Obviously I'm less than pleased about having to drink absinthe out of a coffee mug.
Friday morning Alex, Paul and I went looking for a decent breakfast place. For someone who’s absolutely not a morning person, I’m a big fan of breakfast. Not the time of day part, but definitely the eating part: French toast, Huevos Rancheros, Dim Sum, buttermilk pancakes, Loco Moco, errr … sausages. The best we could find in the downtown area, though, was a Golden Griddle, which is like the Denny’s of Canada. The Eggs Benedict was actually decent though.
As we walked out of the restaurant, Alex claimed he experienced a small heart attack. The guy consumes only gravy, alcohol and nicotine - I'm pretty sure he's been dead for some time now but refuses to accept it on account of his hair being so pretty.
Rain joined us later. The dude has a habit of wandering the streets alone with only an iPod and digital camera to keep him company – I call it "Building Pictures Time." With his wiry build and streamlined head, I figure if he never became a writer, he would’ve made a great sniper. I could picture him silently knifing through the jungles of Colombia, picking off guerillas while listening to Etta James.
We spent most of the day walking, talking or walking while talking. These three guys are as painfully funny in person as they are with written words. I was dying. When we got back to the hotel, we cracked open a lethal bottle of the ol’ absinthe.
Here’s the thing about absinthe. In the 1800’s it was the drink of choice for Parisian writers and artists. People like Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Paul Gaugin, Tououse-Lautrec, etc. That’s because its main ingredient, wormwood, was thought to have hallucinogenic properties that would result in enchanted visions or dreams. Hence its nickname, the Green Fairy.
I think Green Zombie would’ve been more accurate, because wormwood eats your brain – hence it’s illegal in several countries including the U.S. Thankfully the Canadians don’t give a shit about this, and I finally got my chance to drink the green bastard. Alex, Paul, Rain, and I hoped that the Fairy would tap our frontal lobes with her wand and give us some creative magic.
Appropriately enough, there was a Van Gogh poster in our bathroom. The guy really took to absinthe, and many say it caused his descent into madness – or at least gave him a quick shortcut. He drank a glass before slicing off his ear.
Here’s the thing I didn’t know about absinthe ‘til I picked up the bottle. That fucker is 70% alcohol, or 140 proof, which puts it just behind Everclear (190 proof) and Bacardi 151 in terms of self-annihilation. Nevertheless it’s easily #1 in terms of nausea. No contest. This thing makes napalm taste like lemonade. I’m surprised Van Gogh didn’t cut off his tongue.
Because it’s so vile, there’s a whole ritual involved before you put that poison in your mouth. First you’ve gotta get a cube of sugar and put it on a special spoon with holes in it. You pour the absinthe over the cube, and it dribbles into the glass. Another way is to dip a regular spoon filled with sugar into a glass of absinthe, set the spoon on fire to caramelize the sugar, and stir the burning spoon in the glass. In both cases the final step is pouring an equal amount of water into the cup. All that does is make the aftertaste a little more bearable, a little more like licorice – licorice that’s been dipped in Satan’s fiery anus.
After a couple of rounds we found the sugar-adding part too time-consuming and just added water. At about this point, Rain wisely stopped drinking and went to see if the green roof across the street would reveal the secrets of the cosmos to him.
About halfway through the bottle, our tongues had died and gone to a better place, so I just started drinking the stuff straight.
In about 45 minutes, we’d (including Alex’s buddy Howard) finished the entire bottle. Rather than being filled with pride or awe at our achievement, we were filled with questions.
“Is that blood coming out of my ears?”
“Should I vomit now before we get in the cab?”
“How come I can’t feel my face?”
“Who am I?”
Rain looked up at the green roof to see if it knew the answers, but it stayed silent.
We hit the lounge at the Drake Hotel. I kept waiting to see if the hallucinogenic effects would kick in, but all I felt was butt-ass drunk. In the end, the absinthe’s wormwood was completely overpowered by it's 140-proof bottlemate. I look pretty pissed here. It’s probably because the male:female ratio at the Drake was 9-to-1, or as I loudly declared to the people at our table, “90% cock. 10% unattractive vagina.”
It was someone’s birthday, so unfortunately for me, Paul and Alex, the drinks kept coming. Rain was outside in the alcohol-free safe zone of the Drake. It didn’t really matter anyway, because the extra alcohol was completely superfluous, as we couldn’t possibly get any more faded than we were at that point. It was like pouring thimbles of water into a lake. bloop
For a non-Korean guy from the South Bay, Paul can really hold his own when it comes to liquor. If I could muster any other emotion other than Severely Intoxicated, I would’ve expressed admiration. In the left photo, it appears he's belting out the REO Speedwagon ballad "Can't Fight This Feeling" to Alex. In the right photo, it appears that the karaoke demon is singing again; this time it's "Why Is The Guy Behind Me Digging Into His Ass?!"
If there was a Van Gogh in our group, it was obviously this poor bastard. The man got blown off his feet by the Green Torpedo. I think he spent a good part of the evening dancing by himself, as the lounge had no dance floor.
It was an interesting dance. Even in my plowed state, I looked at him and thought, “Well that’s peculiar.” The best way to describe it was he was like a hand-clapping reverend at a Baptist Revival. If a crippled person walked up, Alex would have placed his hands on the guy and healed him.
Afterward we staggered out of the Drake, where a cabbie took us to possibly the worst strip club in the world, For Your Eyes Only. There were only two strippers in the entire place: both were most likely men wearing wigs. But Alex paid no mind. He just walked up to the stage and started doing his Praise Jesus dance again.
I don’t remember much after this point, but BAM! we were back in our suite. Rain was already in bed, sleeping off a headache. Paul believes this is the reason Alex suddenly tore off his clothes yelling, “I got bed!”
As for me, I crashed like a plodgered meteor onto the couch. But somehow, mid-crash, I found the time to neatly fold my clothes and put them in the closet. That's how I found them the next morning.