The highlight of our childish creativity was The Bunker, a hollowed out cluster of unused shelving, walled with a carefully crafted facade of boxes that concealed an inner homemade bar. To the untrained eye, it wouldn’t even garner a second look; it was identical to any other normal, mundane, ordinary wall of boxes. However, this particular Great Wall of Cardboard masterfully concealed a super-secret hideout within that rivaled something that a James Bond villain would have constructed, or perhaps it resembled the lair of some comic book bad guy. In it was our headquarters, our command tent, our private lounge that served as our secret war cabinet. Our Round Table, with each of us looking to fill our Holy Grails with whatever was on tap that day. The effort that went into crafting bubble wrap and cardboard La-Z-Boy recliners and cotton stuffed sleeping mats was labor intensive. Not to mention surreptitiously loading our liquid stash in and out through the drop down hatch that we cut through the wood slats of the pallets that served as the roof. Our cooler was always stocked to the gills with a variety of suds. This was the real deal for us. That was our debaucherous shrine, and we’d retreat to The Bunker to devour a few bottles or cups of the drink of the day, every day. And when we weren’t in our venerated safe zone, we’d just down our spirits from the red plastic Solo cups in broad daylight like it was a house party. Like we owned the joint.
We developed into exceptional drinkers; a functional alcoholism that allowed us to perform at our best with just the right amount of whiskey flowing through our veins. We’d field instructions, calmly attend meetings, and cheerfully converse with the front office staff while being lit to the core on liters of Rum and Diet Dr. Pepper. And no one was the wiser. It was the only way we were able to make it through the monotony of the day, a monotony which by now I hope you sincerely feel. It was an alcohol fueled, fun steeped binge that lasted for years, and invariably suffused our livers and our minds with loads of lasting good memories. But all good things must end at some point, right? The question ticked in my brain every single day, like a turgid time bomb just waiting to explode; what the hell was my purpose? There had to be something that I was good at in life. Thoughts like this lingered in my head on a regular basis as I walked the aisles up and down filling orders. Whatever that ‘something’ was, wasting away under layers of box dust was not it. What was I good at? I was in my twenties, but felt as if I was past my prime, or as if I’d missed the ferry to Success Town. I felt utterly left behind by life, and my fun, yet counterproductive daily dealings only resigned me to that early grave and kept me pinned tightly. There just had to be more to life than this.
I slowly (and hesitantly) approached that prisoner of war camp on the daily, that Chernobyl-esque monument to Eastern Bloc deterioration, that shit stained hell that seemingly owned my life. I say seemingly, because at the time, it defined who and how I was. You’ve got to feel the monotony; you’ve got to feel it in order to truly understand it. Up the steps I went, through the door, and with that, each day (and the story) begins. The warehouse itself was pretty damned massive; a deep, cavernous structure stacked to the gills with weathered boxes, bags, makeshift shelving, and various pallet loads of goods for sale. It was an older building, crammed tight with little sold products, all of them well coated with a thick blanket of dust. In any case, the structure was well lit, as the many skylights provided good light where the fluorescents didn’t reach. What a joint to be in, though. Under the rusty tin roof, the place became Congo crotch hot in the summer; guaranteed and absolute sweat drenched bayou balls for all who dared to enter, and winters that would make you feel like you were setting up base camp in Antarctica. The towering shelf walls were lined with various crude drawings, and were peppered with random graffiti of tits, asses, cocks, explicit acts of sex, violence and a sprinkling of cuss words. Don’t ask why. We brandished the humor of a bunch of giggle infested twelve year olds, and we wore that childishness with pride. Our debauched state of mind was a direct product of the boredom that we faced head on, like warriors facing a great foe. Yes, it was very much like middle school all over again. And we reveled in it.