all started because my appendix hurt. I had been suffering from
acute appendicitis for four years, but as appendicitis is lethal
within a matter of days, there is a possibility that I may have
This was 1982, when I was a junior at George Washington University
and I was a Christian Scientist who was losing my faith. Having
someone check my appendix had not been, and was not, an option.
I did not go to doctors. I did not drink. I did not do anything
that acknowledged my existence as a material rather than spiritual
being. This made me extremely popular. "You know Chuck doesn't
drink. What a goof! Is that true, Man? That's like totally fucked
up. I mean I respect that. You want to hang? You could totally drive
us to The Pier."
The Pier was a gay club out in the warehouse district of D.C. It
was "the" place with "the" straight crowd that
went to George Washington, American and Maryland. We danced to videos
of gay guys with buttered up skin dry humping. "Let's get physical,
physical, I want to get physical
" belted out as I tried
not to watch the camera explore some bulked-up quivering thigh on
the big screen. But the most memorable thing about The Pier to me
was watching the disintegration of my friends. This group of intellectual
students morphed into a mob of spit-spraying, word-slurring, vomit-spewing
So, it wasn't the joy of alcohol or peer pressure that made me think
I should have a drink. It was my appendix - my logic being that
I still could not go to a doctor because I didn't drink because
I was a Christian Scientist. If I had a drink, then I would become
a normal person and normal people go the doctor, especially normal
people who have had acute appendicitis for more than four years.
And so, one night, while attending a revival of Mornings at Seven
at the National Theatre with my friend Kim Howard, I announced that
I was getting drunk after the play. Two hours later, we climbed
the narrow steps to Café d'Artist in Georgetown and found
a table. I was queasy. I wasn't sure if it was the excitement or
my appendix. The place was full of old people, like in their mid-twenties
or thirties. Kim looked into my face with her pale blue eyes. "Are
you sure," she asked, "Are you really ready to do this?"
yes and she took my hand in hers and squeezed it really tight and
told me how special it was that I had chosen her to be the first
one I did it with. As much as I wanted to get to the drink, I did
not want the squeeze to end. Kim was the best-looking best friend
I'd ever had in my whole life. But then, acting as if I, Chuck Freericks,
was a normal person and not a Christian Scientist, Kim broke the
squeeze and asked me what I wanted to drink.
I had no idea. I did not know what anything tasted like, so I told
her to choose for me. She decided that a Greyhound was a good baby
drink to get me going. Standing all of five feet, one inch, she
strode over to the bar and came back with two drinks
them, believe it or not, for me. She made a toast "Ya Le-bue
Teh Byeh," which we both thought meant "I love you"
in Russian. I took a fairly nice sized gulp of the Greyhound. It
was an interesting concoction made of grapefruit juice and turpentine.
As much as drinking turpentine was unpleasant, I knew I needed to
have at least six drinks to get a good drunk on, and I wolfed the
rest of it down.
About half an hour and four drinks later, I was standing in the
men's room, which was moving like it was made out of seaweed and
we were underwater. I thought to myself, if this is what being drunk
is, then I am a very, very good drunk, because even though I can't
stop the walls from undulating, I am perfectly capable of doing
anything and everything else. I am no more stupid or slow than I
was five drinks ago. I am a Super Drunk, unaffected by the drink.
Kim, who was drinking with me, and was maybe 100 pounds if you made
her wear a cinder block around her neck, held me up when I stumbled
out of the bathroom and asked me if I wanted to go home. She took
my whole face in her hands and kissed me on the cheeks and said
we would be best friends forever. When we got downstairs to my car,
we decided she should drive, even though she did not know how to
drive a stick. It took us two hours to go the mile and a half back
to my dorm.
Although it was late I ran from dorm room to dorm room, waking up
the entire fifth floor of Crawford Hall, to let everyone know that
I was a normal person and I was drunk. The next morning, I woke
up feeling like my head was a large aluminum globe filled with a
mixture of acid and noxious gas. I went to the cafeteria in the
Marvin Center, and slowly went from table to table, telling all
the kids I knew that I was a normal person and I had a hangover.
But the first I am talking about is not my first time getting drunk.
You see, that night, I went to my fraternity house, Zeta Beta Tau,
and told everyone I could find that I was a normal person and I
was a drinker. Robbie and Anoush from Delaware, who ran a lucrative
pot business from the second floor, told me that my reward for finally
drinking would be that they were going to get me high. I'd known
them for two years, but this was the first time they had ever invited
me into their room. There, they gave me a bong, lit the bowl and
told me to inhale. They then told me not to wrap my lips around
the bong; it wasn't a soda bottle, but to put my lips inside it.
"No, no, no, you let go of the thumb hole after
you get a hit?" The bubbling of the water was thrilling. The
feeling of the acrid smoke coming into my lungs was horrible. My
insides were on fire. But, they were both looking at me and smiling
like proud parents, so I took another hit to make them happy, not
so big this time that it seared my cilia. And then I took another.
And then another, until this weird kid from Chicago came into the
room and asked me what the fuck I was doing. I told him that I was
now a normal person and a head. I was a stoner. It was then that
I suddenly realized that I loved the weird kid from Chicago. He
was my best friend, as were Robbie and Anoush from Delaware.
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