's dinner. Was there some rum and schnapps in there as well? Well, duh! Yes, this was all about the spirit of giving, and that pair of miscreants must've gone along for the ride with everything else. In any event, as we made it across the street to the other side, it appeared that THAT substantive part of my body's showing was nearing an end. My stomach next began to constrict with nobody of substance saying hello from below any longer. This hurt, too!

Now at the parking lot for the local bowling alley, Eric informed me that he'd be leaving me behind momentarily. Evidently Kristen and Leanne had been left to bide their time eating french fries and onion rings while I was making my steady tracks to the next level of Dante's Inferno. He trailed away, leaving me to seek a new form of support without his hand to guide my arm when necessary. That lamppost looked about perfect!

Which it was, if I really was trying to barf my toes through my entire system. What the lamppost indisputably DID provide was something to grip fiercely as I repeatedly made these new vacant gambits. Each empty heave was followed by another one, the awful pain ratcheting a little higher in succession, all in the futility of finding nothing to actually upchuck. I was getting a rather rude - and singular, I might add, never to repeat this - experience of the dry heaves.

By the time the girls arrived, giggling, the worst had subsided. My body had well given up the its ghost by then, that ethereal word being the most appropriate since that was about of the color I was told I looked. As they approached and said hi, I could only mumble an unintelligible reply, happy only that a break from the misery was in the offing. Another short round of heaved nothingness reminding me of just how naughty a boy I'd been. To this, though, Kristen graciously offered her empty bag from the fries: "You might be needing this..."

Actually, I wouldn't, those glory moments of gunk and glop long gone as of twenty minutes prior. But I accepted the bag with perfect humility as we returned to the VW Bug for the ride home. We made some conversation about the movie, my friends filling the massive gap that I'd missed, as I glumly sat with the paper bag waiting in my hands. My hands held it primed open and at the ready just... in case. Sigh - I'd certainly made an impression on Kristen, I chided myself.

Some time later, back by our apartments - in blessedly adjacent buildings - we bid each other adieu. A Sunday night, I knew I had to get to bed if I was to somehow play this entire event off and make it to school the next morning. I quietly trudged up the three flights of stairs to my bedroom, thanking God again all the while that it was a converted maid's room that lay outside of the main apartment where my younger siblings - and parents! - lived. I flopped onto my bed moments later to enjoy a last few scattered dry heaves before passing out.

The next morning would begin the first addendum to this tragedy without a point to it. For that, I first kept a low profile for a breakfast I couldn't barely touch, then I slunk out of the apartment to catch the bus to school. It seemed that all was going in Ordnung as the big Mercedes bus pulled up a short time later, ready to begin what normally I considered a smooth and short ride to school (also coincidentally in Vogelweh). But not so: As I returned to the vicinity of my great tragedy, each jiggle and bump on the road - all previously never of attention worth merit - stirred my stomach to anticipate a new round of revelry. Oh no.

Fortunately, the actually barfing would somehow hold off as I'd unsurprisingly have other thoughts than learning German in my first class of the day. Herr Konrad - the walrus, we called him - looked at me quizzically as I took my chair walking a bit unsteadily. "Fuehlst du dich gut?" he asked me, or something similarly caring for a man we all took to be of false cheer. I assured him that I was. Then I looked over to my right, spying a smiling Kristen, pert, pretty and knowing in my suffering. On second thought, I told Herr Konrad, maybe I wasn't. Off to the nurse I went.

Shortly thereafter, my mother came to the school to pick me up: "Dave, you don't look so good. You should've told me you were sick." Then, not much longer after that, I was eating soup, even receiving a back massage or two. I WAS the kid who rarely got sick or ever had problems in school, after all. Maybe all of that did the trick, too - I was better by the time the day ended. More realistically, enough time had merely passed for the body to heal from its bout with drunken disaster over the course of the day. All I knew was that it'd be a while - if ever - before I'd set again to such wanton slurping of liquor.

It'd also be a while - addendum #2 - before I could even smell an apple without wanting to throw up. For a couple of years after the grand event, it was apples that took the brunt of my distaste from my drunken bout. Rum surprisingly suffered not in the least, shortly re-added to my growing laundry list of liquors to repeatedly suck down within days. Fortunately only additional time would be necessary to eventually give apples back to me as well, a flavor sincerely missed with my then-restricted palate of pickiness.

As for my Mom, however, THAT gift could never be returned - addendum #3, if you're keeping count. When I finally told HER about the happenings of that affair - twenty years long gone by at that point in time, even if it had been immediately forgotten back when - anger surfaced as if it had happened the day before. "How could you! I can't believe I didn't..." And on it went, proving that the real lesson I should've learned was to keep my mouth shut.

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