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Archive for the ‘The 70’s’ Category

Seventh Grade Gangster Of Love….Part 1

In The 70's on April 27, 2021 at 5:57 am

‘Seventh grade is gonna be a trip!’ Jackie exclaimed, holding her paper schedule out to compare with mine. We had Mr. Gates twice that year- once in the Fall, and again in our last semester. Jackie and I didn’t share every class, so we were thrilled when we found we out had Metal Shop- together! as our final class of the day on Wednesdays and Fridays. This meant we could hang out in Mr. Gates class, barely do any work (he didn’t care!) and leave school together-we could catch the bus, or better yet- walk home and wait for the after school shenanigans to find us.

Nathan Hale: The ‘Junior Jail’

By the time June arrived, both Jackie and I each had boyfriends. Jackie was seeing a guy named Mike, who worked at the car wash on Westport Avenue, and went to Norwalk High. He was a much older man, a tenth grader. He wasn’t ‘to-die-for cute’, but he was one of those guys who, the better you knew him, the cuter he got. Mike was 16, and had a banged up brown Pinto which we loved, as he drove us around town endlessly, a delicious taste of the freedom we, too, might have when someday we got our licenses. Imagine- you feel like going to the beach-and you just go! Need something at Bradlees? Bam! You’re there! We were thrilled to go anywhere with Mike, and we’d tool around listening to WABC radio through his tinny speakers, singing along to “Band On The Run’ and ‘Bennie and the Jets’, and smoke our cigarettes like the high school kids we idolized. Mike was also known to bring us to Carroll’s and buy us 35 cent hamburgers, and sometimes, even fries to split, depending on how his tips went that day. Jackie, we both agreed, had found herself a catch, and I was glad to be along for the ride. Even if I wished Mike would invest in an 8-track player and some new speakers.

Lots of cool guys worked at the car wash..

Meanwhile, I was ‘dating’ Joey Baducci (by dating I mean: standing next to him at the pool hall and sometimes letting him kiss me -closed mouth of course!) I’d first met him at the beach, a few weeks earlier when Jackie, Mike and I were hanging out in the crowded beach parking lot on an early Friday evening. I was bored out of my mind, drinking what was left of a warm Shasta Root Beer, trying not to look at Jackie and Mike who were making out like Mike was leaving for the war. They had been promising for the past forty five minutes we were going to Carroll’s and I had skipped dinner in anticipation, grabbing only the soda as I sprinted out of the house.

Hanging out with these two could turn into being a third wheel on a dime- as soon as the kissing began- and nothing says ‘you don’t have a boyfriend’ as clearly as watching another couple make out, so I finally decided to walk over to the snack bar, and then maybe the pier. The sun was easing down on the horizon, a fiery orange ball, casting flame colored shadows across the sky, washing out the brick walls of the Calf Pasture outbuildings.  Soon it would be dark.

I started off across the lot. Somehow, Jackie noticed I was on the move (she must have come up briefly for air) and insisted that they come with. Whatever. The love birds trailed me like I was dropping crumbs, as I clomped along like a show-horse in my new white clogs. My flared hip- hugger jeans were extra long- so you couldn’t actually see my new clogs, but you could sure hear them. Any louder and I end up tied up to a lamp post! My halter-style denim vest- which tied behind my neck was nothing if not tres chic, showing just a hint of tanned cleavage. (Years later, I’d see this exact outfit on an undercover cop posing as jail-bait on 20/20)

Anyway, I could vaguely hear someone calling my name above the crowd. Or at least, someone was calling out ‘Lisa’ to any of the fifty thousand Lisas who were hanging out at the beach in the mid 70s.  But sure enough, I noticed Tony Baducci waving his hands at me. He was standing in front of a line of sweet muscle cars-Camaro, Chevelle, Camaro, Roadrunner- with a crowd I didn’t know. Mostly high school guys, probably gear-heads. They always had the best cars.

“This way, guys” I said to Jackie and Mike, gesturing the change of direction like an air traffic controller guiding a plane to the gate. The two of then walked arm and arm, forehead to forehead (hurl!) barely glancing over, then veering clumsily like loopy contestants in a three-legged race. Almost inevitably, a carload of boisterous teens almost ran into them, and the words ‘Watch it, D***wads!’ echoed out behind me. Glad someone said it. You would think this would stop them, but they hardly noticed. 

I approached Tony, who was acting overly happy to see me, as if we hadn’t just been together in classes all day hardly even acknowledging each other. Tony had longish, shaggy, brown hair, big brown eyes and a crooked nose that somehow made him look cool. In fact, he would have been boyfriend material if only he had been half-a-foot taller.  We didn’t run in the same circles because he lived across town from me, on the far side of the school district. Though this would matter less and less, and eventually not at all by the time we had cars -right now- at fourteen, it was important to keep your friends close by for convenience sake. Phone friends were good- don’t get me wrong- but you needed someone to traipse through the woods and smoke cigarettes with- someone whose house you could escape to when all hell broke loose in your own. In other words: someone within walking distance. Jackie was my close-to-homegirl.

Smoking: Why do it alone?

“How you doin’, Lisa?’ Tony asked excitedly when we walked up. “What are you doin’ down here?”

Like I was the last person he’d ever expect to see, despite the fact that what seemed like the entire junior-and senior-high schools were here at the beach. If there was a more popular hang-out, it was yet undiscovered.  Tony was smiling kind of weird and kept glancing at the guys standing behind him, who all stared at me with laughing eyes. I shrugged my shoulders, pointed at Mike and Jackie, who stood behind me sucking face and brilliantly said “I dunno……..just hangin?’ I mean- what is anyone doing down here?

Abruptly, Tony said “Lisa- this is my brother, Joey” and pointed to a guy standing to his left. A tall, sun-drenched guy-much older, maybe even 20 (!) with long, dirty blonde hair, wearing jeans, no shirt, and holding a Budweiser pushed him forward, and all of the guys laughed. Joey looked irritated and put-upon, but he held his hand out and I shook it. He was taller than me and wearing a blue silkscreen ‘Keep On Truckin’ t-shirt. He had thick brownish-red hair, afro-ish in texture and style, a sprinkle of freckles across his nose and cheeks, and a noticeable resemblance to Tony in his brown eyes. 

Joey was a stylish kinda guy…

“Hi!” he said flatly. Then he stared at me. Uncomfortable silence followed, and threatened to take over. 

Suddenly- someone’s car stereo blasted to life:

“Some people call me the Space Cowboy….(doodoodoodoodoodoodooodo) Some call me the Ganster of Lo-ove (doodoodoodoodoodoodoodo)…Some people call me Maurice…..(whit-wooo)….

We all jumped, like cats in response to any sound or movement. My heart thumped out of my chest. The stereo, which belonged to the shirtless wonder sounded awesome, once the startle passed. His car was a sweet silver Camaro SS, with black stripes on the hood, jacked up high like a toddler in her mother’s high heels.  It had shiny silver rims, Cragars all around. It was my dream car and my dream stereo.  

In order to hear ourselves talk, we had to move away from the stereo’s force field, so the five of us walked away from the car until the music was at a reasonable decibel. It was quite the voyage.  (Which was an homage to the intensity of the Camaro’s sound system!)

Halfway across the parking lot, we could once again hear ourselves talk. Tony got the ball rolling by telling Joey we were in Metal Shop together, and eventually Joey started talking a little. He had a nasally voice that brought to mind Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.  Maybe he had a cold? Joey told me he went to Norwalk High, was in tenth grade, and was getting his license next Saturday morning. I asked him if he had a cold, and he said not that he knew of.

“Wait’ll you see his car, Lis!” Tony said suddenly, to which Joey blushed and said “It needs work, but….”

To the left of me,  Jackie pulled her mouth from Mike’s with an audible ‘pop’ and said “So- are we goin’ to the snack bar or what?” wiping the slobber off her chin by rolling up the bottom of her t-shirt (hey! I see you went with the white bra covered in tiny red roses…now I can sleep) and wiping. I guess all semblance of order was out the window for her. 

“Ummm…I was waitin’ on you!” I said defiantly. Tony, sensing we were leaving blurted out: “Hey Lisa. Gimme your number” At which Joey elbowed him hard and spit “Don’t!” under his breath…Good Lord! These two were not on the same page.

Paper mixed with little specks of candy …mmmm!

I told Tony my number was ‘in the book’, along with what street I lived on. It’s not like any of us had pens or paper anyway. I wasn’t even clear on who was going to call, or even why, but the situation seemed harmless, so I went with it. Let the future me deal with it.

I said ‘Later!” then me and the lovebirds headed to the snack bar, where I bought a pack of Candy Buttons with my paltry change while Mike shared a red-checkered cardboard box of fries swimming in ketchup with Jackie, then devoured a delicious looking yellow Scooter Pie. My stomach growled. I had planned on catching the sunset, but by the time we walked the pier, the sun was already gone, leaving in it’s place a dark gray sky. We did however, see some impressive pails of bluefish and snapper, caught by the old men on the docks with bamboo fishing poles. Men with leathery, brown faces, who spoke only Spanish and whispered ‘bonito’ as Jackie and I strolled by, abruptly turning away at the sight of Mike. I was so hungry by now that I mentally pictured grabbing one of the fish in the pail and eating it cartoon-cat style, pulling out a complete fish skeleton when I was done and tossing it off the pier into the Sound.

The Pier

 

Seventh Grade Gangster Of Love: Part 2,3

In The 70's, Writing on April 26, 2021 at 9:13 am

When Tony actually called that next Saturday, I was surprised. Fact was, I’d forgotten all about our conversation at the beach. But I was more than happy  to meet him and his brother Joey, who said they’d pick me up in front of the Woods, because it sure beat what I was doing, which was nothing. I took a shower and put on my navy blue halter top, the one with the white polka dots, faded bell bottoms, tan suede belt, and white Adidas with blue stripes. Of course, I added my ‘gang-affiliated’ red, white and blue terrycloth sweatband from Trey, lest I run into any of my fellow Top Sixers out for an afternoon cruise.

The Woods. With a capital ‘W”

I clicked open the screen door and headed down my steep front lawn, then  stood at the end of Ronnie’s driveway. Cars flew by, zooming up and down Wolfpit Avenue, and horns beeped, guys shouting ‘wooo!’ and other stuff as they sped past. It scared me when they did this, it was aggressive; almost threatening. Of course, I’d get used to it, and eventually even (kind of?) take it as a semi- terrifying compliment? but this was a confusing time, hormones, affecting everything in our lives now.

After a few minutes, I spot what Tony had described as a ‘silver’ Chevelle driving towards me. I guess primer gray is a kind of ‘silver’. Joey slowed down and pulled carefully onto the strip of grass and dirt in front of the Woods. He was being very precise-you could tell- not settling for the spot until it was exactly right. Moving forward, then back, then forward. If I’d had a tape measure we could have verified his dirt to grass to tire ratio. I look both ways  and crossed the street, skirting around the back of the car to the passenger side. As I approached, I notice Joey pushing Tony, and Tony pushing back, and I hear Joey say, in a growl ( I suspect this is a familiar tone to Tony) “Get in back, asshole!” but they both stopped short as my bare midriff is framed by the open window (super sexy with dabs of pink calamine lotion from yet another bout of poison ivy). Tony scrambled to open the door, then scoots into the back, while I slipped into the front seat.

Joey’s Chevelle on a good day. Sweet!

“Nice car!’ I say, as I get in. It’s not exactly super nice now, but I see it’s potential, without a doubt. There’s no hiding the beauty of an American muscle car, regardless of condition. Good bones are hard to come by. 

Joey blushes, then  grins with pride and says ‘Thanks!” and I can tell it’s already the best car to him.  I turn around and say “Hey!’ to Tony, who smiles and gives me the thumbs up sign.  We sit there for a minute, no one saying anything.

“Welp….where are we going?” I ask, anxious to get a move on, and verbally dancing to try and prevent any signs of  it being awkward, since I can’t deal with uncomfortable silence. I also want to leave before I’m spotted ‘in a car’, as I’m (technically) forbidden to drive in cars yet, though mustn’t we all agree that as far as that goes, the train left the station a long time ago? 

“Where do you wanna go?” asks Joey, which I take as a good sign. A team player. I quickly look him over and decide he’s pretty cute. His hair is in a neat white-boy ‘fro, and he’s wearing  a Stones Tongue t-shirt and jeans. This, though is somewhat problematic, as music wise- it tells me nothing. The Rolling Stones in the 70’s are the kind of jumping off point that can land you anywhere. Joey could be into Black Sabbath, Loggins and Messina, or Lawrence Welk for all I know. And only one of the three is acceptable. Still, it beats Tony’s iron-on transfer t-shirt: two cartoon frogs underneath which reads: “Your Pad Or Mine’ (no question mark) with little green hearts above their heads. I know one of the frogs is a girl, because she has on lipstick and mascara. If the lilly-pad’s a rockin’, don’t come a knockin?

Your Pad or Mine?

I suggest the pool hall over by Bagel King, which is close by and probably pretty happening on this early Saturday afternoon. The guys agree it’s a good idea. Joey adjusts his side and rear view mirrors, and is very thorough and careful about pulling back out onto the road. He’s only had his license for two hours, but to his credit, drives like someone who’s had it all day. 

Sure enough, the pool hall is bustling, the parking lot is abuzz with people milling about and we wave and nod to those we know, or with whom we feel an affinity through t-shirts and hair lengths. Joey parks a good distance from anyone, so I assume parking isn’t his forte yet. Inside there’s a fury of commotion. Joey holds the door open for me (another good sign), and I feel a strong, welcomed blast of a/c, and hear the opening notes to ‘Summer Breeze’ coming from the jukebox, along with the crack of ball-on-ball action atop the green felt covered pool tables.  There are no open tables, so Joey tells me he’ll be right back, and heads over to put his name on the list and to pay. Tony and I walk the perimeter of the room, looking for familiar faces. I always feel so exposed in places filled with people until I find refuge in a familiar group of buds. 

C’mon Norton! Just hit the damn ball!

Joey joins us again, and asks me if I want anything from the vending machine. Nah. I could never eat in front of all these people! We lean up against the wall, and watch various games in progress. I like that Joey’s taller than me, so that also gets an invisible thumbs up. At 5’8, you’d be surprised at how few guys are even close to my height, especially at 14 years old. The jukebox plays ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ and the mood gets funky. Well- as funky as a room full of white people can get, anyway. I see that guy again- the one who looks like the singer in Pink Floyd, the one with the suede fringed jacket who has the chopper right out of ‘Easy Rider’. He stands to the side of one of the tables, holding a pool cue by his side, waiting to take a shot. He looks me in the eye, winks and smiles. I smile back,  then avert my eyes and feel the heat of a blush in my cheeks.

By the way, which one’s Pink?

What I remember most about these early relationships is that I had no idea (nor did I spend much time contemplating) what they were, or what they were supposed to be. At fourteen, the thought of sex didn’t even cross my mind! Kissing did, but certainly not sex! Bad things happened in the ‘sex world’. Girls ruined their lives with bad reputations and babies could be conceived (there goes all the fun in life! I knew that from babysitting!), and evidently,  once you ‘did it’ guys would never call you again. Which was part of the confusion. Why did guys even want to do stuff with a girl that would make him not like her anymore?  I would’ve been mortified that I was so replaceable….had I been even half aware.  As a young woman I took it as a compliment when guys liked me, and thought it was something about how ‘witty’ and ‘deep’ I was that attracted boys (and made me unique)- when in fact, at that age, the last thing on a guys mind was a girl’s mind!

Only girls with big ‘personalities’ made the cut….

Still, I had known, since last summer in Florida, that something had changed in the way guys were looking at me, by the way they were yelling things out of cars and whistling, and the way that the gross businessman had twirled his tongue at me, day after day (scaring me), as I rode my beach cruiser around the neighborhood, looking for a pick-up game of kickball, or someone with a pool. I knew things were different from the way my grandfather and grandmother discussed what I was wearing all of a sudden (Grandfather: ‘Jesus Mary and Joseph, she’s dressed like she’s on her way to Bourbon Street!’ Grandmother: ‘Oh Peter! She’s wearing shorts and a bathing suit. It’s 99 degrees in the shade out there and she’s going swimming!’) I knew when the lady next door to their house predicted I would be a ‘heartbreaker’ and then she and my grandmother  laughed. That sounded awful, like I was going to be cruel! How dare she? But nothing was clear. Except that a shift had taken place, and that there might be no going back. Which was in many ways sad.

The thing was: I liked the anonymity of being a kid .I liked being autonomous-I’d gotten comfortable with it.. I liked living life under the radar. I liked not worrying about my appearance, or wearing make-up, or putting together ‘outfits’- I liked to roll out of bed, grab a ping-pong paddle and find someone to play. I liked eating and running and playing outside without worrying ‘how it looked’. I was uncomfortable, and achingly self-conscious in this new ‘spotlight’. I didn’t want to be one of those girls who measured their self worth by how desirable they were to the boys. I didn’t care what the boys thought, and didn’t want to. If anything. let them be the worried about what I thought! But I could feel the whole mess coming down at me….complications and drama, like a giant wave- and I knew I couldn’t run far enough away not to get wet-or hurt- or drown. I never would have willingly left the cocoon I was in, it was fine! Sure, we all had problems here and there, but it was easy to push them to the side and just live!  The girl I was was okay and liked her simple life. At least until until Gollum, the evil one -stepped up and slipped away with her. 

PART 3: THE FACTS OF LIFE

When I was twelve my mother did a number on me.

My mother was pretty easy-going and open, but when it came to the subject of sex, she wasn’t exactly forthcoming. I was eleven-going-on-twelve when she decided to tell me the facts of life, though had I known this was the plan I would’ve been much less on board. That balmy summer night, we stopped at Venezia’s and got a mushroom pizza, then drove down to Shady Beach in her Gold Duster to have dinner by the sea. An uneventful, but pleasant evening- or so I thought! We sat at a picnic table, both eating a slice, complimented the gentle breeze, dabbed the corners of our mouths with paper napkins. Until, after some more small-talk when she suddenly changed things up on me and announced: “It’s time we had ‘The Talk!” She may as well have pulled out a switchblade- that’s is how ambushed I felt. It was ‘Shady’ beach alright! 

About to take a nice bite of delicious pizza when she said this, I stopped abruptly, furrowed my brows and asked ‘What talk?’ in the same way little Arnold might say: ‘Whatchu talkin’ bout Willis?’

Remember, this was the 70’s-the decade of After School Specials, and ‘talks’ abounded. The Drug Talk-starring ‘Pot leads Into Heroin’ spiel, the ‘Someone’s Dying/ Already Dead’ talk, the ‘Hitch Hiking Leads To Murder’ talk  ,and of course, the classic  ‘Dirty Old Man In The Park’ talk…..you name it -there was a talk. But the worst one of all- was the Sex Talk. I rolled my eyes and realized my mother had cunningly set the trap by luring me in with mouth-watering Venezia’s pizza. Well played, Mary Jayne…I made a mental note to stop liking pizza so much.*

“Can we at least wait until I’m done eating? Because I know this is gonna make me sick…” I said petulantly, rolling my eyes.

My mother let out a big sigh, and stared directly at me “Well…..I guess….” she said, obviously disappointed. I proceeded to take tiny bites of my slice, and even began pulling off some of the cheese in little strings and individual mushrooms in a lame attempt at stalling. Is there anything grosser than your mother talking about sex? (Well, maybe your father talking about sex?) She kept staring at me, and I kept pretending I didn’t notice. In the distance a dog barked, a man’s voice yelled ‘Where’s the god-damned lighter fluid?’ and gulls squawked. The air smelled like barbecue and salt water. The sun was turning from yellow to orange as it began its descent.

“Okay, missy!” she announced, after finally seeing through my ploy- stopping short only of adding ‘chop! chop!’ “Let’s get this show on the road!”

I threw my crust in the box, and slumped down onto the picnic table, crossing my arms on the table, then resting my chin on  them.

“LISA ANN(E?!)” she cried “SIT UP! PAY ATTENTION! AND CUT THE MALARKEY-NOW!!” I instantly sat up, even folding my hands neatly in front of me, twirling my thumbs in circles. I was deathly afraid of anyone over-hearing us. I gazed  with dead eyes over her shoulder. I looked everywhere but in her eyes. She pulled out a Virginia Slim and lit it with a yellow Bic. She inhaled deeply, then exhaled a bullhorn shaped cloud of smoke directly into my face. The After-School Specials hadn’t covered the ‘Second Hand Smoke’ talk yet. 

“Now…’ she began, “There are certain things in life that involve a man and woman..”

“I know-a!” I said, frustrated and embarrassed. 

“And there is the whole sperm and egg thing….that…….well, you need to know about it”

These words sounded so obscene to me. Even sex vocabulary was nasty!

“I know-aaa!” I said, this time more forcefully, teeth gritted.

That’s nothing! Mine talked about sex!

“The man’s penis…you do know what a penis is, right?” she asked. Seriously.

“OH MY GOD! KILL ME!” I cried, covering my eyes with my hands.

“And there’s, the vagina-which is on the woman, and where…..”

“OH MY GOD! STOP!” I looked up into the sky and put my hands over my ears. I couldn’t be less mature or less sorry about it.

My mother’s tongue started blending her tongue into her right cheek from the inside. She was getting riled up.

“Y’know, what?” she said, disgusted, her voice taking on a ‘let’s cut the crap’ tone “Ya can’t make this easy, can ya?” she threw her cigarette down and crushed it under her sneaker forcefully. Then she leaned down and brought up what was left of the unlit cigarette and  placed it on the table, readying it for the trashcan. My mother would never litter. She would not be held responsible for making an Indian cry.

“So- I take you to Venezia’s, out of the goodness of my heart-” she continued. ‘I try and-“

“Well, we didn’t really go in…. sooooo….” I said, interrupting. 

My mother’s mouth formed an ‘o’ and her eyebrows shot up to her hairline.  Her face was red. The tongue was going. But right before she blew her top, she seemed to think the better of it and switched her approach. She began talking softly, sweetly- like she was trying to lure a squirrel to eat peanuts from her hand. We both knew that I was not being disrespectful out of spite, but because I was crazy with embarrassment, and trying to distract her. I would rather have a terrible fight with her than listen to her talk to me about sex.

Mom: “Honey-Have you heard of the  fallopian tubes?”
Me: “Please kill me”

“Why do you do this? This is really all I want to know. It really is.” she said, her hands fluttering about, almost as if she was talking to another (invisible) adult. “Why? I ask? Are you just contrarian by nature? Is that it?” she asked gently, like it was an affliction I was not responsible for, and couldn’t help. At this my eyebrows shot up, and my eyes popped. Hadn’t we already established this? Like ten years ago? “You know who you remind me of right now?” she asked, arms folded across her chest, tapping her foot annoyingly in the grass, eyes wide 

“Your father” “My father” we answered simultaneously.

She reached over and picked the cigarette butt up, walked to the trashcan a few feet away and tossed it. She peered inside for a second, and I’m sure it pained her that she couldn’t take that garbage can and throw it into another, bigger one like she did to me at home when I so much as tossed a Kleenex into the bedroom wastebasket. The tissue wouldn’t have time to hit the bottom of the basket before she was emptying it out into the kitchen trashcan, and twisting that one up to go out. God forbid a wastebasket contain actual waste!

Somehow though, she tore herself away and walked back, perching on the edge of the picnic table bench, a signal that indicated we were leaving soon. She secured the pizza box, still half full, and took her keys out of her purse, placing them on the table. Then she cleared her throat. 

“I need to know if you have any questions about the Birds and the Bees?'” she asked. ‘And I’m not foolin’ around here, Sister!”

“No-aah! I already know everything….I swear!” This was not true, but someone opened the gate and I was getting the hell out of this conversational pen.

“Well, Miss Missy-let me tell you!… you’d better bet your sweet bippy that you do! Because this is important stuff! And you don’t want to end up…with…well…you know…” her eyes darted furtively back and forth, as though checking for bystanders who might accidentally hear the horror that was about to come out of her mouth. Certain the coast was clear, she then leaned in menacingly and hissed: “with child!” Her argument couldn’t have been more valid. After all, look what she was going through right now with her own child! 

“No, Mom- I don’t! You’re right…..Now can we go?”

After heaving a big sigh in my direction, she shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. She grabbed her keys and pointed at the pizza box I was to carry to the car. The woman had done all she could.

And thus ended the ‘Great Sex Talk’ of  1972.**

 

 

 *it didn’t ‘take’

**She ended up buying me a book. It was gross….

 

‘The Woods’ Part One

In The 70's on August 24, 2020 at 7:58 pm

…and to a Castle I will take you….

“The Woods’, (with a capital ‘W’) were diagonally across the street from my house. There were three or four acres of woods, and if you walked straight through them, you’d come out to a stream, and after a minute, you’d be behind Carroll’s Restaurant, and the Car Wash. Next to that was the Sunoco Gas station on the main drag, where we could sometimes cop cigarettes for fifty-five cents a pack.

But we rarely walked all the way through, because the jewel of “The Woods’ was smack dab in the middle, where we had collectively ‘built’ a sweet little hangout, a place we went to drink beer and smoke cigarettes, and if we were lucky, smoke pot. It was in a small dirt clearing,  created by dragging pieces of fallen trees and logs over, placing them in a wide circle, then adding a little fire-pit in the dirt, with round rocks to form a circle, and over the years, it really came into its own as a cool little place to gather, away from the prying eyes of parents and siblings and, of course, ‘The Man’. It was understood to be a privilege to spend time there, something you earned. There was no littering,  you had to leave with everything  you came in with, and it was a secret: not everybody was welcomed in. There were about ten of us who claimed the land, like a 1970’s version of stoner pilgrims, and we didn’t even have to throw a ‘fake-nice’ holiday to thank the people we’d stolen it from. We had no idea who actually owned the place, and just assumed it to be part of the town’s stash of land. We had no right to keep people out, and yet we did….we figured that since we lived the closest to it physically- that it was ours to rule. Like douchebag surfers at a beach with big waves.

But there were ways around the rules. You could bring a joint- or even better, a nickel bag along, and invitations ensued. Ditto a six-pack or extra cigarettes. In desperate times a lighter might gain you entry. You could be super-cute and  get a carte- blanche, all access pass. You might have a nice car, or know someone who knew someone who’s ‘in’- so it wasn’t that hard to be a part of it, but it wasn’t just ‘out there’ and all public either, like a park, or behind a school. The best part was: no kids on swings or security guards.

I was thirteen when I started hanging out in The Woods. Not surprisingly, Lance was one of the ‘woods guys’, as well as Michael and his brothers, who lived across the street from me-and a crowd of guys who were a little older who lived in the neighborhood. Most of them had long hair, wore pukka shell necklaces with T-Rex or Zeppelin band shirts , faded jeans and tan with red-laces work boots. They had bone-stones and wooden pipes with abalone inlays and carried boom-boxes with the best tunes blasting out of them. “Cities On Flame With Rock’n’Roll’ by Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple’s ‘Space Truckin’, and  ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ all howled out of those woods-just to name a few. I was so drawn to this music, and to the people who also loved this music, I felt I was finding my place somehow. The middle of the woods often felt more like home than my house.

Sometimes, I was the only girl at the hang-out, surrounded by rocker boys, but I always felt completely safe -in fact, I never considered safety at all, it was just (rightly) assumed. Had my Dad known I was in there and with who- he would have thought the worst. (and smoking marijuana wasn’t even the ‘worst’ he’d be thinking) But these guys, with their long hair and their loud music  had certain lines they didn’t cross and laws they didn’t break.  A big one was most definitely the jail-bait law. And though, like everyone else in my world, they hemmed and hawed and ‘no way’d their way around believing I was only 13- they also knew I wasn’t a liar, because who would lie they were younger in the days when we all wished we were older? They also knew what grade I was in, and could see how ‘green’ I was.  Not that I’m implying I was so god-damned irresistible, or anything of the sort, but we all know what people think (and say) about one girl in the woods with boys!  These guys had their eyes on older, hipper, more awesome girls anyway. I  fancied myself their ‘cool’ younger sister.

There wasn’t always pot and beer involved-how could there be? We weren’t privy to endless supplies or much money. Oftentimes we’d just sit around and rap about everything under the sun.  I remember what my Dad used to say to me when I was young and bored out of my mind, hovering around him like a hummingbird while he tried to relax and read the paper. “Oh, for God’s sake Annie, go do something!” to which I’d say, ‘there’s nothing to do!”– and exasperated, he’d huff “Oh, for Chrissakes – go sit on a log!”-and here I was, all these years later, in the woods, sitting on a log!

One of my favorite guys was Michael. The oldest in his family of five boys, he was the big brother I didn’t have. He was always around after school- working on his car, which he couldn’t even yet drive at fifteen- or hanging out at the end of his dirt driveway (the corner) with me and whoever else meandered by. We’d stand around, shooting the breeze as the cars zoomed by, flying down the hill on Wolfpit Avenue, horns honking, motorcycles rumbling, muscle cars wailing, leaving behind bits and pieces of  songs like instant snapshots as they sped away.  We either loved or hated the tunes, and many a sweet hot rod was rendered less than, as a crappy pop song slapped us in the face, while an occasional piece of junk was elevated to the sought-after thumbs up status from all of us should we hear ‘Houses of The Holy’ banging out its thudding speakers. We could spend hours at the corner, especially in the summer, doing nothing and everything all at once, heading indoors after dark, happy and spent.

Michael was  tall, and blonde headed, from an Irish family who moved to Connecticut from the Bronx. He had a cool New York accent, and a ‘cut-the-bullshit’ New York attitude I loved and respected. His opinions were cut and dry- but he was never mean, or arrogant-and if we disagreed on something- a book, a tv show, an eight-track purchase- he’d just gently tease me about it, or attribute it to me ‘being a girl’, to which I’d shoot back that his bad taste was on account of his ‘being a guy’. I’m sure it was in part because of his looking after me that I had a position of respect in the neighborhood.

One day, a group of us were sitting around, shooting the shit and taking tokes of good Hawaiian weed from a small glass pipe Lance had brought along. The woods were quiet, as we were sans boom-box and tunes, and the pot so strong it clubbed me over the head. I sat on my log, twisting my Mood Ring around on my finger (my ring was always black- with an occasional muddy brown) It was an overcast summer day in late June, summer vacation. The woods were still damp from the morning rain, and the smell of wet dirt hung heavy. I began focusing in on a bright green leaf, sprouting from a nearby bush (isn’t nature amazing? look at those water drops! What a cool pattern! I should draw that!) when all of a sudden a deep, booming voice shouted: “Hands Up! POLICE!”

There were seven of us in the circle, and we froze. We heard footsteps crushing twigs and  leaves along the path, foliage ruffling and then more shouting: ‘I  SAID “POLICE!” HANDS UP!!!” Suddenly, Lance jumped up, and high tailed it towards the back of the woods. A thousandth of a second later we all jumped up, and began scrambling after him. I ran as fast as I could, but it wasn’t easy, as I was wearing cheap, gold , Caldor issued, ‘jewel’ encrusted sandals, so Michael quickly circled back, grabbed my wrist, and pulled me at his much faster pace. We were hurdling over tree stumps, logs, boulders, and avoiding the  giant trees in our path at the very last second. When we hit the clearing alongside the creek, we were impeded by a cluster of wet, moss covered logs, several feet high, from a big felled tree. Once we scaled those, we’d be ‘home free’, and able to run the rest of the dirt corridor unobstructed. The other guys were so far ahead of us, they looked to be an inch tall, running and leaping like gazelles.

Michael let go of my wrist, and shouted ‘C’mon! Jump’ as he flew over the first log, using his hands as a springboard,  like he was part frog, or something. I followed behind, panting and giving it my all, but the stump was higher than I thought, and slippery with the moss. The 6 Million Dollar Man music began to play in my head- then the sound of a record abruptly scratching. I made it most of the way over, but my left foot caught on the stump. I felt a sickening crunch, and a lightning bolt of pain as my big toe smashed into the wood. I stumbled forward and crumpled to the ground, between two of the monstrous logs.

T-Rex and -wait!- is that Michael?!

Michael glanced back, and seeing me go down, he immediately veered off into the woods to his left. He tracked back, staying out of sight, and emerged right where I lay.  I was flat on my back on the dirty ground, which meant the the cops couldn’t see me from a distance, but if they pursued us, I was a dead duck. There was no way I could run, or possibly even walk. My toe throbbed, and I writhed in pain. 

Looking up and down the path, and determining the coast was clear, Michael hunched down, hopped over (again, frog-like!) and crept over to me. He peered over the top of the log, scanning the whole while for the cops, and then pulled me up into a sitting position. I could feel damp dirt, twigs and pebbles embedded in my back, as I was wearing -as usual- a halter top.  Michael pulled some dead leaves and stems out of my hair. I had tears in my eyes from the pain in my foot. 

“Are you okay?’ he asked.

“My toe!” I moaned. I still hadn’t looked at it. Michael picked my foot up by the ankle, to peer below my denim bell-bottom cuffs and told me later he almost dropped it from the shock of what he saw. To his credit, he managed to put my leg down gently, then wiped his hands on his own jeans. 

“Oh, Geez!” he said, sounding alarmed, his face going pale. “Fuck!!!… You need to get to a Doctor!” He sounded panicked. Which panicked me. 

I shook my head, and bit the bullet. I pulled up my pant leg and I looked down at my toe, now undulating with unbearable pain. My big toenail looked as though it had cracked all the way down the middle, vertically- then exploded. The nail was spread open like a double-door closet, presenting utter gore as it’s contents. Blood gushed out, pulsating in rivulets down my foot, and around my ankle, where it then dripped into the dirt. My golden, bejeweled sandal, dripping with shockingly red blood, as well as with caked blackish stains suggested some sort of bizarre royal massacre, the red and blue gems tainted and fouled (“My God! They’ve killed the Queen!”) I got woozy from the sight of it. So did Michael.

I wore the Caldor version of these…

 

“We gotta get you home!” said Micheal “Is someone there to take you to the Emergency Room?”

Right then we jumped as someone yelled “FREEZE!”  above our heads. We both gasped and looked up to see- Dack! standing above us on the other side of the log.  We were confused. 

Michael immediately asked: “Are the cops still back there? Did you see them?”

Dack started laughing. “COPS? YOU DUMMIES! I’M THE COPS!”….

Ha Ha f**ckin Ha!” went Dack….

There was a stunned silence as we put it all together. Dack had been fooling around, and knowing we were gathered together in the woods he had decided to trick us. There had been NO cops!!  Dack was just being a dick! If I had been able to stand I would’ve punched him in the gut with all of my strength.

“Really funny, Dack!” said Michael “Come and see what happened to Lisa coz of your little joke!”

 

Dack, still smiling, stepped around the log. I saw the color drain from his face as he looked at my mangled toe and bloody foot. “Oh, shit!!” he said, then “Oh My God!” Now I was getting really scared. I was completely straight as well. It was as if my buzz had taken off with the rest of the guys.

“Help me get her up, Dick!” hissed Michael. Tears were actually streaming out of my eyes at this point, and the pain was getting even worse. The guys lifted me to a standing position, and I draped my arms around each of them. I purposely leaned towards Michael, but there’s no easy way to accept someone’s help to walk, without getting up close and personal. I hated Dack at that moment, but needed him.

It took us awhile to get through the woods and across Wolfpit, then up my driveway. I was hopping, and trying to walk by using my heel. No one was home at my house- my parents were at work, and my brothers probably off with friends. As soon as we got to my front door, I told Dack to take off. He tried apologizing, but I wasn’t in the mood to hash it out. “Just GO!” I shouted.

Michael helped me up the stairs, and went into the hall bathroom to run some warm water in the tub. He grabbed a towel and a washcloth out of the cabinet, and started looking through the medicine chest for some antibiotic ointment. 

 

“Put your foot in the water, Lis…” he told me. Just looking at the heavy flow spilling into the tub made my toe ache even harder.

“I can’t” I sniffed.

“Yes you CAN! You gotta!…I think” Michael insisted.

I leaned against the wall by the tub and lifted up my injured foot. 

“Turn off the thingy!” I whined. There was no way I was going near that water.

“Okay, Okaaay!” Michael said, twisting the water off. Neither Michael nor I had any first aid smarts whatsoever.

“Just help me to my room!!” I cried, angrily. He held me by the waist while I hopped across the hall. I got to my rose print covered canopy bed, and sat, holding my damaged foot up. Michael handed me a wet washcloth, and I cleaned off as much blood as possible without actually touching anything. The toenail was no longer bleeding out, but it was a clotty mess. Michael went to the kitchen and brought me a Flinstone jelly jar glass of water and two Excedrins. It made me laugh. After I took them I said- “What now? Do I call you in the morning?”  

“Har, har!” Michael answered. “Lisa- for real! – have your Mom bring you to the hospital when she gets home. That looks bad!”

“I will-a!” I insisted, tired of hearing it.

We spent a few minutes talking about Dack, and how he was a major jack-ass. He also commented on how my room was so ‘girlie’ and that he knew it would be. I gave him the finger, and he laughed. Michael said he was calling me tonight to check on my progress. I thanked him, and he positioned the towel across the  lower half of my bedspread, so I could place my blood-stained foot up there. It struck me that the red roses on my bedspread and canopy looked exactly  like what I imagined the bloody toe print from my injury might be, if I would ever have the nerve to make contact.  But, at least it would coordinate. I shivered at the thought.

Mine was white with red roses, but it was very ‘girlie’ for sure!

After Michael left, I lay back and tried to figure out how to explain this whole thing to my parents. Obviously, the entire story had to be tweaked. “Well, Mom and Dad- I was smoking a bowl in the woods with a bunch of guys, and heard someone yell ‘cops!’, so what else could I do but run?” wasn’t gonna fly. It was an infraction factory! I racked my brain so hard for something believable, that I fell asleep, and didn’t come to until an hour later when I was awakened by my mother, keys jangling and pocketbook in hand- hovering above my face with her Jackie O sunglasses, demanding “Lee Lee?! MY GOD! WHAT DID YOU DO?”

 

 

The Woods: Part 2

In The 70's on August 23, 2020 at 12:46 pm

While I had nodded off, the toe bled out a little more, depositing even more gruesome stains on the baby blue towel Michael had put over the bedspread.  It looked like the drop-cloth from a crime scene,   My mother, of course, was freaking out. Before I was fully awake, she reached over to try and touch my foot, and I jumped sky high, scaring me and her equally.

DON’T TOUCH IT!” I screamed. Halfway  across the room at this point, she put her hand over her heart, her mouth open in a little ‘o’. 

“Well, for crying out loud! How am I supposed to help you if I can’t see what’s going on?” she said, offended.

“What’s going on is that my toenail is cracked in half, and I don’t even think I can walk! I’m crippled!” I retorted.

“How did it happen?” she asked. She squinted her eyes down, and looked at me in what I felt was a suspicious manner.

“I was running and I fell” I answered.

“Running?” she asked, incredulously “Since when are you running?”

“I RUN!” I said, “I run a lot!” 

I can run!

“Oh, pssht!” she said, nodding her head back and forth, and throwing her hand as though swatting a fly “Walk: Yes! Ride your bike? Yes! Get in cars you’re not supposed to? Yes. But run?”

I felt defensive and insulted. Because she was right. Running was not on my agenda, and I wouldn’t do it in public except when required. Like in gym, or if the house was on fire, or if Joe Perry was at the end of the street. Oh-and also if I thought the cops were  invading our secret hang-out while pot was being smoked. 

“Well!…..I guess I won’t be running anymore, anyway- now that I’m ruined!” I said, dejectedly.

My mom rolled her eyes, shook her head and said unsteadily- “Oh, for heaven’s sake- you’re not ruined!” but when she looked in the general direction of my foot she added, “I don’t think!”

I gasped. She sighed.

“Let me go get my glasses!” she said, sounding put out and I understood she meant her regular reading glasses, not the Jackie O’s she was now grasping in her hand. I also knew she was more worried than she was letting on.

“OK… I guess” I said, dejectedly. Now that mom was here I could be as pathetic as I wanted to, and use the sympathy I was going to get to my own advantage. Even so, looking down at my battered toe, I knew I’d  be paying a disproportionately high price for a little extra attention.

“Can you flick  my stereo on, please?” I asked, pouting. She pushed the power button, and my Realistic’s dash lit up in green and gold. ‘Fooled around and Fell In Love’ was playing. It struck me that I’d fooled around and fell on a log. My mom left to find her glasses.

When she came back into my room, she began adjusting her readers forcefully, really jamming them up against her eyes.

“Ok, now!” she said, approaching the bed “Hold still and let me look. I won’t touch it.” She slowly leaned over, hovering above my foot. She cleared her throat, glanced at me, then  bent further down. I was wide eyed and ready to spring at the slightest touch. Within a split second (and as predicted) things went haywire. My mother’s reading glasses skied down her nose, then swooped down dead man’s drop, heading straight for my toe. Luckily, because of my inborn mistrust of people in general, I had expected some sort of disaster, and was poised to abort the mission. My leg snapped back with the velocity of a mousetrap. The reading glasses landed with a thud, where my toe had just been.

“That’s it! Nope! Not doing this!” I yelled, my leg pressed up against my wall, jazz hands flailing, blocking my mother’s access.

She knew she was wrong, but after she swept up her glasses and tsk, tsked, she folded her arms across her chest, rolling her tongue against her cheek, and tapping her foot against the floor. Like had committed the dangerous faux-pas!

My Mom really needed to work on her game face!

“This isn’t very funny, young lady!’ she admonished “You’re making me a nervous wreck! Now let me look at the damn thing!”

“Funny? Who the heck’s laughing? You almost killed me” I screeched “Please just leave me alone! Do it later!”

“Let me look without my glasses. Then I’ll leave”

The ‘thinking cap’ music from jeopardy played, while I squinted my eyes down and considered the risk. I knew I’d be nagged to death until I showed her. That would almost be as brutal as the injury.

 ” ALRIGHT. But hurry uuuuup?!” I moaned. 

I offered up my leg gingerly. She got up close and personal. Her hand went up over her mouth, and the color drained from her face. She looked away quickly. 

“Come on. Get in the car. We’re going to the Emergency Room” she said, and I hated how serious she sounded. Maybe I really was going to become disabled, or lose my toe! I actually felt scared.

The Woods: Part 3

In The 70's on August 22, 2020 at 4:21 pm

My mother digs a pair of  flip-flops out from the back of my closet floor,  hands one to me and says ‘Here, put this on”  Meanwhile, she calls Jo-Ellen to come and watch my brothers, and when she arrives, gives her money with which to order pizza. I put in a request for mushroom, knowing it will be unanimously vetoed in my absence, just as it usually is in my presence. Jo-Ellen, looking cute in a pink tube top, denim bell-bottoms with butterfly appliques, and cork-soled platform shoes, looks at my foot and gasps “Oh! Gross!” and I just shrug. I’m already used to the reaction. I carefully get into mom’s Gold Duster and we drive across town to the hospital. My toe feels so exposed and vulnerable out in public that when we’re walking into the Emergency Room it seems as though everyone has it out for my foot- you’d be surprised how intimate people’s normal  proximity feels when you’ve got a land mine at the end of your toe. 

A free roof? Jackpot!

At the hospital, my mother explains the situation to the woman at the front desk, a no-nonsense type with short salt and pepper hair, who stares quizzically at her, one eyebrow lifted, like maybe she’s speaking in another language until I finally hoist my leg up and show her my toe. She inhales loudly, and winces. And this is a woman who I assume, has seen it all. We take seats in the waiting room, my mother filling out paper work, and me on sentry duty, making sure no one crosses into my personal space. The worst are the little kids, buzzing about like house-flies, erratic and unpredictable, the adults exhausted from trying to keep them in check. A little boy of about five, wearing an H.R. Pufnstuf tee, airplanes by, sees my toe and yelps ‘Ewww!’ speeding  away. Same to you, buddyboy!

We’re summoned quickly into the examining room, where I struggle to get up onto the metal table, with it’s awkward white crinkly paper down the centerline. While we’re alone, I ask my mom if I can get a vanilla milk-shake from Dairy Queen on the way home, and she says okay so quickly that I also ask for 16 magazine and some Chicklets, to which she replies, ‘Just hold your horses, young lady! Let’s take things one at a time’. Still- it was worth a shot.

A nice looking doctor- maybe mid-thirties or so (unlike Dr. Boone, my 93 year old family practitioner, who sometimes -I’m sorry to say- seems filled with dust, a husk of his former self) walks in with a nurse, a clipboard in his hands. He is tall, with brown Ken-doll hair, and a dark tan, nicely offset by the blue-green scrubs he’s wearing. He’s kind of cute for an old guy. He smiles, teeth gleaming, and introduces himself (“Dr. Makolroy”) while consulting my chart.

It says here you have a toe ‘situation?’

“It says here, you have a situation with your toe” he says, and I nod, holding my leg up and out.

“Oooooh!” he says, a note of concern in his voice. He grasps my foot at the ankle and I flinch.

“Don’t worry!” he assures me, “I’ll be careful” Yeah- you and everyone before you! 

After his close-up examination he tells the nurse to bring him various items with different numbers that sound like hospital codes. She leaves and the doctor turns to my mother. He explains that I will need a tetanus shot and that the toe will have to be flushed, which sounds like we’re cutting it off, throwing it away, and not looking back. My mother nods enthusiastically, like this is a great idea- and why not? It’s not her toe. I will also need the nail removed, and he will refer us to a specialist close by to do the job. I had no idea someone out there specialized in toenail removal, and wondered what life events led them to such a career. My mother doesn’t ask any questions, though I sure have some.

“You mean, I won’t have a freakin’ toe-nail anymore?” I ask, eyebrows furrowed.

“Oh, Lisa- don’t worry about it!” my mother says. “The doctor knows what’s best!” Don’t worry? Are you nuts? I don’t see her walking around town with a missing toe-nail! Believe me- with all of the patent leather sandals she wears and nail polish she owns, she’d freak! 

The Dr. smiles and pats my knee. “Don’t worry, honey. The nail will grow back” My mother jumps right in “Yes! That’s correct! It’ll grow back!” she says, all excited- like she knew that all along. Pa-leeze! I have a feeling this doctor could suggest that ‘putting me down might be in order,’ and my mother would go along…

The nurse returns, and I realize it’s time to ‘endure’ whatever is next. The shot isn’t pleasant, but it’s nothing compared to the moment when the antiseptic is poured over my open wound. It feels like I am being stung by a hive of wasps, though as is my style, I say nothing, grimacing but holding it in-while inside my head I am hysterical. In fact, for a moment I almost black out. I fantasize about what it would be like to sock Dack in the jaw with a sock full of pennies. I picture a strong swing of my arm, a thwack, and a rainstorm of golden pennies swirling to the ground onto his unconscious body. Then I decide quarters would be better: heavier.

Before we leave, the Dr. asks to speak with my Mom in the hallway, using the excuse that he needs to give her the specialist’s card-but you’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to fool me! He’s probably going to tell her about some worst case scenarios that might befall my foot- infections, possible amputation, etc. Things I might not be able to handle. I know all about this-I’ve seen my share of Marcus Welby, MD. I hear them murmuring, but can’t make out what they are saying. Several other doctors  wander in, and look at the toe. I get the feeling they have nothing to do with the case, but that the word got out among the doctors in the Triage like juicy medical gossip: ‘You’ve gotta see this toe! It’s whack!’ It’s after the fourth or fifth curiosity seeker that I realize that the inappropriate laughing I keep hearing in the distance is my mother’s!

I’m glad Mom and ‘McDreamy’ were in such good spirits. But I’m dyin’ over here!

My mom comes waltzing back into the examining room with the doctor, her eyes sparkling. You’d almost think she was having a good time. The two of them are chattering away, talking not about me- but rather, Mystic Seaport and lobster!  I can see my mother is blushing and flashing her pearly whites. Please tell me she is not flirting with the ER Doctor, while her daughter is being treated for a serious injury!

The toe will not be covered with band aids or gauze, but I have to keep it elevated and sanitized. We are to ask for a rush appointment with the specialist, and tell him who we were referred by. Maybe we can get in tomorrow. If he gets a chance, the doctor says he’ll  call the guy himself and give him a heads up. When we leave, my mother says “Ok, Millard. Thanks for the help!” Millard? What is that-a first name or a wooden duck? How does she even know his first name? He replies with a wink, and the smiles on both sides are 100 watts. I’m glad everyone is taking my plight so seriously.

On the way home, I get my milkshake, and since my mother is in such a chipper mood, she stops at Jet Variety and gets me 16 and Seventeen, a pack of Chicklets and a red Charms lollipop. She tells me that all of these things are being gifted with the stipulation that I stay home tomorrow- in bed -with my leg elevated, while she’s at work and trying to get me an appointment with the podiatrist.

“Be a good girl like me, then go marry Keith Richards!”

“Millard says, he’s going to call him and-” she chirps, but I interrupt.

“You mean DOCTOR Malarkey – or whatever?” I ask, accusingly. “Stop saying Millard! That’s such a stupid name anyway! God!!”

My mother sighs, and turns up the radio, a hint of a smile still on her face. Radar Love by Golden Earring blares out of the am radio. I can’t wait for this whole ordeal to be over! But somehow- I gotta keep cool now, gotta take care….

 

THE WOODS: Part 4

In The 70's on August 21, 2020 at 10:49 pm

I certainly had a lot of other things going on-or hoped to. It was the beginning of summer, and now my foot injury was taking precedence over everything else. At first, the random change of plans had seemed kind of exciting- like when a big storm is heading your way-until it actually gets there, and the power goes off, the food goes bad, and you realize the magnitude of things we take for granted (electricity, fresh food, water, manners, civility) and that we are  (pathetically) ill-equipped to deal with life in ‘survival-mode’. That’s when it hits you, this isn’t ‘fun’ at all. The same could be said about  the ability to freely walk without thinking about it.

“This is going to be so fun!’

This was my summer, so far: Kicking back in my canopy bed, propped up on pillows, flipping through Sixteen ,reading Jacqueline Susann’s “Once Is Not Enough’ (written, by the way, on her deathbed), listening to “Smoke On The Water’ and ‘Angie’ ad nauseum on the FM radio-because getting up to change an 8 track after it ran its course was a pain, and there was almost always a song I didn’t like creeping up. At least the radio might surprise me. I was occasionally making complicated forays into the living room as well to watch daytime t.v.,  desperately trying to avoid the boring Watergate hearings. My new ‘routine’  got old quick. 

My doctor’s appointment was three days after my Emergency room visit, but felt like weeks. Of course, I talked on the phone for seven or eight hours a day, which kept me busy, and up-to-date on all of my friend’s comings and goings. It was mostly routine stuff: Trey fighting, or wanting to fight, or having fought someone, Toni in love with, thinking of breaking up with, or planning to marry John, and Cheryl’s updates on what the crew in her neck of the woods (technically four streets over, but another country as far as neighborhoods went) was up to. Compelling stuff. But at least I could enjoy this form of socializing from my bed. Because moving about was no easy deal.

“I’m not a crook! Yet I’ve stolen every channel for coverage!”

But it was trying to sleep that was the worst! I was a side-sleeper, and though I propped my foot up on several pillows, letting it dangle off, clear of obstruction, I would twist and turn in my sleep and be startled awake- shrieking in pain as my toe touched down on the mattress, feeling as though I’d been struck by the Hammer of the Gods. 

Keeping clean was a major problem as well. There was no way I could submerge my foot into a bathtub full of water, and the thought of a shower-with the water pelting down onto my open toe, was unbearable. So I had to take bird baths, and wash my long hair in the kitchen sink, which took forever. It brought a whole new meaning to my least favorite description of my hair color as well: dishwater blonde.

As I leaned into the sink, and clumsily tried to wet my hair under the faucet, I couldn’t shake the vision of my long locks being pulled down deep into the drain, where god knows what black-hole, skeeviness lived. I couldn’t use the stopper either, as my hair would immediately become entangled in it, like an octopus about to spray ink. In fact on day one, with my Mom safely at work, I spent several minutes lurching about the kitchen, head soaking wet and upside down, searching for my towel, the captive metal strainer swaying to and fro like a pendulum. I dealt with all of this while trying to avoid hitting my wounded toe on any hard surface, such as the kitchen cabinets, against which I had to stand to reach the sink in the first place. It was a long, exhausting production. And I had to do it three whole times. It was murder on my thirteen year old psyche. (Not washing my hair was out of the question. What if someone saw me?)

Birdbaths: A barrel of fun….like to see you try it, peckerneck!

 ‘D’ (-as in ‘doctor’) Day eventually came, and after I went through my bird bath/ shampoo drama, which proved especially heart-stopping with my mother- who was off from work to take me to my appointment, continually  cutting it way too close to my exposed foot, fetching her coffee and flitting about unpredictably, as if we were all sporting ‘regular’ toes. I was becoming very resentful of the ‘foot freedom’ everyone else took for granted. A commercial or print ad for shoes, socks, nail polish, even corn remover, left a bitter taste in my mouth. I wanted to, once again, walk amongst the healthy and not have to think about my every move.

It occurred to me that I would never be one of those inspiring handicapped people, who never let their physical limitations hold them back. Like the legless man who won marathons, or the paralyzed woman who climbed the highest mountains. Instead, I would be overflowing with self-pity and complaints, and probably drive everyone close to me away, if this minor foot injury was in any way an indication. Chances are, it would end when I was mysteriously served arsenic in my tea. There would be no investigation. 

I got dressed in a denim halter top and bell bottom jeans (one bell rolled up past my knee to prevent contact) and one hot pink Bradlees brand rubber flip flop for my foot. We drove  downtown, parked behind the movie theater, and proceeded to walk ( and hobble, respectively) to my foot doctor’s office, which was located above a barber shop, and ironically, required navigating a steep staircase to get to. Like a doctor having bad handwriting, this could be thought of as funny, but really wasn’t at all. By the time we made it to the waiting room, I felt as if I’d climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and I was less than pleased.

My mother filled out the paperwork given to her by the perky, red-headed medical assistant at the front desk, while I stared at the wall, occasionally glancing around. There was only one other person in the waiting room, a man with a cast, crutches leaning up against the wall near where he sat, reading Field and Stream. He must have had a ball walking up the steps! I wondered if I would end up with crutches and/or a cast. I liked the idea of a cast because it would protect my wound like a shell, plus: cool autographs, Toni. But I really hoped that somehow I could just be back to my normal, sock and shoe-wearing self by the time I left the office. 

I hoped my foot would look like this, by the time I left the Doctor’s office…..

After a good 20 minute wait, a nurse holding a clipboard finally opened the door to the waiting room and called my name. My mother escorted me into the back to meet the doctor, and discuss the treatment plan. If I could have left my body like a ghost, floated away and returned when it was over, I would have been thrilled. The thought of anybody anywhere near my foot made me cringe!

Before we got into the examining room, a huge man, sweating profusely, came barreling down  the hallway, his girth spanning it’s entire width. He was heading towards us at a fast clip, and I moved as best I could towards the right side, hoping to use my mother as a shield should we collide. I’d never played ‘chicken’ on foot, but like the car-version, I wasn’t enjoying it in the least. Luckily, the nurse led us into a room off to the right, before our paths crossed.

I was eased into a brown leather chair that looked similar to a dentist’s. I climbed in, and the nurse then began hitting buttons for different lights and gadgets- one of which raised my leg up vertically, until my mangled toenail was framed in fluorescent light, in a dramatic, circle- of- life- lion-cub- over-a-cliff kind of way, center stage. It looked especially disgusting at this point, like a pool of blood with glass shards jutting out.

The larger-than-life guy then entered the room, smiling and shaking my mom’s hand, while I focused in on the nurse, who was gathering up dangerous looking picks and scalpels that I assumed would be used on me. It made me sick to my stomach, and I had the urge to somehow call the whole thing off, but it was too late. I was jarred out of my trance by the big man himself- who extended his hand for me to shake (back in the seventies, you could shake hands in a medical setting without fear of a medical plague, or a bottle of anti- bacterial gel) and it suddenly hit me: this was not an orderly, or an office assistant, this was my actual doctor!

He was a giant man- six-three, or so, and I estimated his weight at about 350. He had long brown, somewhat stringy hair, reaching  halfway to his elbows. It wasn’t even tied back. He had a pleasant face, green eyes and a friendly smile, but certainly did not fit the image of any doctor, anywhere, ever. (The singer, Meatloaf, maybe) As soon as he was done introducing himself (“Dr. Granger, but you can call me Dr. Rick”) I began urgently trying to communicate telepathically with my mother, to convey to her silently “What in God’s name is this?” along with the much more important: ” Help! Get me out of here!!” She steadfastly refused to meet my glare, and yet I could tell by the way she was fiddling with her hair that she was just as freaked out as I was.  It was shocking to realize she wasn’t going to abort the plan, and I knew that’s why she couldn’t look me in the eye! I promised myself that later on I would go off on her- if of course, I survived, after going under the knife with this-this person- at the helm.

The next thing I knew, my mother was blowing me an air- kiss, though still not meeting my gaze- and saying “Lee-lee- I’ll be back in an hour or so, I’m going to just run a few errands while the doctor treats you”…and off she went, yapping to deflect concern, my imaginary hands gripped around her neck. Perhaps she was heading off to the five-and-ten (as she still called any store with a counter) for a slice of custard pie and some coffee, maybe to peruse some magazines, have a smoke, pick up some doo-dads. How nice for her. 

I imagined a scenario wherein I would actually die while she was gone. Would she look back at these last moments and wish she’d called the whole thing off? ‘I should have gone with my instincts’ she’d say. Or: ‘I knew something was off, and poor LeeLee- trying to signal me with those puppy-dog eyes! Why, oh why!-didn’t I listen?’ Or, would she be so guilt filled that her brain would block it all out as she went forward with a substantial lawsuit that would afford her an early retirement and a chance to travel the world in style after a short, but acceptable grieving period?

The Woods: Part 5

In The 70's on August 20, 2020 at 10:59 am

As soon as my mother left (and even way before!) I knew I was at the mercy of whatever this doctor had up his giant sleeve. He asked me how I got hurt  and I told him ‘running through the woods and tripping on a log’ to which he gave me a quizzical look, tilted his head-and asked: ‘Who were you running from?” and I got strangely nervous, imagining he knew the whole pot story (but how?)-and I went straight into my ridiculous split second theories: he knew Dack, or the story was circulating around town-which of course didn’t make any sense but when it came to a guilty conscience, I was willing to believe anything-if only for a split second.  When I lied, I felt like my head was made of glass and everyone could see the truth inside, flashing like a neon sign. Because of all of the Catholic guilt that had been installed in me as a child, I knew unequivocally that I deserved to be caught for lying. (Though technically- this was more a situation of ‘leaving things out’- than lying) So, when the doctor started laughing hysterically-indicating he’d been kidding- I felt a wave of relief. Also, I was glad I hadn’t spilled the beans, as I was about to do.

He continued smiling as he reached up and pulled his long hair back, securing it sloppily with a hair tie he pulled from his white lab coat(I spent the next few minutes imagining myself brushing his hair, pulling it back tight, and securing it properly. How much better it would look brushed!) He grabbed a pair of thick glasses off of the counter and put them on, low on the nose, then sat on a (presumably) sturdy stool, which had wheels on it’s bottom and rolled himself clumsily over to my mangled toe.

What EXACTLY were you doing in those woods, Mister?

“Let’s see what we’ve got here!” he said, clearing his throat and getting up close to my foot, now under the spotlight like a Cinema star. He leaned his head back, adjusted the lights, looking down his nose through the lenses of the glasses, his face twisting up for a moment- which I noticed, and which confirmed this wasn’t the kind of thing he saw every day- or maybe ever. He said ‘hmmm’ in a way that was the opposite of comforting, then stared into space for a solid minute before he rolled himself with some force away from my foot and let out a long, slow whistle.

“That’s quite a beut, you’ve got there!” he said. Up till then, I thought only my Dad used the word beut. He used it to describe big, freshly caught bluefish, an amazing NFL catch, or someone’s epic injury, like a shiner acquired during a Little League game. My Dad hadn’t seen my toe, as he was presently in the Florida Keys at an insurance seminar, something my mom told me, holding both hands up in quotation marks around the words ‘insurance seminar’.  Now that they were divorced, lots of stuff went under the bridge, and it no longer seemed odd that there were important things- both good and bad, happening without my Dad around.  I knew there was supposed to be something deeply sad about that, but the actual feeling of hurt was still way out at sea- like a sad note in a bottle that would someday wash ashore without warning, its words breaking my heart, mostly for the girl I used be, and the ‘original’ family I once had.

The doctor stood up with a groan, and began re-adjusting lights and rifling through trays of instruments. He talked to me, matter -of- fact style- describing what was going to happen next: “I’m going to have to remove the nail completely. I’ll numb your foot with a shot first, so you won’t feel anything. Afterwards you’ll be in a bandage for two weeks. You can’t get it wet, and this is important: you can’t play sports, either” Oh no!, I thought wryly- please don’t take sports playing away! Other than being forced to throw spirals to my brothers with the family football (“Or I’ll tell mom”…fill in the blank, there were a myriad of transgressions!) sports was something I watched, not played. Even then, it was strictly NFL football, absent in the summer. I wondered if the next time my brother turned on channel 11 to watch a Mets game, I could say-on a technicality- “Doctor said no sports‘ and make him watch something better. The doctor continued: “The nail should grow back…… eventually” not sounding at all sure of it. He then stood up and  put on latex gloves, while the nurse walked in with a hypodermic needle.

“Okay” I murmured- I mean, what choice did I have? I was about to become a freak with no toenail! Could I just paint a fake one on with nail polish, or would I be forever self conscious in sandals, at the beach, in the shower? I didn’t even want to have to look at it- and it was my toe! The doctor came at me with the needle at this point, and I quickly clenched my butt in the seat, sitting up straighter, bracing myself for the shot. I looked up at the white pockmarked ceiling, and held my breath. The needle shot through the thin skin of my foot, which stung like a wasp, but I said nothing, flinching almost imperceptibly.  In less than a minute, it felt like my foot had disappeared from the ankle down. I decided not to look at what was going on, and closed my eyes as the doctor and nurse huddled around my toe. I could feel the weight of my leg being shifted as my foot was being worked on, but eerily, nothing from the foot or toe itself. I wondered if this was how it felt to be partially paralyzed. About five minutes in, I heard the doctor huffing, and telling the nurse impatiently to get another tool. I briefly glanced down, and was shocked to see that there was enough spilled blood to write ‘Helter Skelter’ on the walls- not just the title- the actual book! I felt sick to my stomach. The site of blood is so alarming … even more so when it’s spilling out of you! The nurse scurried out of the door, and for a second the doctor met my frightened eyes with his own.

“It’s okay!…..Really….it is!” he said, but he looked pale and unsure of himself. He walked away from my foot, one of his latex gloves completely red, glistening with blood. I heard him shuffling stuff around behind me. My toe looked like stomped red grapes. He walked back over and set a white cloth screen in front of my foot, completely blocking my view. It was like a temporary fence built around a construction site, and my curiosity piqued because of it. Obviously, much like the Mafia, he did not want me to see what was going on in his ‘construction business’, and this ratcheted up my nerves. The nurse scuttled back and forth, handing the doctor a new metal tool-something that looked like it would be used to ‘cleave’. I closed my eyes again, my heart skipping beats and tried to silently force myself to recite the lyrics to favorite songs in my mind….unable to stop thinking of ‘Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath’, Trey’s black-light Jaguar poster and that hipster doofus, Bingy. Inevitably, I opened my eyes for a split second, and to this day I can recall what I saw: A giant man, his face twisted into a grimace, his hairline beaded with sweat, long strands of wet brown hair sticking to his shoulders and neck, pulling with all of his weight and every ounce of strength he had, on my busted toenail…which obviously preferred to be left where it was. It was gory, it was disgusting, and I decided that I was really (not kidding!) going to punch Dack right in his stomach with all of my might the next time I saw him. 

Jordan: Part 1

In The 70's on June 10, 2020 at 11:21 pm

Don’t mind me!

I have always been good at identifying my ‘kind’. The smallest of clues- a ring worn on a certain finger, hair length, a word used in conversation, response to music, even general demeanor (I liked ‘moody’)-could tip me off to a person worth getting to know. One who appreciated the same lifestyle, so to speak. (At 15, my ‘lifestyle’ consisted of hanging out, skipping school, smoking pot and daydreaming about rock stars. Even back then, you could tell I was really going places!) So, the first time I saw Jordan standing in front of the house across the street, (as I was glancing out of the living room bay window, on my way to the kitchen for a strawberry Figurine) I stopped dead in my tracks and took a second, third and fourth look. I deduced he was probably about my age, with medium brown hair past his collar and was wearing jeans, a black t-shirt, and an unzipped green parka, with a faded jean jacket visible underneath. I sensed a cool ‘vibe’. (If by ‘vibe’ one means that somebody good looking will also be ‘cool’) This was the foxiest  guy I’d seen in a long time, not counting the bands on my bedroom walls. Of course, I couldn’t see his face clearly from this distance, but I had a feeling it would probably hold up under TGS (teenage-girl scrutiny) even up close. I didn’t want him to notice me gawking, so I relocated to a less obvious window-the one in my brother Rob’s room. I sat on the edge of his twin bed, carefully off to the side of the window, my Farrah Fawcett ‘do  blocked by the curtain and watched him like an undercover cop doing secret surveillance. And I couldn’t wait to report back to the precinct. In this ‘case’ the precinct was my best friend Cheryl.

I called her house from the kitchen phone as I unwrapped a Figurine and made an urgent and heartfelt statement.

“Cheryl! You are not going to believe the stone cold fox I was just looking at!” I said, and then I whistled for effect.

“Did you get the new Creem?” she asked, assuming I was referring to a picture in a magazine “Is it Joe Perry again?” 

“Umm…nooo!” I said, as if her guess was completely ridiculous instead of more than likely. “I’m talking real person!” 

“Who? Where?!” she asked excitedly. Obviously it had been awhile since the subject of a hot guy (in real life) has come up around here.

“You know the guy with the cool Corvette?” I ask. “The one across the street?”

“Oh, yeah! Love that car!” Cheryl says. We’ve been coveting the ’72 Black Stingray Corvette ever since the guy who owned it moved in last year. We don’t know much about him, except that he’s old (at least 35), a bachelor, and lives alone in the large house, which seems weird, but hey- if you’ve got the cash, right? Free world.

“Yup! Well- this babe was just standing over there! –right across the street! I walked by the window and I was like: Whoa!!” 

Silence. It sometimes takes Cheryl a minute to gather her thoughts. Finally she says: “Well that’s cool”

“Yes it IS! So-wanna do something?” I ask her, “Go to the Remarkable Book Shop, or somewhere?” 

“OK….I’ll come and get ya in about an hour” she says, yawning. 

“Maybe he’ll still be there! Wait till you see!” I say, laughing and unwrapping my second Figurine. She laughs back.

When Cheryl comes to get me there’s no sign of the fox, and in fact, the house looks empty and locked down. It isn’t until a couple of weeks later that I see him again. I’m getting the mail, and there he is, standing on the edge of the garage, smoking a cigarette. My heart stops when I spot him. He blows smoke from his mouth and then waves at me. I give him a quick wave back and notice he’s stubbing his cigarette out on the driveway, grinding it in with his boot. And then he begins to walk towards me. Oh God! What do I say? I’m being ambushed by a complete babe, I’ve had no time to prepare! It’s like a chemistry pop-quiz. As in- let’s see if we have any.

Well, hellooooo there…

He walks towards me with a purpose, right up into my space, confident but not cocky. Up close he did not disappoint! In fact, I felt a little woozy just looking at him. He was my height, with chestnut brown hair (‘like a horse’s tail’ I later gushed in one of my horrible poems-though in his defense, his was soft and shiny, where some horse’s tails are not. More like a Barbie’s horse’s tail?) It was the perfect length (about to grow past his shoulders) and he had big, hazel eyes, green and gold flecked, and lashes I’d kill for. He also had the the big, beaming smile, all straight white teeth that lit up his face, which was by now a staple of my ‘type’. (Years later when I would see Jon Bon Jovi on MTV for the first time, I’d pronounce him the blueprint of said ‘type’. Just me and a hundred million other girls and our little ‘secret’)

“Hi!” he said, reaching out a hand “I’m Jordan”

“Hey!” I said, shaking his hand, noting his strong grip and offering up my name.

Are Jordan’s a type?

He was wearing a faded denim jacket, lined with sheepskin for warmth, and brown Caterpillar hiking boots with red laces. He was ever so slightly bow-legged, a look I loved. It was a subtle thing, a definition of sorts that spoke to me. Basically, Jordan was way better close up than from a distance.

“Do you live here?” I asked, indicating the house across the street from mine.

“No…My Dad does. I might move in with him, but right now I stay with my Mom in Fairfield”

All I heard was: “I’m moving here”

Then he leaned in, as if to tell me a secret, and asked in a hushed whisper: “Do you smoke reefer?”

Do I? I’m a freakin’ Professional!

“Yeah” I answered, thinking how good he smelled. Was that Paco Rabbane or just the scent that naturally emanated from hot guys?

“Well- I have a bone, if you have a place to smoke it” he said. Great, I thought, now I’ve got an assignment. Why was nothing easy?

It was a cold day, the start of November- the sky was an endless gray slate and it had been intermittently plopping down fat raindrops the temperature of melting ice-cubes. Not exactly conducive to a relaxing marijuana pow-wow. We couldn’t go in my house, what with my tattle-tale brothers present, and Faye expected home from Stew Leonard’s at any minute. Jordan said his Dad would be back soon, so that was out.

And then a light bulb came on. It’s amazing what my brain could come up with when faced with the possibility of not smoking a joint with a cute guy.

“There’s some houses at the end of Deer Run” I said, pointing to the end of our street. “They’re being built, but they’re a long way from being finished. I’m pretty sure we could go in one!”

Jordan smiled, and said “Let’s book!” and so we did.

We talked about music on the five minute walk….Jordan loved Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, and adored Black Sabbath  (Bingo!) He told me he was always in trouble with his parents and at school, and couldn’t wait to be out on his own. He had just turned 16, but couldn’t get his license because his parents didn’t trust him. But someday soon, he wanted to buy a souped up Camaro and jack it up in the back with GT Qualifiers and cool rims and put in a 427 small block.(Note: That’s gonna look sweet next to my imaginary 1970 Black Charger) After that,  he wanted to get his own place where he could blast his stereo, throw keg parties, and get away from his parent’s incessant nagging. I listened and wished he had that place already and that we were there.

Who didn’t?

We arrived at the end of Deer Run Court and squeezed through a wall of wet bushes, which natch, snagged my cream colored cable knit maxi-sweater and practically ripped off one of it’s large brown ‘wood’ buttons. ( I’m a fashion maven, don’t be jelly) To his credit, Jordan went in first and  tried to hold the bushes apart, but it was futile, and we both got soaked, though I appreciated the gesture and told him so. After fighting our way through (no one told us to bring along a machete), we heaved ourselves into the backyard of one of the unfinished houses. It was a large, two story raised ranch, very similar to the houses in our neighborhood, but brand new. There weren’t any doors or windows on the first floor, but we could see windows, still sporting big stickers across the panes, on the second. It would make a fine shelter for our purposes. We walked in, stepping over pieces of lumber and piles of sawdust, weaving around saw horses, and stepping on scattered remnants of sand-paper. It smelled of damp wood and winter. Our breath came out in little clouds from our mouths, as I followed Jordan up  the finished staircase to the second floor. There we chose a room with windows, and sat atop two large tubs of unopened grout. Perfect!

Farrah Hair, Cable Knit Sweaters and Plastic Boots. (It’s Bradlees, b*tch!)

 

Jordan, 1976: Part 2

In The 70's on June 9, 2020 at 12:14 am

My name ain’t Bic, but I keep that Flame….

Jordan reached into the chest pocket of his jacket and pulled out a neatly rolled joint. He reached in again and out came a yellow Bic lighter. He was sitting to my left, and he looked devastatingly cute, his long brown hair hanging in a wave over one side of his face, the joint now jutting from his lips, ready to be lit. Butterflies fluttered in my chest then dove into the pit of my stomach.

 

He flicked the lighter with his thumb and touched the flame to the joint, taking a big pull. He then looked over at me with a closed mouth smile- and a few seconds later let trails of smoke slowly out of his nostrils and then his mouth. He said ‘Aaaaah’, dreamy eyed, as he handed me the joint. I took the joint from his hand, sparks flying when his fingers touched mine. I lifted the joint and took a hit. Immediately I felt the weight of the smoke in my lungs, and the heaviness of the buzz as it took hold. I pictured smoky tendrils rising inside my head, sharp but swaying- like seaweed, or the Grinch’s fingers, branching off to the right, left and center, surrounding my brain like a S.W.A.T team about to bust down the doors and storm in. I handed the joint back to Jordan, pulling my sweater tight against my chest like a blanket, as I was suddenly shivering in the cold, but also because I was starting to feel self-conscious. I began thinking only negative thoughts: I could never get a guy like Jordan because he was too fine, and I was -well- need a list? Too tall, too fat, too average, too boring. The S.W.A.T team had obviously gained entry. I was sure my thoughts were spot on when Jordan began to talk.

“I have a girlfriend. We’ve been going out for two years…..She’s pretty cool” he said casually.

Wonderful! That makes me effing ecstatic! I think.

 “Really?…That’s cool” I say, ever quick to hide any real emotion. Now I just wanted to go home. I know it’ll keep getting worse the more I smoke, but I will continue puffing on the joint, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world and that it will somehow be different this time.   We keep smoking until I’m so stoned I start to feel confused. I think about the homework I haven’t done, and wonder if the school had called because I skipped first period again to hang out at the luncheonette, drinking coffee with Tara and Renee. I didn’t plan on skipping class, but by the time I looked up at the clock it was too late to go. I knew my father and Faye would be interrogating me at the dinner table tonight, where I could either lie or fess up  but either way it’d turn into drama. (and who am I kidding? Of course I’m gonna lie!) I thought about the dismal weather, and my boring hometown. I wished I could just run off to Wales and live in a stone-castle with turrets, as the wife of Robert Plant, which was really where I belonged. Jordan was cute but taken, and being around him was a tease that only made me feel worse. Why couldn’t I be more….special?

Suddenly I’m jolted out of my trance as Jordan waves his hand back and forth in front of my face. Startled, I jump a little and Jordan laughs. With his stupid, foxy smile. And gorgeous ‘spoken-for’ eyes. And those girly lashes!

“What are you doing?” he asked, bright white smile. “Zoning?”

“Yeah…I guess” I said, then: “Welp! I guess we should get going!” It was starting to get dark, even though it was only about five o’clock. Gotta love the winter.- in New England.

“Right?” Jordan said, both statement and question. His voice was deep and smooth, the kind that would sound cute even over the phone. We both stood up and made our way down the stairs and out of the empty house. We walked back the same way we came, only this time, we were stoned out of our minds. Walking ahead of Jordan, I didn’t even try to hold off the bushes- I dared them to rip my sweater- it was ugly anyway! It was raining lightly, the whole scene a study in dampness and gray. Jordan made some conversation- how happy he seemed!-but I was feeling very self-conscious and inadequate, and for some reason wanted to get home and brush my hair in the worst way. I picked up the pace. Jordan kept up with me though, making eye contact and smiling  (‘swoon!) but I twisted it around in my mind insisting to myself that he was comparing me to his girlfriend, and I wanted to say: “Look Away! I’m hideous!”

When we get to Deer Run Court, we walk towards our respective houses, in the middle of the lightly traveled cul-de-sac. When was he going to veer off and go left, towards his driveway? Finally I said “Well, thanks for that!”  and threw my hand up in a quick wave, walking to the right, and  down my driveway without looking back.

‘So then I said-” “Uh- buh-bye!”

“Hey! Maybe we can do this again next week!” Jordan called after me. I just nodded and continued the beeline to the open garage and the door that led to the rec room. Faye’s Grand Prix was parked in the garage, still ticking and wet. It was oven warm when I entered the house after being out in the cold for so long and it felt like a hug. My Dad wasn’t home yet, but I could hear Faye fiddling with pots and pans upstairs, and my brothers chattering in the kitchen. I walked to my downstairs room, closed and locked the door,  grabbing my hairbrush off of the desk. Then I sat down at the vanity and brushed my hair while staring into the mirror. I both liked and hated what I saw. I sat there for a long time, under a cloud of depression, feeling like I was stuck in deep, deep quicksand, and knowing there was no one who could pull me out.

Jordan:1976 Part 3

In The 70's on June 8, 2020 at 10:20 pm

I don’t see any signs of Jordan for several weeks despite patrolling the windows often. Then, one day I do see him out there -but  decide to ignore him. After all, what’s in it for me?  It’s not like he’s coming over to see me either. I notice him here and there, over the week wandering aimlessly around the front yard of his father’s house. Jordan’s dad, who I now know as Mr. Baylor, (thanks to the newly  etched name on his mailbox) is a bachelor, and dresses like the early 7o’s version. Rib-knit turtlenecks, polyester bell-bottomed slacks, dress boots with buckles and man jewelry: pinkie ring, watch, astrological sign pendant (Virgo?) and porn-star/ motorcycle cop mustache. He tears out of the neighborhood in his black Corvette, often catching second gear with a chirp, which makes it seem like he is always going somewhere much cooler than here. At the dinner table one night, when my Dad actually acknowledged Jordan’s existence (“Who’s the long-haired clown across the street?”) I told him that he was Mr. Baylor’s son, and he muttered ‘Bachelor, my ass!” under his breath, shaking his head. He then asked Faye where she bought the pork roast, as she hurriedly poured what was left in the bottle of Chablis into her over-sized wine glass and announced: “Here we go again!”, at which point we kids excused ourselves, chairs screeching across the floor and made tracks to our bedrooms to take cover. 

My bedroom window, all the way to the left, overlooking the front porch, bottom floor.

It’s November, and ridiculously cold out. Most of the leaves are gone, though every once in awhile you’d see a little gang of them being whipped across the cul-de-sac, racing to oblivion. The trees are mostly bare and the wind whistles through their skeletons, gaining strength and volume. I’m looking across the street from my bedroom window, which looks out over the front porch. The sun is outn but filtered as if it has slowly backed away from us while we weren’t paying attention. I’m talking to Cheryl on the phone,  holding the receiver to my ear with my head cocked against my shoulder, and carrying the (rotary) phone with my other hand. I have a super long  cord so that I can be mobile in my room and still yap away. I’m on the phone constantly- and have been since 1972. I talk incessantly: when I’m in bed, at my vanity painting on make-up, in my closet  picking out clothes, and of course when I’m spying out the window. If the door bell rings, I can look out and to the left, and see whoever it is, up to their knees. Directly across is Jordan’s Dad’s house- so I can see what’s going on over there secure in the knowledge that Jordan can’t see me, what with the front railing scrolling up and around the faux pillars out front. 

So, I notice him on this particular Saturday afternoon as I’m talking to Cheryl on the phone. My heart skips a beat. 

“Hey!” I say to Cheryl, interrupting her ‘All My Children’ Jenny and Greg update. “Remember that kid I told you about-Jordan? Well, he’s over at his Dad’s right now. Walking around in just a jean jacket! Probably freezing his ass off!” I laugh. Secretly, I’m getting pissed off at how good he looks. I go over and sit on my bed, putting down the phone (not the receiver), and grabbing a Newport from its box. I light one up and inhale deeply.

“What an idiot!” Cheryl says, agreeing with me. We are both somehow mad at Jordan for being cute and having a girlfriend. I mean- the audacity! Cheryl hasn’t even laid eyes on him yet, but she’s all ‘Don’t waste your time’ and ‘Who cares’ about Jordan. Even though there is zero going on, and all Jordan is guilty of is sharing a joint with me- and being polite. But  this is why Cheryl is my best friend. Unconditionally agreeing with me no matter how stupid my conclusions.

Still, she’s only human. “How does he look?” she asks.

“Really, really good!” I blurt out. I stand up and continue to leer. We both crack up. We make plans for Cheryl to come get me around seven tonight. I stroll to the Vanity for a zit check. All clear. We’re going to meet Jon at the Broad River Lanes and go from there.

I hang up the phone and walk back over to the window. Jordan appears to be looking towards my window. I duck down in a knee-jerk reaction, though halfway down, I realize that there’s no way Jordan can see me, so there’s no need to do any whack-a-mole style stalking. I see him walking back into his garage. Maybe he needs to go call his girlfriend. I decide to go outside and check the mail. I grab my coat and scarf, and do a once over in the mirror. I’m not rockin’ my full-tilt ‘ready to go out’ look- but I’m fine for a casual Saturday afternoon mail-retrieval. Faye, my dad and brothers are gone for the day-  something about a birthday party (who listens?)  I’ve got time to kill until Cheryl comes to get me. Let’s see if Jordan has anything to say, should he notice me, not that I care. As I check the mirror one last time.

I push the lit-up orange button on the garage wall, and the door hums and shakes open, as I think:  why is there always such a big commotion with these doors? ‘Oh-My-God-I’m Opening!’ Like a mini-earthquake. It’s irritating! I feel the cold air charging in as I walk out to the driveway. I have my Ray-Bans on, and I’ve wrapped my coolest scarf (with some poor furry animal’s tails hanging off each end) over my coat. I’m wearing the brand new tan suede boots my Mom bought me last weekend at G.Fox in the Trumbull Mall. She said they were a Christmas present ($70.00 on sale!) but I know she’ll probably ‘forget’ and get me other stuff at Christmas. As I exit the garage, I see Jordan doing the same across the street, and he looks right at me. I avert my eyes and immediately begin walking as though the driveway is a runway lined with photographers. Shoulders back, strutting. I act like I don’t see him, keeping a neutral expression on my face, a casual ‘what’s up with the mail’ kind of look. I notice he’s coming my way, but I’m all about looking at the mailbox. I never noticed it was copper colored, with a black flag and post. For a mailbox it was actually pretty nice. Evidently, I’d looked but never ‘saw’. It wouldn’t be the first time…

Wow! That mailbox is stacked!

When I get to the box, I do a little about-face move, turning completely away from Jordan’s driveway, yanking open the metal door and peering into the mailbox. I reach in and pull out several envelopes, and a Sports Illustrated magazine with Tony Dorset on the cover, ‘Running For The Heisman’. Even though I truly love football, I feign interest in all of the mail: A bill from the Norwalk Hour, another from Connecticut Light & Power, something ‘To the parents of Lisa Chuzas’ from Norwalk High School (into my coat pocket that goes) a flyer with coupons from Pathmark (ut-oh, Faye! Be strong!) and a ‘Please Give’ postcard from UNICEF. I drag out the whole process, until I’m left wondering if Jordan is even going to approach. I close the mailbox and quickly glance over my shoulder. Jordan waves really fast, from the end of his driveway like he knew he’d only have a small window in which to get my attention, and was patiently waiting for it. He yells: “Hey!” I lift my sunglasses up with my free hand (Oh! What a surprise! Didn’t see you there!) then put rest them back down on my nose. I smile, stop in my tracks and just stand there waiting, making him come across the street to me, like I only have a minute for such ‘nonsense’ and am on my way to do something busy and important. Once again, I am blown away by his foxy appearance as he steps closer. High top Nikes and a Zildjan t-shirt under his jacket. His eyes are glittering, and of course, there’s that smile. He looks even better than several weeks ago, and I love that his hair is slightly longer. He’s making me feel giddy inside. Even though I definitely don’t care. 

Why do I play all of these head games in the first place? I know it’s a defense mechanism, a way of saving face if things don’t work out, or if I put something out there that isn’t reciprocated. But what did I know? I was a fifteen year old  girl prone to mood swings and insecurity, with a stepmother, regular mother, stern father, real brothers and one step, and no one (other than my mom and Rob) seemed particularly fond of me. I was the designated ‘black sheep’, and wasn’t one of those ‘happy-go-lucky’ people who woke up ‘peppy’ and ready to grab life and maybe cheerlead or something. And sometimes it’s my type’, who feel the worst inside, but act so nonchalant – like they could care less what you think, when in fact it shatters them into a million pieces when they sense you rejecting them. Just sayin.

So, I stand there, in the driveway, hiding all emotion, and Jordan says “What’s up! Long time no see!” The timbre of his voice is deep, but there’s a barely perceptible lilt in it that sounds like music to my ears. He’s flashing those pearly whites as well, and it’s like I’m  waving a white flag in front of me, because I can’t stop looking at him, and may actually give up resisting him if this keeps up for even a minute longer. Someday REO Speedwagon will write a sappy song about this. Coz I know I’ve almost forgotten what I started fighting for.

“Not much!” I say, and add: “But I’m going to see Black Sabbath at the Garden on Dec. 6th!”

“Wow!” he says, impressed. “I heard about that show. I’m gonna try and go, too!”

Good luck, pal! They’ve been sold out for months, I think. But I just say ‘Cool!’

Jordan looks quickly over his shoulder towards his Dad’s, then leans in, using his hand to pretend to scratch the side of his nose, but it’s just an incredibly lame ruse to cover his mouth and muffle his voice, in case any of the people who are nowhere in sight might read our lips or overhear him whisper: “I have a joint! Wanna go smoke it?”

I answer immediately, forgetting to play uninterested. “Can you come over my house? I mean- no one’s home, but I don’t want to get you in trouble with your Dad!” We are so afraid of our parents still! Our dependence on them is for everything: Food, shelter, clothing, money. We want to break away, but have no idea how! We are clueless as to what that would involve. We picture ‘freedom’ in frivolous daydreams about smoking pot freely, staying up all night and having parties. Somehow these imaginary places we pine for are fully furnished and paid for, and our dream cars sit in the driveway having fallen from the sky. We think along the lines of ‘Cribs’ when it is way more Tommy used to work on the docks, and Gina works the diner all day. 

“Sure!” Jordan says, ‘Let’s book” and we both walk down my driveway, through the garage and into the house. Jordan is very impressed with Marley, the lifesize replica of the giant blue Marlin my Dad caught in the waters off  Key West last summer. I tell Jordan that I’ll never forget the morning I came out of my room, after ‘Marley’ had been hung on the wall in the rec room directly across from my door. They’d hung it while I was out- and I must not have noticed it in the dark when I came home. The next morning, I charged out of my room, saw it and almost had a heart attack! I stopped dead in my tracks, in front of a giant fish who was literally stopped dead in it’s tracks.  It took about ten seconds for my brain to comprehend what I was looking at. The Marlin was huge (about 6 feet across) and it looked vicious, like it was fighting the gray paneled wall as it twists away from it in a fury. I guess we’d all look like that if we were forever frozen in our “I’m fighting for my life over here’ pose.

Surprise! It’s a 6 Foot long Dead Marlin!

Jordan totally gets it. “I’d have freaked if I saw that, and didn’t expect it!” 

 “Wanna see my room?” I ask, knowing he’ll be impressed with my posters, beer tab chains, and record collection. I open the door and point inside, and Jordan walks in. (no way I’m going in there with him! I’ll have you know, I’m not a slut*) and I go to turn on the tv while he’s oohing and ahhhing and yelling words out of my room: “Zeppelin!.. Aeromith!…Nice chains!…I have that album…Where’d you get this?”. I turn on the tv to find there’s nothing on- and I’ve checked all five stations! So I keep the tv on, but turn the volume all the way down. I sit down on the couch and pick up the tv guide from the coffee table. Dorothy Hammil’s on the cover. Now there’s a ‘peppy’ kind of gal! My Dad would love having her for a daughter!

I’m always happy! I just ‘skate’ through life!

 

I’m looking through the tv guide, aimlessly….waiting for Jordan to come out of my room. And when he does, I can’t help but laugh. He’s wearing a floppy ‘hippie’ hat I keep on top of the big bear that I won years ago at the St. Thomas Fair, a pair of my old sunglasses and a white feather boa that Victoria gave me, that hangs on my bedpost.. He takes one end of it and dramatically throws it over his shoulder, and says: “OK. I’m ready!” and does a fake supermodel walk around the room, lips pursed, nose in the air. It cracks me up, and then we’re both laughing, and when he goes back into my room take it off, it feels like the ice is broken, and things get a lot more comfortable with Mr. Jordan Foxy-Fox.

 

 

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