Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My parents would attend drunken bacchanals in the woods of Northeastern Connecticut, in the decade of the seventies. What else was there for a married couple, one of whom was a college professor and the other a homemaker, living in a split-level ranch on three acres, with four kids, one of whom was off to college doing God-knows-what, and one car, and nothing around them but the trees and the starry sky, to do?

In those days drinking was a sport. You were half a man if you didn't keep the pace. There's a story, my dad passed out under the piano. The way my mom told it, that was his M.O. To cozy up under the grand piano at a certain hour. Like it happened a hundred times. Maybe it did. Or maybe it happened once and became mythology. This is what Dad does when he's drunk. There was something, I have to admit, that rang true in that characterization of him, even if it was unfairly extrapolated from a single event. I could well imagine him checking out semipublicly like this, making a bit of a show of his resignation, a grouchy gesture of interior civil disobedience. Under the piano. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe that's not him at all. Maybe that's only him because that's the story that got told.

There's another story from those blurry nights: He saved some poor fuck's life who passed out face-first in a ditch of icy water. Some fuck from the English department or something, who was drunk as hell and went out to piss in the woods. "Has anyone seen whatshisname?" someone asked, through the haze of smoke and pretentious conversation. "Why, no," my dad said, or something, and he went out the kitchen door and looked around and found the fucker in a ditch, in the dark, breathing what could just about have been his last. My mom never hesitated to tell that story either, principled as she was, and she almost made it seem like both happened on the same night, or happened night after night - save the man, lie beneath the piano; save the man, lie beneath the piano.

But I'm pretty sure that's not the case.