All Photographs + Text Copyright 2012 Christopher Keeley

Turquoise Sports Car Totaled by a Telephone Pole

It was the French wine that did me in. I totaled my brand new turquoise Datsun B-210 sports car five speed by driving it into a telephone pole on Broad Branch Road in Rock Creek Park drunk. I was a freshman on academic probation at the American University majoring in Anthropology. I was also an alcoholic.

I would start the day by drinking a six pack of the cheapest beer money could buy and that was Old German brand beer, AKA Yeungling beer, by the oldest brewery in America. This particular beer was extremely cheap, about 1/4 the cost of the regular brand beers found in liquor stores. A case cost about the price of a six-pack of the other national brands. Old German was strong and bitter and most people would turn their noses up at it, but it did the trick for me, it stopped the morning shakes. I also drank it non-stop, as often as I could. The beer was cheaper that a quarter a bottle. For economic reasons I drank Yeungling beer and stole the most expensive French wine I could find. I would also steal gas by siphoning it from other peopleÕs cars. At parties the girls would always say, whatÕs that gas smell? I reeked not only of Marijuana and Alcohol but also of Petroleum. It came to the point where I could tell what cars were easy to siphon from, generally big old American cars.

I was attending the American University and I was already in major trouble, at risk of flunking out because I wasnÕt prepared academically. By my previously having attended nine high schools, and having learned no study habits, I couldnÕt focus my attention on reading anything and I was stoned my whole waking hours. Most days I was also recovering from the perpetual hangover. A.U. in those days was known as the nationÕs party college. I didnÕt fit in, but I had a few friends even though I was a loner. I lived in an apartment, the first floor in the last block of row houses on Park Road in Mount Pleasant, Washington DC. On my way home from school I would stop in at the Old World Market store and steal a bottle of the most expensive French wine I could find, costing more than twenty dollars in those days, while I was ordering a submarine sandwich that had to be made.

On one occasion a bottle fell out of my coat at the cash register and broke on the floor to my great embarrassment and the amazement of the cashier. This was a weekly occurrence but after that incident out of fear I no longer frequented the store. The store had to be suspicious of my behavior. I was a creature of habit and took the same driving routes around town and basically switched around among liquor stores I was going to steal from. I was an opportunist and the Old World Market store was easy prey for someone like me at the time. I owe them big amends. I do not steal today, from anywhere. I rarely venture into liquor stores any more, as I have no need or desire to be in them today, since I donÕt smoke or drink.

One day I met a redheaded kid who was hitchhiking back from A.U. His moped scooter had broken down. Come to find out we had lots in common, and coincidently his parents were renting my parentsÕ house. I gave him a ride home. His parents were also in the Diplomatic Corps. He had a twin brother who was a Paranoid Schizophrenic. We didnÕt know this at the time and thought it was the Marijuana. He also lost control every time he drank alcohol. Rob and Jim were their names. We would invite A.U. girls over to the house and party. I always had weed and Rob was great at making drinks with the blender, mixing fruit, ice, and alcohol. This was also when I discovered MD 20-20. It was sweet and easy to drink. It also gave you quite a buzz because of the high alcohol content. Beginning girl drinkers would get smashed before they knew what was going on. So we had these wild parties at my parentsÕ house while it was rented by these guysÕ parents, all the time that we were supposed to be attending college. After one of these parties, I remember going to the Old World Market store to grab one of those bottles of wine, then drove like a complete maniac speeding back to my apartment probably to get more Marijuana, and I swerved into a telephone pole, knocking it down and totaling my car.

I had a bump on my head the size of a golf ball. I abandoned my car and went home. I came back to the scene of the accident a few hours later, and my pathetically damaged car was still there. But some friends in the neighborhood had stolen the battery and whatever other parts they could easily salvage. I was pissed, as my car was about two weeks old. I didnÕt realize that it was a total loss. The police were dealing with me, the telephone pole, my damaged car and I was going on about some kids who stole the battery. I didnÕt get busted for drunk driving, reckless driving, or anything, probably because the police arrived hours after the accident. I also believe that Jim had been in the car with me. It was all a major blackout, almost like a living nightmare. The telephone pole cost the insurance company almost three thousand dollars. The car was a complete loss. Broad Branch Road in Rock Creek Park is still my favorite road to drive on in Washington DC, probably because it reminds me of driving in the Catskill Mountains. Later, I ended up wrecking three more cars on that same winding road.

The next day I was on the front lawn of the American University campus rolling a joint. I had this black eye, and a golf ball size knock in the middle of my forehead. My professor, who was also my guidance counselor, walks by and sees me. I try to swallow the joint I had rolled and my face turned beet red, because I was supposed to be in his class, was failing, on probation, and here I am blatantly rolling a joint in front of the Student Union building. I confess to him I was in a car accident and he says, yeah it looks like that. I dropped out of college and my addiction, depression, and mania progressively spiraled down even further after that, to the bitter end.

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