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Posts Tagged ‘70s’

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?

Jake Chronicles: Part One/5/04/15

In My Stories, Stuff I Post Just To Keep This Blog Alive..., The 80's on May 4, 2015 at 3:30 pm

I push my way through the crowd up to the bar where I order two drinks- one for me and one for Carly. The Night Raven is filled to capacity, thick with cigarette smoke and sweaty bodies, the usual turnout for Twisted Sister- a band out of Long Island that plays here once a month, always on a Thursday night.

You can’t get through the crowd without bumping into people-it’s standing room only- but luckily Carly and I snag a table tonight. I grab the two Greyhounds- house vodka and grapefruit in cheap plastic cups (classy!) and gingerly try and make my way back to the table with minimum spillage. Nothing like not getting to guzzle every last drop of your fifty-cent drink- tomorrow’s headache depends on it!

When I arrive back at the table, Car makes a big show of it, screaming ‘THANKS FOR THE DRINK,  SWEETIE” – grabbing hers out of my hand and almost blowing out my eardrums in the process. She gulps it down in a split second, then slaps it down on the tabletop in celebration, staring at me with raised eyebrows like she’s done something great- won a race or the Pulitzer Prize. I think of cornball platitudes about celebrating the small things in life, and figure this must qualify. I give her a thumbs up. And tell her the next round’s on her.

I decide to do a lap around the club to see if Jess has arrived. I tell Carly to save our seats over the blare of the club’s sound system, currently blasting Aerosmith’s ‘Same Old Song And Dance’ my friend. I stand up, put the palm of my hand over my plastic cup to prevent spillage ( a drunkard’s makeshift sippy cup), and say I’ll be right back. Carly winks and throws up devil horns.

I walk down the four stairs that lead to the bar, scanning the crowd. No Jess, or anyone else of note. I turn to check out the back room, filled with pinball machines and Asteroids games, when SLAM!! someone knocks into me, hard. I barely hold onto my drink, which splashes all over my palm, and through my fingers. I grimace, instantly irritated. Shit!

“Oh my god! I’m so sorry!” says a male voice loudly and when I look up I am eye to eye with none other than “Adonis’ himself. My motorcycle mystery boy, right here in the flesh! My heart beats like a baby bird’s, as Aerosmith segues into UFO pleading ‘Doctor, Doctor, please!’. Things have just taken a good and unexpected turn for the better, half spilled drink be damned. And the music’s cooperating, too!

I quickly look him up and down (better than I even imagined- and what I imagined was p-r-e-t-t-y good)  He flashes a Kodak smile and I inwardly swoon. Nothing hotter than a good smile on a nice face atop a body to die for, amirite? Sand, streaked dark blond hair, straight, gleaming white teeth, blue eyes and a golden tan. Could it be I have a type? Even if that’s true- I’m fairly sure this guy is any girl’s ‘type’.

He wears a blue Hooker Headers t-shirt, faded jeans and high top Nikes (black swish) His arms are built, his body an inverted V. He doesn’t seem to be a guy you’d have to fight with to use the mirror (no eyeliner or hair products). Up close, he almost reminds me of my screen crush, the leader of the Warriors street gang, from the movie of the same name. I fight the urge to break out the catch phrase “Warriors…Come out and play-yay-yay’, but it’s too specific a reference, and it might fall flat.  I’m a wise ass, but he’s making me second guess myself just by looking so good. All in all he has rendered me speechless. I tell myself to breathe. We lock eyes and it feels like electricity flows between us. And silence.

Finally, he extends a hand  and smiles – “Hi! I’m Jake!’ he says loudly. It figures! I love the name Jake.

I shake his hand (nice and mildly calloused- he must work!) and introduce myself as well. I fight the urge to plant my lips on his, just in case the opportunity never again presents itself. I’m telling you, It would totally be worth it, regardless of outcome.

“Can I get you another drink?” Jake asks, yelling (it’s loud!) pointing to my cup and then to the bar.

“You don’t have to!” I yell back, sipping what’s left of mine through the red and white swizzle stick, the vibrating slurp of what’s left of melting ice cubes, as if I’m really getting any.

“No- I want to!” he insists, smile lighting up the room.

“Okay….then I guess a Greyhound would be cool” I shout.  The whole time we are in the middle of crowds of people, but they are just a blur. I point towards the back room, and indicate I’ll wait there. I definitely want to corral  him to where I might have him to myself for a bit. He nods his head okay, and pushes up into the crowd at the bar in front of us, holding up a fistful of bills.

I walk towards the back room, mindlessly bumping into people, a goofy smile plastered across my face. I love how shit happens when you least expect it.

Camp Aspetuck/Part 2

In The 60's on January 20, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Before we left, and after it was assessed that everyone was present  (a checklist was bandied about) we settled into our seats, and prepared for take-off. We drove through our hometown in a caravan of mom commandeered cars, taking in all the familiar places and landmarks that had suddenly become more interesting simply by the bearing of witnesses. Riding through the center of town, which ordinarily was as rote and mundane as watching the grass grow, suddenly became alive with comments and stories. We all had them, for better or worse.

“I take music lessons there!’ Lara pointed out as we passed a large red house that had been converted into  a music store- guitars, drums and all of brass instruments propped up in the front window, Johnny Boomba’s. We’d seen it a million times. Snooze.

“I always see Alex there, because he takes his lesson right after mine.” she added, matter of factly. Say what? Our ears perked at the news- Alex was the cutest boy in the fourth grade. I would never again pass this store without checking for Alex. This continued for the next fifteen years.

“Really?” Kris asked,  wheels turning as she swiveled her head around to the backseat “How much are lessons?”

Kristina!” Mrs. Alden scolded suddenly. “You know our Agreement!!”

“Oh, mom! I’m just asking!” she huffed loudly, surrendering up jazz hands.

Evidently-as told by Mrs. Alden, Kris was currently enrolled in an after-school Drama Class (in my opinion she should have been the teacher), and had used up her quota of activities- and the money to pay for them. She had two younger sisters, and between the Scouts, Drama, Dance and Tumbling classes Mrs. Alden was being run ragged, her pockets picked. We listened as she pleaded her case, and for just one minute to herself. She sounded exactly like our own mothers -another shared experience.

We drove by Kiddy Town, the local toy store, which kicked off an oral history of what we’d gotten for Christmas and Hanukkah last year, and for our birthdays, and well, ever. Mostly, we coveted macramé and tie-dye kits, peace sign patches, Partridge Family bubble gum cards, transistor radios and figure skates. At ten, we were already too old for many toys.

This exercise of listing our possessions  was good practice for future Facebook posts, as we tried to one up each other, and gushed incessantly about our superior gifts. Some (for instance, me) even exaggerated a bit (yeah- I got Partridge cards, but 2 packs, not 10!) Was there a Girl Scouts patch for bragging?

We spotted the local movie theater, now showing ‘Willard’ (about rats! ewww!) and ‘Escape From The Planet Of The Apes’ which many of us had seen at the local Drive-In. A few comments were made regarding the female ape being named Lisa (my name!), but a squinty-eyed glare towards the peanut gallery in the back, snuffed that thread out. (Admittedly there were some giggles, but they were muffled) Kris, who didn’t miss a thing , gave me the ‘Can you believe it?’ expression (open mouth, dead eyes) and a subtle shake of the head, as we mentally filed it into our ‘talk about it behind everyone’s back later’ folder.

It was starting to look like a stormy day, the overcast sky the color of a bruise.  The wind picked up as the trees, thick with deep green leaves swished to and fro. Mrs. Alden said she had hoped it wasn’t going to rain on our first day at camp, but it appeared Mother Nature hadn’t been apprised of our schedule. Soon, fat plops of summer rain fell onto the windshield. This made for an inventive Carpenters re-mix “Rainy Days and Fridays” followed by a sarcastic rendition of “Joy To The World” (the word ‘Joy’ sung in Eeyore voice) as we listened to our fave jams on Music Radio WABC. We squealed with actual joy when the Partridge Family’s “I’ll Meet You Halfway” came on- all of us emphasizing the words and nuances of the song (it’s the nuances that set you apart, in my opinion. Shirley and Laurie’s ‘ooh’s’ and ‘ahhs?’ Key.) We’d have made any fandom proud.

By the time we pulled into the dirt driveway of the camp, past the wooden sign that announced ‘Camp Aspetuck’, we were giggling with excitement, despite the rain, and even despite the fact that Renee had just pointed out that we’d be missing ‘The Partridge Family’ tonight because we’d be at camp with no tv.. Sometimes she could be such a witch that starts with a ‘B’. I could tell Renee even liked being a buzzkill at that moment, as she sat back there with her little smirk, so self-satisfied, popping pink bubbles and jangling around her (unauthorized, but very cool) bangle bracelets.

‘I Wanna Rock’

In The 70's on October 10, 2011 at 7:01 pm

“Don’t believe everything she says”

(This is a previously posted story, edited to the best of my ability, which I’m sure is insufficient. But I try, people- I try….)

Cheryl calls and asks if I want to take a cruise down to the beach. Outside there’s a dreary, relentless November rain, but anything is better than staying in the house. Joan and my father are upstairs in the kitchen, arguing about where Joan can or can’t shop for groceries. My father has very particular thoughts on who has the best quality of food, who is worthy of his dollar. Evidently, small, overpriced gourmet markets are far superior to the bigger, less expensive chains. Even when it comes to identical items- god forbid the Land ‘O’ Lakes butter have a Pathmark sticker on it- my Dad seems to equate this with a class system that will reflect badly on him. It’s only a matter of time before the target of their anger turns from the groceries to something I did or didn’t do- so the best place for me to be -as always-is anywhere but here. Cheryl says she’ll be right over.

I don’t have to get all ‘done-up’, which is a relief. It will likely just be me and Cheryl. A quick hair brushing and some lip gloss from the tin will suffice. I’m still dressed from the school day- ripped, faded jeans and sweater,  eight sterling silver rings, some sporting turquoise. A warm, navy maxi coat- last year’s model, and my back-up pair of sneakers-also from last year and I’m set. It’s  cold and crappy- a Tuesday night, so there will probably be few-if any-people at the beach, hanging out.

I have a joint put aside (from JJ, of course!) and I put it in my half-full pack of Newports, and put it, along with my brush, wallet and makeup bag in my suede purse. Everything except the joint is ‘just in case’. I lower the volume on my stereo, even though WPLR is playing ‘Green Grass and High Tides’ (“and they play just for yoooouu”) but I have to listen for Cheryl’s horn.

She pulls into our driveway a few minutes later in her dark blue Mustang, beeping three times (our signal)- causing  Faye and my Dad to abruptly pause bickering for three seconds…I yell up the stairs loudly “Be back soon!’ and flee through the garage. I jump into the passenger seat of the car, say ‘Quick! Go!’ to Cheryl, who backs out with a chirp before anyone has the time or wherewithal to object.

We circle out of my neighborhood, and drive through town as it steadily rains. Everything looks wet and browbeaten, shades of black and gray. I’m mesmerized momentarily by the reflection of bright headlights and red brake lights in the heavy drops of rain, swirling down the sides of Cheryl’s windshield, like big, fat tears. The whirring of the wipers keeps a steady rhythm. We drive along the main streets and the back roads, hoping for something to happen. We don’t know what. We are almost too bored to even speak.

“Why don’t you put in a tape?” Cheryl asks, pleasantly “They’re in the back”

I sigh. I actually resent being asked,I feel that lethargic. But I reach back and grab her brown leather 8-track case, and begin perusing as best I can in the dark. I know every tape she has by heart: ELP (uggh!) Queen (sick of) Yes (too ‘epic’) Frampton Comes Alive (played-out) Boston (maybe) but I decide on Robin Trower’s  ‘Bridge Of Sighs’ and push the lime-green eight-track into the player, feeling it click for a split second, as it gets pulled into the slot. It begins with a Hendrix-like warm-up, followed by the deep throated vocal-pitch: ‘The sun don’t shine/The moon don’t move the tides/To wash me clean…..” I love the quadraphonic sound, but the lyrics lob me even deeper into my prison of boredom.

We arrive at the (predictably) deserted beach, and park along the outer rim, facing Long Island Sound. The lot is pitch black, save for several street-lights, lengthy black expanses separating them, and dividing the seemingly endless darkness with cones of yellow light. Cheryl parks under one of the lights, halfway down the winding beach road. She throws the Mustang into park, and shuts the car off with a twist of the key, and a further one so that we can still listen to tunes. She turns the inside light on and rifles through her purse for her Marlboros.  She shuts the light off, a silver blanket of light slanting into the car from the light pole.

We both stare straight ahead, towards the ocean we know is there, but can’t exactly see. We can barely make out the tiny pin-pricks of blinking lights in the far distance, many miles across the Sound, in New York. I wonder how many bored Long Island kids are looking back at us. My guess is, maybe one car, two kids- a mirror image of Cheryl and I, two bored kids with nothing better to do. And believe me- I feel their pain! I imagine kids in year-round warm places like California and Florida have an endless supply of hot, summer night fun, but no so here in the Northeast.  Here we have lots of dull weather, and long, freezing winters from which we must thaw out from every Spring. My buds over in long Island are in the same boat, but at least they are rockin’ to WBAB (Babylon ROCKS!! says the bumper sticker, which I totally believe) who seem to always be playing better music than our stations, when we are lucky enough to tune it in on crystal clear days, when the planets line up, and we are parked just so.

I pull the joint out of my cigarette pack and place it in Cheryl’s ashtray like a religious offering. It’s unlit, but cued up. Seeing it, Cheryl snaps her fingers and says ‘Oh, yeah!’, and reaches back, grabbing the small red cooler from behind her seat. Something’s rolling around inside, and she pulls out two cold, Budweiser cans, passing one to me.

“I’ll meet your one joint, and raise you a Bud!” I say, in a deep, fake announcer voice, and Dawn laughs.

“Thanks” I tell her. The can is both cold and wet.  I quickly flip the tab on the can, yank it off, and put it in my coat pocket, taking a sip of beer. I hold out my empty palm until Cheryl places her tab in it as well. All of my friends know I make beer tab chains, so they automatically add to my collection. I take the tabs, link them together, and create six-foot long strands, which I layer, and hang like braids on both sides of my ‘focal point’ posters, which hang right above my stereo system. (Robert Plant, his mane of long, golden ringlets, bare-chested and holding a live dove onstage, and Steve Tyler kneeling in the grass, sideways baseball cap atop waterfalls of dark, cascading hair, leopard print and scarves galore)

I told my father and Joan that the  tabs are from soda cans, after my dad asked: “What the hell is that silver crap hanging on your wall?” No one seems to find it strange that I never drink soda, and that I often pontificate on how much I dislike it,  especially when Joan occasionally passes out Pepsi cans at dinner. I’m a strong believer in carbonation, but only when it’s the component of an alcoholic beverage. Otherwise, it seems to be much ado about nothing. I will tolerate ginger ale on rare occasions, and even then- only if a maraschino cherry is involved. Maybe my father and Joan think I am desperate, and bend regularly to agonizing peer pressure, gulping down Cokes and Pepsi’s left and right when I go out, so as I can be accepted by the cool soda-drinking crowd?

Cheryl reaches out and pushes in the lighter, which is built into the ashtray. When it pops out, she takes the joint, puts it to her lips and applies the burning orange circle to its tip. She puffs on  it several times, as sparks fly, then takes it down a notch, until the end of the joint undulates with fire flame. We smoke half of it, passing it back and forth several times, and agree that it’s ‘good shit’ as our eyes water and our throats burn.

We wonder why it’s so dead out tonight, and ponder it like some big mystery, instead of it being an easy case for Captain Obvious. As the buzz takes hold, we lean back in our seats and veg out while Trower sings about an eagle…not just any eagle-an eagle of love.

I pull my feet up and rest them on the front dashboard, staring at my goofy sneakers for a minute before I start to fool around with my bracelets, which I notice out of the corner of my eye, catching my attention in a glint of light.  I shake my wrist, and begin twisting my sterling silver rings back and forth on my fingers. I hold my hand out like a fan and admire the cool, swirly designs and Navajo turquoise.  I really do have ‘an eye’ for ‘cool’, I think to myself. My fingers look smooth and sleek, and my nails have gotten quite long lately, which makes me happy. I continue doing hand model poses in the muffled glow of the street light.

I’m in my own little world, as is Cheryl, and we’re so stoned, that if someone  tossed a dog-toy through the window, we’d probably wrestle over who gets it. Every little thing is interesting and deep, and very much there for the examining. It keeps us occupied.  After a good bit of time I glance over and see that Cheryl has leaned way back in her seat, and I would think her asleep, lost as she is in her huge, army green, faux- fur trimmed parka, except I can see her head nodding- almost imperceptibly- to the music. The wind is gusting at such a high rate it rocks the car from time to time.

The rain has stopped, but it’s still soaking wet and dismal outside, and not a single car has driven through the beach lot. After I tire of admiring my hands, wrists, and assorted jewelry, it occurs to me that I kind of want to go home, if just to continue reading my current book ‘The Basketball Diaries”. I yawn and suggest to Cheryl that we should probably cut our losses and head home, and point out that “I’m so tired, I don’t even think I can finish my beer’, though I suffer through a couple of more cold slugs right after I say it.  Cheryl yawns back and says ”Ok” grabbing her beer  from the yellow plastic cup holder attached to her dashboard, and drinks some tiny bird sips,  before she puts it back. She sits up straight, moves her seat forward and turns the key. I pull my legs from the dash, and also sit up, as if at attention. The keys jangle as Cheryl twists the key forward. The car tries to turn over and fails. She turns the key again. Same thing happens. Again Again. Ditto. And again.

“Oh, shit!” Cheryl says. She looks over at me, eyebrows raised, mouth forming an ‘o’.

“Oh, God! Don’t even TELL me!!’ I warn

She tries turning it over once more, to no avail.

“We need a rock” Cheryl says, staring straight ahead.

“Whattt?!’ I hiss, emphasis on the ‘t’s’, face twisting up. I’ve never been good in a crisis. If anyone ever tells a story about me in a crisis, I will be the pathetic force the hero needs to overcome.

“Come on!’ Cheryl yells, opening her door, and jumping out like a paratrooper, slamming the door behind her. In that split second I hear the wind, and get walloped with freezing air. My door isn’t even opened yet! Shit!

I sigh, shake my head, roll my eyes and attempt my door as the door fights against the wind to open.  I step out and brace myself in the pins and needles of the win, sprinkling against my face like tiny shards of glass . I quickly button up my coat to the neck. The wind whips my hair, slapping it into my face and eyes, as I so wish my coat had a hood. The wind literally knocks the ‘buzz’ right out of me. I angrily shove my already freezing hands into my pockets, realizing we might be stranded. I practically slice off a finger on the god-damn beer tabs. Those dumb-ass  chains are long enough, I decide angrily, and toss the offending tabs towards the sand, where the wind carries them up and away, and to God knows where. I see Cheryl ahead of me, and begin to follow her into the darkness. The sand is too cold to give much, and feels like a cheap, laminate floor. I wish I’d worn two sets of socks, and I would have, had I known what was going to happen, but then again, had I known I wouldn’t be here in the first place!

I can’t see much, but I make the effort to catch up to Cheryl. She aimlessly bobs against the wind, two steps forward and one back, as we are both practically lifted off the ground. Her dark hair is being blown crazily to one side, and whipping her in the face like a wet towel, as her oversize hood keeps flying off her head. She’s given up trying to hold it up.  She seems to be scanning the ground, trying to zero in on something. I have no idea what the plan is.

After a few torturous minutes, I notice Cheryl veer into a tangle of bramble and bushes, where she reaches down and after a little struggle, pulls up a good sized rock- a five pounder. The bottom of the rock is black with moisture and dark sand.

‘This is it!’ she shouts over the wind. I think. I can barely hear her, but I know it’s ‘good’ coz she’s pointing at the rock and gesturing towards the car, which by now is off in the distance. We turn back and speed walk-then run to the car, both of us peeling open our doors and jumping into our seats, teeth chattering and flash-frozen.

“FUUUCK!” I yell, rubbing my  numb, reddened hands together and shivering. My cheeks are flush from the cold. Cheryl turns on the smudgy overhead light and places the rock onto the middle console.

I jerk away from it, startled, blurting ‘Ewww!’

“Don’t worry!” Cheryl says- prematurely, in my opinion. She hasn’t even checked the thing, and it’s been sitting in the wild, maybe even in the ocean. Chances are, it’s too cold for anything creepy to be crawling on it- but what if? She picks it up, holding it close to her face and checks it out from every angle. “It’s FINE!” she says, like I was  crazy to be jumpy in the first place. It’s so cold  in the car at this point, even with our coats buttoned up to our necks- and Cheryl with her unfair hood ‘advantage’-we realize that we are in deep shit if we can’t get the car to start. The roads will begin to freeze up soon.

Imagine freezing to death at Calf Pasture Beach! It’s one thing if you’re out in the wilderness-say, Oregon or Alaska, or some place like that, but to perish at this hum-drum hang out would certainly place us at the top of the ‘stupid-ass ways to die’ list. Thirty years from now (2006! Cars will fly!) people wouldn’t even believe it- they’d write it off as urban legend. “No one could be that stupid!’ they’d exclaim. (‘Oh, yes they could!’)

It doesn’t even occur to me that walking home is an option-so lazy and stoned as I am.. I’d  prepare my epitaph instead, using the pen in my purse, and a crumpled Duchess napkin from Cheryl’s glove compartment. It would likely be a cross between a Zeppelin lyric and words that have the ‘feel’ of a woman falling back dramatically on a fainting couch in an old silent movie. Conjuring up castles and mossy landscapes, and back- of -the- hand to the forehead ‘don’t worry about me’ false bravado. Coolness mixed with self pity, succinct enough to fit on a headstone (which would bear an ‘angel with bad-ass wings’ statue) at Riverside Cemetery, where future teenage partiers (my people!) would stumble upon it, like a secret mecca. They’d say things like “Wow! She must have been cool” and “Duuude! Check it out-she died so young! Bummer!”, before crushing  beer cans on my stone, and saluting the sky with their devil signs, by the light of the harvest moon. (For some odd reason, these teens would still speaking in late 70’s slang, three decades later- and leaving behind a fistful of beer tabs, which by then would be non-existent. Just like me…..)

The bad-ass angel. Sorry to see you go.

Cheryl tells me we have to get out again, that I need to hold up the hood, while she ‘bangs the rock on the ‘thingy’. I’m not even going to ask what that is, for fear she’ll answer. I’m freezing and desperate, and just want to kick back and smoke a Newport with the heat blasting in my face. So I say Let’s do it. We get out, the wind over-zealously pummeling us again (God! I want to punch it back!)

Cheryl fumbles with the hood latch, until finally it pops up, and we both lift it with all of our might. Cheryl leans down towards the engine and starts hitting random parts of the engine with the rock. A tap here, a bang there, a really violent clank there- and then she straightens up and holds her finger up in the  wait-a-minute position. She jumps back into the driver’s seat and turns the key. I don’t hear it over the strong gusts of wind, but I feel the hood start to shake, and suddenly the headlights come on and nearly blind me. It’s ALIVE!! I slam down the hood, and run to the passenger seat, where Cheryl’s waiting with her half of our high-five. Slap!

‘Thank fucking God!” I say, loudly, and then ‘Phew!!’ shaking my head. This is what passes for tragedy averted in our suburban kingdom, where walking in the cold is the scariest thing that could happen.

The cold air  blasting from the vents begins to get warm, then hot. It feels wonderful and soothing. Cheryl suddenly gasps and points out the windshield. It takes me a second, I’m squinting- but then I see! Flakes of snow! They’re barely hitting the ground before they’re being batted up and around, wildly, by the wind.

I yank out Robin Trower and throw Boston in. The chorus is already underway. Cheryl lights a Marlboro, and hands me the lighter so I can light my Newport. She puts the shifter into ‘R’, backs up slightly, then clicks it into ‘D’ and bangs a major left, back onto the desolate beach road, lead-footed and raring to go. Meanwhile, Boston loudly proclaims the obvious: It’s more than a feeling…… and this is true-it’s a (plastic?) bullet dodged.

‘Metal Shop’

In The 70's on September 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm

A new program that had been initiated at Nathan Hale Middle School in the mid- seventies involved the trade classes. Home Economics, Metal Shop, Wood Shop went co-ed, partly as a result of the women’s liberation movement that was suddenly front page news.

Home Ec. was desirable to both sexes, in that, for six-weeks it involved cooking and more importantly, eating. For a typical class, we were divided into teams of two or four and had to follow a recipe to completion in one of several mini kitchens. The best part was that we got to eat the assignment. (In the past, this task had been relegated to imaginary dogs)

My specialty was muffin pizzas, which may sound simple, but evidently was not, as we had to make them every other class. I vaguely recall cooking blueberry muffins, filling celery with cream cheese, and tossing cherry tomatoes around the room- but it is only the pizzas I actually remember eating.

Since I was usually teamed up with Chad Reed, it was difficult to get graded before Chad devoured the day’s assignment. I would complain to the teacher, Mrs. Barry- who would point out that it was partly my responsibility to control my partner by refraining to ‘serve’ the food until she made her inspection. Did she think that Chad would be deterred by not having a paper plate?! He’d grab a muffin or three right off the baking sheet like a crafty seagull,  while I was still taking them out of the oven or looking the other way. And why was I always serving him?!

‘Am I supposed to guard the oven?’ I would ask, to which she would reply, “You do what you have to do. Someday you’ll be in charge of your own kitchen!’

Obviously, this woman didn’t recognize the take-out type when she saw it.

Meanwhile, Chad, standing behind her, would be making faces at me, pointing, faking a belly laugh, and mimic eating more invisible food while crossing his eyes. When Mrs. Barry turned around, he would instantly look doe-eyed and apologetic, eyebrows knit, shaking his head like: ‘I know! She’s incorrigible!’ and then give me the finger after she walked on to the next group, marking another big, fat zero in her grade book for me and Chad.

“God-you take it so SERIOUS!” he huffed, reaching around me to wipe some stray crumbs off the counter, and licking his finger.

“Yeah- well it’s kinda hard to explain to my Dad how I can only pull a “C’ in Home Ec, Chad. He thinks this is a class that should (here I imitated a low ‘dad’ voice) ‘come naturally to all broads!’

“Well he’s right!” Chad answered, not surprisingly. At which point I faked punching him in his protruding stomach, just to see him jump.

Another new co-ed class was a combo Metal/Wood Shop, taught in the same room by the same teacher, Mr. Gates.  He was the ‘good looking’ male teacher at Nathan Hale, and a fuss was made over him by the teachers, lunch ladies, substitutes and visitors. He was six-feet tall, with a slim, muscular build, and had surfer-blond hair, parted on the side, a bit longer than most teachers would normally wear. He had a rugged complexion, the hint of a tan even in winter, and smiling blue eyes. Everyone compared him to a young Robert Redford, and he did resemble the Hollywood star. (I knew this because I had actually seen Robert Redford and Paul Newman in real life, as me, the Wreath boys and Toni gathered by the woods one  day last summer.  Newman (driving) and Redford came whipping around the blind corner on Wolfpit Road in a brand new Porsche 911 Turbo. Startled to see a group of teens hanging out on the side of the street, they  suddenly downshifted, slowing to a crawl. They proceeded to drive by super-slow, and waved at us, flashing their hundred watt smiles. Newman lived the next town over, but we’d never seen him. At the time they were BIG Hollywood stars. We stood there, shell-shocked after they passed by, o-mouths, eyes popping! At some point we started screaming, high- fiving and arguing over who they actually waved at. (Of course-as you can probably guess- it was me!)

As for Mr. Gates- he had a ‘cool-guy’ vibe-and he was a very laid-back teacher. He  wore khaki pants and tucked in long-sleeved button down shirts, usually in pastel colors, with a tie which always looked half-undone, as though he might pull it off at any minute.

We loved that he didn’t yell and ran a very loose ship. He barely even took attendance, and taught by going from workbench to workbench, rolling up his sleeves and demonstrating the technique of the day to individual students. Most of the girls sat together and chatted, passing out gum (it was allowed!) and gossiping, and we rolled our eyes and giggled when Mr. Gates approached us with a demonstration.

“Isn’t that dirty?’ we’d ask, upon being presented with a sheet of metal. Followed by ‘Ewww!’ and ‘That’s gonna break my nails!’ We supported the women’s lib movement, but also embraced being girly-girls, when it came to getting out of class work.

“Well, at least read the worksheets, girls!” he’d say, before quickly moving on to the boys, many of whom actually wanted  to learn these skills.

Me and Toni were thick as thieves in this class, looked forward to a class where nothing was required of us other than to show up. We sat together and clucked like hens, traded jewelry, braided each others hair, and even painted our nails (not full manicures, but we fixed the chipped ones) We did all of this as we sat, twirling around in our high, bar seats in the back. We were constantly snorting with laughter, pointing at and mocking classmates, and doing busy-work- such as dividing up our cigarettes to be ‘even’, or seeing who could blow the biggest bazooka bubble. As long as we kept it on the down-low, Mr. Gates didn’t mind.

The only time Mr. Gates actually asked us to do anything was when he needed worksheets. He would hand me and Toni an example of which sheet he wanted, tell us to count the students (“and by all means, count yourselves in, girls!”) and then have us fetch them from a small storage room, located behind a door in the back of the shop.

Inside there were metal shelves holding worksheets and boxes of  metal bolts and screws. Several old, green file cabinets, and a heavily blinded, dusty window added to the overall drabness of the room. The window looked out onto the side parking lot, across to the tennis courts that no one ever used. Toni and I would play with the string on the blinds, up and down, light, dark, light dark and look for signs of life outside (there was none). We’d then snoop in the file cabinets (old instruction manuals- nothing good) and eventually  count out the worksheets, bringing them to Mr. Gates.

“Can you please pass them out to everyone?” Mr. Gates would ask, obviously expecting us to do so, to which we’d roll our eyes (haven’t we done enough?!)-sigh, and reluctantly make a pass around the room, snapping gum and avoiding eye contact with anyone except maybe the cute boys. But for everyone else, we’d hold each sheet up with our thumb and forefinger, hovering over the workbench in front of a classmate, until letting it go mid-air, leaving said student to either catch it, block it or hunt under the table to where it whisked off the desk, floating for a moment before winging sharply to the ground. It’s times like these when I wish I could go back in time and kick my own ass.

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