I have never been very successful or comfortable being a “party animal”. I was raised Pentecostal Holiness and up until the age of fourteen, if the church opened the door, even a crack, my family found itself in attendance. We could be counted on to be sitting on our regular pew in our regular seats as the preacher scanned the congregation.
So up until the age of fourteen or so I was very, very naïve. Innocent, I tell you. I had my first beer at sixteen. It took me two hours to drink it and I was drunk as a skunk. Why, even today you could hit me with a bar rag and I’d be giddy.
When I was twenty-two in 1976 I went to a party. My crazy cousin had invited me and a lot of my friends were there. I played guitar and someone shouted out to me to go home and get it and bring it back and play. Since I only lived about four miles away I agreed. Now, I had drunk about four beers and was feeling no pain but it was the seventies, a more lenient time than today and I wasn’t very worried about drinking and driving. I told myself I would be very careful.
My cousin was walking me to the door and on the coffee table I noticed some white powder. Someone had rolled up a one hundred dollar bill and was sniffing that white powder up their nose. My cousin asked me had I ever tried cocaine and I replied absolutely not. He said I should try it, and I said, no way, no way, well o-k.
Now you have to remember it was a more lenient time. Jimmy Carter was president, we had just come through Watergate, I had not long been out of the Air Force, and disco was king. I made it home alright, got my guitar and was headed back to the party when I noticed the blue swirling lights behind me. I still wasn’t too worried, I knew I had been driving carefully and I felt pretty sober. I pulled into the parking lot of a furniture company. I pulled a little too far and ran up on the curb a little. I began to worry a little bit. I mean that would look bad if I had of been stone cold sober, and I wasn’t.
The highway patrolman was the spitting image of Sgt. Carter on the old Gomer Pyle show. When we were finished with the preliminaries — you know, license and registration and stuff — he asked me if I knew why he had pulled me over. When I said “no sir”, I fully expected to hear him say, “I can’t hear you!” just like Sgt. Carter used to do. He asked me did I know the speed limit on the road I was riding on and I said, “No sir”. He asked me if I had been drinking and I responded that I had drunk a couple of beers at a party. Now I knew the dance, I knew back then if I said I was just trying to get home, he would more than likely let me go and tell me to be careful.
The highway patrolman asked me where I was headed and right away I said, “Back to the party, sir, I mean I’m just trying to get home as safely as I can sir.”
He said, “Well you are sure doing a swell job of that Mr. Lee, the speed limit through here is fifty-five miles per hour. I pulled you over because you were going sixteen miles per hour!”
I said, “Is that a good thing, sir?”
He said, “I want you to slowly and safely make your way home, I’ll be behind you a ways, o-k?”
“Yes sir, oh thank you sir, I’ll be very careful!” So I drove off toward home and after a couple of miles he turned off and I turned around and went back to the party. It was a much more lenient time.
I’ll be right back.