The first time I threw up I was very young. You know what I’m talking about, barfing, blowing chunks, etc. I don’t remember what happened exactly, probably I ate something. It happens to us all. Vomiting in those circumstances is very unpleasant–head in the toilet bowl, sweating, retching, your entire body heaving, trying to expel whatever it didn’t like. That stomach acidy stuff gets up into your nose, whatever. Sucks. Afterward you still feel bad, pushing back the nausea so it won’t happen again.

I was about fifteen. Kind of innocent. Just beginning to discover some things. I had gone over to a friend’s house. His parents were gone and we’d gotten our hands on some booze, vodka or whisky, I can’t recall. We got smashed, threw up and lay around moaning about Charlie’s Angels. Some time later with that same friend we got our hands on some Bacardi 151 rum. Here’s a tip. Do not eat cashews before drinking rum. Rum/cashew puke is pretty bad. I haven’t been a big fan of either ever since. In fact, the strange old bus driver in the town I lived in used to offer me cashews when I boarded the bus. “Cashews?” she would say, holding out a bag. “No…urrmph,” I said, trying to hold back the queasiness.

When I was sixteen I went to a big house party. I had always been a very quiet and shy boy, very much a loner in high school, and I saw this as maybe a chance to meet some girls. I hadn’t been kissed since the fifth grade and all of my friends had lost their virginities except me. Here’s another tip. If you want to get in with the popular kids at school and maybe hook up, don’t get smashed on booze and pot and throw up on one of the school’s cheerleaders. That was the end of my love life until I met Punk Rock chicks a couple of years later. Thank God for Punk Rock chicks, and then later, strippers and hairdressers. But I digress.

Puking was always very unpleasant for me, and usually followed by a shitty hangover. Not very fun. That’s how my vomiting career went until I discovered Opiates. They made throwing up kind of cool. I would drink a bunch of beer, smoke some pot, take twelve Percodans, some girl would be talking to me outside a punk show, I would lift my finger to indicate they should hold on a sec, turn my head, “Hwhaaugh!” throw up into the bushes, turn back and continue chatting her up. Opiates made throwing up no more unpleasant than spitting, or pissing, or taking a dump. I didn’t feel bad after and could keep doing whatever it was I was doing.

And then I graduated from Percodans to heroin and suddenly stopped throwing up at all, ever. And that was the end of my barfing career, and the beginning of another career, but I already wrote a whole book about that.

The End

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TOM HANSEN writes books, fiction and non-fiction. Not newspaper articles, poems, movie reviews, computer code, long rambling emails, text messages, philosophical essays, fortunes for fortune cookies or anything else. Just books. It's why no one hears from him for years at a time. His first book, American Junkie, a nonfiction account of his life as a heroin addict and drug dealer, will be published by Emergency Press in March 2010. Tom has three principles that guide his writing. “A writers’ duty is to give voice to the voiceless,” (Nelson Algren) “It should always be about the art not the artist,” (Tom Hansen) and “I think we need to read books that wound or stab us.” (Franz Kafka) He likes writers who write because they're too crazy to do anything else. He likes writers who don't flinch. He likes writers who carve their words on their readers' souls. You can tell who they are. You don't forget their books after two days. He does not like much contemporary literature. Tom Hansen is an editor at KNOCK Magazine out of Seattle.

18 responses to “The Politics of Puke, or: Puke-O-Rama”

  1. Joe Daly says:

    Wow. Totally, totally relate.

    >>some girl would be talking to me outside a punk show, I would lift my finger to indicate they should hold on a sec, turn my head, “Hwhaaugh!” throw up into the bushes, turn back and continue chatting her up. <<

    Brought up the uncomfortable memory of being at a ball game with a couple of friends and pausing the conversation to dry heave over the railing a few times, then resuming my comments mid-sentence. I think it speaks volumes to where you’re at in life when you pull a mid-chat puke, and the people you are with are not at all disturbed.

    well done!

  2. Anon says:

    Tom, I’m envisioning a marketing campaign that could end bulimia in our time: “From Throwing Up to Shooting Up: Vomiting As ‘Gateway Drug’!” Then again, it’s probably more likely to cause an epidemic of kids experimenting with vomiting. Then the mass media, instead of saying, “A bunch of stupid, impressionable kids are puking a lot” would probably coin a new catchy phrase like “huffing” – maybe “blarfing”. Interviewing skater kids with their faces blurred out, who would confess, “Yeah, like, a bunch of us were blarfing before school almost every day….” Then there would be studies and outreach groups, tear-stained episodes of Oprah….

    Meh. Scratch that. I’m gonna go pop a blarf before my meetings.

  3. Tom Hansen says:

    Haha thanks guys. I knew there would be someone on here who would understand.

  4. Jude says:

    Some very good advice in this post Tom…

  5. Zara Potts says:

    Oh god. I spent most of my teenage years vomiting after drinking. I hate to think how many beautiful Saturdays I missed because of cheap, nasty box wine.
    Rum cashew spew has just made me dry retch, by the way… well done, Tom!

  6. Marni Grossman says:

    Puking sucks. This is something on which we can all agree, I’m sure.

    Even when I was anorexic and experimenting with self-induced vomiting, it still sucked. There’s nothing worse than getting chewed-up chunks of mozzarella in your hair. Just not attractive at all.

  7. Tom Hansen says:

    Thanks you guys/gals.

    Another good title could have been ‘Confessions of a Serial Barfer.’

  8. Irene Zion says:

    Tom,
    This is truly a cautionary tale.
    I was not expecting how it turned suddenly.
    I forgot about your book, or I wouldn’t have been so struck by it, I guess, but I was.
    Good job writing.
    (and Yuck!)

  9. Simon Smithson says:

    I used to be so jealous of a co-worker of mine. He was a master of the Power Vomit (TM) – one second he’d be drunk, stumbling, and nauseous – then he’d throw up (on one memorable occasion, on the wall of a service station after eating a meat pie), and instantly be able to go back to hours of drinking.

    It was unbelievable.

  10. Greg Olear says:

    Ah, the ol’ Boot and Rally. Ah, college.

    The thing about puking is that you always feel better after. It’s like the darkest hour before the dawn or something.

    And I’m sorry that rum and cashews were ruined for you. Me, I can’t have tequila anymore.

  11. Wow. I like that you added The End at the end of this! Doesn’t heroin make people throw up? The couple times I’ve had morphine (giving birth) I vomited for hours.

  12. Tom Hansen says:

    @Simon. Power Vomit is trademark worthy I’d say. @Greg. Yeah Tequila got ruined for me too, although I’ll be damned if I can remember how it happened, haha. @Jessica. Heroin does make you throw up in the beginning. Then is stops making you barf, and you’re relieved, but actually what it means is that you’ve gone to far and are probably addicted.

  13. Greg says:

    Holy shit. Or, holy puke. I feel enlightened, Tom. Thank you.

    Made me think about my first trip to Europe with my Junior German class in high school. Had no idea that mixing different alcohol in one’s stomach was a recipe for vomiting all the next day while everyone else traipsed through a castle. Told myself I would never drink again. But two days later…

  14. Carl D'Agostino says:

    Puked first five years. Got immune and didn’t puke next 35 years. By that time my life was puke. Clean and sober 8 years and I puke only when I read contemporary poetry like the New Yorker stuff.

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