Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Little Rummer Boy -- Bar Stories #2

 In the last bar tale I confessed to the fact I'm a beer snob. But if I'm going to tell the complete truth I must admit my first attempts to become a beer drinker were met with shuddering frowns. I hated the taste of beer early on so my first alcoholic beverage of choice was rum. Here is the tale behind my first rum and coke. Which I might add came in a place that has seen more beating, stabbings, and booty plundering than the deck of a pirate ship.

After my early childhood experiences of smoky back rooms, shadowy bars, and whiskey in general, I headed into adolescence with a negative attitude towards both alcohol and the establishments that thrived by keeping its customers glasses full of firewater.

Then I started hanging around a guy that I'll call Brandon Pettibone for now. Like myself, Brandon was being raised by a single mom. My dad became a bit more scare with each passing year until came a better than six year span when I didn't speak so much as a single word to my father. Truth be told that was much more my decision than his but I'd grown tired of the effort, the broken promises and, the bullshit. But that is a tale for another day, another story.

Back to Brandon. Unlike myself, Brandon's mom was not a model parent. The woman had no job. She and Brandon survived on Gov't assistance. But that didn't keep her home. For at night, and I do mean EVERY NIGHT she patrolled the bars up and down Amarillo Boulevard.

Amarillo Boulevard once was the glory road through Amarillo. Part of old Route 66 it led to the Air Base when it was still here. But the base closed in the late 60's and the construction of I-40 stole the shine from Amarillo Boulevard.

By the late 80's the road was notorious for prostitution, seedy bars, and sleazy motels. My buddy Brandon lived in a rundown trailer park on the far eastern end of the Boulevard. Just past the bowling alley and the Vietnamese grocery store.

Brandon's mom would be heading out for the night about the time we arrived home from school. Now before you ask, no she was not a prostitute, but I yeah she was a whore. You've all heard of a crack whore but this woman was a whiskey whore. Gravelly of voice, wrinkly of skin, I suppose once upon a time she had been pretty. The remnants were there but only in a dimly lit, smoke-filled environment would the pieces of the faded puzzle fit together into a presentable package. I occasionally spent the night at Brandon's throughout junior high and high school and never did I see the same man at the breakfast table.

Brandon was a year older than me and therefore acquired his driver's license a full 15 months before I did. This fact was both a curse and a blessing. Having a buddy with wheels was cool except our plans often got derailed by his mother. Who would invariable call just as we were leaving his house to say she needed us to bring her a pack of Virgina Slims to THE MULE BARN, CATTLEMAN"S, or whatever dive bar she happened to be in at the time.

Times were different back then, and at the age of 16 Brandon had nearly a full beard so he rarely had trouble purchasing the pack of smokes his mom demanded he fetch to her. Matter of fact the hardest part was scrounging enough dime and quarters around the house but once he had sufficient cash the salesclerks at the convenience stores rarely questioned Brandon. Of course they should have known he was buying the smokes for his mom. No self-respecting teenage boy would buy Virginia Slims over Camels or Marlboros.

Generally speaking I waited in Brandon's old Chevy pickup while he ran inside the bar to drop of the smokes to his mom.

But on this one occasion his mom called, and we had hell digging up enough coins to buy her Virginia Slims. Then we had even More trouble finding a store to sell us the cigarettes. One store. Two store. Three stores.

I can't remember how many stores we hit before finally someone sold him a pack of cancer sticks. Five or six I'm guessing and by the time we arrived at Roustabouts, Round- Ups, or wherever it was we were supposed to deliver the cigs Brandon's mom had moved on to another bar. After the third of fourth bar Brandon decided we'd find her faster if I went in and helped him look over each place.

Three or four bars later we finally found her cozying up to some skinny bowlegged cowboy. She was drunk and so was the cowboy who had to be twenty years her senior. But the two of them were having a hell of time and when she introduced Brandon the old man threw an arm over my buddy's shoulder and pulled him in nearly as tight as he clutched my friend's mom.

The cowboy then insisted upon reciting an x-rated version of The Night Before Christmas. Of which I can't remember but a single line except ... there was Saint Nick staring at her gash.  

That ought to give you an idea of the bawdy nature which I can tell you was quite hilarious to my 15 year old mind.

The next thing I knew the man had ordered both me and Brandon a whiskey.

As told in my last post me and whiskey had far too rocky of a start to ever be pals so I turned the drink down. Which earned me a fifteen minute lecture from the old cowboy about never turning down a free drink. it went from there to never turning down ... insert you own feline synonym here ... to  refusing to drink with another man is on par with spitting in his face.

"At which point I gathered my wits about me enough to say, "Oh I'll drink with you. I just won't drink whiskey."

The old man laughed, and said,"Well name your poison son. And let's have a drink."

I chose rum and the two of us have been friendly ever since.

I'll keep with the them of firsts and tell y'all about my first New Year's Eve kiss in the next installment. It WASN'T a beautiful thing.


alex keto said...

A helluva a story all the way around. No wonder scotch gives you heartburn. Funny how people wind up drinking whatever they started off with.

Charles Gramlich said...

Man your life was very different from mine.

Old Kitty said...

What a nice way to make friends!

Take care

the walking man said...

Honestly by the time I was 15 I much preferred chemical enhancements to my life than I did liquor. I NEVER was a beer drinker and it wasn't until I was about 28 before I began my run with Jim Beam.

You know Travis, it seems that most everyone I know who grew up in TX has pretty much the same kind of back story, seedy bars, crazed parent, good friends who without you's be in a locked ward somewhere. And I THOUGHT Detroit was hard about the time you're talking about.

David Cranmer said...

Blackheart pulp. Love it!

Jenn Jilks said...

You tell a great story! What a dude!

Blogger said...

Are you paying over $5 / pack of cigs? I'm buying high quality cigarettes at Duty Free Depot and I save over 60% from cigarettes.