June 18, 2004

Birthday At The Shark Shack

During my fourth year of college, I lived in an absolute shithole. Actually, no, calling the place a shithole is probably insulting to real shitholes. The place was awful, simply an architectural, design and decorating abortion of staggering magnitude.

God, I loved that place.

It was called the Shark Shack, so named because my roommates mounted an eight foot long plastic hammerhead shark on the living room wall, as well as a plastic swordfish and a taxidermy failure of, I think, a walleye. There was also a stuffed squirrel, which didn't seem to fit with the marine theme, but we really didn't care.

There were five people living in the Shark Shack, including myself, and I think it's safe to say I got a really raw deal when it came to picking out rooms. They said they "drew straws" to see who got which room but I, conveniently, was not around for the lottery.

Thus it was that I ended up in the smallest room in the house. The room was so small, I really honestly believe it had once been a walk-in closet. I ended up buying a futon for that room so I could actually have just a little bit of space. When the futon was folded out into bed mode, you couldn't even fully open the bedroom door. I had to squeeze through.

For my closet, there was this big white metal portable job that was more of a nuisance than anything else, because it robbed me of even more space. I eventually ended up trotting that clanging annoyance out to the garage and utilized a closet that was out in the hall. This proved to be a somewhat bad decision because, during one of our many gigantic parties, a drunken party-goer, unable to get into the bathroom, opened the hall closet and barfed all over my wardrobe.

It's safe to say that the Shark Shack was one of the better-known party havens in Winona at that time.We held huge parties to help bring down our rent costs. We also loved to fuckin' party.

Anyway, at some point during the year, I can't remember when, one of the roommates, Craig, turned 21. The other roommates took it upon themselves to take Craig out to celebrate the momentous event. I had to decline, because I had a huge project due the next day, so I had to stay behind and toil away in my little closet room.

A couple hours later, the troupe of celebrators returned, and they informed me that they had successfully encouraged Craig to drink 21 shots of assorted alcohol to commemorate his birthday.

"Are you fucking out of your minds?" I asked. "The guy could die."

They informed me that they knew Craig, and that he could handle his booze. As if to augment their point, Craig poked his head into the room, and he seemed, by all appearances, to be doing just fine.

But then, the transformation began to take place.

Typically, getting a good drunk on is a process, and hopefully a gradual one. You drink a beer or two, and you feel a general wash of relaxation come over you. Then you drink a couple more beers, and you start feeling tingly, and you laugh at stuff that's not all that funny. Then you drink a couple more beers and your vision gets blurry. Then you drink a couple more beers and you find yourself arguing with a plastic shark on the wall, and losing the argument due to considerable slurring. Such a process of drunkening usually takes quite a few hours to develop.

In Craig's case, he went throught he process in just under 15 minutes. He went from wanting to whoop it up and party some more, to blowing chunks and drunken dementia from about 11:15 to 11:30 p.m. It was kind of fascinating and frightening to behold.

The dementia stage was the most terrifying, because old Craig started hallucinating. Honest to God hallucinating. He was seeing shit that just wasn't there, and he eventually ended up punching at his mirror.

And Craig wasn't a small guy. He lifted weights and was in pretty good shape overall, so it wasn't like any of us were really all that keen on trying to offer assistance. We were more willing to just kind of shout things into his bedroom from the hallway.

"Hey, Craig, are you okay in there?" I yelled.

"Get the fuck away from me, mmbbmmblllmbbmmbb! Grover."

"Uh, was that a yes?"


Craig passed out. And he passed out harder than any man I had ever seen. He was crumpled into a pathetic pile on the floor, and a couple of the other roommates, Troy and Rob, managed to get him into his bed, with his face aimed at a bucket on the floor because, man, Craig just simply had to puke at some point.

Not knowing quite what to do, Troy and I decided to enlist some help from our buddies who lived down the block. We figured Craig would be fine because there were two other roommates at home to watch over him and make sure he wouldn't swallow his tongue and die. It never occured to us that other two roommates, pretty drunk in their own right, would just go and fall asleep in their bedrooms.

Troy and I were over at our buddies' place for about 20 minutes, and the general consensus was that they probably wouldn't be much help, so we walked back to the Shark Shack.

Upon opening the front door, we were confronted with a particularly surreal scene. It was raining in the living room. There was water just cascading through the ceiling and, judging by how wet the floor was, it had been happening for quite some time, like, about 20 minutes. Holy hell.

There are a few thoughts that travel through your mind when you see water raining from the living room ceiling, and you know immediately there's probably a monumentally drunk individual upstairs who is responsible. And, I'm here to tell you, not one of those thoughts is a pleasant one.

I was envisioning Craig, face down in an overflowing bathtub, and that he was dead, and that there was going to be hell to pay, and that he probably puked on my clothes just for good measure.

I ran upstairs so fast, I think I took the staircase four stairs at a time. When I got to the bathroom I did, indeed, find Craig face down in the bathtub, but he wasn't dead. Apparently, he had decided that the bathtub offered an easier target than that maddeningly small toilet, so he let loose with an astounding amount of puke into the tub. Then, he tried to wash the puke away, but he broke the pipe, which was basically spewing forth water onto the floor. For his part, Craig looked pretty calm about the whole thing, passed out again on the floor and all.

I turned off the water, checked Craig's vitals, and went back downstairs to assess the damage. Water continued to trickle down from the ceiling for a good half hour, and we had to kill the power to a large portion of the house to ensure that short circuits wouldn't burn the place to the ground.

The next day, as Craig continued to sleep off his 21st birthday, the rest of us sat downstairs, watching TV. Gradually, we heard a cracking sound, faint at first, but it got louder.

Suddenly, a large portion of the plaster ceiling, about a three foot by ten foot section, came crashing to the floor, revealing the lathe board skeleton underneath and pretty much ensuring that none of us would ever see our deposit on THAT one.

At about 2 p.m., Craig came staggering down the stairs. He assessed the damage and looked in mounting irritation at the mass of plaster on the floor.

"What the fuck happened here?!" he demanded.

"Well Craig," I said. "Let me tell you a story. . . "

Posted by Ryan at June 18, 2004 12:00 PM

You are one helluva storyteller, Ryan.

Posted by: Heather at June 19, 2004 01:27 PM

I second that! You definitely have a way with words!!

Posted by: MH2 at June 21, 2004 08:23 AM
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