Memoir – My First Beer

 These are the collected memories of my spent and misspent youth. Names have been changed to both protect the innocent and to subvert any statutes of limitations that may still apply. I will also take liberties with the truth as in who did what, or maybe combine a couple of stories together that really didn’t happen together. Such is the nature of a memoir. I am seeking to entertain, not write a documentary. Hope you enjoy.

My First Beer

A person’s first beer isn’t always a memorable experience, mine was. An guess what, Cisco and Hymie were both there. It wasn’t their first beer. Go figure.

We were hiking along the Con-Ed land between Codorus and Circle Drive West on a cold spring morning. We were freshman and happy to be out after one of the cold, wet, windy winters that the flatlands are known for. As usual I was dragging on behind of the other two, being as it was morning and I am not a morning person. The long weeds were bent over with the cold dew, and the ground was soft and slick. Something clanged against boot. I reached down and pulled out a 6-pack of Miller High Life from under the weeds. “Hey, check this out”. Hymie and Cisco came running back. “Holy shit, we found someone’s stash! Is there any more?” We searched for any more beer, but stopped when we realized that we were probably within eyesight of the stash owner’s house. We divided up the cans, stuffed them into our coats and kept hiking. So, for the next three hours we hauled two beers in our pockets as we hiked down and back along the train tracks. Along the way we talked about the beers. They were golden chalices of the near ultimate forbidden fruit. They were where the party started, they were cool, they were the gateway to the high school experience. And we really didn’t know what to do with them. We didn’t think we could just crack them in broad daylight. We were worried about storing them in or around our homes. We were also not so sure what would happen when we drank them. Both Hymie and Cisco had had a beer, not just a sip, but a beer. Both had older siblings, that helps. But it is not like it was a regular occurance. What a beer did was still a bit of a mystery to us.

Cisco came up with a solution. He knew that there was a basketball game that night at the high school. Cisco would be the one to keep our social schedule for the next several years, keeping us abreast of the football/basketball games, the homecoming activities, and the parties. He was also the one that kept us meeting girls seeing as he was the first one to figure out how to talk to them. He had a gift. Cisco suggested that we keep the beers in our coats, leave them in the garages. Then, we would tell our parents that we were walking to the basketball game that night. On the way we would have plenty of time to drink and a good excuse to be gone for a few hours. We could actually go to the game if we wanted to, also. Cisco was worth his weight in gold.

It was starting to get dark when Hymie and Cisco showed up at my door. We had around and hour and a half to get to the game. We were all dressed in our hiking gear; Military surplus jackets, flannel shirts, old jeans and hiking boots. You could take us out but you couldn’t dress us up.

We walked behind the houses on my block along Circle Drive East. This lead us to the fields behind Thompson Jr. High.  Here is where we decided to crack the first beer. We decided to do one beer at a time and pass it back and forth. Hymie took a long slug and gave a bit of a shudder. Cisco took a drink and made a bit of show of choking it down. The Golden Cylinder of magic was in my palm next. “You have to just go for it, you cannot expect to sip it and like it” Cisco said. Just for the record, now if someone hands me something to drink and says “you cannot expect to like it” I don’t drink it. That was wisdom I lacked then. I raised it to my mouth and took a big gulp. Let me stop know and review. We found beer in some wet high weeds  and reasoned that walking the 4 miles at night to the high school was a good time to drink them. Now, let me stop a second time to talk about beer. Beer is good, but poorly cared for beer is awful. If you drink beer too warm, it sucks. If the beer has been frozen at any time, it sucks. If it is allowed to get really warm, then cooled, it also sucks. The beer we had was outside in the spring time, and we have no idea for how long. It had probably been frozen, thawed, heated, frozen and thawed multiple times. So for my first beer I was gulping down something that had been more abused than Keith Richard’s central nervous system. I had no idea what beer should taste like, and I just ingested what tastes like a big mouthful of fermented donkey piss. But, I am with my buddies and I am not going to look bad. So, despite the protestations of my pristine throat, over the mournful cries of my tender stomach and completely ignoring the extremely sound advice coming from my brain, I swallowed the beer. “Smooth” was all I managed to say.

We passed them back and forth with increasing speed as we walked. Again, we were walking through a ploughed farm field during a wet spring wearing hiking boots. With each step we added to the accumulated mud on our boots. We passed the can and walked, passed the can and walked and soon the six golden chalices were drained of their goodness.  Though beer might be skunky, rancid, or otherwise unfit for human consumption, it will still get a 15 year old legally drunk. By the time we got to the high school, the mud was up to our knees and the buzz was up to our brains.

We trudged into the school leaving a sloppy trail behind us. We walked up the bleachers, leaving footprints on every coat, jacket, and hat we found. The game was uneventful, and uninteresting. We couldn’t even find any girls we knew. At halftime we went to the bathroom and got a look at ourselves. We each had mud on our faces as well as all over our clothes. Our faces were bright red, and our eyes were little bloodshot slits. Several adults passed us by, giving us suspicious looks. We decided to leave before we got busted.

About half a mile from the school, a nice spring rain started. Nice if you were a young Blackberry Bush, Sugar Maple, or Day Lilly. Not so nice if you were coming down from a buzz and had three more miles to walk. The jovial talk that marked the trip there was replaced with a sour, hungover  silence. It was a long, surly walk home.

The epilog here is that when I finally had my next beer, one that had not been so abused, I thought it was pretty good stuff.

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