Wednesday, November 18, 2009

1972

The year I would turn 21. The age of majority. The age of drinking in bars. Oh, how I loved drinking in bars. Second to AA meetings, bars might have been my most natural habitat.

But I didn't turn 21 until December. My birthday is December 15 (coming right up, eh?) so for most of the year, my birth year doesn't seem to add up right until the last 16 days of the year...

In 1972 I got a decent job by some weird twist of a great economy and a lack of people to fill jobs. I had absolutely no skills. I lied and said I could type 30 wpm. Unfortunately my lie became evident when they had me sit down at an IBM Selectric to perform a typing test! I typed 11 wpm, with too many errors to count, and still they hired me. I loved that job. They loved me. I got raises and actually made a living wage.

Can you see what is coming? I got a teensy bit of gumption and decided I really didn't want to be married to a pot smoking, drug dealing, miserly postal worker anymore. I had my brand new 1973 Datsun hatchback, and my pretty apartment, and a credit card for a women's clothing store so that I could purchase the clothing I needed for my office job. I was about to be 21 so I could get my own booze, and besides, I could drive to Wisconsin (where the drinking age was 18) to drink in bars whenever I wanted! Who needed a husband? Not me!

My father by this time had remarried and moved to Brazil! And back in those days, it took 6 weeks to get a letter to him and 6 weeks to get one back. So if I needed money, I wasn't getting it from Daddio. I was truly on my own.

It was absolutely thrilling.

These are the great moments from my past that I later would have an insistent yearning to recapture. The bars were new to me. I was new to the bars. It was true love. Oh, I screwed up plenty, but for the most part, I really had a lot of fun.

On the eve of my 21st birthday, my best friend and I sat on the steps of the bar on a snowy Chicago December evening and waited for midnight to come. At midnight we walked into the bar. I ordered a beer and the barkeep asked me for ID. I asked him what time it was. He said it was exactly midnight.... We screamed and showed him my driver's license. That bar hadn't seen a young woman celebrating her 21st birthday probably ever - so the whole bar joined in the party. They let me tend bar. They let me dance on the bar (to Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives), they "let" me do all kinds of things and there are probably old men in nursing homes today who fondly remember that night... I woke the next morning to the sound of roosters crowing, and when you live in Chicago, you know something has gone extremely wrong when you wake to roosters. Hungover as I was, I got to work anyway. And had another date that night - in another bar.

If it were 2009 instead of 1972, people would be trying to get me into "rehab" or something, but I thank God it was a different time and place and I had the luxury of plumbing the depths of my own bottom, because I was nowhere near it!

13 comments:

Mary LA said...

I have been listening to Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives on YouTube and laughing over my coffee. Thanks Mary Christine!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WzAyderAKU

Scott W said...

I worked in a bar in Nashville when I was 19, but the drinking age when I went home to KY was 21. That's crazy.

Scott said...

I remember falling in love with the bars. It really kicked in when I moved to Houston at 21, having just graduated from college, about to embark on my grad school "career."

For a time, the bar was my world.

Pam said...

Girl when I walked into a bar I felt at home immediately! I looked really good in that lighting too.
I'm diggin' your story sweet green pea.

Lou said...

At twenty, I lied to the manager of the Steak & Ale in St Louis, Mo and got a job as a barmaid. I looked 14 at the time, I don't know how he bought it. On my 21st birthday, I told him the truth, and at 1:00 am, after the bar closed, all of the employees (including myself and the very rotund manager) took turns drinking and streaking.

I have to believe you streaked at least once. Coming up in 1973 perhaps?

♥Shann♥ said...

I was pregnant and 5 yrs sober at 21... I did get into bars when I was younger though!
lovin your story!

Ed G. said...

I;m smiling with the old men in the memories. It were wildly different times - today, I don't miss a thing from back then. I know there's some really good times back there and I'd love to remember them instead but what I see at this moment is the confusion, heartache, loneliness and isolation (even in the bar crowd).

Probably good to remember, but not comfortable.

Blessings and aloha...

Gin said...

I get the birthday thing. Mine is 12/30 so my age based on the year only makes sense for two days out of the entire year! :-)

Willa said...

When I was 19, I drove with a friend to Kingman, Arizona all the way from California just to drink that first beer legally...

Syd said...

I hate to say it but I wold probably have liked to see a young MC dancing on a bar at age 21 back then. Now, I would just think that there will be a chair in the rooms for you someday.

dAAve said...

Good stuff. Lotsa fun when you're twenty-one.

Anonymous said...

we love our beach meetings.
http://www.sober;iving.com

Just Another Sober Guy said...

I had drank in bars a couple of times pre-21... I was 'with the band' - LOL I did come to enjoy bar drinking but really enjoyed drinking at home, more bang for my buck, ya know? It took me 20 years to finally get out on my own and by then I was getting sober. Maybe those events are possibly related!