By the time my 21st birthday finally rolled around, it had been pretty well established that I was something of a problem drinker.  To put that in perspective, it was my junior year in college.  If a bunch of college kids think you’re a problem drinker, that’s saying something.  But I was looking forward to turning 21, because that meant I could finally really start to drink the right way — the way God intended me to.

However, a big birthday blowout didn’t seem to be in the offing for me.

It seemed like my buddies sort of wanted to blow it off totally, because I had long since acquired the aforementioned reputation, and God only knew what kind of disgraceful episode a night of free drinks at bars for yours truly would entail.

Fortunately for me, there was a guy in our group who wasn’t so much in college as he was in the Navy.  And Mark wasn’t just in the Navy — he was on a submarine, and I guess those guys are known as extra psycho.  This guy fancied himself quite the dignitary at one of the local nudie bars, and once he realized that my upcoming Big Day was being met with anemic response, he stepped up and insisted that I mark my 21st as his very special guest at Pacers, on Midway Drive across from the Sports Arena, in the shitty Loma Portal section of San Diego.  Nudie bars and naked-lady stuff in general had always fascinated me, so while I was a little leery of what this guy’s VIP treatment might entail, I was pumped to go along.

A couple of the stoner buds in tow, we headed out for the big night.  Keep in mind also that there had been considerable “pre-gaming” going on that afternoon.  I don’t know whose idea it was, but it seemed like a good idea at the time to stop off and load up at Arby’s on the way to the nudie bar.  If I recall correctly, Arby’s had some kind of promotion going to compete with the concurrent “2 Big Macs for $2” deal at McDonald’s.  The bottom line is I probably loaded up with 4 or 5 pounds of processed reconstituted glop, inhaled hastily in the back seat of my roommate’s ’82 Civic.

I don’t know how long we actually lasted at Pacers.  I do know that Mark’s idea of really doing it up right for a guy’s 21st included forcibly pouring into me a lot of alcoholic drinks that even I considered questionable.  The kinds that featured a lot of watermelon liquer, and that you set on fire.  And they all had porno names — there was the Screaming Orgasm, the Pussy Lips, the Throbbing Boner, the Money Shot, the Double Penetration…I’m sure there were others.

After a couple or 30 of those, I somehow made it to the men’s room, where all of the Chocolate Fetishes — along with the 5 pounds of Arby’s salinated meat-product agglomerate (with zesty cheesy BBQ sauce!) — promptly wound up on the floor of one of the stalls.

I take it I emerged from the men’s room around the time one of the bouncers, with a kind of resigned annoyance, took Mark aside and said “Man, you gotta get your friend outta here.  He’s scaring the girls.”

These days, I’ve managed to steer clear permanently of the watermelon liquer.  But I’m still working on the scaring-girls thing.