Tuesday, November 25, 2008

First Road Trip (Part V)

Jeff and Charlene went back to making out on the log. "Come on Char, we've got to get out of here. Lets walk to Robin's house 'cause the cops will be watching the car", Terri said urgently. "Don't worry Terri. You are wicked nervous for no reason" slurred Charlene. "Come on Jeff, lets get the fuck out of here. We've got to get back to Boston. Its after midnight", I demanded. "I ain't fuckin' goin' anywhere", Jeff was hammered. The days drinking combined with the fact that I was trying to separate him from the one girl that finally allowed him to stick his tongue in her mouth made him ornery. I looked at Terri and shrugged my shoulders, resigned to sitting in the woods watching the happy couple push the limits of their fledgling sexuality. Terri wasn't so patient. "You boys can stay here, but we've got to go" she pronounced. "We're staying right Char?", Jeff was insistent on keeping the night going. "Jeff let me talk to you" Charlene stood up motioned for him to follow her. They stumbled through the brush behind a tree. She talked, he nodded. When they were done talking they rejoined us. "Come on Terri, lets walk to Robin's. My brother will pick us up there if I call him". Jeff was silent, but even in the darkness I could feel him glaring, seething. "Lets go down the hill parallel to the trail", I tried to act like I had a plan. We had just enough ambient light from the parking lots that we made it down the hill unscathed. There were no cops in sight as we peered out from behind the building. We walked over to the car. Jeff and Charlene started groping each other, while I opened the door and got in the Corona. Terri came over to the drivers side window and made me promise to call her in the morning to let her know we made it back alright. "I promise I'll call you" Charlene assured Jeff as he got in the passenger seat. Once in the car Jeff said "Thanks a fuckin' lot Sully". I stared forward, starting the car. I beeped as we drove by the girls walking to their friend's.

We drove in silence up 138 toward Boston. I replayed the nights events over in my head. How did Jeff get a girl and I didn't? Terri definitely likes me. Should we have stayed? How did I not get arrested today? I looked over at Jeff as we passed Blue Hills Reservation; he was out cold.

We pulled up to my grandmother's house just before 1 AM. While parking I hit the curb, hard. We walked in the door and there was my aunt and grandmother watching TV waiting for us. "What was that out there? Did you hit my car?" , here comes the inquisition, I thought. "No Auntie Rosie," I responded in a sing songy voice "I'm just not used to parallel parking in front of cars. I hit the curb". It was partially true. Instead of backing in like you are supposed to when parallel parking I just pulled straight in, nailing the curb. "Well, glad you're back safe and sound. Come on Ma lets go to bed. Oh, Mac wants to take you boys out for breakfast before the game tomorrow". My Aunt and Grandmother got up and gave me kisses and retired to their bedrooms. I pulled some cushions off the chairs and love seat and put them on the floor for us to sleep on, then got some blankets and pillows out of the closet. As we lay there in the dark Jeff broke his silence, "Sorry Sull". "You don't have to be sorry. I understand".

I really did.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

First Road Trip (Part IV)

"Hide the booze. We're getting stopped by the cops" I bellowed, turning off the music and shoving my beer under the front seat. I pulled over to the side of the road. The car was silently bathed in bright white light shone from a spotlight mounted on the cruiser. My breathing stopped as the officer peered in my driver's side window. "Good evening son. Can I see your license and registration?". I opened the glove box and there was the empty pint of Blackberry Brandy. I quickly shoved it under some paper napkins my mother had accumulated from trips to various fast food joints. I deftly pulled out the registration from under the napkins and empty booze bottle. I turned to the officer, handing him the documents, expecting an inquiry about the contents of the glove box, but he didn't notice. "You got your license yesterday?", he chuckled. He poked his head in the car. "Looks like you've got your hands full in there" he said to Jeff whose look of ecstasy was replaced by one of someone who had just shat himself. "Was I speeding officer?" I asked trying to get the attention out of the backseat where the beer was hidden somewhere in the mass of bodies. "No son, but you rolled through a stop sign about a mile back and I noticed you had too many people in the car. Where are you guys going?". "The movies", I lied, quickly. "Well this is a warning. Come to a complete stop next time and don't overload your car. Have fun." He handed me back my license and registration and gave me a smile that might as well been a high five. I started breathing again and the party rolled on.

We got to the party spot just a few minutes after getting stopped. We parked in front of a strip mall and went around to the back. There was a wooded hillside with a trail leading upward, dimly lit by the from the parking lot. We ascended the trail fumbling and feeling our way up the hillside. I strategically place myself behind Terri. Near the top of the climb the trees were basked in an orangish glow. At the top of the hill was a wooded glen formed by four huge rock faces in a semi circle. There was a roaring bonfire in the middle of the glen with dozens of kids drinking beer from a keg that was placed next to one of the rock formations. The hum of chatter hung over the glen mixing with the crackle and smoke from the fire. It was a modern, teenage Stonehenge. I imagined teen aged druids doing the same thing thousands of years earlier.

Our arrival was accompanied by drunken screams. Girlfriends of our girls coming over to give hugs and proclamations of their drunkenness. There were a few inquiries about us strangers, but we naturally blended into the scene. I struck up a conversation at the keg with a guy wearing a North Easton High hockey jacket. I asked him if he knew Jim Craig, the goalie from the 1980 US Olympics Hockey team that had defeated the Russians en route to winning the gold medal, being that he was from Easton. He drunkenly regaled me with stories of Jim Craig playing hockey and partying with his older brothers. After some time he asked who I came with. When I mentioned Terri he asked "You bangin' her?". "Not yet." I replied with a hint of self assuredness which got me a high five and a loud, intoxicated "WHOOOO, HOOOO", the closest we get to a rebel yell here in stoic New England.

I found Terri, Renee and Lisa hanging with some of their girlfriends by the fire. I did a sweep of the glen looking for Jeff. Jeff was nowhere to be found. Neither was Charlene. I went back to the fire to hang with the girls. I pounded down keg beer listening to the girls chatter about who was dating who and who was wearing what and who was doing what drugs. I watched Terri and even while spewing gossip she was adorable. Our eyes met for a second and I nodded my head away from the fire in the direction of the keg. We walked side by side toward the keg, playfully bumping each other. I grabbed her hand and held it tightly leading her past the keg to the edge of the glen. As we reached the darkness I turned to face her. Her form was silhouetted against the glow of the fire, breath rising in the cold November air. I couldn't see her eyes or mouth, so I reached up, brushing her cheek, searching for her lips. As I leaned in toward her, a commotion broke out in the glen. "Cops", someone shouted. Sure enough four uniformed officers appeared over Terri's shoulder entering the glen from the trail. Kids scattered in all directions like leaves in the wind. I grabbed Terri by the hand and led her deeper into the woods. We reached a small clearing where Jeff and Charlene were cozying up on a log. "What's up?", asked Charlene.

Fucking cops.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

First Road Trip (Part III)

On the road again, our attention turned toward girls. I could see Jeff getting visibly nervous the closer we got to Easton and the promised land. I hadn't seen any of these girls since the summer at 4H camp. Terri was the object of my affection. She was tall, brunette and had big, beautiful green eyes which stood out remarkably against her olive colored complexion. The other girls were equally stunning in their own right. Lisa had the quintessential Irish look complete with alabaster skin, dotted with adorably understated freckles. Renee was petite with dark brown eyes and an ass to die for. Shari was the cheerleader; blond, buxom, bombastic. I ran through these mental images over and over as we made our way south down 138, occasionally breaking my train of thought to sip on my beer.

Terri's directions were perfect. She was waiting for us on her front porch. She poked her head in the front door, yelled something, then made a beeline for the car. I had Jeff jump in the backseat, so I would have an unfettered view. She jumped in the front seat. "Lets get out of here before my dad comes out and wants to meet you guys", she said then kissed me on the cheek. As we made our way to Shari's house I introduced Jeff and offered his bartending services. I glanced over at Terri while following her directions. She looked as good as remembered. She was wearing a yellow Izod Lacoste sweater with a puffy white vest. A pair of Calvin Klien Jeans and white Reebok sneakers finished off her ensemble.

Shari screamed in delight, greeting us at her front door. We filed into her house to figure out the plan for the night. Even though her parents weren't home she was paranoid about us drinking in the house. Terri and her had been friends since they had taken dance class together at 3, but in recent years they weren't as close. Shari was a cheerleader, class president, a regular chatty Cathy. She bordered on obnoxiousness. She was also a priss. When we told her we would be picking up Renee and Lisa and going to a keg party she balked. Sitting around a fire in the woods drinking beer was not Shari's idea of a party. Drinking Boone's Farm Apple wine at a member of the football teams house, who's parents are vacationing in Mexico, was more her speed. We called Renee and Lisa from Shari's and made plans to pick them up in ten minutes. Shari decided to back out of the nights festivities which was disappointing, cutting down the ratio of girls to boys. I gave Shari a big hug and promised to call or write. I was sad that her stacked self would not be joining us.

On the way to pick up Renee and Lisa we stopped at a package store. Jeff was 18, legal drinking age, so he went in and picked up a case of Bud Talls and a pint of Blackberry Brandy. Terri suggested we stop by her friend Charlene's house and see if she wanted to go out. Once there Terri got out of the car and in a few minutes came back with a tall, good looking blond.


We got to Renee's where Lisa and Renee were outside waiting for us. They piled into the car and after some hugs opened some beers. As we got on our way to the kegger I looked at Jeff in the rear view mirror. He looked like he had died and gone to heaven: beer in hand, a tall blond on his lap, two girls on either side of him singing "Journey" at the top of their lungs, goony smile plastered on his face. The car was a rolling party. The pint of brandy was passed back and forth, the beers were flowing and the music was cranked. The scent of perfume inter-mingled with the smell of alcohol; the ultimate aphrodisiac. While the girls were screaming out the chorus of "Don't Stop Believing" I saw flashing blue lights in the side view mirror.

Oh, shit.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

First Road Trip (Part II)

Everything happened so fast. Jeff was oblivious to the situation, half drunk in the passenger seat. I was running on pure instinct and adrenaline. I saw everything as if it were in slow motion, so what in reality happened in twenty seconds, seemed to be twenty minutes.

Immediately , I went into damage control mode. "Hide the empties and dump your beer. Stay in the car. I'll be right back", I commanded. I got out and surveyed the damage. There was a little streak of red paint on the bumper, but that was it. I looked back toward the Camaro. The driver was running the 100 yards from the Camaro toward me at full speed. "Are... you...OK?" the driver asked, breathless. He was a big, black man. He smelled of cologne and was dressed all in black which accentuated the gold chains hanging from his thick neck. "Yeah, we're OK", I creaked, afraid he was going to go off on me. "You got kids in there?". "No, just me and a friend". " Man, I didn't see your blinker 'till I was going by you, then I was in that field. Thanks for speeding up man, you saved my ass". "Yeah", I said confused, realizing that he was not mad at me. "You need money for damages?", he pulled out a roll of what looked like twenties the size of a baseball. "Naw, naw its just a little paint on the bumper." "Well, here is something for it. I gotta get back there. Alright". He handed me forty bucks then turned around and sprinted back to his Camaro. I stood watching him, dumbfounded. Jeff got out of the car and asked "What the fuck is going on?". "The guy just gave me money". The Camaro went speeding by and let out a long and loud beep. The rear bumper was scrapping the pavement sending sparks flying ten feet out from behind the tail fin. We got back in the car and back on the road. Jeff chastised me for not getting more money off the guy. "He was obviously a drug dealer and wanted to keep us quiet" Jeff espoused, as if he was familiar with lots of drug dealers. I stared forward at the road, sipping on my tallboy, absorbing the recent events.

We pulled up to my grandmother's house around 4 PM. My Aunt Rosie answered the door and gave me a big hug. I introduced her to Jeff and she lead us in. My Uncle Mac was sitting in his recliner,as usual, watching some college football. I said "Hi" as I walked by and he said "hi" back. My aunt and uncle never married and lived with their mom out of convenience, not necessity. My gram was in the kitchen folding laundry she had just taken in off the clothesline. I gave her a big squishy hug and she offered us something to drink. "How about a beer?" Jeff blurted, stupidly. I shot him a dirty look. My grandmother seemingly oblivious to his request grabbed some glasses and said "How 'bout some tonic?". I nodded and she poured us a couple of Cokes. My Aunt was not so oblivious. She remained silent, but gave me a "I know what you're up to" look. Jeff and I went to the parlour and sat down with my uncle to watch football. After an hour of watching football and talking football my grandmother came out to offer us dinner. I sheepishly declined saying we had plans. "What are you doing tonight?", my aunt piped up, smiling as if she were the cat that ate the canary. "Just meeting some girls I know from 4H and Camp...there's...a...a party", I stumbled, not wanting to give away too much without outright lying. "Are you going to be drinking at this party?", now my uncle and grandmother seemed to be paying more attention. "No, no maybe I'll have one or two...". "Just be careful" she interrupted my bullshit in mid-bullshit. Jeff and I took our cue and got up to leave for our night of broads and booze. I promised I wouldn't be out too late.

Yeah, right.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

First Road Trip

"Pull the car over, take the keys out of the ignition and meet me inside" the officer droned as if he'd said it a million times before.

I heard him say it a week earlier, moments before I sat down at his desk and he explained why I had failed my drivers test. "Parallel parking, you were too far from the curb. Everything else was OK."

This time he beckoned me over to his desk with a wry smile. "You know you touched the curb?". Since I did everything else right a week earlier the only thing he had me do was parallel park and I blew it. "Yes." I politely replied. Jeff was going to be pissed. We bought Patriots tickets back in August. My mother said if I got my license I could have the car for the weekend, for the Pats.

Please officer. Have a heart under that austere, Nazi looking uniform. "Well, you barely grazed it. Promise you'll practice parallel parking?". "Yes sir, officer". "Here's your temporary license. Your permanent one will come in the mail in a few weeks. Drive safely."

Yeah, right.

I picked up Jeff in front of his apartment around 1PM. Being that it was a Saturday Jeff was still drinking coffee. He was hung over. His mom yelled "Be careful bo..." from the doorway just as Jeff slammed the car door. Jeff was 18 and had graduated from high school earlier that year. He wasn't doing much with himself, mostly drinking nightly living at his mothers apartment working as a janitor at a local elementary school.

I had met Jeff five years earlier playing baseball in the neighborhood. He was a few years older than us, always had greasy hair and a mean temper. He was famous for coming up with an injury when his team was losing and for eating sugar sandwiches. Even the white trash condidered him too trashy. As we got older we would drink beer at his house because his mother would do us packies if we bought her some booze or cigarettes. None of us liked Jeff, but after weekend after weekend of drinking at his house watching the Celtics, Bruins and RedSox his idiosyncrasies seemed to fade and I came to see him as a good friend, albeit a frickin' mess.

He was a pariah in the neighborhood partly due to his eccentricities and partly self imposed. He wore flare cut jeans when everyone else was wearing straight cut. He wore big old shit kicker boots when everyone else was wearing sneakers. He wore a tattered, smelly old Wrangler jean jacket while most everyone else was wearing Barracuda style jackets in poplin or courdaroy. If you had a jean jacket it had to be Levi's, but jean jackets were for hicks or burnouts.

Jeff had dressed well for the occasion. I prepped him a week earlier by going with him to the mall. He bought some straight legged Levi's, a white button downed oxford shirt and a pair of Nike Cortez with the red swoosh. The sixty dollar investment in his wardrobe was not for me. It was for the promise of picking up some girls. I knew some girls who lived in Easton, not far from my grandmother's house in Boston, where we were going to spend the night before the Pats game. I knew Jeff's chances at scooping on some girls was almost non-existent being that he had only kissed one girl in his life and there was some question as to whether they were related. His mall makeover was more for me, because if Terri, Renee, Lisa or Shari saw me with a shit kicking, jean jacket wearing, greasy haired hick, there would be no chance of me getting on base.

As my mother's Toyota Corona station wagon eased onto I-91 south Jeff reached into his gym bag in the back seat and pulled out a couple of cans of Bud tallboys. We toasted ourselves, then the Patriots. We were already drunk on the anticipation of getting drunk, hanging out with girls and going to see the Patriots. The beers went down smoothly as we barrelled down the Mass Pike toward Boston. Jeff manned the cassette player switching back in forth between Springsteen, Journey, AC/DC and Zeppelin. He also bartended for me, while I concentrated on my driving, being a new driver and all.

As we got to Natick, just fifteen miles out side of Boston, a Camaro got on my tail. I pulled into the right lane to let him pass. I turned to Jeff asking for another tallboy and could see the Camaro driving parallel to us in a field adjacent to the Pike heading for a grove of trees. I sped up trying to give him a chance to pull back onto the Pike before crashing into the grove. Just as we got even with the grove I felt a little bump, then heard screeching brakes. As I pulled over I looked in the side view mirror. I could see the Camaro do a three sixty across the road and smash into the Jersey barrier separating the eastbound and westbound lanes. The car lurched up the barrier almost going over and landed back on all four tires.

Son of a bitch.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Paint It Black

At 11 O'Clock last night many wrongs were made right. Our country has finally disavowed the politics of hate and personal attacks. Our country has finally eschewed the failed policies of G.W. Bush and the republican party. Our country has finally taken the most symbolic of gestures and made a black man the holder of the highest office in this country.

Three hundred and eighty nine years ago the first African slaves were brought to this country at the Jamestown settlement in Virginia (damn those limey bastards!). Last night the citizens of Virginia helped put a man of African decent in the Oval Office. Finally the pride felt by all those immigrant groups who came here post 1619 to seek a better life can be felt by the people whose ancestors were forced to come here, forced to build this country and forced to take there place at the back of the line behind all of those who came after. President Obama's election has not erased the 389 years of misery and pain, but it is a symbol of what can be realized in this great country of ours despite of our faults.

President Obama is not a baby boomer or a Generation X'er. He is like me, the first American children raised in the post civil rights era. We were told that all men were created equal. We were told that color of skin does not define a person. We were told that there should be no limits on what anyone can achieve regardless of where they came from or what they look like. Unlike any generation born prior we drank the Kool Aid and we believed. Of course we had hundreds of years of ignorance and fear to overcome, but we drank the Kool Aid and it made sense, common sense. As children we were unaware of the fact that in the years just preceding our births our sports teams weren't integrated, that black men were not allowed in certain jobs or allowed to eat in certain places. As we grew up we were confused as to why there was all of this emphasis on "race" when we couldn't see the problems. We grew up with black people holding elected office, teaching classrooms, fighting fires and policing the streets. It wasn't until we grew up that we realized what we had heard, seen and observed growing up was just an illusion. Things weren't OK. Racism was still alive and well and feelings of equality and unity were only a recent phenomenon.

The biggest lesson we can gain from Mr. Obama's election is that what you teach your children becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. We can continue to teach our children our idealistic views of how the world should be and if they don't bear fruit immediately, just wait forty years or so and the lessons learned as youngsters will produce amazing things, unbelievable things.

"I see a White House and I want to paint it Blaack...", the Stones bastardized lyrics keep playing in my head. Many of McCain's cronies were saying that when Barack got in office he would paint the White House black. I say "Paint it Black"...why not...this has been 389 years in the making. Our country was built on the backs of Black slaves who had the same wants, hopes and needs as any other human being living in America and now that a Black man will be living in the Whitest of houses let him do whatever he can to improve the human condition for everyone. Even if he paints it black.