The whole summer of 2000 I had that ’89 Wrangler with the previously inflamed engine. Seemed to be running aight, but I didn’t want to chance it in the winter time. Dad and I drove around one day, found a nice lot in Reading, PA that had used import vehicles. Grabbed a ’96 Mazda 626 w/ moon-roof, much nicer than my first vehicle, an ’86 Ford Tempo, now known as the Vomit Comet. Ask me about that moniker some time. Sold it to Matty’s little brother shortly after it got named, right before I got my ’89 Wrangler.

But anyway, again with the losing of the train of thought.

Bought the Mazda. Enjoyed it. Put a nice stereo in it, was having a great time until Spring rolled around and we were doing some work outside at The Tiki Bar, getting ready for the Summer. The weather was getting nicer, everyone else was showing up in their Jeeps and convertible Volkswagens. I was beginning to think that this moon-roof just wudn’t gonna cut it.

Fuck. I almost went off another Tangent. Someone please remind me, the Miami Trip. Great story that culminates with an angry (yet incredibly sexy) 20-year-old German Girl shouting obscenities at me in the midst of a luxurious hotel lobby in downtown Miami.

As I mentioned, I had me some good credit before I joined The US Air Force. I was barely 20, walked around on the lot at Bermont Motors, and was driving away my new ’99 Wrangler within a few short hours.

What an idiot.

I loved having a Jeep again, though. I think I even got around to taking the stereo out of the Mazda and putting it in the Jeep. I was so cool, I even had a MiniDisc player to go along with my ten-disc CD changer that I kept under the back seat. I was just inside a Tweeter on Monday afternoon, had me thinking about upgrading the stereo once again.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving, 2001. My last holiday at home before I’m shipped out to Basic Training. I made arrangements to leave my vehicle with my friend Bekah, who happens to be Samantha Brown‘s cousin. Bekah was having some car issues, she needed a vehicle for a few weeks, I wasn’t much gonna need one for the next six-to-sixteen weeks, so why not leave it with her?

Again, skipping over some major life-changing events to include BMT and technical traiing at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS, we arrive at the end of April, 2002.

I always was good at math. One of my favorite subtraction problems was 2002 minus 1981 equals 21. I was released from Keesler AFB on a Monday. My flight home was set for Tuesday. I got a hotel room right by the Airport and got silly drunk at the hotel bar the night before my plane left for home. Arrived back in PA on a Tuesday night and my friends treated me like a rock star.

Went out drinking every night that week, but couldn’t go “just anywhere.” Up until Saturday, 27 April 2002, I was not yet of legal age. Decided to do a family get-together that Fri Night and had the cousins and Aunts and Uncles over to say “Hi, how was the Air Force? Happy Birthday! See ya later.”

The next day, showed up at The Tiki Bar with my dress uniform on, enjoyed a good meal, and slowly but surely drank my fricken face-off, for the first time, legally, in the US.

Spent almost two weeks in Europe when I was 17, that was my first legal alcohol OCONUS.

This was barely over six months after September 11th, 2001. As a Nation, we were pretty gung-ho and proud of anyone willing to wear a uniform. People I had never met before were buying me drinks, and when they weren’t around, my friends that I had worked with for over four years were kicking down beers and shots and whatnot.

Holy hell, did I ever have a hang over the next day.