Monday, September 19, 2011

My Wild Irish Rose and other companions

Wine Tasting Misadventures
What's the word?...Thunderbird?

She was my mistress and companion on my nightly excursions in the world of youthful sleaze.
I tried to sleep with her on numerous occasions.  Sometimes I was successful, but usually she would get my head spinning and my stomach all queasy.  She had that intoxicating demeanor.

Yeah, she was cheap, but she was sweet.  Cheap wine usually is. Wild Irish Rose is the cheapest.  I have some bittersweet memories of WIR and bittersweet would pretty much describe the taste.  What can one expect for 60 cents a bottle? This wine makes Ripple taste like a winner at a wine tasting contest.  In fact, during my adolescence my friends and I became connoisseurs of cheap wine.

In New York in late 50's and 60's the drinking age was 18.  We were not intimidated by that lofty distant number.  We were not going to wait two or three years before our lips would taste the nectar of the gods.  We were ready.

My friends Jim and Andy had very little money.  This did not dampen our eagerness for an adventure in wine tasting.  We would simply bum money until we had enough to buy a bottle or two of Wild Irish Rose.
We would sneak into the woods nearby, break open the bottle,  take a healthy sip, slosh it around in our mouths and spit it out, look at each other and comment on the bouquet as a knowledgeable wine taster would do.
"Gasoline" Jim would shout. "low test, I might add".
"Kerosene", was my rejoinder. "1957...a good year for kerosene."
"Rancid grape soda with a hint of putrefied toe cheese", was Andy's comment.
"Ah...You have the benefit of both wine and cheese in one bottle.  A bit of luck for you, sir", Jim added.

After a few attempts we got to the point where we could swallow the wine without gagging.  We stopped spitting it out.

We moved on to a higher class wine rather quickly.  We moved on to Thunderbird.  This is also what is referred to as a bumwine, we thought it was a step up and the bottle was bigger. Also, it was a California wine.  We were done with New York wineries.

We got very good at bumming and sharing.  One evening we bummed enough money for about a gallon of Thunderbird.  We just had to give our financial benefactors a sip.
We were a bit over served that night.  After a while we were in no condition to drive.  Thank God none of us had a car.  We were in no condition to walk either.  We took turns carrying each other.  We had to walk two miles to get home.   We made it to Jim's house, since his home was the closest.  By this time, Andy was in a total stupor and he was thrashing around making our life difficult.
We brought Andy to the garage, tied him up so he wouldn't thrash around, hooked his coat, with him in it, onto a hook on the wall.
Jim then said, " Come on into the house and meet my uncle.  He's a priest."
"Ah...No..Thanks...Jim.  I will be on my way. Have a nice Thanksgiving."
I also had to get up and watch the vaunted Detroit Lions give the lowly Green Bay Packers a pummeling.
"Oh, come! My parents won't even notice that we had a little bit of wine. My uncle drinks wine all the time.  He won't notice either."
It is a good thing I was not born a female. I gave in way too easily.  I guess I was a male wine slut at the time.

Jim and I staggered to the house and  stumbled up the stairs and into the kitchen.  Jim's dad was there to greet us.  He took one look at us and asked sternly, " Have you boys been drinking?" We both said, "No" in unison.
"Don't lie to me.  You boys have been drinking."
Finally, we confessed.  "We had a glass of wine at Andy's house."
"A glass?" Jim's dad queried loudly.  "It was a big glass." I added.  We confessed that we had a little more than a glass of wine.  We didn't really fool anyone.  We could barely stand or talk properly.  We told Jim's dad that we had hung Andy in the garage.

"What?...You hung Andy?....Why?....He was a good kid."
"Yeah, but we got sick of carrying him." I answered.
"He didn't even get last rites.  How could you? I will have Father Riley (the uncle) administer last rites."
Jim and I looked at each other. We were puzzled.  What is he talking about?
"Oh....No...Not like that." Jim offered. "We did it with nails and a garden hose."

At this point, Jim's dad is in shock.  He is about ready to have a stroke. "You crucified Andy?  You boys are very mentally sick.  You have ruined your lives."
His eyes were very moist.  He kept repeating, "sick...sick...sick."

Finally, we really had to tell the whole truth.  This was getting out of hand.
We told Frank (Jim's dad) that Andy was out in the garage being held up by a garden hose and a nail to keep him from falling over onto the cement in the garage.  He was too drunk to walk and we left him out in the garage because he would have given us away.  We actually thought nobody would notice that Jim and I could barely stand up straight or talk without a heavy slur.

Finally, Frank explained the situation to Father Riley, who had been in the other room listening to the whole escapade.  I met Father Riley, shook his hand. He gave Jim and I a little lecture about lying and we were remanded to our own custody to take care of Andy, who was still hanging in the garage.

We had to walk Andy to his home, which was another half mile down the road. We didn't really walk him, we carried him.  He was in a stupor.

We carried him to his front door.  We hoped that it was unlocked.  It was.  Nobody was up.  Everybody had gone to bed.  Thank God...we would not have to explain this to more people.  We used stealth to set him just inside the door, on the floor and quietly exited his residence.  Then we ran for about a hundred yards.

"Whew, poor guy. He's toast.  I suppose we will be hearing from his mom and dad tomorrow."

Strangely, Andy was the only one who did not get caught. When I got home my parents were waiting for me.  I gave them the "sip of wine at Andy's house" story.  I think they knew it was a lie, since I still was having trouble navigating.
Jim, Andy and I discussed it on Saturday.We considered this a legendary adventure of our teen years.
We decided we would meet at Scotty's, our hang out, in exactly 20 years.  The night before Thanksgiving.  Wednesday.


The meeting never happened:  Reality got in the way.
Approximately four months after this event, Andy became a diabetic.  He didn't take good care of his disease.  As time went on, Andy lost his vision, his toes, his kidneys and at the age of 39....his life.  He was my best friend.

Jim became a lawyer.  A good one.  Ironically, Jim's daughter was born the day Andy died.  He could not be a pallbearer because of this.  I haven't seen Jim in twenty years.
However he did sign one of my legal documents.  Thanks, Jim!!!

The place where we were supposed to meet is now a pile of rubble. The only thing left of it are the memories.

The town I was raised in has not fared much better.  Ten years after our adventure, the main industry in our town shut down permanently.  The town is in a state of decline.
It was a great place to grow up.  It is heartbreaking to go back and see what has happened to it.

Life...for some of us...goes on.

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