Tag Archives: Homecomming

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.

Memoir – The Beer Throne

ImageThese 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.

 

 

 The Beer Throne

As our senior year approached we felt the need to do something significant, something with meaning. In today’s world, that would refer to making a positive impact on the community through some sort of charitable works. In our world, semi-rural Illinois in 1982, it meant some show of authoritorial defiance combined with fun. Through the summer we gave it quite a bit of thought, hell we weren’t doing much else with our time. We knew that it was tradition to TP the school before homecoming. That was nice, but as far as we were concerned, it had been done. We wanted something different, something inappropriate, and something memorable. Inspiration doesn’t neccesaruly come when you call, but you needed to be ready when it hits.

 The three of us (Hymie, Cisco and myself) were trying to find a place to throw away a case of empty Old Style cans. Too big to hide in any home garbage and we weren’t about to dump it out in the country. Our 70’s grade school environmental indoctrinations had been quite effective.  We pulled up behind the Buy Rite Supermarket  intending to use their dumpster for the deed. We slowed down, but something did not feel right. Hymie was driving. He always insisted on driving. Control freak. We decided that we were just too exposed so we passed on the illegal dumping and headed back to my house. We sat in the shop room in the garage pondering our situation. The room had an electric space heater, a garbage-picked lazy-boy chair, a console TV converted into a cooler, a radio, a bunk to sleep on and a workbench. It was a great place to bullshit or sleep one off. Hymie held the case and he commented that it was kind of like a lego without the bumps. (The case in question was really heavy cardboard, nothing like the materials today.) While I didn’t actually see the light strike, I did notice his face begin to glow with an inner light. We’d been friends for 6 years, I knew that something great or dangerous, or both was about to happen. He proceeded to dump out the cans, then duct tape the case shut. I protested at the cans all over the floor, but he held up a finger and said “I have an idea”. He hid the case behind the Lazy-boy as I put  the cans in a garbage bag. He turned to Cisco “where is the garbage pick up tomorrow?” Cisco replied “East village, the newer section” without even thinking about it. Long ago we figured out that people put their garbage out the night before it is to be picked up. In our sprawling housing development, there was garbage out each night of the week somewhere. When we were younger we used to ride our bikes and check out the garbage looking for what we considered good stuff. Over the years it had yielded many, many treasures including the Lazy-Boy, two 8-track players, lots of 8-tracks, a couple of lamps, and one smoking black velvet painting. Garbage picking was one of our oldest traditions.

We took the bag full of cans and went back out to Hymie’s ultra small car. In the East Village the houses were pretty close together, so the garbage can per block number was high. Hymie drove slowly along scanning each can. He stopped, hopped out, rushed up to a garbage and pulled out an Old Style case. He dumped the garbage from inside the case back in the can and slipped in his bag of cans. He came back to the car with the empty case. He looked at both of us and smiled his excited 6 year old smile. “We are going to build a throne out of Old Style cases!” To three high school seniors, the beauty of the idea was self-evident. It was not a question of should we, or could we. It was a question of where to stash it, and how big to make it.

All through the rest of August and September we picked garbage every night looking for cases. The house at the top of the hill on Fernwood Drive was good for one case every week. Brand loyal I guess. Overall, we could find maybe two per week. We also spread the word that we were looking for cases, so friends would bring us their empties. Our laundering of party evidence helped out more than one panicked high schooler. All in all, were getting about three cases per week. It wasn’t without risk though. First, where do you hide them? The shop held the majority of them, under a tarp in the corner, but I had to keep tabs on my mom so she didn’t wander in there and get snoopy. Second, homeonwers in our working class neighborhood did not take kindly to people messing around with the garbage. More than once we had a homeowner come barreling out of his front door, not quite dressed but holding his beer, yelling for us to get the hell away from his garbage. One night in late September the guy on Fernwood really helped us when he put out two cases. As we slowly drove by I leaned out the window and grabbed the cases. Only I didn’t realize that they were full of garbage. At the same time, Hymie hit the gas because the porch light on the house flicked on. So, I am hanging out the window with 30 lbs of garbage in each hand and I cannot get back into his ultra small car. He turns one corner then another, all the while yelling at me “Get your ass back in the seat, I can’t see out that side!” As we rolled by a court (like a culdesac but not as deep) the bottom of the cases gave way leaving a trail of garbage along the road. The headlights from a car in the court flicked on and it started after us. We were sure that it was police. Hymie pulled over. The car pulled up next to us. Smoke billowed from the window. (smoke with that particular acid-sweet smell that will forever define the 70’s . Wink, Wink). A head poked out. “What are you dudes doin? What’s with the garbage? It ain’t cool!” I recognized  him and the driver as two guys who graduated last year. “The stuff fell out, I didn’t mean to do it. We just wanted to cases.”

“Is there beer in them still?”

“No, were are building a throne out of beer cases for homecoming”

They looked at each other. “Cool. You are gonna pick up the garbage.”

As we picked up the garbage I realized that these two were sitting across from the house of the passenger’s ex-girlfriend. Sitting, smoking, and drinking. We didn’t have a word for it then, but today you would call him a stalker. I was at their wedding several years later strangely enough.

The gathering went on through October. Somehow, Hymie managed to convince his parents to let us use the garage for the final assembly. I just think they were happy to see him doing something remotely constructive. Half a mile of bailing wire and a few thousand feet of duct tape later we had a throne. On the TP night, we set it up at the main entrance of the school for all to see. The next morning the school was a buzz about the TP job, the excellent string of bras/panties that was strung up the flagpole, and the Old Style Throne. Mission Accomplished.