Slumping back into my window seat, I can’t get that rancid taste out of my mouth. I silently curse Jack Daniel’s and In-N-Out Burger simultaneously, because they were equally responsible for my little rendezvous with the porcelain gods. Yeah, like both were forced down my throat the night before. Why had I drank so much last night? And who in the hell thought it was a good idea to make our flight home at six in the morning on Sunday? The single thing that frustrates me most in that moment, is the fact that I barely have a recollection of the fun I had the night before that warranted said hangover…
Just twelve hours prior to my puking rally at 30,000 feet, the Central Washington wrestling team sat in the stands of a makeshift arena at the convention center in Las Vegas. We were watching the finals of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational wrestling tournament from which we had all been eliminated already. Granted, this was one of the most prestigious wrestling tournaments in the country, but that was of no consolation to us. We would still rather be competing, instead of watching the guys who had just beaten us down. I was especially heated. As one of the teams most successful athletes that season, and it being my fourth trip to the tournament, I had expected to at least be a contender that weekend. Silly, silly boy.
Those hopes were quickly shattered by a man named Jesse Jantzen, from Harvard. For the 149 lb. weight class in which I competed, this guy was a behemoth. One big muscle, I wondered as I stepped on to the mat if he had actually MADE weight that morning. In a matter of 2 minutes 36 seconds, he proceeded to hand me the most brutally humiliating loss of my career. To put things in perspective, my mom, who taped every single one of my matches, turned off the video camera after the first minute. He’s not going to want to see this, she thought to herself. She was right.
I had just been on the receiving end of a crushing defeat… by a kid from Harvard. So this meant that not only was he bigger, faster, and stronger than me, he was more than likely smarter than me and would definitely get a better job out of college than I could ever dream of. Hell, he would probably have a prettier girlfriend than I would. Talk about an assault on one’s manhood!
But as I sat watching the finals of my weight class, which Jantzen hadn’t even qualified for (yes, someone actually defeated that monster), I found solace in one idea. I knew that once we were done watching wrestling, the City of Sin awaited me. Bright lights and cheap drinks beckoned. This was my last wrestling trip to Las Vegas, and I was looking to go out in style. And by in style, I of course mean by drinking myself utterly senseless.
I couldn’t help but think of Donnie from The Big Lebowski as we pulled through the drive-in at In-N-Out Burger, . In the five minute trip back to the Tropicana, we all mowed through our respective meals. Eating was a formality tonight, drinking was the priority.
In no mood to lounge about the pool sipping Mai Tais, we turned to our longtime friend John Daniel. If you haven’t seen Scent of a Woman… “Don’t you mean Jack?… Son, when you have known him as long as I have…” Within ten minutes of me walking through the door with a fifth, two of my teammates and I were staring at the bottom of an empty bottle. Some would call that a drinking problem, we called it a good start.
With that, the 21+/fake ID portion of the team set out for The Strip. Upon arrival, our 184 pounder Ty and myself came to the conclusion that we had not quite yet imbibed enough alcohol. We ducked inside a convenience store, and purchased a pint of Seagram’s 7. It was polished off before we made it back out the door.
From then on, as I’m sure you can imagine, things get a just bit hazy. I remember us making our way through the tables at the Bellagio, and my coach, Jay, stopping at the roulette table. Looking up at the little electronic display showing the last few numbers that had hit, he saw that there had been eleven black numbers in a row. He quickly threw down $100 on red, and watched the wheel spin, coming to rest on yet another black. Jay then hands Ty another hundred dollars, and tells him to put it on red, looking away. Before Jay has a chance to change his mind, Ty slams the cash down. Another red!! He had just lost a month of my rent. At that, he gave up.
As we go to leave, I stumble right into a short stocky guy. Oops, sorry pal. I turned to my buddies, and they were laughing hysterically. You know who that was? Turning (and doing my best accidental imitation of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow) I noticed who it was; former Mariner second baseman Bret Boone. Eh, whatever, let’s go.
The next thing I know, I’m sitting at a bar in the New York, New York sipping on a Corona. I look out towards the slot machines, and see our 157 pounder, Chewy, talking to a group of girls. if They were a decent looking bunch, so I decided to mosey on over. “Hello ladies! What are you all up to this fine evening?” Working. “Working? What do you do?” What do you think? Suddenly, the light bulb switched on. Oh, working. They were hookers. Being my first encounter with someone of that profession, I jokingly ask how much. $2500!! Seriously? “Sorry girls, you just aren’t that cute…”
Next thing I remember, I’m inside the van, pushing Chewy out of the way, so I can hang my head out the open side door as we head to an unknown destination, just in case. Before I knew it, we were walking into a strip club on the outskirts of town. If you ask me now, I still can’t tell you the name of the joint, or what the inside of the place looked like. By this time, I am miserable, and just want a glass of water. A waitress informs me it’s a two-drink minimum, to which I respond “I just want water.” She then goes on to tell me that those two waters will be some insane price which i was obviously not able to afford at that given moment. Screw that. The guys weren’t even sat down yet, when I grabbed them and said we are out of there. Then, blackness overtook me.
I woke up in my bed to sheer pandemonium at 5:15 a.m. People were yelling and throwing things around the room. It was Ty and our 174 pounder, Franco, and they were furious. I guess after I blacked out, we lost them, and Jay gave up after a pathetically weak search, and took off back to the hotel. They then spent the next 2 1/2 hours walking back to the hotel. They could not afford afford a cab because, wouldn’t you know it, they spent all their money at that fine dancing establishment. Still absolutely hammered, I turn to Franco, “We left you behind? Man… that sucks.” Salvini, shut up. “You had to walk that whole way?” Seriously, say another word.
We staggered our way onto the plane that morning, looking like absolute death. My head was pounding, and my stomach hated me. Somewhere in between takeoff and yaking, I had to smile. If nothing else, I now had the requisite “One time… in Vegas” story that everyone needs. That is, of course, saying that I live through the worst hangover known to man.