Thursday Night

In the old days of the dorm, before legend of Comstock was even a gleam in a young man’s eye, traditions were born; some of which would carry on for years to come, while others doomed to early death from obsolescence. This tale is one whose noble purpose served the greater good with pride and decency, but fell from grace once Knaus perfected his license chalking technique and the majority of us crested the age of 21. In Goodyear, the best night of the week was Thursday.

            One of the very first questions in a young mans mind upon reaching college dorms, and after ‘how can I get some?’, is ‘where can I score me some beer?’. College dorms are often the first occasion in which males, still in their teens, are left generally unsupervised.  This level of freedom is fertile ground from which springs forth all manner of bad ideas. No patch of ground can bear fruit in desert conditions, and such is the need for alcohol fuel to make it rich and verdant.  In freshman year, the lads next door had at their disposal a secret source from which they were able to procure whatever you liked, on demand, but for a heavy mark up. A crisp $20 would be handed over, keys would be grabbed, and 15 minutes later you would receive, hand delivered, a case of cheap beer or a fifth of well grade spirits. Higher quality was also available, but for a premium.

            In Goodyear we had no such hookup as my former hall mates had relocated to Ellicott. Ellicott, in exchange, send us Psycho who had no such procurement ability, so the fairness of the exchange could only have been based on personality.  We were on our own to find a source who would take our tremulous assertions that we were indeed 21 despite our complete lack of ability to prove it. I turned to my only known expert on such matters, my cousin Ann. Ann told of a place well known in her crowd, somewhere off Bailey near Amherst, but on a side street who happy for sales, asked no questions. It was later discovered that the place she knew of was in fact the L&T, though she had forgotten it was on Comstock and not Bailey.

            Our very first week we set forth on Thursday night to seek and find this place. Knaus had made an attempt to chalk his own license just in case, although the plan was that he would drive and accept tribute of having his beer purchased for him. Traveling down Bailey, with no clue of what the place we sought was called, we went south toward the dismal east side of Buffalo. Passing Bailey – Kensington, we suddenly realized we were at the intersection of the murder regional capital of Buffalo; a place our mothers would have wept at the thought of us being. Undaunted, we pressed forth, as we had seen no convenience store save for burned out and abandoned shells of buildings that held no promise. Close to giving up, we spotted a lone sign in the distance. Unity Mart.  Paul pulled into the side street beside it; a dark, silent, and seemingly abandoned neighborhood. Neon beer signs shown in welcome in the windows.

            Despite the tragic foolishness of youth that encumbered us, we felt it best that due to the questionable nature of the area, it might be wise to leave Paul in the car, engine running, and ready to give us fast entry and peel away in case of trouble. It did in fact occur to me the possibility of Knaus forgetting the fast entry part, and jumping right to the peeling away should the situation suggest it, but I decided to take my chances nonetheless. On one occasion Aaron and I were driven to near panic thinking such a thing had happened, which would necessitate a long and certainly fatal walk back, or worse, a phone call to parents. To our delight, he had just pulled down the street to turn around, and we laughed at our own fright, though perhaps not so loud as usual.

            Entering the store, we found it to be typical ghetto, filled with wares it would seem few would want, but available nonetheless. Manning the counter were two gentlemen of Indian or Arabic descent, who immediately proved both welcoming and over solicitous. We explained we were just stopping by to pick up some beer, having worked out the details between us earlier, and at least canny enough to avoid over explaining. The trick, as I perceived it to be, was to allow the vendor to get so far as to mentally registering the sale, thus lessening the chance of proof positive being demanded at the actual time of purchase. Later on, I found that this bit of psychological chicanery really had no basis, but my belief in it held that night. In any case, they were overjoyed to help us and eagerly pointed out the best values in their selection. We settled on twelvers of Koch’s Golden Anniversary Beer, one for the each of us. A gleaming gold can like that denoted nothing short of the highest class and quality. At $5.00 a shot, tax and deposit included, it was the bargain of the year.

            Knaus was waiting as promised by the curb, and both the gentlemen proprietors walked us out and saw us safely to the vehicle, doing all put putting us in and closing the door. As triumphant conquerors we lugged our booty back to the seventh floor. On the way, we ran into our resident advisor, Jason (one of a higher quality than our future housemate), and feared the worst when he saw what we bore with us. Before the wind in our sails could dissipate, he let us by with a wink and a nod, and just a touch of caution to try to keep the party in our rooms. Euphoric in our victory, we celebrated by partaking of some of the suds, although being cautious to leave enough for enjoyment Friday and Saturday night.

            If there is one thing that can be said for such a victory, it’s that it bears and begs repetition. Knaus, however, thinking this was a one time deal as the area containing the Unity Mart made him all kinds of nervous, never failed to be surprised by the truism. Each Thursday at precisely 8:00 PM, Aaron and I would begin our patient wait for Knaus to return from work. This wait was born with a fair degree of ease as we discovered cultural phenomenon ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ and quickly became addicted. Said show inspired my classic Dylan-esque sideburns seen adorning my face in many of the era’s pictures.

            Each week it seemed that Knaus would return later and later on Thursday and in a fouler mood each time. Aaron and I sat, side by each in silence as he entered as fearsome as a drunken abusive stepfather. Grunting, he would throw off his coat and take a seat at his desk, never acknowledging our presence and stare blankly at the wall before him. The love and joy of his rainbows and unicorns never infected his heart in these moments. Like treat hungry children, Aaron and I would prod each other in hushed tones regarding whose week it was to ask, mere feet away from Knaus’s keen ears. In my opinion, and for reasons unremembered, it was always Aaron’s turn; an argument I rarely, if ever, lost.

            “Um….. uh…… Paul?”

            [shudder followed by silence]…… “What?”

            “Will you …um… would you… you know…. take us to go get beer?”

            [silence, then another shudder]

            “Paul?”

            I’m busy ……. You’ll have to wait”

            This scene would play out exactly the same each and every time. Never on any occasion did he refuse, nor was he ever willing to go when we asked. Each time he would sit, silent and brooding, doing absolutely nothing but looking at the wall before him, until 30 to 40 minutes would pass. He would rise silently and head for the door, and we knew following was our only chance to go. For all the darkness and gloom, however, he would somehow transform in the elevator and became the Knausian version of jolly and exuberant by the time we reached the car.

            The trip down there never got any less frightening and on many occasions I wondered if our proprietors truly had the neighborhood clout to stand in our protection if things ever turned rough. On one occasion, as we were leaving with our GAB, a group was entering at the same time we were trying to make our way out. The tallest of the pack told me that a couple of white boys like us could get killed around there. Foolishly, I told him I wasn’t too worried about it, and to my good fortune he let it go at that and allowed us on our way. Knaus, having noted the group, seemed all the more antsy that night and seemed ready to bolt without us.

            On a few occasions, often the weekends where we somehow found ourselves having gone though our full supply early, we were able to coax Matt or even Jeff Siuda to take us down there. Both individuals, being from relatively sheltered situations, did so without a care in the world, and we were wise enough to not apprise them of the danger they were in. It’s been 15 years now since I drank a Unity Mart GAB, and it hasn’t been long enough.

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6 Responses

  1. The Unity Mart, despite it’s moat of murder, was an oasis to college men. Once inside you had a feeling of relief, but not full relief until , on the ride, back you passed Anacone’s, mean you had escaped yet again. Inside the Unity Mart we spared nary a second to peruse anything other than the beer cooler, but once at the checkout counter we always had to spare a few moments to be very cordial to the proprietors, to not only ensure they never became enraged and asked for proof of age, but so as not to give them want to lift their veil of protection over us. On these “visits” we noticed the enormous jar next to the cash register. It was filled with giant pickles. From that day on, Wolf supplemented his GAB purchase with one of the enormous pickles.

    Pickles later entered our world when Dan, upon his frequent hop-skip-and-a-jump away visits to Goodyear, would bring all manner of food so unfit his dogs would not eat it. Sometimes it was pork chops, and other times it was pickles. Dan would stride in, toss out a greeting, proudly display the tribute he had brought, then place it on Wolf’s desk, and then dive head-first into he fridge to grab some beer. Not an equal trade.

    Once, Dan, having full knowledge that Wolf often hide Doritos in his lowest desk drawer, even tried to push Wolf out of the way to get at said Doritos. Ever the diligent student, Wolf was actually studying at the time.

  2. Diligent? Ha! I remember at some point actually finding a good hiding spot for the Doritos but it escapes me where.

    The pickles tasted much like kerosine and went uneaten. At some point I added in a cans worth of Knaus’s vienna sausages to make the mix more interesting. Dan actually ate one of them months later during a game of truth or dare. I think Aaron ate a whole handful of Knaus’s 4 gallon size jalapenos. The final resting place of said pickles, along with a hardened green bagel, was in the plumbing under the sinks in the bathroom where for all we know, they might still be.

  3. Probably next to a hidden can of GAB.

    Didn’t we also leave a tape outline and a can of beer for the summer cleaning crew? They had to clean up your left nut and the chocolate pudding on JP’s wall I left when I smeared it in a rage at the beginning of the year, and found, months later, it was permanent.

  4. Those pickles were homemade by my mother. They were, however, the saltiest pickles you would ever want to eat. I remember that merely opening the jar would cause your eyes to water.

    She had followed a homemade recipie from my aunt, who wasn’t very big on writing down exact measurements. Hence the result.

    I’m sure that they were very well preserved and you could safely eat one if any of the jars existed today. They are perfect food to wait out the Apocalypse.

  5. The comments on this story should be folded into another story or edited into this story, in my opinion.

  6. Wolf – I nominate you.

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