This almost never happens to me. The last time, I was twenty-two. Which makes it, I believe, worthy of a post.
Dr. M and I were invited to a celebration, honoring…I have to keep this vague, because…well, you’ll see in a moment.
The celebration was held at a Russian restaurant in a non-descript edifice in the Valley, except that it had turrets. The restaurant was on the Second Floor. (A Chinese restaurant was on the First Floor.) You had to go up in an elevator. I don’t like elevators. Or celebrations for people I don’t know. (And for very few people I do know.) But I had promised to be a good sport, and not complain.
The elevator opened into a large, cavernous party room. The first thing that catches your eye that, suspended from the ceiling, is this enormous “Old Country”-style chandelier the size of the Mother Ship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I was hoping we would not be seated beneath it.
The woman in whose honor the celebration was being held came up to greet us. She introduced us to her father, a thick, cinder block of a man reputed to be involved in some murky underworldly entanglements (hence, the requirement for vagueness.) Throughout the evening, the phrase, “rival gang reprisals” was never far from my mind.
Dr. M and I were strategically seated opposite a couple with therapeutic credentials (Dr. M is a psychoanalyst), at a long table, weighed down with platters of appetizers – fish, beef, chicken, caviar, pancakes with butter, potato puffs with sour cream – a virtual cornucopia of delights. “This is all the food that’s missing in Russia,” I cleverly observed. The shrink couple responded with a smile, though it could easily have been mistaken for a wince.
Sitting before me were two glasses – a wine glass, and a short glass, maybe four-inches high, maybe one inch in diameter. The glass was so inconsequential, it seemed like little damage could be done by its contents.
How wrong can a man ignorant to the ways of alcohol be? The glass was for Vodka.
I asked the waitress to take it away. I’d have a little red wine, but that would be it.
The waitress seemed hurt. Like I’d insulted her mother’s borscht. I immediately changed my tune.
“Okay. I’ll have some.”
The waitress filled my glass with a transparent liquid. I raised it my lips, and took a tentative sip. It tasted like spot remover. Either that, or lighter fluid. Of course, I have never tasted either of those things. But I imagine that, taste-wise, it appropriately belongs in that neighborhood.
The contents of my glass disappeared rather rapidly. After all, it was not a big glass. Seeing it empty, a waiter arrived to refill it.
“Please, no”, I insisted. Followed by, “Just a little.”
My glass was immediately re-Vodkafied.
The platters kept coming. Some of the dishes were salty. And since there was no water provided – we actually asked for water, and the waitress made a face – the only way to dilute the food’s salt content was with Vodka.
So that’s what I drank. And I continued to all night. My response to an offer of a third glass was, “Yes, please.” By the fourth glass, I was pouring it myself.
At some point, I began thinking of it as a science experiment, the objective of the study being, “How drunk can I get?”
My first observation was that, as I got more inebriated, I apparently got funnier. Watching the platters of caloric delicacies continuing to arrive, I bemoaned,
“It’s not fair. I have a doctor’s appointment in two days. And they’re going to weigh me!”
The couple across the table – the erstwhile wincers – now roared with laughter at my every pronouncement, including that one, which, to be honest, did not really deserve it. Since these people were also liberally throwing back that clear but potent liquid, I was not sure if I was suddenly hilarious because of the Vodka in me, or because of the Vodka in them. I immediately regretted not saving my “food missing in Russia” comment for later. It would probably have killed!
It was now time for the entertainment. Four women – Dr. M later corrected me, explaining that it was two women and two men. My confusion could have been due to the long hair on the men. Or it could just have been the Vodka.
The performers alternately sang a song in English and a song in Russian, though, except for “My Girl”, they were very difficult to tell apart. My confusion could have been due to the heavy, Russian accents. Or it could have been the Vodka.
Every number was followed by some sort of Slavic “Shout out” that, to my inebriated ears, sounded like this:
“Russian words. Russian words. Russian words. Russian words. ‘Happy Boorsday!’ Russian words. Russian words. Russian words. Russian words.”
I don’t dance. I danced. Crazily. Meaning, loose-limbed and freely. Under flashing strobe lights that turned the dance floor into a herky-jerky silent movie. Gyrating around me were an uncountable number of stunningly attractive Russian nymphets, all sheathed in breathtakingly tight fitting, sequined party dresses. I could easily have been cited for “Underage Gawking.” And pled “Not guilty because of Vodka.” And lost.
After the music came the live entertainment. Two women Cirque de Soleiled from a rope dropped from the ceiling. A couple danced, twirling fiery torches. A woman undulated provocatively, accompanied by an enormous snake. It was now almost midnight, and I had consumed…a lot. So none of this may have actually happened.
When we left, with the clock inching towards one A.M., they were still delivering fresh platters of food to the tables. There was talk of dessert, but we had consumed enough. We had consumed enough around eight-thirty.
As for my personally conducted science experiment, I learned something very important that night.
Never conduct a science experiment when you’re drunk. You will not remember any of your findings the following day. And if you jotted anything down, you will not be able to read what you wrote. And if you can, it will be nonsense.
What I do remember is having a really good time, and – since, when I’m drunk I can eat anything – eating everything. Plus one Vodka-induced sensation.
My face felt like rubber. And I could not feel my feet.
And I’m afraid that’s all I can tell you.