I didn’t buy a t-shirt, but I should have one made: I SURVIVED VEGAS IN MY 40S.
I got back Monday morning. Today is Thursday. And I still am not 100% on my game. In the words of Danny Glover from the first Lethal Weapon (or maybe all of them?)--
“I’m gettin’ too old for this shit.”
The miracle is I got through my entire Vegas visit without once being completely shredded by a hangover. I would wake up, bleary eyed… unable for some reason to fall back asleep… and decide within a few hours, the only path forward was lined with beer cans and Fireball shots. Saddle up, liver! Coming in hot!
I forgot to take my thyroid medication for 2 days. I got an average of 4 hours of sleep per night. I lost at blackjack. I won at blackjack. I played basketball in a luxury suite that was equipped with… you guessed it… a basketball court. I saw old friends engaging in old school boozing that no one at our age should still engage in. It was glorious. It was heinous. It will never be forgotten, except for the parts that I don’t remember doing in the first place. Yes. It was Vegas. And I’m not sure I ever want to do it again.
Back to hangovers. During the lead up to this adventure, my biggest fear was the hangover. I’ve had enough monstrous “morning after” experiences in my life, that a bad hangover has taken on a mythical stature, sort of like The Bogeyman or Sasquatch. Do NOT fuck with The Hangover. I’ve been laid low too many times. Hour after hour in bed just waiting for the storm to pass, only to ride yet another wave of nausea and black death. Let it end-- Please God-- LET IT END!
But in the same way that Comedy = Tragedy + Time, hangovers are hilarious. They always make for a great story. I watched one of my buddies tie one on BIG TIME this weekend. It was early afternoon and he was lit up like the fourth of July. Shot after shot. Bobbing and weaving. Spontaneous nostalgic hugs. “I love you, man!” It was a day I was largely sober, so watching him was like observing a train wreck play out over 2 hours. How on earth he was going to weather the black clouds that were gathering, I had no idea.
Amazingly, I saw him that evening and he looked refreshed. Rested! I couldn’t believe the stamina, doubly so because he was drinking again. He was like a Greek God! How could he do it? But… looming in the distance… like a guillotine’s blade waiting to fall: The Red Eye Flight. I asked him if he’d ever taken one before. “Never,” he said. I told my red eye story. That when I’d taken one to New York (over a decade ago, mind you!) I got off the plane feeling like I’d been taken into a back alley and tackled by rugby players. And this was with no drinking!
I asked him to text me regular updates of his condition when he arrived back on the east coast. I mean, if you can’t enjoy some schadenfreude with a good friend, what good are they?
Sure enough: as the texts began to arrive the next day, it was clear. Zeus had fallen. Olympus was in ruins. One message in particular captured the essence of Hangover Horror:
“I’ve never felt so inhuman.”
Is it wrong that I’m laughing about it even now?
In the aftermath of this trip I know, despite the physical toll, it was filled with great memories. A new layer of ‘glory days’ tales have been added to the mix. These are the 40s moments we will rehash and cackle over into our 80s. But I also question whether or not this group of hooligans I hold so dear could have a getaway that’s not soaked in boozy excess.
We have always loved our drinking. It’s embarrassing to admit that this has been true all the way back to high school. It was part of the fabric that held us together. The weekend questions always were: “Who’s buying beer?” and “Where are we partying?”
Yes, this Vegas weekend was great for all the classic reasons. But I also took an extended walk with an old friend and caught up with him for the first time in a few decades. Decades! Where does the time go?
It was a beautiful day and there wasn’t a beer in sight. And that walk might be the most treasured Vegas memory of all for me.
Maybe-- now that the Vegas Bell has been rung for us high school buddies, creeping towards our mid 40s-- maybe we can plan a vacation of walks, laughs and moments that isn’t measured by hangovers. I’m not knocking my old habits. They’ve made for some great stories. But I think this middle aged guy is ready for a different tale to be told. And I know for sure my middle aged liver is.