Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Hunt for John Zwiffel

Will the real John Zwiffel please stand up!

Many, many years ago in a land far, far away (actually it was Milwaukee) I made a serious attempt to drink the town dry. In any town but Milwaukee I might have succeeded.

Every night after work we would adjourn to the bar across the street to re-hash the day’s activities and get home in time for a quick nap before heading back to work the next day. It was in Milwaukee that I learned the trick of downing a shot of peppermint schnapps after the first case of beer to settle the bubbles and allow me to imbibe on even more roots, barks and hops. Milwaukee has a bar on every corner and often one in the middle of the block in case you get thirsty crawling from one to the other.

Evening and week end entertainment either centered on a keg of the local brew or involved drinking—like bowling which is a sport lubricated by foam and made more palpable under a hazy stupor.

When, in 1976 I was selected as the most outstanding military noncommissioned officer in Milwaukee I was given a plaque from the Eagles Club and a party each by Miller, Schlitz and whoever-the-heck-the-third-brewery-in-town-was.

Lets just say, I drank a lot.

This is, however, not a tale of drunken debauchery or skidding to the bottom to fight my way up by my own boot straps. At some point in my life I just got tired of the routine “pleasures” and quit.

I remember little of the “good times” and sometimes that really scares me. One day, after an all night party I decided to clean out my wallet and found a piece of paper folded and tucked into the place where the dollar bills had been if I had not spent them all on beer. On that torn corner of a notebook page was the name “John Zwiffel” and a phone number in my own hand writing.

I do not remember ever knowing of meeting anyone named John Zwiffel and while I wanted to know who he is, I never wanted to call and find out. So I carried the piece of paper with me—for two decades—often opening it up and staring at the name and number. Always putting it back into my wallet until one day, about five years ago, when I got bold and threw it out.

John Zwiffel still haunts me, but, thankfully, I don’t have the number so I can’t call to resolve the mystery.

Yesterday, I picked up some papers to put away and the corner of a notebook page fell onto the floor. I picked it up and in my own hand was a telephone number that I didn’t recognize. My wife didn’t recognize it either as we pondered it and then in unison said: “John Zwiffel.” I threw it out immediately.