not a drinking story




While looking for decorations in the Christmas closet, I saw my son’s large, blue, piggy bank on the shelf, a gift given at his baby shower from Sam Jones, one of my regular customers at Gampy’s bar. Sam was really a regular at both the bar and in the restaurant, spending hours reading or pouring over student papers in the back, corner banquet, then moving to the bar to catch up on all the local chatter before going home. He was probably fifty something, a gay academic, tortured it seemed by his semi-closeted life, his loneliness, and the death of too many aid-infested friends in the 80’s. He smoked and drank heavily and could easily be talked into snarky. Dyane and Bill probably knew him best, but he was kind and generous to all of the staff, and everyone thought they were his favorite (although there were a couple of servers he blatantly didn’t care for).  From what I heard, Sam practiced high risk sex, with young, angry black boys, coke addicts and street people, and although I never heard anything about the police investigation, I was told that it was some sexual or social deviant that robbed and killed him.

Every time I see this ceramic, blue snout on the shelf, I wonder what do I do with Sam’s piggy bank, or rather, Aaron’s piggy bank, the baby gift he doesn’t want, the gift he never used all that much. I really don’t like looking at it, such a sad reminder of someone who just briefly passed through my life, our lives, someone I was not terribly close to or knew very well. Aaron is thirty years old and would probably say he never heard of Sam Jones. And yet I can’t imagine giving the bank away, destroying it, not giving it the reverence it deserves. How odd to be held in limbo by a rather ugly, blue piggy bank with yellow daisies on it. Merry Christmas, Sam.


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drinking story no. 3


BALTIMORE, MD -- 7/3/05 -- Mount Vernon businesses such as Grand Central club and bar fly the colors of the rainbow to show gay pride. Cultural resources are a contributing factor to neighborhood stability. ELIZABETH MALBY/BALTIMORE SUN STAFF -- DSC_0064 No Mags, No Sales, No Internet, No TV


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.


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