by Dan Hillman

Taste the delicious pain!

Illustration by Kim Calcagno.

I don't get headaches.

Thanks to whatever combination of genes I won in the great crapshoot of life, it's extremely rare for me to suffer any of those headachy symptoms described in the aspirin ads. This extends to hangovers. While I'll confess to having over-enjoyed spirits in the idiocy of my youth, up to and including being sick in my own shoes, I have never experienced a hangover.

This is why I'm a fan of The Spike. Like those folks on the post office wall, The Spike goes under a variety of aliases: Brain freeze, ice-cream headache, and slurpee-kari. I usually get The Spike right behind the eyes. It's like someone's trying to pry apart the bones of my skull from the inside with a dull hacksaw blade, which is about as unpleasant as you'd imagine. And yes, I like it.

I've even gone so far as to find out what causes The Spike. In an article in the British Medical Journal, Joseph Hulihan explains that when you press something cold against the roof of your mouth on a hot day, this causes blood vessels to dilate as you fool your body into heating up your brain. The rapid dilation is what causes the pain. Oddly, notes Hulihan, the headache can only be experienced on a hot day.

But when you're experiencing The Spike you don't really care about all that. The heat of the day, your sunburn, the fact that you've just sat on a sticky ice-cream sandwich wrapper in your hurry to sit down and clutch your head; none of this matters. Even the hellspawn piling out of that SUV yammering "I want a grape one, Mommy; I want a grape one, Mommy, I want a grape one, Mommy," pales into insignificance beside the feeling of that rusty spoon scraping the inside of your cranium as though it were an Italian ice.

Del's is especially good for bringing on The Spike because you can't sip a Del's. While you could wait for the whole thing to melt, leaving you a clear, overly sweet liquid crud (with chunks of real lemon!), you wouldn't want that.

No, a Del's has to be consumed by scooping up a bit of the ice with your tongue, savoring it, and then repeating the process, a system that encourages The Spike to form.

Sure, you could do this slowly and carefully, and keep The Spike at bay, but unless you're Gene Simmons you'll soon have to resort to squeezing the cup to force the ice up. And then, you'll reach the point when your tongue can't reach any more, and you have to tip the cup towards your mouth, gently tapping on the bottom to coax the ice free.

At first, nothing happens. Then, suddenly the semi-solid chunk of Del's releases its hold on the bottom of the cup, and slides down the cup like a bobsled into your nose. Any liquid Del's will leak out along the sides of the cup and dribble down your shirt. In an attempt to clean things up, you'll quickly take an overly large mouthful of Del's.

Enter The Spike.

The great thing about The Spike is that it's one of the few times in life one gets to go from feeling positively awful to feeling fine in a matter of seconds. Biological illnesses take much more time to make you feel lousy and then well again. Smacking yourself with a hammer creates a more sudden pain, but it takes a lot longer for that pain to go away (not to mention those unsightly marks). But The Spike, ah, that's instant pain and instant gratification.

So maybe your girl did drive off with your car, your best friend, and the rent money. Maybe that leak in the roof is getting a lot worse. Maybe, just maybe, your company is having massive layoffs and your boss isn't looking you in the eye this morning. But no matter how hellish life is, at least it doesn't feel as though rats are gnawing through the backs of your eyes.

Life is beautiful.

Dan Hillman is a Barrington native and co-founder of He currently resides in Boston, but whenever he's in Rhode Island, he makes sure to visit three places: Amaral's Fish and Chips, Caserta's Pizzeria, and Del's.

This article last edited October 13, 2015

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