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!