Monday, December 16, 2013

#MyFirst ... Time Drunk

It's that time again - when I take up Kerri Sackville's challenge. Each week on her website Life and Other Crises, she relates one of her firsts. This week it is her first time drunk.

You need to know that I come from a family that generally doesn't drink. It's not that we had any issues regarding alcohol, but it just wasn't something that was part of our every day lives. Even at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, my dad would prefer a soft drink. My mom, however, would get an alcoholic beverage at these affairs, and even introduced me to the joys of gin and tonic on a hot summer afternoon when offered by a neighbor.

The legal drinking age in New York State at the time was 18. (It was later raised to 21 where it stands now.) My 18th birthday came while I was in college ... and that college was 90 miles north of NYC where I lived/live. I was away from home, living in a dorm. I was 17 - younger than most - when I entered college in September of 1970 ... not that it stopped me from having a drink or two when I first arrived.

However, on February 25, 1971 I turned 18 and was about to take part in a very traditional rite of passage. The college was located in a small farming community in the Mid-Hudson Valley, and like any college town, had it share of bars. You could roll down Main Street and go from one to the next - and many did ... quite literally. On the night of my 18th birthday, my friends saw to it that I did!

It was a bitter cold winter night as we walked down the hill from campus to town, arriving at P&G's, the first stop of the night. None of us had ever heard the phrase "bar crawl" and I am not even sure that it had been coined yet, but that is what we did that night. My friends saw to it that my hand always had a drink in it ... most likely an apricot sour which was what I mostly drank during my college days. (Was not a big fan of beer.) We visited places with names like P&G's, The Homestead, and other college town bar names.

I'll be honest, my memory of most of that night is a bit sketchy ... I know, big surprise there! However, the next thing that I knew, I was back on campus (I have absolutely no idea how I managed to get up that steep hill ... I am pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to walk it by then) and standing in front of a friend's window in the girls' dorm! My male friends who had taken me out that night had apparently abandoned me at some point ... I think. (Most of the dorms had gone co-ed the year before, but there were still 2 all girls dorms, and they were locked at night.) It was bitterly cold out by now - though I wasn't feeling much pain to be honest - and I wanted to get inside ... so I started singing! It couldn't have been good! My friend Cindy opened her window and kept telling me to shut up ... but the cacophony continued until she finally came to the front door and let me in. By this time, her roommate Lynn and hallmate Barbara had joined the party. The last thing I remember that night was sitting on the floor in the hall outside of Cindy's room saying "I can't believe I am sitting on the floor!"

I can't tell you what happened after that ... not that I don't want to share, but I honestly have no memory of anything until waking up the next morning in my own bed in my own dorm room.

Hanging on the hook by my closet - or more likely perhaps, on the floor of my room ... the details are a bit foggy you see - was my Canadian Air Force parka that I was wearing that night. It was very similar to what you see here, except that it also had pockets on the sleeves. I am not sure what time it was that I picked it up ... I can't imagine that I was actually planning on going to classes that day ... but when I did, it made the strangest sound, considering it was a coat made of fabric, goose down and rabbit fur. This certainly wasn't the sound you would expect those soft materials to make when rubbed together.

It seems that after I had consumed each drink, rather than placing the glass back on the bar and moving on to the next one, I was methodically placing each glass into one of the huge pockets of my parka! There was a glass in each of the sleeve pockets, and more than one in each of the pockets on the front of the coat! I now had a full set of bar glasses.

I am not sure at what point that had started to happen but I am sure that for at least the first few drinks, I did indeed place the glasses back on the bar. I didn't waste much time thinking about it, however, and proceeded to empty my pockets and line the glasses up along the window ledge in my dorm room, where they remained - at least until the end of that school year as sort of I trophy I suppose. I then decided to do the only logical thing that an 18 year old in my condition could possibly have done at that time of the morning (or was it afternoon?) ... go back to bed!

Cindy has remained friends with my wife (who also attended the same college and was part of the same group of friends - though she and I hadn't started dating yet at the time of my 18th birthday) and myself since our college days. (Cindy was Maid of Honor at our wedding.) Lynn and Barbara had been out of touch with us for more than 40 years, but have now reconnected and we have all gotten together recently to catch up and reminisce. And yes - this one night was still a topic of conversation.

The next time I got drunk was in Rome, Italy, but that - as they say - is a story for another time.

(If you haven't yet, why not stop by and visit my main blog Thoughts From The Dark Side and get to know me a bit.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

#MyFirst ... Fulfilled Wish

It's that time again - when I take up Kerri Sackville's challenge. Each week on her website Life and Other Crises, she relates one of her firsts. This week it is her first fulfilled wish.

Sure, there were other small wishes growing up - like the things I wanted for my birthday, but I have already covered that in #MyFirst Obsession, and in a way, this might be considered related to obsession (and photography) as well. However, this was a big wish ... and one that I thought would never be fulfilled.

Like most kids my age - in the US at least - I grew up knowing that my Sunday nights would mean watching Walt Disney and Ed Sullivan. Naturally I was more interested in Walt than Ed, though I did enjoy Topo Gigio. But of course it was a different mouse that I looked forward to seeing, and that was Mickey. Over the years Walt Disney's presence on Sunday night was legendary. Although the name of the show changed many times, my favorite segments were always those that showed Walt's "little park", Disneyland. I loved watching all of the rides and attractions, and the people enjoying them. The only problem was that Disneyland was on the totally opposite side of the country, so while I enjoyed watching the shows about Disneyland, I never seriously thought I would be there. People really weren't in the habit of flying for vacations yet. And this being the fifties and the sixties, there was still only one Disney theme park. I watched all the TV shows about it, I read all the books and stories about it, but still ... I wished I could see it in person!

I watched with great excitement as Walt talked about four new projects though. He told us that a lifelike Lincoln who would stand up and speak was being developed. And how about that ride where you would drive a car through history, from the dinosaurs to the caveman to the present and the future? Or that other history ride where you would sit in a theater which moved from scene to scene from the beginning of the twentieth century to the very modern present of 1964!! And finally he told us about a boat ride through the countries of the world - with little children singing a wonderful Sherman brothers' song. (Shhhh ... I heard that!)

What made this so exciting for me was the fact that I would actually be able to experience all of these attractions! They were being prepared for the State of Illinois, Ford Motor Company, General Electric and Pepsi/UNICEF. They were going to be at the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair, and since I lived in New York City I knew I would see each of them a number of times. And I did.

And then, before school was out for the summer of 1968, my parents (teachers by profession) informed me and my brother and sister that we would spend our 10 weeks of summer vacation driving cross country. You know what that meant? We would be in California ... and Disneyland was in California. (Oh yeah, a few other things as well, but ... Disneyland!!!)

The end of June came ... school was out for the summer ... and we were on the road! Yes indeed we saw some great things on the way out there, but Disneyland was the "wienie" as Walt would have put it. And then, on July 26th, 1968 the day came that I finally got to go to Disneyland. (I just realized for the first time that 10 years to the day later, my daughter - the current Walt Disney World Cast Member - would be born.) I remember the excitement as we saw the Disneyland sign from the highway ... the highway which the California Department of Transportation had decreed would have no signs mentioning the park. How exciting it was to finally be in the parking lot, about to have my parents buy that booklet with the famous A-B-C-D-and E tickets in it? The wonderful things I saw on my black and white television (we wouldn't have color TV until late in 1969) now appeared before me (as they would say on TV) in living color ... ready to capture with the same Ansco Cadet camera that I had used at the NY World's Fair!

As we walked into the park and underneath the Disneyland Railroad, Main Street and the castle (The Castle!!!) appeared before us.

I couldn't wait to walk down the street and look into all the stores which I had seen on Walt Disney's Sunday night television shows.

How many times had I seen an animated Tinkerbell (who I still insist is a jealous/murderous sprite ... a strange choice as a corporate spokesfairy) splash the front of the castle in an array of color to start another Sunday night Disney show? To me it looked so large and amazing standing there at the end of Main Street - the famous "wienie" Walt wanted in the center of the park.

But of course, the most exciting things were the attractions. I wanted to ride the Jungle Cruise, which I had seen so much of on TV. I had to experience something that was still unique to Disneyland back then - the steel rollercoaster type ride that was the Matterhorn. I couldn't wait to ride the traditional dark rides which were not super scary as they were back home in Brooklyn (at Coney Island), but much more family friendly with Disney characters. And what about Walt's fleet of submarines - or the skyride ... or the monorail ... and the other rides and attractions that I had seen on TV for so long?  I had to do it all. But I think the attraction that I wanted to see the most, was the newest. I watched it take shape over the years on the Sunday night TV program, and now I would get to see it in person ... The Pirates of the Caribbean! And I wasn't disappointed. (The Haunted Mansion, which became my all time favorite - and still is - wouldn't be open until my 1969 visit. My son would be working in the yet to be built Walt Disney World version at the moment 1999 became 2000. Walt Disney World would open in October, 1971.)

I also had to see the four World's Fair attractions which I had experienced just a few years earlier back at home; Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (Illinois), The Grand Canyon Diorama on the train trip around the park (Ford), Carousel of Progress (General Electric) and It's a Small World (Pepsi/UNICEF).

It was exciting finding out which type of ticket each attraction required, then ripping the appropriate one out of the booklet for admission. And as always ... the day ended much too soon. I would be back the next summer, and again a few times since I have been married, but nothing can match the excitement of that first time.

Today, as a frequent visitor to Walt Disney World, I get a completely different feeling upon walking in to that first park (Walt Disney World in Florida is comprised of 4 theme parks - and a lot more) - whichever it is on that trip - from the excitement of my first time in Disneyland. Today it is more of a comfortable "I'm home again" feeling.

But that first time in Disneyland .... ahhh ... but then ... Disney and the theme parks are all about wish fulfillment!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

#MyFirst ... Best Friend

It's time again to link up with Kerri Sackville and her #MyFirst Challenge. This week she told us about her First Bestie. (Sorry Kerri, I did have to adjust my subject title ... "Bestie" is just a bit ... well, Australian!)

I met Herb in high school. Yes, I had plenty of friends before that, but the way I look at it, Best Friend is more than just the friend who you spend the most time with ... but something else.

As with most of my closest friends in high school, Herb and I met during our Orchestra class. During those years, a strong group of us from that orchestra became fast friends.

By the time we were seniors, many of us had cars at our disposal (none of this business of having our parents buy us our own car when we got our licenses, we borrowed our parents' - if we were lucky. I was lucky) and Saturday nights became a floating jam session ... each week at another person's house - also assuming that the person in question had accommodating parents.

<--- This is indeed one of those floating Jam sessions (1969 most likely) ... this one was at my house. It is also one of the rare photos that I am actually in - rather than taking. That is me in the lower left corner ... and Herb in the red shirt over my shoulder.

During this time, Herb and I had a lot in common, performing together in the pit of many school musicals and were often together to the point that it was not unusual for us to even double-date. Naturally, we would often get in to trouble together.

In fact, I was witness to history because I had been coming to visit him. I was working at McDonald's (as all high school kids do, right?) and after work one night I decided to stop off at his house before heading home myself. Turns out that I couldn't get close to his place because of a huge crowd, which included lots of police. Remember the movie, Dog Day Afternoon? Well, it was happening right in front of my eyes. This was the incident that they would later make the movie about. Herb's house was just yards away.

In these days before cell phones, we both needed to keep our mom's informed if we were going to be out later than a certain time ... usually midnight on a non-school night. This particular night we were at a friend's house in Sea Gate ... a gated community in Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. It was a nice night and some of us were in the house, and some were on the private beach behind the house.

Both Herb and I attempted to call home to let our moms know we wouldn't be home by the witching hour. Ironically, all of our attempts were met with busy signals. (This was also before call waiting was available.) We tried a few times and the results were always the same. About 1:00 AM we all started to head home. I knew I wasn't going to be in trouble as my mom was obviously on the phone herself - unless it had been knocked off the hook, in which case my story would still hold up. Herb was not so confident.

In those days, I was the one with almost total access to my father's car, so I would be chauffeur to many of my friends, including Herb. Since he lived very close to my house, he was the last one I dropped off, and when I walked in to my own house, my mom was still on the phone. She gave me the "one minute" sign and then said goodbye to whomever she was on the phone with and started laughing.

I quickly started to explain to her that I did indeed try to call her, but she stopped me and said she figured I had. Turns out that she was on the phone with Herb's mother - who kept asking, "why isn't he calling?" My mom kept telling her that Herb couldn't call if they were on the phone, but she wouldn't end the conversation - so Herb and I kept getting a busy signal. My mom said she knew I was on the way home when she heard Herb arrive at his house.

Herb and I stayed friends through college ... but I would prefer you not ask me how (or why) he was handcuffed to my dorm room door one night - in his underwear! He met my (now) wife while visiting us at college and was a groomsman at our wedding. He continued to be friends with my wife and myself for a long time after we were married. Eventually, however, we sort of drifted apart for a number of years.

It was at my 30 year high school reunion in 2000 that we next saw Herb - though he was using the name David now - and it was as if we had just seen him ... no uncomfortable getting reacquainted ... though there was a bit of catching up that needed to be done. (He was now teaching at the same high school we had attended.)

That's what makes a best friend ... we may not see each other for long periods of time, but when we do, we pick up right where we left off.

Monday, December 2, 2013

#MyFirst Kiss

It's that time again, to accept Kerri Sackville's challenge and reply to her #MyFirst blog post. This week's topic is My First Kiss.

I could take the easy (coward's) way out of this, and tell the world about the first time I kissed a girl (other than family of course). That was in Kindergarten. It was the day of our class play - Hansel and Gretel. I was playing a Gingerbread Man. However, our Hansel was absent! Just before we were to go on, the teacher asked all of the boys if any of us knew Hansel's part and would be willing to step in. For some reason, I raised my hand - and was the only one, so I shed my Gingerbread Man costume, and became Hansel. In the course of our little show, I had to kiss our Gretel on her cheek ... a brotherly kiss ... and for the very first time I had kissed a girl.

But I think that Kerri would call me out on that one, so I guess it is time to man up and - as embarrassing as it might be - tell the story.

I was in high school, probably in my sophomore year - 10th (I really wouldn't want to admit it was really my junior year - 11th) grade, and was at a party at one of my friends' house. The party went about the way you would expect a high school party to go, and we played some games - including one known as "five minutes in heaven." For those of you who don't know the game, a random boy and a random girl are selected - a variation on "spin the bottle" - and then are shut in to a dark room for five minutes. The rules? Well the only rule is that at someone will knock on the door when there are 30 seconds left and at the five minute mark the door will open ... so be prepared. (A word to the wise?)

To be honest, while I was quite excited (in the way a teen age boy would be excited about the prospect of spending 5 minutes alone in a room with a teen aged girl), I was also quite apprehensive. You see, I had not only never played this game before, I had never kissed or made out with a girl prior to my selection ... not too far into the evening's activities.

It turns out, that I think I survived - not in a small part because the young lady (who, sadly, I cannot remember who she was or what she looked like) was willing, eager, and a bit more experienced at this than I was. Yes, I had my first "real" kiss that night (and a second ... and a third ... and ... ) and also had my first practical lesson in female anatomy ... and it was so much more interesting (fun!) than classroom biology.

And - for all our sakes - I think that is all I will have to say about that, except that when I started high school, I was painfully shy, but along the way, while I never actually lost my shyness (I still am extremely shy to this day - though those who have only known me a short time find that hard to believe) by the end of high school, I had learned to overcome it and even found that I loved public speaking, and campaigned for Senior Grade Rep (of a senior class of 1100 students) and won!

So now you know ...