My perch, my meeting place, where I could be found....Kavanagh's. Chapel. Across from Group W Bench.
My father knew the owner of the now-closed restaurant/pub, Frankie, so bathroom breaks were at my disposal, plus I somehow felt like the guy acted as my dad's proxy - a back-up of sorts - even though I cannot recall one single year he was in the place as the drunken revelers marched up the street - or is it down? I never knew.
My pivot point was Richter's. Meaning, I'd stray from Kavanagh's, scouting talent, but once I'd hit this other long-gone New Haven staple I'd bounce back.
Complete strangers handed you lukewarm corned beef sandwiches. One year I even saw a pile of them - and I mean a pile - stacked high in the corner of one filthy pub, each sandwich wrapped in your standard white egg and cheese paper, up to my waist. In a corner. Not on a table. Just lobbed there, presumably, like one would stock snowballs behind a tree for an epic fight.
There were epic fights. Good, old-fashioned "Bam!" and "Pow!" and "Kla-Bop!" fights, not unlike what you'd see on the old "Batman" TV series. But it wasn't ever strangers fighting each other. It was guys who were there together, who would then ultimately commence hanging out again. One time a guy punched his pal so hard in the side of his face his earring had to be slowly pulled out of his cheekbone afterwards.
Sometimes you sweat your you-know-whats off, and other times you were freezing. T-shirt in '89 and winter coat in '90. Or thereabouts.
I went from being there with a guy or two who proudly waved to his firefighter father in the parade to them actually being the firefighters in the parade.
It was pretty much the only day of the year I drank beer. I really don't like beer. The "Black & Tan" year, when everyone was challenging the Elm City's finest bartenders to pour the perfect one, was particularly grueling. Shoe polish.
I'd grab a slice from Est Est Est. Almost every year. The dirty looks were astounding. Fortuitously, this was long before "designer pizzas," so there were no pies in the shape of a 4-Leaf Clover, or topped with cabbage.
I was always home in time for "Married: With Children."