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Do I Look Like an Underage Virgin on Spring Break?

Great stories don't start with salad, or end with cats

Click here to read this story on Medium.com

I was out with some friends in Barbados the night before boarding a cruise ship, and I saw this sign in front of a bar. It said:

Alcohol! Because no great story started with someone eating a salad.


Sign outside a bar in St. Lawrence Gap, Barbados — photo by author

Shortly after taking a photo of the sign, I contemplated trying to start a story with a salad, but we were in Barbados, not a land known for escapades or stories of any sort — more the sort of place a Brit causes a scandal by wearing mismatched socks with his sandals.

So instead I compromised, and ordered a liquid fruit salad, pronounced \mahr-guh-REE-tuh\. With a salt rim. 

“Frozen or on the rocks sir?”

“Do I look like an underage virgin on spring break? On the rocks. Don’t forget the salt rim, I run a lot of marathons, I need the electrolytes.” 

The bartender gave a slow nod and a skeptical “uh huh, sure.” Then he smiled and said, “I’ll use my grandmother’s secret recipe.”

My friends heard ‘secret recipe’ and immediately chimed in, “Make that two”, “Three please”, “Four Margaritas.”

In stark contrast to the last time I ordered four of anything tequila, we began a sedate evening, marred only by the bar increasing the volume of the music after we sat down, to a level making it difficult to have a conversation. 

At an average age of 50, apparently we did pass for teenagers. Score one for men’s facial moisturizer. 

We were planning to call it an early night and go to bed after our single round of drinks. Nothing to do with our age, just to do with judging the time and place. When this group of friends was in Ibiza together, the great stories were continuous, and were preceded by alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and in one case, an attempt to gather as many girls named Emily as possible into a single conversation. 

For the record, the number was three, which seems barely an achievement, until you consider that Emilys seem to actively repel one another. One 24 year old Emily complained that the 19 year old Emily was so young

That’s a thing about Ibiza by the way, the average age is under 25, but nobody cares how old you are. Ibiza is where I first saw a sign, painted on the side of a building, that said:

You don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing

I took that sign seriously, and have upped my playing game considerably in recent times. I have noticed myself getting younger every year as a result. Some would call it a descent into immaturity. I would call them jealous.

And old. 

And probably sober.

Later on that same Ibiza trip I woke up in my room at 2pm after drinking all night. My roommate, Roger, was nowhere to be seen. 

I found a letter from Roger on my nightstand. He had written, “Sorry, I have to go home. My wife’s cat is sick and I need to be there for her. Enjoy the rest of the trip.”

I convened with the remainder of the group and we pondered the letter. Max said, “I’m surprised he even came with us, why go on a guy’s trip two days after getting married?”

Rob asked, “Does Roger’s wife even have a cat?”

“Not anymore,” I said sadly, assuming that when Roger wrote ‘sick’ he didn’t mean the cat had a runny nose. 

Despite being known for salads, in Thailand every great story starts with a bucket full alcohol, which is exactly as vomit-inducing as it sounds. 

We had several buckets of alcohol, went to a jungle party in Koh Phangan, and while walking back to civilization, one of our group, Rob, went running past us down a dirt trail to the parking lot. The trail ran along the side of a gorge, with a hundred foot vertical drop to a river below. Running didn’t seem like a great idea. 

A few minutes later, we saw a gleaming white sock waving in the air at the edge of the trail. Exploring, I realized it was on a foot, attached to a leg, attached to Rob. He had somehow stumbled over a low fence on the side of the trail, and was saved from injury and possible death only by his other leg getting snagged on a solitary bush on the edge of the cliff. 

When we eventually got Rob into a jeep headed back to our hotel, he asked, “Hey, where’s my shoe?” 

He had managed to walk another two hundred metres to the parking lot without noticing he was missing a shoe, said shoe being presumably lost to the river he hadn’t drowned in. I said, “No idea buddy. I’m glad we saved you and not the shoe.”

Why Rob was running down a dirt path at 4am while drunk out of his mind, even Rob can’t answer, which highlights the problem with stories that start with alcohol. 

Nobody remembers anything. 

Salads on the other hand, offer great recall of events not worth remembering. What’s an adventurer to do? Is it better to have great adventures you can’t fully recall, or to live a life of sober deliberation?

No contest. 

I took another sip of the delicious secret recipe, gave a thumbs up to my friends and turned to wave in the direction of the bar.

“Barkeep! Your grandmother is a genius. Four more liquid fruit salads! And turn down the damn music, we’re trying to make some memories here, not induce an epileptic fit!”

To my right, Rob said, “More alcohol? Remember that time I almost fell off a cliff and lost my shoe?” and we all raise our glasses in a toast. 

I thought to myself, yes we do remember, Rob

Out loud I said, “Yes! And another toast to dead cats and missing friends!” and we all laughed and raised our glasses again. 

And as we toasted, I realized — it’s not about the alcohol. It’s definitely not about any salad. It’s all about the friends. Alcohol is a great social lubricant, quite superior to salads in my experience. But a social lubricant only works in a social presence. 

Treasure your cats. They don’t last long at all, ask Roger. But mostly treasure your friendships. They’ll last a lifetime and follow you around the world. 

Because no great adventure starts with someone sitting at home alone.

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