I am downstairs in a small alcove of the Chelsea’s lobby, trying to write a letter of rebuke to Jon Landau. From what he said at lunch, he is turning our Interview article into a PR piece for Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming album. Since he is the producer of the album I feel he is just using us for his own ends. I think about writing Bruce, knowing he will take our side. On the other hand, I really want to confront Landau. He denigrates what we do to reinvigorate the lame music industry for which he shills. That is have fun with the music and entertain our fans. Bruce tries to be more than an entertainer. He aspires to be a street poet like Dylan and got distracted from being entertaining. Hell, I got distracted while having sex with Jack this morning. We are not little automatons putting out songs for music executives. I am getting distracted again.
A tall thin old man comes over after observing my tribulations over the rebuttal I want to write before Landau submits his piece.
“Hi. I’m Bill. Are you a writer?” he asks.
“Naw. I’m just a high school kid. I’m trying to write a letter to a real writer. I have too many thoughts to get started.”
“Come up to my room. I have a magic typewriter that can help you.”
I am more than a bit suspicious of his ulterior motives, but he does not look strong enough to hurt a flea. Why not? A magic typewriter is what I need.
His room is small and packed with books and papers. It also has a faint odor which reminds me of Robby’s vomit. I feel faintly ill at ease.
“Can I get my boyfriend?” I ask. It seems a normal thing to say here in NY.
“Sure, I’ll clean up a bit.”
Now I know he is gay, but he still seems nice. I am using Jace’s openness system. I trust him.
I get Jack. We go back to the small room.
Jack looks around and sizes the man up. “It’s cool, Tim. He’s a famous writer.”
“I need help telling off Landau about our Interview article. He made it all about Springsteen and how a bunch of kids got him to act young again.”
“That’s pretty self-serving, since he’s producing the album that’s coming out.”
Bill sits me at the typewriter, which looks really old, with raised keys and long, spindly rods holding the letters. He has Jack put a hand on my shoulder so we both have a psychic connection to the machine. I expect it to start typing out my letter for me.
Bill shakes his head. “Just start by addressing the letter. Let your fingers move as you feel they should. Not as you think they should.”
“Just like when I play guitar,” thinking of the advice I give John as he is learning to play.
I let my feelings go and restrain my thoughts. A letter is quickly drafted.
Jack reads it. He blushes and kisses me on the cheek as it comes out. The letter is to Jack, retelling how I felt making love to him this morning.
Bill laughs. “Now do you believe me?”
“Yeah. That’s exactly how I feel when Jack is touching me.”
“You boys are firecrackers.”
I have heard that before, but it is Jack’s first time. He hugs me.
“Now both of you concentrate on what you feel about this writer. Do the letter you want. What kind of writer is he?”
“He’s a music reviewer.”
“You mean he’s a hack,” Bill declares. “Just say what you think. Don’t try to sound like anything but a pissed-off kid. Send it to his boss.”
The letter flies out of the machine. Bill laughs when he sees that it is addressed to Andy Warhol.
Before you print Landau’s review about the time he spent with us this past weekend, please be aware that he intends to use our youth and high spirits to promote the record album he is producing with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for Columbia.
We were happy to welcome Landau to many of our activities. We opened up our feelings to him as our stay in New York progressed. You know we eschew artistic considerations about our performances. We’re just kids playing the music we love, involving our audiences in the fun of the moment. We’re just a cover band.
Now we see he is just a music industry hack, using his own words to turn the excitement of our music to revive the moribund fortunes of Columbia Records and the music industry.
We love Bruce and his band. He embraced us and helped us get ready for New York. He took some of our excitement and put it into his music. His new record will be a classic.
Landau has nothing to do with Bruce’s revival. Jon denigrates all kids by believing his talents are needed to transform the youth and verve of bands to the adult music market.
Rock n Roll is for kids. The best songs are made by kids. The music producers, executives, and lawyers turn it into their own profits. Most musicians never make a living at it. We do it for the love of performing and the love of the music.
We also love you for being with us and enjoying our antics. Please participate in one final antic. Bring Landau into your office and burn the review to his face.
Jack & Tim
We clap and congratulate ourselves on writing what we felt.
“How do we get a typewriter like this?” we both ask Bill.
“You already do. It’s in your hearts. Your fingers connect how you feel to the keys.”
We both hug him, which makes him slightly uncomfortable. He takes out a book and inscribes it for us. It is ‘Wild Boys.’
“You’re William Burroughs,” I announce.
“I told you. He’s a famous beat writer,” Jack is being a smarty pants.
“I performed the smoke ritual from this book in Hollywood last year.”
Bill looks confused. “No one asked me if they can perform my work.”
“Doug from the Troubadour had a bunch of us kids create a massive scene in his backyard. He said it was just like what you wrote in this book.”
I describe the whole ritual with the whips, the smoke, my orange suit and the sex that ended up in a six way doggy style orgy.
Jack looks aghast. Then he smiles. He realizes he can use my immoral behavior as blackmail to get his own orgy.
I give Bill the telephone number to contact Doug. Ten years later Duran Duran does their ‘Wild Boys’ music video, and Bill gets paid.
He needed the money more in 1975.
We grab the letter to Andy, kiss Bill, and run out to meet the others in the Lobby. The gay uncles drive us to La Guardia in time to join the adults and return to Miami. They have to turn around and drive back to Florida, with all the equipment. We kiss them goodbye, thanking them for putting up with us and rescuing us so many times.
“It’s the trip of a lifetime,” Uncle Tam says.
I go over to Mike Sr. and give him the cash we earned at the roadhouse gigs, almost $3000. I tell him I had given some of it to the storefront church in Daytona Beach.
“For a reprobate, you’re pretty honest.”
“I’ll never forget crying my eyes out in front of Spec’s. You told me if it was too much, you didn’t have to buy me my guitar. You taught me to be honest.”
Marty is there to see us off. I show him the Andy letter. He laughs his ass off and promises Andy will get it.
Dad shows up with a white cane and Max, as his guide dog.
“You get to go First Class?” I kid him.
“I figured they wouldn’t argue if I’m paying more. No way Max is going in a crate.”
“Max always gets the spotlight,” I complain.
A photographer asks us to pose for a picture. There are 31 of us plus Max. He asks if just the band will pose.
“This is the whole band,” I tell him. Everyone cheers. Max barks.
On the plane, I settle in next to Jack. Only the band members and friends have to fly economy. I have no reason to complain.
RETURN TO ITHACA
“It was twenty years ago today,
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.”
LENNON, JOHN WINSTON / MCCARTNEY, PAUL JAMES
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Has it just been twelve days since we left the BBQ at Grant’s? Am I no longer a kid? I feel incredibly different. But Jack is lying next to me, still asleep. Max looks up when he sees me move. He wants to do a joint run to Robby’s. We have school in a couple of hours. I decide not to tell Mr. Clark that Andy Warhol is coming to the ‘Tempest’ performance. I wonder if anyone knows what we did over Spring Break. My swim team tan is completely faded. Will people question why I did not lay out in the sun. Now I feela bit more like a high school kid. After school, we have band practice at Michael’s. An ache in my heart tells me I really want to see John work on his guitar playing. I had completely forgotten about ‘The Out-Crowd.” My mind is revving up. My heart says to cuddle with Jack.
“Fuck you, mind,” I say out loud.
Jack rolls over. “What?” he mumbles.
I slide into his embrace and go back to sleep. I am still a teenager.
Mr. Clark looks up as Jack, Robby, Grant, Hippie, and I walk into English class.
“All hail, Caesar,” he announces.
“I thought we were doing ‘The Tempest?” I ask.
“You’re right, of course,” he answers.
The class breaks up; laughing at Mr. Clark’s joke – laughing at me?
“Et, tu, Brute?” I get in the final word and laugh.
On second thought, Mr. Clark says, “Why don’t all of you take over and tell us what you did on your school vacation?” He sits in my regular seat, at full attention.
I let Grant take the lead. I figure he’ can talk about what he did which will be enough for Mr. Clark. He is prepared, having written a “What I Did on My Vacation’ paper.
“It’s a rap, Mr. Clark. That okay?”
“No vulgar language.”
“I’ll bleep it.”
“The name is Max
I’m a big black dog
Like girls in the sack
They say I’m a god.
My master he died
I’m with his best friend
That memory seems fried
It’s like the end.
Went to New York
Black’s beautiful there
Acted like a sport
All the girlies were fair.
Now I’m back
Still am black
Take me aside
I’ll never lie.”
The class erupts in applause (we are all drama queens). Mr. Clark is satisfied. We get our regular seats back.
“We are doing ‘The Tempest’ in May. Has anyone read the play?
Everyone keeps their heads down.
“Does anyone know what it’s about?”
“A storm?” Hippie raises his hand.
“Yes. That’s what a tempest is. You know anything more.”
“These rich people are having a party in the country?”
“Why do you think that?”
“I saw the movie.”
“Well, that’s a good start. Gregory. Why don’t you be the director and assign roles. We’ll read the first act today.”
He has only a few booklets so everyone has to share. Jack moves to my desk. We share the one seat together. Mr. Clark notices but doesn’t say anything.
One of the girls raises her hand. “Mr. Clark, can the girls go back to doing the female roles? My mama says I’ve been acting all uppity since I was on the crew last time.”
“What does that mean, ‘uppity?’”
“I just run around all the time playing sports and making my brother do all the chores.”
“Just call it role reversal. See what she says. But why not do a modern version of the play and let the girls play some roles? What do you think, Gregory?”
Hippie looks around, as if the question isn’t directed at him.
“Me? Please call me Hippie.” Everyone laughs. “Sure. I don’t wanna play no girl.”
Robby scrounges down, not willing to argue. I feel sorry for him. Ever since our fight, I feel he does not love me anymore, in his homophobic way.
Mr. Clark goes on to explain the plot so far, to help choose the best actors for the roles.
“Yesterday, we introduced the sailors, incompetent and drunk, causing the shipwreck of the King of Naples, his family and followers. Today we’ll cast Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, his daughter, Miranda, stranded with her father since she was three, twelve years ago; Ariel, a spirit, rescued by Prospero from an evil witch, who is beholden to Prospero; and, Caliban, a deformed slave and son of the Island’s witch Sycorax, impressed into service to Prospero. Ariel has caused the shipwreck by creating the Tempest. ”
Hippie asks me who to cast for the four roles.
“Grant will never be the slave, so cast him as Prospero. Robby will love being the rebellious slave. Jack can be the spirit, Ariel. Ask Kimberly to be the young daughter, Miranda.”
Hippie follows my advice and the chosen characters stand in front of the class and do a reading of their lines, We are reading from Act I, Scene II.
Ariel is dismissed and Miranda awakens. Caliban is Prospero’s slave now, as well as Ariel.
A poisonous exchange between Prospero and Caliban comes alive when Robby throws himself into the role. I expect him to sulk and withdraw from the acting. He does not hold back.
‘When thou camest first,
Thou strokedst me and madest much of me, wouldst give me…’
‘So, slave; hence!’
Exit CALIBAN (but the play continues on)
(Look it up if you love Shakespeare so much – http://shakespeare.mit.edu/tempest/full.html ).
Mr. Clark stands and claps.
“This is a good place to stop for the day. Keep the script books and read ahead. There are other characters to be cast. The play is full of magic and romance. The first Romantic Comedy…Go, go, my pets.”
English is my only class with Jack. I wave good-bye to him while he looks back from the hall. It is our first separation in almost two weeks.
I approach Robby.
“You are really good in that role.” I compliment him.
“I guess you couldn’t make Grant a slave.”
“He’s more of an Uncle Tom type slave.”
“Like a house nigga?” Grant is right behind us. “It’s all cool. I like having Robby as my house nigga.”
We all laugh, a little nervously.
“Com’n, you’re better than tryin’ ta stereotype me. I prefer blatant racism to sissified ass-kissin’.”
“Still we won’t make you play a slave.”
“Thanks for nothin’. Com’n guys, let’s ditch and share a spliff.”
It is too tempting to follow him to where he and his boys always ditch. All we have to do is take Bird Road to Dixie Highway. Suddenly we are in the minority. We hang out smoking at a corner store not bothering to look around for narcs. I feel like I am back in the Lower Eastside, with much nicer weather.
Clyde acts ecstatic to see me, especially with no Jack in sight. I am politely nice to him, which makes him grumble that our trip has killed my sense of humor.
Grant sticks up for me, “You should see these whites boys rap with the brothers in Central Park.”
“We had a full-on face-off with a local posse, with the girls doing the mouth beats. I even busted a few moves and rhymes. Then these white boys had to bust out. Jack rapped, “My name is Jack Town, I never back down, Meet my man Tim, Girls, give him a spin.”
This pleases the boys mightily.
“You’s a bad influence on dese nice white boys,” Clyde declares.
It feels comfortable standing in the warm spring sun, with a slight sea breeze coming across Coconut Grove from the bay. Clyde slips his hand onto my shoulder.
“Don’t git riled,” he whispers. “If I don’t make a move, these boys won’t never ever let me live it down.”
“It ain’t you, that’s wrong here,” I admit. “Can we keep it as friends, without making you sad.”
“I ain’t sad, boy, if you’re sayin’ ya likes me.”
“I do, Clyde. I just have a burnin’ love for Jack. I ain’t no pimp, but if’n y’all come by Out & Proud in the Grove after school, I’m sure we can find some sweet white boy for your likin’. Long as yer not jist a player.”
He busts up. “You are too smooth, man. I’ll never stop likin’ you.”
“I’m just sayin’ there’s more action out there if yer willin’ to look.”
He kisses me on the neck. I shiver. Time to go.
We make it back to Nutrition just as Jack comes from second period.
“How was Biology?” he asks.
“We ditched and hung out on Dixie Highway with Grant’s boys.”
Jack looks at me. “Was Clyde there?”
“Sure. And he made all the moves, but I’m back here. I told him there was fresher white meat at Out & Proud.”
Jack smiles and gives me a quick kiss. There’s a sudden hush in the courtyard. We are not unobserved.
Jack looks around and quietly says, “Anybody bothered by us kissing? Y’all know we’re boyfriends.”
The quiet is deafening for about five seconds.
“Hell, no,” some redneck yells. “All the more ladies for me.”
All the girls clap and some guys whistle.
Jack grabs me and we really kiss. There are lots of wolf whistles. AP Spencer tells us to break it up.
“No PDA on school grounds.”
We have made it into the mainstream. Getting Jack worked up with jealousy really pays off. Clyde is standing across the courtyard, grinning.
I call Felix. He is busy but says to come by after school. He can use us at the store. He is now working out of a warehouse, doing mail order. He tells Jack not to wash our soiled briefs. He is so crassly commercial.
After school, I tell Grant that he needs to check out our ‘hood. He can be back in time for the last bus as we have band practice at 5. He says Clyde’s brother will pick them up at Michael’s. We ride our bikes and meet them at the Grove bus stop. We show them where Out & Proud is. When the four of us arrive, we were greeted as heroes by the kids at the annex. Dave and Jazz are there acting as DJs for the sock hop. Clyde complains that they are all so young. We go into the store, where all the pre-teen girls are picking out clothes for their boyfriends. Phillip is in charge again.
“Hey, boyfriend,” I call out to him
He sees me and lights up. Then he sees Jack and gives him an evil look. It is all good.
I introduce Clyde personally to Phillip, telling him to set him up.
“How about older?” he ask.
“Not really old, just someone his age.”
“How about someone like me?”
“I’ll leave him with you, Rocky Horror. He’s been chasing me too long.”
Everyone but Clyde goes next door to the sock hop. I look around but don’t see a single black face. We have a problem. I cannot prance these black boys around as underwear models. Their long johnsons will be too much of a distraction. Why are black and Hispanic kids not coming to the Grove? Are the white kids too cliquish? Is it just economics? Are they more homophobic than the suburban kids? Too many questions. I decide to call Felix about hiring Clyde. My underwear model career may be over.
“Whadya mean I need to hire a black? They don’t come into the store.”
“That’s the point. Why don’t they come in? Maybe they don’t feel welcome?”
“Com’n. We’re the outcasts here, like in ‘Out & Proud.’”
“And the only Hispanic we see there is you.”
“So this kid, how do you know he’s even gay?”
“Believe me, I know.”
“Some trick you wanna palm off on me.”
“More on Phillip.”
“Well, let me talk to him.”
Phillip proves more than amenable. Clyde is hired.
Next I call Susan at my dad’s office.
“What’s up, honey?” she is so hip.
“I quit my store job today. I hope Jack and I may be able to eat dinner with you and Dad more often. We need to schedule more band rehearsals with our outdoor concert coming up.”
“My goodness, Tim. We’ll love to see you boys more. I almost hesitate calling you boys. You certainly are mature for a 16-year-old. Your dad likes to eat at six. Just let me know in advance, so I can be prepared for hungry teen appetites.”
“Not tonight. I’ll let you know in advance.” I promise.
The Stone’s cocktail hour is at six,. We need Isabelle to prepare early meals at that house. Still, we’ll be spending more time with our parents. Band time will now coincide with our smoke out time, which is moved to Michael’s. Max will have to get used to waiting until 7 pm for his weed fix.
After I get off the phone, Clyde and Phillip are all smiles.
“I got me a job,” Clyde crows. “Phil’s my boss man”
“Let’s tell Grant and Jack in the Annex.”
Grant is debuting Jack’s rap persona, Jack Town, trying to get some of the younger boys to rap with them. The boys are shy, but one or two come up. Their girlfriends push to get them up there. One boy pushes his jeans down and pulls up his colorful briefs to look fly.
“My name is Tray
But I’m not gay
I havta wear these
So my girl is pleased.”
Jack smiles encouragement for him.
“She must be fly
If I have to try
To look all gay
To make her day.”
‘Her name is Michelle
She makes my dick swell
Everybody screams, “No. Stop. That’s over the line.”
Grant takes over:
“When you wanna rap
You rhyme to a beat
If words you repeat,
It’s truth, not uncouth.”
What my friend Tray
Is trying to say
When he thinks of Michelle
It makes his heart swell.”
“There’s truth in a rhyme and a beat. You just say what comes into your head without thinking too much. Tray wants to say he likes Michelle. Then he lets his dick do the talking for him. Now he’s got to pull the right words out of his ass…”
“No. Stop. That’s way wrong.” All the girls complain.
“See what I mean. You want us to filter what we say. But if Michelle wants Tray to say he’s attracted to her, he’s got to say what he’s really feeling. She may never know. How sad.”
“It’s gross,” one girl objects.
“That’s why what you hear on the street may be more real than what you hear at school. Sometimes you havta get out of school to get down.”
Grant gets his posse to rap one of the new songs on the street:
“What are you going to do when you get out of school?
I’m gonna have some fun.
What do you consider fun?
Fun, natural fun.”
NOBLE, REGGIE / BROWN, RICARDO / CALHOUN, WILLIAM / ROLISON, DEDRICK “MACK 10” / SAVAGE, JAMES
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group, Royalty Network
A bunch of the kids jump up, singing and dancing to the chorus. At least, they are not shy. Dave puts on James Brown’s ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” to get the dance party going again.
“Well, that went well,” Grant jokes.
“Language, dude,” I kid him.
“That’s just how we talk.”
“These kids will get used to it. Phillip hired Clyde to work in the retail shop.”
“Whoa, Clyde in a suit.”
“Naw. He’ll be his own fashion statement.”
“You down with that, my man?” Grant asks Clyde.
“’Course. Minimum wage means a big pay raise for me.” Clyde gives Phillip a huge grin. After a second of shock. it comes back in spades. I may have flunked Sex Ed., but I’m an ace at matchmaking.
I tell Jack about the dinner plans I made.
“You really like putting on a show for Mummy’s cocktail hour?”
“Sure. Don’t you.”
He smiles, “Yeah.”
“And we will eat at my house, too. I can’t believe I want to do it.”
“Why all the changes?”
“It’ll make band practice better. We can work with The Out-Crowd before dinner. Then come back at 7 and have the whole evening to get False Gods ready for our first big concert. And, maybe I’m getting mellow after everything that went down during Spring Break?”
“You’re so sweet.”
Jack kisses me.
The whistles we hear mean the kids miss nothing that is going down.
It is time to go to Michael’s for practice. Clyde insists on staying with Phillip for on-the-job training. Grant breaks up, “We know what that means.”
He decides to come by himself to band practice. I tell him Hippie will give him a ride home. He promises massive spliffs. I realize he wants to join the band. We will treat him as we do Iggy, when we need his style. As soon as everyone is at Michael’s, he passes around a Jamaican Ganja spliff.