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Lush Bucket

Learning one's limits

A few nights ago Grant got blotto drunk and then threw his back out barfing afterward. God, I am so sorry I missed that. I hear he was on a stage somewhere, with an actual microphone, singing "It's Raining Men" and tonguing someone wearing a rubber George W. Bush mask. Then he went home and spewed like a busted beer keg all over his perfectly decorated vintage floor plan. When he came by my house the next day to tell me about it, I couldn't tell if he looked like hell or not because he had inherited the George W. Bush mask and was wearing it right then. "If you're gonna learn to be a drunk," he said, his voice muffled through the rubber mouth hole, "you gotta keep a plastic pail by the bed."

Ha! Serves him right, I say. I remember when our friend Evelyn got married. Grant used my vulnerable state as an opportunity to soak my face in a trough of champagne, seeing as how my date for the wedding, Lary, left the reception with another woman.

"You don't mind, do you?" Lary had asked before bolting.

"You're my date, you dick!"

"I knew you'd understand."

And off he went. Grant also watched him go. "Champagne?" he smiled, handing me a glass. He was using his sinister smile, a warning to me that he is very much in touch with his inner evil and he's striving to influence others to achieve the same. I've been trying to trace the birth of this demon in Grant — because I knew him pre-demon — and as best as I can tell, it emerged the first time one Monday night at Fuzzy's when Francine Reed was performing. That's the night Grant invented "sandwich dancing," which entails three or more people slow dancing in a drunken, undulating conga line. "I wanna be the meat!" Grant yells when it's time to sandwich dance, which usually includes every time Reed does her heart-stopping rendition of Etta James. I don't know what it is about Reed, but her singing just seems to bring out the bad behavior in my friends. And I think I mean "bad" in a good way, sort of.

Back to the wedding: That night Grant invented "cluster kissing," which I won't go into except to say that it seemed like a good idea at the time, swept up in the sweetness of the nuptials as I was. I drank, danced, laughed and fumbled into the arms of my friends. "I love you, did you know that?" I'd say. "I love you! I mean it." Cluster kiss. "I could die right now and be the happiest person in the universe!" Cluster kiss. Group hug. Sandwich dance. "I mean it! I could die!"

That night Grant invented "cluster kissing," which I won't go into except to say that it seemed like a good idea at the time, swept up in the sweetness of the nuptials as I was.

I think that's how it was, anyway, seeing as how it was a while back and my memory is kind of foggy. Today, though, I can't drink more than two glasses of wine without having to stop and look for my liver, which by that time will have escaped from my body out of self-preservation and will be found on the road hitchhiking its way to a healthier host.

"Get back in my body!" I'll have to yell to it, and my liver will just keep walking, waving me off.

"I warned you," it'll say, "I've had it."

Eventually we'll reunite, though, but not until I promise to remember I'm not in college anymore.

Because in college, my favorite cocktail was this concoction called Smith & Kearns. It contained, I think, brandy, Kahlua, cream, vodka, soda, about a bucket of fermented potatoes, frog parts, ground glass and two cans of lighter fluid. The bartender needed protective goggles to mix it. He then poured it into a large trough and we, the future of America, would soak our heads in it until it was time to take mid-terms. Seriously, the next day I could bounce out of bed, read a book by Joan Didion and have the report finished in time for my afternoon class.

But when you get to your 30s, sometimes your body basically decides to issue a stop-loss order against any more alcohol damage, without warning or asking your permission or anything. And it does this by suddenly making your hangovers so hellacious that they couldn't hurt more if your brain actually had, during your sleep, transformed into a toxic ball of molten poison that shoots volcanic acid from your eye sockets every few seconds. This is your body's way of saying, "Time for a new lifestyle, lush bucket."

The cruelest part is it takes a while before you figure out just how much your body will allow you to get away with. Sometimes you can have that second margarita and feel fine the next morning, and sometimes you'll feel like your head has been left outside on a stake for eight days under a shower of axes. Essentially it's up to you to find the balance, so you keep playing hit-and-miss until you find a happy medium. It's either that or stop drinking all together, which I did once ... until one day I woke up to find my liver staring at me sternly. "What are you, dead?" it asked.

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