28 October 2016

TGIF -- Sometimes

For most people, Fridays are the start of happy times and a great weekend. When I was a kid, Friday night promised either a night of great happiness or great terror. It was a coin toss -- until the clock struck 6:00 p.m.

For a large chunk of his life, my father was an alcoholic. He didn’t drink all the time, but when he did it was bad. His favorite time for drinking was after work Friday. I don’t necessarily blame him. He had a job that was physically tough and he worked hard to provide us a life free of want (mostly). But there were times he needed to drink and get drunk.

On the good Fridays, when he came home right after work (before 6:00 p.m.), he might have picked up fried chicken for dinner, we might have dinner at home, or go to a local fast-food place (which was exotic to a young kid back then).
From my personal collection.

On the most special nights of all, we would go to a restaurant called Jack’s (see photograph) on the northwest corner of McDowell Road and the I-17 freeway near downtown Phoenix. Jack’s offered all-you-can-eat fish fry or chicken and dumplings. I almost always got the fish -- along with a build-it-yourself balsa-wood airplane from the waitress.

If the clock struck 6:00 p.m. and he wasn’t home yet, we knew it was going to be a bad night. I’ll spare you details of what happened on those nights. But there was one particular bad night I remember vividly -- even though it happened more than 45 years ago.

During summer, I would sometimes walk to a public swimming pool. I would walk home; or my mother or father would pick me up after work. On this particular Friday, it was my father’s turn. The pool closed (probably around 6:00 p.m.), so I left and waited outside. I don’t know what time it was that my father showed up (although it had already gotten dark -- and it gets dark very late here in summer), but I was so happy to see his white truck pull up. I got in (ignoring the liquor smell), shut the door and we started home. When we stopped at an intersection, I glanced over and saw my father’s right arm covered in fresh blood from a huge gash. Terrified, I started screaming and crying. Turns out my father got in a fight outside the bar with “some Mexican” and the other person slashed him.

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