Wednesday, July 6, 2016
“A friend will help you move. A real friend will help you move a body.” ― Jimmy Carr
I wrote the other day about the death of my friend, Mike O’Brien. What I didn’t say was why we were friends. Now there is no moral message to this story but it’s my blog and I want to tell it. Mike and I were both transplants to Alexandria, Louisiana, for the last half of our senior years in high school. Not only were we odd men out because everyone else had known each other since they were toddlers, but they were also mostly cajuns. Mike and I went to school with Hebert (pronounced A-bear), and Boudroux, and Bejac, and Gremillion (pronounced grim-ee-on), and Vermillion (pronounced verm-ee-on) and Wiggins and O’Brien (pronounced Wiggins and O’Brien). We also had something that made us fast friends and that was that we were both eighteen years old at the start of that last semester of high school. You guessed it, the drinking age in Louisiana at that time was eighteen. My dad had been moved there as the manager of the Sears store in town, and we had a nice house and I got to drive a 1960 Oldsmobile to school every day (remember it was 1963, so the car wasn’t a classic). One night, I told my folks I was going to study at Mike’s house, and Mike and I went out drinking. We were particularly fond of a place called the “Boom-Boom Room” which was not a strip club because those didn’t exist in 1963. Ironically, looking back, it was all African themed with zebra skins and spears on the wall. Now, Mike and I were seated at a glass-topped table near the front door. We were having very manly drinks—he a pink squirrel and me a brandy alexander (sarcasm here for you non-drinkers). Much to my surprise, three of Dad’s management team came in for a drink and didn’t see us. These were the three top men at the Sears store just under my father. Happily, they kept the place dark in there, so they didn’t see us. I got nervous though and told Mike we had to leave. I got up in such a hurry that I turned the glass-topped table over—breaking it and scattering glass all over the floor. They turned on the overhead lights, so they could see to pick up the glass, and it was like they were shining spotlights on us. Everyone in the place was looking at us. I knew we didn’t have the money to pay for the damage, but the manager assured me there was no need as they had insurance and offered us a free drink to stay, but I was out of there. As we left, Mike stuck his head back in the place and said, “Hope you enjoyed the show.” I was shocked, but he said that way they wouldn’t remember me, just him. Anyway, we went on home, but I sweated bullets for the next several weeks waiting for my father to read me the riot act, but he never did. Mike was sure the men wouldn’t rat out the boss’s son, and I guess he was right because Dad never said a word about it. Thus, the “Boom-Boom Room” became a part of the history of Mike O’Brien and Charles Wiggins. I don’t know if I ever told Dad that story, but he’s gone now, so if he is mad at me, he will have to wait till we’re together again to say anything. Just sayin’.