When I was in high school, the legal age for drinking beer and wine in Illinois was nineteen and to drink hard liquor you had to be twenty one. My friends and I began social weekend imbibing at age sixteen.   Some of us, myself included, started shaving so it was easy to look nineteen and buy beer at liquor stores in neighboring towns. We rarely got into the hard booze. A few cans of Old Style or Olympia beer at weekend parties would do just fine thank you.

My parents had a liberal attitude towards alcohol. They told me to call them if I was ever too liquored up to drive, get a ride home from someone sober or just stay over where I was until the morning. By age seventeen they allowed me and my friends to drink at our house. My mom would fill us up with snacks and keep an eye out to make sure nobody went too nuts with the suds. The idea from the folks was, “He should learn how to handle drinking at some point and if it happens under our roof, so much the better.” And yes, there were a couple of times when I had to bunk at a friend’s house due to being over-served and on occasion I hosted buzzed pals at my house for the same reason. One friend filled up half a laundry sink with beer and pizza puke then passed out on a cold basement floor with his head resting against our cat litter box.  Hey, we were young and sometimes stupid.

Senior year, during our Christmas break, we had a huge kegger bash in my basement and one of my teachers and his wife came by to say hey. One guest was the daughter of the assistant superintendant of our school district at the time. In our underage drinking days, if you got caught by the police with alcohol, it was rarely a big deal. Elmhurst cops just made you pour out all your beers and if you weren’t drunk they’d send you on your way. No arrests or police reports, no tickets, no court dates or alcohol counseling. Back then things were much looser than today.

Some weekends, I had baseball teammates over for poker and beers. One time someone stole a ham that my mom planned to serve us for Easter. That was the same weekend when our cat Squeaks delivered a freshly killed rabbit to our back porch on Easter Eve. The next morning I awoke to find no basket of candy waiting for me. My first basketless Easter! My parents thought I outgrew the whole treats thing but I hadn’t. So I asked my mom why I didn’t get a basket full of candy. She calmly answered, “Sorry Mick, Squeaks ate the Easter Bunny.”

Outside of the beer guzzling, the rest of my partying history wasn’t anything too out of control. Put it this way, the late Glenn Frey of the Eagles was asked about his band’s past drinking and drug use habits. Glenn said, “We weren’t the Stones but we weren’t the Osmonds either.” Well for me personally, I wasn’t straight like the Osmonds but I wasn’t as crazy as the Eagles either.

Young Love: Stuck in Neutral



You might be wondering about girls. I sure did, getting my first kiss in 5th grade from a classmate named Gloria. Moving on from there, girls were the best part of Friday night Junior High School dance class which was a way to be introduced to the social graces of male/female encounters. Years later, our dance instructor Mr. Morgan got busted for having inappropriate relations with some of his female students. These were thirteen and fourteen year olds and this guy was in his 60’s. Ugh.

The fall of 1975 thru the spring of 1979 might’ve been a sweet spot in the sexual revolution but for most of us guys at York the farthest we would go was a few stolen kisses in a paneled rec room at someone’s house with a young lass after a few cans of beer. We weren’t afraid of girls, just a little slow to get out of the gate. It’s no wonder movies like “American Pie” and “Superbad” resonated so well with me. We were curious and lustful, just stuck in neutral. Bob Seger best described what us wannabe studs and the fairer sex were up to, “Working on mysteries without any clues.” The good news is things got better as time went on.

The first time I would “know” a woman was three years out of high school. It was cliché, on a Spring Break trip to Daytona Beach I met a bartender named Candace who was twelve years my senior. That’s probably why I’ve often been attracted to older women. The influence of films like “Summer of ‘42” and “The Graduate” might factor into that fixation as well, so here’s to you Mrs. Robinson.

While in high school, some of us would get together for all night poker games at my friend Freddie’s house. After the card playing, we moved past the occasional glimpse at a Playboy centerfold as our carnal interests took a more literary turn. Freddie owned several of the books written by famed former prostitute turned Madame Xaxiera Hollander who went by the nickname ‘The Happy Hooker.’ We’d divvy up the books and lounge around the rec room basement on sleeping bags and couches reading the nutty exploits from the Happy Hooker’s days as a call girl. It was like Oprah’s Book Club but for horn-dog teens.

One morning I got home from one of these sleepovers and Freddie called all frantic. The Happy Hooker books were missing. All of us who stayed over assured him we did not take them. He was in a total quandary about what happened to those soft core porn tomes. Fast forward a month later, Freddie is with his family opening presents at Christmas. Mom, dad, older sisters, brother and their eighty year old grandmother are on hand to watch him open a box from his father. So what’s inside? All the missing Happy Hooker books! His dad says, “Why don’t you show what you have there, son?” Poor Freddie wanted to die on the spot. While we were asleep that fateful night, his father came downstairs, spotted the books and collected them for a holiday surprise. Years later I got to relate that stolen book story to the Happy Hooker herself, Xaviera Hollander during a radio interview.  From reading about the exploits of the famed hooker/madam to telling her this story, you gotta love it when things come full circle!