I’m in shock, waking up to the alarm with Tim gone on Monday morning. Usually not my favorite morning of the week, but this Monday it seems unbearable.
David shakes me gently to get me up, after I bury myself under the covers.
He walks me down to the dorm bathroom. I follow his directions, but it’s odd to have a high school minder. I defended his quest to sneak into Harvard. I half-expect him to join me when he shoves me into the shower. That is not wishful thinking. And, he hates showering.
At commons the 3D girls surround David and me. No one mentions Tim, but they eye me for signs of mental instability. Do I seem so fragile? Anyway, I have David to defend me, everyone’s knight in shining armor. I decide to take the bull by the horns.
“We need to reassess all the projects we have going on and make sure we can cover the tasks that Tim is spearheading.”
They all smile, knowing I’m not in some depressive funk.
“Good. With Tim gone, will you put your name on it?”
“Sure. It’s about me. People will see it’s a lampoon when they see my name after reading how I terrorize the poor male staffers.”
Jace is bouncing up and down. “I’ll go and let Jace inspire the boys.” I volunteer.
The 3D girls look confused. “Who’s Jace?”
“Tim’s first boyfriend. He started False Gods. He taught all of us how to play. He was teaching Jim from The Neighborhoods how to play bass at the Yard Battle of the Bands.”
“What?” Minehan is clueless.
“He’s a ghost,” I explain. “I can see him. He’s all excited about the choirboys.”
“He’s the inspiration for Jace’s Place. He wants all kids to be safe. He’s been fifteen for three years.”
“It’s a boys choir. Maybe you and Minehan better take that responsibility,” Jill decides.
“That’s not how we think. We want to teach them to play rock instruments. We need you to teach too, Jill.”
“Well, maybe after you get it started,” Jill is conflicted.
“What about the Smithies?” Trixie asks. “I thought you made up with them.”
“Yeah. They’re coming for The Game November 9th.”
“What are the plans for the Standing Band spirit concert.”
Trixie and Carol look at each other. “We’ll work with them. We can practice on the Mower lawn.”
“Once the vomit dries out from the weekend.”
“I’ll get the Yard Guards to water it down,” Minehan likes harassing his friend Mick. “Maybe they’ll do something about all the drunk boys on the weekends.”
“You’re one of the worst,” Trixie winks at him.
“Not no more. I’s taken the Pledge.”
“I ain’t sexy. It’s the no-alcohol pledge.”
Their sassy attitude gives him an idea. “Why don’t you all be our backup singers, wearing sexy outfits to inspire the Harvard boys before attending The Game?”
“Really?” they’re glad to objectify themselves. Jill looks disappointed in her corridor mates. “You want to work with the backup singers, David?”
“We’ll keep working on lyrics for our Harvard songs. Can we all meet in the boiler room at nine each night, to rehearse the Standing Band?”
“Can we sit down while we sing?” Trixie feels encouraged to contribute, as a new member of the Standing Sisters.
“I think rock n roll is standup music, but we can try it,” I am flexible in my role as the new leader.
“The idea is to charge up the boys and create excitement at the football game. How about a can-can dance to spark ‘em up?” David is more hetero-normative.
“I won’t be in a striptease band,” Jill puts her foot down.
We all laugh. “Okay. Okay. I think there’s a lot that we count on Tim to do. Let’s not get sidetracked. Nothing wrong with a little can-can. Just don’t turn it into a can’t can’t.”
My attempt at humor is met with silence. We all go to class or to the Lampoon Castle.
“I’ll contact Father John at St Paul’s. He seems interested in getting us involved,” I conclude our meeting.
Jill comes up to me as we’re leaving.
“How about going through the Newman Society here on campus. It may be best to approach the boys choir through an established organization.”
“Worried about unnatural interest in the boys?”
“Don’t fall for that ‘all gays are child molesters’ crap. Jace wants kids protected.”
“I may not be the only one who worries about the kids.”
“Okay. I’ll check it out. The parish priest wants us to get involved. No problem speaking with the Harvard Catholics.”
Back to the Dean’s office. The receptionist scowls as Jill and I enter. When she finds out we are looking for the school Catholic organization, she becomes much more cooperative.
“I was hoping you’d see the light,” she waves us goodbye.
The Catholic students actually meet after noon mass. Jill isn’t pleased that I have us planning to attend daily mass.
“How goodie goodie must I be?” she complains.
We attend noon mass on Tuesday. Father John is pleased. The boys choir performs at noon. I suggest we meet with those boys who want to learn electric guitar. I know that many churches introduced hokey folk guitar at their masses. I need to make my case that electric rock is more youth-oriented. Father John invites us to eat lunch at the school and meet the Choir’s Director, Dr. Marier. He has been there for twenty years and seems put off that a teenage girl wants to teach the boys. Jill and I realize changing Harvard’s attitude toward women is a piece of cake compared to making progress with the Church. We’re only fighting 300 years of male dominance at Harvard. Dr. Marier says little. I assume he is evaluating our acceptability for working with ‘his’ youngsters.
I make the argument that guitar rock is as divinely inspired as is spiritual music, both come from the heart and soul. I use the example of the musical ‘Godspell,’ which recently opened on Broadway.
“Can I sing one of its songs,” I ask as we sit in the dining hall, “’Day by Day,’ it’s based on Hymn 429 and the Gospel of St Matthew.”
“You’re going to sing it right now?” Father John is surprised, looking around at his charges eating their lunch.
“I’m not shy,” I admit. Jill is less sure, so I whisper, “Just join in at the chorus, if you know it.”
I stand up and clear my voice to get the boys’ attention.
The kids respond positively. I get a smattering of applause. Father John looks to Dr. Marier, who nods his approval.
“Great,” I conclude. “We’ll start tomorrow on acoustic guitar. You’ll be amazed how quickly kids pick it up. I’ll let them play the songs that are already in their hearts. Father John is free to stop them playing any songs he feels are inappropriate.”
“Can I learn as well?” the father asks.
Jace is hovering. He can tell that the father has an open heart.
“Of course. We’ll find out what music you really love.”
The glow around him brightens. Dr. Marier had yet to glow. He will be a work in progress.
“I don’t teach them. Jace does,” I state.
“The ghost. Now he’s a Holy Ghost?”
“Let’s say he’s inspired by Spiritus Sancti.”
“You really into this hokum?”
“As much as you’re into Tim.”
She turns red. “He’s into you, not me.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. He likes girls. Even I like girls now. He decided not to be romantic with you because you’re already doing so much together. He’s just following his feelings.”
“What are you saying?”
“He knows you like him. That’s all it takes for him.”
She changes the subject. “How can Jace teach these kids, as well as the priest?”
“Maybe it’s time for you to let him into your heart. You already are open-hearted by trusting Tim and me. We’ll let Jace join us there. You just have to feel him in your heart.”
“Then what? Will he haunt me forever?”
“No. He’ll know what you’re feeling and if you need him, he’ll come running.”
“Some people call him Teen Jesus. He’s not exactly sin-free.”
“Sounds like Minehan, always trying to rescue me.”
“I’ll stick with Teen Jesus.”
I see Jace hovering. “Just want him to be in your heart and trust him to be there.”
Jace puts a hand on the top of her head. She smiles and laughs. “I can feel him.”
“That means he’ll always be in your heart, like Jesus has been since First Communion.”
David and I work on the staff caricatures, some of which I give to Kurt for his review.
“If you okay it, I’ll have a printer turn these sketches into the face cards for a Lampoon 100th anniversary souvenir pack in the Yale Game issue.”
“I thought you were using them in Jill’s article on staff harassment.”
“For the issue. we’ll graffiti over them with joke names for each staffer.”
“You plan to sell these as playing cards?”
“Well, Minehan’s desperate to earn money toward his tuition. I’ll pay for the printing. He’ll sell them. After reimbursing me, he can pocket the profit. Since we’re defaming other students, I doubt the Lampoon will want to claim responsibility.”
“Can’t his parents pay his tuition?”
“It’s complicated. I don’t think they know how much it is. They don’t pay a lot of attention to him. He’s mad they won’t get him a car.”
“Stuck riding the T.”
“Yeah. That’s why he stays in Mower most nights.”
“He mostly stays with us, er me, now. We want him to stand on his own two feet. That’s why he needs to pay his own tuition.”
“Just helping a fellow student in need.”
“Okay. But before you go around defaming my staff, I’ll want to see what you’re planning to say.
After studying, the Standing Band holds our first rehearsal without Tim in the boiler room. David brings Mike and Steve, making it more of a Neighborhoods rehearsal. We forget about Tim and are soon working on their rhythm section with Minehan constantly berating them to keep up. As for songwriting, it’s agreed that after The Game’s performance, those songs that apply strictly to Harvard will be in the Standing Band set. Those songs more generally about any other school will remain with the Neighborhoods.
During a break, Jill asks if we can to do a spoof of the Harvard Alma Mater. She has the words that Tom Lehrer wrote over twenty years ago.
“It’s a bit sing-songy,” Minehan complains.
“Let’s rewrite it in a four-four rock beat, instead of the two-two folkie speed,” Jill suggests.
“Go ahead,” I encourage her.
‘Fight on Harvard,
Fight on Harvard, fight, fiercely, fight!
Impress them with our prowess, do!
Make Crimson bright,
Stout heart and true.
Come on, chaps, fight for Harvard
Peachy if we win the game?
Not to shame them, (But, for fame!)
Fight, fiercely, fight!
Don’t be rough, though!
Fight, fight, fight!
Do fight fiercely!
Fight, Fiercely, fight!’
Minehan picks up a guitar and plays simple E A D chords, making it sound more Ramones than Noel Coward. It feels so subversive. Minehan says it’s a big improvement. No folkies in Waltham. Jill beams from writing her first song.
Tim calls that night. It really picks me up. Of course, he’s in the New York Post again. He took National Lampoon staffers to Max’s, introducing them to Patti Smith and members of Television. And, Andy, of course. Instant paparazzi attention. I’ may be jealous but yearn to be there with him. I suck it up. I tell him about the Standing Band’s rehearsal and confirm he plans to be back for the football game on the weekend against Princeton. Tim says he hated staying at the Chelsea without me – all the memories. He swears he can still smell Robby’s heroin-induced vomit.
“It’s likelier to be more recent than that” I contend.
The next noon, we head to St Paul’s for mass and our first meeting with the Boys’ Choir. Minehan wants to skip mass and just come for lunch.
Minehan comes, barely keeping awake during mass. He never wants to miss anything about music, even if he has to sit through homilies, ceremony, and creed. We make him take communion with us, to prove our piety.
“I need to go to Confession,” he objects.
“I can imagine,” Jill remarks.
“Go on Saturday, if you need to,” I tell him. “You can confess taking the Eucharist before being forgiven for your sins.”
He laughs. “That’s the least of my sins.”
“We need to show the priest and kids that we are with them.”
“Just grin and bear it. If your sins are that great, God will smite you down,” I smile.
“And you’re so pure?”
“I have a personal confessor,” I tell him about Father Frank.
Sitting down while the boys sing during the body of Christ dispensing, I think about how I will do the Jace open heart procedure for the first time without Tim. Jace is in my thoughts, reassuring me that it will be fine. He is really looking forward to bringing out the music in the boys’ hearts. We already know they are very trusting and open. I will make sure it renews their faith in Jesus. Jace realizes I do not have the same self-assurance needed to bring Teen Jesus to others.
“All you need to do is ask Tim to lend you his strength,” Jace reminds me.
“But he’s in New York.”
“Well, of course. I know what he’ll think. But what if someone doesn’t accept you?”
“Tim’s giving you his strength and self-assurance. He won’t tell you what to say. Just channel his character.”
I realize that Jace is really good at preaching in church.
Before going into the cafeteria for lunch, Father introduces us to the boys and says if anyone is interested in learning guitar they should eat quickly and return to the parish hall for lessons. The boys are more interested in their food. Only two show up after everyone eats.
“How come only you two came?” I ask.
They hem and haw but finally it comes out that no one is interested in playing folk and religious music. They saw that we only brought acoustic guitars.
“Well, we play rock. We’ll bring electric guitars tomorrow. We figure it is easier to start on acoustic. Electric is more exciting.”
“Will they let us play rock at mass?” the tow-head asks.
“We played Pink Floyd for Easter Mass at St Patrick’s last year.’
Both boys’ eyes pop open, looking very surprised.
“What did you play?”
“Wish You Were Here.”
“You boys already are singers. Can you sing the words for us and watch as we play the guitar parts. Maybe Jesus will be here.”
“He’s already here. He’s in our hearts.” They are so innocent. Jace is doing flips. This is too easy.
“While you’re singing, see if you actually feel touched by Him.”
Father John looks concerned that we are testing their faith. I nod to reassure him that it is okay.
“We’ll play a shortened version of the song’s intro on guitar. Once you feel Him, start to sing,” I instruct.
Minehan is grinning, finding our lesson a chance to show off his guitar playing. Jill is wide-eyed and going along for the ride. All three of us play the intro.
Jace is hovering and the glow above the boys intensifies. Once he touches them, they smile and start singing:
‘So so you think you can tell
heaven from hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
from a cold steel rail
A smile from a veil
do you think you can tell
Did they get you to trade
your heroes for ghosts
Hot ashes for trees
Hot air for a cool breeze
Cold comfort for change…
How I wish, how I wish you were here”
DAVID JON GILMOUR, ROGER WATERS
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Peermusic Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
The whole song is perfect. The boys’ ranges are great. They extend themselves, singing back and forth, each taking a lead. Even Sid Barrett would be pleased. Father John is relieved, knowing they are tapping their inner faith to sing so beautifully. I wonder if we can get the boys to sing solos at Sunday Mass. I’m fantasizing. I need to get on with the guitar lesson.
“So you both felt him.”
They nod, agreeing with each other as well.
“You want to play the guitar parts?” I ask.
They nod, come over, and sit with us.
“Here comes the easy part, yet the one you may not believe you can do. Let the spirit in your heart tell you how to move your fingers on the frets.”
They look concerned.
“Can’t you just show us the fingering?” Tow-head asks.
“You know this song because it’s in your heart. Trust the spirit in your heart to guide you.”
“Jesus knows rock n roll?”
“What’s your name?” I ask.
“Well, Kevin. It’s not just Jesus you have in your heart. All the people you really trust, like your folks, Father John here, and others are there as well. Our band believes we have a spirit we all share, similar to Jesus. Some people even call him Teen Jesus, because he was an inspiration through his musical genius. Any song he knew, he was able to play or sing naturally, from the heart. He was a teenager when he died, not perfect like Jesus, but pure of heart. He even smoked, liked girls, and especially liked rock n roll. His name is Jace.”
“If you let him, he will help you shape the notes on your guitar until you are confident that the sound will be what’s in your head. We call it playing from the heart.”
“Like soul music?” Kevin asks.
“Exactly. Think how Black gospel singers just sing out, with no restraint. Soul music from Motown is like that. But it’s not just soul music that inspires people. All rock n roll comes from the heart. Some people say white folks stole it from the Blacks, but it’s not theft when it’s divinely inspired.”
“Why do people say rock is evil then?”
“There are people with evil in their hearts. It may not be their fault. They may have trusted the wrong people and lost their innocence. Later we’ll explain how having Jesus in your heart teaches you how to trust others and how to know when someone can’t be trusted. But let’s get back to the guitar lesson.”
“I saw you watching our fingering, so you know the chords, but we want you to play by ear, not by sight.”
They look worried, not trusting their musical ability.
“You have to trust us that you can do it. Since you just met us, I’m going to do a quick test on how trusting you are.”
Father John stops smiling, but I push ahead. Tim always invokes Jace in these exercises. I worry I am not up to it. Jace is right there, hovering over the boys. At the word trust, their glow of innocence brightens. He inspires me.
“Jace is right there in your heart, sharing his confidence in you.”
I smile and push ahead.
“Playing by ear, really means playing from your heart. Like a gospel performance.”
“Do you use the hymnal to read the notes and words or do you just sing out, letting the music soar?”
They nod again.
“You both sing beautifully. The music flows because you have confidence in your voices. It’s the same on the guitar. Fingering the chords looks complicated, but trust that your hearts know the instrumentation. It’s not about thinking but about trusting how to play.”
They look confused.
“Okay. When I started to play, there was a spirit that showed me the fingering until I was confident enough not to need the guidance. It’s the spirit of our band – Teen Jesus, because we all have Jesus in our hearts, even though the band was both Catholics and Baptists.”
Father John is looking more concerned. I must speak with him later to show we are not proselytizing his charges.
“We share the same faith which allows us to accept and trust Jace. I sense the same trust in both of you. Watch me and tell me if you feel touched by Jace.”
Jace places a hand on each of their heads. The glow intensified.
The boys look at each other.
“I feel a hand on my head,” Kevin affirms.
The other boy, Liam, nods. They both smile.
“Okay. Now let the spirit guide you,” as Jill and I hand over our acoustics. Minehan has not been through this lesson in trust before.
He starts with the long intro. Jace guides Kevin’s hands and quickly he is in tune and in time with David. Jace moves to Liam, where he repeats guiding the fingering. Soon all three of them are in synch. Jill and I come in with the vocals. At the line ‘ two lost souls,’ they look at each other and start singing with us.
‘We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Runnin’ over the same old ground
What have we found the same old fears
Wish you were here’
In five minutes they have learned all they need to play rock n roll.
Father John is stunned.
He shakes his head. Then he realizes he questions my premise from his own disbelief. I can feel he trusts me. Jace rushes over, anxious to reach an adult. As he touches the father, his disbelief disappears.
“That’s what the boys felt, Father. Your faith is strong to feel it. Most adults have closed their hearts to it.”
“So, rock n roll is easier for kids to love?’
“That’s interesting,” I agree. “It’s more than just music that moves us. It’s the ability to be open-hearted to others and trust each other.”
“We call that Grace,” he exclaims. “I understand it, but this is the first time I’ve really felt it.”
“How about you sing ‘Amazing Grace,’ and the boys play it?”
I join them on piano.
It’s a good place to end the lesson. I know I have some explaining to do with Father John. I worry that Dr Marier, who is older, will not be so receptive. I trust my motives. Good manners may help. As a last resort, I can enlist Cardinal Cooke’s support. Hell, Tim is almost a saint in his eyes. I miss Tim.