Amazing Journey: 2.3

It Is All Fun And Games Til Somebody Gets Drunk


Whiskey Man’s my friend, he’s with me nearly all the time

He always joins me when I drink, and we get on just fine 

~ The Who

Believe it or not, even at this tender age, the three of us were proficient in ways of misbehaving that didn’t include setting fires that nearly caused serious property damage.

While our folks might not have been aware of our pyrotechnical exploits, they became abundantly cognizant of another form of skullduggery in which the three of us participated.

Unfortunately, this scandalous incident took place during the party for a rather historic event – the 50th wedding anniversary of my grandparents, Enrico and Ermalinda Vagnoni.

The anniversary party took place late in the summer of 1974. To say that the guest list was considerable would be a gross understatement. As could be expected, the Allegretto, Perozzi, Curi, Laskas, Maccari, D’angelo, Ficcadenti, Perone, Ventura and Pulera families were all well represented at the festivity.

In addition, there were a number of other Italian luminaries joining the celebration. The magnitude of the event was so great that even non-Italian guests were in attendance. Honest. This was the social gathering of the year. What could possibly spoil it?

I’ll tell you what. Our parents, that’s what.

They were responsible for assigning duties to my cousins and myself. With a throng numbering well over one hundred, there were a number of things that needed attention.

Filling tables with food, setting up chairs, making sure guests had a place to park. Cars filled the parking lot and the lawns on either side of it all the way back to road. When those areas were full, party goers were asked to park up and down the road at the end of our property.

So, which task did the parental brain trust assign to John Dean, Mike and me? Did they have us watch that the serving tables were kept stocked with raviolis, mostaccioli, spaghetti, chicken and hot beef? No.

Would they entrust us with making sure the guests had a place to sit. Nope. Then it had to be they wanted us to serve as parking lot attendants. Right? Wrong again.

The parents had a bigger, much grander plan for the three oldest male Vagnoni cousins. Unfortunately, this plan would soon backfire on them in a less than spectacular fashion. It would be the downfall of the teen trio.

So what had they come up with for us? In their infinite wisdom, they decided to bestow on the three of us the responsibility of greeting people and having them sign the guest book as they arrived at the party.

Sounds simple enough. What could possibly go wrong? Wait, I forgot to mention that the folks also wanted us to pour shots of brandy and anisette for the new arrivals. Again I ask, what could possibly go wrong? Don’t think too long, I will tell you.

Let’s see. Here’s what could and definitely did go wrong. We were three red-blooded adolescent boys. My cousin John Dean was about to turn 18, I was 17 and brother Mike was just 16. We didn’t know it yet, but there was something better than fire to with which we could entertain ourselves.

It was called alcohol.

And our parents had entrusted us with several bottles of it to share with our guests. Did you notice I said share? We had seen enough bar scenes on TV and at the movies to know that when a person poured a shot for someone they usually joined them.

And that’s exactly what we did – over and over again. I believe we were just trying to be social. Yes, that must have been it. We were trying to be social.

It didn’t help matters that the anisette tasted just like black licorice. It only made being social that much easier. Needless to say our first attempt at the social hosting thing got us a bit tipsy.

Oh, whom am I kidding, we got shit-faced and it didn’t take very long. Initially, I don’t believe any of the elders were aware of our inebriated state. But rest assured, it wouldn’t be a secret for very long.

When we were relieved of our duties as greeters, we stumbled over to the long buffet table. We filled our paper plates full of Italian delights and sat down on the lawn at the base of the hill.

Despite being three sheets to the wind, the three of made relatively short work of our delicious meals. Just as I finished my last bite Uncle David called out, “John Dean, Paul, Mike! Get over here, we’re gonna play football!”

As I staggered to my feet I thought to myself, “Oh crap, here we go.” Then I belched very loud which caused all three of to start laughing like half-baked imbeciles.

Which is precisely what we were, half-baked imbeciles.

Although we only actually played a short time, it seemed like an eternity. I don’t remember much of the game. However, I can safely guarantee that none of us made a positive contribution. We were too busy giggling and making spectacles of ourselves by clothes lining and smashing each other.

At first the others chuckled at our slapstick antics. But that lasted for only a brief moment. Our act soon got old. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Surprisingly, our folks hadn’t yet decided to put a stop to our drunken shenanigans.

Then I did something that would change that. My brother Mike was on the ground laughing after being cold cocked by cousin John Dean. Not missing an opportunity like this, I delivered a thunderous elbow drop directly to the center of my brother’s chest.

Immediately there was a deafening silence, as everyone feared for Mike’s well being as he laid not moving a muscle. Even in my intoxicated condition, I was worried that I had done serious damage to my dear brother.

Or perhaps something much worse. Heck, I loved my brother. I hoped I hadn’t killed him.

Suddenly his motionless body sat up and Mike started laughing hysterically. Relieved, John Dean and I also broke into laughter. Unfortunately, no one else saw the humor in what had just transpired. Especially our parents.

Their response was something like, “Get your asses into the cottage and don’t move until we say you can.” In no position to object, we scurried inside like a trio of whimpering little puppies with our tails between our legs.

Our sentence to confinement inside the cottage didn’t last very long. The Ficcadentis had to leave the party early and get back to Kenosha for another engagement, so our folks arranged for them to bring us home with them.

You could have heard a pin drop during that ride. There was no silliness or hilarity. Just three cousins sitting in the back seat feeling sick and fearing the worst for when our parents got back into town.

I’m not sure how Uncle Johnny and Auntie Janet punished John Dean, but you could hear wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from the direction of Cooper Road.

As far as the punishment doled out to my brother and me, let’s just say it was much more painful. And subtle. My parents were the grandmasters of using Catholic guilt on us. They had turned it into an art form. The understated method they used to let us know just how much we disappointed them was a thing of beauty.

It was pure torture.  Where were the screaming and the good old-fashioned beatings when you needed them?

Regardless of the method, my parents had taught me a valuable lesson. And I definitely had earned it. Not only did I embarrass myself, but also, as Emil and Milly repeatedly reminded me, I had embarrassed the Vagnoni family name.

Needless to say, I promised myself that I would never drink again. I vowed never to let the evil alcohol cause me to make a complete fool of myself. And if you believe that, you had better stop reading this about me right now.

No, this wouldn’t be the last time that liquor would play an influence in the life of Paul Vagnoni. Trust me.