The third time I got drunk

Here We Come....

I remember the third time I got drunk.  1973, age 16, a junior in high school.  A guy in our class named Punchin’ Bob Miller — Punchin’ Bob was his nickname because he was well known for his boxing prowess  — was going to be fighting in the first round of the Golden Gloves boxing tournament.    So my pal Johnny Walker Red suggested that we show our support for our fellow Northern Highlands Regional High School classmate by going to the fight and cheering him on.   Chuck and I agreed that this was an excellent idea.

There had been a whole bunch of articles and features about Punchin’ Bob in the local newspapers and local TV stations.  Young Kid From the Suburbs Competing in the Legendary Golden Gloves Tournament!  So it was a big deal.  Personally, I always found Punchin’ Bob to be a little on the smug and arrogant side.  But then, he was young and good looking and strong as a bull and from a rich family.  So I guess it would have been hard for him to NOT be a little full of himself.   And he never once punched me, so what the heck.

The Golden Glove tournament took place in the fabulous Felt Forum, which was an annex of the legendary Madison Square Garden in New York City.  So this was the big time.   The Big Apple.  If you could make it there you could make it anywhere.   Or so I’m told.

It was about a 45 minute bus ride from the suburbs of New Jersey to New York City and when we hit Manhatten, Red had yet another great idea.  There was a chain of restaurants in New York called Burger and Brew, and the deal was, if you bought the hamburger and french fries dinner you could get all the beer you could drink.  Me, Chuck and Red were determined to get our money’s worth.  I’m amazed that they served us considering that the drinking age was 18 and we were only 16.   And we looked it.  Hell, Red with his skinny little body and face full of freckles looked like an innocent 13 year-old boy.   That is until you took a closer look at the hard glint of mischief in his eyes.  But I guess things were looser back then.  So we sat there in our cozy little booth polishing off brew after brew.  There was a warm, electric glow to the lighting in the restaurant.  You know?  That kind of lighting where you can’t see anybody’s zits and everybody looks better than they are.  Most of the people in the restaurant were corporate businessmen and secretaries having a couple pops before they took the train home.  So we felt very worldly and adult sitting there amongst them, slowly getting schnockered.  Pretty soon I began experiencing that feeling for the first time that I would come to covet in my long and varied career as a consumer of alcohol . . . that feeling where you look across the table at the guys you’re drinking with and say stuff like:  “Ya knowww . . . You guys REALLY are the GREATEST!!”

Suddenly we remembered the fight was about to start, so we quickly guzzled down the rest of our beers,  paid our bill and went romping down the wide sidewalks of downtown Manhatten.  When we got to our seats the fight was just about ready to start.  And there was Punchin’ Bob way down there standing in the middle of the lighted stage of the ring, like he was standing at the center of the universe.   “Its Punchin’ Bob!”  we all shouted.   It was a surreal feeling to see somebody we actually knew standing there on center stage.  Punchin’ Bob was throwing warm-up  sparring punches in the air and looking incredible tough and rugged  in his big, balloon-like boxer shorts.  After reading all the glowing reviews about Punchin’ Bob in the local papers we were convinced that he was destined to win the tournament and bring glory to the name of Northern Highlands Regional High School.

When the bell rang and the fight started we were cheering wildly.  But pretty soon we got quieter and quieter.   Punchin’ Bob was fighting this black guy, and the black guy was way too quick for Punchin’ Bob.  For three rounds he beat the living crap out of Punchin’ Bob.   He basically used Punchin’ Bob as a punching bag.   Even from up in the nose-bleed seats we could see how red Punchin’ Bob’s face was from all the punches he had taken.  By the end of the fight Punchin’ Bob wasn’t even trying to land any blows anymore, he was mostly just trying to cover up his head, wearily, and avoid further beatings.

When the bell sounded and the fight ended we were all a little stunned.  “Poor Punchin’ Bob,” we said.

“Yeah, but he showed he’s got guts and courage by the way he hung in there until the end,” declared Red.   And we all agreed that Punchin’ Bob had indeed brought pride and glory to the mighty Northern Highlands Regional High School.

The referee stood in the middle of the ring with the two fighters by his side as we awaited the announcer to announce the winner.   The black fighter was dancing around in anticipation of victory.   Punchin’ Bob was standing there with his head slumped down like he could barely stay on his feet.

“And the winner is . . . Punchin’ Bob Miller from Upper Saddle River, New Jersey,” announced the announcer.  When the referee raised Punchin’ Bob’s arm in the air, Punchin’ Bob looked like he could barely hold his arm up.   At first everybody in the arena was stunned.  And then there were some scattered boos and curses from the crowd.  It wasn’t like a cacophony of booing or anything.  But you could definitely tell the crowd was angry and disgusted and felt like it had been jobbed.

This old guy who was sitting next to me smoking a cigar (those were the days when you could smoke inside and men were men) and who was obviously a boxing afficionado, turned to me and said:  “They want to keep that kid in the tournament because he’s generating a lot of publicity and selling a lot of tickets.”   It was the first time it occurred to me that race sometimes played a factor in these things.  And that life was not necessarily fair.

The other thing I remember was the bus ride home.   I looked over at Red and his face was changing colors and he was contorted in pain.  “Hey Red, are you all right?” I said.

“Holy shit, I’ve got to piss like an Irish racehorse,” said Red.  “I’m afraid I’m gonna piss my pants.”  Red sat there fidgeting and groaning for the next 15 minutes until we finally got to our stop.  And Red raced out of that bus like a bat out of hell and pissed for what seemed like at least 10 minutes straight.  That Johnny Walker Red, he was a character.  I wonder what ever happened to him.   I haven’t seen him in 40 years.  I hope the years are treating him well.

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The second time I got drunk

Image result for golf course in the snow
I remember the second time I got drunk.  1973, age 16, a junior in high school.  And, as usual, my pal  Red was the instigator.

Red and Chuck used to play golf at this ritzy golf course in a nearby town.  The golf course was closed for the winter because, well, you can’t play golf when the greens are covered with snow.  But, according to Red, there was a bar in the middle of the course that was boarded up for the winter and was loaded with booze.  And Red had discovered there was a window in the back of the building that was unlocked (Red was always on the lookout for opportunities for mischief like this one).  So Red suggested that we sneak into the golf course in the middle of the night and steal as much of the booze as we could carry.   Chuck and I both agreed that this was a magnificent idea.

So later that night we drove to the golf course.  Chuck parked his car on the outskirts of the course and we walked up the snow-covered greens to the bar.  The back window was indeed unlocked so we climbed in and jumped down into the room.  It was pitch dark in there and our eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the darkness, when this shadowy figure suddenly darted towards us.  It was a dog, a big German Shephard.  “Holy shit its a guard dog!” hissed Red.  We all froze in the spot as our sphincters clenched up our throats.  For a second we thought the dog was going to rip our throats out.   But the dog just quietly trotted by us and cowered harmlessly in the corner.   Some guard dog.

We grabbed as many of the bottles of hard liquor behind the bar as we could carry, plus three big kegs of beer.  Then we climbed back out the window with our haul and  hauled ass down the snow-covered greens.  The kegs were too heavy to carry so we were rolling them down the snow-covered greens.  I will never forget that surreal image as long as I live, its permanently imprinted in the mind’s eye of my memory.  Those kegs rolling down the snow-covered greens, and me, Chuck and Red joyously chasing after them.

We jumped into Chuck’s car and made our getaway.   We were euphoric at having pulled off the crime of the century.  We couldn’t believe that we had actually pulled it off!

But now we had to figure out what to DO with all that booze.  We certainly couldn’t take it home.   We decided to drop it off at the local “hippie house” on the outskirts of town.   My 19-year-old older sister lived there with her hippie boyfriend and about 7 or 8 other hippies,  Deadheads, stoners, and greaseballs that rented out the rooms in this funky old house. That hippie house was often party central for many of the local high school kids.  It was considered scandalous by the local townspeople, this bizarre “hippie commune,” and it was the source of constant speculation, gossip and outrage as to the goings-on at this notorious “hippie house.”  Drug parties and orgies and satanic rituals?  God only knew.  Mostly it was just a bunch of bored potheads lazing around on the sofas watching TV.

Anyways, we were greeted as conquering heroes when we showed up with all that booze.   The problem was, we had forgotten to also steal some taps for the kegs so we had no way to get the beer out of the kegs.  Finally, some genius suggested that we just drive a big stake into the keg.   Which seemed like a magnificent idea, so thats what we did.   A geyser of beer exploded out of the keg all the way to the ceiling, I guess because of the air pressure in the keg.  So everybody grabbed pots and pans from the kitchen to catch the fountains of beer flowing down from the heavens.  It was an incredible moment.  Like winning the World Series and dousing eachother with champagne.   There are some great photos of us all toasting eachother with pots and pans full of beer.

In retrospect, I certainly don’t condone stealing, or being a reckless 16-year-old idiot.   But that was a triumphant moment for me.   And I didn’t have too many of those during my high school career.  So what the hell.

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