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Throwback Thursday: Where I Got Drunk & Embarrassed Myself

April 14, 2011

Ok, so the title could have been from any time in my life, really, but this is the fist time I drank. I was 13 and I was high on boobs. (after the jump)

My grandfather decided he wanted to travel in his retirement. And, between hard work & prudent investments, he was well-off enough to make that a reality. He belonged to a seniors group where he’d travel to “adventuresome locations” (honestly, he went white water rafting in the Himalayas when he was in his 80’s, though he repeatedly went to Belize, meaning that the country is high on my list of places to head to). But, when he was looking for a break from the hijinks that he’d encounter travel from other retired folk, he’d take one of his grandchildren with him.

When I was 13, I went with him to Scandinavia. He had been to Denmark and Norway when he was a younger man, but never got to really visit (at the time, I thought this was absolutely ridiculous – how can you go somewhere without seeing it . . . then I started traveling on business, and, well, I totally understand – I’ve been to the UK 6 times and I’ve seen a single “tourist attraction”, the Hampton Court Palace, though I know four pubs quite well). So, he took me, to actually visit. We flew to Copenhagen, spent a week. I distinctly remember figuring out that Coca-Cola tastes different elsewhere on the planet, that, despite how good a people might know your language, knowing synonyms for words is always handy (I ended up in a long drawn-out conversation trying to get a receipt, when the conversation would have taken a minute if I had asked for the bill), and that McDonalds sucks, even in Europe.

From Copenhagen, we flew to Kirkenes, which is far to the north of Norway, where the country actually borders what was the USSR when I was there. In Kirkenes, I remember eating impossibly good salmon and visiting the border crossing – two Soviet tanks, barrels crisscrossed. According to the guide, anybody was allowed to walk to the Soviet side, but you might not make it back. I was 13 and had no idea if he was kidding.

We then boarded a cruise ship and sailed the length of Norway before docking in Oslo. This entire trip was just sensory overload for a geeky teenage boy. Most strikingly, sailing down fjords are absolutely amazing (Startibartfast absolutely deserved his planetary coastline designer awards). Tea time included cookies and should never be underestimated. A sun that doesn’t set absolutely fucks with your head (I think there was a 2 day period that I just never went to bed). If you can just “sit down & play piano,” you’ll always be welcome in most any crowd. Norwegian girls are unbelievably hot.

You should know that the 13 year old me, was, well, a pretty standard 13 year old boy . . . except that I was nearly six feet tall and shaving. I could pass off for significantly older. A “pretty standard 13 year old boy” is a codeword for a pervert . . . an, well, that’s something that I haven’t exactly outgrown…so read the rest at your own risk (or, with extra attention for those of you who like that sort of thing)

When we were above the arctic circle, we encountered record highs. I think the temperature actually hit 80°F (it was a long time ago, and I’m about to explain how boobs enter in the picture, so my memories of the time can best be marked as “suspect”, but it was very warm) and it was sunny near all of the time. Because of the weather, topless sunbathing on the top deck wasn’t exactly uncommon. These were Norwegian women, crew members mostly. I remember one woman was a ballroom dance instructor for nighttime activities. Another was an excursion director.

I spent no small amount of time on the top deck “reading my summer reading books” (Z for Zachariah and Interstellar Pig – I remember these books quite well through the Inkheart Phenomenon) when I wasn’t playing rummy with my grandfather or we were in port investigating a small Norwegian town.

One day, as I was “reading,” Trevor came up – Trevor was a college kid who was, like me, traveling with his grandparents. Well, he had just dropped out of college, but didn’t have the heart to tell his grandmother, but I’m not about to get into Trevor’s whole story. He did teach me one great bit of advice: “When you’re not a skeezeball, the worst a girl can say to you is ‘no'”. He’d introduce himself to the half-naked ladies and just start up conversations. The 13 year old pervert boy in me was awestruck with how easily he was able to break the ice . . . I was also awestruck how he was able to not stare only at their chests.

The night I met Trevor, we ended up playing cards – him, his grandmother, me, my grandfather. At some point, the elder generation went to bed, and Trevor couldn’t help but notice that I kept on looking at some 13-15 year old girl. He encouraged me to introduce myself. I did. Funny how “Hi, I’m John, do you mind if I join you?” works as a pick up line. In the years that have passed since my first “pickup,” there hasn’t been a single line that’s worked aside from that one (though, truth-be-told, I’ve never tried “Hi, I’m George Clooney, do you mind if I join you?”).

Where was I? Actually, I was thinking about boobs here. So, her name was Anna, she was 15, from Sweden, vacationing with her parents (who were ballroom dancing). We talked about school, about Sweden, about America, about where we’d traveled. I remember the entire conversation feeling forced, but got easier as things passed. Before long, though, her parents returned from their dancing & Anna went to bed.

The next day was the 4th of July. Now, I’m in Norway, so it’s not exactly a holiday. But, they were serving free sherry to any American. I remember, distinctly, asking if I could have a Coke instead, but only the Sherry was free . . . and, since they weren’t stopping a 13 year old from drinking it (though remember, I don’t exactly look 13 . . . not 21, either, but there wasn’t a drinking age in Norway – at least, I don’t think there was one), I figured it was ok. I had two or three glasses of sherry. I was lit. I don’t remember much else that night.

The next day, Anna would not speak to me at all. As Trevor relayed the story, I started talking to her, acting “smooth.” After a little while, I tried the “yawn and throw my arm over her shoulder” move, but just kept my arm going & looked like a fool, suddenly stood up, puked over the deck, and then went back to talking to her. She was mortified and stomped away. Trevor laughed his ass off, made me drink a shit-ton of water, and got me back to my cabin.

My grandfather either never found out about my tween drunken escapades or chose to ignore them. As I said previously, the sun never setting messed with your head, and he had ended up falling asleep on one of the decks that night. While we shared cabin together, he was the one who acted embarrassed in the morning…and my being a tad-bit green, well, I was still getting used to being on a boat.

After a day of steadfastly avoiding me, Anna loosened up – I distinctly remember a discussion about a “date” having two completely different definitions in English being one of the most absurd things she ever heard of. I remember going to kiss her on the last night, and her just saying “nuh-uh” and laughing.

In Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, the characters discuss that you can always recall what you were doing when you read a book while traveling – instant recall. These are the two books that I remember reading for school

  1. Who ACTUALLY goes ballroom dancing for fun?

    • Um – very good question. My only possible response is “people who paid a shit-ton of money to go on a cruise, so, damnit, they’re going to enjoy themselves.”

  2. Laura permalink

    Hi John,

    Sorry to bust you, but Dad did not go white-water rafting in the Himalayas when he was in his 80’s. He left us at the age of 82, and was rather sickly for the last 18 months of his life from the cancer. However, he was 70+ when he went to Tibet and at that time was as vigorous and robust as someone 20 years younger. That trip really wore him out. I think he slept for about two weeks when he returned.

    • I had the wrong decade on that one? I could have sworn he was in his 80’s for that.

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