Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Wilderness Year's - How I Learned to Read Pt. 1

1990 was the year of enlightenment and heartbreak, well technically 1991 was the year of heartbreak, the year the war broke out and the family fell apart but before that there was this, a tall, shaggy kid who had quit playing basketball and had found himself floundering for an identity, steadily slipping away from the suburbs and into the seedier parts of the city and when faced with the prospect of a summer at home he pulled up stakes and headed to the beach with One-eyed Bob and Frat boy Dave...To call the three of us the WonderBread Boys would have been a compliment, One-eye was still sporting a rat tail, you know the little tiny shock of hair at the bottom of his hairline tied off with beads at the bottom of his other wise buzzed hair and Frat Boy Dave was a damn near dead ringer for Richard Marx, hair and all, yes that Richard Marx and Davey Boy could do nothing but ramble on about all his sexual conquests all the while emanating mommy issues that a dozen shrinks wouldn't want to touch, I had grown up with One-eye who ventured off to school in Kentucky on a bowling scholarship where he met FBD, who was also on a bowling scholarship and then joined the bowling frat... now nothing will severe the childhood bonds of friends like friends joining secret clubs with secret handshakes and strange rituals where i'm guessing they most likely tasted each others jizz all under the guise of brotherhood you know.

We jammed what we could into FBD's car and made the ten hour trek east to the cesspool of Ocean City where earlier in the year we had procured jobs and a place to stay. I had been going to OC since i was a kid and round about the age of 15 or so i met a guy who owned some t-shirt stores, a short Jewish guy from Brooklyn who would one day tell me that i should've been a Brooklyn Jew cuz he'd never in his life met a Goy who was such a smart ass, Little Jewish Businessman or LJB promised us a place to stay and gainful employment and upon arriving he showed us into a dump with stained mattresses, a kitchen filled with foul dishes and fruit flies and a bathroom that may have been Ocean City's worst, my first thought was that i was hoping to eat some crabs not catch them and we sat on the stained beds and drank beer and ate subs and though i wanted to stick it out One Eye and Frat Boy where not having it, who lived like this they exclaimed and since i didn't know what to do we got back in the car and drove home, while the whole time i berated them for being pussies and lobbying to find other living accommodations... no dice. The next morning i was back in Cleveland looking defeated.

My old man had taken notice of the his rather depressed son and since he had recently been laid off i don't think he was excited about the prospect of both of us sitting around the house all summer seeing as how he had earned a summer vacation after busting his ass for the last 26 plus years and told me to call the LJB and see if i still had a job and a room, i did and so we threw my shit back in the car and drove back down, my previous room had been rented and this time i lucked into a place above one of his stores, third floor with an ocean front balcony, people paid big money for this view and i'd get it all for 800 bucks for the summer, in fact it was the very same place that i would meet Audrey the following summer when One Eye and FBD lived there, of course mom gave the place the once over and ran out and cleaned it all up and bought me some food and the old man palmed me a few twenties and they got in the car and drove back. I didn't know a soul. That is until One Eye came down a few weeks later to get a prime spot selling t-shirts in one of LJB's stores while i slogged away in his warehouse over in west Ocean City. At that point it was to late though, i'd found a running mate and the childhood bond was gone. He got the good gig and i had the shit one.

I had come to the beach in search of action and had ended up in a warehouse far from the ocean breeze, the action and the girls, the heat was like a hot blanket that you couldn't shake and i spent my days in shorts and no shirt filling orders for LJB's six stores. In a nutshell, it sucked and little did i know it would be my first of many warehouse gigs but this one had none of the perks of the others like selling weed to co-workers or robbing the places blind and selling shit in corner bars, it was just me and a shit radio station and the hum of the bugs. But first...

We must introduce the first of my two loves that summer. Lucy. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Acid if you will. It all started so innocently one night and before you could say can i have another tab it was damn near a full time job, tripping that is, and damn was it a great job to have, soon i had gone from the guy waiting for the tabs to come back to the guy standing in the room with Space Ace and his Muscle scoring many hits, Space Ace and his Muscle took a shine to me for some reason, Muscle always standing in the corner with his steel tucked not so subtly in his waistband while Space Ace did his business, they'd sit there and run most people in and out as fast as they could but i would be offered beers and shoot the shit and end up getting a ten strip for free cuz i had organized my friends into buying all at once and Space Ace appreciated that fact, how i even ended up in the room is beyond me, needless to say it was beneficial to all of us and i can remember being there at 9am or 5pm or 4am and it always seemed to be the same...

Now being roughly 20, white and from the suburbs means that i had already read No One Here Gets Out Alive the previous summer and had been through my Lizard King phase which all us white suburban punks go through at one point or another, it was also a license to see how many checks the brain could cash and soon the tabs where being eaten every day but Sunday, usually around late afternoon so that i could trip through sunset and through the night so i could watch the glorious sunrise crack the eastern shore while listening to garbage trucks and soon i found that there were more than a few creatures like me who stayed up all night and drank beer and talked and listened to music and it became our own little tribe of whack jobs roaming the streets all night from place to place looking for parties that didn't exist or being denied entry to the ones that did do to the size of our pupils and failure to communicate and we'd all end up on my balcony staring at the ocean or in some apartment sweating our eyeballs out...

Of course i know what you're thinking, when did this upstanding young man have time to read and i'll explain but right now we must move on to other things, like the second love of that summer... MJ, her initials of course, she had one of the plainest names i'd ever heard and she herself was rather plain but in a beautiful way, with her dark, shiny hair and wired rimmed glasses that always slipped down her nose, her freckles brought out by the sun, she had what i thought i craved... an inherent sadness, a latch key kid who had had to deal with to many of mom's boyfriends and of course mom had to marry the biggest asshole she brought home all the while pushing her dad further away, she was the oldest of 3 kids from a shit town in western Pa. and had come to the beach to escape only to end up working in a store with an Israeli national who was always wanted a kiss if she wanted her paycheck...

The store she worked in was on 12st. and it was my last stop before i dropped off the shitty white Econoline with no air conditioning and got off work, it was also the one i looked forward to the most, i had taken to wearing a brown San Diego Padres hat to keep my Bernard Sumner haircut out of my eyes, you know the one, shaved and tapered up and all long and floppy on top, think Barney in 84 or so but with longer hair up top, my thrift store cut-offs were always dirty and all i had for a belt was a piece of fabric that i found in the warehouse and i was always covered in a fine layer of sweat, of course i was in fighting shape from working and sweating all day and i'm sure my lack of actual meals didn't hurt either, the store was tiny and it was just her and The National who barely spoke English and pined for his days in the army, i'd unload the boxes and then take his order for the next day and mill about hoping to talk to MJ, she would always smile and after a week or so we began to talk every time i came in and damn if i wasn't smitten..

She lived half a block behind the place in a closet with two other girls, a place so small i couldn't even stand up in, her friends by luck lived right below me, the party floor i called it though for some reason i had never really ventured down there, i lived up above with two brothers who lived down the hall and One-Eye who had moved into the room next door, he worked alot and we barely spoke due to what he and my boss deemed my "excessive drug intake", MJ stated that she often stopped by the parties and i told her that some night she should stop up and say high, needless to say i was hoping they'd have a party that night but for some reason they did not, the next night they did but i wasn't there and then on what i believe was a Sunday i was sitting in my room listening to the Velvet Underground and drinking beer alone, i had replaced all my regular light bulbs with either blue or red lights except a reading lamp i had found in the junk room, in the daytime i had all the light i needed cuz the room had no curtains, my door was shut and there was a knock and i said come in and my heart skipped a beat as she poked her head through the door and said hi...

She was wearing a pair of cut-off jeans and a white t-shirt and in the glow of the blue light she was gorgeous, she sat down and we talked and she said she liked the music and hours had passed and she was like damn i should get back my roommates probably left and i was like sure and we stood up and me being like a bumbling fool kinda looked around and then she leaned in and kissed me... she didn't make it back downstairs to find her friends and a few days later after seeing her place i told her she could crash at mine anytime she wanted, she said she'd like that and laughed and told me how she thought i was the most interesting person she'd met in a long time, i smiled and said i don't know about that and she looked at me with these dark brown soulful eyes and said, just watching you unload that truck and swearing at shit when it fell out and that hat and the fact you were wearing a string as a belt and then you'd come in and be the most polite almost shy guy i'd met since i got here... like i said, i was smitten. To be cont...

6 comments:

Gaz said...

Haven't been here in a bit Kono, but your stories always abide.....

good writing

nursemyra said...

*sigh* now I feel nostalgic for my youth and sweaty half naked boys in dirty shorts....

daisyfae said...

this makes me ache to be young and full of... full of... whatever that thing was that we had that let us lean forward into life with optimism that everything would be ok... (sigh)

love these, kono...

Rassles said...

Sir, this is good. These are all really, really good. And completely different from my own stories.

Kono said...

Gaz - big thanks and hope the surf is treatin you well.

Nursie - i realize now that being a half naked sweaty boy wasn't a bad thing at all.

Daisy - we are still young and full of whatever just with more perspective or something, oh and are joints hurt more and replace optimism with pessimism but really we're the same.

Rassles - Thanks and here's hoping you scored that pinball machine, i got some more in the pipeline but a sick baby is keeping me from getting anything done other than watching late night telly while he drools on my shoulder.

oh yeah and part2 is coming i just don't know when, to pull a movie trick i'll leave a couple of upcoming titles (subject to change) one called Mittens and the first installment of the Hardwood Diaries, going back even further than the Wilderness Years.

Kono said...

and one more thing if anyone is interested, the picture you see shows the places i lived, the building at the top left and the one directly behind it, lived in the top left one for "How i Learned to Read" and the one behind it during "A Marriage Proposal" and "Don't Call Me Whitey"