Tag Archives: Alcohol

The Drunk Challenge

Spring break just happened. Seven days spent drinking seven years off my life. I may be in no state to write a blog post today thanks to my weeklong hangover, but by Jove…

I was going to end that sentence with an inspiring statement enumerating my reasons for slogging through the blogging, but I couldn’t think of any. Yet, like an energizer bunny with a keyboard instead of a drum and fingers instead of paws and no drumsticks to get in the way of typing, I continue, albeit with rapidly degrading metaphors.


The downward spiral of my functionality began, like with so many, on St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t have a very strong understanding of calendars and holidays, but I’m pretty sure there’s some powerful committee of politicians, scientists, watchmakers, and holiday mascots who all sit in a room and decide how they’re going to mess with people each year.

“Halloween shall fall on the least fun day of all, a Tuesday!” they cry. “And when it ought to land on a Saturday, we’ll ensure there’s a leap year, bumping it to Sunday and robbing college students everywhere of their scantily-clad celebration!”

“We shall schedule Yom Kippur for the day there’s that drunk driving presentation at high schools, and none of the Jewish kids will be forced to sit through the boring and ineffective scare tactics, thus infuriating children of all other religions!” they cackle. “And most importantly, this year, when Russ is about to have the craziest spring break ever, we will put St. Patrick’s Day on the Saturday that kicks it all off to ensure that he never gets any sleep ever again.”

I think it’s something like that. Now, on St. Patrick’s Day in San Luis Obispo, the tradition is to arrive at your first bar around 6 a.m. for a breakfast of Irish Car Bombs. I have a terrible time waking up in the morning, so obviously I had to pull an all-nighter to guarantee I made it. And then we drank all day, hopping from bar to bar forcing green-colored drinks down our throats, most of which contained Bailey’s Irish Cream or potatoes.

I finally passed out on my couch at 3:35 a.m. the next day and got a full 4 hours of sleep before my fraternity brothers barged through the door screaming things about San Diego and how I had to pack right now and drive 5 hours south no matter how dangerous that might be because I was going to miss the Clippers game and we’d already paid and they’d called me 8 bajillion times but I wasn’t answering and it was going to be the best bonding experience ever and—

The point of this whole story is kayaking. I know that probably hasn’t been obvious so far, but my brain is barely functioning, so every combination of words sounds like sheer brilliance to me until I reread it and find out it says “There was a cat lot of mulching to be deluged before picnic basket.”

Anyway, for spring break I stayed in a multi-million-dollar beach-front 1970s-style sex grotto mansion that my cousin’s friend’s girlfriend had shadily procured, most likely from a washed up rock star through Craigslist. We lovingly referred to it as the “Rage Palace.” The Rage Palace rested at the top of a cliff overlooking a beautiful beach and slept 18 people (in beds, which is like 40 people in spring break–floor sleeping units). It had clearly done too many heavy drugs in its youth and was now in a bit of disrepair—perfect for a bunch of rowdy college kids. The centerpiece of the erstwhile porn set was a giant, penis-esque fireplace located smack-dab in the middle of the main room, and surrounding the back half of this once-virile hearth was a weird glass chamber filled with clam shells. Extensive investigation into this phallic and yonic fever-dream of architecture revealed that the clam chamber was some sort of group shower or maybe just an enterable waterfall. Either way, its only remaining resident was a stuffed Toucan hung from the ceiling by its beak in a climbing position, a creature perpetually caught in the process of ascension.

Outside in the back was a gargantuan balcony precariously balanced on a cliff that had eroded away underneath the support pillars to the point that you had no idea how it all remained suspended in the air. From there you could see a huge stretch of beautiful Mission Beach, a veritable paradise, and for a scant few days, our personal playground. On this balcony were a pool, a hot tub, and a whole bunch of chairs, and the entire place was surrounded by a drunk-proof glass wall that came up to your waist. It was a wonderful place to drink, and drink, and drink.

But drinking has its downsides, like causing a complete inability to perform tasks. It took 4 people an hour to set up a volleyball net, and at the end of the hour, they only succeeded by giving up. We even made a game out of our lack of skill, cleverly titled “The Drunk Challenge.” You see, the Rage Palace came with one of those big plastic ocean kayaks, but the thing was ungodly heavy, so even with the combined strength of four strapping lads, we could barely lift it off the ground. Unable to get the plastic monstrosity to the ocean, we settled for the pool, dumping it unceremoniously into its week-long home, where it became the impetus for The Drunk Challenge.

The Drunk Challenge consisted of lining up the kayak so that it was parallel to one end of the pool, stepping onto the precarious death-trap (the whole thing had to be done standing up, straddling the seat sideways with your legs), turning it 90 degrees using the long kayak paddle, paddling it across the pool in a swaying battle for your life, ramming it head-on against the opposite wall, doing a full 180 that at any point could lead you to falling and smacking your head into concrete, paddling it back with frayed nerves, and dismounting, all while completely sloshed. The kayak was only about a foot shorter than the width of the pool, so you had to do something like a 7-point turn to redirect it. In order to balance, you had to keep your legs bent the whole time, so by about halfway your calves would be aflame with drunken regret.

And when you inevitably crashed into the water, the cold surge of failure would rush into your nostrils and you’d realize that pools seem a lot less warm at 3 in the morning.

One night, the time came for me to make my attempt. According to the judges (anyone who had completed the challenge previously), I hadn’t ever been sufficiently drunk before, but now I was fully qualified. After watching someone splash into the pool mere seconds into the challenge, I sprinted to the kayak, stripped to my underwear, and mounted it…in a strictly platonic way.

For some reason, the majority of our crew came outside to watch (and I’m pretty sure one of them filmed the whole thing. That’s going to come back to bite me). They were all enthusiastic spectators, whether cheering me on or shouting distracting vulgarities, but nothing could break my steel resolve. I turned the kayak, paddle waving unsteadily in my hands. I stuck it tentatively into the water, swaying dangerously close to failure—and immediately failed, splashing into the pool. But I wasn’t finished!

I leapt out and remounted, this time even more focused. Paddle in hand, I began to turn the tilting behemoth beneath my feet. Slowly, ever so slowly, I made my way to the other side, rammed the wall, and turned around. My legs burned with the effort, my arms shook with the cold, my brain pounded with the alcohol. And I still had to make it all the way back!

It took me 5 and a half minutes to complete The Drunk Challenge, but by god I did it. And after dismounting, I raised my paddle into the air, reveling in my victory, even if I was soaking wet and shivering, underwear clinging unflatteringly to my shriveled junk in front of my friends and that girl I’d been attempting to seduce. For the next half hour, I loudly proclaimed to anyone who would listen that it was the proudest moment of my life. Who knows? Maybe it was.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of The Saga of Spring Break, in which I wage glorious war with a flock of angry seagulls.


Filed under Stories

Fear and Hiding in Las Vegas

Vegas baby! Everybody goes, including nerds. It’s a rite of passage, and even if you don’t win real, useful money, you end up with that irreplaceable cash known as shared experience.

When someone inevitably asks, “Have you ever been to Vegas?” you’ll finally be able to nod knowingly. Oh yes. I have. No further discussion required, because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Unless, of course, you’re friends with me and I post it all over the internet!


It was the last finals week of our college career. Six of us decided that rather than study for our tests, we’d put the Bachelor in Bachelor’s Degree, so we booked tickets to the city of sin.

Of course, our ragtag fellowship of truants consisted of me, three computer science majors, and two pre-med kids—not really the best at things like partying, gambling, or meeting girls. Still, we figured we should have one more go at the “college experience” everyone was always talking about.

We should have known better. The CS trio kept determining the odds of every casino game, discouraging us from throwing money at the whims of chance. If we ever happened upon some more exotic form of entertainment like, say, cocaine, the pre-med duo would sit us down and explain the negative repercussions of casual drug use and we’d avoid it entirely. Ah, knowledge, the destroyer of fun. There’s nothing worse in life than those moments when you learn the truth, like realizing Pixar movies are physically unsound or the uncomfortable conversation you have when you find out a stork didn’t drop you on your parents’ doorstep.

So, in this fashion, we meandered through Vegas, wondering what there was to do that wasn’t detrimental to our bodies or finances. Fortunately, as an artist, I can’t be controlled by logic or self-preservation, so one night I buy a yardlong, which is actually a yard long and has something like 12 shots of surgical alcohol in it.

My friends keep trying to drink it to save me from myself, but like an alcoholic Gollum, I become protective of my precious treasure and distrustful of their intentions. Defeated by my obsession, they break down and buy variously themed oversized drinks of their own.

After some unsteady shambling down the strip, we find ourselves in a Hooters, which is about the most debauched activity we can talk ourselves into. There will be girls there! We sit down and a waiter comes over to take our order. That’s “Waiter.” Turns out all the servers are men and the women are in some different part of the restaurant, completely out of view!

While we wait for our food, we compensate for our lack of hooters by browsing the stripper ads the street-side barkers had handed us, zealously debating whether Angel is hotter than Chastity, how much she’d charge, and what strippers actually do, having no real experience in the matter. Nerds that we are, we turn it into a game, in which each stripper has attack power derived from the number of stars covering her body, and a strength/weakness chart based on hair color or ethnicity.

After one particularly bawdy comment, the man sitting in the booth next to us turns and says very seriously, “Hey guys. Look, my wife, daughter, and I are just trying to have a nice meal. Do you think you could cut the stripper talk for like 10 minutes until we leave?”

Shame swallows us up and we mumble profuse apologies, then get to wondering why someone would bring his family to a Hooters in the first place. In hope of a nice meal? To avoid overhearing drunken guys talking? Maybe he thought it was a family-friendly, owl-themed eatery.

Deprived the fulfillment of our carnal desires, and having consumed another couple pints worth of rum and cokes, we decide it’s time for some actual sin. One of us calls up a stripper service on the way back to the hotel, and before we can register what’s happened, we’re told by the operator that two lovely ladies will arrive at our room in half an hour.

None of us has ever actually seen a stripper before, and at least one of us has never even seen a real live naked female of any occupation, so this is a giant leap forward for our nerdy group.

We get back to the room, and the excitement of our impending, naked Bar Mitzvah quickly wears off. Time passes. Bored, we switch on the TV and find an episode of Pokemon. This invokes group-wide nostalgia for a childhood we might soon lose, and the sobering wave of regret washes over us. After all, Misty had always been more than enough woman for our middle-school level fantasies. Would we now discard her for some card-stock charlatan?

An hour goes by, and one of us falls asleep, lulled into the world of dreams by Jigglypuff’s soothing song.

Displeased, we call the friendly stripper establishment, whose secretary says the girls got caught in traffic (it’s now 4 in the morning, but who knows what traffic is like in Vegas? Not us!).

Another hour passes, and with it, another person. By this point we’re all tired, and nobody really thinks this is a good idea anymore, so I call up the lady to cancel. At the mention of the word, the bubbly girl morphs into a Hyde-ian version of herself like a lycanthropic lust-monger, swearing by the gods of compulsory nudity that we will pay the two hundred dollars whether we like it or not, so do we want it to go to waste, or do we want to quote: “see some titties?”

Plus, like the punch-line to a bad horror movie, the girls are already inside the building!

My friend grabs the phone, insists we’re cancelling, and hangs up, but the lupine threats have sunk their teeth into our impressionable gray matter, and the indelible and primal fear of strippers sets in.

We awaken the two sleeping friends and herd them into the corner farthest from the door, then switch off all the lights, never letting our voices rise above a whisper. I never thought I’d find myself hiding from strippers, but life isn’t always predictable, and here I was.

A few minutes pass and we realize how ridiculous we’re being. Strippers aren’t so scary, even with  those strange and elusive lady parts. Our bravest member convinces us that the danger is all in our minds and gets up to turn on the lights. He walks to the switch, but just as he’s about to flip it, there’s a knock on the door!

He freezes, and we hear the two girls talking indistinctly just beyond the threshold. Suddenly, the room phone starts ringing.

“Nobody answer,” I whisper, and everyone nods their consent.

“Oh crap!” whispers a friend. “They have my cell number, and if it rings, they’ll know I’m here!”

But his cell phone is across the room.

“You can’t go over there!” one of my friends whisper-shouts. “It’s too dangerous.”

“I have to do this,” says the owner, stoically.

“Let me come with you,” I say.

“No. I won’t risk you too. I’m going on my own.” He starts to army crawl toward the table near the door. We watch with bated breath, worried that the strippers will see a shadow under the door or use some stripper powers to otherwise detect him.

But he makes it to the phone and back. Like modern day Anne Franks, we huddle in fear as the hotel phone rings again and again…In hushed tones, I make the Anne Frank metaphor and all of my friends tell me I’m a terrible person. The door shudders under the force of the strippers’ plastic-surgery enhanced limbs, and we shudder in nervous unison.


The strippers finally departed in frustration, leaving us free to watch more Pokemon.

We lived the rest of the trip in a constant state of fear, sure that the girls’ pimp would come to beat the money out of us with his pimp fists. Every time we left the room, we’d use an elaborate series of mirrors to ensure that the hallway was clear, then sneak out as if we were an elite force of commandos.

Even though we may not have ended up with strippers, we did go to an over-the-top, vampire-themed, topless rock opera filled with magic tricks, dance, and aerial acrobatics, a show that perfectly combined our nerdy love of vampires with just enough depravity that we felt like we’d really accomplished some growing up.


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Cop Week: Day 2 — The Regular Cop

Close your eyes and imagine yourselves traveling forward in time many years. Now open them. What are you still doing reading this blog post? It’s been years!

In a time-jump justifying bit of luck, I managed to go through college without getting a single ticket, either because my newfound love of learning inspired me to untold heights of citizenry and obedience or because I didn’t yet own a horse-free motor buggy. But upon graduation, I was presented with my first car, a shining symbol of status that turned eyes and won hearts with its dent-ridden charms. Eventually, by the blessed hand of Chronos, the earth spun to September and I drove my new prize to San Luis Obispo, where Brian, the roommate, was taking 6 years to finish school.

My first Friday in town was shrouded in the hazy magic of heavy boozing. It was one of those calm nights when the wind rustles through the trees with the sound of uncertain beginnings, and the moon sparkles in the sky with unattainable majesty.

Also, my literally insane cousin needed to be picked up from the dorms because he’d spent the last few hours getting blitzed knitting a sweater and was thus unable to perform complex tasks like operating heavy machinery or speaking words. Unfortunately, the only place to stop my vehicle was inside this little cul de sac which clearly should not have been a fire lane. I figured I’d idle my car so that, should any fires choose this inopportune moment to ignite nearby, I could skedaddle  in a jiffy.

The cousin had done so much knitting that he was at this point highly unreliable, so to pass the twenty minutes it took him to traverse two sets of stairs and a small lawn, I booted up the ever reliable Angry Birds.

Out of nowhere, a cop taps on my window, asks for license and registration. I immediately weep like a little girl, but the cop is immune! He starts to write the ticket, and I pray to the god of finance that I’d still be able to feed myself post-indictment. But before he can finish copying down my address, he gets a call.

Then, with barely controlled rage, the cop leans into my face, his beady eyes pinched into an expression halfway between disappointed foster parent and a crocodile that just lost a chunk of its tail.

When he spoke, I could feel the heat of his breath on my face. It smelled of donuts and a deeply buried insecurity.

Cop: “You’re lucky that these shit-for-brains college kids can’t handle themselves like adults,” he spat. “I have to go save some student who’s puking his guts out on the steps of the performing arts center before he chokes on his own vomit and his parents find themselves without a son.”

And with that he stormed to his car, slammed the door, and sped off, leaving me both taken aback, and, beneath the shock of his fury-speech, joyous.

Stay tuned for Day 3 of Cop Week, in which the daring Russ saves the day during a bank robbery when his pitiful cries wake up an unconscious security guard!


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