I have decided that I really want to spend the night in Desilu. There are already three hammocks tied to a cluster of pepper trees over on the grassy hill. The Sullivan Brothers put them up and it is fine work. Leave it to the Brit kids. This is the same hill that enveloped me last summer, when a film crew had to save me (The Fortune).
I have also decided that Pat would be the best buddy for this particular exploit, since he’s totally dependable when unexpected snags arise. So I invite him over to my house for a sales pitch. It shouldn’t be difficult to sway him, especially if he is greeted with a bamboo bong packed solid with Colombian Gold.
Just for kicks, right before he arrives, I empty out some gunpowder from one of the shells that I collected from Combat, and then pour it into the bong. The black powder looks like pepper, so I cover it with the gold leaf. Now, I just wait for Pat to light up. I make sure I don’t give myself away by laughing, and force myself to keep an extra casual attitude. We sit alongside each other and he probably wonders why I am being so polite when I offer him the first hit…
Hmm… not good. the flash was bigger than I expected. Damm gunpowder. It’s an instantaneous blast, but the smoldering facial hair from his billy goat beard makes quite a picture. After a pause, Pat gets up swinging at me, but he misses wildly because… he can’t see.
I feel sort of bad, yet I laugh uncontrollably… I guess I used a little bit too much dynamite!
If anyone is tough enough to deal with this mishap, it’s Pat. This is the kid that would blow up an old car several years later. Everyone chalked it off to the old Irish temper, but being a fellow Catholic school survivor, I have a different theory. You see, Catholic School and its strict mode of control has the effect of making you want to prove yourself to be uncontrollable. So, you rebel and do things that a “good Catholic boy” isn’t supposed to do. And all of us that have gone through it have an understanding. We talk tough to each other, but that’s because we’re like brothers. If anyone else messed with him the way I do, I’d be all over ’em, and fast. And I know he’d do the same for me.
After his wispy little beard stops emitting smoke, Pat agrees that this will be a great adventure. He finds a body for the third hammock—his pal Kerry from Venice High. Kerry is a master of many cool things: karate, surfing, dirt bikes, and bonging… this will be one fun Friday night!
The Adventure Begins—
We lower ourselves to ask adults to buy us some alcohol at the 7/11 on my corner. We find it’s actually easier to buy drugs, but finally we find our pigeon in the form of a dark haired man with an accent, who looks like he’s auditioning to play Erik Estrada after a month long eating binge and no shaving. Moments later, out comes a brown bag with a gallon of Gallo Fine Wine safely tucked inside. “Gracias Amigo, you keep the dinero,” we say to our foreign friend as he gets back into his battered Datsun. We mount back up on our bicycles for that long ride across town to Desilu.
Kerry and Pat have top notch bicycles since they race at Palms Park every Thursday night. They carry crescent wrenches; that’s how into bikes these two are. They talk spokes, cranksets and cable tension, like it’s everyday conversation. These guys make repairs while pedaling. I’ve never seen anything like it!
For them, bicycling is big time, like Ford vs Ferrari… their motto is if it moves, we can make it move faster!
Well, I carry a brush. That’s because I’m into my hair. I can brush, pedal, and carry a bottle of wine, all at once, while cruising low-rider style at the back of the line. Helps me scout better… I have an overview of everything. Plus, you miss things if you race right through it too quickly without taking it in and assessing the surroundings properly.
As we arrive, it is already starting to get dark. We don’t expect to run into any security since there are no active jobs going on at the moment. We do expect trespassers though, since word has spread through school and now this has turned into a teenage stoner camp.
When in Rome—
Well, so, we might as well smoke, too. It’s not like we’re out to raise the bar or set an example, or anything! But at least we’re non-violent. Unless provoked. We leave our bikes hidden behind a barn that is within our view, but once the sun sets, it will be pitch black… just as if there were a power outage.
Up to the hammocks we go, as we sink deeper into the overgrown grass, with each step. We bulldoze our way up to the summit—the same one that used to look down on Stalag 13. Now this is an empty field again, ever since the sets were removed from the movie The Fortune. It now looks just like it did after The Burning of Atlanta… it’s all Gone With the Wind.
We toss ourselves into these wobbly strips of canvas as a test flight into what will be our sleeping quarters tonight. We quickly discover that these are a bit tricky to get comfortable in. If you dive into it too fast, you’ll flip right out of it, but they’re pretty easy to get the hang of. One thing we didn’t count on though, was temperature control. It’s getting a bit cold out here, but wearing down jackets helps a lot. Alcohol will definitely help, too.
Wine is an odd choice for us. We usually go for Bacardi 152. Or Colt 45 Malt Liquor, since they did a commercial on this lot with Redd Foxx, at the main intersection next to the Mayberry Hotel…plus the Bull escaped the lot here once in another commercial and terrorized people that live beyond the studio fences. So, we drink that here once in awhile, just for the sake of commemoration. But, Estrada must’ve felt that Gallo was a fine selection for us boys tonight.
We no longer have a phone to call off lot; the studio repossessed our VIP line and boarded up our personal fort in the saloon. We’re just regular peasants now, around here. So we can’t order pizza from Chris’s, unless we can access the guard shack. Or at least the phone, since it sits temptingly on the desk, right on the other side of of tiny glass window pane. We would only have to break that one little pane of glass, but no one has Chris’s number anyway… So, we pass on this plan, for now, anyway.
That’s how the drinking starts, with deep thoughts like that. Pat has a Panasonic cassette deck with brand new batteries and some Pink Floyd music, while Kerry unpacks a huge bamboo bong. This thing must be nearly a foot and a half long and all custom built and waxed inside. Kerry also builds surfboards.
We have come prepared… for what… we’re not sure. And we’re off to a rip roaring start. We fill the Bong and I hand it to Pat all loaded up. Recalling what happened earlier, he catches himself and says “You Light It.” So I do. I also spit out “You big Irish Chicken,” as I exhale out a cloud as big as a volcano plume.
The drunker we get, the more stuff will come out I’m sure. It’s time to get personal. I once heard a Russian proverb that says when you’re drunk, you either hug more or fight more. We’ll see what happens out on this cold and empty field tonight.
“So… how’s that all boy Catholic school working out for you, you little chicken Leprechuan?” I manage to form a question in between tokes. I guess this is the adolescent boy’s equivalent of hugging. Pat comes from a family of tough Irish stock… they drink hard and play harder. I continue… “My school has pretty girls, and an even hotter teacher-lady… how about yours?” Still unable to get a rise out of him, I keep poking, “Don’t tell me you have priest teachers still!”… as I seize up in laughter and polluted lungs. I laugh and cough simultaneously, multi tasking.
Kerry throws in a jab while I roll around in the tall grass.” If you would stand up to your parents, you wouldn’t be at that Loyola Penitentiary School.” Pat is silent as he slugs down this reservoir of high end spirits. Kerry and I are enjoying the wisecracks. It’s teenage bonding.
Kick a a boy when he’s down… hey the nuns do it, why can’t we?
I continue the adolescent raillery, “How did you end up at an even worse school than when we were at St Augustine’s? Your parents must hate you!” I look for a crack in his stoic guise. He refuses to make eye contact… he just stares at the tops of trees. Must be all that strict Catholic training. Just accept whatever’s dished out. Especially at this new place he’s at.
I can’t help picturing his facial hairs smoldering earlier this evening, and I see he could use a barber, or at least a razor and scissors.
I try to hide the fact that I’m starting to shiver, even with all the alcohol in our blood. Soon, we all slip our hands deep into our down jacket pockets and slide into our hammocks. We stare up at the crescent moon that shines over the backlot above us.
“It could be worse, I guess, Pat,” I say from a horizontal position, as my head spins and my stomach turns. “You could’ve burned to death in the film vaults… God just wants to punish you, not kill you.” As I turn the opposite way to help digest the excess drinking and partying. I don’t know if that Gallo stuff agrees with me.
Let’s do a middle of the night Mayberry after Midnight tour after a little shut eye… We all agree. Then everything fades to black…
00.00 Hours… and counting.
Morning Has Broken and… Gallo NOT so Fine—
One by one we wake up, or the cold air pulls us out of our drunken dreams. Kerry is the only one who wore a watch… we all mumble and grunt as we jump out of these hammocks like three popsicles. “What time you got?”
“25 or 6 to 4” he says, as he fills up the bong.
We gather like moths to the heat from the lighter. We each pass the peace pipe and are ready to take the latest tour on record, or perhaps it’s the earliest.
But, I for one, feel AWFUL! The wine has terrible after effects! I believe this is what adults call a “Hangover.”
I have a word for it: sick-as-hell! And yet, here we are smoking again. But pot never makes me feel this way! Neither does cocaine, or LSD or mushrooms… just Gallo. And wine is legal, go figure. I swear this vice off before it can ever begin…. Never Again! Next time I’ll stick to drugs, á la carte.
We stumble our way down from this grassy knoll. Every step feels like a huge effort… like I have two bricks for feet. And even talking takes work. As I speak, every word is an exertion… it’s like trying to start up an old car that you have to keep cranking just to get a sign of life. And then it blows a bunch of exhaust at every start. That’s what I feel like.
And it keeps getting better. I can feel it coming back around again. Here we go… Just as we arrive to Mayberry, I puke. At first, I try to excuse myself and run to an alleyway. Then I don’t bother anymore. I’m defeated. It just keeps coming up, again and again. I puke at almost every famous set still standing. Mayberry Courthouse, puke. I fought the law…
Mayberry Hotel, puke. That one was from five stories up… getting fancy! Right over the side like a hook shot! I’m so miserable, I don’t even care if I fall at this moment. Put an end to my misery! Chances are, I’d probably live… just to endure this torture a bit longer!
Watch out… don’t look up, it could get messy!
I’d call a doctor but our phone was disconnected. My mom thinks I’m at Pat’s house.
Laying down inside the Mayberry church on a pew only exasperates my distress, as I pray to Frank Sinatra for help. Sadly, wine and church go together, so I leave and cross the street as I go up to Andy Griffith’s house… we walk with distance between us since I’m not the only town drunk that’s sick around here.
One last purge, upstairs in Opie’s room (when they film exteriors, anyway). Aunt Bee will have to clean that one up.
Low and behold, it’s 4 am and here comes a set of headlights on a white truck that we know is security. This place never gets guarded lately, but it’s 4 am so I guess it’s to be expected, since this is hardly prime time for trespassers—that would be after school, or dinner, or both. The low idle of a truck goes by in one direction, then it does a U-turn and repeats this action in the opposite direction.
4 am is for Teamsters, drug addicts, and town drunks. I checked for Otis when I was inside barfing at Andy’s courthouse. He wasn’t tucked inside. Maybe security is looking for the Town Drunk…
Well, tonight they will need both cells for all the town drunks that showed up at Mayberry… after Midnight!
Good night everybody… After I wake up from this adventure that went a bit… sideways, I hope Aunt Bee has breakfast waiting for us!
Written and lived by Donnie Norden
Edited by Donna Quesada