I’ve always thought of hangovers as alcohol’s vengeful (and quite punctual) older brother.
If you picked on his sibling long enough you could expect big bro to be popping by in the morning to extract a corresponding measure of revenge.
Sometimes, however, his beatings are merely the icing on the cake. Many is the morning I’ve woken with a hangover complicated by abrasions, lesions, scrapes, bumps, bruises and even broken bones. What I’ve not always woken up with is a clear picture as to how I got that way.
Which encouraged me to develop a complicated system of speculation, investigation and lengthy interrogations of eyewitnesses, allowing me to piece together and catalog the calamities that sometimes visit themselves upon innocent and well-meaning drunks. I mean, we were just trying to have a good time, right?
I’ve also included improvised home remedies in case these calamities should befall you; and the lesson each mishap taught me. Because, as my daddy likes to say, “If you can’t learn anything from a beating then you’d better learn to like them.”
Symptoms: Burn marks about the lower lip, chin, neck and chest.
What happened: After getting mullocked at my favorite dive I wound up at a friend’s place where the imbibing options included Everclear and Bacardi 151. A few quick belts of each served to douse whatever common sense might have been still smoldering in my head. Then, I’m told, my pal had the brilliant idea that we should spit fireballs off his second story balcony. I of course insisted on going first. I loaded up on Everclear and didn’t know, or perhaps didn’t care, that excess grain alcohol was dribbling down my chin.
To put it briefly, when I flicked the lighter my face caught on fire. I bet it looked pretty cool. Luckily my friend was alert enough to douse me with his beer instead of the Bacardi 151.
Treatment: I applied topical burn ointment daily and for a long masculinity-eroding week I wore a bandanna around my neck like a hardcore Loverboy fan.
What I learned: You can drink Everclear, or you can spit Everclear fireballs. You have to pick just one.
Symptoms: A swollen lump about half the size of a tennis ball where the point of the elbow used to be. The lump is squishy like a Jello shot.
What happened: Skateboarding is fun. Back in the day, I could shred with the best. So when a spindly kid—who could probably ollie over my head and pick my pocket at the same time—rolled up to the party on his trick stick, I decided to show the whelp how it’s done—old school style.
“Hey kid, lemme check out your board, man! Hold my beer and watch this shit!”
The first spill didn’t really hurt. It’s one of the inherent advantages of being really drunk. It doesn’t help your boardwork much, but it insulates you from pain so you can crunch your elbow on the asphalt nine or ten more times without a single embarrassing yelp of pain and any ensuing loss of dignity.
Treatment: I bought syringes from a pharmacy and McCormick’s Whiskey from the usual place. After icing the the swellbow down, I self-administered five shots of oral anesthesia, swabbed the area with same and sucked all the Jello out of that tennis ball.
What I learned: For every beer you drink you should keep one full step away from anyone with a skateboard.
Symptoms: Scab-tipped horn attempting to grow out of the center of the forehead.
What happened: I was at a Wesley Willis show, may he rest in peace. Between sets (and shots of Crown) I decided I would like to bond with this maniacal genius. Now, if you are hipper now than I was then, you might know that Wesley expressed fellowship and approval by headbutting you in the head.
“Great set, Wesley, I—”
He got right up in my face, released a loud and somewhat alarming grunting sound, then urged me to imitate him:
“Hey you, say whugh!”
“Hey you, say whugh!”
“Hey you! I said to say whugh!”
My whugh! must have really impressed him, because he reared his head way back and expressed so much fellowship and approval that I thought he’d split my skull in two.
Treatment: I bought a twelve pack of PBR, opened one and put the rest in the freezer. By my third beer they were starting to get slushy, so I started a system where I’d take a beer from the fridge, hold it against my horn until it was melted enough to drink. Freezer, horn, mouth, repeat. It was a good system. After about two hours the beers were gone and so was most of the swelling.
What I learned: Never get in a grunting contest with a large crazy guy with lots of scar tissue on his forehead.
POUTY RACCOON FACE
Symptoms: Two shiners and a fat lip.
What happened: Dude, those guys were total assholes. See, first their alpha male jerk-off leader was being, you know, that guy. Carrying around his crappy mood like a loaded gun. Then, after I kind of hit him across the chops a couple times to, you know, fix his mouth for him, his three buddies decided that maybe my mouth could use some fixing too. Along with my eyes. Also, they spilled my drink.
Treatment: I would have put a pair of steaks on my eyes, but if I could have afforded a pair of steaks I would have bought a case of beer. There’s nothing like a black eye to make you philosophical because you get to spend a lot of time by yourself, because you sure as hell don’t want to walk around looking like that. I had lots of time to contemplate how people should stay home and drink alone when they’re in a crappy mood cuz I stayed home and drank alone in a crappy mood. I kept a scotch on the rocks in my hands at all times, constantly applying it to lips and eyes. I took a lot of showers too, because the gentle pattering of the warm water breaks up trapped blood. After a few days I got tired of being philosophical so I put on a pair of aviator sunglasses and got back in the action. Corey Hart style. When friends asked about the lip, I told them, “Just got it injected. Do I look sexy?”
What I learned: You generally stop being philosophical and embarrassed about your appearance right about the time you run out of scotch.
MOSH-PIT MASH NOSE
Symptoms: Nose is mashed up and bed sheets are dyed a cheery crimson. Matching shiners.
What happened: Bands like Six Feet Under, Korn and Limpbizkit don’t attract your normal type of rock and rollers. Instead they attract hulking sub-normal mongoloids. I didn’t know that at the time. I wasn’t even there for the music, I was there for the free whiskey my bartender roommate was pouring down my neck. The only reason I went into the pit was because whiskey makes me nostalgic. I remembered the old days when slam dancing was, you know, sorta civilized. Back then, a stage diver gave you a little warning before jumping on the back of your head and driving your nose into your knee. And if you went down people helped you back up instead of stepping on your head.
Treatment: Broken noses bleed. A lot. So don’t freak out when you wake up and your bed looks like the scene of a disembowelment. I vaguely remembered resetting my nose while still anesthetized with whiskey. If it happens to you, you should have a doctor do it. Preferably one who isn’t nostalgically drunk on whiskey. Direct pressure with an ice pack brought the swelling down. Eventually.
What I learned: Watch out for falling rockers.
Symptoms: Butt hurts. But not in the way that might signal a shift in your choice of “lifestyle.”
What happened: The date hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped. In fact, I’d abandoned every vestige of hope about five minutes into dinner and you know what the Bible says about that: “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.” Taking the Good Book to heart, I buoyed my heart with waves of wine, and while it didn’t help my poverty much, I was in fine form right up until she gave me the big kiss-off at her front steps, sans kiss. As I backed away, waving like a fool, she said what sounded like, “Watch out for the ho’s.” How did she know I was going back to the bar? I thought as I fell backwards over a rolled up length of garden hose.
It’d been like that all night. I’d say “Wine?” and she would whine away, I’d hold up the check and say “Dutch?” and she’d say “No, Irish-Norwegian with a little Cherokee.”
Treatment: Bruised tailbones are like broken hearts, all you can do is numb it with drink and wait until the pain gets bored and shifts to another part of your body. You can expect “Howdy, Tex!” and “Is your new cell mate romantic?” to become standard greetings when you bowleg your way into the bar. You can sort of sit on a barstool if you lean forward and put most of your weight on your upper thighs, but this tends to give the impression you’re about to lunge at the bartender and may unsettle him. Remember to pass out face down, unless, of course, your new cell mate is the romantic type.
What I learned: Watch out for the hos(e).
Symptoms: Grimy red scabs across the knuckles of the punching hand. Premature arthritis.
What happened: I got in a fight. Not with a fellow human being, but a much more formidable opponent and one of drunkardkind’s most dire enemies: a wall.
Every relationship will have problems and it’s best to address them immediately and clear the air. What you should not do is stuff the problem deep inside and offer it alcohol. I don’t know about you, but my suppressed problems like the hard stuff. Straight whiskey and tequila especially. The brown liquors nourish the problem and make it grow until it gets so big and strong it leaps right out of you (remember that scene from Alien?). It will unfailingly attach itself to the nearest wall and naturally you try to smash the evil thing dead with your fist.
Except you always miss. The problem, not the wall.
Treatment: When you wake up, try to move your fingers. If you can move them reasonably well, you probably didn’t break anything. If you can’t, go to the emergency room and tell them the truth. You can’t get arrested for beating up a wall, though I hear the Battered Wall Action Committee is hammering together a victim’s panel. Probably a nice oak one.
I duct-taped successive bags of ice to the injured hand and learned how to twist off beer caps with the crook of my right arm. You can rule out keg stands for at least a week.
What I learned: You can’t drown problems in hard alcohol. They like it as much as you do.
Symptoms: A multitude of lacerations on the tongue, roof of the mouth and walls of the cheeks. Teeth feel gritty, like you’ve been chewing fine sand.
What happened: Some inebriated imbeciles think opening a bottle of Labatt’s with their teeth is muy muy macho. That imbecile was me. The girl I was opening the beer for didn’t seem all that impressed, so naturally I bit off the neck of the bottle started chewing the glass.
Treatment: After thoroughly rinsing my mouth to get all the grit out, I gargled a pull of vodka to disinfect the wounds and swallowed the vodka because that’s how I usually start my day. Ice cold beer and Slurpies spiked with Bacardi numbed the pain. These aren’t the kind of wounds you can slap a bandage on, so make sure you gargle a lot of vodka.
What I learned: Slurpies spiked with Bacardi are surprisingly good. Especially the Vanilla Coke-flavored ones.
CAT SCRATCH FEVER
Symptoms: Burning claw-like scrapes on legs and forearms, strange puncture wounds on the palms of the hands. Sore throat.
What happened: It appeared as if I’d tried to tie the tails of two rabid tomcats together then shove them in a mailbox. They must not have been very cooperative, because my throat felt as if I’d done a lot of shouting.
The real source of the wounds was slightly less ridiculous, but much more romantic. After puffing up my courage with a jug of Carlo Rossi and half a bottle of Knob Creek, I decided I would serenade—old-school style—the current renter of my heart. I sorta remembered her address. The street, house and balcony certainly looked familiar. Even the rose bushes guarding the latticework below the balcony seemed familiar: Hadn’t I plucked and presented a pilfered rose from said bushes the last time she half-carried me to her lair?
A rose bush—it’s a goddamn bunch of flowers for crissakes—doesn’t seem like much of an obstacle to a gallant romantic geared up on big jug wine and small batch bourbon. I had this idea I would climb up the latticework to the balcony while singing some ancient romantic ballad, an early-80s Cure song perhaps. I shouldered through the bushes, grabbed hold of the latticework, starting singing (Just Like Heaven? Let’s Go to Bed?) then realized that someone’s Gila Monsters had gotten loose and were trying to claw my legs off. I fell into the bushes and thought I’ll just sit here and sing until she comes downstairs and chases the lizards away. Instead people started yelling mean things at me from the balcony.
Same street, same architecture, wrong house.
Treatment: I washed the wounds out with soap and warm water, applied a little disinfectant, then kept them from drying out by applying a thick layer of aloe vera lotion. I took to wearing long-sleeved shirts and eschewed shorts for long pants. I drank Long Island Iced Teas with a healthy dash of lemon juice to numb the itching and soothe my ravaged vocal chords.
What I learned: Roses aren’t considered the king of flowers because they look pretty and smell nice. They’re king because they’re really mean motherfuckers.
Symptoms: A vertical gash down the center of the forehead.
What happened: A diagonal wound across one cheek can appear rather dashing. Young officers in the Kaiser’s army would inflict them on each other then tell the frauleins down at the biergarten they got nicked while fencing with Baron Von Richthofen.
A facial wound that runs straight down from your hairline to the point between your eyes, however, doesn’t look dashing at all. It looks like you jumped off the operating table and escaped before the doctors down at the asylum could finish replacing the evil brain with a nicer one.
I was taking advantage of the 100% employee-discount cocktails at a bar I occasionally bounced at when I noticed one of the patrons was starting a ruckus. He not only refused to pay for his beer, he dumped it in on the floor. The bartender looked for an on-duty door guy, found none, then fluttered one of her lovely 100%-employee-discount-pouring fingers at me.
I sprang into action, taking his empty glass and starting him toward the door. For his part, he picked up a full bottle of beer from a table and winged it at my head.
If I’d been thinking I would have quickly turned and tilted my head so I could sport a nifty diagonal cheek scar I got in a bowie-knife duel with Norman Schwarzkopf.
Treatment: The bartender was making a lot of noise about “emergency rooms” and “stitches” but I convinced her that her fingers looked much prettier pouring discount drinks than making ugly stabbing motions at hideous telephone buttons. I washed out the wound in the restroom sink, applied iodine and a bandage from the bar’s first aid kit, then borrowed a bandana from the lost and found to “keep my head together.”
What I learned: If someone wings a bottle at your face, try to remember that the bottle is the brush and your face is the canvas. To help you remember, I wrote this little poem:
A slash on the cheek looks quite chic
A gash down the center looks like shee-it.
Symptoms: Chin looks like a rotten peach smacked around with a tennis racket.
What happened: After getting an excellent head start at happy hour, I joined some friends at a bar. They must have thought my condition humorous, because they started making me the butt of their jokes. One finally said, “What’s wrong, Luke, full moon tonight?”
And the lizard brain goes click!
“You tell me,” I said, turning around and dropping my trousers. “Does it look full to you?”
As riposte, the one with the biggest mouth (and foot) literally kicked my ass. Since my hands were busy holding my trousers, I couldn’t catch myself and had to use my goatee to break my fall. It’s what volleyball enthusiasts call a “digger,” but I didn’t dig it at all.
Treatment: Fortunately, topical wounds to the face heal fairly fast. It scabbed over quickly and for a week it looked like I’d just went to town on a bowl of chili without bothering with a spoon or napkin. On the upside, it did make my smile seem whiter.
What I learned: The distance between a mooner and the moonee should always be twice the length of the moonee’s leg .
Symptoms: Foot all swole up and don’t work so good.
What happened: My lizard-brain autopilot clicked off and I found myself barking street directions at a cell phone while hugging a signpost like it was the last bartender on earth. The street was dark and deserted and for some reason I had one foot tucked beneath me like a flamingo. What the fuck kind of crazy shit is this? I thought, putting the foot down. Shards of white hot pain shot into my brain and I went back to being a flamingo.
But let’s backtrack a bit. It seems I’d been deposited on a friend’s floor after going on a very successful drunken rampage at a wrap party for an indy film in which I played—you guessed it—a rampaging drunk. I was lying there, dreaming of slapping fellow cast members in the face with slices of pizza, when my lizard brain woke up and decided I had to be somewhere to do something. Now, lizards are great at basic stuff like climbing up latticework and slapping people in the face with slices of pizza, but they’re not real hot at complicated stuff like negotiating two goddamn porch steps. I somehow managed to get my left knee to crush my upturned right foot, breaking two metatarsal bones.
But what does a lizard who has to be somewhere to do something care about broken metatarsal bones? I gimped three blocks before finding a sign bearing street names that I could bark at my girlfriend while shifting into flamingo mode.
Treatment: I had to bite the bullet and see a doctor for this one. He put on a cast and gave me crutches which I promptly warped into cheap props for a heart-wrenching melodrama designed to wring sympathy and free drinks from bartenders. The production was a little rough around the edges at first, but once I got all my winces and moans down pat it was a real tour de force. Played to critical acclaim in bars all over town. Badly over-acted yet surprisingly effective, I believe was the gist of the reviews. (Broken Man Bender MDM Oct. 2003)
Just when the production was building up some real steam, the doctor took more X-rays and decided to cut the cast off my foot. Which also served to cut the sole member of the cast off from free drinks.
“That sure healed fast!” the doctor exclaimed. “What the devil have you been eating and drinking?”
“Nothing and everything,” I replied.
What I learned: Don’t count your sympathy drinks until you’ve hatched a scheme.
Symptoms: Raw horizontal welt across the width of the abdomen. Laughter causes pain.
What happened: A lot of people these days like to talk trash about the fortified variety of wines. Okay, sure, they’re sickeningly sweet, have a pronounced formaldehyde aftertaste and pack a wallop of a hangover, but let me tell you something: They also make you crazy.
Good crazy. I’d spent the early evening goofing around with a bottle of Mad Dog, then decided to take a little nap before shuffling off to the liquor store to stock up for the night. I woke up at five minutes ‘til midnight.
Oh, perfect, I thought as I lunged from the sofa, barreled out the door and started sprinting in a beeline to the liquor store three blocks away. I ran track in high school. The 100 meter dash, the long jump, the relays, I mastered them all. The hurdles I wasn’t so hot at.
Which is a shame because the dark metal cables that are often used to divide poorly-lit parking lots are surprisingly easy to miss if you happen to be crazy on fortified wine and sprinting.
“Huuougghhh!” I said as I executed a spectacular flip that sent my still pumping legs skyward. If cable flipping were a sport, and maybe it should be, then every judge at the table would have been reaching for their 10 card. My dismount, however, would have queered my chances for even the bronze.
I landed flat on my back and I lay there for a moment, just moving my head so I could look around, sincerely hoping someone was on hand to witness my triumph.
I jogged the rest of the way to the liquors store with one hand holding my belly and the other held out in front of me as a sort of steel-cable detector. I gave the liquor clerk a detailed account of my feat and for some reason he didn’t seem the least bit impressed. Obviously not a fan of the sport.
Treatment: When I woke up I poured hydrogen peroxide on my belly, which tickled and made me laugh. Which hurt.
What I learned: I can turn pro the instant cable flipping becomes a recognized sport.
The Bruised Boozer Scale
Time to add up all those black-out bruises, lizard-brain lacerations and PBR scars. Give yourself the allotted amount of points for each of your mishaps and see if you’re living in an air bag-equipped cocoon or an accident that couldn’t wait to happen.
Note: The scale rewards honor, chivalry and courage, but also deducts for blatant foolishness and sheer idiocy.
0—15: When the undertaker embalms you he’s going to think, “Wow! Not a single scar! This guy must have been a total pussy!”
16—30: You know, that whole “Leave a good-looking corpse” thing is just an old saying.
31—45: That’s the spirit. Now take your other foot off the sidewalk and let’s cross the street.
46—60: You’ve broken through to the other side. Congratulations! Hey, look out for that car!
61—75: People should be nervous if we’re both standing in the same bar. Don’t feel bad if your friends chip in to buy you a crash helmet.
76 and up: You are an Evel Knievel of Inebriation. Health insurance all paid up?