The difference between a hang-over and being sick is that I’ve never negotiated with God when I was sick. Every flu, measles, chicken pox, broken bone, sprained limb, concussion, sore throat or black eye has been met with stoic strength. I have never begged or bargained with anybody but myself when I have sustained some sort of illness or injury. I figure it is the price one pays for leading an active life with little consideration for personal protection equipment, dieting, stretching or hand sanitizer.
Hang-overs, on the other hand, don’t get the same treatment. If I drink one too many Miller Lites after playing some pick-up basketball, I would willingly sacrifice both my first child and my autographed photo of Frank Zappa for a 30-second reprieve from the pounding headache. I’d make Abraham look like a foot-dragger up on Mount Moriah if I thought for one moment I could feel 25% better than I did when I woke up near the toilet. Too much wine with dinner last night can easily lead to blood oaths with Satan, Beelzebub or Senator Mike Lee promising to turn over my eternal soul to the dark-side for a mug of Sanka, a couple of Excedrin and an Egg McMuffin.
Hangovers are horrible because in the end, you have nobody to blame for feeling this way than yourself. Oh sure, there are usually a cast of players from the night before that were instrumental putting you in this pathetic state but one needs to take ownership of a bender if it is ever to be referred to as a great evening. There are some trigger-words that don’t help drinking responsibly. For example, the battle cry of “Shots!” invokes a William Wallace stance at the bar but let’s not forget, Mel Gibson eventually gets disemboweled. Mind Erasers (1oz. Vodka, ½ oz. Kahlua and topped with club soda then power-sucked through a straw) neither erase minds or evenings the next day. If a drink’s name promised it’s outcome, I’m sure the most popular drink I’d pour behind the bar would be Wet Pussies.
I woke up Monday morning hung-over. We had a couple of friends over to the house on Sunday to have cocktails and snacks while watching the NBA All-Star Game. I had prepped for a couple of different signature drinks at the house. I was making Pimm’s Cup #1 (1oz. Sloe Gin, 1oz. Dry Gin, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and ginger beer garnished with cucumber and lemon wheels) and Wall Street’s (1 ½ oz. Canadian Whiskey, grated ginger, Angostura Bitters and Ginger Ale) for the evening. I was trying out a variation of a Sazerac at the house (1oz. Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Peychaud’s Bitters and dash of Anisette). Each drink taken individually with moderation would have been fine. I, throwing caution into the wind, drank a tankard of each.
You’d think that if I read one of these God damn “Behind The Bar” columns I’d learn my lesson. Moderation, take your time, it’s not a race, no ones counting how many you’ve had, remember you have a heart condition that doesn’t allow over-consumption, your girlfriend will stab you in the neck with a shame-knife, etc&. I believe in measuring out every drink that I pour, not just for guests but myself. Yet sometime around midnight, I looked like a caricature from a Tim Burton movie sloshing hooch from glass to glass singing sea shanties and challenging people to duels.
Therefore, I have nobody to blame for my hangover other than myself. I over did it and didn’t eat more than a hummingbird’s beak worth of food the entire night. Above and beyond the fact that I drank more than in 12 hours than most people do during 12 months, I was feeling sick before the our guests came over. I had a tickle in my throat, was feeling weak and was very tired from the previous work week. I had opened for four straight days at Keys on Main and was plain exhausted when I got home on Sunday morning. I tried to sleep in but I needed to get up to help get things ready for tonight. It was a perfect storm for me to pick up a bug on Monday: too little sleep, too much stress, way too much to drink and substaining off a diet of creamy Brie cheese for the last 24 hours.
Being sick sucks. Nothing throws you life out of more whack then being forced to lay in bed all day because you are too weak to move to the couch. You’re feverous, tired and cranky. I hate admitting this but a lot of the time I am a little bit scared. Being sick takes a lot of out of you and it basically becomes a waiting game. Because my drug of choice comes in a clear bottle from Ireland, I have to be really sick to take a pull of NyQuil or pop a couple of Alka Seltzer. I hate the feeling of being stoned. There is nothing worse than waking up after taking some Benedryl and hope to do anything more productive than eat cereal. Being sick means you are forced to step outside of your normal patterns and at this point in my life, I am not ready for that.
Establishing good patterns is what I try to do behind the bar. I like having the backbar set-up in a particular fashion, fruit cut a certain way, bar mats facing the same way and even how the glasses are stacked. I know it sounds really anal-retentive but having things set-up in such a particular way makes it easy to work quickly when the bar gets busy. And much like being sick, I think that I can do it all myself. I think that I have it all under control until that moment where I clearly do not have any control. The problem that I usually get so far in the evening where it would take a scrum of bartenders to help dig me out of the mess I’ve created. At times like these when good communication is so important, we often are at a point where we can not talk without sounding like Chewbacca. I expect people to read my mind and of course they’re not going to be able to do that. It’s like the crow’s nest asking for a pair of binoculars when the Titantic is already split in two at the bottom of the ocean.
Well, you can’t do it alone and you need other people. Teamwork is essential to all aspects of life and in the end, it usually makes it a lot more gratifying. I like working with fellow bartenders, barbacks and cocktail waitresses because together we are able to make good money without working that hard. I make a Hell of a lot more by myself but I usually end up flat on my back in the process. I never came to work to make friends, I bartend to make money. By making friends along the way, well, that’s just an added bonus.
I have been pretty fortunate through most of my life in not getting sick. When I have been sick, I have been very lucky to have people take care of me. As doctors are the worst patients, I think bartenders make the worst hang-over victims. The headaches, dry mouth, upset stomach, body pains and blood shot eyes are the worse. Behind the bar, we have access to more non-alcoholic drinks than we know what to do with but when we get hung-over, we’re usually at our couch with only toliet water to drink. It makes it seem that Aron Ralston had more drink options under that boulder.
The Ancient Roman’s dealt with a hang-over with raw owl eggs and fried canaries. I think that is too much poultry. A Prairie Oyster might do the trick if you’re ready to empty the contents of your stomach into a toilet. A heavy meal of fried breakfast foods and strong black coffee is appealing but that usually requires leaving the house and interacting with other people. I am not a fan of the “Hair of the Dog.” Apart from the unseething appearance of drinking hooch at any hour of the morning that doesn’t involve a sporting event, chasing the dog with booze always leads to another lost day. Long hot showers followed by the “hang-over hornies” with the rest of the day spent in front of the television eating delivery pizza only works for the first three months of the relationship. After the 90 day trial period, she is going to want to go out and do something.
My solution to a hang-over is three-fold: one, you have to convince yourself that you are not hung-over and that you’re just a little tired from the night before. This Jedi mind trick is the most important step to recovery. If you can convince yourself that the throbbing headache, aching body, blood-shot eyes, bone-dry mouth and torn-up stomach is nothing more than the normal reaction to sleeping naked on a bag of dog kibble in the kitchen then you are halfway to recovery. Two, you got to put a tiger in your tank. Unless you had the wherewithal to get coffee, aspirin and breakfast burritos delivered to your house at the moment you wake up, you’re going to need to clean-up, take a shower and go get rations. It will initially be difficult to face society through the eyes of somebody who has drank more than a barrel of monkeys but you’ll appreciate Blue Plate Diner or even Village Inn once they bring you some breakfast. Three, resist going back to bed. I know it sounds contradictory to every whim in your body but you need to go out and do something. I am not suggesting hiking Mount Timpanogos or starting an ultimate freebee tournament but it is essential to burn some calories before heading back home. At the bare minimum try doing some grocery shopping or renting of movies. Heading home empty handed is really unsatisfying once you were able to muster the courage and strength to meet the day or late afternoon.
It’s been five days and I am finally on the mend. When reflecting upon this last week and how I felt, I think of one Hulk Hogan who said: “Train, say your prayers, eat you vitamins, be true to yourself, true to your country and be a real American.” Or just watch how much whiskey and absinthe you drink.