The DJ on WRKO warned of another shark sighting and we were getting antsy. There were shark sightings every hour on the hour during the summer of '75. It wasn't safe to go in the water, but it wasn't the water where we wanted to be. Even though the city of Boston was in the grips of a sweltering hot summer we didn't want to hit the beach. Not for fear of a shark attack, but because we wanted to go to the movies. Jaws had just hit the movie theaters, horrifying audiences and causing thousands to never swim in the ocean ever again. I sat on the curb in front of my apartment listening to my transistor radio with my friend Sean trying to figure out how we could possibly go to a movie our parents would never let us see. I had plans to meet up with my friend Neil later that day. Neil was a friend from my Catholic school that was one of the most deviously fun kids I had ever met in my ten years. He had taught me the best spots to peg cars with snowballs, the best stores to pilfer candy and how to elude the security guards at Curry College where we would run wild through the grounds stealing tennis balls, scarfing down food in the cafeteria along with many other harmless endeavours. Neil would have a plan.
We met Neil around 9:30 AM at his house and we hopped a bus to Cleary Square. Our friend Stevie, who was another Catholic school classmate, lived on the other side of the square and he was all in for going to see Jaws. Stevie was waiting for us on his porch when we got to his house. We sat on the stairs thinking of our plan. First we would have to get there. The Dedham Cinemas were four miles away and we only had enough money to get into the movie, so a bus was out of the question. We could walk, but that would take over an hour and it was already approaching 90 degrees. Neil suggested we hitchhike. Yeaaah...hitchhike. Just stick out your thumb and get a ride to where ever you want to go. That was easy. Now the hard part, how would we get into an R rated movie. Stevie suggested that we sneak in. Effective, but risky. Sean suggested that we buy a ticket for the latest Herbie The Love Bug movie, which had to be G rated, then go into Jaws. Maybe, but there would be ticket takers checking especially since this was such a high profile flick. I offered that we just ask someone to pose as our parents and buy us a ticket. Everyone thought that was a stupid idea, that no adult would do such a horrible thing as to buy a kid an R rated ticket. We decided to play it by ear, but first things first we had to get there. We stepped off the porch, crossed the street and put out our thumbs.
We didn't walk for more than 5 minutes when a car stopped. "Where ahh you boys goin?" he inquired. "Dedham Cinemas" I piped up. "Hop in, but watch all the crap in the back theah, my cahs a wreck", he informed us. I got in the front seat and sized the guy up. He had long, scraggily hippie hair and a fu-manchu mustache. He had a cigarette sticking out of the side of his mouth and a Narragansett beer between his legs. There was a switchblade sitting on the gearbox. The others jostled for position in the back, while I stared forward, pretending not to notice the beer and the switchblade. He started down the road taking a right onto Eneking Parkway in the direction of the cinemas. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him reach for his beer and take a swig. He then reached down and picked up the switchblade. "You fuckin' kids think you're cool?" he screamed as he flicked out the blade, pointing it in the air so all could see. I felt like pissing myself, but was not as shocked as the others, knowing all along that the switchblade was there. "Are you kids stupid, I could be a murderer or a child molester, you are sooo fuckin' stupid." "Please let us out", Sean whimpered. The rest of us felt the same. "I'll bring you to the movies", he half chuckled, "but promise me you'll never hitchhike ever again!". "We promise" we all said in unison. He took a long swig of his beer and threw the empty can out the car window. The next five minutes seemed to take forever as we drove in silence. "Take it easy boys" he said and left us in the parking lot of the theater.
"Holy Shit," said Stevie, "we almost got wasted". "Shut the fuck up," scolded Neil,"he was just fucking with us". I knew Neil was just as scared as us, I saw it in his eyes, but he always appeared cool and in control. We quickly moved on to the task at hand which was to get into the movies. I approached a middle aged guy and his wife and asked him to buy us tickets. "Where are your parents?" he asked with genuine concern. "Well...my moms divorced...and she was gonna take me, she really wanted to, but she has to stay home with my brothers and sisters and..." "Ok, Ok" the guy interrupted my line of bullshit, "How many are you?" "Four, here's the money". "Ok, follow us". We got in the ticket line with the couple and the escorted us right into the theater, no questions asked. "Thanks" I blurted out as we got to the door of our theater and ran for the front row. We got the last four seats together as the theater was filling up fast.
The movie was well worth the trouble. It had everything a ten year old would want in a movie, a little bit o' nudity, bawdy dialogue and of course a blood thirsty shark. After the movie we decided to walk the four miles home. Half way home we it started to pour. We got completely drenched. None of us suggested that we hitch a ride.
When I got home the smell of dinner and the warmth of my couch reinforced the fact that I had made it through another adventure safe and sound. As with most of my childhood adventures my mother never knew the better. I probably told her I was playing baseball all day at Neil's or that I was at the library or the YMCA. To this day I've never hitched a ride, but I do swim in the ocean.