Thursday, March 12, 2009

Speaking of Magic Hats...

Talking about Magic Hat beer reminds me of the days back in college when me and my housemates would attempt to get liquor and beer for our parties. It's not the beer that's reminding me of this story either, it's the name itself, "Magic Hat". It's a moniker that me and a few of my friends came up with for an old ivy wool cap that seemed to fool people into thinking that you were 21 or older.

Most of us at that time were only 19 or 20 years old, so obtaining any amount of beer or liquor required an older friend which wasn't always available at the time. We had heard through the grapevine that there was a liquor store owned by a Korean man in Greenbelt, MD that would sell liquor to college students without asking for ID. So, we all piled into the car and headed to the liquor store. Once there, we decided that only one of us should go in and attempt to get some cases of beer. (and we usually bought some nasty swill like Milwaukee's Best aka "The Beast" because it was like $11.25 a case or some absurdly low price.) We all agreed that Gene looked the oldest of us, but in hindsight, I think Gene had a rather boyish face. We dressed Gene as old as we thought we could make him look. After dressing him in an argyle sweater and slacks, we topped him off with an old woolen ivy cap (see above). Gene came out of the liquor store 10 minutes later with the booty and we all rejoiced. Later that night, we celebrated this wonderful miracle by getting shit-faced drunk. It was a good thing we now had some swill and cheap vodka.

Later that week, I took my roommate, Jeff, with me to the same liquor store. Feeling confident that I needed no ID to get beer, I marched into the store with no costume to make myself look older. At this point I just figured that the owner had no morals when it came to under-aged drinking and just wanted to make some money, so I thought I'd have no problem.

Think again, Brian.

The old Korean man immediately asked for some ID after I put a few cases of the "good stuff" (MGD) on the counter. I told him that I had left it in the car and would be right back. I ran out like the scared wuss that I am. When I got back to the car, Jeff decided he would take a chance and give it a try himself. The hat that Gene had worn was still in the back seat, so I told him to put it on in the hopes it would make him look older.

Even though Jeff was a year younger than me and looked it- Jeff came out with the case of MGD, it's gold label shimmered in the setting sun.

It was truly a thing of beauty.

It had also made us realize that we were in possession of a magic hat. Much like the glasses that Superman wore to become Clark Kent, the magic hat blinded people's ability to judge someone's true age. We had to use the hat wisely and not succumb to it's lure of power and not abuse its wondrous abilities. Lest you think that it was me that the Korean liquor store owner would not serve, I went into the store a week later with the hat on and had no problems.

The hat itself was actually my friend's, Gary, hat. He liked to wear strange and vintage style things like that and I think he may have worn the hat himself 3 times tops. It was just his style to do something like that. He had no problems letting us use the hat and after he left Maryland to go to Rutger's University, he left behind the hat, either because he forgot to take it or just didn't care for it too much. I grew to love the style of hat over the years, perhaps because I missed my friend. This day I still wear an ivy hat that's made of leather when I play poker. It's one of my favorite things to wear.

Eventually we all aged a few years and didn't need the magic hat. By that point we had moved out of the dorms and really didn't have any younger friends to pass the hat on to. The hat traveled with me to Pennsylvania when I dropped out of school. I even donned it a few times when the mood struck me. I eventually lost the hat in one of my moves and my wife eventually bought me a nice leather version of the same style hat.

Sometimes, I wonder if the magic hat's real magic was not that it fooled people into thinking you look older but rather that it gave you the confidence you needed to walk up and not look like you're trying to get away with something. Perhaps, it was a little of both.

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