Tag Archives: Halloween

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.

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Why I’m Afraid of Sardines

This story is so spooOoOooky that we just had to post it on Halloweeeeen.

When I was five years old, my family moved into the house across the street from the town’s haunted mansion, probably to help me face my fear of everything. Also, because it was my grandma’s house. The move landed me in a new school where the other kids picked on me mercilessly for being too afraid to do things like jump off short fences or watch Disney’s Hercules, but I knew they whispered tales of how I was the only one who’d brave the yard of the witch. For most of my young life, that house was the only thing that kept me cool enough to avoid daily pummeling and ridicule.

Sadly, the cookie-pushing, Lawrence-Welk-marathoning, little lady passed on a few years back, and since then, her former haunt has served as the perfect spot for me and my hooligan friends to escape supervision just long enough to make a series of increasingly bad decisions. It was a fun place to hang out, except that no one could make it through the night without being haunted by the curse.

One fine dusk not too long ago, my foolhardy chums and I decided to brave the unholy dwelling in an effort to play a game of Sardines, which is hide and seek backwards. One person hides and everybody else seeks, then, when you locate the sneaky inconspicuant, you cram yourself in there with them like sardines in a can.

But before the game could begin, we had to get inside, which inevitably involved considerable spiderweb face-collision, and all too often you’d find living, poison-filled arachniterrors sinking their tiny, vengeful fangs into your vulnerable exposed bits minutes later. Having made it to the relative safety of the indoors, we did our best to ignore the flickering shadows cast by the house’s dim, failing light bulbs. Since that clearly wasn’t scary enough, half of said light bulbs had been replaced with harsh red ones over the years, turning the long, twisting halls into gateways to Satan’s darkroom. We walked apprehensively toward the living room, each floorboard creaking from termite damage. Mice skittered nervously through the walls, and honey from the massive network of beehives that extended halfway through the ceiling dripped to the floor with alien, insectoid indifference.

Basically, the minions of mother nature had agreed to temporarily set aside their differences in order to scare the living shit out of us.

But we were mature college students. To admit being unnerved by such trivialities was childish. By god, we were going to play Sardines wherever and whenever we wanted.

We decided to have two people start as hiders, ensuring that they’d be cramped and uncomfortable, forced to squeeze together in one of the mildewy nooks, crannies, basements, or closets that comprised the ghostly grandma mansion. Also, the buddy system triples your chances of surviving a wraith attack. As the sun sank below the horizon, we settled on the rules, which consisted solely of “no hiding outside.” And thus the most fateful game of Sardines I would ever play commenced.

One countdown later, there’s about six of us overturning couches, yanking open doors, and generally trashing the place, but try as we might, we simply cannot locate our friends’ slippery, fish-like bodies. I know the house inside and out, but after checking the weird bonus closet inside the bedroom closet, the secret basement behind the bookshelf, and that strange, snowy kingdom in the wardrobe, I’m befuddled. Maybe the bees had returned to exact their revenge. Blood for blood. Thorax for thorax.

Suddenly it dawns on me that perhaps our quarries have used devilishly clever wordplay to their advantage—you’re not allowed to hide outside, but we never said you couldn’t go outside. Feeling brilliant, I step out into the hazy glow of twilight, ready to prove that it’s not strength or agility that wins games, but a mastery of the English language.

But they’re not in the garage, or the tool shed, or the outhouse.

I wander back into the haunted mansion to share my abject failure…but the place is empty.

Honey drips in the silence.

I make a loop of the house. Now that they’re all together, finding them will pose no challenge for keen-eyed Russ. Nobody.

Mice skitter in the darkness.

I was gone for under two minutes. They never could’ve hidden that fast.

Boards creak in the night.

I glance into the mirror beside the candelabra and see shadows dancing in glee, a hoedown of the occult.

That was the proverbial straw that snapped the camel’s fraying psyche, so to speak. Now I’m freaking out like my gutless, terrified self, reduced to whispering reassurances. “It’s gonna be ok, Russ. You’re just playing a game.”

But what if it’s not just a game? What if my friends have been systematically hunted? I start to call out in desperation.

Then it hits me. I’m in a horror movie. The serial killer murdered everyone else while I was outside, and I’m the last one left. My viewers are yelling at the screen, “Don’t open that door! Run, damn it! For the love of God, run!”

But I don’t run. I don’t call for help. I just keep looking, whimpering like a helpless puppy trapped in a hair-raising game of Sardines.

Then I hear a cry of pain from my grandma’s bedroom, and, following the same instincts that made me try to help that crazed, frothing squirrel, leading to a bloody finger and a legion of rabies tests, I sprint up the stairs and head toward the noise. It’s coming from a closet situated behind a heavy chest. I’d already tried opening it multiple times, but it was locked.

As I reach for the handle, I can almost hear a thousand moviegoers facepalm.

I twist, sure that my never-having-been-stabbed days are about to come to a pointed end.

Apparently it was never actually locked—just warped and stuck with bee-goop.

After a couple good yanks, it swings open, and I peer inside to find—

Everyone, sighing with palpable relief, finally able to unleash their muffled pain and discomfort. They were buried in clothing and old spiky things, and had been lying on top of each other for the past half hour, an uncomfortable experience both physically and socially.

Some of them had bloody scratches, others, deeply-embedded flesh-dents. They had endured as long as they could, all in the name of freaking  me the hell out.

Hey, at least my friends are willing to make sacrifices for me, right?

Happy Halloween, everybody!

UPDATE: The 3rd episode of the new TV show Grimm features a haunted house with dripping honey!! WTF?! They totally stole that straight from my life.

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Lightning Never Strikes In The Same Pla—Ahhh! Lightning!

When I was but a wee lad, I was somehow tricked into joining the Boy Scouts.

Try to remember a happier, more innocent time. I can't either!

I think it had something to do with a free pumpkin, which is, in retrospect, well, just as compelling as it was then. I could so go for a pumpkin right now. I would carve the shit out of that thing, probably into a likeness of my favorite Game of Thrones character (may he rest in peace), and when I was done, I’d make pumpkin bread out of its sweet, sweet innards.

Oh no! Now every time I see a pumpkin I’ll think of episode nine. What have I done? Ok. Moving on. After many years of ice camping, forced marching, learning knots, forgetting knots, and sitting through brain-manglingly tedious meetings, I found myself at the National Boy Scout Jamboree. There’s a joke in there, and I’ve spent quite a while dancing around being PC in an attempt to phrase it correctly, but I’ve finally given up. Now it’s time to pawn the work off on you, with Russ’s 1st

Ludicrously Reasonable Challenge!

Take the following elements and form them into a light-hearted and negativity-free joke!

  1. The Boy Scouts of America are known for being homophobic.
  2. At the Jamboree, over 40,000 young boys spend 10 days together in cramped quarters.
  3. Jamboree is defined as “noisy merrymaking.”

Anyway, I’m in this giant camp that spans miles and miles, and supposedly we’re there to learn things, so, in the name of pretending to gain knowledge, my friend Nick and I sign up for what we’ve heard is the easiest activity: Electricity Merit Badge. We hike an hour out to this little hut that’s divided into 10 stations where some bored adults usher us in and make a halfhearted attempt to teach us something about stuff. The first and most valuable station taught us the art of positioning light switches in the most logical part of a room whilst taking into account maximum reachability and minimal effort, an important skill by anyone’s standards.

As we powered our way through the next five stations, the wind began to surge around us. The air switched speeds, whipping through the tent, tearing the canvas from the poles, and generally sparking fear in everyone. Confusingly, the rain, just a sprinkle moments before, was currently a shockingly fierce torrent pummeling the ground, and suddenly the adults in charge are generating a panic by cutting class short and conducting everyone outside. Positive that we should bolt, Nick and I impulsively decide to grab the bulb by the horns and head for home.

We start sprinting back to camp, but we’ve got a long way to go. I guess we were the last ones to get nature’s memo, because the camp is completely deserted, and by this point, every minute or two lightning strikes so close that it’s literally right there on the path with you like that annoying girl who has a crush on you who you can never quite seem to shake. You get the feeling that she’s hiding in the bushes just to watch you go by, but you can’t say anything because she kicks ass at trivia night and your team has an image to uphold at the local pub, damn it.

We finally pass a troop leader who asks us what the hell we’re doing still outside when there’s a tornado brewing and we’re this close to being blown half a drug trip from Kansas, but thankfully he’s on a mission and doesn’t have time to deal with us. Fueled by the invincibility of youth and a healthy portion of hunger, we veer out of our way to see if the snack shack is open, and hot dog, it is! Soon enough, we’re twiddling our idiot fingers underneath the overhang, waiting for burgers while a light show of death plays all around us.

We eventually get our food and resume our run, but another adult grabs us by our neckerchiefs and drags us into this little tent. It was like something out of a sci-fi apocalypse movie where the resistance sees you on the street and pulls you into a safe house then tries to recruit you. There’s hundreds of people huddled into this tiny tent which is somehow blisteringly hot, and we’re so squished that we can’t get the burgers to our mouths—a serious problem. The leader of the resistance stands up on a stool and starts this epic speech about how dangerous the world is out there, but that we’ll be safe as long as we stick together and don’t leave the tent (it’s got a lightning rod!), and the whole time I’m just looking down at my burger with salivatory sorrow as I watch it growing cold.

Nick looks at me, and  the mutual understanding of childhood friends passes between us. We nod and both make a break for it, dodging a guard and slipping out the back of the tent to freedom. Now all we have to do is run across a wide open field that’s about a quarter mile long and we’ll be back to the safety of our own camp where we’ll have both friends and playing cards, two things obviously worth risking your life for.

I remember pausing at the edge of the field, finishing the last bite of my rain-soaked burger, and wondering, for the first time, whether this idea was any sort of good, but hey, it was too late to turn back now, so Nick and I just set off into the open. As I’m running, I turn to see him panting away and realize that he’s a good six or seven inches taller than me, so if lightning’s going to hit anything, it’ll be him. I breathe a sigh of relief, which is immediately cut short by lightning striking a tree at the edge of the field.

We made it back to camp to cheers and hugs, and proceeded to play cards long into the night.

The next day, we found out that four scouts had been hit by lightning.

Don’t worry. They were all fine, but only because everyone around them knew a crapload of first aid.

Oh yeah, and remember Station 7, the one we didn’t quite make it to because of that giant lightning storm? The one that we were literally 5 minutes from completing? That’s right–it was Lightning Safety.

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