Everybody collects stuff when they’re a kid. Postcards, trading cards (baseball, football, hockey, The Man From UNCLE, Beatles etc.), records, books, bottle caps, coins and stamps are all typical things for the average kid to want to collect. But, as you probably have figured out by now, I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a typical kid. What did I collect?
Why? To be honest, I really have no idea, but I think I wanted to project the image of a charming, suave and debonair international playboy, completely with a well-stocked bar in his “bachelor pad.” I mean, this was the late Sixties, and James Bond, Napoleon Solo, “Broadway” Joe Namath, Hugh Hefner et al. were always in the public eye and imagination, especially the imaginations of twelve-year-old boys.
Charming, suave and debonair international playboy John Holton, age twelve.
Of course, I was about as charming, suave and debonair as Jethro Bodine. But that didn’t stop me.
Anyway, any time a liquor bottle was drained in my house, I would take it to my room (at times after fishing it out of the garbage), clean it up and set it on my nightstand. After a few months, I had amassed quite a collection. But something was missing: all the bottles were empty. I decided they had to be filled up with something. Water would do for the clear liquids (e.g. gin) and for the tinted bottles (e.g. vermouth, Cutty Sark), but I had to come up with an idea for the bourbon bottles.
After giving it about 30 seconds of thought, I hit on the perfect solution: iced tea! (We lived up north, so it was unsweetened iced tea, from a jar.)
Twenty minutes later, I had a well-stocked bar, complete with partially-filled liquor bottles. At some point, I also decided I needed mixers, so I would add empty ginger ale and tonic water bottles to the mix. And I saw it looked authentic, and I was happy. It was Playboy After Dark in my room overlooking the alley behind Arthur Avenue.
For a couple of weeks, anyway, until mold started to form on the surface of the tea in a couple of the bourbon bottles. When that happened, I would shake the bottle and the mold would disintegrate, and all would be well again.
Mom did a good job of holding her tongue until one day, when she went into my room and saw that my bottle collection more closely resembled a bootleg penicillin-making facility than the well-stocked bar of a charming, suave and debonair international playboy, and made me get rid of it. I guess she also talked to one of her friends, who complained that her son (a classmate of mine) had been over to my house, saw my collection, and decided to build one of his own, at least until she saw it and told him to get rid of it.
My days as a charming, suave and debonair international playboy were at an end.