Saturday, November 12, 2005

I’ve been reflecting…again

As a result of a contact last week, I’ve found myself thinking about the years after I got home from overseas.

It’s not a time I’m particularly proud of on one hand, and yet on the other contains some of the more memorable experiences I’ve had.

I’m not proud of it, primarily because I was drinking then, often, and normally to excess. There was a period, of nearly a year, that every night after work a buddy of mine and I went to the same bar, drank and played foosball until closing, went home and got up the next day and did it all over again!

The strangest thing to me is, that then, that felt as though it was ‘normal’ behavior. That it was what every single guy did after work, went out, got drunk (of course hoping to get lucky), went home and repeated the process.

I was an auto mechanic in those days. Mark and I worked in a shop in Whitesboro, NY, normally a 12 hour day from 9am to 9pm, at closing we’d get cleaned up, change clothes (there was an actual ‘locker room’ at this place) and head out to a bar up the road called “Tiny Bubbles” where we’d stay until closing.

I don’t remember either of us ever ‘getting lucky’ in that place, but then again, I’m not sure I’d remember if we had. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure we didn’t, we were always pretty drunk, and the experiences from the rest of my life lead me to believe that most women avoid severely intoxicated men like the plague.

With good reason I might add, for the most part I have no doubt we were obnoxious!!

If I wasn’t drinking, or working, I was restoring or rebuilding a car or truck, and I rarely drank when I had a tool in my hands. Not because I had some ‘safety’ concern, but primarily because back then, if I was in a shop, I worked. If I was in a bar, I drank; each place had its own special set of behaviors, and I never crossed the two.

That activity went on from 1973, until late in 1975. I got a promotion in ’75 that moved me out of the garage and into the front office and a suit. Now we had drinks at lunch, drinks at meetings, and a couple of drinks after work, but no one hung out until closing.

Well, not the work crowd, my other friends though, well they’d started moving Friday (which was the night most of those folks started drinking for the weekend) earlier and earlier into the week. Soon, we were closing bars on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and Monday night was the only night you wouldn’t find us out drinking.

It all pretty much stopped in early 1976 when I took a job as a manufacturer’s sales rep with a firm out of Pittsburg, PA. I was hitting the road, most mornings before 7:00am, and the only time you’d find me drinking was at business dinners and in the hotel bar with the ‘other’ road warriors (automotive industry sales reps) passing time before we got some sleep.

I’m pretty thankful for that job; it broke a pattern that probably would have killed me eventually. I’m, at times, amazed that none of us ‘regulars’ ever had an accident, or, ever got a ticket for driving while intoxicated. We were certainly blessed in that regard.

I say it was also a memorable time because I had some incredible experiences then. I restored my 1959 Triumph TR3 then, Billy Deyle and I took it apart and put it back together, and it was pretty sweet when we finished it!

His brother Jim and I were very good friends then, and we got into climbing and hiking in the Adirondacks. Each of those trips is a memory I’ll have until I die. Each one of the trips was different and wonderful in its own right. I remember one night, where we’d made camp and shortly after dark a group of college aged guys showed up to make camp as well.

These guys had packed (as in carried) in, not only all the normal camping stuff, but lawn chairs and beer as well! It was the first and only time Jim and I drank a beer on an Adirondack mountain top.

It was also during this time that I went to the NHRA Summer Nationals (called the ‘sunburn’ nationals that year) in Englishtown, NJ and got to work with the Accel ignition team.

A year later I was at the NHRA World finals in Indianapolis, IN with Amalie Oil, Raymond Beadle and the Blue Max funny car team. I also got to have dinner that weekend with Shirley Muldowney as Amalie was one of her major sponsors… You know, the famous, only woman to ever beat ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits, Top Fuel driver? It was an honor and a very exciting evening for me, to have met her.

I learned, at that event, that despite my efforts at becoming a ‘world class’ drinker, I was simply an ‘also ran’ compared to those oil industry guys!! I can still remember us being crammed into the rental car, (the trunk full and each of us with several cases on our laps) after having bought all the Stroh’s the grocery store had, and then filling the motor home’s fridge with it when we hit the track infield.

There are probably a dozen or more events, like the ones I’ve mentioned that transpired in those years. All of them incredible memories I treasure. I wonder sometimes though, if they would have been better, worse, or the same, without all that alcohol?

In the end I know it (the alcohol) probably didn’t make any real difference as during these events, it was rarely (well intoxication anyway) a part of the overall experience.

I hadn’t thought much about those years recently, but now, in thinking about them I’ve decided that it was all part of the process. The process of ‘finding’ myself, discovering what worked, and what didn’t in my life. Sorting out relationships, family, work, friends and personal… There were ups, and downs, I fell in, and out of what I thought was love (turned out to just be lust) several times… learning a little about myself, and other folks along the way.

Would I change it if I could? No. Every single thing that I’ve experienced and done has me exactly where I am today. I’m happy with my life today, if I went back and changed anything, I’d be somewhere else and maybe not quite so happy with how it’s all turned out.

I’m going to look for some pictures from those days. I know I have one with the Blue Max team in the winners circle at Indy. I’ll gather them up, scan them and eventually post them over at the photogallery for those of you who’d like to see them.


Comfort Addict said...

I, too, feel that I am the product of everything I've done and everyone I've met. However, I can't help but wonder what would have happened had I made a different choice here and there. Still, I am generally happy.

As always, I enjoyed reading your post (a great, personal slice of life).

Spirit Of Owl said...

Great stuff Bill. I relate in many ways. Not so much rose-coloured as, er, beer-coloured spectacles on the nostalgia? Oh yes... LOL!

It's hard to define what it is that alcohol adds to, or detracts from, any given gathering. But without doubt it has an amazing and surprisingly under-rated effect on the dynamics of our lives. I'm not judging that as good or bad. It's just a part of the picture, and an important one, like the type of brush used, or the type of paint.

I for one have a picture that's something of a patchwork quilt ... and it's got a stain or too. And maybe even a tear. At the moment, I'm really not sure whether I would have changed anything or not, it really isn't clear to me yet, but I'm hoping that it's all been "character forming." :)

I sent you an email, by the way. I don't know if you got it, but if not, it was just to say that, regarding the things we've been discussing, there's no hurry at all, everything when you're ready is more than fine.

Bill said...

CA - Oh, I still wonder... it's that monkey brain thing... but once I drift back to reality, I know I wouldn't change it if it would mean I'd be in a different place, or missed those things I truly enjoyed.

Spirit - Yeah beer has always been my drink of choice. In my younger years, too much hard liquor always seemed to leave me wanting to hit something, or somebody, so I avoided it then and still do.

I really believe that each experience, good or bad, is (or can be) character forming. We are a product of the choices that we make. Our choices are really the only thing we have any real control over, everything else, in my opinion, is merely “universe chaos’. There’s actually a post in there somewhere I think :)

Oh, yes got the email, you've got one inbound as well.


Thanks guys, as always!

Firehawk said...


I think I got all my drinking out of the way before It was ever legal for me to do it. I found that, going out week after week and getting plastered, I lost the sharp mental focus I treasured. Hence, I stopped, and now rarely have more than one drink per day.

At one point it would have been easy for me to consider alcohol a standard part of a night out, but anymore, I think of the drinks as only something I enjoy for their taste, not their intoxicating effects.

You've had some great experiences, Bill. Thanks for sharing them.

Bill said...

Firehawk - I actually quit drinking for a while 10 or 12 years ago (as part of a weight loss program I devised for myself). It was about two weeks into it, and I had this 'moment', where I realized I was thinking with a clarity and vision I'd not had in a very long time.

So, although I still enjoy a drink, excess in that regard is very rare indeed.

THanks man... they were great times, and, at the time, I thought I was going to be in an entirely different career than the one I find myself in today!.