I tended bar at Gampy’s restaurant in Baltimore for 4 or 5 years. Gampy’s is an acronym for Great American Melting Pot, and it was indeed just that—a mix of boy and girl bar flies on the sticky rim of bad behavior. Blacks, whites, gays, a priest or two, secretaries, executives, the lonely and the locals. The restaurant, the bar, my bar-tending-partner and myself were all very popular—three deep at the bar during happy hour which was always happy. Laughter and bawdiness ruled. There was joke telling, singing, gags galore, and friendships that are with me still, decades after having left the place. We drank a ton, and I gave away a ton of drinks under the approving eye of my boss and owner—whatever it took to keep ‘em comin’—and they came every night.
We marched in the Preakness Parade, danced in every club, there were cocaine parties, sexual liaisons, lies and compromises—our carrying-on was infamous, or so we liked to think. There was a group of us that formed a loosely conceived “rib club”—drunks in search of the perfect BBQ rib. We ate ribs at all the chain restaurants, Baltimore landmark restaurants, dives in the swamps off of the Chesapeake Bay. For my bachelorette party, the Gampy waitresses took me out for a night on the town—to Baltimore’s block, with the strip joints and street slime, where we were not strangers (strip clubs typically did not like drunken, young girls coming into their establishment and taking the attention and money away from the dancers but we somehow could pull it off). We closed the 2 O’Clock Club with a roar, and thankfully, all of our clothes. And then there were the car accidents.
I remember 2 accidents, there may have been 3, climaxing with my DUI. There was a party in the restaurant for one of the regulars that was moving, a beloved Episcopal priest, a gentleman pretty high up in the church hierarchy, gay and a guzzler. It was a fun and fond farewell, and I drove home to Baltimore County drunk as a skunk, in my husband’s aubergine (purple) Porsche. I got pulled over. I did the drunk walk, failed, got arrested, put in the police car and put behind bars—leaving the Porsche on the side of the road—waiting for my husband to notice on his way home from work and freak out—which he did. For weeks after the arrest, my co-workers all wore makeshift buttons that read, “Free Pam,” and for weeks after the arrest I shook behind the bar as I tried to sober up for my day in court. But good alcoholic that I am, I continued to drink for another two years (while attending court appointed AA meetings), and so began my emotional and physical downward spiral, or rather, so began my recognition of the downward spiral that was my life.
One of my biggest fears regarding sobriety was never having fun again and leaving the Gampy crowd behind. I loved those people and that time, I have no regrets, I scared my husband silly but brought no harm to anyone other than myself. And the harm that I’m not including in these drinking posts runs deep—the isolation, the loathing, the shame, the worthlessness that existed between drinks. There is a ton of fun in my life now, people often mistake my frivolity for drunkenness. But getting sober and sobriety are different stories, this is about drinking, about a runaway time that brought me to where I sit and type today. Love to all my Gampy friends, I hope you are alive (sadly, I know of 3 who are not) and well, and somehow find your way to this story.
photo credit: articles.baltimoresun.com