Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve had all sorts of extremely obnoxious misadventures. One stands out particularly for how stupid it was. I tend to be somewhat absent minded unfortunately. One afternoon, a few years ago, while still living in Wyoming, Pennsylvania, I remembered having left something outside in my car. I can’t remember what it was but knowing me it was most probably my eyeglasses. I’ve always been quite seriously prone toward leaving my glasses in my car so for me it was quite a typical day in that sense. Like any other time I opened my car door any got the glasses out of the car, fully expecting to go back into the house without any real trouble. That, however, was simply not to be. During that time frame I was constantly doing little stupid things that inflicted intense pain upon my fingertips. This time, upon my having let my guard down for only a very short time, the door of my car was blown close by a sudden gust of wind. It closed upon the fingers of my left hand. I couldn’t wriggle them out, nor could I reach far enough with my right hand so that I could open the door. Conveniently somewhere over the course of only the first few minutes after my having been subjected to this complete stupidity a teenaged boy walked down the street dribbling a basketball. I asked him for help. He opened the door and I took my sore fingers out. I felt quite stupid, of course, and wasn’t the least bit sure I could have put up with that trouble for any significant length of time.
Even though I haven’t paid a significant amount of attention to either of them in the many decades since I graduated, my two most prized possessions have always been my high school yearbook and ring. My yearbook is called the Forerunner because St. John the Baptist is the patron saint of my school. They most certainly aren’t the kinds of things an adult can possibly get any kind of mileage out of, but I always want to make sure I can account for them both. It’s boring for me to read all the things in my yearbook except on very rare special occasions. My ring, the few times I’ve tried to wear it, has always given me extremely bad blisters. My interest in them, though, has nothing to do with usage. It’s much more of a symbolic connection. I’ve always been quite smitten, perhaps even a bit inordinately, with my past, and also with the past in general. My yearbook and ring provide me with tangible links to a most significant part of my past. Neither can possibly be replaced. These days, thanks to the internet, I can get in touch with a lot of different people from my school days. I regularly communicate with former teachers and classmates of mine. My yearbook and ring, though, are in a category entirely their own. Associating with someone from my past brings him entirely into my present and there’s no way out of that. A yearbook and ring, precisely because they’re so inextricably linked with someone’s past, are especially specifically going to remind him of it. A lot of other people may consider a car, article of clothing or some other specific thing the most important possession someone can possibly have in his life. Most certainly the average individual would refer to something he at least occasionally uses. In my typically lopsided fashion, my most prized possessions are things I hardly ever so much as bother to think twice about.
The first decade of my lifetime was virtually precisely coeval with the 196o’s. I was born in 1959 so I’m entirely too young to remember the era of flower power, mods, rockers and hippies. Somehow,though, at an extremely early age I became smitten with all the people, places, things and circumstances that were prominent then. That sort of qualifies me as a victim of the Golden Age Syndrome. By the time I turned thirteen years old, the grooviest decade of all had already been over for about the past two years. The Beatles, my favorite band, were already broken up since the first half of April, 1970. The first few years of the 1970’s seemed to have shown great promise. Singers and bands such as Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and Led Zeppelin were always on the radio. They were throwbacks to the 1960’s anyway though. Eventually their successors started coming into prominence. Disco was especially conspicuous during that time frame, followed by new wave and punk. I, of course, still stuck to my obsessive interest in the further adventures of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Much of the music of the middle and late 1970’s was exceptionally good, but I could never let go of my hippie fantasy. The fact that all four Beatles were then still living made it at least theoretically possible to believe that somehow their era would make a kind of comeback. The Grateful Dead, Who, Rolling Stones, and Jefferson Airplane (with a slight name change), among other bands from the 1960’s, were all still together. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez could still be counted on to show up every once in a while. I gained quite a reputation among all my friends, classmates, teachers and people in general, for being such a fan of both the entire 1960’s as a whole and particularly of the Fab Four. As far as I’m concerned the Beatles and their world have always provided quite an infinitely fertile ground for someone with a hyperactive imagination and an interest in keeping things colorful. Unfortunately, as good as the solo Beatles’ music, and that of their contemporaries may have been throughout the course of the 1970’s I, always having been so obsessively infatuated with the 1960’s, could never bring myself to admit that anything since then was as good as it was during that time. Having set up an entirely intrinsically impossible standard of comparison, I ended up in the seriously weird position of getting the distinct impression that the 1970’s versions of the Beatles and their contemporaries were somehow not as good as their slightly earlier personae simply because of the mere passage of time. As far as I was concerned the 1960’s were a time of merry go rounds, kaleidoscopes, tangerines and marmalade, and the Beatles, as they then existed, were the ultimate personification of imagination and creativity. Throughout my entire adolescence I read every book, and newspaper and magazine article, that had ever been written about the Beatles, and their lives and times. Their speech patterns, quirks and mannerisms became part of my world. Thanks to my insatiable curiosity about them and their era, I became quite exceptionally knowledgeable about all things pertaining to the Fab Four and the 1960’s. Besides the songs and albums of their Beatle years I kept track of albums like John Lennon’s “Walls And Bridges”, Paul McCartney’s “Band On the Run”, George Harrison’s “Dark Horse”, and Ringo Starr’s “Ringo”, among all their other solo adventures. I was quite conversant in all things Beatle and could occasionally be counted on even to go overboard with my interest in them. Even now that I’m a middle aged man I still consider all the music of the 1960’s, and especially that of the Lads from Liverpool, to be entirely without equal. Perhaps some of my youthful obsession with it all has been tempered to the point of its being a bit more subtle but it’s still always with me. In a much more important sense it was quite a nightmarishly ugly poisonous environment, but for a kid with a hyperactive imagination and a flair for the colorful it could never possibly be topped or even matched.
I turned sixteen years old on September 16, 1975, during the disco era when Gerald R. Ford was president. I lived in Lindenhurst, New York. Back then, as during most of my lifetime, I was quite shy with people I didn’t know, but upon having gotten to know someone I could be quite the quick-witted obnoxious character. In my yearbook, when I graduated, people wrote several comments about my distinctive sense of humor, and complaints about how I let people get away with too much. A junior at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip, on suburban Long Island, I got along very well with all my teachers and the other kids in school. As a teenage boy, I could never help noticing how exceptionally lovely so many of the girls were. Fortunately most of the people on the faculty, and in the administration and guidance department were quite impressive. My favorite class that year was Mr. Brian Clancy’s seventh period American History class. History’s always been one of my favorite subjects anyway and Mr. Clancy really knew how to keep things interesting in a classroom. The single most distinctive memory I have of Mr. Clancy is that throughout the year, he kept trying to get each of us kids to recite, in order, the name of each president from George Washington to Ford. He always seemed to have been especially determined to drill it into my head. Not a day went by that he didn’t stop me at some random time and try to get me to name them all. Unlike my adult persona, in those days it could never have occurred to me to think of life as one big theology and philosophy classroom, or as a cultural battlefield between the forces of good and those of evil. I just tried to be a good kid and to have a few laughs. When my tenth grade theology teacher, Mr. Jerry Di Noto, now on my Facebook friend list, found out what kind of adult I’ve turned into, he was genuinely shocked because, according to him, I was always simply such a nice guy as a kid. Then, as now, I was never even the least bit interested in, sports, nor was I the least bit competent at anything athletic, so whatever references other guys in my crowd made to that kind of thing were all entirely over my head. Having always been very interested in chess as a youngster, I joined Mr. Nagy’s chess club. For some strange reason, though, that group fell apart after only a very short time. When I was a freshman, my homeroom classmates, who were among the most colorful, obnoxious characters I’ve ever met, made me their representative on the student council. I stuck with it throughout school. After I got home from school each day I spent most of my time hanging around with the Copiague public school kids in my neighborhood. Things were about the same with them as with my friends from school. I virtually always avoided sports except for something that vaguely approximated basketball in the street. No description any part of my lifetime could possibly be complete without a reference to my musical tastes. Maybe it’s because of my total lack of a connection to sports, but I’ve always been quite inordinately interested in music, especially the Beatles and everything else from the 1960’s. Disco, though it now might just as well not even exist, was an omnipresent curse in those days for those of us who didn’t like it. I used always to try to convince my friends that the music of the 1960’s was infinitely superior to even the best of what our era had to offer. On July 3, 1976, my cousin Larry, five years older than I, got married. I was an usher in his wedding party. Although I was still only a kid, it was a bit of a reminder that adulthood wasn’t extremely far away. Unfortunately my parents never let me get a driver’s license, or even a permit, until I was nineteen years old. At sixteen, unless someone was willing to give me a ride, I could never go anyplace that was any farther than either my feet or a bicycle could take me. I like to think I was quite a gentleman in those days. As far as I know I must have been at least reasonably decent because whenever I meet someone who remembers me from that part of my life, I get a nice friendly reaction and a reminder of what a very good time it was.