The Crown Royale Incident

(I don't remember if I've told this story on the blog before. If I have, I apologize. In any case, it's very much a story that will get tagged as "ugly", by me as well as everyone else. It's sort of funny, but mostly just gross and a little sad.)

First, let me start this story with a preface: this is not a good story. It's about a time when I was younger, and I did a lot of stupid things. I don't condone my behaviour in it, and I realize there's some fucked up shit involved. With hindsight, I do think part of the story if funny enough to warrant a blog post. But some of you may not, and that's okay, too.

This is a story of a camping trip that went horribly, horribly wrong. It is also a story about Newt doing something insanely stupid, and surviving only because God likes to protect idiots and drunks, and occasionally both.

It's also kind of incredibly long. So go make some popcorn and a sammich, and sit down for a tale fit for the ages.

It all began in the distant days of 2002. The United States had just begun its love affair with paranoia. The U.K. had just begun its love affair with the United States. And Canada had just begun its love affair with wildfires, which were busy turning vast tracts of forest into swaths of fiery destruction. The Americans, naturally, assumed this was a terrorist plot.

I was nineteen years old, at that tender young age where I was just old enough to buy alcohol, and yet still young enough to think that being able to legally buy alcohol made me anything closely resembling an "adult". I was sure that my opinions mattered, that I had a firm grasp on the way the world worked, and that I was a role model to those "kids" still in high school.

My buddy, Squee, had started dating his girlfriend 3P about six months earlier. I had thrown a large party for New Year's Even, and Squee and 3P wound up on a bed somewhere in my house and decided they shared a common interest - namely, Squee's penis. I remember, a few weeks into 2002, saying something to the effect of "it'll only last a few months". It's 2011, and it turns out that Squee and 3P share all sorts of interest, so in hindsight, I was full of shit.

It happens. Quite a lot with me, actually.

3P and I didn't exactly get along right away. I would like to say this was due to personality defects on her end, but this was unfortunately not the case. You see, I was something of a jerk back then.

I took pleasure in attacking people's weak points, showcasing what I figured at the time was my substantial wit. Mostly, I just bullied people. And 3P had South African ancestry, so I would often poke at that. I told her that Nelson Mandela hated her. I told her that she was no doubt going to start making everyone with skin even slightly darker than hers into slaves. I may have even referred to her as "Yoko" once or twice, because I thought it was funny.

But everyone assured her that this was just the way I was, that I didn't mean anything by it (I really didn't, I was just abrasive), and that once you got to know me, I was actually pretty nice. This was, for the most part, true, and I think 3P saw that. After awhile, we began to genuinely like each other, and by the time of the "Crown Royale Incident" were on pretty good terms.

We were on such good terms that 3P had begun to do what she did with all her single male friends. She tried to hook them up with her single female friends.

I was perpetually single in those days. I would meet a girl, pine over her for a while, and then date her polar opposite for a few weeks. This would alienate the first girl (who usually liked me back just as much as I liked her), and then I would realize I had no interest in the second girl, and dump her like a bag of rocks. I groped and made out with too many of the wrong women, because somewhere in my head I was convinced I didn't deserve a good one.

3P would try and set me up with girls, but her philosophy was just as bad - "She looks good, date her", as if appearance really matters much. To my eternal credit, I didn't believe that then, and I still don't. But after a few misses with 3P, I backed off and asked her to leave me alone, that I could find my own women thankyouverymuch.

And she did. For the most part.

Flash forward to the summer of 2002, when Squee and I planned what was going to be "the best camping trip ever". We bought a campground in the Sooke Potholes, because we had yet to learn that paying money for a campsite on a campground in a place like British Columbia is, well, retarded. But, we pitched our tents, surveyed our chosen 20' by 20' site with pride, and looked dotingly upon our "provisions".

I had brought a two-six of Crown Royale, a four pack of Smirnoff Ice, and a bunch of Vodka. This was my alcohol for two nights of camping. And others had brought even more. In those days, I could drink a two-six of crown in one night, and not even get that drunk. One time, my buddy Blowcock and I each drank a two-six of whiskey over an hour and half, and neither us got buzzed in the slightest.

People started arriving at our site, pitching second hand tents and having small talk, when 3P came up to me. "My friend Jen* is coming, but doesn't have a tent. Can she use yours?" she asked coyly.

I shrugged, thinking nothing of it. I had only met Jen once, but no matter. "Sure, why not?"

3P was up to her old games. For some reason, she felt Jen and I would be a good match, that we'd hit it off, and everything would go from there. I sometimes think 3P was looking for another couple to hang out. Maybe she wanted someone to play bridge with? I don't know.

3P smiled. And then said "Jen is nice. And if you play your cards right, you might get laid tonight."

Remember what I said about being just old enough to think you're an adult when you're clearly not? This was an extension of that. We figured since we were old enough to talk about sex, we were old enough to be promiscuous. The funny thing is, while I was excited about the idea of getting laid just because I had spare room in my tent, I didn't think there was anything odd about it. It felt perfectly natural, and I just took it as a given. Earlier that year, I had slept with a girl simply because we liked the same band. So it seemed perfectly normal.

That would never happen these days. This is probably a good thing, but sometimes I yearn for the simpler times. As a male is wont to do.

I was cooking some grilled cheese sandwiches when she arrived, "refining my technique" by throwing the burned out bread slices into the bush absently, hoping I would eventually brown the bread before blackening it and not realizing that my coleman stove had a volume setting lower than "max".

Jen sat down next to me, introduced herself, and set up her blankets in my tent. We talked for a bit, and in a very strange manner, we both knew that, after we got our drink on, the two of us were going to bump uglies. There was no real attraction or instant spark; part of it I think was because neither of us wanted to offend 3P. Which is an awful thing to say about, well, everybody involved. But there it is.

As the sun began to sink lower, we all started drinking. I had a few shots of vodka, but hadn't cracked open my two-six of Crown. Jen and I seperated from the group, and began to talk about random stuff. And wouldn't you know it? I actually found her interesting.

We wound up stumbling into someone else's camping lot, and found a bunch of guys that were our age, also drinking. We grabbed an empty log, sat beside them, and chatted. I was struck by just how cool these guys were. And how cool Jen seemed to be. And how cool I was, at least at the moment.

They noticed my unopened bottle of Crown Royale.

"You drink that shit? Do you have a mixer?"

"Nah. I drink it straight." Which I did. And still do.

"You drink rye straight!? That's hardcore!" One of them said. I felt like a goddamn hero.

But one guy didn't believe me. So I took a long pull of the bottle, to prove him wrong. The boys around me applauded, thoroughly impressed. Jen also seemed impressed, and maybe even turned on a little bit. After all, this guy she'd be sleeping with in a few hours was cool enough to talk to random strangers, and tough enough to slam hard alcohol as if it were water.

Had I been a little bit older, I would have stopped there. But I was young. And dumb. And convinced I was invulnerable. Despite being a five eight, 150 pound diabetic ginger kid who listened to angry music to cover up his own insecurities.

I took my newly opened two-six, and slammed it back. Animal House style. I literally chugged the hard alcohol, and it had absolutely no burn whatsoever. I watched as the bottle emptied itself, and felt like a man as the puny little boys around me cheered in disbelief.

I watched as the last few drops emptied out of the bottle, and remember thinking "Maybe I just made a mistake..."

That was my last clear memory. Everything kind of got hazy after that. It's like in those old movies, where a panel will pop up and say "Scene Missing". There were a lot of scenes missing. I mostly just remember little vignettes.

I remember collapsing over a pile of logs and throwing up into a bush. I remember Jen having to go get my friends, and Squee and a few other people picking me up and dragging me back to my tent as vomit dripped down my chin. I remember drunkenly telling Squee to "punch me in the face" because I didn't want to pass out. And I remember being tossed into my tent and putting my head outside, with puke coming out of my mouth and nose. I was unable to move. I'm lucky I didn't aspirate or anything.

Jen, by the way, shouldn't be let entirely off the hook. Because that very night, she said to 3P "do I still have to sleep in that tent?" despite the fact that I was so thoroughly disgusting that no one should have been within the same time zone as me. And she also (apparently) said the next morning "Maybe I'll sleep with him tonight, if he's less drunk."

Or something to that effect. It's been ten years, I don't remember all the details. But really, she should have been running for the hills. I was an absolute wreck. What did it say about her that she hadn't entirely written me off? It bums me when I stop to think about it.

I'd had bad drinking moments before, which I guess are a part of being a young male idiot in this great country of ours. But none of them were as bad as that night. I have never vomited through my nose before or after that night. And I've never been so drunk that I needed my friends to carry me.

The next morning, I awoke alone in my tent. I was still drunk, but not in a pleasant sense. Every motion made my body ill, and I felt as if my body were sinking into the ground. Literally, I felt as if the world were swallowing me up. I remember spreading my body out, as if I were doing the dead man's float, trying to stay above the cracked and hard earth. I was like a cat burglar trying not to trigger a trap. "Steady.... steady...."

Eventually, I staggered outside, and everyone laughed. There were chunks in my hair. My hoodie was torn and backwards. I was covered in mud and brambles. My eyes were red, my jaw slack, and the world kept trying to spin in a clockwise fashion. Jen took one look at me, yelped, and drove off.

"You fucked that one up, man," Squee said, while I dug out some cereal and focused on swallowing food. I grunted in response, and then stumbled back to my tent.

I would like to say this was the moment I went from being a boy to being a man. I'd like to say I matured a bit, right then and there, and that I vowed something to effect of "I'll never be that stupid again." But life isn't like that.

Because that very night, despite still being sick from the night before, I drank again. Like I said, god protects idiots and drunks. And sometimes both.

* Not her real name

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