Could man be drunk for ever
With liquor, love, or fights,
Lief should I rouse at morning
And lief lie down of nights.
But men at whiles are sober
And think by fits and starts,
And if they think, they fasten
Their hands upon their hearts.
Alfred Edward Housman
It is not, I believe, a great surprise to those who know TB that I basically stumbled through life a blind and blithering idiot for many years in my early adulthood. Oh, there were productive, sober and lucid intervals to be sure, but for ignorance and timidity and the lack of a knowledgeable advisor, I spent much of my time as a truly accomplished and genial sot. It was a skill my hometown was known far and wide for cultivating. I was quite proud of Pascagoula’s specialty. It was exported around the state and beyond by so many before, though perhaps never better than by myself and my own asshole runnin buddies (ARB’s). Ahh, pride. Like gluttony, a deadly sin, and when pride and gluttony become intermingled, life gets weird. So it was one night in Oxford back in 1992.
I was attending summer school at Ole Miss that year trying to get my grade point average above the Mendoza line. As anyone knows who’s spent a summer session in college, one of the great things about it is being forced to befriend whoever happens to be up there with you rather than relying on your tried and true regular season social network. As one of a score or more of Mississippi State alums attending Ole Miss Law School, I was fortunate to have a good pool of guys around who had at least one common interest and a motive to stick together in enemy territory. One cool summer eve I happened to run into such a like minded classmate who happened to know of a small afternoon gathering of our kindred where it was proposed to eliminate the contents of a keg. Now this young scholar and I had TWO things in common. So off we went.
By this time in my life, I was a world class beer drinker. I could pretty much drink beer until I fell asleep voluntarily. Draft beer only lasted longer. I recall standing around the keg making fast friends with four or five fellow State alums, none of whom I now recall. But one had been a backup linebacker for the Bullies and was on his way to the FBI, one was from Long Beach, and the other two were tolerable sorts who just stood around and laughed at whatever the rest of us said. Well, truth be told, we all laughed at whatever the linebacker said, as long as he kept laughing anyway. We mostly talked about football season coming up in a few weeks, the prospects for our Bulldogs, and the great games we’d recalled through the years, especially our victories over the hated Rebels who’s stories and propaganda we were constantly subjected to surrounded as we were by the enemy. Enjoying the conversation free of Rebel nation interlopers for once, I worked myself up into quite a fanatical lather. More than once the linebacker asked in a drunken holler, “We got some dawwwwgs up in here?!!!” And each time the rest of us, and I know this sounds a little ridiculous if you didn’t go to State, well, we barked twice. Ok, it was more than “more than once.” He asked us a bunch of times. The day, moving in to evening was proceeding favorably and not at all out of the ordinary for those days.
Sadly however, like Achilles, TB had/has a fatal weakness. Be it from chemical imbalance, genetic defect, Cherokee blood or weakness of character, your guess is as good as mine, I cannot hold my liquor, especially the brown sort. By 1992, I was well aware of this and generally eschewed the devil’s elixir. But on this day, my judgment was impaired not only from copious amounts of beer, but by hometown pride. Here’s how it went down, roughly:
Long Beach guy–Yeah TB, us coast boys can out drink anybody can’t we?
TB–Damn right. But a Goula boy can outdrink the rest of you coast boys too.
Long Beach guy–I wouldn’t go that far.
Linebacker–TB, I like you. I’ve known a few Goula boys in my day. Y’all all can drink.
TB–(to self–Thank God); (out loud) Damn right.
Other two dudes–heh, heh, heh
Linebacker–I tell y’all what. Let’s do some shots. I think I got some Jack in the trailer. (gone a few seconds and returns with bottle and Dixie cups, pouring 5 shots)
TB–(to self–this is probably not a good idea for me); (out loud) I’m down.
Linebacker–“To the Bulldogs” (drinks)
Other two dudes–Heh, heh, heh (drinks)
TB–Damn right! (drinks)
Long Beach guy–I’ll pass guys. I can’t handle the brown stuff.
TB–(inexplicably, to Long Beach guy)–You’re makin the coast look bad, son. I’ll take yours. (drinks)
Linebacker–WE GOT SOME DAWGS UP IN HERE???
TB, Long Beach guy, and two other dudes–WOOF, WOOF
This cycle repeated until the bottle was drained and beyond. From there, its all a blur.
The remainder of this story comes to me via flashbacks and second hand accounts that I picked up over the next three to six months from numerous sources. I believe its important to note at this point that I rarely passed out in those halcyon days. I DID black out when I got on the brown stuff. I can apparently function in a blacked out state for hours. I also, apparently, transform into a jackass.
It seems the Linebacker decided we were all going to Proud Larry’s, and who were we to contradict him? For several hours I managed to stay out of trouble. One of my defense mechanisms–extended periods of silence–had kicked in. I found a wall to prop up and accepted beer after beer from my new pals along with the occasional shot. Double shot actually, as I continued to take up the Long Beach boy’s slack. By God I had to show him a Goula boy could hang, and I wanted to make him look bad for putting the rest of the coast up on that pedestal where only my ARB’s and I belonged. I was doing pretty dang good too. There was a little rockin blues band playing just the right pace to keep me sippin and grinnin over in my little corner of the universe. The linebacker thought I was hysterical. The two other dudes kept nervously chuckling. And the Long Beach boy, our sober driver was beginning to appreciate the greatness that is the Goula boy drunk. Then the band took a 5 minute break.
The relative silence of the bar without the band playing reminded my gang they had things to do. Off to the head, over to the bar, and across to a group of girls they went, while I guarded our spot and waited for the music to return. And waited. And waited. It seemed the music was not coming back and neither were my newfound friends. In my mind over an hour must have passed though in reality I’m told it was not more than a couple of minutes. However long it was, I took the notion the place needed music and just as I’d jauntily downed all those shots, I eased my cocky ass through the throng and toward the stage. I stepped up and looked over the crowd. I picked up the mic. The eyes of summer school Rebeldom and a few stray Dogs turned expectantly toward me as I began to sing the blues.
TB–We got some dawwwwgs up in he-er? <pause> woof. woof.
Rebel Crowd–(staring blankly up at me, trying to figure out if this was some kind of joke or frat prank)
TB–(getting in to it a little more now)–We got some DAWWWWWWWWWWGS up in he-e-e-e-e—-r??? <pause> woof. woof.
Rebel Crowd–(staring with hostile intent)
TB–(making it up now)–cuz if we got some DAWWWWGS up in he-e-er, I wanna hear ’em bark. woof. woof.
Rebel Crowd–(apoplectic now, and making way for the bouncers and a drunken linebacker, respectively)
Linebacker–(reaches 225 pound TB first and slings me over his shoulder)–I think its time to go home Goula boy.
Rebel Crowd–(booing and laughing)
Bouncer–Get that sumbitch outta here ‘fore we throw him out!
TB–(still holding mic while perched on Linebacker’s shoulder)–I’ll be here all summer boys. Thank ya….thank ya very much….gotohellolemiss…(mic’s cord reaches limit and flies out of TB’s hand–TB continues waving at the crowd).