The article that follows is a true story as told to me by son as we reminisced back 31 years and now can laugh about it:
It was the Summer of 1988. The weather ranged in the mid-80s to lower 90s. I was 20, my Uncle John was five years older than me, and only two years older than my brother, Bob. Johnny’s brother Frank was the oldest among us, and we lived just two miles from each other in the District Heights-Forestville, MD area. My mom was my best buddies’, (Johnny and Frank’s), sister, and we four boys grew up together more like brothers or close cousins.
It was a Friday night, probably in early August. And, as we did many weekends, John and I decided we’d continue “getting our drinks on” at nearby Charlie’s Lounge. Charlie’s was on Allentown Road inside the Holiday Day Inn just across from the main gate at Andrews Air Force Base–about 3-1/2 miles away from us. And the general attractions on Friday’s in the summer were the ladies bikini contests.
Johnny decided to drive his 1985 Ford Escort, even though it already had bent tire rod ends. Unfortunately, our usual server and neighborhood friend, Willie, wasn’t working at Charlie’s that night. No matter though, because I was seldom carded because I looked older than I was. Our specialty drink at Charlie’s was Kamikazes (a two-ounce jigger of vodka and lime juice). And, of course, we asked the bartender to keep them coming as we stacked the jiggers into a pyramid atop the bar. Just a half-hour in, the bartender cut us off. But at the rate we were refilling, Uncle John already had turned into rubber man! I was intoxicated too but I thought I could better use my driving skills as Johnny’s eyes and co-pilot. I remember literally holding John’s head up while we steered the Escort to what we called “the flag.” This was the 30-foot tall flagpole that flew the largest American flag I have ever seen. It stood on Old Marlboro Pike, parallel to Pennsylvania Avenue, near the roadside of the business condos known as Mellwood Plaza. To the left of Pennsylvania Avenue, running parallel as we headed east, was a service road that led to what we called “Thunder Road,” adjacent to Westphalia Road–another young people’s weekend gathering place. So really, with God as our co-pilot, we careened onto the unpaved sand and gravel road and abruptly ended our travels within the forest of trees (for which Forestville had been renamed from Old Fields). We had hit the trees a-rolling and yet were injury-free (must have been God or the alcohol that kept us safe and whole). When we went to back our way out through the path we had entered, we discovered we had malled down a road sign on our way into the trees. As we backed up over it the sign, it began to rise back up to a standing position. The sign read: “DEAD END,” and we laughed. Yes, we were injury-free, but we can’t say as much for that 1985 Ford Escort. It was driveable and beaten up, and Johnny managed to get us both back home. Well, almost both of us were safe; that is Johnny was only safe until he encountered Mamma waiting up for him! When Mamma took one glimpse at Johnny, she immediately looked out her front door and saw the mangled Ford Escort and tore into him. Let me add that in these days, Mamma was known for her “red” hair and temper to match it and we were known for our mischievousness mishaps when together. And usually, I got the brunt of the blame when anything went wrong.
By Thursday the following week, Johnny used his insurance claim money to help replace his mangled 1985 Maroon Escort with a new 1988 Gray Volkswagen Fox Station wagon, which fit perfectly into our weekend schedule. So it was that time again to pay a visit to Charlies. We were sure that by this weekend our luck had changed, what with a new car and healthy bodies because we both had lived through the wrath of Mamma and all seemed forgiven. And, as we entered Charlie’s and saw that our friend Willie was tending bar, we knew that we could rest assured that we were now on a streak of good luck and a no drink limit this time around. With Kamikaze orders on steady flow and our pyramids built, we knew it was time for us to hit the road again. After all, we knew our friends were already partying at the Flag area. But that dang forest of trees and those imposing tall telephone poles lining the already narrow sand and gravel road reached out to us yet again! As we navigated the snaked turns in John’s new VW wagon we were sure we would end the night unscathed. Well, as our luck would have it, there was this one pole that reached out and grabbed the driver’s side mirror and hung on all the way down the new VW’s side. And here we were again!!! Yet another car “done in” due to our poor judgment and choosing to mix driving and drinking. Again, the car was driveable, and again, Johnny dropped me off at my home in the middle of the night! And still intoxicated, Johnny parked his car streetside outside his home with the damaged side to the curb so his neighbors wouldn’t see. But, he forgot, the important one who he didn’t want to see the car damages was his mama! And, sure enough, while Johnny was still “sleeping,” mamma enters his room and pounces on his bed and pounds on him as she is screaming and carrying on about him and his bad habits, recklessness, and unappreciative behaviors and lifestyles. Of course, she explains that her actions are all because she loves and wants him to live a long and prosperous life! Now one other thing you need to know about Johnny’s mom is that she must get in the last word and she won’t give up easily. So as she continues her rant she decides that it’s time for me to get my well-deserved and fair share of her ire! Now, I’m awakened by the telephone ringing at my home. I know this early morning call can’t be good news because who else gets up this early and who else makes a phone call this early? Now, remember in those days, we didn’t have caller ID’s or cell phones that could give us a heads up so we could choose whether or not to answer. So, I answered the phone. Mamma’s still on fire and I’m now her target. She tells me that she’s already confronted Johnny and given him the “what-for,” and she is now asking me for my side of the story. And, being the good brother and trustworthy “partner in crime,” that I am, I respond with: “I can’t tell you nothing, because I don’t know what Johnny told you!” Talk about “mad as a red-headed hatter,” grandma was on burning up and running swiftly toward insanity because she was so enraged!
Well, not as soon as Mamma had hoped, my drinking partnership with my pal Johnny did come to pass. And, I ended my drinking and partying days before anyone (including myself) was severely injured or worse. So, I tell this story, for my family’s enjoyment of remembering “the good old days,” but also in hopes, that others may learn from our immature choices that could have cost us more than a couple of cars or permanently damaged family relationships. I’m here to tell ya, though, drinking, and driving still don’t mix!