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Rated: 13+ · Essay · Biographical · #1943371
The summer of '66 was my last as a kid, I grew up (more or less) quickly after that one.
By the summer of 1966 the band - The Smids, Us, or whatever we called ourselves at that point – were at a crossroads, top 40 music was getting more complicated, both vocally & instrumentally & it was difficult to learn everything, especially for me since I would have to learn the lead guitar, the rhythm guitar, the bass parts, as well as all the vocals & then teach the other guys their specific parts. At least, since Danny was such a great drummer - he learned everything & anything that was on the radio which was more than the rest of us could learn anyway - so that was one thing I didn’t have to worry about. A couple of things happened that summer that kind of pushed things down one particular road, one of them was Sammy’s new bachelor pad (although, not much “bachelor stuff” happened there) & the other was Big Mountain Red. Sammy’s parents rented the back house on the lot where Sammy’s grandparents lived. There were many lots with two houses on them in those post WWII years in L.A. but for some reason in this case the garage belonged to the back house (don’t ask me) & in June Sammy’s parents decided to convert this unattached, one car, garage, into a one bedroom, no bath apartment for him. The garage was in the back of the main house & in front (but off to the side) of the back house. Due to a tonsillectomy (mine) I missed the move-in & decoration action, but it was the 1st place I went after I was able to leave the hospital. Basically, it was just one big long room, but it was nicely furnished with a big beat-up sofa his aunt had given him, the family’s old console stereo (the left channel didn’t work, but all of our records were “mono” anyway), his bed was shoved in the at the very end of the room & most importantly, a big (But not thick) green (or red, or?) shag carpet remnant that covered most of the floor. The carpet was a nice touch since we were all barefoot pretty much all the time during the summer. The best thing however was a bar-fridge that we had found in the alley behind “Paul’s Liquor Store”. Paul’s was our neighbourhood version of a convenience store in the long ago days before 7/11’s & such. The alley behind it was a community dump & apparently they (or, somebody) had thrown this perfectly good refrigerator away. We were really happy to find out that it actually worked after carrying it all the way to Sammy’s place (none of us had a car yet). Sammy’s place was also a great (although, somewhat small) place for band practice. We would usually practice during the day & “hang out” during the night & now we could do it all in one place. I’m sure the South Bay Bowling alley (52 lanes!!) missed us hanging out there, but tough. The only problem was now that we had this place to kick back & imbibe a beverage we needed to be frugal. We could all consume quite a bit on our own, but once word got out around the neighborhood that there was a place to hang out & have a beer (or 3) we really went through the brewskies. People we hardly knew would just drop by & expect to drink beers that we had purchased & they never bothered to bring any (at least, most didn’t) or, offer to pay us. Every once in awhile if the person was a nit real close friend, we might ask for a beer-donation & the drinker/moocher would sheepishly say “oh, I’ll get you guyts next time” & “next time” never came. We needed a plan, aside from the obvious – BYOB, or fuck-off. One of us decided that the best way to keep “outsiders” from drinking our beer was to not buy any – instead we would buy Big Mountain Red – this would serve two purposes; it fit our budget ($1.50 a gallon) & nobody but us drank it. So began the summer of Big Mountain Red as we later called it. Since I missed the first week of summer due to my tonsillectomy I made up for lost time & consumed that shit like it was kool-aid. One time, I woke up on a Sunday morning in the front yard of the main house surrounded by wickets & croquet playing children. I have no idea how I got there much less why they didn’t bother waking me up before they set up & started playing (maybe they didn’t want to be bother me – or maybe they wanted to ‘accidentally’ bang me in the head with a ball or even a mallet), whatever the case - I soon learned to take it slow (with the Big Mountain, anyway). Sammy, however, didn’t seem to learn so easily, or ever, actually. He would slam glass after glass of it until he either puked or passed out. Then the next morning he’d fall out of bed run outside & puke again & then come back inside & exclaim “I’M NEVER DRINKING AGAIN” & of course after a while, since we’d all heard this before, he would quickly add “no, this time I really mean it”. As much as it might have sucked for Sammy when he was puking, it was cool to watch as the scarlet liquid came gushing forth from his beleaguered stomach (of it had made it that far) & we would all point &^ say “oooh” & “aaaah” as we watched in awe. When he was done he would wipe his face, look at us, then shake his head, say “fuck you guys” & go into the main house to clean up. Of course every night once the wine started flowing & he was the only one still not “kinda buzzed”, he would suddenly say “ah fuck it”, grab a glass & soon be right there with the rest of us pouring it down his gullet until he was even more ”kinda buzzed” than the rest of us. I think Sammy would get more shit faced & have more intense hangovers due to the fact that he only weighed about 25lbs (seriously, I doubt he was more than a buck ten), he was only about 5’ 3” & a skinny 5‘ 3” at that. I’m sure one of the reasons for all of our queasy early morning stomachs was the fact that we all smoked (tobacco mostly but also pot) in that tiny unventilated garage/bachelor pad, plus we had an old gas can that we used as a urinal that we only dumped in the morning after everyone was awake. The one thing we never thought of was A FAN!!!! I know that hind sight is 20/20, but – no fan was pretty stupid (even by our drunk/stoned teenage standards). Because of that or any number of reason, by the middle of July we were all starting to get sick (literally) of drinking the “Red-shit”,(or as we sometimes lovingly called it “Spum” - in those days “Spum” meant “Spew”), when someone (once again, I can’t remember who) got the brilliant idea to mix it with 7up (or, probably on our budget - Shasta lemon-lime). We reasoned that this would not only make the wine last longer (oh, yay!!) but make it a little more drinkable. We had inadvertently invented the “Wine Cooler”, although to be fair, years later I met quite a few people who had invented the same thing (but not with Big Mountain, so there). We still were getting the occasional hangovers though & by mid August I think most (if not all ) of us had just plain quit drinking alcohol in general & switched back to soft drinks. We didn’t even finish the last jug, we just dumped it out onto an ant hill & even the ants avoided it. The spilling (dumping) of the wine was a fitting end to the summer & soon enough, school started & since OI was going to a new High School, I didn’t see the other guys that much. Sometime before Christmas Sammy’s dad got a job in Salinas & the family moved. Before long my senior year went by, I graduated & got married (not in the correct order, either) I moved away & basically lost touch with everyone except Danny. Danny & I would struggle through a few crappy bands over the next couple of years, but the summer of Big Mountain was history & I never thought much about that beverage again. That is, until one evening about ten years later – I stopped at Dale’s Supermarket on the way home from work to pick up a loaf of bread or who-knows-what & as I was walking down one of the aisles I see a big display for Big Mountain Red & the sign proudly stated “NOW MADE WITH REAL FRUIT” & I smiled to myself & recalled that summer (the last real summer of my “youth”) & how, it all made perfect sense.
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