Friday, May 27, 2005

Wasted away again in Margaritaville

From 1975 to 1979, I lived in Waco, Texas, where I attended Baylor University, the biggest Baptist university in the world. Why be modest? It's the biggest Baptist university in the whole universe. I mean this actual universe, not any of the parallel ones generated by the post-inflationary bubbles of cosmological processes or by the quantum mechanical processes implied in Schrodinger's equation.

But I'm getting off-topic.

While studying at Baylor, I met a pretty sharp fellow named Don Howard, who these days teaches in the "Radio/Televison/Film Department" at the University of Texas in Austin. Don introduced me to Jimmy Buffet. Not personally. Just the music. I liked and tried to memorize "Margaritaville," singing it over the raucous noise of the machinery in the dishroom to Penland Cafeteria, where I worked stacking dishes.

Nobody could hear me over the noise, so nobody complained. Baylor being a Southern Baptist school and Southern Baptists being teetotalers, some folks might not have cottoned to my singing about the usefulness of a frozen concoction that helped me hang on. Not that I drank many margaritas. I had no money in those days and depended on the kindness of others to buy me drinks.

I often went thirsty.

But one evening near the end of the fall semester, our Penland boss slipped some of us non-teetotaling student workers a paper bag with a half-gallon of vodka hidden inside. We 'borrowed' a box of punch mix from the cafeteria's stocks and retired to my room to mix a fix and lift our many, many glasses in celebration of Christmas . . . a couple of weeks early . . .

Next morning, a Sunday, I woke up half in my closet, lifted my head from the floor, observed my fallen companions scattered like autumn leaves, and forced myself up. I had a job to do. There was plenty of vodka punch left, and I hate to waste anything, so I took it along to Penland, poured it into the punch dispenser (an act that could have gotten me expelled from Baylor), and began filling the nearby basins with crushed ice for students wandering in after church.

At that moment, my cousin Cindy entered the cafeteria. Instantly, I went on alert. Cindy was very Baptist and a true teetotaler, having never touched a drink in her life, and she was headed straight for that special punch. I managed to beat her to the punch but failed to come up with an anti-punch line that would sound convincing. She smiled at my apparent officiousness but served herself.

Having soon drunk that one, she returned for a second shot. Then a third.

I watched aghast, sure that she would notice something amiss. She did . . . sort of:

"Jeff," she told me, "this is the best punch that Penland has ever served."

And she took another! At that point, I stopped worrying that she would notice the alcohol and started worrying that she wouldn't notice the alcohol and might drink herself into oblivion.

But she didn't do that either. She wandered off instead, in high spirits.

At Christmas that year, she remarked, "You know, I've never touched alcohol."

"Cindy," I told her, "That's admirable." And so far as I know, she still maintains that she's never touched a drink.

I hope that she doesn't read this blog.


At 5:51 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think that she missed it because she had no experience with alcohol. To her taste, it was just unusual "punch."

Sounds like your 'friends' were as young, foolish, and irresponsible as I was. I hope that you survived the experience without trauma.

At 6:07 AM, Blogger peppylady (Dora) said...

enjoy Jimmy Buffet music. It up lifting for me. Peppylady

At 9:59 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I haven't listened to Jimmy Buffet in a long time, but he seemed to fit my latitude and attitude in the 70s.


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