The best part about binge drinking is obvious; the drinking. The worst part’s a little harder to put a finger on, but I’d have to say it’s when you wake up after a six-day blackout locked in the walk-in freezer of a Chuck E. Cheese, chained to a pallet of mozzarella sticks with nothing but an anthropomorphic rat suit for warmth and nary a drop of liquor in sight.
Which pretty much describes my Sunday night. The details of how I’d ended up there probably aren’t important; I’ll have to assume that’s the case since the part of my brain hosting those memories has been closed for repairs. All I know is I woke with a chill, thinking I’d left the A/C on high again, only to find myself in that icy -- yet delicious -- cavern of death. My first instinct was to check my back for sutures. The last time I woke up with nipples this hard I’d been left in a bathtub full of Otter Freezer Pops short one set of kidneys (thankfully the organ thieves -- on discovering the kidneys’ state of disrepair -- decided to return my vital organs. They did make me give back the Otter Pops, though). From what my frost-bit fingers could feel through the fake rodent fur, everything was in place. So I shook the sandman-spunk out of my eyes and set out in search of a solution for what was now my most pressing concern: Finding a drink, and fast.
See, the DT shakes had already set in. For those of you unfamiliar with delirium tremens, think of it as nature’s way of telling you "it’s Miller time." The boozy-jigglies usually aren’t much of a problem since I’m rarely without a can of giggle-juice in spitting distance, and it only takes a Tall Boy or two to steady my hand so I can get back to operating the drill press. But there in that freezer I was pretty sure I was shit out of luck. Still, I figured I’d honor my alma mater and give it the old Harvard try (I refer of course to the Harvard Lewis School for Wayward Boys). I tore that freezer apart looking for something, anything, containing alcohol.
Unfortunately my initial hunch was correct. There were frozen sundries a-plenty but not even a bag of daiquiri mix I could suck on. I tried licking the sauce off a carton’s worth of tequila-mango buffalo wings for a buzz with no success. In a panic I even tried fermenting beer using pizza dough yeast and my own urine. Alas, my name was failure. So I sat down and prepared myself for the inevitable hallucinatory hell-ride I knew was only moments away.
Don’t think the irony escapes me that the most harrowing part of delirium tremens is something I’d been known to pay good money for; namely, hallucinations. But the DT-variety trip is not the consciousness-expanding talking rainbows we’ve come to expect from a hit of windowpane at the Pink Floyd laser show. The DT’s namesake delirium is more like experiencing one’s own death via every means Earthly possible for 6 straight hours. It was not a journey for the faint of heart or weak of spirit. Still, it hadn’t been the first time and probably wouldn’t be the last, and if a 40% mortality rate (as is associated with alcohol withdrawal) was going to faze me I’d have never tried snorting drain cleaner (an experiment I considered mostly a success). “Come on, you bastards!” I screamed at the vampire-fanged spiders that were now materializing from the freezer walls, “I’m ready for ya!”
There’s no describing the sheer horror I experienced next; but as a writer, I’ll do my best to try. Frozen Chicken Dippers transformed into miniature demons that poked my eyes with pitch-forks. Cheez-N-Bacon Potato Peelin's morphed into wolverines that tore my flesh with razor-sharp teeth. Spicy Garlic Breadstix Bites grew ten-inch spikes and launched themselves at me with the velocity of a Randy Johnson fastball. I screamed, I gnashed my teeth, I tore out clumps of my own hair in panic, not knowing if the next terrifying second would be my last. And then, just when I’d about given up on life and was ready to let the fiendish fire-breathing jalapeño poppers finish me off, an angel appeared. My guardian angel. Hooch.
That’s right. The lovable French mastiff from American cinema’s Turner & Hooch.
"Hello Ronnie," Hooch said, sounding a bit like Scoobie Doo only with a French accent.
"Hi there, old friend," I replied. "Looks like Mr. Pudding's gone and done it again. So is this it? Am I gonna die?"
"Ruff-ruff-ruff!" he laughed. "We're all gonna die someday. But you've still got a lot of work to do spreading the Good Lord's message. The message of the power of dance."
"The power of dance?" I queried in inner-dialog. Because before I could get the words out of my mouth, Hooch had disappeared in a puff of vanilla-scented smoke as the freezer door burst open and an army of police, firemen and EMT's poured in. In a matter of moments I was on a gurney and on my way to the Cedar-Sinai detox wing.
Seems my blood-curdling screams had alerted a security guard to my presence. But were it not for Hooch and his cryptic message about the power of dance, I surely would have died convulsing in a slush-puddle of my own bloody vomit, bile and piss there on the cold Chuck E. Cheese freezer floor. And just what did Hooch mean with all that business about the power of dance? I'm not sure, but I'm guessing it has something to do with my newest spec script (it used to be about zombie ninjas but after a quick rewrite it's now about DANCING zombie ninjas). All I know for certain's that if my writing can affect someone the way Dennis Shryack, Michael Blodgett, Daniel Petrie Jr., Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. affected me with their script for Turner & Hooch, maybe I can save a life the way they saved mine. And at the end of the day, isn't that WHY we write? To save lives?
I know it's why I do it. Well, that and the 7-figure paydays. And the cocaine. And the banging Asian hookers four at a time in a Chateau Marmont bungalow. But mostly, it's about saving lives.