Way back in the mid-80s I jetted over to Europe with friends. Our jet flew from Los Angeles, California, US of A, to Frankfurt, Germany. Upon landing in Germany, we hopped a bus to Mannheim, Germany. This is where we spent our first night in Germany.

Now that we’re squarely set with the geography and timing of this tale it’s time for the story to unfold. But before that, have you ever looked at that aphorism “Story to unfold”? There’s a weirdness to it. I like to excise unnecessary prepositions, and in behavioral health there’s a NAMI push for “journey to recovery” rather than “recovery journey.” Why do I like switching things up and flipping a phrase to negate the preposition? Partially it’s for …….

That’s its own blog entry for another day. Back on the rails go I. Backward speaking am I. Dig Yoda do I. So, if we flip “story to unfold” to instead “unfolding story” the intent and meaning are not parallel. “Story to unfold” is Grimm-esque and “Unfolding story” is Ron Burgundy-esque. Fun language is.

Mannheim, Germany. It was late afternoon when we landed and the hunt for nourishment was on. Airplane food is worse than psych hospital food. For comparison, this is like saying live cats are worse than cat videos. Food! We needed food!

Where we were shacked up for the night had no nearby restaurants or even grocery stores. Asking the innkeep to point towards good vittles led us down a wide boulevard (speaking French in Germany is interesting) to a large fountain at the center of a town square. There we had lively activity and we had hungry choices. So many restaurants and beer gardens! David was the hungriest of us so we followed him to a quaint, cliché beer garden where we had weiswurst with beer. Litre beers in litre steins. So many litres. Too many litres.

Sloshingly, we now needed to steer ourselves back to the hotel on an expedition soaked with solid rain and liquid mud. I am a human compass unaffected by litres of beer and by this account I led us back to the hotel, making very sure we got lost on the way and then argued about which way to turn. Mannheim is a beautiful city and we unintentionally took an extensive tour of the streets and alleys and redlight district before finally stumbling across our hotel. There was an argument about whether or not this was our hotel and we decided to try our room keys in every room door. If at least one of the room doors opened we were in the right place.

Are you getting the notion we were way drunk and making way drunk decisions?

By trial and error logic we found our rooms. And, we weren’t sleepy or exhausted. We were saturated with storm-water straight through to the bone and trudging slick mud down the halls and all over the rooms. Seeing the muddy footprints upon the floor and with a built-in propensity for taking the piss out of people, I had a great idea. A joyous idea. An entertaining idea. A 100% logical idea.

How hilarious would it be to put muddy footprints all over the ceiling like gravity reversed and we were walking on the ceiling to fool the maid in the morning?

The idea took hold and logistics kicked in. First off, we needed to go back outside and get as much mud on our shoes as possible. Then, we needed to line up all the beds, desk, and chairs in a straight line across the room. And then, we needed to choose the lightest person in our crew to hold upside down as we passed him from person to person across the room like a fireman’s hand-off chain of passing along bucket after bucket of water to put out a fire.

The lightest of us was Jeff. He was always on the scrawny side and had really bad Spandau Ballet hair, so he was our elected candidate to hold upside down and pass him along so we could put muddy footprints on the ceiling like gravity reversed and he was walking on the ceiling to fool the maid in the morning.

There were six of us that night, and with Jeff readied for his upside down traverse of the room, the remaining five of us stood upon two beds, two chairs, one desk, and one mini-fridge to make our dream a reality. Between each of us was about three feet of ceiling, so it wasn’t going to be a simple hand off to the next person. We would need to hold Jeff firmly and lean over to hand him off. No problem. We were strong. Jeff was scrawny. The plan was sound. And we were drunk.

The first run through didn’t make it past the first hand off. The reason was we started on a bed and this wasn’t stable enough. Jeff was dropped on his head onto the soft-ish bed. It was only the first try, though. None of us felt any sense of defeat and we rearranged the furniture to accommodate a stronger initial platform by putting a desk at the beginning of the line of furniture.

Jeff was dropped on his head again and this time onto the solid surface of the desk.

Okay, what were we doing wrong? I think it was Rodain who suggested we make the hand off quicker to take advantage of momentum, reducing the time each of us had to hold Jeff’s full weight and making the three foot hand off easier. This time we made it from the desk to the first bed where Jeff was once again dropped on his head. Progress! Success! Only one bed, two chairs, and the mini-fridge to span and we accomplished the improbable! And, the two muddy footprints on the ceiling were beautiful, complete, and clear. Onward!

Next, we lined up the hard surface platforms – desk, chair, chair, mini-fridge – followed by the two beds. We concluded momentum was key and the beds killed momentum. The next three attempts got us closer and closer to the first bed, and on the fourth attempt we made it to the middle of the first bed, where Jeff was dropped on his head just like the prior three trials.

What to do now? It was more than apparent it was the beds that were keeping us from finally fulfilling the promise of our undaunted mission. We removed the beds and each of us straddled, legs wide, the gaps between chair to desk to chair to mini-fridge. This arrangement proved far too unstable and we discovered this after a dozen or so times of dropping Jeff on his head all the way to the thinly carpeted floor.

Perhaps it was being dropped on his head that knocked an alternative solution to our scheme into Jeff’s concussed melon. Perhaps the litres of beer were wearing off. Perhaps it was that the rest of us had given up and Jeff was determined to see our mission through. Whatever the causal turn in logistics, Jeff offered one last proposal:

“Hey guys. Can’t we all just stand on the furniture and hand off my muddy shoes from person to person? Then we can stamp the muddy shoes onto the ceiling with our hands and I won’t be dropped on my head anymore.”

That was the final coherent thought Jeff had on the two week jaunt through Europe. He drooled a lot after that first night in Mannheim, and the high elevations of Bayern exacerbated the problem for him so in addition to drooling he would also weep sporadically. We carried a box of Kleenex for him and traded off who would give him a piggy back ride on the climb to the top of Mount Pilatus. It makes me wonder what Jeff could have accomplished in life if he’d only spoken up sooner in that fateful hotel room in Mannheim.

Joke. Jeff was just fine, although he did have a severe headache for three days and heading up into the Alps did make his headache worse. It’s on him, though. We didn’t put a gun to his tenderized head and make him walk across the ceiling. And, we never found out if the maid was freaked out the next morning. Something about nursing off our first ever hangovers let the goal of our scheme slip our foggy and hurty minds.

It’s worth mentioning this adventure took place before I started having bipolar symptoms, which occurred late in high school before heading to college. Many attribute any “bizarre” or “off-putting” behavior to mania.

“Steve’s too emotional. It’s mania.”

“Steve’s overreacting. It’s mania.”

“Steve’s talking fast. It’s mania.”

“Steve’s excitable. It’s mania.”

“Steve’s got a lot of ideas. It’s mania.”

“Steve’s sense of humor is fucked up. It’s mania.”

Get over yourself. This anecdote goes a long way towards illuminating for the very dim amongst us that I’ve always been this way and it has nothing to do with bipolar. It’s just my personality. So, again, get over yourself.

Jeff on left. Me in middle. Rodain on right. Oberamagau, West Germany.