I was sixteen, which is probably shockingly late by today’s standards. I was with Rocky and Mike, in Rocky’s li’l blue car, probably blasting a Kiss kassette. We were planning to go to a high school basketball game, and somehow got it into our minds to try to buy beer instead.
Yeah right, I thought, that’s about as likely as seeing a set of three-dimensional female breasts tonight. But the conversation wouldn’t die and, in fact, started to build momentum.
In retrospect, I realize I was conned. Rocky, especially, insisted I looked the oldest and should be the one to go into the store. It’s the same tactic Toney uses, when she doesn’t want to make a salad for dinner. “You do it so much better,” she says. Heh.
But I allowed myself to be manipulated by my “friends” that night, and walked into Wagner’s Market in Dunbar, with terror sweat rolling down my back. I was certain I’d be beaten, arrested, beaten again, then sodomized.
The drinking age was 18 at that point, so I was a full two years early. Sweet Jesus…
The guy behind the counter couldn’t have been much older than 20 himself, which I considered a positive. When I came through the door he greeted me with a “Hey, man!” So he was both young and friendly… He probably won’t call the cops, I assured myself. Worst case: I’ll leave empty-handed, and be mocked by Rocky and Mike for half an hour.
This was during the days of 3.2 beer, so there wasn’t much to choose from. It was mostly just Anheuser-Busch and Miller products. But what did I know about it, anyway? I grabbed a six-pack of Miller High Life in bottles, took a deep breath, and walked to the counter.
“Anything else?” the guy said, as he started ringing up my purchase. Unbelievable! I handed him the money with a clammy shaking claw, and got the hell out of there before he realized his error.
“You only got six?!” Rocky hollered when I returned to the car. It was amazing, simply amazing. Instead of celebrating my earth-shattering victory, he wanted me to go back inside and do it over again. I told him to slam it up his ass, and reminded him he could buy it, if he wanted more. He swallowed hard, and said, “Yeah, six will probably be enough.”
We drove around the streets of Dunbar, and I tasted beer for the first time in my life. The first few sips were difficult, but I quickly adjusted. And by the time we reached the halfway point of our second bottles, I told Rocky to return to Wagner’s. I was going back in!
The guy looked at me sideways this time, but didn’t give me any problem. So we went to the high school, parked out near the track, and polished off the second six-pack.
Then we went to the basketball game, and I experienced for the first time how alcohol can transform an otherwise humdrum night, into something exciting and dangerous. It was that most slippery of slopes.
And I have much more I wanted to tell you on this subject, including the story of my first encounter with hard liquor, but I’ll have to get to it tomorrow. I’m all out of time here.
Please use the comments section to tell us about your first alcoholic beverage, and I’ll see ya next time.
And, by the way, here’s Rocky “hanging out” in front of Wagner’s Market, a few years later. Yeah, who the hell knows?