Once upon a time, in a land far, far away from normalcy, stood a cabin in the woods. This was no ordinary cabin, but a cabin haunted by tales of teenage debauchery and immoral activities.
The cabin was known to the area’s youth as simply “THE CABIN”, or to some Crusaders as “MITCH’S CABIN”. It was actually Fred’s cabin, but fortunately for us, Mitch’s Dad didn’t come around very often. So for all practical applications, it was Mitch’s cabin. It was a simple structure, with four walls, two windows, two doors and a roof. Inside was a wood stove for heating and a small loft for VIP sleeping. Or if you had a girl. Furniture was of the Squatter-style. THE CABIN had no public electricity or running water. A Korean War era surplus generator supplied enough electricity for a few hours of lights and music, provided there was a full can of gasoline on hand. The surrounding woods and a roll of Charmin requisitioned from one of our homes provided for your basic plumbing needs.
Social gatherings at THE CABIN were a self-sustaining economical adventure. Mitch was the poster child for Capitalism before Ms. Garman’s U.S. Government class learned us what the word meant. For the sake of our story, a state capitalist country (THE CABIN) is one where the government (MITCH, me and a few friends) controls the economy and essentially acts like a single, huge conglomerate, extracting the surplus value (cover charge receipts and leftover cans of beer) from the workforce (unsuspecting teenagers) in order to invest it in further production (next week’s party).
The high school graduation party of ’78 was a prime example of ‘our’ government in action at its finest. Mitch bought a roll of generic raffle tickets and sold them to any students that wanted to attend THE CABIN party, for $5.00 apiece. Don’t know how many tickets were sold or how much of the profit was reinvested for future gatherings, but I do know that the festivities got a little bit out of control. The evening began ‘innocent’ enough. A dozen close friends sharing a celebratory beer and noshing on a wide variety of foods (a rarity for the cabin; the food that is). Then as darkness set-in, dozens of headlights began to appear through the trees. Eerily similar to the madness at Altamont, we had our goons stationed at the property’s lone entrance gate, checking admission tickets and providing an ominous show of strength. Remarks on the evening’s growing attendance went from a calm, yet giddy “Gosh, this is going well” to Mitch screaming to me over the crowd’s ruckus rendition of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”. “Holy Shit! I can’t believe all of the fuckin’ people!” . At the party’s acme, a traffic jam of vehicles sat bumper-to-bumper, starting at the cabin’s gate, down a half mile of graveled access road and then up a quarter-mile of paved state road leading back to town. An emergency meeting of the party leaders came up with a simple, level-headed solution.
A story was concocted and spread amongst the flock of revelers. “The Sherriff’s Department has been in contact with us, warning everyone to disperse immediately. Move down to the river”. The “Warning” must have been convincing. The crowd began to retreat and headed to a familiar party spot down on the Shenandoah. We caught up with the drunken mob later on that evening. A ‘flash party’ now occupied both sides of a half mile stretch of riverfront road; the rural version of tailgating. Weeks after graduation, a local amateur pilot offered his own unique perspective of that night. Soaring above THE CABIN in his little Cessna 150B; “Ain’t seen nothing like it before. It was like looking down at the County Fair on Labor Day weekend!”
When you think about it, THE CABIN provided a great number of social services to the community. If needy teenagers would have simply lied to their parents and told them that they were spending the night at their best friend’s house (THE CABIN), several benefits would be provided to the downtrodden by THE CABIN’s government. At no cost. Education. As in, “Playin’ right now? That’s Pat Travers…Boom, Boom…Out go the lights!” Food subsidies. Beer. Health care. Nah, skip that one. Job Training. Example> interning as a security goon collecting cover charges out by the fence gate> Intro to Nightclub management. Subsidized housing. (which included a bonus, no-teenaged drunk driving) Eligible applicants simply slept wherever they passed out. Mornings at THE CABIN sometimes resembled the ‘teenager’s tent’ after a Kool-Aid party in Jonestown. Adoption. Giving up your natural-born inhibitions assured safe placement in a warm, loving home. THE CABIN.
Being a senior member of our organization had both its perks and drawbacks. Perks included; Stray cans of beer in unattended coolers were routinely seized by CABIN members for short-termed storage, like a slow antelope captured by a pack of jackals. The quarry was a benefit to the group as a whole. In the morning after a party, you could wake up and find yourself a warm breakfast beer hidden most anywhere. Odds were good there’d be a few in the roof’s front gutter. Ah, that gutter…a life-giving vein of beer.
The biggest drawback to CABIN living was known as ‘pickin’ wildflowers’, a morning activity that followed breakfast beers and proceeded a possible Fred sighting. The ‘wildflowers’ were actually the white and yellow blooms of toilet paper left behind at the property’s edge by numerous females during the course of an evening’s party. If you were lucky while on ‘wildflower duty’, all the flowers picked were pollinated with only recycled beer and nothing solid. Hazard pay was not provided.
Days after the graduation party, Mitch and I were cruising around the streets of town when we met up with my life’s first girlfriend, who was our mutual best of friend (despite my stupid efforts the year before). The three of us decided to head over to THE CABIN, hang out for the afternoon and have a little cookout. Our friend (I won’t use her real name Patti, because that might embarrass her if she were to read this) was going to swing by the store and pick-up some hotdogs to throw on our little hibachi grill. Arriving first at the cabin, Mitch and I cranked up some music, popped open a couple of beers and readied a few lawn chairs for sunning. As any serious sun worshiper will tell you, the best accelerant for a quick suntan is a mixture of vinegar and baby oil. We became self-basting. As our friend’s car came rolling through the gate, we had a “Wouldn’t it be funny” idea. So before the car was shifted into park, we stripped naked and reclined back in the chairs as if nothing was amiss. “OH, MY GOD!” She probably never noticed the dark sunglasses and straight faces. “But…But…But…But, you said we were having a weeny roast”.
There’s one thing that a man never does to another man. And that would be to steal his keg tap. It’s light-years more severe than sleeping with his sister or puking in his car. By turning a profit on cash ‘donations’ given by others to help cover costs each weekend (beer and generator gasoline) there came a time when every get-together consistently offered its own keg of beer. A visit to Bill Dysart’s grocery store every Saturday afternoon became a routine. Didn’t need to rent a tap because we had purchased our own. Late in the evening of one such party, the unthinkable happened; the keg tap disappeared. THE CABIN instantly went into lockdown. Our security goons leapt into action and manned their stations. Purses were checked and cars were searched. No vehicles were allowed in or out of the property gate. Even my baby sister and her friends were denied exit. But after an hour or so, there was no tap to be found. We went through the timeline leading up to the theft and came to one glaring conclusion. Two brothers and their buddies had left just before the tap was noticed missing. It made perfect sense. They weren’t welcomed guests in the first place and they were just the types to stoop so low.
A few weeks later, we had a little party at a friend’s house down on the river. Who has the balls to show up but the one brother and a couple of his friends. Now, the actual theft of the tap had never really been proven, but it was close enough for conviction. Our number-one CABIN goon was Marty, Mitch’s sixteen year old little brother. Marty had a football player’s muscular body on a 6’2″ frame, shaved his head and was known for having an occasionally shitty attitude. The partiers were gathered by the river, the full moon was the only source of light. Ignoring the pleas for peace by a few of our female friends, Marty started off on a stealthy trot along the river’s edge. From afar, it looked liked an angry Silverback protecting his young. A Tyson left-hook dropped the kid and Marty continued the punishment until a crowd intervened. There was no possibility of parole with this conviction. Lesson learned. You don’t steal a man’s tap.
Speaking of Marty, THE CABIN was the reason he met his wife-to-be. Thirty-six years and seven kids later, they are still happily married. The course of Cupid’s arrow was altered into joining these happy lovebirds the moment when Mitch and I decided to have a pajama/grain alcohol party. Ah, how often special gifts come from unexpected places. In the pages of Playboy magazine, Hugh Hefner was often pictured in his smoking jacket, with a couple of blonde-bombshells draped on his shoulders. Looked like a pretty good gig. My parents and sisters were leaving the house abandoned for a week’s vacation, so we decided to take advantage of the situation and throw a little Hefner-inspired, invitation-only, pajama party. Before the days of cell phones and e-mails, we rotary dialed the phone numbers of 65 of our closest friends plus a few other young ladies just because we thought they would look good wearing pajamas. Over the course of several trips to the local A.B.C store, we acquired 16 pints of Everclear 151-proof pure grain alcohol. With the first pint, we soaked assorted cut-up fresh fruits for 24 hours. We hand-crafted two drinking vessels for ourselves by hollowing out the insides of whole pineapples, then replacing the tops with brad nails, leaving a tiny hole for a straw. How teenage-chic is that. Come! For all things are ready! Then the phone rang. Seems my family was coming home a day sooner than expected. We panicked. Call after call was placed informing the guest list that the party was being moved to THE CABIN. We even drove to several friends place of work, anything to get the word out.
The party was a blast. Caligula would have been proud. Most everyone came dressed for the occasion. From the latter section of the guest list were Kelly and Amy, the high school cheerleader and the tennis star. And they definitely didn’t disappoint in their choice of revealing, silky teddies. “How do you like the hooch punch, ladies?” “It’s OK. But, we really like eating the (macerated in 151-proof alcohol) fruit, they’re yummy!” The 3-inch tall, horny red Devil sitting on my left shoulder kept grunting “eat the fruit…errrr…it’s good for you…errrr…eat the fruit”. The happy-happy atmosphere of the party was broken by the hectic entrance of two girls through the cabin door. Kim, a recent New Jersey transplant, and Alice, her friend from Georgetown, had been last minute additions to the guest list. We didn’t really know them, but they were cute and each owned a vagina. Seems we had skipped two people while spreading the news of the party’s location change. They unknowingly had gone to the front door of my folk’s house looking for the party. No one ever used the front door of the house except for Seventh Day Adventists solicitors. My Mom looked up from a Celtics playoff game on TV, explaining that she knew nothing of a party. The frustrated girls headed down to the Ben Franklin Shopping Center where the local youth would congregate on weekend evenings. They asked for help from a guy named Mouse and his traveling van of Cheech and Chong characters. Through funny smelling smoke, Mouse suggested, and gave directions for, THE CABIN. And therefore a budding romance blossomed, fueled by grain alcohol and nipple exposing lingerie, leaving Marty and Kim to live happily ever after.
Sundays were a day of rest and relaxation at THE CABIN. And nothing spells relaxation like sipping on a cold Red, White and Blue while carrying a loaded weapon. Marty and his city pals joined Mitch, I and my girlfriend one Sunday for some beer drinking and weapons training. The afternoon was spent trying to drop a 4-inch diameter tree with blasts from a 7mm Mauser rifle, in preparation of any rogue elephants that might cross the property line. As the sun settled behind the trees, we settled into THE CABIN for idiotic conversations muffled by the rebellious sounds of THE RAMONES and THE SEX PISTOLS. Marty’s cast of clowns included a Jeff and his younger brother, a Koontz, a Gook, and a few other faceless nobodies. Jeff and his brother were good kids and came from a respected family of realtors. Koontz was a tall, pear-shaped, red-headed idiot who was dumber than a rock. As Gook’s nickname indicates, he came from a Vietnamese bloodline. There’s a unique entertainment value to be found in watching a skinny, little Vietnamese kid with big Chinker lips singing at the top of his lungs “GOD SAVE THE QUEEN>>>SHE’S NOT A HUMAN BEING!!!” If you ever had the urge to buy some crystal meth or commit a robbery, these were your guys. In time, Jeff became an ER doctor. The rest are probably in prison.
In a strange, surreal moment, two dogs showed up at THE CABIN’s front door. From out of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere, a Bassett Hound and Golden Retriever, both healthy and well-groomed, made themselves at home by settling in next to the wood stove. The Rockwell scenario later deteriorated when the hooligans placed dark sunglasses on the Hound and began giving shotgun hits of pot smoke to the two unfortunate animals. The novelty of temporary pets wore off and no one noticed their departure.
Earlier in the day, dozens of deer had been seen grazing in the cornfield down the road. A mob decision was made to ‘go get us a deer’. Because obviously,that’s just what we needed. It was pitch black outside. I had zero experience in illegal big game hunting, so I was elected the designated ‘spotter’, the imbecile holding the high-powered spotlight. Koontz had a .30-06 rifle in his car and Marty was a pretty good shot. Like crazed villagers heading off to capture hunchbacked Lon Chaney, we made our way to the cornfield. The spotlight revealed dozens of sets of eyes. With a single shot into the darkness, Marty dropped a deer. We drug that poor animal a quarter of a mile down the graveled road back to THE CABIN. There was chest-beating and beer drinking. A few members of the mob drove the deer to the river for cleaning; leaving with a dead furry animal and returning with a Playmate Cooler of venison steaks.
We were awoken in the morning by several different men yelling “Get up! You boys get up!” I was lying in the loft with my girlfriend, staring up at a bumblebee trying to escape out of the window. That doesn’t sound like Fred yelling. The lethal gunshot had alerted the neighbors. The neighbors had alerted the authorities. Those two lovely dogs had led the authorities along the trail of deer blood leading back to THE CABIN. Koontz’s car and rifle were confiscated. Marty provided the award-winning quote of the morning , calmly asking the Game Warden “Uh, can we keep the steaks?”
There certainly is something to be said about life lived in a cabin. Oh yea. I just did.