Sunday, November 13, 2011

Angels And Assholes

This is how I remember it:
Billy cornered me in the hall one day early into my 10th grade year. Probably late September 1983 (give or take a few months).  He said there was a chick he wanted me to meet.  Being the social recluse that I was (and still am), and he being the slut that he was, I dismissed it as a new conquest of his, and proceeded to my “office”.  I had commandeered the audio booth in the school’s television studio, stashing some of my favorite records there, and using it as a retreat from the pressures of high school life. By my second year of high school I was already spending 1/3 of my school day in the studio so it was not uncommon for me to be found in the audio booth.
Billy tracked me down in the lunchroom where I was wolfing down a mystery-meat cheeseburger and my customary 2 chocolate milks.  He told me to hurry up, as he really wanted me to meet this chick.  I told him to hold on; there would be plenty of time for me to meet his new girlfriend.  Billy straightened himself up and said that this chick wasn’t his new girlfriend, but a freshman he had befriended who wanted to meet me!  Dumbfounded, I choked down the rest of my burger, sent it on its way to my guts with a last gulp of chocolate milk and asked Billy what he was waiting for.
Outside in the courtyard between the twin buildings that was North Community High School two New Wave girls were talking to each other between drags on their Marlboro Light 100’s.  Typical of the day they were wearing thrift store dresses from the 60’s, white ankle socks and white faux Ray Ban sunglasses.  Not quite the Madonna wanna-be look, which wouldn’t hit for another year, but still not your average Top 40 teenagers.  I immediately recognized them as belonging to “us” as opposed to “them”, while at the same time instantly knowing one of these girls was the one whom Billy had been dispatched to introduce me to.  As we approached the girls they turned towards us and both stamped out their cigarettes.  The shorter and slightly chubbier girl ran to Billy and gave him a big hug, the taller and thinner one stood her ground.  When the embracing was finished Billy introduced me to Laurie, the taller and skinnier one, and to Angie, the shorter and slightly chubbier, and in my opinion cuter girl.  Upon our formal introduction Laurie lackadaisically shook my hand.  Angie giggled and shook my hand, then pulled me in for a hug.  Angie seemed impressed with the Suburbs t-shirt I was wearing, saying that “Music For Boys” was a really good song.  I concurred while Laurie rolled her eyes in an attempt to seem cool, aloof, and unimpressed.  Angie ignored Billy and Laurie, never averting her eyes from me.  Nor mine from her.  In the few minutes we had before the bell would tell us to make our way to our next classes Angie and I made plans to meet after school at the bus stop.  With another hug the bell rang and Billy and I were off.  Looking over my shoulder as I made my way out of the courtyard I kept an eye on Angie, my new cute New Wave friend.  She was looking at me as well, and I passed her a wink of the eye before closing the door behind me. 
As we slowly trudged our way back into the hallowed halls of learning Billy elbowed me and said that he had met Laurie and Angie a few days earlier while out smoking. Angie had seen me in the halls and had asked about me.  Billy talked me up as a best friend was supposed to, and was given the task of introducing me to her.  Mission accomplished, Billy left me to attend my civics class while he went to the radio station to prepare the next hour’s newscast.  Civics class was the 5th period of a 6 period day, and soon enough I was waiting out by the buses for my new friend.  Not to be disappointed, Angie rolled up a few minutes later with a scrap of paper in her hand.  She thrust it towards me and said that it was her phone number.  Without any time to respond Angie hopped on her bus right as the driver of my bus was yelling at me to get on or get left behind.  The ride home was spent with my Toshiba KTS-2 Personal Cassette Player cranked up blasting “Wild Planet” by The B-52’s and staring out the window.
As soon as I got home I turned on the TV to watch something educational, like Scooby-Doo, cracked open my homework and had it done by the time the bad guy was accusing Fred and Velma and co. of being “meddling kids”.  As I was stuffing my backpack with my completed schoolwork I grabbed the scrap of paper Angie had given me and decided to call the number that was scrawled on there.  A girl answered before the first ring had time to finish.  I asked for Angie and was answered with a giggle and a warning to call sooner next time.  We then spent the next hour and a half comparing favorite bands, gossiping about our friends, and generally acting like the teenagers we were.  When my dad got home from work I excused myself with the promise that I would call her back after supper.  I hung up the phone, but not before giving Angie my number and the invitation to call any time.
At about 7:00 the phone rang.  My dad, who had answered the call, shouted up to me “some girl is on the phone for you”.  Knowing of only one girl who would be calling me I jumped up from the floor of my room where I had been reading the current issue of Trouser Press and sprang to the extension in my parent’s bedroom.  Angie and I talked for another hour until my mom told me to hang up, as she needed to make some calls.  Hearing my mom through the phone, Angie said she’d call me later, and hung up.  I returned to my room, my records, and my issue of Trouser Press, giddy over the fact that such a cute and cool girl seemed to be into me.  About 9:30 the phone rang and I was once again summoned to take the call. Angie was on the line again and we chatted away another hour before I excused myself to go to bed.  Sleep came quickly as I nodded off to the sounds of DEVO’s “Freedom Of Choice”, at the time my favorite album.
The next morning, a Friday, I met Billy at the appointed corner where the school bus picked us up.  He asked about the previous night and I told him of the three separate phone calls Angie and I had shared.  He said that was a good sign and not to blow it.  I asked him what he meant by that; he said that this Angie chick really liked me, and that she could very possibly become my first girlfriend.  Having blown my chance with Mary I was bound and determined to not let this new chick get away.  The whole bus ride that morning was spent with Billy giving me instructions in the art of woo.  I eagerly devoured all of his advice and had screwed up enough courage to officially ask Angie out.  Angie was waiting for me in the smoking courtyard, and I nervously approached her, knowing that I was about to commit a grievous offense in the interest of my libido.  Vainly trying to swallow the grapefruit-sized lump in my throat I told her that I had a couple of free passes to a sneak preview movie that Saturday, and nervously asked her if she’d like to go with me.  Angie squealed, gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and said an emphatic “yes”.  We made some small talk until it finally dawned on her to ask what the movie was.  I told her I knew nothing about it, my mom had gotten tickets to this sneak preview from her job.  The movie was called Gremlins and was supposed to be released later that year.  We were going to go to the media screening along with all the critics and reporters.  Hell, it could have been a Hollywood debacle on the scale of Ishtar and Angie would have still been ecstatic.  The bell rang signifying it was time for us to split up, and we each made our way to class; she to her dance class and me to the TV studio.
Billy caught me on the way to class and asked if I had done the deed.  I told him I had asked Angie out, and she had agreed, but since we barely knew each other we hadn’t actually “done the deed” in the high school sense of the word.  Billy slapped me in the back of the head and told me that’s not what he meant, and that he was proud of me for asking my first girl out.
I made my way to my office in the TV studio and threw on the copy of Fairport Convention’s “Liege And Leif” album that the resident hippy, Paul, had loaned me.  He gave it to me after he had heard me playing Boiled In Lead’s first album and said it was crap, Fairport were much better.  After hearing “Crazy Man Michael” I was in agreement, although Paul did finally admit BiL was a pretty good take on English folk-rock.  Eric and Erik came in to extend their salutations for the day and before either could start in on anything I told them I had a date for that weekend.  They both congratulated me and told me not to fuck it up.  In hindsight it seemed everyone had little confidence in me and my ability to woo the opposite sex.  I guess after letting Mary get away from me they weren’t so far off the mark.  I was bound and determined not to let this one get away. 
The rest of the school day was as typical as any other, aside from meeting Angie in the halls between every class.  Our lunch periods were staggered so we were unable to dine together, but there was a 15-minute overlap where we could hang out, and there was the time after school while we were supposed to be boarding our respective school buses. And again we spent the majority of the night on the phone with each other to the point of both of our parents yelling at us to get off the line.  This time we had a reason to be talking so much, we had a date the next afternoon and plans had to be solidified.  With a schedule worked out and a high in my heart I finally hung the receiver up and retired to my room.  Kraftwerk’s album Computerworld made the nights’ homework easier to contend with and shortly after the books were closed I was fast asleep with dreams of my first date swimming through my nighttime thoughts.
I arose early the next morning in anticipation of the big date.  My mom was going to drive us to the mall where the as-yet-unreleased cinematic epic “Gremlins” was showing.  As it was an early afternoon show Angie and I had planned on my mom and I picking her up at her house, go to the movie, then Angie’s mom would come and get us when it was over. 
As we pulled up in front of Angie’s house my mom gave me the look that seemed to say “remember everything we’ve taught you” while at the same time conveying the message “I can’t believe my little baby is going on his first date”.  I sprang from the car and literally hopped to Angie’s front door and rang the bell.  Before the chime had time to finish ringing the door was wrestled open and there stood Angie, looking really cute and New Wave.  I was resplendent in my black-and-red checkerboard Jeans West shirt and black parachute pants.  I’m sure there was never a cuter couple that had ever trod the planet.  I introduced Angie to my mom and pleasantries were exchanged, the two of us giddy and giggling in the back seat.  We finally made it to the theater and bode my mother adieu.
I can’t tell you anything about the movie, but I’m sure everyone reading this has seen it and knows the plot twists and can read into this paragraph whatever you choose to read into it.
When the cinematic masterpiece concluded Angie dropped a quarter into the pay phone and dialed her number.  A few scant words into the receiver later and we were assured Mom’s Taxi would be there in about 20 minutes.  It was just enough time to wander around the mall once, and for Angie to ask me to hang out with her the rest of the afternoon.  I heartily agreed and was secretly glad I wasn’t the one who had to initiate the offer.  Sure enough roughly 20 minutes later Angie’s mom picked us up from the mall and introductions were made.  I seemed to have passed the test just as Angie had done with my mother.  With that pressure released Angie’s mom asked where we wanted to be dropped off.  Angie said we should go to one of her friends’ houses (for the life of me I can’t remember this friend’s name) and hang out there.  I agreed, not having the faintest clue as to what or who Angie was talking about, but just happy to be hanging out with her.
We were dropped off at said friends’ house and knocked on the door just as Angie’s mom was driving off.  A chubby girl with bleached hair and the ubiquitous 60’s thrift-store dress answered and welcomed us in.  There was another girl there, Jenny, dressed in similar attire, along with Laurie whom I had already met.  Angie introduced me to her friends and then told the girls that I had already witnessed Duran Duran in concert.  Duran Duran had just broken internationally and were the dream of many a teenage girl (and I assume some teenage boys as well) at this point and it was quite a feather in my hat to have seen them the previous summer when they played with Blondie and Elvis Costello.  My brain was picked for minute details as to what Simon was like, what John Taylor wore, how Nick Rhodes stood while he played his one-finger synthesizer lines.  I told them all I remembered and in the process seemed to win the approval of all concerned, even the stoic and cool Laurie. 
Angie stood up and asked if anyone wanted a Coke, and the entire group answered affirmatively as Angie walked towards the kitchen.  When she got through the door she poked her head around the corner and beckoned me to help her dispense the beverages.  When I got to the semi-privacy offered by the kitchen Angie grabbed me and whispered sternly “When are you going to kiss me?”  Stunned but cool I replied, “I guess right now” as I went in for the kill.  We stood there for what seemed like hours, lips locked and tongues dancing around and on top of each other.  I finally had to come up for air, took a big gulp of oxygen and said, “That was fun, let’s do it again!”  The scene was immediately repeated until Laurie poked her head in and asked what were we doing and where were the Cokes that were promised.  When she saw what Angie and I were up to she giggled, grabbed the drinks herself and returned to the other two girls in the living room.  As Angie and I were going at it for the third time there came a chorus of “ooooooohhhhhhhh ” from the other room.  Angie and I decided we had better rejoin the party and sheepishly strolled back in to the living room.
For the rest of the school year Angie and I were inseparable.  We were one of “the” couples at our fair little school, no doubt helped by the fact that we were one of, if not the only, New Wave couple in the entire student body.  We arranged our schedules so that beginning with the new trimester we were able to have lunch together.  Since Angie was in the dance class I volunteered at every opportunity to provide videotaping of the class’ performances and recitals.  I introduced her to the staff at Harpo’s (I mean Northern Lights.  Harpo’s changed their name but old habits are hard to break and I kept calling it Harpo’s for at least a year after the switch) and the other places I was frequenting.  Billy and I took Angie and Laurie (Billy and Laurie “dated” for a few months in there but alas it didn’t work out) to the Saturday night dance parties that we were still attending, but after realizing that our time could be better spent making out in hidden-away places Angie and I stopped going.
For some reason my folks were out of town. It’s funny, but in hindsight it seems like parents were always leaving town for the weekend in the early 80’s.  Maybe our parents were sneaking away to coke-fueled orgies. More likely they just wanted to get the Hell away from us snotty kids.  Anyway, I was left alone on a Friday night. Who knows where my parents were? All I knew was that Billy and I had plans to hop a bus over to Angie’s after a quick stop at The Electric Fetus record store.  Billy came over and we immediately got thrown out of the house by my brother who, in the absence of any parental supervision, decided to have a party.  He didn’t want us “New Wave fags” blowing his scene and told me not to come back until really late. And by really late he meant by his schedule, not mine. “Great,” I said to Billy. “I can’t come back until like 2 am or something.”  Billy said not to worry; that once we got to Angie’s we’d forget about the time.  So we grabbed my boombox and a garbage bag as the skies were starting to look pretty ominous by this time. 
We shuffled off to catch the No. 18 bus with a tape of Classix Nouveaux blaring out of the portable neighbor-annoyer.  Sure enough, as soon as we stepped onto the bus the skies opened and it started pouring rain.  Billy suggested that we head straight to Angie’s, but I was adamant that we go to the Fetus first as I wanted to buy a pair of Chinese ballet shoes they had there.  Of course there was no bus shelter on the corner where we had to transfer. We looked like the most bedraggled kids ever when we finally caught the connecting bus that would drop us in front of the record store.  With said footwear purchased (Billy admitted that they looked cool and that it was a wise investment in my ever-expanding New Wave wardrobe) we went back out to catch another bus. The rain had stopped just long enough for our bus to show up, and once again the thunder clapped and the lightning struck and the rain poured while we took the 20 minute bus trip to Angie’s. 
We finally made it to Angie’s place once again drenched to the bone.  Angie’s mom took pity on us and handed Billy and I each a towel and offered to throw our clothes in the dryer if we wanted.  We declined when Angie suggested that the four of us (Laurie was there too, as I think by this time she and Billy had attempted dating each other) grab her cassette of A Flock Of Seagulls second album and we go out and play in the rain.  Since we were already wet Billy and I had no problem with that plan and soon enough we were all out in the rain acting like a bunch of teenage kids without a care in the world.  We were walking around listening to The Flock on my boombox when a car drove by, slowed down, and then backed up.  One of the dirtbags in the car stuck his head out the window and started yelling at us calling us “fucking punk fags” and screaming that he and his friends were gonna kick our sorry asses.  Sadly this was not an atypical scenario and collectively Angie, Laurie, Billy and I shouted that they should all fuck off and go blow each other to the Journey tape they were blasting out of their rusted out Chevy.  And then we legged it like there was no tomorrow. We tore through several yards, exciting certain family dogs that had been left out in the rain (no doubt by parents who were away for the weekend), and leaving huge rooster tails of spray in our wake as we ran for our lives back to Angie’s house.
When we returned Angie’s mom had four fresh towels for us. As she doled them out she asked what we had done out in the rain. “Nothing, mom, just out walking around and listening to music” was Angie’s reply.  We hung out in Angie’s basement where her mom had a dance studio and a really nice stereo.  At about 1 in the morning Angie’s mom said that Billy and I needed to leave. When she heard that we were bus bound Angie’s mom insisted on driving us home.  By this time the rain had stopped, but Angie’s mom was worried about 2 16 year olds out in the middle of the night dressed as we were.  We all piled into her car and Billy gave directions back to his place.  We dropped him off first, and we stayed until we saw that he was safely in his house.  I then told Angie’s mom how to get to my house and we drove the 4 blocks in no time.  When we got there I thanked Angie’s mom for the ride and got out of the car. Angie followed me and whispered that I needed to go to the back door and avoid the front.  As soon as we got out of sight of her mom Angie grabbed me and started furiously making out with me in the back yard. I could still hear party noise coming from inside my house and was in no hurry to go inside.  Eventually a car horn started bleating and Angie said that was her cue to break it off for the night and go home.  We had one last long kiss goodnight and she departed. I went in the house where a bunch of dirtbags were drinking and blasting Journey on my dad’s stereo.  I marched the gauntlet and up to my room.  Typically there was a young couple making out on my bed and the guy yelled at me to “leave them the fuck alone”. I told him to get the fuck out of my fucking bed or I was gonna call the fucking cops.  They left, I put on my giant headphones to drown out the Foreigner that was now playing down in the living room, and eventually fell asleep.  I don’t remember the ramifications of my brother having a party, if my folks ever knew or if he got in trouble at all.
On a July day Angie called me up and told me to go over to Jenny’s dad’s house, which happened to be only a few blocks away.  She said she and the girls were bored and they wanted to give me a haircut.  Tired of the Gary Numan record I was listening to I agreed and hopped on my Sears 10-Speed and pedaled the 6 blocks to the budding hairdressers.  Now, at this time my hair wasn’t necessarily long, just barely over the tops of my ears and to the nape of my neck in back, barring the braided rat-tail I had been growing for the previous 8 months.  What those girls did to my hair, though, was both glorious and unspeakably horrible at the same time.  Each girl chose a side to work on without letting the others see what she was doing.  My only stipulation was that the rat-tail be left untouched, other than that I was open for anything.  After about half an hour each girl said they were finished and a mirror was brought out.  The right side of my head had been scalped down to about 1/16th of an inch and the hair on top of my head combed down over it.  The left side of my head was cut into 5 shingles, ultimately resembling the steppe irrigation system I was learning about in my social studies class.  The back of my head was just raped into something resembling a cropped shag.  The rat-tail was still perfectly intact so I had no complaints about the rest of my head.  Of course my mom threw an absolute shit fit when she saw it.  My dad, always of the practical mind, just told me to wear my grey fedora while I was in the house.
Despite all the heavy make-out sessions we were having I never did more than kiss Angie.  Once I copped a feel of some side-boob and thought it was a huge deal.  Maybe I was intimidated, maybe I was having fun just swapping spit, but I never thought of taking it any further.  I would soon live to rue that timidity.
Billy’s family was out of town for some reason.  I think his mom split town for the weekend and left the kids to fend for themselves, and as any teenaged kid would do they all partied it up at their friends’ houses.  I was hanging out at Billy’s and we decided to call the girls up and have them stop by.  An hour later, after spinning a few Romeo Void and Tom Tom Club records the girls showed up.  Since the house was empty Billy and Laurie quickly retired to his bedroom leaving Angie and I on our own in the living room.  In the blink of an eye we were at it, tongues furiously fighting with one another for space in the opposing mouth.  I finally copped a full feel of 15-year-old breast, albeit through a bra, a dress, and a sweater, but still, a full-on grope.  It was then that I started to get a little jumpy, thinking I was hearing members of Billy’s family scraping keys in the lock of the front door, I was hearing non-existent cars pull up in front of the house, all kinds of things that were spoiling what should have been the crowning moment of my budding life as a 10th grade Lothario.  Angie couldn’t understand why I was so jumpy and did her best to calm me down.  We went back to some heavy necking and fondling and soon all was right with the world once again.  A few minutes later Angie got caught up in the way things were progressing and started to work the button on my parachute pants.  She got my belt undone and opened up my trousers and plunged her hand into the deep.  I stiffened up (not like that, ya perv!) immediately thinking I was again hearing the various members of Billy’s family returning from their various journeys.
I have no idea what Billy and Laurie were doing behind his closed doors and I never asked.  All I know is that Angie screamed, called me an asshole and ran out the door, and Billy, hearing this in the other room, made a mad dash to the living room to ask me what happened.  I quickly told him that Angie had her hand down my pants and was holding on for dear life when she asked, “What do I do now?”  My response, twisted by the thought of Billy’s family members returning coupled with the fact that his mom’s couch was not necessarily the most romantic place to begin a new stage of my life, was “If you don’t know what to do maybe we shouldn’t be doing this right now.”  With that Angie jumped up and ran outside leaving a trail of obscenities in her wake.  Billy called me a fucking god damned moron and went running out after Angie.  Laurie just stood there looking at me like I was the biggest piece of shit in the unflushed toilet.  To tell the truth I probably was.  I sure felt like it in that moment.
Twenty minutes later Billy and Angie returned.  The tension in the air then was palpable, hanging there as thick as fog.  After about half an hour of small talk the girls left and Billy proceeded to read me the riot act in every language known to man and a few that I think he made up on the spot.  He chided me for blowing my first chance at getting laid.  He yelled at me for blowing his chances of getting laid that night.  He belittled me for fucking up on such a grand scale.  And then, like best friends do, he offered to buy me a Mountain Dew Big Gulp from the 7-11 down the street.
The next day Angie called and suggested that she and Laurie and Billy and I all swap partners, Laurie and I would date and Billy and Angie would date.  I think that lasted a full 20 minutes before all parties involved realized that was a really, really bad idea.  I don’t remember any details except that we all agreed it was never going to work out.
After that Angie and I officially broke up, but still remained best friends for the next year.  I roped her in to act as the Ed Gein Fan Club’s first drummer.  In hindsight that was another really smooth move on my part, as Emma Rotgut was not only the EGFC’s bass player but also my new girlfriend.  Having an ex and a current in the same band didn’t seem like an issue to my 16 year old brain, thinking that the power of rock and roll could, would overcome such petty little things like jealousy and resentment.
Man, was I was wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, the historic, Miltonian battles between Clash kids and Journey zombies! Nice! I was 24 in '83 and playing (co-lead vox, lead guitar) in a band called Kindergarten, which you mentioned seeing, on a post on another blog; did you catch our debut in 7th Street Entry? It was a record-breaking attendance for the Entry and totally packed and wild. I was playing a sky-blue flying-V guitar (which was the ultimate no-no in New Wave bands, as you recall... flying-Vs were for heavy metal bands... we thought it was hysterical!) I quit Kindergarten before they played the main-room show (opening for Ministry, I think) because Al (the bass player, art school student) had persuaded Bob (the leader) of the perfection of a scheme to spray the audience with fish heads! Laugh. I wanted no part of that (afraid of lawsuits)...

    Anyway, keep pumping out this narrative, man... archeologists will consider this a valuable resource centuries from now!

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