Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Old Friends, New Friends, Booze Friends and Nude Friends


Joe Rubio mustered out of the Army in February, but for a while he was a recluse holing up at his parents. (Left is John and Joe Rubio) visiting us at Lansdowne Towers in 1971,
He barely spoke to anyone. Despite the upbeat nature of most of his letters, which made it sound as if he was safe and sound in some off the front base, this was not the case. There were more things going on than he spoke of or wished to talk about for quite a while. He had written about being struck by lightning as the radio man, but he had never mentioned the instant that occurred just after he took over that assignment. He was following behind the platoon lieutenant, who was walking point when they were caught in a Viet Cong ambush. A shell of some kind whizzed past Joe and blow off the lieutenant’s head.
Joe who had resisted being drafted came home highly decorated. Among his metals were a Bronze Star with three oak leaf clusters, a Battalion Presidential Citation, Five Air Metals, Vietnam National Metals and a Purple Heart. One of the events that earned him the Bronze Star, and probably the Purple Heart, was when he deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire in order to divert the evacuation of his fellow troops by helicopter.
After he revived from his war experiences, we picked up our friendship pretty much where we had left off; although, Lois and I were making new friends who we probably spent more time with, but our friendship with Joe grew greater later, especially after he got married. He met and married Linda in late 1972. (Photo of Joe and Linda on Right.)
They moved to a small house on the edge of Drexel Hill and during the early to late ‘70s we continued to get together at their place or ours. We also took some little trips together, such as to the Pennsylvania Dutch area of Lancaster county (left).
These were our “Norman Rockwell” friends, clean living and generally sober, even though get togethers did include a good bit of imbiding. In 1973 Joe and Linda had their first child, a girl they named Meredith after me.
This was the second child of a friend who was given my surname. Stuart Meisel’s first daughter, also born in 1973, was named Adriane Meredith Meisel (her Hebrew name is Shulamit Mahlka). 

Ironically enough, Stuart was also living in Cherry Hill at that time, but neither of us knew it. (Photo on left was at Adriane’s 1987 Bat Mitzvah, back row is Stuart, his wife Fyllis Sunshine; front row is Ariane Meredith and his youngest daughter, Leslie.)
Stuart’s and my life seemed to run in odd parallel during our early adult years. For instance, beside residing in Cherry Hill at the same time, we also resided in Drexel Hill concurrently and we were attending classes at Temple University simultaneously, but our paths only crossed once when we met each other on Temple’s campus, he entering a building as I was exiting. We only spoke briefly.

Anyway, our friendship with Joe and Linda Rubio lasted until 1978. After the Army, he returned to his job at ARCo. In the late ‘70s ARCo closed its longtime headquarters on South Broad Street in Philadelphia and moved home base to its offices in Los Angeles. Joe stayed with the company and moved his family to California.
Letter from Joe and Linda: “So you want to hear what it’s like on the West Coast? I’m almost too embarrassed to tell you about our gorgeous weather this winter after hearing about all the snow and cold  weather back East. But since you asked – it gets to about 70 to 75 degrees every day and very sunny. At night during this time of year it drops to about 48 degrees to 55. This Christmas we spent with friends and we went swimming in their pool. The water temperature was heated to about 80 degrees, Can you imagine – swimming on Christmas Day!”
From Linda: “Both Joe and I love living out here. We’re about 40 minutes from the beach and about ½ hour from the ski resorts. It’s a strange feeling to choose between the beach or the snow in the same day!”

            Joe and Linda came East for a visit in 1979. Meredith
Rubio and Laurel Meredith got to meet each other, but both were too young to really remember this. After the Rubio’s returned to California we sadly lost contact with each other. 
           
I don’t know how Joe is. He probably is retired by now.  In 1985, ARCo spun off the East Coast stations as Atlantic Petroleum. These in turn were acquired by a Dutch businessman named John Deuss, who sold them to Sunoco in 1988. In 2000, the rest of ARCo was completely merged into British Petroleum, except for the Alaska operations, which were purchased by Phillips Petroleum. The ARCo pipe line was acquired by TEPPCO and ARCo ceased to exist. I am not sure where Joe ended up. Picture on the left was of Laurel, Meredith Rubio and Kristen Rubio on their visit East.)

During this same time period we spend a lot of time with
Bill and Grace Stone. We got together  two or three times a week, mostly gathering in each other’s apartments to play pinnacle and watch the Flyers on TV, and drink. (Photo right is in their apartment at Lansdowne Towers; Lois on left, then Grace and Bill pouring.) Drinking was at the center of all our get togethers and our two couple parties would run late into the evening. Most of them ended the same way, with Bill passing out and having to be carried back to bed. It was amazing how heavy he was when dead drunk, because he was a fairly skinny man.  Fortunately, I don’t think I ever had to carry him from our apartment to his. His blackouts seem to limit themselves to his own dwelling.
When he really got into his drunkenness, we all could recognize it. He would be fine, then as the beer took effect, he would begin to babble about “Harapozoids”. I have no idea what a harapozoid is, but the word seemed to mean something to him. Perhaps when they visited at our place and began speaking of the harapozoids, Grace prodded him to head home before he did pass out.
This was much the routine from the June in 1971 when we met through the first half of 1975. We didn’t quite get together as often after Lois and I moved to New Jersey in 1973 and then after the Stones moved to North Jersey a year later.
Meanwhile, we drank away our evenings. I was not effected
by alcohol as Bill was. He always lived up to his name and got stoned by evening end, mostly on beer. (His nickname was Stoney.) I never liked beer. My drinks were usually mixed cocktails involving rum, bourbon or whiskey.
For a while it was the fad drink, Harvey Wallbangers, which employed vodka with orange juice and Galliano, a sweet liqueur. Lois was generally Manhattans. I could guzzle down cocktail after cocktail and show no apparent effect. I did not slur my speech, didn’t wobble or waver, never passed out or threw up, and always knew exactly what was going on. I woke up remembering everything from the night before and I have never had a hangover. One night, Bill ran out of liquor and he and I made a run to the State Store (Pennsylvania, you know) to restock. He looked at me and grumbled.
“I don’t get you Meredith. You drink and drink me out of booze and you never get drunk.”
Must have been a metabolism thing.

Bill was a sometimes scary guy, not big, maybe close to mheight, but very skinny. His thin body was festooned with 72 tattoos, back in a day when tattoos were a rarity; in fact, generally tattoo parlors were illegal. You could find as much porn in Philadelphia as you wanted, but you couldn’t have a picture needled into your body.




He had a lot of stories about his life, claiming he once played semi-pro hockey in Canada and flown a helicopter as a mercenary in the earlier days of Vietnam. He also hinted he had killed a man. I don’t know if everything he claimed was true or not, but there was a definite edge about him. He was ten years older than the rest of us.
            The hockey thing was something he considered himself an expert at and when the Flyers appeared on TV we had to have the game on and he would do running commentaries between beers and pinochle hands. One day the four of us were cruising about in
South Philly when he shouted, “Stop the car.” I was driving and I stopped, probably a mistake. Ahead of us a street hockey game among groups of younger teenagers was in progress. Bill jumped out of the car and grabbing a stick from one of the kids, joined in the game; although, most of the kids stepped back in shock.
I wasn’t much interested in the kids. I was eying the mothers sitting or standing on the surrounding porches, who did not look amused. When I saw one go in the house I figured she's going to make a phone call. I ran over, grabbed Bill’s arm and wrestled him back into the car. I wanted us out of there before the police came.
This was not the only time I was pulling Bill out of situations. There were times I would shove him out of an East Lansdowne Bar before the fights started. He was good at pushing people’s anger buttons.
Bill’s big hero at the time was Archie Bunker. When we got together, if “All in the Family” was on TV, we had to tune in. Bill would sit there and say, “You tell ‘em, Archie”.  Norman Lear was acclaimed and won awards for this supposedly “realistic” show, but frankly, the Bunkers were no more representative of American families than “Father Knows Best”, and I much prefer the portrayal of the Andersons. Critic saw the bigoted character of Archie Bunker as a satirical image and put down of such behavior; however, there were a lot of people in the real world who looked upon him as a hero, someone who told it like it is. Lear followed this with “The Jeffersons”, which frankly was more in the tradition of “Amos ‘n” Andy” than liberated.

When we lived in Cherry Hill the Stones came over and we
all went out to dinner together. Not far from our apartment was a racetrack, Garden State Park. They ran both thoroughbred and harness horse races there. We were living directly across from Cherry Hill mall in what was known as the Golden Triangle along Route 70. Right next to the race track was a large hotel called the Cherry Hill Inn, which was a fine white tablecloth restaurant.
This restaurant was pretty chic in its day, with valet parking and well-dressed waiters. It was here we chose to dine. Bill wore an off the rack dark brown suit with kind of gold piping, rather garish. We got seated and when they took our drink orders, Bill asked the waiter to have them put some extra olives in his martini. A few minutes later the waiter returned and place a dish full of olives before him. When we got up to leave, he went over to the waiter and shook his hand.
After we left and got in the car, Grace revealed she had
snatched the silverware, salt and pepper shakers and a couple other items and brought them out in her purse. Yes, we were class all the way.
Bill died a few years back; I do not know what happened to Grace.

I had stopped believing in God and I didn’t expect we would ever have children. Even though Lois had those operations in March of ’71 where they sewed up her cervix, it hadn’t worked. She had miscarriaged another baby. It was only in the fourth month, so wasn’t considered a still birth. I had concluded the only purpose in life was to have a good time, thus we did our best at partying our way through the early ‘seventies.

In the fall of 1971, through happenstance, we met and began a friendship with Wayne and Bunny. This kicked our sexual proclivities up a notch or two and gives the final term to our chapter title.


1 comment:

Ron said...

Lar,
Funny thing, I also ran into Stuart randomly in Philly. In the men's department being fitted for a new suit. He was with his mother. Another time he worked briefly at Girard Bank. Small world. We didn't talk too much. Both busy with our lives at that time.
Ron