By SAM BROMER
For my final column of the year (“face with a single tear” emojis everywhere, I know) I’m not going to pester you about the vacuity of American society, or mansplain to you all the reasons Flying Lotus should be worshipped as a deity. It’s non-denominational holiday season, and I have no more patience for half thought-out think pieces. There is too much good cheer at stake. Instead, I want to tell a story — a parable, really — about something I stupidly decided to do with some friends a few weekends ago. Here’s what you need to know before I break down the sequence of events, Serial-style (Sarah Koenig, if you’re reading this, know that you are my rock):
I tried to prepare. I got 8 hours of sleep. I meditated. I even researched. (Some veterans of the walk recommend starting slow and drinking consistently throughout the films; others recommended a full-on sprint to Mount Doom, which, in this metaphor, is a garbage can. The only consistent advice is “don’t do this challenge.”) But nothing could prepare me for the drama, the absurdity, and the indigestion that I was to experience.
Without further ado, here is my subjective and probably heavily exaggerated recollection of what happened. But first, some further ado:
The following events occurred between the hours of 1 PM and 11 PM on November 12, 2014. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Do not attempt any of the feats described at home.
1:10: I meet my two fellow participants (let’s call them Rob and Will) in Rob’s bedroom, where the first of the films is queued up. Rob knows a ton of LOTR trivia and tells people he is a vampire when he gets too drunk. Will, my roommate, is organized to a fault — his notebooks look like they were written in Microsoft Word’s “handwriting” font — but acts like an infant when under the influence. I am in my outfit of choice for days when I don’t plan on moving: a gray sweatsuit and slippers. We begin.
1:17: Bilbo smokes from a magical pipe with his old friend Gandalf. He declares that he has the “finest weed in South Farthing,” and I remember that revelry is huge in the Shire. This makes me feel better about drinking during the movie — the characters are drunk half the time, anyway. The Walk to Mordor hasn’t yet commenced onscreen, but we are well on are way, having chosen the “sprint” approach to this challenge.
1:25: Samwise Gamgee is caught “dropping eaves” on a conversation about the danger of the One Ring. Rob realizes that Sean Astin, who plays this faithful gardener, also played Rudy in Rudy, which leads to a Rudy chant (“Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!”) These are the good times; the happy times. Soon, our joy will turn to ash.
1:40: In Isengard, Saruman tries to recruit Gandalf to the Lord of the Rings equivalent to the “Dark Side,” but they fail to come to a diplomatic agreement acceptable to both parties and an old man fight occurs. This old man fight disappoints us all. Rob tells us that he knows a guy who got arrested for beating up the elderly. We all agree that this is a horrible crime. We return to the movie after some further discussion of the ethics of old man fights.
2:00: Stephen Tyler’s daughter makes an appearance as an elf. I am still sober enough to remember that Armageddon is a really shitty movie.
3:00: Onscreen, Gandalf tells the Balrog, a terrifying, fire-whip-wielding monster, that he, “cannot pass!!!!!!!” Offscreen, we all urinate in unison.
3:25: I fall asleep.
4:45: I wake up, and things have spiraled out of control.
After this point, events begin to get really hazy. A few major ones stick out. At one point, an onlooker of our quest challenges its merit, and Rob threatens to “crush [his] throat” while falling on his face. At another, a fire-breathing battering ram threatens to break Rohan’s defenses and doom the realm of men; Will, in a stupor, compares it to his manhood. Here are my iPhone notes from this time:
“Ghengis Khan … Fuck yeah Lion King … Your knee looks like a face … Orcs = Orcas?”
So, that’s it. After 10 hours and a little over half of a case, I had failed to successfully walk to Mordor. And, quite frankly, I regretted trying. If I learned anything from this experience, it is that moderation is essential and that drinking challenges found on Urban Dictionary are best left to the imagination. Binging, whether on television or alcohol, is rarely a good idea; together, results can be pretty horrible. Happy Hannukah everyone! If you need me, I’ll be preparing for my “watch all the Charlie Brown specials while ingesting a kilo of methamphetamines” challenge.