Just by nature, bars produce endless memories that many of the patrons will never actually remember. I’ve always resisted writing about drinking experiences though, not wanting to glorify an off-and-on (mostly on) 35-year lifestyle that has kept …
A friend who tries to motivate me into furthering my writing and marketing opportunities sent me a link to a writing contest website.
It’s from a place called “Symphony Space” in New York City, and the submission must be 750 words or less and must involve a bar/restaurant setting. Well, bars are a “setting” I’ve sat in more than anyone should, and the reservoir of story-worthy events is vast.
Just by nature, bars produce endless memories that many of the patrons will never actually remember. I’ve always resisted writing about drinking experiences though, not wanting to glorify an off-and-on (mostly on) 35-year lifestyle that has kept me near the bottom rung of the success ladder. But I’d be lying not to admit some of the memories since I took my first drink at 18 are fun and interesting ones.
A few of them might even be a waste not to share at least once in print. One that stands out happened soon after I returned to Pennsylvania from a Cody summer, no longer a teetotaler and eager to make up for lost time. At my old high school, there was a school dance after a basketball game, and my cheerleader girlfriend, Diane Suckovich, was there awaiting my arrival. My old baseball coach, Mr. Michaels, was chaperone and door man, and I stopped to rehash baseball memories with him.
Walking toward us was an old classmate, John Kendera, who I pulled aside to notify I had Pabst Blue Ribbon in my car. We detoured to my ’63 Ford Falcon and settled in for some gregarious under-age drinking. Oh, how we laughed and reminisced.
Soon a couple Township cops were tapping on my window, arrested me for minor-in-possession and ordered me to drive straight home, (yep, they did that in them days). But I wasn’t nearly ready to go home; I was warm with a giddy buzz and hadn’t even seen Diane yet. Seeing my taillights exit the parking lot, the officers thought they’d deterred another juvenile delinquent on the prowl.
But I soon returned and once again engaged Coach Michaels at the door, but he had seen the arrest and refused me entrance. “I can’t let you in, Doug. Just go home and sleep it off, buddy,” he said.
Now behind the school, I surveyed my options. Going home was out of the question, of course, and then I noticed the furnace room window. If I could somehow gain access, go up the nearby steps which led to the glass walkway leading to the gym, I’d be home free.
My only trepidation was knowing the furnace room was only yards from the janitor’s room where the feared Mr. Christie hung out. “Old” Mr. Christie (probably years younger then than I am now) was a mammoth, Dick Cheney-looking guy who wasn’t at all afraid to slap a kid around when the situation presented itself.
But the goal was too important to be deterred by risk, and I managed to pry open the small window, jumped and landed on the coal pile. I crept past by the open janitor’s door where I saw Christie eating, and like a thief in the night, slithered down the long glass hallway and into the gym.
Sweet Diane hugged my neck and we danced the night away while laughing with ex-teammate and best drinking buddy, Larry Grandas. John Kendera was amazed to see my coal-dusted face and listened intently to how I’d beaten the system. I was unashamedly basking in my breaking-and-entering coup to anyone who would listen.
When the band quit playing, swarms of teenagers filed out of the gymnasium for the exit doors guarded by the vigilant Coach Michaels. I was huddled in line right behind Grandas — the area football and baseball star who might have played in the Majors had his genetic alcoholism not stopped him — and his girlfriend Nancy. As Coach pumped Larry’s hand, he was almost bragging about how he’d turned “ol’ Doug” away earlier. He hated to do it, but “just doing my duty” he told his ex-star pitcher. “I told him to come back when he’s sober.”
And then it was my turn to exit. I grabbed Mr. Michael’s hand, shook it vigorously, and chirped, “G’night Coach; good to see you again.”
Coach Michaels had always been a loud, intimidating guy; this was the first time I’d ever seen him with nothing to say. His mouth was wide open, but words seemed to escape him and I didn’t wait around for his recovery.
And that is exactly how it all went down. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not proud of it or anything. Ah, who am I kidding; I am kind of proud of it.