Well, we’re now into part 4 of this piece documenting the antics of my roommates and I during our first summer here. For most of them, it turned out to be their last summer in O.C. I, on the other hand, possess a decelerated maturation process. I enjoyed Senior Week so much that I opted to make it last 24 years. I thought I could wrap this column up in two weeks, three tops. But the further I get into it, the more stories I remember that are worth sharing.

Four of my six roommates from that summer have been following along and each of them have sent me e-mails and text messages reminding me of stories that I had forgotten. At this rate, we may get into the new year before all is said and done. As I’ve previously stated, the eighties were, at best, a blur. I spent a large portion of my time thinning the herd of brain cells as if it were my job.

Last week I discussed how one of my first orders of business in this town was to find a liquor store that would accept my fake I.D. It didn’t take me long, and I quickly built a rapport with them. In one of my earlier visits to this friendly harbinger of judgmentally challenging beverages, I made what would prove to be a wonderful discovery. They sold half kegs of Milwaukee’s Best beer for, if I recall correctly, $18. Still one of the greatest discoveries of my life.

For as many of us as there were living in and visiting the house, and for as much as we drank per capita, this was the perfect find. So I immediately purchased one. I of course, needed a tap for the keg, which they happily rented to me. $25 for the tap rental plus a $50 refundable deposit assuming I returned it intact. I guess this is why the beer was so affordable.

The nice folks at the store even brought out a hand truck from the back and helped me load the keg into the trunk of my beloved ’79 Olds Cutlass. This would prove to be a process that was repeated so often that summer that by September I had to replace my rear shocks and struts. I eagerly rushed home with my oversized barrel of fun and personality. I proudly burst through the front door to my anxiously awaiting and very thirsty roommates who were expecting to see me with one case under each arm. They looked dismayed at the fact that I was empty handed until I told them I needed help getting something out of the car. They all came rushing out to the curb to see what I had gotten. As I popped the trunk I could swear that a blinding glow emanated from it like opening the brief case in “Pulp Fiction”.

Looking back on it now, it’s possible that this was all in my head. I’m pretty sure I also heard a chorus of angels singing a single, high-pitched note that was sustained for several seconds. The looks on my friends’ faces were priceless. They couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised and excited had I opened a trunk full of boobies.

Suddenly, the keg became a group effort. We carried it inside and now everyone wanted to contribute. We as a group realized that to have a keg, you needed to accessorize. Certain other things were needed to keep it properly stored and chilled. Two of my male roommates put their heads together to work on this project. At this time, it was approximately 4 in the afternoon so they were already plenty…well, let’s just say they weren’t “low.”

One went to get ice, and the other, a container to hold the keg. The guy who went in search of the container was gone for less than eight minutes. I wondered why he had left without a vehicle. He had a knack for obtaining items without actually purchasing them. I believe he called it “balcony shopping”. This practice will probably come back up later in our story, but that’s for another day. As I said, he returned about eight minutes after leaving with what looked to be a brand new 55-gallon trashcan in tow. We didn’t ask any questions so as to maintain our plausible deniability. And quite frankly, at that moment we didn’t care. All we knew was that we had a big bucket to hold our keg.

A few minutes later, my friend who had gone for ice returned. It seemed odd that he took so much longer then the guy on trash can detail because he went to the convenience store directly across the street. I mean it was quite literally only fifty yards from our front door. He walked in the front door empty handed with the exception of the candy bar he was holding to his mouth. About eight paces behind him was my diminutive female roommate whom we’d sent along with him to keep an eye on him and make sure he didn’t get into trouble or forget why he was in the store.

As I’ve stated previously, she stood less than five feet tall, and here she was, lumbering up the steps with two of the largest bags of ice I’d ever seen. One on each shoulder, being the consummate good sport that she was. Apparently, the male half of this duo had been flirting incessantly with the girl behind the counter at the convenience store. And if the story is accurate, she was somewhat flirting back. Upon leaving the store, this nice young lady said to my friend; “Enjoy your ice.” To which he responded, “thanks, we’re making soup.”

(I just had to take a break and walk away from my desk! My roommate uttered those immortal words nearly a quarter century ago and yet I am laughing hysterically right now like a goof as if I’m hearing them for the first time. He was, and is, very possibly the funniest man I’ve ever met. As far as sense of humor goes in that house, I was only in the top seven by default. O.K., back to the story.)

We now had all the necessary accoutrement to set up our keg. We placed it in the can, iced it down, tapped it, and let the games begin. Life was fantastic! Our mission, which we all chose to accept, was to drain this barrel dry by morning without even inviting any friends over. This was just dress rehearsal for all the parties to come throughout the summer. I’m happy to report, that we succeeded in our first mission. We overachieved, in fact.

By the time we all woke the next morning, and by morning I mean sometime mid afternoon, that keg was floating. It had risen well above the top of the can. The ice hadn’t even completely melted, and the empty beer barrel was bobbing up and down like the severed torso of a shark bitten sailor from the U.S.S. Indianapolis with his life jacket still on. I guess maybe that was kind of an obscure analogy even for me. If any of you are closet history buffs like myself, then you got it.

The sight of the empty keg gave me a brief feeling of pride and exuberance. My rejoicing was short lived though. At that very moment it became my mission to ensure that we were never without draught beer again for the entire summer. I tossed the empty keg into my car and set off to replace it. I wasn’t sure how the tap rental policy went, so I brought it along too. I got to the store and returned my empty. As they were in the walk in retrieving a fresh barrel of inhibition inhibitor for me, I browsed a bit. I noticed on a shelf behind the counter they were selling beer taps. I asked if I could look at one and the clerk who was actually my friend by this point obliged. I asked him if it were the same as the one I had rented and he confirmed that it was identical. I then observed that the price on the box was $34. Now granted, I was no math major and numbers were never exactly my strong suit, but even I could figure this scam out. I’ve already paid $25 to rent a tap that’s been used by God only knows how many degenerates without being thoroughly cleaned. Add to that the $50 deposit that I only get back if I return it intact and I’ve already invested $75 into something that’s not even mine.

Needless to say, not only did I leave the store that day with a full keg, but as the proud new owner of a Pony Pump beer tap which sadly, I still own to this day. Prior to meeting my lovely wife, that tap was a metaphor for my life. I couldn’t maintain a meaningful relationship with a female for an entire season of Seinfeld but I could hang on this piece of crap mold infested bit of plastic and rubber tubing designed for the sole purpose of spewing alcohol at me for a quarter of a freaking century!! As previously stated, on occasion, my rants, if passionate enough tend to manifest themselves into run on sentences.

Sorry about that.

As I returned home with keg number two, I proudly opened in front of my friends the box housing what was the greatest purchase of my life up to this point. I unveiled my shiny new beer tap. Upon taking it out and admiring it, I noticed there was still something in the box. I figured it was just instructions, or a warranty card, but no. It was four sheets of small circular stickers each of which fit perfectly on top of the pump to my tap. Each sticker was the name and logo of a different beer. Practically every beer you could imagine. At this point I had another brainstorm. I immediately removed the Heineken sticker from the sheet and applied it to the top of my tap. Our parties in this house were so frequent, so massive, and so out of control that we often charged a cover at the door. As screwed up as we were, we were a resourceful and enterprising group of misfits. People would pay a couple bucks at the door and come in and see the keg. They’d be thrilled, and not mind paying the entrance fee to find that they were drinking Heineken.

Or so they thought.

This simple little act of deception made us the coolest cats around and gave us the reputation of having the absolute best parties. When all the while, they were really just drinking an $18 barrel of “Beast”. The money we pulled at the door paid for all of our beer for the rest of the summer and we never had to go out of pocket again. While I’m confessing, it also paid for our cable, phone, and my tap.

That’s all for this week friends. The keg is tapped, and next week the party begins.

Until then, thanks for playing along,

Syd Nichols

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