Once we got the whole Barn Train moving, it became a kind of clearing house for odds and ends. Anyone that was throwing out any kind of furniture offered it to us first. We collected couches, like I mentioned earlier, but also end tables, easy chairs, who knows how many decorations… Road signs were especially prevalent. I think TGI Fridays based their look on The Barn.
I always liked the little touches…
We had this old milk crate that came with the place; the kind you put out on your doorstep in the old days for milk deliveries. We used to keep the beer bottle caps in it from all the beers we drank. That came as a kind of compromise… we started by keeping all the bottles! We had this huge pyramid of Michelob bottles in their 6-pack carriers along the back wall, until my dad put the ki-bosh on that. (Was only a matter of time before it got knocked over and smashed.) So we ended up just keeping the caps, even when we’d drink somewhere else, especially if it was something unusual. Every so often we’d look through the collection of caps and kind of relive the adventures, singing, “To all the beers I’ve drank, before…”
We filled that thing up twice. The first time was easy, but by midway through the 2nd, my dad got one of those Keg-O-Rator beer refrigerators: “The Old Norge”, as we called it. I was in college by that time, so it was quite a valued convenience.
Dad was having a little trouble with the Norge on this particular day.
I still have the milk crate and I still use it for beer caps. Some habits go deep.
During our first Barn Party, we flattened out a moving box and hung it up on the wall as a graffiti board. That became a permanent fixture; we probably went through 4 or 5 of them. Looking back, you can chronicle the entire Barn history… who was doing what, when and with whom. Whatever happened in our lives got reflected on the graffiti boards… concerts seen, parties thrown, girlfriends uh, entertained… This usually meant whenever we got ourselves a new significant other, we had to do some serious marking out. I still have all the old graffiti boards too.
There was nothing like that Pre-Party cleanup. We’d get all the crap cleaned up out there, shine everything up and most importantly, get some Carpet Fresh down and vacuum. That was another tradition… to this day, I still get tingly when I smell Carpet Fresh. Makes me want to par-tay!
When the Barn is Rockin’ Don’t Bother Knockin! (Cuz we can’t hear you.)
We eventually moved our house stereo to The Barn when we upgraded the one inside. For parties I’d take the house speakers out too and believe me, that Barn was a’rockin. My job was to keep the music playing. That got a lot easier once I got my record store job and an employee discount.
Keeping the dead air to the minimum… now that was a problem. Remember that this was before CDs. To change songs you had to get one LP off, get another one on, and get the needle down in the right place. It was challenging, to say the least, but I did my best.
This was the stereo setup during a later Barn Party. Note the high-tech "DiscWasher" for quality album cleaning!
Once I got onto college radio and learned some things, I got a little better. For big parties, I’d get our house stereo out there too, and run it off “Auxilliary” on the Barn stereo, thus giving me 2 turntables to work with. Even without a mixing board, I could at least get the next song set up, needle down and all, and slip-cue it like we did on the radio.
What I wouldn’t have given for even a single tray CD player, let along a 5-disc changer that I could program and then walk away for an hour. Or like now with an MP-3 playlist. How easy it would have been! Damn kids today have no idea… blah blah blah…
Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go
One year, my dad decided to rent a big screen TV to watch the Super Bowl and all the bowl games out in The Barn. It went over so well, he went back the next year to do the same and ended up buying one. (The small scratch on the screen = $300 off!) So we had a neighborhood party for the AFC Championship game against the hated Houston Oilers. I don’t remember much about that party other than we supplied all attendees with a Steelers jersey to wear and we partied our buns off.
Call this The Steel Pyramid. Note: I know there's a picture of the Ayahtollah on the back wall, but don't be alarmed. It actually had a target on it and was mounted on a dart board.
The guy on the ground was an Oilers fan, who we forced to wear the Black and Gold.
New Year’s Rockin’ Eve
New Years Eve parties became an annual event. Even as big as The Barn was, that gas heater could really pump out the heat. Often times, we’d have to crank open the windows because it would get uncomfortably hot in there, especially with the drinking, dancing and crowds.
Oh yes, the crowds. We had to suffer some early lessons about party planning. By the time we had The Barn set up for parties, I was in college but my brother and sister were still in high school and junior high. We may have intended to keep the party small, but the high school grapevine was in full bloom, so where we would expect maybe 20-30 people, 100 or more would show up. We’d get a huge crowd; they’d drink up all the beer by 10:00 and disappear again. My mom and dad would have to elbow their way through a crowd full of people they didn’t know. Some would even bark at my dad about going to the front of the beer line. He’d be like, “Excuse me but this is my barn. Who the hell are you?”
It would always be a friend of a friend or something. There was a lot of that. We’d invite a particular friend; they’d ask if they could bring someone. That someone would tell some other people, and so on. After one such debacle, Dad dropped the hammer. No more parties, ever.
Eventually we got back on track and began issuing actual invites. We’d turn people away if they didn’t have one. Come to think of it, we should have picked up a velvet rope somewhere. It was shame to have to be dicks about it, but we just couldn’t be responsible for all these strangers showing up and drinking and then doing God knows what.
We did have some fun with it though. My 2 buddies, Rik and John, were only too happy to pull bouncer duty. Plus we had a neighbor across the street that was 6’6” and only too eager to help. It was an added bonus if they got to toss someone. So my dad would administer a 3-part test… if he saw someone he didn’t know, he’d ask me if I knew him. If I didn’t, he’d ask my brother, then my sister. Three “Nos = Gone.
Then he’d grab one of the “bouncers” and say, “that guy’s gotta go,” and poof… they’d be gone. Sometimes it was a bit of a fuss… “But I’m with so and so… they said I could come along…” Nope… no dice, gotta go.
At one party, Dad was kind of leaning over the back of a couch and one of the girls at the party walked by, smacked him on the butt and said, “Nice ass!” and kept walking. (By the way, Dad actually reminded me of that story this week and requested I include it here.)
Special note: The background collage was my doing… a collection of album flats I obtained from my record store. The collage extended all the way up the stairs to the right, which led up into the loft. And yes, Pittsburghers, that’s Donny Iris, right over Dad’s head. This party was from 1981, in case you can’t tell from the era of those albums.
Work Release Parties
Even after I moved out, I’d still use The Barn on occasion to host a party for the people I worked with at the record store. These were usually much more subdued, but still a blast. We had one guy who was known for his Long Island Ice Teas… he’d show up with this huge pot and just start pouring all kinds of stuff in there. I asked him, once, what all was in it. He just said, “You don’t want to know,” and kept pouring. They always tasted good, but I knew enough to stay away from them, if I wanted to see the end of the party.
I really just brought up the work parties so I could tell one last story. As I mentioned above, it was really convenient for guys to take a leak out there. Especially after dark, the floodlight we had cast great shadows around the out-buildings. There was plenty of sanctuary to take a quick pee. Although I have to confess, sometimes even that was too much work. This is how my boss told the story…
“So I went out to take a leak and I wanted to be courteous, so I go waaaaay out to the back of the yard, around the corner, in the shadows, behind a tree, and I do my quietly do my business. So I’m walking back to The Barn and as I draw close, who do I see in the window but “Bluzdude”, hand on hip, back arched, just letting it fly!”
Guilty as charged. But in all fairness, there was this one window that was right behind an inner wall, so if no one was in the back half of The Barn, it made a great pee-spot. I used to try to go for distance. Snow on the ground made it that much easier to track. When I wasn’t writing my name, that is. If you have home court advantage, why not use it?
This was the window. (It wasn’t always frozen over, of course. But then in order to go for distance, you had to get through the branches. Life isn’t without its little challenges
That's more than enough for now. More Barn stories will continue next week. But now, let me wish you all a happy Thanksgiving! In the words of the legendary Warren Zevon:
Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old,
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave,
And make us play nice.
And let us be together tonight.