December 31, 1999: Blackout Party

Another New Year’s Eve party that will live on in infamy. If you read what happened one year ago today, you know that last year I was hosting a New Year’s Eve party after getting the day off from work and then because the person who was covering that shift (cough, cough, Andy) wasn’t able to complete that shift due to all of his drinking, I had to leave my own New Year’s Eve party and go cover the shift losing my party night and not getting in a whole shift. So this year I ensured that things would be different.

One housing update since last year. At this point Andy and Amber had both moved in. Andy and I were sharing a bedroom because we both worked at the same hotel and worked opposite shifts so we never really overlapped and sharing the space saved a ton of money while really having no other impact on our lives. I didn’t have a driver’s license for a lot of the year, so being roommates helped with that, too. Amber had moved into Josh’s room and had been there, along with her cat, most of the year. The house had a lot of cats at this point.

Andy and I had started our consulting firm in February of this year and were working hard in our overnight management jobs so that we could fund our consulting startup out of pocket. We were doing whatever consulting work we could pick up. Nicklin Associates had snapped us up in June and at this point I was working as the Director of IT for Nicklin Associates by day, and managing a hotel at night temporarily till all of the company stuff was worked out. I’d be quitting the hotel in just a few weeks from now, but we didn’t know that yet. But just a few days ago I had gone to Pittsburgh with John Nicklin and pitched a huge project to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center network to totally revamp their management systems and build the first software as a service for the industry. It was a huge moment for me, pitching a massive multi-million dollar project to a huge hospital network out of nowhere just assuming that I could reinvent the industry with no company behind me, no support network. Just me and, presumably, Andy. Massive gamble and leap of faith. That was just days before this party! So I was riding high, it had been one whirlwind of a year… started my first successful company at twenty two, got my first executive job at twenty three, and gave a great design pitch for a ground breaking product all in the last ten months. And I had been working for Wegmans as their corporate guitarist as well! I was never sleeping this year, but it was all worth it.

They tried to schedule me to work the overnight this year, acting like I had gotten it off last year, if you can believe that! I was not happy. I reminded them that I busted butt to save their bacon last year and they decided to only make me worth the second shift, the one from three to eleven in the evening which would give me just enough time to make it home to my own party, that I would miss the first part of, to at least see the ball drop. A bit ridiculous given that I was the party host both years and got completely screwed the first year, attempted to get screwed the second.

So most of this morning was at the apartment getting ready for tonight’s party. Then early in the afternoon I went down to Brighton to go work for the day. Three until eleven is my shift today. It was a weird shift, weird enough that I remember that there were all this abnormal traffic going on years later (I am writing this update in 2020!) I know that a few younger people came through and ended up getting invited to go up to the apartment for the party. One girl, whose name escapes me, who was a college student at the creepy cult “college” in Lima was there and ended up actually going to the apartment for the party!

Andy came in to relieve me at eleven and I raced up to the apartment. I made good time and was there around eleven thirty. The party was well into full swing. Eric and Amanda were there, not yet together. Dana would likely have been there. Emily Farina was there. The girl from Lima was there. There were actually a fair number of people, but I can only remember with any certainty so many of them. Mark was probably there, as likely was Mary. It would have been weird for them not to have been there.

This is, I am pretty sure, the party at which Eric and Amanda met. They would hang out again at Andy and my moving out party two months later. But they met tonight. They would be married a few years later.

The television was on and we were watching for the countdown. Since everyone had been drinking, and I was way behind, they had a handle of Johnny Walker Red set up for me in the kitchen along with a “can” of Rohol. Now the Rohol itself warrants its own story…

I have no idea when it appeared or what the original source was. But at some point around 1996 or, more likely, 1997, Andy and my liquor collection acquired this thing that looked like a cheap can of motor oil called Rohol. The liqueur was a solid 70 proof which makes it similar to a lighter than average whiskey. Stronger than an aperitif, but not as strong as a standard whiskey which is normally 80 proof or higher. But really high for whatever it was.

It is completely possible that the source was the collection of the country line dancing bar that closed down in conjunction with the Days Inn in Henrietta. For the life of me I cannot remember its name back in the 1990s, but the structure is used for Nashville’s today (in 2020.) But it could have come from almost anywhere, but it had become this bit of a legend as this nasty, overly strong, herbal, thick, black liquid that no one but me could drink. It was a little like Jager, but way stronger. Too much alcohol and too much herbal flavour for most people.

It looked like, and we gave you the impression of being, motor oil. We all referred to it as “liquor in a can” and it was a running joke for years that this even existed, let alone was in our liquor cabinet and absolutely no one (except me) would venture to even try it.

Tonight was the night to really drink it, though. I had very little time before the ball was to drop, so I started doing shops of Johnny Walker, followed by chasers of Rohol. An odd choice, of course, as a chaser is not normally nearly the same alcohol content as the thing being chased. It was more just alternating shots.

I have no idea how much I had, but it was a lot. Most of a handle of Walker, and most of a “can” of Rohol, all before midnight. Probably in about 20-25 total minutes. It all went by really quickly.

I hung out with everyone between my shots, which didn’t leave very much time. I still remember standing in the kitchen, the light, the curtains, how it was all set up. I remember doing the shots. I remember walking out just in time to be in the living room and watch the ball drop signaling that it was midnight and the year, decade, century, and millennium and just rolled over. I remember that the pending Y2K end of the world didn’t happen.

I remember waiting just a few seconds and getting an odd feeling and knowing that I needed to get upstairs. I told everyone good night, I had worked all day, drank enough, and was done. I went to the stairs and started walking up.

At the bottom of the stairs I was one hundred percent stone cold sober. Totally with it, no buzz, no nothing except for a rumbling stomach. By the top of the stairs I was lucky to be able to keep walking. Each step up the stairs I felt the warm, fuzzy rise as the alcohol hit my blood stream. I have no details now, but I am guessing that I had little or possibly zero food in my system with all of that alcohol. It didn’t exactly hit me fast, just all of a sudden. Like a brick wall.

At the top of the stairs I knew that it was all over. The world was starting to spin and I started to lose sight. I had never been really drunk before. Barely ever been buzzed before. My tolerance levels were (and still are) so high that getting drunk is rare and somewhat hard. But being so tired, having no food, and putting away so much strong liquor so fast sure did the trick.

I went straight for the bathroom. It was a straight shot up the stairs, then a ninety degree turn to the right and the bathroom was right there, just across the hallway. My bedroom was on the left and Josh’s on the right. His had the slightly larger room with the view out the front into the parking lot (not as scenic, but I think that it was nicer) and mine was slightly smaller, with the private view out into the woods. I stepped across the hall and barely got my feet to the bathroom door and I felt myself black out. I went down collapsing into the bathroom.

I wasn’t blacked out for too long. Of course I have really no idea, time was irrelevant. But I know that I got myself to the shower at some point and turned on the cold water and knelt by the side of the tub with the cold water on my head to help me cool down and not feel so sick. I’m completely certain that I was sick, but I don’t actually remember that. I know that Eric checked on my and got my shirt off so that I didn’t get all soaked. And the majority of my memories for the night involve laying on the bathroom floor unable to move. I know at some point people were stepping over me to use the bathroom.

One weird story from tonight is the Lima girl, that we never saw again, lost her shoes in the woods because she was drunk and outside in the woods peeing in the darkness. That was pretty weird.

I think that at some point I recovered enough to come hang out with the party, but that seems unlikely given the state that I was in. But I was only 23 at this point, so my ability to recover quickly was pretty good still. Most of the people from the party spent the night, so there was a lot of hanging out the next morning, especially after Andy got there around eight.

This was an important party for many reasons, not the least of which being my first drunk experience. This was 1999 so the first big party that we threw after Andy and I had founded Renaissance-West, the company that would eventually become NTG, and the first since I had gotten an executive job. This was the last party with Josh and I being roommates (except for our moving out party.) We had no idea at the time, well we had a little idea, but this was the beginning of the end of the era. Sort of our unofficial wrap up to our wild twenties. Sure, we were only just starting our twenties, but Andy and I were moving on to business and professional lives and leaving this life behind very quickly. There is a wild and crazy attitude that you get when you are that age and I certainly had felt it over the last five years. And this is really where it ended. The wild, crazy, irresponsible age of post high school, pre-career life for me was over. My window had been short. And really, I had barely gotten it at all having mixed in a lot of management and professional work in all sorts of different forms in the middle of it. But now it was just… over.

One wild night, this is a day that I will never forget. Not because it was New Year’s, or the calendar changed, but because it was just an epic moment in all of our lives. So many pivotal things swirling around this date. So many things had been happening just before it, and so many things will happen over the next three months.

Written January 3, 2020.