Friday, September 11, 1964
Thank God it's Friday. I had survived the week—barely. The freshman were still trying to remember their teachers’ names, but the upperclassmen were reveling in having their world turned upside down. As a group, the juniors had a bit of mean streak. They had already identified several freshmen to target for Halloween hazing, and they decided that Friday’s English lit class would be a good place to test my mettle.
When I arrived for English lit five minutes before the bell, most of the class was already in their seats, snickering at the six-pack of Drewrys on my desk. How anyone came up with that on a Friday I didn't know. And I didn't care. This was their idea of going for the jugular. The amateurs. I didn’t know a damn thing about teaching, but being accused of being a drunk—now that was familiar ground.
I opened my briefcase, took out a set of papers and asked a lad in the front row to pass them out. I set the rest of the papers on the desk and planted the six-pack on top like a paperweight. Then I lit up a Lucky and waited for the rest of the class to show up.
When the bell rang, I made a calming gesture to indicate the beginning of the moment of silence that I had established two days ago as our beginning ritual. I broke the silence by saying, “Mounty piss,” gesturing with my cigarette to the local brew with a red-coated Canadian policeman on the label. “Anyway, when you get to be as good at drinking as I am, beer doesn’t do it. Bourbon does—but I guess you guys couldn’t come up with a bottle of Jim Beam.”
I paused. “Here’s the deal. You’ve heard that I’ve got a little problem with drinking, and you think it’s funny. Maybe so. Getting drunk, falling down, and puking straight up—that’s a load of laughs. Getting so drunk you beat your wife and can’t remember doing it, that's another story. So, hey, maybe I should kill this six-pack and see what happens when I lose control in front of a bunch of clowns that just tried their best to insult me.”
Their eyes were getting bigger, but I was on a roll. “But I won’t—at least not for the next five minutes—because I happen to know a secret. Half of you guys are here because you’re trying to escape from your old man who’s a bigger lush than I am.”
Their eyes expanded to the size of manhole covers.
“So if you want to talk about alcoholism, let’s talk about it.” I said, “but let’s skip the stupid props. You’re not freshmen anymore.”
That turned out to be the best class of the week.