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Posts Tagged ‘Teenagers’

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 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. 

Jordan:1976 Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow! That mailbox is stacked!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Jake Chronicles: Part FIVE 4/30/15

In My Stories, PRINTED, The 80's on April 30, 2015 at 5:48 pm

It couldn’t have been two minutes later, knee-deep in a frencher, when I hear my name again, this time from a distance. Will anyone just let me savor the friggin moment and make out with this dude? I look up to see its my dear friend Suzy Blueberry, who was with me the first time I  spotted Jake on his Kawasaki. She is such a sweetheart-the kind of girl who’s so nice she has no enemies, and is never gossiped about. I will forgive her anything, including this.

“Oh my god! Is that you, Sam?” she asks. She’s wearing a pink tube top with acid washed Jordache jeans and slouchy white ankle boots. Her ash blonde hair is teased just so. She looks adorable, and is with two girls I vaguely recognize, girls I’ve seen around. Both have brunette hair in side ponytails, fastened with neon colored scrunchies.

Jake looks over. I catch the moment of recognition in Blue’s face when she realizes who he is.

“Oooooh!” she says, exhaling for days. “You and me gotta tawk when you get inside!” she says, eyes wide.

At that moment, one of the pony-tail girls blows a pink Bazooka bubble from her lips and pops it loudly like a firecracker. It serves as an exclamation point on Blue’s words.

A crowd of people surge out of the Raven, and I realize that the muffled thudding of the band had ceased. The band must be on break.

Blue winks and says goodbye, salutes me with devil horns and walks off with her pals, whispering and giggling. I see her thumb aiming back in my direction, and know she’s telling them the story.

The parking lot is filling up with slightly (or mostly?) drunk Twisted Sister fans, many of whom are adopting the obnoxious behavior of their favorite lead singer’s brazen stage persona. (Offstage, he famously swears he’s a grandmother, doesn’t even drink, which comes across as a damper) At the other end of the lot, someone blasts an M-80, and we all jump. (July Fourth is around the corner-but don’t get me started on my disdain for that particular holiday and it’s moronic melding of booze and explosives-nor the flood of ‘gee-there’s a shocker’ news items about missing digits and evil carnage the following day.) Needless to say, the conditions of our make-out session are less than ideal. As it should be in a public parking lot. With all of the commotion, it’s obvious there will would be no privacy to be had.

“We might as well go back in!” I sigh.

I’ve driven my friends here, and don’t want them to think I bailed. If I’d gone for a motorcycle ride it would have been fine- my car would be in the lot and they’d  know I’d be back. I’m pretty dependable that way. If Jake and I leave in my car, I can’t guarantee we’ll be back.

As we walk back towards the Raven, I keep glancing sideways at Jake, thirsty for a look. When that doesn’t satisfy, I  cease walking- I stop on a dime so I can check him out as he walks in front of me.  It’s a fine sight, and man,  I’d love to take (and therefore have) a picture to swoon over. When Jake realizes I’m no longer keeping up, he pivots and backtracks, so in a flash I pretend to be looking for something in my purse. He appears to have no flaws. His built, tan arms, longish sun-streaked hair hair- don’t even get me started on his ass-it’s all good. I see why people are objectified, and I’m full-on participating in it until my next women’s rights bull session. It’s not just guys who do it. I can’t help myself.

We stand in the club’s door and hold up the back of our red-stamped hands for the bouncers who flag us through. We step back into a veil of smoke, sweat and loud music, readjusting to the chaos and noise. Jake leans into my ear, and shouts he’ll be right back (what? don’t leave!), but I casually shout back, ‘I’ll be around here somewhere’ and twirl my finger like a helicopter blade. I’m let down that he’s walking away, so I play the ‘I could care less, mister!’ card. We’re all such fakes, playing the worst board game ever: Chutes and Ladders: Relationship Edition. I slip down a chute as we head off in opposite directions.

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.

Riding Around

In The 70's on July 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Let's Ride

Let’s Ride

One thing we did a lot in those days was ride around aimlessly. You could argue that this was a waste of time (as many of our parents did), but we loved it.  Our  cars served as  moving ‘think-tanks’ of sorts, as well as a means to escape boredom and our only chance for adventure.  Taking a cruise with good friends- sometimes smoking a joint, sometimes not- but always moving from place to place, listening to music and having deep conversations was quality time. We pondered philosophy, science, world news, emotions, books, ideas and relationships on these wonderful rides. And naturally- we also discussed the painstaking minutia of our latest crushes and the merits of Robert Plant’s tight jeans as well. And we  often laughed until we cried. 

We had basic destinations in and around our town. These were  places  we drove to ‘on purpose’- albeit in very, very roundabout ways.  The Big Three: The Beach, The Other Beach, and Gallaher’s Estate. The Beach included both Calf-Pasture and Shady- one strip of beach divided by a fence into two, hosting baseball fields, miniature golf, a marina, and an over-sized parking lot, which was the hub. We never played baseball (surprise! surprise!), rarely played miniature golf, didn’t use the marina (other than maybe to pee behind a yacht at night after the restrooms were locked) but we used the heck out of the parking lot: it was our rec center, meeting place and ground zero on weekend nights.

The ‘Other’ Beach was  in the snooty, upscale town to the north of us, where celebrities lived, and big money resided (or people who got in before the real estate boom) While they did everything in their power to keep us from littering up the landscape with our more-than-five-year-old American made (gasp!) cars and non-designer clothes, we didn’t care, or abide.( I think we were mistakenly still under the impression that it was a free country!) 

Besides, we thought it would do Buffy and Biff some good to see that their lily-white, upper class existence didn’t entitle them to erasing the rest of us, stray dogs to their pedigree. And, trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Ritchie Rich scrunch his face up, while adjusting the yellow sweater he’s tied over the shoulder of his pink Izod shirt at the mere sight of a ten year old American made car. Priceless! 

We’d drive around on the quirky winding roads and lanes for hours, being careful to follow the speed limit to the letter so as not to get pulled over and banished. We’d  look at the mansions, trying to figure out which celebs lived where: Paul Newman over here, Martha Stewart over there, that famous musician over here.  Often, all we could see were towering locked gates and stone-walls, but still! We knew they were in there! (This was before the word ‘celebrity’ made me sick, and TMZ  eradicated all the mystery and glamour of celebrity via over saturation) We took it as a personal compliment that movie stars-who could live anywhere- had picked a place so close to us, and never once considered the decision was made in spite of us.

  

Gallaher’s Estate, was a town park, a place we referred to as ‘Galla-GERS with a hard ‘g’ – never realizing, until decades later there was no second ‘G’ at all.  ( Our ignorance was partly due to the whittling down of the name to ‘Lers’)   An English field stone manor, it was built in 1930 by some rich guy, and was inherited by the town and turned into a park. The main-house- a giant stone mansion, sat on 220 acres, which was locked to the public most of the time. But we weren’t there for the mansion, we were there for the grounds. The property was covered in trees, woods and trails, and stretched for miles. There was an oversize circular driveway and small parking area, where we’d all meet up. It looked just like the Playboy Mansion, (though there was  no Grotto, or-thank christ!- Pauly Shore) It attracted a  high rate of rowdy teenage hooligans (according to disapproving adults), but as you well know, those were my people. Not all of them, of course. Like everywhere else, there were different cliques with which to align or not.

The Grateful Deadheads- with their tie-dye clothes, suede moccasins (if any shoes at all) and floppy sunhats, were laid back, peace loving, 70’s  hippies who would often play hacky-sack (‘stoner soccer’) behind the grand estate, braid flowers into each other’s hair and flash fluttery peace signs to one and all.  They listened to bootleg recordings of Grateful Dead songs-none of which, from what I could tell, had a beginning or end. It always sounded like you were plopped down in the middle of an endless jam.  A single song could last an hour. Rumor had it, that in person, onstage, band members could leave the stage, go out for dinner and return, while the same song would still be going.

The music was mellow, but strangely- it didn’t seem to matter what the Grateful Dead played- just as long as it was them playing it. Because I wasn’t a fan, I often felt like Jerry Garcia and Co. were getting away with something, because no matter how far out the jams wandered (and trust me- they went to space!) a deadhead would give it a glowing stamp of approval. Some fans I knew  packed up and followed the Dead on tour.  You wouldn’t notice they were missing until they re-appeared in  little circles on the grass, playing acoustic guitars and making the beaded bracelets they sold outside tour venues, reminding you of their presence and of the 60’s. (By the way- even though we didn’t mesh musically-these were the kindest people in the park) 

Deadheads hanging out before a show. Peace and Love.

Deadheads hanging out before a show. Peace and Love. Peace and Love.

 

There was also another group,  mostly  guys, who drove  hand-me-down  Saabs, Volvos and Subaru’s, wore brown sandals, smoked incessant (hydroponic) reefer and played Frisbee in the main lot. They often brought dogs-Retrievers and Labs wearing bandanas around their furry necks, who played canine frisbee at pro-level. These dogs would be flipping through the air, catching the frisbee backwards, catching it with their tails. This crowd listened to  Neil Young, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, The Allman Brothers and Jethro Tull (who I hated- even though they’d been my first concert. They lost me at gross lyrics about snot and the incessant flute playing sealed the deal. Plus, they weren’t cute. Shame!)

Ah, man- Rover bit my Frisbee!....('Needle and the Spoon' plays in background..)

Ah, man- Rover bit a hole my Frisbee!….(‘Needle and the Spoon’ plays in background..)

Then there was us: mostly high school kids, wearing faded jeans and jean jackets with band patches and concert t-shirts, thinking we were so cool, but often embarrassing ourselves by cheering for the idiot doing burn-outs in the parking lot in the jacked-up Charger, or puking in the woods after three beers.  Blasting Zeppelin and throwing up the devil horns, the guys had long hair and pukka shell necklaces-the girls often rocked the ‘Farrah’ hairdo (guilty), along with Maybelline blue-eye-shadow applied with a heavy hand. We loved Black Sabbath and Van Halen, and though we didn’t attend Ridgemont High, we were no doubt the Jeff Spicoli’s and Stacy Hamilton’s of Gallahers. Aimless and shameless. We should have been embarrassed, but instead we had the times of of our lives.

The hairstyle that launched a million hot rollers

The hairstyle that launched a million hot rollers

 

The Jake Chronicles 3/The Lab 2/

In The 70's, The 80's on May 3, 2013 at 12:19 pm

summer2I leave to pick up JJ. He lives close by, so it  takes less than ten minutes to get there. I pull in front of his house on April Lane, at the bottom of a steep hill. I turn down the tunes, the tail end of ‘Night Moves’ crackling through the a.m radio and  blow the horn. I’d go to the door, but JJ’s parents hate me. I’m not sure why- I’ve never done anything to them- hell, I  haven’t even been in their presence but on rare, unavoidable  occasions. Say if JJ needed me to help him carry something, or I had to knock on the door because he didn’t hear my horn. The looks on their frowny faces, during these ‘forced’ meetings  were unmistakably of the ‘bad smell’ variety.  (For the record- I smell quite wonderful- like something from a Christian Dior or Lancome gift bag, free with purchase) But because I know it’s nothing I’ve done outright  (JJ says they’re ‘just weird’ in a way that implies he knows why, but is sparing my feelings) I don’t press it because I don’t care. In fact, it actually makes my life easier- I don’t have to go in and do the whole ‘Hi-How are ya? Oh! That’s lovely!” thing with the ‘rents. Plus, they seem so grim that it’s entirely possible that they hate everybody. 

JJMom

JJ comes dashing out- Lynyrd Skynyrd T-Shirt, depicting a bottle of whisky superimposed with Ronnie Van Zant’s face. He has a red and white bandana wrapped around his head, his dark brown hair spilling out from under it and falling across  his shoulders. He wears  faded bell bottoms and Adidas sneakers. He’s carrying all kinds of stuff:: Giant boombox, red and white Igloo cooler, switchblade in his mouth. You will never go out on the town with anyone more prepared for anything than JJ!  It’s like going out with MacGyver. He’s a good artist, and thinks outside the box (fun!) and we are both attracted to anything under-dog or off the beaten path. Yeah, he has a crush on me, but he feels just like a brother to me.

He insists we hang out, though sometimes if he’s drinking he gets jealous and trouble ensues. I have refused to hang out with him after witnessing some crazy behavior if I’m talking to another guy (smashing a boom-box to the ground, getting in fights) but he always re-establishes our tie (usually doing something humorous like drawing a ridiculous comic about said incident, or scoring kick-ass concert tickets) He always insists all’s fine, and that he’d rather be friends than not. I don’t really get it- I could only hang to a point if I had an (unrequited) crush. What can I tell you? JJ and I  are a walking, talking, very annoying J.Geils song. Love Stinks.

I look up at his house, which sits on a hill and notice his mother pulling back the draperies in the bay window to get a look and I sincerely hope what she sees pisses her off and sets her cackling for the next half hour. She probably has nothing else to talk about, and I’m glad to be of service. I play with my hair in the side mirror of the car, still feathered along the sides like Farrah’s.  I’m not saying I’m the prettiest girl in town, but I’m not bad, so suck on that Mrs. JJ.

JJ opens the passenger side door and flips the seat forward, depositing most of his stuff onto the back seat. He puts the switchblade in the glove compartment, noting that it is of legal length and not unlawful to have ‘on him’ then pushes the seat back, situates himself, and offers me a Marlboro. He knows that I smoke Newports.

Marlboro

“Eww! No!” I squeal. He laughs. Just being polite, he says. I pull away slowly, turning up the music as loud as it will go- very anti-climatic and ineffective with the am radio. (Manfred Mann’s misheard ‘wrapped up like a douche, another runner in the night’ all crackle and tin) I deliberately take one last look up at the peeper, and notice the curtains abruptly drop. Get a life, I think. I hope when I get older I have better things to do – that I won’t have the time or desire to criticize my kids’ friends because at the very least, I’m too busy doing other stuff.

We head towards the beach, the flaming twilight sun bleeding red and orange, washing out the brick buildings we pass, and almost blinding me until I flip down the visor. We bump over the railroad tracks, pass car dealerships with their strings of red, green and blue vinyl flags casually flapping in the wind, whiz by Dairy Queen and Duchess Hamburgers, Exxon and Texaco gas stations, the New York Bakery, and up the hill to East Avenue. We pass the Funeral Home, and cross the highway overpass at Exit 9 -Howard Johnson’s angular orange roof off to the right, St. Thomas’s church on the left. By the time we take a left at the cemetery and circle around the Minute Man statue, JJ has half a joint lit, and we are passing it back and forth. It’s burning my throat, so I ask him to crack open a drink. The traffic is thick on beach road, teens mostly, coming and going. JJ faces the backseat, up on his knees, reaching into the cooler- his faded denim ass facing out the windshield to the delight of passers by. A few horns honk, and I’m right back at’em. Summer nights at the beach are officially in full swing.

 

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