Larry de Wald is sitting on a wall in my back yard sucking on a
cigarette. I can’t believe he’s really here. De Wald has a rep for being
just about the baaaadest (make that toughest) dude in school –
which is made all the more amazing since the cat has only one arm.
Well, I’m not about to test him, that’s for sure.
Next to de Wald, lighting up a Marlboro is Dave Potter. Another
legendary tough guy.
I’m reveling in the fact that they’re here — right in my very own
The rest of the partygoers — it’s about 7:00 p.m. on a Saturday
night — remain just a bit standoffish and steer clear of de Wald and
Potter. They gather into small groups around the blue-green of the night
lit swimming pool. Tiki torches (I forced my mom into getting ‘em!)
give the whole place a “Hawaiian Eye.” Ambiance.
The Penguins croon “I Only Have Eyes For You,” in the background. I’m
trying to get up the nerve to ask Cheryl White — the prettiest girl in
the whole school — to dance, but I’m not sure I’m gonna make it.
Summertime 1957. A party in my backyard.
Ah, man, it was sweet.
Fast forward. France 2000. A tiny flat on a street lined with sex
shops and Chinese restaurants. Hookers lurk, even at this hour of the
morning. I exit my apartment, pull up my collar, and head for the local
bistro, where I have my morning coffee. Usually at this time I’m
fighting off a bad case of the shakes from the nightmares that’ve been
plaguing me since my mother died last January.
But of late something amazingly — ah — cool has happened. I’ve been
having a series of high school dreams. No, make that junior high
school dreams! Which is pretty weird, because most of the time when
you think of your youth, you go back to high school, right?
But for me, the fact that it’s junior high makes perfect sense. In
fact, junior high was the more important three-year period. It was the
time when all the rituals, the rules of the game, were first
It was junior high during where you first fell in love. It was
in junior high you first fought to prove your manhood in the
parking lot behind Ralph’s market after school. It was in junior
high you first really hated the sadistic jerks you had for teachers
– where you realized, albeit subliminally, that you were in
jail, not in school. It was in junior high that racism and
prejudice came to the forefront.
It was in junior high I first got called “jewboy.” I can still feel
the sting of it.
Junior high was also the first time I ever used the word “nigger” (so
as to be thought cool by my friends). The word, unfortunately, became
part of my vocabulary for many years.
Yeah, junior high was the real learning ground. Which is why I find
my new dreams are so significant.
These dreams have a most peculiar quality. They are not surrealistic
in the least. Everything is time sequenced correctly. The visuals aren’t
distorted. It is as if I am there. In fact, I am there.
I can see every detail — the grease on Dave Potter’s hair. I can
smell every smell — Cheryl White’s perfume, the outline of her bra
against her sweater.
Another odd feature of the junior high dreams is that the roles seem
to have reversed since back in the old days. Now, kids who were
literally “nothing” — that means kids who I might never have paid
attention to back then — have taken on major roles.
I engage in a conversation with Richard Kip — a guy in my
seventh-grade homeroom who for some reason had no neck. He was the class
creep. Yet here he is in my dream, and he’s taken on a major role!
This is odd. What lesson is there to be gleaned from these odd series
I haven’t the slightest idea. What I do know is that I’ve been addicted
to them. So addicted in fact, that I’ve taken to pumping up my
imagination prior to bedtime by sucking (ripping I guess is the proper
term) songs off the Net that will tickle my imagination. Jerry Lee
Lewis, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Elvis (of course), Johnny Cash
(“Ballad of a Teen-age Queen”), Santo and Johnny, Dion and the Belmonts,
Richie Valens — this is the music that flows out of the windows of my
tiny flat here, a million lights years away from real rock and roll.
The neighbors smile as they walk by. One guy gives me a thumbs up.
And why not? This stuff was great! The best. I feel sorry for the poor
kids who’ve had to grow up on Ice T and Nirvana.
But back to the dreams. Like I said, I’ve no idea as to what they
signify. But I’m sure it’s no accident that their onset has only begun
since I’ve up and left the U.S. Back there, the ghosts of Potter and de
Wald would occasionally emerge whenever I’d head into the nastier parts
of California’s San Fernando Valley — where I grew up. Back then, they
(people who lived in Canoga Park or Reseda) were of “the lesser.” We –
the middle class Jews and Wasps, who lived on the South Side of Ventura
in the brand new homes with sliding-glass back doors and swimming pools
– only had just a “little” to do with them and no more. We knew better
than to get too close.
Well, it’s 10:00 p.m., and it’s time to prepare myself. I’ve got my
stack of platters ready to jog the ol’ memory banks. “Palisades Park,”
by Freddie (Boom Boom) Cannon. “I’ve Had It,” by the Bellnotes,
“Rumble” by Link Wray (the first guitar solo I ever learned).
“Honeycomb,” by Jimmie Rogers. “Summertime Blues,” Eddie Cochran. “Lotta
Lovin,” Gene Vincent. The list goes on.
Yeah. Way cool.
The music starts. (Turn it uuuuupp, babyyyyy)!
Suddenly I have an image of me, my hair gunked back into my best
imitation of a Tony Curtis hairdo, spit curl pulled down over the eye.
I’m wearing a red Sir Guy shirt, jeans, white socks and loafers polished
to a sheen at the toes.
Ah yes, a grand evening is about to ensue. And, if I’m lucky, the
songs will jog the right synapses so that when I hit the sack tonight,
the rest of the gang arrives for the party.
I can’t wait to see who shows up.
See ya later alligators.
Stuart Goldman is currently writing a book chronicling the mid-fifties
through mid-sixties. Anyone who has memories of this time to share is
invited to write Mr. Goldman at firstname.lastname@example.org