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Posts Tagged ‘1970s’

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 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. 

Victoria’s Holiday: Part 1

In The 70's on November 16, 2019 at 4:53 pm

In order to be friends with Victoria, you had to be comfortable with never knowing the whole story. She was a book with pages missing and lines crossed out.  She thrived on being  mysterious and rarely showed her hand. She didn’t hate being perceived that way. 

It helped that she was a master at evading questions- even mine, which were persistent, and somewhat crafty on purpose. My M.O. was to make it seem like I wasn’t all that interested in the answers (but was I ever!) Victoria would allude to many things-(“Wait till you see what I bought/who I met/what I did the other day! You’re gonna flip!”) I’m not saying it wasn’t freakin’ exciting!

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how she managed to obtain so many things and know so many people in so many places. She lived in the same suburb as me- among the cul-de-sacs and good schools and station wagons, but she wasn’t one of us.  

 Sometimes we’d hang out 24/7 for whole weekends.   She always had money, and was very generous with it.  But she had no job and barely went to school anymore (and her single mother didn’t object, as far as I knew!) 

 Victoria had even taken it upon herself to drive when she was on the verge of fifteen, as though we lived in a lawless society – taking over the family’s second car-a wood paneled station wagon, and driving it everywhere, license free. Her mother didn’t do anything to stop her, which was inconceivable to me!  I couldn’t understand it, but I sure envied it! There were no drugs involved (other than pot) nothing seemed amiss, yet something had to be going on, right? Money didn’t grow on trees- even for exceptionally pretty girls. It hurt my head trying to figure it out, because if there was a way to get what she had I wanted in. Who wouldn’t?!

If there were skeletons in Victoria’s closet, I’d never see them, what with all of her stuff!

 

Victoria’s bedroom  was a teenage girl’s wet dream: forty pairs of designer jeans neatly dry-cleaned, hanging in her closet in graduating hues of blue. The closet bulged with tops of all kinds: from bad-ass concert tees to silky works of art that flowed and fluttered past her wrists like wisps of smoke. She had all manner of coats and jackets, from black leather to suede, from faux to real fur- every length, every color, spilling into the downstairs closets, amazing coats wrapped in dry-cleaner’s plastic. And did someone say shoes? From designer heels to platforms that would make The New York Dolls jealous, Victoria had it covered. There were hooks teeming with sparkly belts, scarves and hats. Inlaid wooden boxes of  jewelry: turquoise, black onyx, cat’s eye, malachite, moonstone.  

Walking into her room was like walking into a funky Greenwich Village Boutique – and if I’d been her size (tiny!) I’d have had access to the wardrobe of my dreams. As it was though, I was four inches taller than her, a cat to her kitten. I could wear some of her stuff- her long, flowing blouses and longer fur coats,  her jewelry, perfumes and make-up.  Getting ready to go out at Victoria’s, to me,  was a little like the scene in ‘Night Of The Comet’ where the two sisters  (the world’s most giddy apocalypse survivors) danced around an abandoned Macy’s to the song ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’, the makeup and perfume counters a dreamy free-for-all. Luckily for us though, there were no punk marauders brandishing machine guns and dialing down the fun factor in V’s room- (at least not yet)

Girl having fun…because that’s what they want to do!

Her home was a suburban split level ranch, which her mother had gotten in the divorce. There was an above ground pool in the backyard, classed up by a sturdy wooden deck, glowing at night with twinkle lights during the  warmer months of spring and summer. We’d sunbathe on the deck, wearing string bikinis- slathered in baby oil, smoking cigarettes and talking guys. In the freezing cold winter we’d  camp out downstairs in the shag carpeted family room , sleeping on the giant pull out couch, often stumbling in while the sky was a forlorn light gray, the sunrise minutes away.

I missed her when she went out of town, but it was always fun anticipating what she’d bring back.  I especially loved when she went to L.A. for long weekends, because when she got home it was as if a truck backed up into her room, dumping piles of new stuff. 

Her record collection rivaled Adrian’s. We took numerous Polaroids of each other holding up the latest albums by Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Deep Purple, always with our thumbs up. Often times I would find a new album still wrapped in cellophane, hold it up and ask ‘Can I?’ and after a slight nod from Victoria, I’d run my thumbnail down the crease, breaking the plastic seal, then gently coaxing the record out of its cardboard home, removing its paper sheath- a flat black disc, still virgin, unscratched, un-played. I’d carefully place it onto V’s turntable, the faint crackling as the needle made contact, followed by an anticipated track. I’d sit on the floor Indian style, reading the linear notes, pouring over pictures of the band, looking for secret messages from the heartthrob guitarist or lead singer I planned to marry.

Victoria’s Holiday: Part 2

In The 70's on November 15, 2019 at 7:38 pm

 Victoria was stylish and bohemian, not to mention mysterious- but the things she said- which would sound ridiculous coming out of any other  friend’s mouth, rang true. Because she seemed to possess near magical powers when it came to attracting the right stuff (clothes, records, a car, cute boyfriends, looks, freedom from parental interference) Somehow,   she appeared to be very in control of her destiny-and that destiny didn’t include conforming to suburban minutia.

I had no doubt she was telling me the truth when she announced that we were going backstage  to meet Ted Nugent, Journey and a southern band named Nantucket at New Haven Coliseum. Keep in mind that this was the late 70’s…Ted Nugent was a well-respected, kick-ass guitar player who showed little sign of becoming the extreme, animal murdering, conservative douche-bag he would later morph into. (Admittedly though, the signs were there: the  loincloth, the crazy eyes, the Wango-Tango)

At the time ‘Stranglehold’ was a hard rock staple, as was “Cat Scratch Fever’.  Journey was all over the radio with songs like “Lights’ and  ‘Wheel In The Sky’ and though they weren’t exactly my cup of (spiked) tea, they were okay for a radio band. Nantucket a newly minted southern rock band with one hit song. When I heard we were getting backstage- strangely- it felt like I’d been expecting it all along. Whenever I was with Victoria it felt like we were on the verge of something big. 

back when he was just another run-of-the-mill rockstar…

I’d already had  a ticket for this coming show, purchased weeks before from Ticketron down at the mall. Victoria matter-of-factly instructed me to sell the ticket at the venue, and make a little spending money. Of course! I’d be both a scalper and a backstage guest for the first time, on the same night. Two birds, baby!

Four days later we were on our way. V- chestnut brown hair (with cool red highlights, decades before it became a trend) flowing over her shoulders and halfway down her back, was stunning. She wore a cluster of rhinestone barrettes that looked accidentally placed, but were very calculated. (It took her time after time to get them right) She wore a tight ‘Peaches Records’ t-shirt, knotted up under her chest, displaying her flat (concave!) stomach.  Sterling silver, art-nouveau fairy necklaces hung from her neck in varying lengths. She squeezed into her signature skin-tight Jordache jeans, and pointy toed, dagger heeled suede boots.

She’d decided to dress me as well, citing her good eye for fashion over my blurry one. She took over my bedroom like dictator. She ordered Aerosmith “Get Your Wings’ from my record collection, side one, track two (‘Lord Of The Thighs’) and suggested it was time I framed my Robert Plant poster (the one with the crowd and the dove) because ‘framed art is so much classier, and we’re getting older now.’

She dug around in my closet, sighing hopelessly in despair, but eventually found a short black dress with bell sleeves, and convinced me to wear it with pantyhose and black suede boots. I argued that it was too dressy -I mean- hose?-a dress? but once I tried it on I had to admit it was kind of 60’s cool. She quickly twisted two long braids into my hair, on either side of my face, securing them with suede laces.  I felt transformed. She’d let me loose in her jewelry box earlier that afternoon, and I’d loaded up, Navajo style. My hands were heavy with sterling and turquoise, the likes of which I could never afford.  She even did my make-up, commenting on my ‘large pores’ (“Is that good or bad?’ I asked. ‘Well- it’s not good!’ she blurted out, shaking her head at my dumb question) 

As usual I was impressed with her renaissance-like knowledge- she knew more than a little about a lot of things, and could surprise you with her skills. Today a make-over, tomorrow she might change a tire, whip up a gourmet meal or play bass in an all-girl band! She believed she could do anything, and that belief manifested into her fearlessly attempting whatever was on the table at any given time. (I credited some of her confidence on her drop-dead looks….life was infinitely easier better for the beautiful, so just the feedback alone seemed to inspire a can-do attitude)

We set out in the wood paneled station wagon we’d practically come to call home. It was an obvious contrast-  imagine the Rolling Stones circa ’69-all ruffled shirts, velvet bells and shaggy hair-  driving around in a family wagon.  At least, this was how we saw it, completely flattering ourselves. We inserted it into conversations defensively- how absurd it was-US! -of all people!- in a station wagon! (the old-school equivalent of  the dreaded mini-van) and turned it into its own kind of personal lore.

“Yeah- and here we come, ripping around the corner in a station wagon! blasting Zeppelin!” was a typical punchline to a story, describing how everyone’s taken aback at the mismatch (‘everyone’ is paying so much attention to us in theses tales!) We would have loved to rock a Camaro or our dream car- a Porsche 911, but the wagon was dependable, ok on gas and most importantly: it was transportation! It got us from point ‘A’ (home) to point ‘B'(anywhere but)- and we all knew point ‘B’ was integral to all we could experience, adult free. All of the funny/wild/exciting shenanigans went down at point B (and the droll stuff at ‘A’)  We personally knew many kids, stranded and car-less, stuck at home, on parentally ruled desert islands, who would kill for a set of keys-even if they belonged to a 1971 Ford Country Squire. And this knowledge trumped all other.

“Aunt Victoria, are these your ‘special’ cigarettes on the floor back here?”

  

For the forty minute ride to the coliseum, Victoria brought her trusty, battered cassette tape case, plastered with 70’s stickers: “Disco Sucks, Rock Rolls’ ‘Reality is for people who can’t handle Drugs’ ‘STP’ motor oil, etc. and we cranked our favorite tunes (“Stranglehold’ ‘The Song Remains The Same’) in the surprisingly crystal clear sounding stock stereo. We drove to the liquor store, and after we quickly rolled two joints in the parking lot for later use, we strolled in- every head turning, every eye on us.

Our hometown suddenly felt tiny right then, I thought, standing by the Smirnoff display.  I wanted to yell out: ‘We’re going to hang out with rock-stars tonight!!’, but I felt sorry for the ‘townies’ and their ordinary existence. The liquor store clerk would probably go home, have a frozen dinner and watch ‘Hawaii Five-O’. The woman paying at the register might- what?- go home, corral the kids, then pop the cork on her wine bottle and kill time until she got sleepy. It was so boring, so sheep-like!  I was surely on some sort of trajectory out of ordinary-ness- I was being launched into something greater, something special. Something I half-expected due to all of my day-dreaming.  

I took my cues from Victoria and kept cool, ignoring everyone, keeping up the ruse by sighing, acting bored and ignoring the under- the- breath wolf-whistles from across the aisle, though I was uber-aware of them. I made accidental eye contact with a middle aged man, who lifted his eyebrows up and down at me suggestively. Ewww. Victoria sauntered up to the register and asked the clerk to change a $100.00 bill (mostly to show everyone she had a hundred dollar bill)  ordered two packs of Eve’s, and bought two bottles of  Liebfraumilch and a small bag of Mr. Salty pretzels sticks.

“I haven’t eaten in days’ she commented to no one in particular….which was surprising because I’d just witnessed her scarf down half a tuna sub, along with what was left of a jar of green olives before we left the house. But seeming baby-bird and starving yourself like was an attractive look for a teenage girl- if you were dainty enough to pull it off as Vee certainly was. 

The wine accused of ‘very nearly putting a generation off  drinking wine’ by connoisseurs worldwide, was naturally, our favorite!

Jake Chronicles: Part Two/5/03/15

In My Stories, Stuff I Post Just To Keep This Blog Alive..., The 80's on May 3, 2015 at 10:43 pm

I float dreamily across the game room on the fumes of anticipation. Beat up pleather bench seats line the perimeter of the room, and a large group of rockers are watching a lone player on the Kiss pin-ball machine. I’m not a Kiss fan (too comic-booky) but even I can see they are perfectly suited to a pinball game. I  scope out a place towards the back of the room, where we can sit and get to know each other (I hope) I gulp down what’s left of my drink-just ice chips and a drop of water. (This drink has been through the mill and I need to stop expecting anything from it) I sit  and wait.

I hear loud, annoying feedback, followed by  raucous, drunken cheers. Twisted Sister is taking the stage. They’re sinister and hard rocking -though not exactly my cup of tea. Maybe it’s the costume and ridiculous makeup they wear. Sort of like the band I was just talking about. (Regardless, I’m sure they care what I think. After all, I’ve paid my admission and thus, paid them)

Plus, they have a couple cool songs, I’ll grudgingly admit.

The crowd around the pinball machine disperses, leaving behind only the solo gamer. A few seconds later, Dee Snider, as over-modulated as can be (is he eating the mike?) growls ‘SO HOW ARE YOU, MOTHERF**KERS TONIGHT” then roars like a wild cougar in a 1970’s car commercial. The crowd goes crazy, as the band slams into ‘Shoot ‘Em Down’.

Then, like a vision, Jake rounds the corner, and my heart flips. He’s holding a bunch of drinks unsteadily. I jump up and meet him halfway. The pinball player looks over at us, in between flips. We’re the only other people back here now. Jake’s smiling as I get to him (how many watts is that? Enough to run the whole fucking town for a good hour!) I quickly grab a drink and a shot out of his hands.

“I got us some shots, too!’ he says, “Alabama Slammers. Do you like them?” he asks.

“Like ’em? I looove ’em!” I say, as we clink shot glasses and pour the red liquor down our throats. We both let out synchronized  ‘Aaaahs!”, and start giggling like school girls. I lead him over to our newly designated ‘spot’ and we both sit down. We’re so close we’re almost, but not quite, touching. We keep glancing at each other and smiling like simpletons. My face is flushed, and trust me,  it’s not the Elizabeth Arden Blush-On. When Jake’s arm accidentally brushes against mine, I get chills and feel the current between us. I feel like a cartoon bomb, like my fuse is lit and I’m set to explode, sparks flying everywhere.

I’m asking him stupid questions like ‘where are you from’ (his answer: ‘around here’) and then I cut to the (literal?) chase.

“Haven’t I seen you at the Beach? I ask. “On a bike?’

“Yes!” Jake exclaims, the floodgate to admitting our head game really happened, flung open.

“And I’ve seen you down there for sure. You have the blue Cadillac, right? With the music always blasting out?’

Ding! Ding! Ding!

In the background, Dee Snider is screaming  ‘Death to Disco’ and breaking Donna Summer records to thunderous applause.

“Yup!”

“I saw you there Thursday- with- was that your boyfriend?” He’s talking about Jess, and the moment when he drove by us on the bike real slow, just as Jess was trying to get me to sip his flask. (For real. Not in an ‘is that what we’re calling it now?’ kind of way) He remembers this as much as I do- validating it all. Wow! I’m flattered to even be in his sightline, to take up space in his mind.

“No, no- that’s just my friend, Jess!” I answer, waving my hand like I’m shooing away flies.

“I don’t have a boyfriend’ I state, loud and clear, just to emphasize the point.

I take a sip of my Greyhound, and look at his arms. There’s a tat- a rose with a crown of thorns, well done. His arms are defined but not steroid and protein powder big. I love the faint ‘v’ of his upper arm muscle to his bicep.

Jake asks me if I want to go watch the band for awhile- and if I’m upset to be missing the show.

“Oh-pshhht! -I’ve seen this band a million times already!”I say nonchalantly, waving a dismissive hand. Right now I  wouldn’t want to leave this room if Black Sabbath was onstage.

(Author’s note: That’s clearly an exaggeration made in the heat of the moment)

“Wanna go for a ride?” he asks- and it sounds like the best idea ever. I can see us flying down the road on his motorcycle,  our hair flowing back in waves, the bike dipping low into the asphalt as we whip through hairpin turns. I’m up off my seat in a flash.

Smoke Signals

In The 70's on September 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm

   There was a snack bar in a small white shack that sold fifty-cent hot dogs, hamburgers for a dollar, and french fries in red-and-white checked cardboard sleeves. Glass bottles of soda were hauled up, glistening wet and freezing, from an ice-filled fishing cooler on the floor. Behind the counter, propped up on a shelf was a display of sweet fare: Hostess cupcakes with their signature white swirl, pink, coconut flecked Sno-Balls, Cracker Jacks and Slim Jims. There were scooter Pies, Devil Dogs, and big, mushy oatmeal cookies that no one ever bought unless  under the thumb of a parent who thought because they LOOKED like oatmeal cookies, they were healthy. The candy section was a sweet-tooth lover’s dream: Candy Necklaces, Pixie Stix, Razzles, Bubblegum Cigars, Sweet Tarts and Necco Wafers. If that wasn’t enough to cause the Surgeon General to catch  a heart attack, there were cartons of cigarettes piled high, ripped open hastily, their jagged cardboard edges hanging forward like tongues, the Marlboros, Newports and Virginia Slims sold at a hefty mark-up. (One dollar, as opposed to fifty-five cents. Scandalous!)

A large gray box- fan oscillated from its precarious perch on a bar stool off to the right, as a matching one blew from the opposite direction. This caused the teenagers on duty to look like were diving for dollars in a wind machine (which they often were, as the wind ripped unsecured dollar bills around like kites) There was no cash register, so the line would be longer or shorter depending on the math skills of said teens handling the money. A long line screamed ‘Fundamental Math’ at best, while a short one bode well for future accountants. I could never figure out why the shack didn’t spring for a ribbon calculator (I’d seen some on sale for under a hundred bucks in the Sears catalog), something I thought passionately about while my feet burned in the scorching sand, standing in a line twelve deep.

The cheap food was a myriad of bad nutritional decisions trumped by good advertising and pretty colors, having all the depth and seriousness of a day at the beach. Treats that were an elbow to the ribs of  common sense were somehow acceptable when imbibed on a stretch of sand by a body of water. (This rule was also in effect at Carnivals, Fairs, Car Races and Amusement Parks) Many of the sun worshiping small children were charged up, running in circles like tops, screeching at the top of their lungs, chasing the tail  of a sugar rush comet, burning through mood swings like fresh kindle as their guardians wished to be anywhere but here.

A cigarette was redundant to most in this kind of heat, it’s orange ember an added burning hotspot, but  it didn’t stop us in the least from smoking them, as they were a very important prop in our quest for cool.. And so we stood there like fools, taking long, bored drags off our illegally procured Newports or Salems, the smoke burning the back of our throats, the taste a leaden, musty mix of arsenic and damp ash. Inhaling was a most unpleasant sensation, like  breathing underwater, our lungs under a heavy, wet blanket after each draw.  

We were fourteen, and out from under the watchful eyes of adults, standing in the concession stand line, wearing day-glow bathing suit tops, faded and ripped denim cutoffs, pukka shell necklaces and brown suede ropes, wrapped twice around our ankles like the girls in low budget Surfer movies. We were desperately trying to conjure up a natural ease we did not possess by mimicking the older teens (as we perceived them, not as they actually were)–lots of exposed, sun-drenched chestnut brown skin and disheveled sun-streaked hair. But we were posers still, counterfeits, three-dollar bills- smoking our brains out-and making a big show of it, in hopes of attracting adventure, something risky but not too- a story we could tell that someone might actually want to hear. Sending out literal smoke signals to the boys with long hair who wore black leather jackets in the Fall, and girls with fake id’s and Tango in their fringed purses- an elusive but often represented group in public, often found in parking lots, the back of the bus, behind buildings. We longed for vague, outlaw places and people who were wide awake and rife with exciting possibilities-an escape from the yawn-inducing, linear patterns of suburbia. 

And so we stood, stiffly, the uncoordinated, jerky motions of newbie smokers giving us away, happy to have something to do with our hands, rather than just stand there as another wave of awkwardness washed over us like the waves on the beach. Secretly abhorring the bitter taste of nicotine, pretending to be something we were not. ‘Look at us’ our shaky smoke rings said, as the foul smoke rushed out of our mouths and nostrils, lungs burning on the inside. ‘ Let us in’ we begged the cool kids, hoping to smoke them out.

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