My story started (as I am noticing about many of my stories) with beer drinking. Drinking too much beer. My friends and I were at my friend Jerry Roark’s sister’s house. She was a “cool” older sister. She made her home and her yard available to us to drink. It was not illegal, BTW since we were all older the then drinking age (18) in Wisconsin, although not much. We needed a place to be.
It was Sunday. We were all supposed to go to jobs we disliked on Monday morning. It was one of those great times among friends, a warm long evening in June, talking about nothing, laughing and just enjoying the company. We planned just to have the proverbial couple of beers together, but there were more than a couple beers available, and we kept on going. We were having too much fun to leave. I am not sure how many beers we ended up drinking, but it was more than we should have done.
At about 4 am the next morning, my father woke me up to go to work at the Cement Factory. We both worked there. My father liked to drink beer even more than I did, but he was better at it. He never missed a day’s work because of beer. He never missed a day’s work for any other reason that I can recall, as a matter of fact. He was unsympathetic when I told him that I was too sick to go to work and castigated me both for the bad judgement of having consumed too much before a workday and for being so weak that I could not handle it. After we sat across the kitchen table looking at each other for a little while, however, he told me that I looked too bad to go to work. I should go back to bed. He would tell the boss that I was too sick to work, adding that he would let everyone around the plant know the real reason so that they could ridicule me the next day.
I went back to bed and I think I fell asleep even before it got there. I was used to waking up at 4 am, so I was sleeping really late when I finally crawled out of bed at around 10am. To my surprise, I felt remarkably good. I slept off the effects of the alcohol but still had the energy provided by all those carbohydrates from the liquid bread.
The weather was perfect. Milwaukee weather can be perfect when you get a hot summer day with a breeze from the east. The cold water of Lake Michigan freshens and cools the air as it blows in, while the warm summer sun gives you the feel of liquid sunshine on your shoulders. So, I thought I would go down to the Lake to enjoy it close up. I went to South Shore Park. To my surprise, I ran into my friends. We had independently arrived at the same decisions. We all had been too “sick” to go to work. We all had recovered by midmorning, and we all had been drawn to Lake Michigan. We continued our enjoyable talking and laughing at a picknick table overlooking Lake Michigan. Only Jerry Roark was tough enough to go to work that Monday. He got to brag about his power, but he missed the day’s pleasure.
This is not the kind of day you can plan. You could plan to go to the Lake. You could wait for great weather. You could plan a great day. I had been to that spot many times before and would go back other times later. What made this day special was spontaneity, surprise and serendipity. We traded this delightful day at Lake Michigan for a dreary day of work. None of us had jobs anybody could love. I hated mine with no small passion. We had stolen back some of our time, taken it back w/o needing to form the intention to do it, so it was both gift and plunder. A gift that has kept giving for more than 40 years.