I turned forty-three a few weeks ago. Very quietly. I’m not a big drinker. Alcohol isn’t really my gig anymore, although it used to be. Occasionally I will partake in liquid libations, and I will enjoy it. But not nearly as much as I once did.
I got drunk for the first time on my twelfth birthday.
Now, I’m not counting the other times I would sneak a sip off my mothers’ highball, or whatever type of beer my father was drinking at the time, usually Schlitz or Schaeffer. Sometimes I wouldn’t even have to sneak a sip off the highball, because my mother would offer me a sip. Calm down, it was a different time back then. Watch an episode of Mad Men if you don’t believe me.
Now, I’m not saying that my mother would let me get plastered during a party and then force me to get up on the coffee table and do my incredibly spot on impression of Elvis Presley, to the sheer delight of all of her friends. That would be a ridiculously poor judgment call for a parent to make in the course of raising a beautiful blue-eyed boy baby. Letting them get shit faced and spread the joy of music to the world, one living room at a time? I think we can all agree that would be wrong.
But encouraging your cherubic young son to take a shot of liquid courage before he absolutely brings the fucking house down with his heartfelt, soulful rendition of “In The Ghetto”? Ain’t nothing wrong with that, am I right?
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Mom died from cancer when she was forty-four. I was eleven. I watched my father cope with her death by drinking heavily, every night. Usually he would pick up a handle of whatever rot-gut whiskey was on sale at Brady’s Package Store on his way home from work, and then drink until he “fell asleep” in his chair. When he was passed out, I could finally shut off the sad country music that was playing on the record player. Most of the time it was Marty Robbins’ “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife”. He listened to that fucking song repeatedly. To this day, I get a pit in my stomach if I hear it. Luckily that doesn’t happen very often. Apologies to the estate of Marty Robbins, but I was more of an El Paso fan.
One day during that long painful year, I was over at a friend’s house after school. His parents had a fully stocked bar down in their basement. I mean FULLY stocked. They had cases upon cases of alcohol. I told him that my birthday was coming soon and I needed a bottle of booze to celebrate with. Because that’s how all twelve-year olds celebrate a birthday, right?
Mom always said, “Cake and ice cream is for pussies”.
He agreed to sell me a bottle. I was particularly enamored with the Crown Royal, because it came in a purple velvet sack. I felt like I was making a shrewd business decision by picking a bottle with extra bells and whistles. Oh, the wonderful things a growing boy could do with a velvet sack and some alone time. We haggled for a while over the appropriate compensation due for a bottle of top shelf booze with an accompanying love sock.
He was looking for cash considerations that I was unable to accommodate, as I was an unemployed eleven year old boy. After some fierce negotiating, I talked him down to a half-pound bag of peanut M&M’s and two of the candy bars that I had been assigned to sell for a school fundraiser. I’m pretty sure I got a good deal. Although the school got totally fucked.
When I arrived home, I hid the bottle under some clothes in my bedroom closet. I would check on it fifteen times a day, just to make sure it was still there. I was scared that my father would find it and yell at me. Or even worse, that the monsters living in there would find it one night and have a party. A party that ended with them stumbling out of my closet, loudly demanding that I wake up and cook them some french toast at three in the morning. Because french toast is delicious 24/7, and even drunken monsters know that.
The bottle survived in there undiscovered for the two or three weeks leading up to my birthday. On that day, I paired it up with a well aged three liter bottle of RC Cola and set about the task of becoming a man. There was a new development being built down the street from my house. My sister Donna, my friend Jeff, and I climbed up onto some rocks overlooking the street and drank the whole bottle whilst chain-smoking Marlboro reds. You know, like sophisticated kids.
It would be the first of many times this would happen during my teenage years. You know, once I actually became a teenager. Because twelve years old isn’t quite there yet. But I was working on it. After polishing off the booze, we took a walk, or stumble, down to the East Weymouth Bowl A Wey, and played some Defender. I really don’t know how we made it down there, or back home.
But once again, it’s something I got very used to over the years.
He sold you Crown Royal for a couple of candy bars?! Wow, kids suck at negotiations.
Kids are the worst.
“Cake and ice cream is for pussies” hahaha. Another genius post by you.
Thanks Molly. Mom had a way with words. Hahaha
I’ve never considered what a growing boy could do with a velvet sack and some alone time except maybe magic tricks, which is what you were referring to I’m sure. If you were talking about the magic in your pants kind of tricks, then you’re totally corrupting me because there’s no way I would have come up with that on my own.
I’m glad you survived the trip to East Weymouth Bowl A Wey, which must have fit perfectly with the Crown binge on account of the fancy name.
P.S. In all seriousness, your posts are still as funny as ever, but told with a touch of sadness/emotion/realism that is seriously awesome.
You’re the bomb! I’m sure some of the cooler older boys at the roller rink knew a thing or two about the Crown Royal trick. Probably the kid with the Camaro and sweet upper lip ‘stache. Tah Daaaahhhhhhh!!!
Way to laugh at the darkness, man. Happy birthday. Oh, and this: “Oh, the wonderful things a growing boy could do with a velvet sack and some alone time.” Awesome.
Thanks, Ross. That could totally be considered a drinking tip for teens. Huh?
Haha! Of course. Well played.
Perhaps you have a tale of White Russians and Seagrams and OJ and the evil cheating ways of quarters brought against a young lad..And the 100$ subs….pretty much after that is still a blur
Some of this sounds vaguely familiar.
I’m so sad about your mom. Wow, she was younger than me. Like your friend above, I sense a kind of sadness, but it’s told with a kind strength and realism that’s really moving. I’m sure that came out strange. Great story.
Thanks Amy. That came out nice.
Oh good, Bill. Good to know. Thanks.
One of my favorites, Bill. Really heart felt and well written. Having grown up near you, this story is very familiar… but personal and touching. Well done!
Thanks Dawn. My version of In The Ghetto was really something special. Probably like the best I know of. Hahaha!
I would actually pay to hear that, Billy Boy! It’s one of my personal favorites. For the record, I was busy being asked to sing all the songs from Grease… but I got nothing to help build my confidence. 😉 This one was really special. For real.
Now, head over to TFTM and read my post about The Time We Jumped (it’s a few back). I’ve missed you mister, but I think you’d relate to that one.
WHEN IS YOUR BOOK GOING TO BE PUBLISHED! I want an autographed copy please!
Fuck! I want one too!
Hey Bill. First time reader, first time commenter. That’s sarcasm.
Well done on the post. For me, the highlight was the vast amount of knowledge of our world you attribute to drunken monsters. I was always under the impression drunken monsters had no knowledge of FREEDOM toast or its 24/7 deliciousness. Your post has forced me to re-evaluate a couple things in my life.
First time, but hopefully not last! Drunken monsters get a bad rap. Are they drunk because they’re monsters, or are they just being monsters because they’re drunk? It’s a paradox, wrapped in a riddle, and smothered in silliness. But I can’t call it Freedom toast, because I paid for the eggs, milk, bread, and butter. Nothing free about that. Although I did steal the syrup from Mother Nature….. No I’m just kidding. I stole it from Stop and Shop.
Another lovely reflection. You really blended the idea of what a 12 year old decides and what a man can reflect back on. I’m keeping my kids on shorter leash now — those purple socks can entice anyone.
I was ripe for the enticing back then. Choosing the bottle that came with a purple people eater seemed like a no brainer to me. Although most things I did at that age didn’t seem to involve brains anyways. So I was ahead of the game. Thanks for the read!
Happy blue-eyed 43 my internet friend. So many of your posts and memories could have been my own. It’s weird, and cool. Can you write my blog for me?
Purple Sacks and Marlboro Packs,
Thanks T Sizz! Now I wish I titled this post “Purple Sacks & Marlboro Packs”. Goddammit!
When I had my first baby, and she was teething so bad she was up all night screaming…my mom informed me that when I was a baby she would rub Vodka on my gums to numb them, and then put some in my bottle….you know…for “good measure”…which actually means…” so I would be drunk as a baby and knock out so that she could get some damn sleep!”…Times have really changed haven’t they?? This is a great story my friend. I too was drunk as a youngen. I also had a dad who was drunk most of the time, but in reality…..everybody’s dad was drunk in the 70’s. You were actually considered the weirdo if your parents were sober. I was more of a Marlbro light kind of girl though….the red’s were just too strong! 😉
I know my parents rubbed bourbon on my gums when I was teething. But only when the bottle was full. Nobody wastes the last of the bourbon on a stupid baby. And Marlboro Lights were much better than Parliament Lights. I hated spending all my precious time ripping off the recessed filter.
Great stuff Bill! You have a real talent for writing, please keep it up!
Thanks, Steve! You’re too kind!
You’d better update that facebook ‘like’ sidebar at the top. It perpetuates the lie that you’re 42.
Some lies need to be perpetuated. Hahaha
This is my first and not my last, visit to your blog. Velvet sacks and alone time? Too funny! How else can we survive our childhood memories if we don’t laugh?
I write in my blog that I hope I’m only making my son’s childhood dysfunctional enough to make him funny – not permanently damaged. Is that too much to hope?
Love your blog – I promise to visit often.
Happy birthday, and Mazel Tov on your Bill Mitzvah! L’chaim! Baruch Ashem, which is Hebrew for “nobody’s haircut was sober in the 70’s.”
Thanks, Samara. I think that is the exact amount of dysfunction that a growing boy needs. Just enough to be funny.
I will never EVER look at that purple velvet Crown sack in the same way…
It can’t be unseen. I still blush when I’m in the liquor store and I walk past the Crown Royal.