When I came of age, I was only nineteen. The federal government bullied the states into raising the drinking age to 21. Fortunately, for me, I slid under the grandfather wire. Turning nineteen didn’t mean that I instantly became a drunk and spent my nights in a bar. In fact, hanging out in bars did not become a common occurrence until my later months in the Army.
It was one of the key reasons the Army asked me to leave. But that is a story for another post.
As I write this, I cannot think of a single trip to the bar before joining the Army. On my nineteenth birthday, I was at my cousins wedding. My parents were also there, and it seemed weird to drink in front of them, so I think I had one celebratory drink.
My first memory of a bar was when I first arrived in Dothan, Alabama. Pronounced Dōthan, not Dŏthan, with the short “o”. That is how we spotted the newbies. They pronounced Dothan wrong, but I digress. A mess of us shaved head “Snowbirds” piled out of a car in Dothan, looking for a good time. We rented a single, double bed hotel room, and hit the town.
The first bar was Cowboys, and frankly, we were lucky we didn’t get our asses kicked. I later learned, it was not uncommon for the locals to punish us Snowbirds for carousing in their bar. After all these years, all I remember about the place was the loud music, and there was a shit ton of cowboy hats.
Shortly after that outing, my then wife moved to Alabama, and my trips to bars came to an abrupt stop. She was a bit of a teetotaler, and I was not allowed to run with the boys. That was fine really; there was military career to concentrate on. But when she left me and moved back to Minnesota…all bets were off.
This didn’t bode well for my career.
A lot of my bar time was spent with my roommates. Those that shared the apartment with me in Daleville, and my buddy Jim, once I moved back on base. The roommates in Daleville were flight school candidates who washed out of the program early, and didn’t go home to their perspective states. Their names were Joe and Hank. Joe was from the Maryland area, and Hank, from Massachusetts. We don’t care much about Hank, he never said to did anything that contributed significantly to my life.
Joe on the other hand was a wealth of knowledge and experience. Most of it was about drinking and chasing woman. But you garner knowledge wherever you can. He used to take me to some of the most out of the way places UCLA (Un-Cultured Lower Alabama) had to offer. During one of these visits, I went to the men’s room to get rid of the last round.
Much to my surprise, the urinal was filled with ice. I found this amusing, but didn’t give it any thought after that. Joe on the other hand came back from his trip with his signature shit eating grin on his face.
“You know you’re in a high class place when you find ice in the urinals.” He proclaims wisely as he settle himself onto the bar stool.
I laughed, and didn’t give it another thought.