Some days things just don’t work out when you’re doing a daily blog. I was going to do something yesterday for today’s post that didn’t happen and so my backup plan was to go to Main Street Liquors and take some pictures there. I think Main Street Liquors is one of the oldest liquor stores in Peoria and I used to buy cheap beer and gin there when I lived at a house a few blocks away on the corner of Russell and Douglas in 1980 with my friends Moon and Chris. Well I went there and here’s what happened.
I got to the liquor store and took this photo and went in. The two guys working there asked why I took a photo outside and I gave them an MBIP business card and asked if I could take a few photos of the inside and they both got a pained look on their faces. One of them told me to come back in the morning and ask the owners. They were nice about it and I told them that I had to do it tonight as it was for tomorrow’s post and they apologized and said they couldn’t let me take any photos inside. So I bought a six pack of sixteen ounce Budweisers and drove a couple blocks to the corner of Russell and Douglas.
This is where our house used to stand. It’s a parking lot now. When we lived here it was a three bedroom house, two stories with a basement that we turned into a “Gin Room.” We sure had some crazy times living here and I thought I’d write about that for today’s post and so here we go. It’s going to be kind of free-form and off the top of my head, but sometimes it’s fun to write in a care-free manner like that and so away we go!
The Corner of Russell and Douglas
It’s weird as I think about living here. We moved in to the house in March of 1980, I believe. I don’t even know how the three of us came to live here or who found this place. I just remember all of a sudden I was living there. Life kind of flowed like that in those days. Things seemed to be liquid in movement back then and that was just fine with me, I just rolled with the flow.
It was pure and utter craziness right from the start of us moving in to the house at the corner of Russell and Douglas. Before I begin writing memories of living here, let me just say that I’m not trying to glorify craziness, taking drugs or drinking way too much alcohol, but we did all three with reckless and furious abandon back then and somehow all three of us are still alive to tell these stories. And here’s just a few of those stories from my memory banks of our crazy household on the corner of Russell and Douglas.
Cheap Beer, Cheaper Gin and Tons of Speed
The three things that we mainly lived on back then was cheap beer, even cheaper gin and tons of speed. When we moved in we had a huge, honking bag of speed and put it in an aqua blue glass candy dish on the dilapidated wooden coffee table in the front room. Our lives soon became lost in a hazy, pasty blur of speed, beer and gin, usually in that order. I’m just going to write up random memories as they come to me, so here we go.
One of my earliest memories of living in our house at the corner of Russell and Douglas was trying to kill Moon. This memory is really fuzzy, but I think we had just moved in and I was fucked up seven ways from Sunday on speed, beer and gin one Sunday afternoon. I had a big butcher knife that I liked to wave around and threaten people with. I was messing around with it when Moon did something to piss me off. I can’t even remember what it was, but I started chasing him around the house with the over-sized butcher knife and told him if I caught him I was going to kill him.
To my credit, I’m pretty sure if I caught him I wouldn’t have killed him, maybe just punctured him in a few places to make my point, but I certainly wasn’t going to intentionally murder him with a butcher knife. I’ve just never been cut out for such gruesome things. Moon didn’t know that though and he ran out the front door in a manic panic and I raced after him drunkenly screaming at the top of my lungs that I was going to kill him.
It was a nice sunny day as I ran out the front door with a giant butcher knife in my right hand screaming bloody murder at the top of my booze-drenched lungs. Most of our neighbors were sitting outside on their lawns and porches enjoying the peaceful sun-drenched spring-time day. They all quickly retreated into their homes after seeing me chasing Moon down the street like a wild, crazy man gakked to the nines on booze and drugs and threatening to lay waste to Moon while wildly waving a giant butcher knife willy-nilly in the air.
Moon made it to his car and sped away and I retreated back to the house on the corner of Russell and Douglas feeling defeated, deflated and ashamed that Moon got away. I felt a feeling of loss that’s hard to explain. I drowned my sorrows in more beer, gin and speed that afternoon and evening and the next day we all laughed about how crazy that whole afternoon was! That’s the way things worked back then, there was never any hard feelings between the three of us, just a lot of laughs about our crazy-ass lives.
The neighbors all ran back inside their houses from that day on whenever I came outside. That always made me laugh and gave me a weird feeling of accomplishment. I really don’t know why. Sometimes it’s best not to question good feelings like that!
Taking A Piss
There was one day where Chris and I both had the day off from our respective jobs and Chris drove us to the liquor store at Sheridan Village and we bought a fifth of cheap gin. Before we began this journey we also each gulped down a handful of speed each. We started just aimlessly driving around town swigging out of the fifth of gin and before you know it, Bob’s your uncle and the gin was gone. And so were we! Gone three sheets to the wind and back again.
Somehow we made it to another liquor store and bought yet another fifth of gin and started drinking that. We were out of our minds on gin and speed and I remember at one point driving down Sheridan Road at about 80 MPH and leaning out of the passenger window and throwing up all over the side of Chris’ car. We had to pull over after that because we were laughing so hard. Good times indeed!
We ended up at our friend and this blog’s Spiritual Guru, Tim Hennessey’s house. By the time we got there it was around seven in the evening and Tim was both amazed and appalled by the state of slovenly drunkeness we were in.
To be truthful, I don’t remember much about the rest of the evening, so I have to rely on what others have told me. Tim has told me that we were such raging drunken lunatics at his house that he called Moon to pick us up, as the speed had worn off and neither of us could barely put one foot in front of the other, much less drive an automobile.
Moon came and soon realized that it would be impossible to transport both of us at the same time as we were arguing, fighting and basically being two drunken whirlwinds of unspeakable trouble, so he decided to take us one at a time back to our house on the corner of Russell and Douglas. I went first and as I said earlier, I have no memory of what happened next.
And what happened next was that Moon drove us to the corner of Russell and Douglas and I proceeded to get out of the car and started taking a piss in the middle of the street. Sometimes good fortune just isn’t in the air and this was the case for me that evening. For as I was relieving myself in the middle of the street who drives up but Johnny Law.
A police car turned the corner and the officer behind the wheel wasn’t too amused that I was using one of Peoria’s side streets as my personal toilet. The cop got out, I kept pissing and he told Moon he was going to arrest me for public drunkeness and urination.
Moon quickly told him that we lived right there on the corner of Russell and Douglas. The cop looked at me whizzing away in the middle of the street in a drunken, oblivious stupor and asked the following question: “Then why the hell is he taking a piss in the middle of the street?”
Moon explained I had had a little too much to drink (quite the understatement for sure) and it must have been the end of the cop’s shift, because he told Moon to take me inside and if he saw me outside of the house that evening, he was going to arrest me and take me to jail. Moon led me inside and I promptly turned the coffee table upside down for some reason. I passed out shortly after that and when I woke up the next morning I wandered outside and discovered that someone had driven Chris’ car back and it was parked right in front of the house, and I walked over to take a look at it.
The passenger’s side was covered in my dried puke. I started laughing my head off and shuffled back inside to get some speed because I had to go to work in about an hour. I may have been an irresponsible drunken mess back then, but somehow I was never late for work. I was always good that way.
Upside Down Furniture
One Sunday night Moon had gone to bed early and Chris and I stayed up eating speed, drinking beer and guzzling shots of cheap gin. When you’re buzzing like a gadfly gone horribly wrong on speed and alcohol time flies by like a hyperactive second hand on a clock and before we knew it, it was around four in the morning and we were tweaked out of our gourds on the speed and having a crazy conversation about hanging meat from the ceiling.
There was a Kroger’s store at the time open 24 hours and we were debating the merits of buying fresh meat and hanging it from the ceiling so when Moon woke up it would be a festival of beef dangling from the rafters of our house at the corner of Russell and Douglas. We both agreed it would be a hearty and mighty laugh but one thing outweighed the positive fact of a gut-churning early morning hee-haw and that was the fact that we were broke.
Money was never in the plus side at the corner of Russell and Douglas and I remember many evenings where the three of us would be searching under the couch cushions for spare change to buy a cheap six pack of beer.
So instead of hanging meat from the ceiling we decided to turn everything in the house upside down. The furniture, the stereo, the record albums, the empty beer cans on the floor, everything went upside down and we continued to drink and wait for Moon to descend on the staircase and see the upside world that we had created while he slept the night away.
The morning came and Moon walked downstairs and was not amused at the upside down mess that we had turned the house into. By this time Chris and I were drunken, shambling wrecks and Moon said he was moving out of the house.
Moon threatened to do this about three times a week but he never did. I mean how could you possibly leave such a fun-filled household? Well, at the end of August, he finally did move out and so did Chris. I was the last man standing, albeit a little wobbly, at the corner of Russell and Douglas when our stay in the neighborhood had finally come to an end.
One day towards the end of August, I had the day off from work and I had the house to myself as Chris and Moon were both at work. I was laying on the couch reading the latest issue of National Lampoon and a fan was blowing from an end table and the waves of air were hitting the top of my head. We had no air conditioning at the corner of Russell and Douglas and this was a particularly hot and stifling afternoon and I appreciated the breeze blowing at the top of my noggin’ as I read and chuckled at the latest writings in the National Lampoon.
Then all of a sudden, the fan stopped blowing. I got up off the couch, flicked the switch on and off and it was dead to the world. I promptly sprung into action and I proceeded to do what I usually did when things went wrong back then, I sprinted into the kitchen to get a can of beer. As I opened the door up and grabbed a can of Blatz beer, I saw that the light wasn’t on inside of the fridge. I then went and tried to turn the lights on in the kitchen and they were off too. We had no power. This sent a chill down my spine as I realized in an hour or two the case of Blatz beer in the fridge might turn warm and that was a scenario that certainly caused a wall of fear to go up around me.
I could handle the thoughts of darkness coming on in the night, but warm beer, well that just couldn’t happen! Not on my clock, Alice!
I called Cilco to report this power outage and I was put on hold while they assessed the situation. The woman I had been talking to came back on the line after several minutes and curtly informed me that there was no power outage at all. She then proceeded to inform me that we hadn’t paid our electric bill since we moved in to the house in March and the power would be shut off until we paid the bill, which was over seven hundred bucks.
I didn’t say anything else to her. I just hung up the phone and started drinking that Blatz beer fast and furious before it had a chance to get warm. Sometimes in life you have to prioritize the situation and act on your instincts. Soon the case of beer was half gone and I called Moon at work and informed him of our sad state of affairs at the corner of Russell and Douglas.
We learned that our asshole landlord had been getting the bills and somehow assumed we were getting bills too and he never paid them. Since we never got a bill we thought that the electric bill was paid for as part of our rent. When he found out, he told us we had to pay the bill.
The bill was over seven hundred bucks. And we barely had seven bucks between us and when we had more it went towards stocking up the fridge with cheap beer and fifths of even cheaper gin.
Chris didn’t care, he was already planning to move to Iowa for his job and he left after a couple of days of living with no electricity. Moon left soon too, he moved in with his girlfriend. I had nowhere to go. So I did what any sensible human being would do when faced with such a dire and quizzical situation.
I bought a cooler and filled it up with ice and cheap beer. I also had a pack of bologna in there too for sustenance in between the beer, gin and speed. Man cannot live on alcohol and chemicals alone and bologna was just the thing to keep me moving in a semi-lateral direction. And my bologna had a first name and I think you can guess what it was.
I lived there without electricity for about six weeks. We had a hammock out on the front porch and I slept out there most nights. It was weird living in a world with no electricity. It was kind of peaceful. Most nights I’d go to bars and would end up back home drinking out of my cooler and would just get lost in my thoughts in the darkness. It was a strange time in my life as I had no plans for the future, I was working a dead-end job in a downtown discount department store called, Murray’s and I was constantly nervous about the future. I still am, some thing’s just never change!
I do remember one night going out with a girl who worked in the jewelry department of Murray’s. She was fairly new and we got high on pot in her car during our break and I gave her a few hits of speed and we decided to go out that night to Peoria Drive-In and drink beer and watch movies there.
We went there, got half wrecked on beer and more speed and I ended up taking her back to the house on the corner of Russell and Douglas. We went inside and I started lighting candles and she said to turn the lights on first and we could have a beer or two and then we could light the candles. I guess she thought I was trying to be romantic, but in reality I just wanted some light to find the beer cooler.
I informed her that the house had no electricity and I had been living like this for the past month or so and had gotten kind of accustomed to life without light switches, stereos or TV sets. I told her it was a good way to spend nights thinking about the future and the possible horrors that the upcoming years possibly represented.
I’ll never forget the terrified look on her face as she took all this in and then nervously spat the following words out: “I think I’d like to go home now!”
Ha ha ha! She still lived with her parents in the Rolling Acres subdivision, so I drove her home and then returned to the corner of Russell and Douglas. Once back inside, I lit a candle, fished a beer out of the cooler, sat on the floor and wondered what the fuck was ever going to become of my life. It’s something I still think about.
Eventually I got a decent job at Fleming Potter and moved out of the house at the corner of Russell and Douglas and into my very own apartment. Life has spun sideways ever since but every now and again late at night I turn off all the lights crack open a tallboy of beer and think about the crazy nights we spent at the corner of Russell and Douglas. We’ll see you all tomorrow!