Sunday, September 12, 2010

Summertime....and the livin' WAS easy

Where'd the summer go?! I mean......where'd the summer go?!?! I remember when I was a kid, summer vacation seemed like it went on forever. Then, at some point, you realize it's basically two months and change. Depressing. But remember that feeling waking up on the first, second, third day of summer vacation and realizing...ohhh's summertime, baby. West Sixth St in Plainfield, NJ was a cool place to spend summers. Middle class....I guess....lots of kids....different age ranges. I was kind of in the middle so depending on the days action I could float among the different groups. Monopoly or Stratego with Stanley on his porch. That could kill a half day. His mom didn't trust me as far as she could throw me but as long as we were in sight it was cool. Bike adventures to the local parks or card flipping tournaments with Mary Ann. She cleaned me out more than once. Or Baseball with the older guys. Developed some pretty good skills early on by hangin' with those guys. One day the guys were playing St. Stan's baseball team from down the road. They were actually an organized team......with uniforms! Remember when The Bowery Boys, aka The East Side Kids would play a local organized team and hijinks would ensue? Yeah.... like that. In that kind of scenario I may or may not get the call. But that day I did. St. Stan's had a pitcher who threw nothin' but heat. He was wild and already had facial hair. I got the call to lead off and man did he look huge. I can't remember his name now but even that was frightening. I stepped in and their catcher said, "Good luck." Pretty sporting, I'd say. I tried to say "Thanks, you too" but my mouth was so dry all I could do was nod and attempt a weak smile and a little bit of spit. I wondered where that annoying clicking was coming from and realized it was my knees banging together. Ah....a time to test my mettle. I actually heard the first pitch whiz by. Strike one! Sounded like a ball to me. On the second pitch I started to swing before he actually let the ball go and danged if I didn't pop it just over second base. I stood proudly on first base as the next three guys struck out. I owned Lurch for the rest of the game. Got two more hits and then he drilled me in the ribs on my last at bat. Accident? I think not. Didn't matter. I laughed all the way to first. Y'know how the pros always downplay their performance and insist it doesn't matter unless the team wins. Never bought that. I don't even remember if we won or lost, but my status shot skyward. It's amazing what confidence can do. It bolstered my little league game, helped in brawls with my sister and even Sr Anne Eucharia didn't seem as intimidating.
And that was the day that my place in the neighborhood changed. I was no longer going back and forth between the older and younger group as much but now had a fairly secure place with the older guys. They were even coming to the door to get me for this or that. Hide and seek, tag etc just didn't seem to do it anymore. But I did notice it was getting more and more interesting to also hang with that other group. Did I mention the girls? I was on W. Sixth St. from Kindergarten to the middle of eighth grade. A lot can happen in that span. I noticed when I was around eleven, twelve, thirteen I was coming up with excuses to be around the girls. And I could be pretty creative. They made me feel ....funny.
I started playing guitar around age twelve and then things really got weird. Nancy lived across the street. She died a few years ago and that gave me pause for reflection. She was always a little more artsy than the rest of the crew and would like to hang out when I was practicing and critique, suggest, sing along and just be Garfunkle to my Simon. She had a great ear. My guitar teacher taught me House of the Rising Sun in E minor. Who does House of the Rising Sun in E minor!!?! Nancy knew it was wrong right off the bat. What could I do? I wouldn't find out about transposing keys for a few years.
And then I moved to Piscataway. Time to navigate among groups once again. Somehow I could always do that. Hang with the Jocks, The Dweebs, the Intelligencia, the...uh...not so intelligencia and the neighborhood guys. All the time keeping my grades right in the meaty part of a solid respectable C. Math always hurt my GPA. I got a D in Geometry, went to summer school and got a......D. C'mon...who can concentrate in the summer!? Especially when the girls in my class were wearing summertime clothes and smelling so good....and....and....
Somehow I've made it to fifty eight and never had to prove why a parallelogram is a parallelogram to anyone. And don't get me started on the Rhombus. I think the message here is don't be afraid to roam among groups. It can be kind of off putting to some people when groups collide but so what!!
Man, I wish I could come up with a really interesting wrap up here but Linda's grandkids have been on the other computer watching "Fred" at an extreme volume and I hate to admit it but....uh....I'm kind of starting to dig it 'bout those Yanks?