WC doesn’t want to give the wrong impression here. Unlike some of his classmates, he didn’t major in alcohol abuse and graduate with a damaged liver. WC was a pretty serious student. And WC recognizes he is hardly the only college kid with a story like this.
But WC did wake up – well, regained consciousness – one morning, about half-dressed, in dense fog, surrounded by mammoth sand dunes, with absolutely no idea where he was or how he had gotten there. It was very dark, there was no sound at all, and it was drizzling lightly. He had a truly world-class headache and something had apparently died in his mouth. He was really, really thirsty. There was nothing to drink.
WC’s first thought was that he had died and that Hell was considerably different than advertised. It was a nearly featureless, monochromatic landscape with these giant sand dunes towering on all sides, their tops disappearing into the fog. WC and his clothes were covered in sand.
As more neurons began to work, WC struggled to his feet. There was a certain amount of spinning motion. There were also no tracks or trails indicating which way might be the exit. The last thing WC’s shaky brain cells could remember was drinking shots of tequila in an apartment in Eugene.
But even with a few brain cells starting to fire, WC’s thoughts were sluggish. It went something like this: Sand . . . Oregon coast? . . . How? . . . Where? . . . Climb dune.Thinking was like a cart with square wheels.
So WC climbed and staggered up the dune. Pretty early in the process, it was apparent WC was in his stocking feet and was wearing shorts. It’s very hard to climb a steep dune face when your head is spinning. But eventually WC made it to the top of the dune. The fog was very thick; there wasn’t much to see. Kind of a cup-shaped hole in a gigantic sand dune. But in one direction WC could hear surf, and in the other, opposite direction he could hear jake brakes, probably on a logging truck, almost certainly on U.S. 101.
Surf . . wrong way . . . 101 . . . hitchhike?
So WC followed the meadering line of the crest of the dune, more or less in the direction of the highway sounds. After a while, a long while, something big and dark loomed ahead. WC was trying to figure out what it was and missed the fact the dune had ended, and wound up tumbling down a steep dune face. In a cascade of wet sand, WC fetched up against a very large Douglas Fir tree, buried to its hips in sand.
About 50 feet further on, there was pavement, a pull-out parking spot, and a road curving through the sand dunes. There was a car in the parking lot. The car did not look familiar. There was a guy asleep behind the steering wheel. WC knocked on the car window to wake the guy up. He actually screamed when he saw WC. This is the one and only time in WC’s life someone screamed when they saw him. The scream seemed to echo inside WC aching skull.
When the guy calmed down enough to answer questions, he said this was Honeyman State Park, just south of Florence, Oregon. He didn’t want to let me in his car. He mentioned that when he had pulled in to sleep, there had been a very loud party going on in the campground, just back the road a bit.
Loud party . . . drinking . . . friends?
WC thanked the guy, and shambled off in the direction of the campground, bits of caked-on sand falling off onto the asphalt. One of WC’s sock toes was full of sand, and kept rolling under his foot. WC stopped to empty the sand out of the soaking wet, sand-caked sock. Trying to balance, WC fell back on his butt. When he got up, there was a circle of tan-colored sand on black asphalt, shaken off WC.
After about a quarter mile, WC found the campground. WC found the party; well, the carnage from the party. It was hard to miss. Half a dozen unconscious revelers, some under a picnic shelter, some not; a couple of dozen empty beer cans, an empty fifth of tequila. More importantly, there was a water faucet. WC drank about a gallon of water and cleaned the worst of the sand off of himself. The water helped a lot.
WC recognized one of the unconscious partygoers: Togasaki. WC found an empty beer can, filled it from the faucet and then slowly dribbled it on Togasaki. He woke up – well, regained consciousness – very slowly. But he was in better shape than WC.
According to Togasaki, we’d all been drinking shots of tequila at his apartment, when Tom – no one knew Tom’s last name – decided we should drive out to the Oregon coast. About 120 miles. Drunk as skunks. WC had passed out en route. And at some point, WC had woken up, wandered off to take a leak and gotten lost. His drunken comrades hadn’t noticed.
This explanation is all second and third hand; to this day, WC has no memory of anything between the dim recollection of drinking shots of tequila and waking up out in the dunes.
Casualties of the event included WC’s shoes, which were never found, his wallet, which had disappeared, possibly on one of the tumbles down a sand dune, and his blue knit stocking cap. Also lost was WC’s taste for tequila, which he hasn’t drunk since. It may be that his body remembers part of the experience his brain has mercifully forgotten.
The drive back was miserable. Seven badly hungover guys crammed in a VW Squareback. There were a lot of stops involving a lot of different bodily functions. US 126 East to Eugene is a mighty twisty road.
WC’s hangover lasted two full days.
It’s the only time in his life WC has blacked out from drinking. It’s not an experience he’d ever want to repeat. As a near-death lesson in moderation, it was highly successful. And as an object lesson in who you choose to drink with, it was without peer. And, to this day, WC finds the smell of tequila slightly nauseating.