Excerpt: Living Loaded: Tales of Sex, Salvation, and the Pursuit of the Never-Ending Happy Hour by Dan Dunn

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

By Dan Dunn

“Spending damn near every day with my pops at P&J’s in the summer of 1976 is one of two truly meaningful father-son bonding experiences I can recall from my childhood. The other happened when I was five and he kidnapped me and fled to Maryland.”

Read an interview with Dan Dunn elsewhere in Memoirville.

Drink Like a F*cking Man, Man!

I used to be a regular at P&J’s Tavern, a hole-in-the-wall in a down-and-out section of Northeast Philly known as Summerdale. P&J’s was the first drinking establishment I’d ever been to, and over the course of a long summer many years ago it’s where I became a pinball wizard, and honed my now-considerable pool, darts and shuffleboard skills. It’s also where I received a crash course in drunkenness, sex, obscene drunkenness, fisticuffs and all manner of other types of unseemly behavior. Not that I engaged in any of it firsthand. At least, not that summer. After all, I was only seven.

It was a different time, and one people seem to now think less enlightened. But I would argue that life was infinitely more interesting for kids in the 70s than it is now. I usually went to P&J’s with my dad. Back then, a heavy drinker bringing a first grader to a bar every day was no more frowned upon than that same guy driving the wee lad home after tying one on, then letting him play with lawn darts or listen to the Carpenters unsupervised. Dangerous, sure. Also really goddamn fun. I think it’s the toys of the era that I miss the most. Like those Click Clack Clackers with the two heavy acrylic balls on a string that when “clacked” together with enough force had a tendency to shatter, sending eye-piercing shards everywhere. Come to think of it, I should have picked some up for Timmy McFadden (more on that guy later).

But irresponsible as it might seem now, spending damn near every day with my pops at P&J’s in the summer of 1976 is one of two truly meaningful father-son bonding experiences I can recall from my childhood. The other happened when I was five and he kidnapped me and fled to Maryland. No shit. I’m going to leave that story be for now, though, except to say that I honestly believe the guy had my best interests at heart. Plus I’ve got to set aside some material for my follow-up to this book, a weepy tell-all companion tentatively titled “A Heartbreaking Work Of Running with a Million Little Pieces of Scissors.” Oprah, I hope you’re ready.

But P&J’s. P&J’s was my indoctrination. That watershed moment that changes everything. No matter who you are and where your own personal relationship with alcohol has taken you, your first encounter with booze is a singular event from which there is no turning back. In that moment you are set upon a journey toward becoming one of four different types of people: 1) a person who drinks; 2) a person who doesn’t drink; 3) a person who wishes he could handle drinking yet cannot; or 4) a person who is dead.

And while I’m sure there are a few teetotalers reading this in the interest of getting a peek behind the curtain, I think it’s a good bet that most of the folks reading this book are, like me, firmly entrenched in the first category. It would be naïve to rule out, however, that any one of us might become a 3 or 4 down the line somewhere. We’re all 4s eventually, after all. And as far as number 3 goes, my extensive field research has revealed a cruel irony: that a given person’s unwillingness to acknowledge their category 3 potential vastly increases the possibilities of it happening. Because alcohol does funny things to your brain. Sometimes it’s the ha-ha kind and sometimes it’s the peculiar kind. And sometimes it’s the “I take my first-grader to the bar then drive him home drunk” kind. Hilarious, right?

Copyright © 2011 by Dan Dunn
From the book LIVING LOADED by Dan Dunn, published by Three Rivers
Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Reprinted with permission.


BUY Living Loaded.

READ an interview with Dunn in Memoirville.

FOLLOW Dan Dunn on Twitter.

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