Good Friday is a blustery winter day. It’s almost April. Our big stadium concert is next month. All I worry about is confession. It has been years. How do you tell a priest that they’re wrong about sex and drugs and rock n roll? Is Teen Jesus total heresy? What about sex without love. What about incest or was it really molestation? What about fighting? I have a long list.
We have bagels and lox for breakfast. Jack looks at me, watching my anxiety climb.
“What’s up, butt fuck?” he asks. Everyone laughs.
“His panties are in a twist about his Nazi dad coming in this morning and ruining all the fun,” Iggy guesses.
“Naw. Dad’s been cool lately. He just hates it when the Stones pay for everything,” I demur.
“He does? “Jack seems surprised.
“Don’t worry. He’ll work it out with your dad.”
“Well, what’s wrong?”
“Confession. I like Father Frank. If I tell him everything, can I still be friends with him?” “Right,” Iggy laughs, “You, the altar boy?”
“Jeez, Tim. You worry too much. He’s the coolest about confession. It’s more like asking him if what you thought was so bad is really a sin.”
“No time for doubts now, man,” Michael pipes up.
After another cup of coffee, I feel better. It’s already nine. The plane gets in at nine-thirty. We plan to meet in midtown at the Waldorf Astoria by ten. Good Friday Mass is at noon. Jack and I plan to grab Father Frank and do our confessions right away. We swear we won’t skip the bad parts, pretending we’ve truly confessed. We go back to the Chelsea for wake and bake. Iggy and Robby are still pretty woozy. They figure that bong hits will perk them up. They’re wrong. Iggy goes back to bed. We dress Robby, putting dark glasses on him, so no one can see how out of it he is. We need him tonight to do monkey madness at CBGB’s. I’m over worrying about things I can’t control.
We dress up as best we can, even putting shoes on. The NY subway takes us to Central Park East. We walk into the Waldorf lobby. It’s right out of the Gilded Age with dark wooden paneling and sconces for lights. We park ourselves in the lobby couches and chairs. A desk clerk comes over to find out if we’re just vagabonds looking to stay warm. Jack explains that we’re waiting for the Stone-Antonio party to arrive. He is more gracious and brings over coffee and sweet rolls. We make quick work of the rolls. More appear without our asking. We prefer the Chelsea – no pretensions. We’re lulled into a stupor until, with a burst of activity at the front door, the Jacettes run in. They throw themselves at us, as we stand up. Mary has to stop Robby from falling over as she hugs him.
“What’s wrong with him?” she quietly asks me.
“Don’t ask. At least he’s somewhat vertical.”
Mary makes an appraising glance at all of us. “You’re all stoned.”
“Shh. Don’t tell,” Michael puts a finger to his lips. His other arm has Jenna in a tight hug.
Grant comes over. We all high five him. He laughs at our ratty appearance.
“Least, y’all’s wearin’ shoes,” he notices.
“First time. Just for you.”
“Wait ‘til you see the outfits y’all’s folks brought. Proper little Lord Fauntleroys, you’ll be.”
The Stones and Antonios both have suites in the Waldorf Tower. The other families have rooms in the hotel. Mike Sr. winks at me, but then reverts to parent mode. “You boys look like you’ve been on the road for a month. Go get cleaned up and we’ll meet in the Tower suites to coordinate today’s activities. I understand most of you will be attending church.”
Father Frank, looking quite pleased with himself, surveys the family party. Jack and I corner him.
“We need you to take our confessions, Father Frank,” Jack announces.
“What have you done that makes it so urgent, adventures on the road?”
I relax. “No, but we can’t go to Mass until we’re absolved.”
“True, if you want to share the host. Let’s sit over here. No need for the confessional nowadays.”
I’m so glad we don’t need to kneel. He does us together. Most of Jack’s sins happened since we got together. Father Frank doesn’t ask for the details of our sexual histories. I explain that Jack fell in love with me due to his nocturnal fantasies and the school boy crush he carried the past year in English class. I’d found him so endearing, that I ignored my misgivings and loved him from the first night we were together. It has gotten better since then. We both feel we’re perfect for each other after all our adventures. We bring out the best in each other. We even speak about the Holy (Maundy) Thursday message we spread the previous evening.
“I assure you that the Church is only against unnatural love, meaning forced and deceptive seduction. You boys have been wholly natural in your feelings for each other. There is no sin, except those venal ones, such as doing it excessively. Pray you don’t become blinded in your passions for each other. You are absolved.”
Jack sits back, looking angelic.
“Father it has been three years since my last confession,” I begin. “I have sinned and not asked for forgiveness. Bless me father. I have shown disrespect to my parents. I have taken the Lord’s name in vain. I have lied to protect my friends, including hiding people from the authorities. I fought with my friends and enemies. I participated in a pagan Halloween ceremony where I ingested a psychotropic drug. I saw fantasies of the devil and of the spirit world. I tempted these spirits by allowing them to show me visions. When my boyfriend was murdered, these spirits brought his soul back from the dead. He is always with me.”
“Is he the one that’s called Teen Jesus?”
“He is, Father.”
“Is he the one who has awakened Jesus in your heart and allows you to see the good and evil in others?”
“He is, Father.”
“Has he led you back to the Church.”
“Why would you need forgiveness for these things?”
“It is heresy, Father.”
“Perhaps not. The concept of the Sacred Heart may explain how you have found a part of Jesus that you can identify with as a teenager. Jesus forgives our sins and encourages love of others. I can only encourage you to see the good and challenge the evil in your life. You need not repent of doing good.”
Casper comes over and hugs Father Frank. The glow I have been seeing now emanates from the priest.
“Thank you, Father,” we both say.
“Go in peace. You make an old man feel the hopes and dreams of his youth again .”
We hug him. Then we run off to be with our families before Church. Jack looks angelic. I look relieved. Casper doesn’t know who to follow, so he stays with Father Frank.
Susan hugs me, while Dad looks at me with bemused criticism. I’ve changed into church clothes.
“Well, you survived your first road trip,” he smiles.
“Every day was different. You wouldn’t believe all the things we did.”
“We don’t have to believe you. We have all the police reports that piled up on Mr. Antonio’s desk.”
“What? We haven’t had to deal with the police, except our friend, Sheriff Tom, in North Carolina.”
“It wasn’t the picnic he reported on, but the show in Mount Holly where you destroyed a place called the Tar River Tavern. They sent a $300 check for your bar take less the damages.”
“Oh, yeah,” I admit.
“And the run-in at the Daytona Beach pier with a prostitution ring, that the police ran out of town. Then you started a daily sock hop at a storefront church. Mike sent the $300 to the Church. Now the City has to open youth shelters for runaways.”
“We gave our busking money to them.”
“What about the parking lot riot at the Daytona Bar & Grill?”
“The bouncers rescued us from them and Iggy showed up and made those rednecks our friends.”
“What’s this about a drag show in Savannah?”
“We got invited by the black people there. It was impolite to refuse.”
“Then why’d you exposed yourself?”
“Not me, Robby and Michael weren’t wearing anything under their dresses when we did the Can Can dance.”
“So, you wear underwear now?”
“Yeah, Jack and I get paid to model and sell it in the Grove.”
“Then on Wednesday, you were in a bordello and an older woman left your room screaming?”
“That’s Bruce Springsteen’s girlfriend. We were trying to explain Teen Jesus to her and she freaked out. Bruce sent us there without saying the hotel was a whore house.”
“And you got your picture in today’s New York Post kissing an old man.”
“He’s Andy Warhol, a famous artist.”
“He may be famous, but you’re now infamous. Why do you look so smug, young man?”
“I just said confession with Father Frank.”
“So, I can’t complain because you think you’re sin-free.”
“Not, when I took such good care of Max.” I whistle and Max runs into the room and jumps up to put his paws on Dad’s chest. He is furiously licking Dad’s face.
Dad shakes his head, all the while smiling at Max. “Jesus, I get no respect. We better get you to Mass before the absolution wears off.”
“We know you’re a good boy, Tim. Your dad just worries.” “So do I, to be frank,” I admit.
We all gather at the Stone suite in the Tower. Most of us are going to St Patrick’s for Good Friday noon mass. Hippie with his two moms and Grant with his mother are going to Abyssinian Baptist in Harlem. Casper signs he wants to go with Hippie. He’ll meet us at St Patrick’s. The limos are waiting. We agree to eat lunch afterwards at the Waldorf. We rush to make the start of services.
It feels weird walking in as a large group. Even though we wear dark attire since it’s Good Friday, we’re a stunning group. People turn to stare as Father Frank leads us down to enough pews for six teenagers and their parents. I keep noticing the extra glow emanating from our group. Even the sun comes out through a stained-glass window to spotlight us. After we all receive Communion, the priest mentions in his homily that a group of teenagers has come to sing at Easter Mass, nodding in our direction. Near the end of the service, I notice that Casper has returned and is hovering next to the crucified Christ at the altar. It picks up the glow that I’ve been noticing. Walking to the front door after the service, many people smile and nod at us. As we stand outside, with the sun finally out, we’re an extremely attractive group, well tanned, slicked hair, and in tailored suits (with shoes on). After a few brave kids come up to speak with us, all the kids at mass come and surround us. They ask about our band, how old we are, school, and why we came so far. We tell them to come to youth group on Saturday to get to know us. When asked, we promise to play there. We walk back to the Waldorf which is only a few blocks away. A group of the New York kids walk with us. Outside the Waldorf, a boy asks if we’re rich.
“Heck no, we’re staying in Soho at a rundown hotel. The movie company’s paying for the parents and girls to stay here.”
“There’s a movie?”
“Yeah, this is part of the memorial for our guitarist who died at Christmas.”
“How’d he die?”
“Come to youth group tomorrow, but just to let you know, 10,000 people came to his tribute, he was so loved.”
Casper is beaming.
We join the parents at a large table in the Waldorf restaurant. We’re waiting for the Baptist group to return before ordering. I sit with Mike Sr. who notes how good-looking the whole band looked at Church.
“I was worried that you boys looked so ragged when we got in.”
“We clean up pretty well,” I brag.
“I wish you’d kept in better touch during the trip up.”
“I understand the police kept you well-informed.”
“Your dad spoke with you?”
“Yeah, I had to confess more to him than to Father Frank.”
“I saw you taking communion and wondered if the Pope had to be involved.”
“Still sin-free after two hours,” I brag.
“Keep it up.”
“Have you spoken to Martin about the filming? We should at least do a sound check at each Church.”
“He has a whole itinerary for you,” he pulls out an envelope with several sheets inside.
“We played at a club last night. The big gig is tonight in the Bowery.”
“I saw the photos in the Post. How’d you seduce the Pop Artist of the Century?”
“I met him when I was 14. He told me to come back when I was legal and he’d make me a star.”
“I’m not sure 16 is considered legal in New York.”
“We just charmed him. His protégés were more persistent, but we retained our honor. The photos were spontaneous. The music critic Jon Landau has been following us around. They’re doing a story for Interview.”
“You promised to keep me advised, Tim. I can’t help you if you don’t.”
We look at each other. “Look at Michael. You know him best. Can’t you tell how much the band has made him mature? He is so happy. We all are doing great. Everything falls in our laps. People love that we’re kids and that we share our passions in our shows. It’s not scripted. We’re living the rock n roll dream.”
“What’s the story with Mr. Stone-Face over there?” pointing at Robby.
“Yeah. He’s just out of it. New York’s too much for him. We’re just trying to get him ready for tonight’s show. We have a pop song that he sings and really gets out there performing. He’ll snap out of it. He and I aren’t as tight as we used to be. His friend Iggy showed up in Daytona. They’re double trouble.”
“It amazes me how mature you are. Try to tell me when you need help. You guys need professional management, but it might ruin the fun factor. Get Michael to help you with Robby.”
Jon Landau walks in, having tracked us down at the Waldorf. I introduce him to Mike Sr., our manager. Jon gets out his notebook. I leave them to it. I get Michael. We take Robby and Mary into the lobby.
“What is wrong with him?” Mary insists on knowing.
“Bad drugs – heroin,” Michael admits.
“How’d that happen?”
“Iggy showed up in Daytona and has been with us since.”
Robby isn’t saying anything and doesn’t appear to be listening.
“Can you take him upstairs and get him functioning?” I ask Mary. “I think he’s bored because after tonight, he’s not involved with the Church stuff.”
“Are you suggesting what I think you are?”
“Yeah. Fuck his brains out,” Michael is more direct.
“Whatever. Watch my folks. If they look like they’re leaving the restaurant, call room 1021 and warn us.”
“Thanks, Mary,” we both say.
Finally, I’m able to sit with Flo and Edi. Jack has been busy telling them about my breakup with Tina. Casper signs that Jack is out of control. Jack looks from Casper to me.
“I guess I was gossiping,” he admits.
“What is this hand signaling you boys do?” Flo demands.
“Jack told you about Tina and Pete?”
“Yeah. Sorry. I know you cared about her a lot,” Flo commiserates.
“It’s not as he said. All four of us agreed to share the love we all feel for each other. Pete was dying, trying not to show his real feelings. He had the whole ‘boy next door’ thing going. My feelings toward her will always be strong, but our time was when I was 14 and 15.”
“So, you moved on?”
“No. At this age we have so much emotion, love, friendship, rivalry, drama. If we don’t share it, we explode. Better to love more than one person. Maybe when I’m old, one person will be enough.”
“Still got some lovin’ for me?” Flo asks with a smile.
We kiss for about twenty seconds, prompting Jack to smooch Edi. Michael takes the hint from us and kisses Jenna. Hippie hugs Max.
“Looks like the boys missed their girlfriends this week,” Father Frank laughs.
Flo and Edi’s parents start to get up, but everyone else says, “No. Ellos son muchachos y muchachas. Tam bien.”
What happens in New York, stays in New York.
Grant and Hippie arrive with their Moms. They’re riding a gospel music high. Arriving at church in a limo with three Southern Baptist friends had been a new high point in Mrs. (as we call her) Grant’s life, only to be exceeded by the Choir’s singing. Hippie’s two moms are equally exhilarated. They had never been fully accepted by their local church. In New York no one even notices. Grant and Hippie have really bonded and are working out how to include background Doo Wop into ‘Amazing Grace.’ Hippie asks if Grant can sing with us at CBGB’s.
“You know we have a song where everybody acts like a monkey?” I tell Grant.
“Well, ya made me a love slave at school. I guess I can be a jungle monkey in New York.”
“We’ll all be doing it, so it won’t be a stereotype.”
“All Black males are stereotypes.”
“You ain’t nothin’, if not original,” I counter. “Here’s a stereotype you’ll like: you’ll be standing with the Jacettes and singing your Doo Wop style.”
“Y’all better watch yer bitches.”
I’m more worried about watching Jack. For the first time, I feel we are not on the same page. His gossiping about Tina confuses me. Does he feel he has to vanquish any competition for a piece of my heart? Can’t he share me? Is it like Dad says, the rich treat others like possessions. I sign all these questions to Casper, who wraps himself around me. I feel better. Jack notices something is up, coming over to join Casper.
“What’s wrong?” he asks.
“Let’s go for a walk,” I suggest. The three of us walk up to Central Park and sit by a fountain. The noise and bustle of the City drops away. I take out the itinerary from Scorsese and read it to Jack, The first event is a sound check at CBGB’s at 8 pm. After that, we’ll be busy with no break until Saturday night.
“What’s wrong,” Jack asks again.
I look at him. His concern is real.
“I guess I’m mad at you,” I admit and look down.
He grabs my hand, with confusion in his eyes.
“You told the girls that Tina and I broke up. I don’t think you understand. I still love her.”
“But you told her to be with Pete.”
“Because I want her to be happy. My feelings haven’t changed. I love her for what we had. My feelings were keeping Pete from showing his feelings.”
“I’m not enough for you?” he looks so sad.
“Can’t we share our love with Tina and Pete?”
“You have all my love.”
I tear up but keep from crying. “I can’t stop loving other people. Casper is trapped in this world because I can’t lose him. You and I both love Casper now. His heart is so big, he has room for both of us and the many others who now love him.” I try to show Jack that love is not a zero sum game. “Are you jealous that I love others?”
“I want you to love me as much as you can,” he admits. “Since that first night, we’ve never been apart. I’d die if you didn’t want to be with me for one second.”
I think about how Scott had felt the same way and why that ultimately was impossible. Jack reaches out. I hold him as he cries in my arms. My tears are gone, replaced by fears and doubts about our future. Casper signs that Jack is still as strong as ever in his heart, even when he only wants to love me. He also signs that he will never leave me but we’re learning that we can be apart because we trust nothing can ever keep us apart. Jack watches our signing and stops crying.
“I wanted you all to myself. That’s why you’re mad. I could never stop you from loving Casper. I love him, too. It makes me love you even more.”
“I thought you’d feel the same way about Tina and Pete. Our reason for coming to New York is to share the love, for your heart to open to them and create a lifelong bond.”
“God, Tim. Two months ago, I was a scrawny nerd who thought no one would ever love me. Now everyone we meet and bond with loves me. All because of you.”
“No, Jack. Because you broke through your fears that kept your huge heart from being open to everyone. Think of all the crazy things we do. We never doubted each other before. I thought you closed your heart to Tina, that she threatened your place in my heart.”
“How do I stop wanting you all to myself?” he whispers.
“Know I never want us to be apart. You amaze me every day. I get jealous, too. When you were flirting with Robert yesterday, I started to act crazy. I had Casper spill Robert’s drink on himself to stop you.”
He smiles, at last. “I loved that.”
We laugh together. Casper looks all proud of himself.
“Never apart?” Jack asks.
“Never to be parted,” I respond.
Casper signs, “Lets go fuck in the Rambles.”
“Ew,” we both decline. “No quickies, please.”
By the time we get back, everyone is finishing dessert. The Stones have us sit with them, as we order burgers and fries, our road staples. To be honest, they taste better at the greasy spoons we frequent.
“Trouble in paradise,” Mummy knows something transpired.
“We had our first fight,” Jack happily announces.
“It wasn’t a fight,” I correct him. “I didn’t understand what he felt about meeting my girlfriend yesterday.”
“Do tell,” the Uncles prompt us.
“All that’s left is for us to kiss and make up,” Jack smiles, jumping into my arms. What the hell, making out for the parents is just another new experience.
“You’re shameless,” I whisper in his ear, as we french each other.
“Let’s make up at the Chelsea.” Casper is in full agreement.
We finish lunch. The Stones have all the guys and girls come up to their suite for a group photo, taken before we change back to our ragged road clothes. The girls want to go shopping. We need to get back to the Chelsea to check on Iggy and walk Max. We all agree to meet at Max’s Kansas City in Union Square for dinner at 6:30 before going to CBGB’s for the 8 pm sound check. Mary is keeping Robby vertical. I worry he won’t be able to do the show and start thinking how we can pull off the monkey song without him. Asking Grant to swing from the rafters is too much of a stereotype. Maybe all the guys can do it and leave the singing to the Jacettes. I barely remember what the inside of the bar looks like, let alone if there are pipes or other fixtures from which to swing. We will literally have to wing it.
I check in with my folks who have dinner and theater plans with the Stones for the evening. Susan insists I pose for another photo before changing. They seem proud and happy that I got this far without a major screw-up. Susan asks if I want to talk about my break-up with Tina. I start to brush it off. Then I realize she really wants to know. The new caring me sits down and tells them how the four of us worked it all out.
“So you just handed-off your girlfriend to your friend?” Dad interjects.
“They’ve been best friends for years. He watches out for her. Because he’s my friend he never showed his real feelings for her. She and I are better as friends, since I hardly see her. I knew we were not growing closer lately. Now that Pete and Tina are going together, they’ll grow together in every way. Her father is determined to keep her from dating. Now Pete can be romantic without anything really happening. They understand how I feel about Jack, so it’s like two old couples when we’re together. Does that make sense?”
“In no way does any of that make sense,” Dad complains.
“Well, Jack was gossiping about it with the girls before lunch. I got mad that he is glad Tina and I broke up. It’s like he was gloating. In reality, our feelings haven’t changed. We’re just not exclusive.”
“It sounds very mature to me,” Susan states.
Dad goes back to scratching Max behind the ears.
Susan takes out my Easter Sunday suit. I had feared that it would be some Mariachi outfit but it was pure white and conservatively tailored. No wide lapels or bell bottoms. I actually like it.
“It’s not too much like a Tastee Freeze uniform?” she asks.
“It’s nothing like a uniform. It will be perfect for our performance.”
“You want to wear it tonight?”
“No, Mom. Jeans and tees are better for the Bowery. This is Sunday best.”
Jack comes in, as I’m taking longer than the others to get changed.
“Wow. I have my own personal angel,” he jokes.
“You better sing like an angel, then. You don’t want your guitarist showing you up.” I brag.
Susan has us both pose for another photo. He has already changed, so it’s like a before and after setup, angels with dirty faces.
When we finally get back to the Chelsea, Jon Landau is waiting for us. Max goes over, sniffs his pockets, and barks.
“That means you’re holding,” Michael announces.
“Well, let’s check out your rooms.”
He gets us baked in no time. New York weed is a gas gas gas. Robby promptly passes out on the bed with Iggy.
Landau takes note, but doesn’t say anything. He obviously knows what happens at the Chelsea.
“Looks like you’re smart to have two drummers,” he remarks.
“Yeah, but we need Robby for our pop monkey song. I’m not sure if I can do it by myself.”
“Is that what you’re worried about?” Jack asks. “I can do the monkey shines.”
“What about the flying about? Robby is the real master of that.”
“Grant can throw me around, so he won’t have to look like a jungle bunny. You’ll have to do the singing, with the girls on backups.”
“I wanna fly around, too.” I complain.
“It’s all just chaos. No need to choreograph that.”
It is set.
Everyone else sits around telling stories to Landau. Jack and I escape to the other room. His pot-fueled sex drive is raging. Little does he know that I still plan to take out my revenge on his body for his jealousy bout. He expects me to play my recent bottom role, but I turn the tables on him. I throw him on the bed and rip his clothes off. “Take that. And that and that,” I yell at him over and over. He’s whimpering from the abuse. We collapse into a pile on the bed.
“Are you still mad at me,” Jack tentatively asks.
“How can I be?” and I squeeze him with a bear hug.
“Whew. That was incredibly hot,” he admits. “I’ll have to gossip more often if it ends up in mad fucking.”
Hippie wakes us up. No time for Max’s, we head for CBGB’s. The limo is parked by the side door, with the four girls waiting inside.
“We don’t dare get out in this neighborhood,” Mary admits.
“Very wise,” Michael agrees.
The De Soto is behind the limo. We move all our equipment inside. The stage is so small, there’s no room for two drum sets. Robby continues to be mostly incoherent. I tell him he’ll regret not playing here. He doesn’t care. He progresses to the vomiting stage of his recovery. Mary makes him drink water, which doesn’t help his stomach but he needs it to stay alive. I go over to Grant to set up plan B on the monkey song.
“I can get used to traveling by limo with my ladies,” he brags.
“You mean, Clyde?”
“Oh. No, Missy Tim. He’s your lady in waiting.”
“Don’t encourage him too much.”
“Robby’s useless tonight. He’s usually our grand finale where he swings from the pipes and rafters while we make monkey noises.”
“You ain’t askin’ me to play a fool monkey, fool!”
“No. We need you to keep us flying around, by hoisting Jack and me up to the ceiling and staying underneath in case we fall, like a spotter.”
“I can strut around and show off my physique. You had me worried, brother.”
“Some jobs just call for a black boy.”
“The girls and I rehearsed the backup vocals. They like my Doo Wop repeats and the nonsense words that I throw in.”
“It’s good you came.”
“My mama’s in Harlem heaven. How much we get paid for tonight?”
“Let me talk with Martin about that.”
Scorsese was setting up the recording system with live and still cameras. I wait by his table for him to be free.
“Hey, Tim. Do you understand the itinerary I sent you?”
“Yeah. We’re yours for the next few days.”
“How come there’s only one drum set. You fire that druggie?”
“Naw. He’s just sick,” I laugh.
“New York does that.”
“We can’t really fire anyone. We’re all friends.”
“Wouldn’t life be nice if that’s all that counts.”
“We’re still 16. This road trip makes me feel like 30.”
“Well you wanted to be in charge. So, how’s this show gonna go?”
“We’re only doing our own songs. Who knows what the audience will think. We have one song that is a sure hit, which Robby usually sings and performs. Jack and I will do it tonight. It requires we swing around the room from the sprinkler pipes and act like monkeys. Other than that, we sing about Miami and our lives, sex and drugs, y’know.”
“Jesus, kid. How am I gonna film that? I gotta get more lighting. Can’t ya just stay on stage like a good rock band?”
“We’re not trying to be good. We like crazy.”
He takes off to find a phone.