Mom shouted down the hall, “Barry, will you run to Dunkin Donut and get me a coffee?”
“Ok.  You want a hot dog from Arman’s?”
“Not today”

The overly wholesome food and all you can-drink-milk from the Purdue meal plan left me starved for the real stuff of
Chicago and Region eateries.  A couple of Arman’s dogs wrapped in fries and a coke would definitely welcome my stomach home.

I got the “oh so goods” and sat at the kitchen table devouring the real taste of home.   Mom sat across the way, sipping her Dunkin elixir
with the same delicious enthusiasm.

“What are your plans for your Birthday?” she asked
“My friend Dennis over in Hammond is having a party tomorrow night.  I may go there, but I have to check in with Rick and the rest of the guys to see what’s going on with them”
“Okay, well if you need a car, go ahead and take it, we aren’t going anywhere.”

I finished my banquet, kissed mom on top of her head and said “Thanks, Mom!”.
Then I went to the bedroom that housed our bootleg extension phone and pulled it from the closet.
A few calls to “the guys” delivered no opportunities for revelry, so I called Dennis.
“Hi, Cootz, I am so glad you called back.  I’ve got about 20 people coming over and at least half of them insisted I get in touch with you.
I got this antique Wine press so I thought I would have a wine making party.  I hope you can come, and feel free to bring a date”
“Wine making?  Really?”
“Well, I got a book with the Wine Maker, but I haven’t read it yet. Besides anybody can have a Christmas party.”

I agreed to come. Found out I didn’t need to bring grapes.  They would have a chip, cheese and crackers pot luck buffet.  As I recall, drinking age was 18 in those days (not that it mattered to this crew), so BYOB meant the tea-totaling Cootz would need to bring his own Ginger Ale and/or Coke. (no Diet Coke in those days, but at 18 I would have no use for it anyway).

Perhaps, it was just trying to get a date this close to Christmas, but Purdue Cootz had found himself quite interesting to several young women while on Campus, but hometown Barry/Cootz was apparently not the same guy.
Regardless, in the back of my mind the evidence continued to mount indicating I did not belong here.

I awoke on my birthday, to an empty house.  Both cars were gone. After all it was the season for shopping and visiting.  Dad was likely out shoveling snow or delivering firewood for friends and neighbors. I turned on the TV, waited for the tubes to warm up, and stood spinning the the channel changer hoping to find something worth watching on one of the 4 available channels.  A rerun of the three stooges appeared on Channel 9.  Had to twist the dial just right so it would stay on 9.  There, ok, let’s see which one this is.  I sat in Dad’s recliner, leaning back against the towel that protected my (when you gonna get a haircut?) hair from the cracked vinyl beneath it.

Curly was doing his “woo, woob, woob, woo” routine.  Still makes me smile even though I had seen it at least 100 times.  Yup, I was going to Dennis’ party.