I was strutting around South Chicago one time, a 17-year-old boot sailor out and about on a summer day when it was ninety nasty urban degrees no matter which way I turned. Already dizzied by way too many quarter-the-glass draft beers from "Jeannie's Bar," not too far from Midway Airport, I was walking approximately toward a party at the home of a buddy's fiancee's parents.
With a few minutes to kill, I blundered into a second saloon and downed yet another twentyfive-cent beer, just before the hulking man-mountain on the next stool offered to buy me a drink, something that useta happen quite often when one wore one of Uncle Sugar's monkey suits in public.
"Sure," says I, asking for another beer.
"Nah," speaks up the enormous guy who's buying. "Have a real drink, a man's drink. Have a martini."
Y'all need to remember I was a small town boy only recently turned loose on a big world, with access to all sorts of things Mama never meant her boy to know about. I'd learnt what beer was, knew the difference between red whiskey and white, and could testify orange flavored vodka and Bali Hai wine were both almost drinkable. But I had escaped home without ever getting the first clue what was in a martini... I'd seen lots of them on tee vee shows though, served in glasses that looked something like an upside down witch's hat with an antenna. Or maybe it was a radar dish. Whatever it was, hat or radar, it looked pretty cool on tee vee or in the movies, where people seemed to find them awfully tasty.
Couple things made me realize ignorance ain't always bliss when I lifted that cute glass near enough to smell its contents.
THING THE FIRST: my debut martini smelt exactly like the fake pine spray one of my aunts was given to over-using at Christmas. I never could stand that spray.
THING THE SECOND: there was no way I was ever gonna choke down a whole glass of Aunt Whozzit's Christmas spray.
I put the awful poison back on the bar and looked for anything vaguely resembling escape, at which point the gorilla-sized guy who'd bought the drink aggressively sneered, "What's a matter, boy? Not man enough to handle a martini?"
Some time ago I turned three times the age I was when this happened, and have caused numerous youngsters to get squirmy as they took their first post-adolescent baby steps into places they might sooner or later wish they'd never gone. Making youngsters squirm is a rite and passage of manhood, and today I know the huge feller on the next stool wasn't any more gonna harm me than he was gonna fly.
Only I didn't know that at seventeen...
So up comes the glass and down goes the martini, into the same place several quarts of cheap beer were residing, and let me tell you, friends and neighbors, those two chemical wonders took an immediate dislike to one another. The martini opted to leave the same way it came in, and the beer wasn't willing to stay where my aunt's Christmas spray arrived unannounced neither.
Beyond the bar, this saloon had the traditional mirror behind a triple row of glasses, at least nine feet from where I sat. Old beer and new martini hit all over that big looking glass.
And all three rows of glasses.
And all over the bottles of various spirits, just on the other side of the bar.
Splashed upon the gorilla who'd bought me this experience in the first place.
Then into my own lap.
Not to mention raining down onto spit-shined shoes.
I bolted for the door and didn't stop running until I was at that fiancee's house where I could get my clothes washed and my shoes hosed off and where there was a cot they kindly let me die on for about two hours.
The white gorilla's free drink somehow set up a highly personal reaction to gin, and the two other times I've tasted that stuff I've had the same highly explosive reaction.