The Story: I always say that, in high school and college, Ben was the real-life Ferris Bueller. Everyone loved him and he could get away with anything.
One day when he was in high school, he stayed home “sick” and had some girl come over to the house while Mom and Dad were at work. Mid-day, Dad shows up for lunch and Ben puts the girl in his closet and goes downstairs to have lunch with dad. When he returned to his room after lunch, the girl was fast asleep in his closet. The time Tim tried the same move, he got nabbed in a hot minute.
One of Ben’s favorite lines for years was, appropriately, the one from Ferris Bueller where Ferris declares, “only the meek get pinched.”
When he was a senior in high school, my brother got banned from his senior prom for some antics that took place on a band trip. After the trip, the band director told the kids that, if they turned themselves in, nothing would happen to them. So Ben and his buddy Eric Neff turned themselves in and promptly got banned from their senior prom.
The injustice of the situation prompted me to throw a party at my apartment in Boston in honor of Ben and Eric and their senior prom. The day arrives and Ben zips down to Boston on his motorcycle to pick me up. We buzz back to Manchester in time to drop in on prom pictures in Pretty Park. Tim was going to the prom with his high school girlfriend that year, so we went to see them all dressed up and get pictures taken. A bunch of Benny’s friends were also there having their pictures taken and had heard what Ben and Eric would be up to that night. They came over and said how much they wished they weren’t going to the prom and were coming to Boston with us, which is pretty funny in retrospect. You don’t hear many guys saying they wish they didn’t go to their prom.
After pictures, we went back to the house, grabbed Mom’s car and headed to North Elm Superette where we picked up a keg and headed back to Boston for what turned out to be quite a rocking party. I don’t think we went to bed until 5 or 6. A couple hours later, Ben and Eric rolled off the couch and wandered up to Fenway and bought tickets to the noontime game. All in all, a pretty good senior prom, I’d say!
For many years, Ben was my mischief buddy. We’d go looking for it, just for fun. We used the word itself as a battle cry: Mischief!
When Tim graduated from Kent State University in Ohio, the whole family went out for graduation. At some point, Tim told us how he could never get an Ohio driver’s license and all he could get was a state id for cashing paychecks and such. Hearing that, Ben and I decided that we wanted our very own Ohio state id’s as souvenirs from the trip.
Now, one might think that this would be difficult since we actually resided in NH and MA at the time, but we were determined, charming and were both born with a very prominent and highly-developed “get away with shit” gene.
So Tim takes us to the registry near his apartment and we go in and get in line for our id’s. We get to the front of the line with our forms filled out and find out that we need some additional paperwork to get id’s. Not to be deterred, we say we will be right back, go to Tim’s place, grab a utility bill or something and head back to the registry. At this point, Tim got nervous and said we should abandon the plan and that it wasn’t going to work, but Ben and I were not to be deterred.
We returned with the appropriate proof of residency and were sweet talking the woman at the counter with a very elaborate story about Tim graduating college (true) and staying in Ohio (not true) and Ben and I moving out there so Ben could go to grad school and I could keep an eye on them both (way not true). Meanwhile, there’s a woman in the line next to us yelling and screaming at the registry person about how come she can’t get her id and generally making a scene. The irony was not lost on us that her application was probably completely legitimate and ours was totally bogus and yet we were the ones who walked away with Ohio state id’s that day!
I think maybe it was the year before that that Ben spent a couple months living in Chicago for some training for his new job. For my birthday, I went out to visit him and we spent a few fun days touring Chicago.
While we did talk our way behind the grill at the Billy Goat’s Grill (made famous by John Belushi in the old SNL “no coke, Pepsi!” skit) for a few pictures, our best mischief that trip was when we talked our way up to the top of the Sears Tower.
When we arrived at the Sears Tower, the line was well more than an hour long to go to the observation deck. After standing in it a while, and seeing a lonely hallway that groups of people would periodically exit from, we realized that there was another set of elevators down that hall. Not wanting to wait our turn to go to the top (what fun is that?), we left our place in line and scooted down the hallway to an empty bank of elevators. When the first elevator opened and a group of people let out, we went to get in only to find that there was an elevator operator we had to get past.
Without missing a beat, and without so much as a word between us, we both started looking confused and saying “Dad? Dad?” We told the elevator guy that we had just come down in the group before this and thought our dad was with us and were now a little confused and nervous to have lost him and could we go back up and find him?
The elevator operator looked from one of us to the other and said “one of you can go,” at which time Benny said that I should go find Dad and he would wait for me there. And that’s how we talked our way to the top of the Sears Tower.
I went up, tooled around for a few minutes, looked out the windows, stood on the railing and put my head on the glass, like in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and headed back down again. I probably wasn’t up there more than five or 10 minutes, but the scenery wasn’t the point. The getting away with it was the point and we had absolutely done that.
During his senior year in college, Ben started dating Amy and shortly after she got a good dose of mischief to welcome her to the family.
It may have been one of the first times I met Amy, and certainly one of the first times we really hung out together. It was St. Patrick’s Day and a group of friends and I would throw a party at this small bar in the Financial District in Boston. It was $25 to get in and then it was an open bar all night. Needless to say, it was a popular party and the place was always packed.
It being St. Patrick’s Day and this being Boston, it was cold enough that we all had heavy jackets, which were hung up on some pegs not far from where we had set up camp. I think it was Amy who noticed a guy rifling through our coats. Ben went over and grabbed our jackets and this guy took exception to that and got all up in my brother’s face.
Ben, being calm as a cucumber and a wise guy to boot, asks the guy: “Who are you, the Coatmaster?” The guy didn’t like that and grabbed my brother by the throat, which I didn’t like very much at all, so I charged him. I grabbed him by the front of his shirt and charged him backwards towards the door yelling at him to get his hands off my brother. Very quickly, the bouncers came to break it up and the Coatmaster, who couldn’t say which of our friends had invited him, was promptly shown the sidewalk.
That’s the only time I ever got in a bar fight (I like to point out that I won, but probably only because the dude was so stunned to be charged by a chick in a miniskirt and heels. I had the element of surprise on my side, for sure).
That incident didn’t scare Amy off, though, and for the next couple of years the three of us spent a lot of fun time together, either them with me in Boston or me with them in Portsmouth.
A few years later there was a beautiful wedding. A few years after that, a beautiful house. Then two beautiful children. On top of it all, Ben is running a small business now so he’s not as prone to mischief as he once was but every now and again you can see that glimmer in his eye.
Now they’ve got their hands full and I don’t see them as much as I’d like, so our date for drinks was a wonderful chance to connect.
The Drink: Before they got married, Ben and Amy lived together in a great apartment in downtown Portsmouth. This apartment was located one block away from The Rosa, which, for years, we visited on an embarrassingly frequent basis. The bartender there, Nick (or, to those that know him well, Nick at Night) became a great friend and even attended Ben and Amy’s wedding.
So, The Rosa was obviously the perfect place for the three of us to have our drink. The only question was, what to drink? Ben said that the thing that made the most sense was an Absolut Mandarin Sour since that is the drink that he has been drinking at that bar for 13 years. And so we did.
In an interesting twist of timing, the night of our drink was Nick’s last night bartending at The Rosa so it was very much the end of an era. He moved down the street to another restaurant, where I’m sure we will visit him in the future, but it just won’t be the same.