black nikka’ed.

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A Turbulent Tramp: 15 Years, 6 Continents, Countless Questionable Decisions


I moved to Japan in the fall of 2003. Soon after, I acquired a quirky boyfriend from Oklahoma named Barnabus. Quirky is a polite term I use to describe Barnabus’s habit of drinking too much whiskey and ending up with mild head injuries.

Actually, ‘whiskey’ might be a little too generous a term for what Barnabus and I were drinking. This Japanese alcoholic creation, for sale only at corner convenience stores throughout Japan, was called Black Nikka and it tasted like mouthwash laced with trash. However, at ¥1000 (USD $10) for a 500ml bottle it was cheaper than mouthwash, and only slightly more expensive than trash. It was certainly cheaper than buying drinks at the bar.

Japan is an expensive country, and the purpose of my stay was to save as many precious yen as possible so I could spend it later buying alcohol in cheaper countries, like Bolivia and Kyrgyzstan. Barnabus and I had an excellent savings plan: we stocked up on Black Nikka before entering the bar, usually drinking a bottle or two in an alley beforehand, leaving a spare bottle in the bar bathroom, lest we need to freshen up on our inebriation throughout the night. This strategy kept our average nightly expense to maximum low. Similarly, it also kept our cognizance to a maximum low. This also resulted in the coining of the phrase ‘to get Black Nikka’ed.’ (i.e.: Did you wake up on the shinkansen with a sprained ankle, bleeding out of your mouth, and void of memory as to how you ended up on your way to Hokkaido? You just got Black Nikka’ed.)

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And such was the plan on this particular night… except Barnabus had made a grand proclamation that we were to drink four bottles of Black Nikka rather than our normal and more reasonable number, two. When my father used to offer me his most prized piece of advice, “Jesus Christ, please just don’t do anything stupid!” I’m pretty sure he was talking about drinking four bottles Black Nikka in a night. It was a surefire path to really bad things.

The many hours that Barnabus and I spent at the pub are a haze of joyful half-memories, but through tales of friends that were present, I have been able to confirm a few key events that led to Barnabus and I being escorted off the pub premises.

When morning arrived – or rather, afternoon arrived – I woke up confused. Immediately I panicked. What the hell had happened? Shit! Had I been Black Nikka’ed!?

When I finally retrieved my phone (see next story, mafia cab), I had a few text messages that gave me a pretty good idea of why Barnabus and I had left the bar. I dialed Barnabus’s number.

“What the hell happened last night?!” he answered, panicked.

“You knocked over a refrigerator.”

Pause.

“How was I near a refrigerator?”

“I’m not sure. It’s second-hand information.”

“Was it, like, a full-size refrigerator?”

“Sounds like it.”

“Jesus Christ, no more Black Nikka.”

“But it’s so cheap.”

“I’m pretty sure I was bleeding out of my mouth this morning.”

“That’s not good.”

“It is cheap, though.”

“It is...”

Pause.

“Maybe just skip that third bathroom bottle, huh?”

“Good plan.”

And it was a good plan.

Barnabus and I did go back to pay for the refrigerator the next day. I mean, we were in a foreign country, no reason to leave a bad impression. As it turns out, it wasn’t quite a full size refrigerator, but it was pretty damn big.

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