A Farewell to Summer Drinking

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“In the summertime, in the sweet summertime” – Bob Seger, Night Moves

Someone asked me recently why summer ends “so early”. For most Americans summer traditionally ends on Labor Day, which I agree seems a tad arbitrary, like Easter. No one has ever, to my satisfaction, explained to me why Easter moves around the calendar like some sort of “mystery holiday”. I suspect the Catholic Church or the Illumnati might be involved, but that’s another topic. I think the bracketing of summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day probably has something more to do with city budgets and costs associated with keeping the pool open that long. Maybe since all the lifeguards are back in school everybody just agreed to call summer quits on Labor Day. According to the meteorologist summer technically end around September 21st and may have something to do with the summer solstice. Who knew weathermen were pagans. For me summer sort of ends with the kick off of the NFL football season. Any warm weather after that I like to consider “Indian Summer”, but again I’m getting off topic.

With the passing of summer, alas, comes the passing of summer drinking. When I first got out of college I spent a summer in Boston, Massachusetts working at the Food Center Liquor Store. I was a kid from the midwest and the nutty crew at the Food Center took me under their wing. The store would close around 11 pm every night and they’d go out to some local bar. About a week after starting, the guys asked me to join them on the nightly run to the bar. I politely turned them down, thinking I was getting up in the morning for something “cultural”. Usually I just sat around watching TV until it was time to report to the liquor store. In what may be the most important thing I learned that summer, Mark (*name changed to protect the guilty), one of my coworkers replied to my “no”, with these sage words, uttered in a thick Boston accent: “Ken, it’s summer (summah), you drink beer with your friends.” He then looked at me and shrugged his shoulders like he’d uttered an ancient truth and to drive home the point repeated, “It’s summer (summah).” I could see he had a point.

There is something about summertime drinking. Patios open up in bars around town and they’re quickly packed with women in short shorts. I start to see the famous Summer Shandy in the liquor store. For me, summer means clear liquors. I put away my beloved bourbon and darker beers and shift to summer wheat beers, like Blue Moon and vodka or gin. My wife rotates her closet every spring and autumn so her wardrobe is appropriate to the season. Me, I rotate the liquor cabinet. No white liquor after Labor Day, tres gauche… Even my sainted mother once said to my friend Stretch (*name changed to protect he guilty) and me, one evening when she’d invited us over for a Sunday night steak when both he and I were living in small, pathetic apartments on the Plaza, “There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than a gin and tonic.” Stretch and I got a little carried away and I recall ending the evening in an altercation with a waitress in a Plaza bar named the Grandfalloon. Such is life.

Of course, my greatest summer adventure was with my friends Matthew and Jack (*as usual, names changed to protect the guilty). It was during my college years and after working in the hot sun all day with Jack, we collected Matthew and went to a bar we’d never been to before, in Wyandotte County, One Block West. We saw an awesome rock band, the Clique, who we thought for sure were going to be huge. I still wonder what happened to those guys. Anyway, we drank an unGodly amount of beer that night, it might have been a drink and drowned (thank God those went away, even I have limits). Jack, who worked harder than I did, fell asleep at the table as was his m.o. in those days. Matthew and I were making some new friends with some ladies at the next table when that dreaded last call came. Just like in a rock song, we ended up in the massive parking lot, sitting on the hood of the girl’s car, drinking beer. If only there’d been a “soft summer rain” it would have felt like we were in a Springsteen song. Unfortunately, sleepy Jack thought we’d gotten farther along with the ladies than we had and left in the only car we had. Soon the ladies followed suit and Matthew and I were standing in a dark parking lot at 1 a.m. with no ride home.

After calling every friend we knew, on a pay phone, (yes this is ancient history), we ended up calling my rather irate father who agreed to come and get us. Our drunken problem that night, as it often was in those days, is neither of us actually knew the directions to get to the bar. Jack was the only who knew how to get there. Matthew got on the phone with my dad and gave him directions so off the mark, my dad ended up in downtown KC, MO which was in the complete opposite direction from where we were. Matthew and I laid down on a grassy patch in the parking lot, finished our beers and passed out. My father finally got to the bar and yelled for us, but we were out cold and out of sight. A car load of youths drove by and apparently menaced my father, likely they just looked at him, and he assumed we were dead. He raced home and braced himself to deliver the news to my mother, who would surely grieve the loss of her eldest son. About that time, Matthew and I woke up, and called to angrily ask “where the heck are you guys?” That didn’t go over too well. My father ordered us to go and sit by the front door until he got there. They could hear his screaming all the way down the street as we pulled away. As we neared Matthew’s mother’s house, Matthew leaned into the of front seat of my dad’s car and said, “Sir, I know I screwed up on the directions to One Block West, but I can assure you, these directions to my house are spot on.” Even my father finally laughed at that. Matthew’s name still comes up and the first thing out of my dad’s mouth is, “One Block West, summer drunks…” Such is life.

So now, I sit here on the eve of the Chiefs opening game of 2015 and I realize another summer of fun drinking times is over. So I sit with my final vodka of the season and I toast summer. I toast the Food Center Liquor Store, One Block West and all my friends. Although I must admit, whilst toasting summer, I am still wondering… how do they figure out when Easter gets scheduled?

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