Taps

November 22, 2006 at 1:59 am (Uncategorized)

I hate getting columns spiked. Oh sure, sometimes it’s warranted, like the time I wrote about what a worthless rag the Twin Cities Times is. Or the time I accused Lewiston city leaders of covering up the depth of the crack problem. This time though, it was a simple, reflective piece on the transitional phase of a young person’s life marked by beer in a barrel. The newspaper’s argument was that the column encourages underage drinking. My argument was that young people don’t give a crap what I write. They’re sure as hell not going to base their life decisions on it. If they were that impressionable, I’d write to area young people and have them send me their parents credit cards.

I lost this battle, though, and it’s probably just sour grapes that compels me to post the column here. If I’d known it was going to get shot down, I would have put dirty words in it. But anyway. You’ve already suffered through an abridged version of this. Just looking for a ruling here: too drinker friendly for a family newspaper?

Ah, the keg party. The topic of a recent editorial was kegs and gravel pits and man, it sent me spinning back into memories as hazy and unreliable as beer foam. The Pits in Waterville is where most of my adolescent unraveling began and I regret nothing. Almost nothing.
It was consistently two bucks a head regardless of whether you had a 15-gallon keg or a pony keg. The ubiquitous red cups fit so right in the hand whether you were a delicate flower or a manly man. There was usually some professional partier who had his own taps and that would save a few bucks. Of course, the guy with the taps drank free and if those taps disappeared, the entire party crowd would chip in to buy him another.
The keg party crowds were not without a code of decency.
There were almost never fights at these bashes on the beer-soaked sand of the gravel pit. What’s to fight about when you’re a young person surrounded by friends and in possession of a cup that never runs dry?
Conversely, we could count on the appearance of police. They would come with all the stealth of hippos carrying flashlights that bounced and bobbed their way to the circle of drinkers. Even those who were into their ninth or 10th cup of Natural Light had enough time to plot an escape.
The biggest guy at the party wrestled the keg with him as he ran and God bless that fellow. His name was Tony, or Gil, or Amos and he protected that barrel like a worker bee protecting the queen.
The cops would stick with the hunt for a while, but you got the feeling they were in it for amusement more than for matters of law and order. And there’s nothing like hunkering down with a cup full of beer while flashlights bob through the woods in search of the hooligans with their trail of beer foam. If you managed to hunker with a pretty lass you’d had your eye on, your night was made.
You were also blessed if you ended up in the same place as the keg when the farce of a foot chase was over. Usually, it was a squalid apartment or the garage at a nearby home and a smaller, more intimate party would continue. Drinking foamy beer into morning was guaranteed. Passionate conversation about lofty topics would increase with each new cup of beer drawn from the keg.
“So. You guys believe in God, or what?”
“I’ll tell you what I believe happens when we die …”
“I know this guy, right? And his mother died at home, right? Well, she had this rocking chair and a year after she died this guy heard it creaking in the middle of the night …”
“If there is a God, why do you think there’s, like, war and stuff?”
To the untrained ear, it sounds like nothing more than scattered thoughts fueled by barley and hops. But it’s the sound of ideologies and beliefs being developed in the expanding minds of young people. They learn plenty in the classroom, sure. But they absorb new information and form their own personalities and belief systems only when uninhibited and surrounded by the friends they trust.
It was odd how a keg party was advertised in a manner that spread across legions of young people but never reached the ears of intrusive adults. It was strictly word-of-mouth but it was as effective as any radio spot or television commercial.
“Keg at Scum Field tonight. Two bucks a head.”
“Right. Heard that in homeroom. Tony’s got a tap.”
And so, for the first time in our lives, we were experiencing tribal organization, fiscal responsibility and collective thought without the input of the adults who heretofore had guided us. We didn’t know it then, but the keg party was our first giant step from adolescence toward adulthood. And had we known it, we wouldn’t have given a damn.
And I know right now you’re shaking your head and getting out your poison pen to fire off a scathing letter to the editor. You think it’s reckless to reflect with fondness on the many joys of a party based around a barrel of beer.
The fact is, I could rail loudly on the evils of liquor in this space and it would not change the attitude of one young person. Remember all those educational presentations you sat through in high school? Remember how you went to a keg party at Sandy Bottom that very night?
Socializing goes on all of your life, but it will never be the same as those warm, summer nights out in the sand pits. Out there, you discovered your independence and formed, in an inexpressible way, a set of priorities that would shape your life. At the same time, you left the innocence of childhood soaking into the dirt below your feet.
The keg party is a passage from one place to another. It’s a topic as heady as any poorly poured cup of beer.
If I thought it could be done, I’d gather up the old crowd and try to get them out to the pits behind the armory. I went there recently and it looks a lot the same. I’ll bet Tony still has his taps, too.
But the magic of the keg party is lost on adults. They are tied up in adult things and too rigid in their opinions. The talk would turn to politics, the economy, the war in Iraq.
By and large, grownups suck the quiescent joy out of a party because they no longer possess flexibility and the sense of hedonistic whimsy. Like the beer left at the bottom of the barrel, the splendor of the keg party, for adults, has gone flat.

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39 Comments

  1. Linda said,

    I know that first thing in the morning is the time if you want to say anything about the actual post of the day –later, we’ll move on. Busy day coming up for me, but I have to take a minute here.
    Before I read this I was sort of agreeing with the editor — could see his point of view, yada yada. But not any more. This piece just got better and better. I’d have sworn that nothing in the world could make me wish I were 15 again and dammit, Laflamme … well, I’m bound to be over that by midmorning I guess.
    Very reflective indeed. Nice.

  2. Patrick Henry said,

  3. Bert Lahr said,

  4. Rolling Chunder said,

    Too many iterations of the word “foam”, I actually got indigestion. In fact, just reading about Natural Light has given me horrible gas and a case of the spins.

  5. Nadine said,

    You know it’s the parents and teachers who would have a problem with this, as some of your past Street Talk articles have shown. Hasty, angry letters to the editor about how you condone this, promote that, etc., wailing “think of the children!” (Simpsons anyone?).

    But you are right Mark, the “children” couldn’t care less about what you write…no offense.

  6. K2 said,

    Oh, the foam. Answer the damn foam. Foam, foam on the range. ET, foam home. When in Foam . . . although Foam wasn’t drunk in a day. He was dragged down by the foam. . . .

  7. K2 said,

    “Come on, Edna, you know these children have no future!”

    “Prove me wrong, kids, prove me wrong.”

  8. AO said,

    I thought that if this would have run, it would have spouted lot’s of angry letters from parents and teachers. All who in their heyday, enjoyed keg parties. This article is a piece of art! Just like Linda, it made me want to be 15 again and hanging out by the bonfire at Skin-peckers Ridge. Ah…I’d love to go to a keg party again. It’s been way too many years.

  9. K2 said,

    In a nut shell, getting old sucks monkey cock.

  10. Richie said,

    There was the time me an some of the guys were up chasing the partiers. There was a kid there who knew me from Scouts; knew I’d tell his parents if I saw him. SO, he hid in a tree for a couple of hours until we left. He about froze up there. Ha ha ! He eventually made Eagle Scout; served in the Marines in Gulf I. Good kid. See what beer did for him ?

    Then there was the PD Sergeant (not me !) who decided to empty the keg by shooting a hole in it. (No, his retirement job was NOT ‘brain surgeon’). He lets an Officer shoot his gun, the bullet whangs off the keg, and hits a nearby-fireman in the ankle. Fortunately, the round had spent its force and merely bruised the fellow. This was at a kegger out behind the cemetary.

    Wheee ! Beer and guns; a combo that cannot be beat !

  11. Robert said,

    Ahhhh….the pits of Danville….what a great place for social conversation and fraternization on a friday or saturday night…and I was surrounded by the company of many great minds such as some of the leading future brewmeisters (“you know Michelob is the top of the brew batch, Budweiser is the middle and Busch is the bottom of the barrel when they brew”…yes, they had all the answers.

    And who can forget “Jim” who spent all his time chasing women, dating some of the hottest young ladies at ELHS, trying to hook up for threesomes with everyones date -boy were we all shocked when we found out that by 21 he was gay….ah those were the days, now we know why he wanted the threesome not a twosome…yuck!

    And the one time sitting in the pits in Auburn when the cop showed up…no way out of the pits, so we throw the six packs as far away from the car as possible and sit there playing dumb, no sir, yes sir…..and the officer walks ten feet away from the car and says is this your beer boys? After repeated denials he advises that he will keep it in his trunk for safe keeping and we should head home – I wonder how much free beer the APD collected over the years that never made its way to an evidence room? hmmm…

  12. AO said,

    Not to mention free pot, Robert.

  13. Robert said,

    I have no recollection of that Senator…

    I did not inhale…..

    Whats the big deal about a little pot….

    Ah, the old days when the best place to score pot was the pool hall right next door to the Lewiston Police Station…and they say dealers are brazer now….

  14. Linda said,

    K2, your posts today remind me of “Awakenings.” But in a good way.

  15. LaFlamme said,

    I’ve written about crack, speed, meth and heroin aplenty and never had those columns spiked. But, yeah. It was the parents and educators that were feared, I guess.
    Whose got taps?

  16. LaFlamme said,

    Okay, so I finally watched the video of Kramer spouting off. Ugly, man.

  17. Bobbie said,

    I have to admit that I have never been to a gravel pit to party. I, however, have broken up a pit party before. All the kids thought I was the “nice” parent and wouldn’t follow through on my threat.

  18. Linda said,

    I never partied in a gravel pit either. But even though Mark might say, no man, it’s all about the beer, I think the column was really about the rite of passage. It brought my own passages to mind, just as vivid and important to me as Mark’s keg parties to him.

    One difference though: most of mine I wouldn’t want put in the paper. 🙂

  19. Linda said,

    and if that makes anyone feel like making rude comments, well, go for your life, I don’t mind.

  20. AO said,

    But, would you put it in a blog, Linda? 🙂

  21. Linda said,

    I’m remembering a winter when school was cancelled A LOT for snow, and a friend whose parents were never home …

    No, I guess not actually, ha!

  22. Bobbie said,

    I can’t blame you, Linda, because there are some things that are better left unsaid! 🙂

  23. Nadine said,

    Ditto!

    Off topic…so no-one knows the movie clip in the music video I mentioned in the last blog? It’s driving me nuts!

    Suppose I could google it *sigh*, so much work, haha!

  24. Linda said,

    Nadine, I am a compulsive googler. I gave it a whirl after your question on the blog yesterday. i don’t think it IS a movie, I think it was made for the video. If you can find any other evidence, you are a better googler than I am!!

  25. Mainetarr said,

    What did the turkey say to the computer? Google google…..

  26. Linda said,

    My turkey is roasting now. I know Thanksgiving is tomorrow, but sometimes you need to use Plan B.

  27. Mainetarr said,

    Me too Linda, I just loaded it in and programmed to oven to start cooking in the middle of the night and my bird will be perfect for noon. Gotta love that.

  28. AO said,

    Well, mines thawed. That’s saying something for me. Of course, I’m only cooking a breast. Nobody likes the dark turkey meat in my house.

  29. Bobbie said,

    We get lucky and don’t have to worry about anuything except bringing a relish tray and sodas. One of these days, I’d like to bring something else, but as long as my SIL’s are breathing, we’ll get stuck bringing the relish tray and the sodas. LOL

  30. Nadine said,

    Haha! MT! Love the joke — I’m gonna use that tomorrow with the fam!

    No luck with google here either Linda, and I think you’re right about it being made specifically for the video.

    Here’s some thanksgiving humor, and I wish you all a WONDERFUL day!!! But, here it is, I never was a fan of Big Bird anyway…

  31. Dave said,

    Mark – this is one of the best columns you’ve penned in a while – sorry it didn’t make prime-time.

    I grew up in the Rumford-Mexico area, and we had pit parties, but more often than not, we had “field” parties out in the middle of nowhere. This is where I learned that it is painful to piss on an electric fence.

    Not a lot of kegs.. but lots of Budweiser. Seemed to be the beer of choice in our area. Legend has it that RM drank more Anheuser Busch products per capita than anyplace else in the world. Don’t know if it was ever verified, but I did my part.

    My biggest exposure to keg beer was at the ZERO, that is, UMO, the University of Maine at Orono.

    My Freshman and Sophomore years, we’d have great keggers at the dorm. Plant one in the middle of the hallway, throw a couple speakers out there, and voila, instant party. Residential Life would even throw keggers in the basement rec room. And yes, $2 a head. Life was grand.

    I never joined a frat, but enjoyed many of their parties. Theta Chi threw a bash under the premise of raising money for a charity. About a 1,000 people showed up.had a semi-tractor trailer rig set up with 10? (maybe more?) taps set up and let the suds flow freely. The cops were non-existent. How could they mess up a charity fund-raiser?

    Ah…. the memories. Thanks Mark.

  32. Linda said,

    OMG Nadine, I am going to try forgetting that by tomorrow! I’ll be seeing my nephew Matt, and he is an uber-fan of the Sesame crowd. If he sees that in my face, he’ll freak!

    I saw one today — too lazy to look for the link — a blind man with a white cane walking thru a flock of turkeys, they are all looking scared and saying “moooo”!

  33. Dave said,

    oh, yes, by the way, I’d definitely attend a Screaming Room kegger at the pit of your choosing. It would be interesting to meet the folks on here.

  34. Nadine said,

    Awww, sorry Linda! I will not let my 4yr old see it either!

    Hey Dave! I went to UMFK (Fort Kent) and was the kegger queen! Snow stayed so long, we had one in May and were able to just plunk the keg in the snow — awesome days! Bonafide member of Beta Sigma Sigma (a “social” sorority/fraternity, as opposed to the “philanthropic” Kappa’s), we raised plenty of money through bottle drives and car-washes with our nice “membership” coats on to buy party kegs. We NEVER denied our social status, and still funded many small “social” events. 🙂

  35. Nadine said,

    OOPS! That’d be Beta Sigma Omega!

  36. Dave said,

    I have always like soririty ladies.

  37. Dave said,

    I have always liked sorority ladies.

  38. LaFlamme said,

    A blogger keg party! Whose with me! Hello…o…o…o

  39. K2 said,

    AO, don’t lie to me. I know you crave the ‘dark’ meat.

    No, I’m with you. I’m cooking a small 6-pound breast here in Lisbon Town. However, I did earn a free 25-pound bird from Shaw’s turkey-points program, and gave it to Hope Haven the other day.

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