Fire Island and the Summer of Pernod
Spending summer swimming at the bottom of bottles.
Hen I was younger, my father’s best advice for drinking underage was never to ask for anything too trendy, sweet or unusual. His own standard teenage order was Johnny Walker Black, rocks, twist—“more booze, less rocks.” Save for the occasional martini, this has been his drink his entire life, and he’s never had any use for drinking trends.
When he was sixteen, his ordering at bars was made even easier with an ID bought from someone named Pell Wilson, Jr. My dad doesn’t remember much about Wilson except that he recently had turned eighteen and was looking to sell his old license. (In New York in 1959, one only needed to be eighteen to drink, and men were issued a new set of identification along with their Selective Service papers.)
A lifelong New Yorker, my dad passed feral childhood summers in Fire Island’s Seaview neighborhood, where his father had built a little glass box of a house to which he and my grandmother were devoted. It was as “Pell Wilson, Jr.” t…
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