Oh demon alcohol. The first time ever I kissed your lips ‘twas at the tender age of sixteen on the night of The Great Beer Run. It began when Ed’s parents went out of town for the weekend and left Ed all alone and in charge of the house for the first time ever. Patrick and I both told our parents that we were staying over at Ed’s house for the night. It was nothing unusual as far as they knew. But we had a plan. Up to this point, what would usually mean a night of pizza, comic books and channel-surfing for tits on cable now took a whole new direction. We were men now and that meant it was time to get drunk.
The first order of business was the procurement of beverages. Easy enough we thought. The legal drinking age in Georgia was still eighteen in the early 80’s and so we set about finding someone with an older brother who would buy us some beer. We piled into my sky-blue ’77 Plymouth Volaré two-door coupe, recently acquired with my license along with an after-school job at McDonald’s to pay for my own gas and insurance. We then went cruising on the streets of our tiny town, asking everyone we knew if they could get us some beer. But fate was not kind. By the time we found said older brother, the local ordinance against selling alcohol after 11:30 pm was in effect. We tried store after store, but there was no joy. We were crushed. It was though we had failed our first test of manhood and would have to remain in the boy’s club.
I believe it was Patrick who came up with the bright idea. For many years, rural rednecks skirted the rules against taverns by having private clubs around the county. Besides allowing them to operate a bar, being private meant they could exclude anyone they didn’t like. You can draw your own conclusion as to who that might be. So we set off for the Pecan Lounge where we hoped to badger someone in the parking lot into going inside and bringing us back some cold ones. The Pecan Lounge was down a long dirt road and set back into a pecan orchard where, under privacy of darkness, these country clubbers could fuck and/or knife each other without attracting attention. Halfway down the road to the lounge, we spied a guy stumbling along in and out of the roadway. I pulled along beside him and rolled down my window. He thought we were going to rob him until he saw that it was a car full of kids. “Hey man, can you go back in there and get us a case of beer?” we asked. A case of beer was way more than we could use, but what did we know? He looked back down the road at the neon beer signs from which he had just emerged and said, “Naw boys, they ain’t gonna let me back in there tonight. But I need me a ride home. You get me back to my trailer and I’ll give you the twelve-pack in my fridge.” Before I could object, Ed had opened the passenger door and jumped in the back with Pat. The drunk slid in beside me on the front bench seat and slammed the door. Well fuck. He was in the car now, reeking of unwashed redneck and stale beer. I followed his directions back to a decrepit trailer park just knowing that he was lying and that there would be no beer tonight. We parked in front of his trailer and I could hear dogs barking and someone yelling. Ed and Pat followed him inside his aged single-wide while I sat with the engine running, nervous as hell that I would either be attacked or propositioned and not knowing which one I feared worse. After what seemed like an hour, they emerged with our treasure, a twelve-pack of Bud in the can. The guys said that the only thing in his fridge other than the beer was a head of lettuce. Tough shit for him, it was time to enjoy our hard-earned brewskis.
Thus armed for a night of camaraderie, we returned to Ed’s house to celebrate our manhood. Although today four cans of beer each seems like only an appetizer, for a 135-pound sixteen-year-old virgin, it was a gracious plenty. I had taken a sip or two from Grandpa’s Miller High Life in the past, but now I was drinking like a man. It really tasted awful, but quitting after all that would have been tantamount to admitting homosexuality. I forced myself to gulp it down and rip into another can. I remember each one tasting better than the last. After the third one, I don’t think I even noticed the taste at all. Exact details of the rest of the evening are all rather fuzzy. I do recall repeated listening to Van Halen’s first album. My name is Dave and we had an Eddie with a guitar, so it was a natural. Patrick was flailing away, an ersatz Alex as we did “Ice Cream Man” over and over. The only other distinct memory involved Patrick shoving his head into a bowl of tuna salad and coming up with the classic, stereotypical pie-in-the-face mask. Like most things, the anticipation was better than the reward itself. But what a night it was. Three teenage lightweights take that first step toward adult debauchery. Other cultures may have tougher rites of passage, but on that night we were the kings of beers and my love affair with alcohol began with that first hard to get kiss.