In 1980 I was working for two of the most ignorant people I’d ever met in my 25 years on this here planet. My immediate boss was the son of the “big boss” [sounds like the mafia!].
The father ran a drinking establishment on the main street of Bray, Co Wicklow and the son ran another pub on the Quinsboro Rd, also in Bray, the one in which I worked.
There were 3 full time members of staff and sometimes floor waiters for busier periods. Paul, another barman, and I hit it off from the beginning. Solely because of the way we were treated and the lack of respect we received from the two aforementioned people, I decided I should get all full time staff, in both pubs, to join the union.
As you can imagine this did not go down well with the old man…or his son, but there was little they could do about it. Brendan, the son, was not built for the social whirl that normally accompanies a bar or restaurant. His sour puss expression and beady eyes were unwelcoming at the best of times.
It all came down to a head a couple of months later when Paul and I were heading out the door at closing time instead of staying to help clean up. We had a date with two receptionists we knew locally at “The Dug Inn” down on the seafront. I saw U2 play there one night for a 50p ticket, before they became the mega stars they are today. The Dug Inn was a dive, half the “clientele” had been thrown out of the bars where we worked, so we had to always keep our eyes open and be prepared for trouble.
Moving on…a grand night was had by all, hi Sylvia….
The next day the “boss of bosses” met Paul and I inside the pub when we showed up for work. He fired me and told Paul he could work at the other pub, more under his guidance than Brendan’s. So I walked out the door exclaiming for all to hear..
“I’m going to see the union rep, you’ll be sorry!”.
And then a funny thing happened while I walked to see Noel, our Union rep in the Strand Hotel. I decided getting 82 pounds a week on the dole wasn’t so bad,
“Screw it”, I thought.
I just wouldn’t go back. So I didn’t.
I always envied the hippy crowd, a few of which I’d been ordered not to serve, who frequented the hotel opposite and so I joined them. I had the time of my life, not working, hustling snooker, doing illicit things and generally dropping out. I grew a long beard and let my hair go wild.
I hung on to the tiny, one roomed furnished flat with its 10p for 10 minutes electricity meter. It was fine except for the constant badgering of the landlord,
“Are ya workin’ yet?”
I was never late on the rent yet he continually persisted…asshole.
The thing that, of course I hadn’t realised when stopping work for that period, was that I would have much more time and much less money. So electricity became a luxury item, resulting in a lack of personal hygiene. No hot water meant “Alan no clean very well.”
My hair and beard after 6 months became “dreadlocky” and I looked a bit like some crazy yahoo from a sandy place, according to my dear brother John whom I met on the main street one day.
“Johnny! How are you?” I exclaimed, happy to see one of my three siblings after many years of no real contact with any of them.
Johnny squinted for a second or two before realising I wasn’t a homeless person but in fact his little brother.
“Al…er..how are you?” he asked politely with horrified eyes looking me down and up.
“Oh! I’m great thanks.” I replied.
We exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes before departing.
“It’s nice to see Johnny” I said to myself heading back to my cold miserable flat.
I still donít know to this day if Johnny called the parents in Moyard, County Galway, to let them know I had been spotted, but I have my suspicions. I’d told someone in the family, at some stage, that the best way to reach me was to call “The Mellifont Hotel”, my hangout. Lo and behold three days later the phone rang, it was my mum, asking would I like a ticket to LA. I thought about it for a millisecond before saying yes. My sister Jane was living there for the past few years and we always got on well. She also mentioned that Johnny was coming down for the weekend and he would give me a lift. All was set in motion, I WAS GOING TO CALIFORNIA!! Everyone seemed really happy for me and so with only 3 days before departure I decided a party would not be out of line.
Thursday night came and we all met in the hotel before moving the party across the road to my place at closing time. There were about 30 people cramped into the flat. Word had gotten around. People brought booze and recreational…….”things” and someone even brought a battery run cassette player [look it up youngsters].
Now..to be honest…I have no real recollection of the night, but 17 years later I met a man called Jeff in Bray and he said they still talk about that party. He couldn’t remember my name but said,
“That night was one for the history books”
I remember awaking around 7am and trying to sit up but things were a bit fuzzy and so I lay down again. I knew there were two things..maybe 4 things wrong at that moment. There was a groaning woman under the sheet beside me. I peeked in and saw she was naked, as was I. I tried to recognise her but I am sure to this day we had never met previously,or since. The second thing I spied was we that seemed very close to the floor. We were! Someone had removed the box springs on which my bed normally sat…and the frame…and headboard. Also, all the furniture and the curtains and the rod and the cutlery and toaster and cups and the plates were all gone too! All that I could see was an ocean of empty bottles and cans..and a naked girl in my bed..er, on my mattress.
I struggled into a pair of jeans as she put on her underwear. We stood surveying the devastation.
“You’re hair’s wet” she said, touching my head
I had to touch my head myself just to make sure it was still affixed to my neck. It was. Her hair was also wet.
I couldn’t quite work out why at the time, but it did slowly come back to me over the following hours. Apparently I had told everyone that I wasn’t coming back so they could help themselves to all they could see. They did.
And the wet hair? Easily explainable…after everyone had left [I hope!], we decided, this young lady and I, to take a shower together. Sadly, every time we got “hot”, the water got cold. She told me I shouldn’t be defeated by such a flimsy contraption and so, I would root around for another 10p and start again. Needless to say after forty minutes, the money and the energy ran out and so we crawled under the only sheet remaining.
After the girl left I gathered my few bits and pieces, took one last look at the now completely empty apartment with its new “glass bottles and cans” flooring and walked downstairs for the last time. While standing on the pavement waiting for my brother, I lit a cigarette and allowed my mind to wander over the madness of the previous night. Part of me was just grateful that I survived another night of such debauchery but the other part was becoming a bit antsy about being caught by the Landlord and having to answer his questions regarding his missing furniture, appliances and light fixtures. Not to mention the mess that I did leave for him.
A friend, Francis Neary, who hadn’t been at the party, walked by. Francis was a quiet man, not one for parties. But always pleasant and willing to help out wherever he could.
“Hi Alan, rough night?” he asked.
A plan formed in my head.
“Oh..the usual. Hey Francis, would you do me a favour?”
“Oh sure, if I can.” he said innocently.
“I’ve got to rush. Any chance you could tidy my place up a bit? Here’s two pounds to make it worth you’re while” I said handing him the crumpled notes.
“Oh sure! No problem. See you later.”
I Never did see Francis again…. He probably left once he saw the place. Or was caught by the landlord knee deep in bottles and cans in a completely empty apartment.
I spent the next 20 odd years in L.A, enjoying many crazy nights and parties but the memories of that night hold a very special place in my mind.
It was definitely not my last party and over the years I have accumulated many other wild stories of drunken revelry, but those, I shall keep for another time.