Eighteen – Chapter 1 Part 1

I sleep most of the Amtrak trip to Penn Station in New York City. Jack was insatiable last night, claiming he’s saving up fucking memories for our week apart. Okay. But why isn’t he able to share his feelings with me in our linked hearts? I’ll get him off psychically while in the City, when phone sex is okay. He’s a needy little nerd. Maybe I’m starting to think like my dad and his holy sense of values. I can’t complain that I have a rich boyfriend. Maybe I punish myself by staying at the Chelsea.  I certainly would rather be eating Isabelle’s cordon bleu at the Dakota.

Off to another NYC adventure.  I have to act like an adult,  seeking employment in the City at the National Lampoon. Can I play the kid card, making them think I’m some rock genius? I hope I can just be myself for once. Harvard can be such a drag. Unless you’re Minehan, playing out a high school fantasy.

 

After checking in, I decide to seek out William Burroughs. He’s so old, everyone’s a kid in his eyes.  I knock on his room door. He must have the smallest room at the Chelsea. From the scuffling I can hear inside, I know he’s home. After about five minutes he finally answers the door.  A scruffy kid my age pushes past me on his way out.

“You old geezer,” I laugh at him. “I don’t want to be causing coitus interruptus.”

“I seldom can get off with tricks. They want to be done and gone as soon as I pay them.”

“’I don’t get me no satisfaction,’” I sing Mick Jagger for him.

I slide onto the bed with him, and jack him a few strokes. He gets him some. He looks surprised.

“You want a reciprocal?” he asks.

“Naw. My sperm bank’s broke. Jack was relentless last night.”

“Where is your partner in crime?”

“I’m flyin’ solo this trip.”

“Trouble with the idle rich?”

“Naw. He’s all into bein’ a college kid. I’s escaped Harvard fer a week.”

“I was a freshman at Harvard.”

I’m taken aback. Was this my future in 50 years, a skid row SRO.

“Didcha leave after seein’ how stupid the courses were?”

“Naw. I got my degree, actually two – English and Anthropology. Then I went to med school in Europe.

“It musta bin better back then.”

“It’s whatcha make of it. Bet yer boyfriend tries to get inta all the fancy social clubs.”

“Ya got that right.”

“That why he ain’t here with ya?”

“Naw. We’re both on the Lampoon. We caused so much shit, the editor has me goin’ to Hollywood to keep us apart.”

“Bein’ gay still taboo in Cambridge?”

“We put on shows. The campus police keeps shutting us down.”

“Why’dcha go there in the first place. Sounds like Hollywood beckons.”

“I love the little nerd. It was our chance to be together all the time.”

“How’s that workin’ for ya?”

“Yer typewriter says we’re gonna break up.”

“It’s just a machine.”

“Well, tomorra I start my latest ad’venture. Wish me luck.”

“I feel sorry for Jack, but life is full of changes. Yer friend Doug Weston is keepin’ me in dope by hawking my books in Hollywood.”

“And teen hustlers.”

“You may have ruined that for me.”

“Sorry, It was just a hand job.”

“Yer pretty lovable, Tim.

“Don’t fire all the rent boys.”

“They find me.”

“Wanna go eat at Max’s Kansas City?”

“Naw. I seldom eat.”

He’s all skin and bones, like all junkies.

“Have you been doin’ any writin’?” he asks.

“Just band songs. My Harvard teachers rate me as a C- writer.”

“That’s hopeful. They’re generally clueless.”

“We did a spoken word performance for Andy Warhol’s patrons at the LA County Museum. I can recite it for ya.”

After I perform a spoken word ‘False Gods’, Burroughs warns me, “Don’t ask for what you might not want. You end it saying you’ll not be performing again until at least 1996, twenty years or more.”

“How about 2016?”

“I’ll be 102.”

“And still shooting up?”

“Something to live for.”

“What? The drugs or my return?”

“Both.”

We laugh. I leave him so he can get high alone. I’m not impressed that he’s a Harvard grad.

 

I couldn’t help myself and go alone to Max’s, grabbing a burger and fries in the front room. I wander upstairs to see if anything is going on. The two gay guys  we had chatted up in the Spring are seated by themselves, so I sit down with them.

“Remember me?” I joke.

“False God”, they both exclaim.

“Monty and Paul,” I remember their names.

“Yeah, It’s Monte with an ‘e.’”

“Right. Are you two always here on Sunday nights?”

“Yeah, praying that you appear.”

“That’s a bit scary. Don’t you go anywhere else?”

“’Course. We go to dance clubs, like the Pep and Studio 54 every other night. Sunday’s just to decompress.”

“You go out every night. I love it.”

“Where’s your boyfriend, Tim?”

“We’re both in college. He’s in the dorm in Boston. I’m here on a job interview. We are being separated by Harvard.”

“You’re at Harvard?”

“Yeah. Ain’t it a gas gas gas?”

“You’ve lost your country accent.”

“Jack felt it was socially retarded.”

“We love you anyways.”

I lean over and kiss them both.  Random flash bulbs go off.

“Ew. We’ll be in the Post again. It’s just like Studio 54 in here,” Paul complains.

“Let’s get outta heah. I got a skuzzy room at the Chelsea.”

“Slumming. We love it,” they cry as we dash away from the paparazzi.

 

They turn out to be expert three-way partners. No one feels left out and everyone fucks everyone else. In the morning I go out for coffee and bagels, with a smear on the side.

“You still wake up like you’re in the country,” Monte sleepily complains when I return to them wrapped up with each other in my bed.

“Yeah. I should be milkin’ the cows by now.” I plop down in between them with our breakfasts.

 

Soon I’m out the door for my first day of interviewing with The National Lampoon.  The guys go back to sleep. I take the subway to Avenue of Americas in Midtown. Publishing companies are located deep in the heart of Corporate New York. Everyone is in suits and dull colored raincoats. Walking into the Lampoon’s reception area, I’m relieved to see it isn’t as corporate as elsewhere in Midtown. Asking for PJ, I wait until the busy Managing Editor has time for me. There isn’t even an assistant to get me water or a coffee. My reputation is strictly as a Harvard freshman with a vague music connection. The receptionist recognizes me from the NY Post she’s reading.

“You’re gay?” she asks, after perusing Page Six.  “Why are you in the Post?”

“Just slumming last night. I always get in the Post when I go to Max’s.”

“We never had someone gay from Harvard.”

“You just didn’t know. When I go out in Boston, they all assume I’m gay just ’cause I’m at Harvard.”

“They have clubs in Boston?”

“I just go to the Rat.”

That confuses her, but she still smiles at me. I love New York.

PJ finally takes me back to a cubbyhole office. No wasted space at the Lampoon.

“Kurt called me, recommending I send you out to Hollywood as a music consultant. Are you even 18?”

“Yeah, since July,” I scowl.

“Why do you want to be in Hollywood. Don’t you like Cambridge?”

“Kurt wants to show you there’s up and coming talent from the Harvard Lampoon. He needed to separate me from my roommate. We’re both about to be expelled.”

“I’m not into rescuing freshmen. We’re in the real world here.”

I just stare at him. After a pregnant pause when I fail to defend myself, he goes on, “Well, it looks like you’ve had some rock success and movie experience. You think you can deal with Hollywood assholes.”

I laughed. “That’s what I’ve been doing the last two years. Dicks and assholes.”

“Jody says you’re in the Post today, kissing two men. So you’re gay.”

“Straight and gay, whoever will pay.”

“This is an interview. You’re supposed to be selling yourself.”

“That’s what everyone does in Hollywood. You want someone who knows what music from the early 60’s will make frat parties rock? I’ve spent a year playing frats at the University of Miami. I know what makes college kids go crazy.”

“You got arrested after opening for Lynyrd Skynnyrd?”

“Yeah. Spent four months in the Everglades hiding out from the State.”

“Doesn’t sound like you learned much music there.”

“I got a band together to play country blues at the local campground. We was call the Hillbilly Brothers, makin’ babies with each another.”

My dropping into colloquial country amuses him and he smiles for the first time.

“Come around with me and observe how I do my job.”  He gets up and I follow him into the main staff area. It’s all desks with typewriters and constant phone ringing. Just like the Harvard Lampoon, just busier. I keep my mouth shut as he quizzes his staff on the status of their individual projects. At noon, there’s a general staff meeting. I’m introduced as a possible intern from Harvard. The general looks of superiority from the staff makes me want to burst their bubbles. I know to attach myself to PJ in order to avoid unpaid slaving as an intern.

“What do you want for lunch?” I ask him once we return to his cubbyhole.

“You don’t have to do actual intern duties. I just said that.”

“I’ll be your personal slave to avoid becoming everyone else’s butt boy.”

“Well, go down to the Automat  and get me something I’ll like.”

I’m not in the Bronx anymore. I ask staff where the Automat is and get eight additional orders.

“I’ll get you what PJ gets,” I hold them off, barely collecting twenty bucks, hardly enough. Welcome to New York. A hustle here, a hustle there.

When I get back, PJ has some advice on handling staff, “Having a bunch of humorists in one place is like having a bunch of cats in a sack. You don’t shake that sack too much.”

I go around distributing sandwiches and collecting from each staffer the additional amount I had to pay for myself. Most grudgingly pay up.

“Ya think I’m some rich kid, able to pay fer yer lunch?”  is my line to shame them into paying up. Maybe they expect me to be cowed into silently accepting their cheap ways. I tell the ones who originally paid properly to check with me each morning before I go to get PJ’s lunch. The next day, several of the chinsters demand I take their orders as well. I’m not there to make friends and refuse. PJ is watching from his office when one jerk starts berating me like a runaway slave.

“I had to beg you when I needed to get my money yesterday. Don’t expect me to ever be in that position again.

He actually calls Kurt in Cambridge to complain about how I was poorly trained as an intern . Not all Harvard graduates are gentlemen.

Monday night I get back to the Chelsea and find Monte and Paul still in my room.

“No better place to stay than this Bowery flea bag?” I ask.

“We want to go out with you tonight.”

“I thought you always go to discos.”

“Yeah. Let’s go to Studio 54,” Paul enthuses.

I didn’t mind disco, but it isn’t going to get me on Page Six.

I show them our photo in the Post,  which thrills them, of course.

“I need to keep up my public image. Let’s go find out where Andy’s going tonight,” I suggest.

“Andy Warhol? He often is at Studio 54,” Monte notes.

“Well, I need to be more than a face in the crowd. So far, I get no respect at work.”

“You work?” They obviously don’t.

“Yeah. I’m here trying to get promoted to work in Hollywood.”

“Ew, Hollywood. Can we come?”

“And give up all this luxury,” as I point out the shabby hotel room.

“We just want to be with you. We worship you, False God,” they both fall to their knees.

I drag them outside. We walk through Union Square to The Factory.

“How y’all doin’, Blair? Still missin’ yer black Mammy?” I greet Andy’s assistant.

He jumps up and hugs me. “Tim.” He looks at my followers with reluctance. “Who are these men, your minders?”

“No. They’re my acolytes, worshiping their False God.”

“Groupies,” he’s disdainful.

“What’s Andy up to tonight. Is it time for Max’s?”

“Don’t be wearing him out. He’s got some Hollywood hack, John Landis, in with him now. I’ll tell him you’re here.”

“No way. I’ll go in unannounced.”

Blair throws up his hands, used to my uncontrollable ways. Monte and Paul follow me into Andy’s business office.

Andy looks up, seeming surprised to see me.  “Jesus, Tim. I mention your name and you magically appear.”

“Talking about me? I’m so popular. Let’s go to Max’s so we all can be in the Post tomorrow.”

Andy holds up his hands and shakes his head. He introduces John Landis.

Landis begins, “Andy was telling me how you got my friend Landau fired from Interview.”

“Not undeserved considering his treachery promoting Springsteen over our band.”

“Well, now I understand you want to work for me on my movie. Don’t expect I’ll just go along with you undercutting me?”

I know he is to direct ‘Animal House’ but don’t worry about it. It is the Dartmouth guy Chris Miller I’m supposed to undercut about the soundtrack.

“Jeez. We let Landau hang out, smoke our pot and chase the Jacettes around CBGB’s. Getting Andy to burn up his review seemed on a par with all the other antics.”

“Now he has to live in LA.”

“Well, you’re a big-time director. Maybe you should hire him.

Andy starts to giggle at our faux argument.  Soon, the three of us are all laughing. Monte and Paul are laughing but hadn’t a clue about what.

“Who are your friends” Andy asks.

“Andy, this is Monte and Paul. They live with me at the Chelsea.

Everyone laughs.

Landis gets back to the subject at hand. “You expect me to allow your interfering ways on my set?”

“It’s Chris Miller who’s the main obstacle, insisting you use his favorite disco music for the frat parties. I’m on the Lampoon now.  They want someone with music connections to rein in Miller. We’ll be allies, not enemies.”

“You’re not my enemy, Tim. It just seems odd that you show up now. I definitely need someone to corral Miller. He’s just a writer but acts like he’s the director.”

“Get to know me. I’m an adult now. Not as impetuous as I was at 16, no longer born to run.”

Andy adds his opinion, “I was telling John on how you saved Scorcese’s ‘New York, New York’ this summer.”

That’s a mixed review. Marty said I’d never work in movies again.

“All we did is find the Bernstein song and get Liza to fly to Hollywood and debut it there. The movie will make a profit.”

“Barely,” Landis knows.

“If you know the whole story, I think you’d want me to help. What does Miller know about music?”

“Okay. Okay. If you promise me to strictly deal with the music, I’ll hire you. I’m the boss this time. I’ll fire your ass if you undercut me.”

“I’ll come out there if you agree to stop being a control freak.”

Landis scowls, but we shake hands. The business deal is done. I wonder what PJ O’Rourke will say. Best to let him make his own decisions. I have to be an intern slave for at least a week.

 

I want to celebrate my first real movie job but am embarrassed I have only had fifty bucks to my name. I regret not being quite family without a Stone BankAmericard. I suggest Max’s,  hoping someone will pay. Am I really going to suck up to Landis? It’s hard being 18 all the time. I figure they’ll laugh if I offer to pay. I just go along with the crowd.

 

Once we walk in, Andy leading me by the hand, the paparazzi get their nightly shots. A Village Voice reporter comes over and interview Landis and Andy. He ask who I am.

“Tim’s my protégée,” Andy announces. “I told John how he’d handled Landau over the hack interview he wrote about their band. He hired him to do the music on his new movie.”

John and I shake hands for the photographers, with Andy smiling in the background, like a don from ‘The Godfather’. The reporter has no clue who I am, so I lie, telling him I’m Tim Matheson, the young star of ‘Animal House.’  I don’t want PJ finding out I’ve gone over his head to get hired for the position he was interviewing me for. Andy has done me a favor by getting Landis to meet me; he must have known I would show up at his offices. I still need PJ to be my NY ally, thinking he has placed me on the set. Another lie I’d weave in order to deceive.

 

As I arrive for my slave chores on Tuesday morning, the receptionist, Jody, smiles. “You’re in the Post  again, except they got your name wrong.”

My new number one fan.

“Hard to be a celebrity in New York. They must’ve mixed me up with the actor in Animal House with my first name,” I shrug.

“Well, congratulations. They also have an old photo of you dancing naked at Max’s.”

“That was the high school me. I’m more mature now that I go to Harvard.”

“Still wear those sexy briefs?”

I pulled my shirt up and flash her.  She squeals. Just keeping the fans happy.

 

PJ has the Post in his hand when I knock on his door.

“Com’n in, Mr. Matheson. I see we didn’t work you hard enough yesterday. You needed to work off excess self-promotion on Page Six?” He doesn’t seem mad that I have agreed to work with his Director.

“I’m the Post’s only gay teenage idol. Andy’s the celebrity. I’m just eye candy.”

“Explain why you’re negotiating with Landis. I thought I was hiring you.”

“I had Andy fire Jon Landau from Interview two years ago. He is mending fences for me. Landau and Landis are friends.”

“Well, any publicity is good publicity. How about I fire you from interning and make you a writer? Can you get an interview with Warhol?”

“He’s been my patron since I was 14. I’d rather do John Lennon? I’m friends with his son, Julian. We have a band called Dakota from where I usually stay in the City.”

“Music is your primary expertise. I’ll give you the rest of the week to come up with an interview.”

“I’ll get John to play for the runaway kids at St Patrick’s shelter? They let us play at the Cathedral.”

“I thought you were staying at the Chelsea. You sure they’ll let you into the Dakota?”

“My boyfriend’s parents have a place there. I’m a regular guest.”

“Whatever. So what’s your plan?”

“I’ll get the band to write new songs and ask Cardinal Cooke to let us entertain the runaways. Last time John attended and couldn’t help himself from joining in. We don’t do Beatles songs unless he plays with us.”

“The staff will miss you this week.”

“Maybe they can pay for their own lunches now. I’ll still get you lunch. What do you want from the Automat?”

 

I go around and take orders from the guys who didn’t tried to cheat me on Monday. I say goodbye, as my internship is over.

“Did we hire you?”

“It’s still a work in progress.”

“Can I help your recruitment?” an older man in his fifties asks. His name was Edward Gorey.

“PJ says you’re an illustrator?” I ask him.

“That plus a writer. I have a play in the works.”

“Harvard man?”

“They would never call a writer a ‘real’ man in my day.”

“Hah. Now that they have women, my boyfriend wants to us call ourselves co-eds.”

He laughs. Harvard must have warped my adolescent sensibilities. My current New York friends consisted of a forty-year-old artist, a seventy-year-old writer, and now a fifty-year-old illustrator.

“Do you really want to help? I have until Friday to complete an article that shows I know something about the music business.”

“Can’t help you much there. Anything I could illustrate for the article?”

“That would be much better than photos,” I enthuse.

“Tell me about the article.”

I haven’t really thought it through but figure I can lure John Lennon and Yoko Ono to St Patrick’s for another performance of the Dakota band. It will let me observe how the Jace’s Place project is proceeding without being an outsider. When I explain it to Gorey, his eyes light up.

“You do know who the Beatles are?” I venture thinking he may have missed the 60’s.

He scoffs, “Those pretty boys with girls’ haircuts.  How could I miss them.”

“Well, they’re not so pretty now. I know John’s 13-year-old son. His best friend is Leonard Bernstein’s daughter, Nina”

“Sounds like you are not familiar with my work. I specialize in the decadent decrepit. I’ll let you deal with the kids. I can deal with the parents.”

“Are you ready to start? We need to go to the Dakota and get permission for another benefit at the Cathedral.”

 

Off we go to the Dakota. The doorman lets me in, assuming I’m staying there. He does ask who the elderly guest is, signing him into the visitor log. We immediately go to 407 to recruit Jules and Nina in our plot to do another show. Gorey laughs as Nina let us into the pot smoke-filled single room apartment. Jules is collapsed on a couch, the bong laying at his feet.

“Oi, mate. Back to save the masses at Church?” He notices Gorey and freaks out, thinking I’ve brought the Grim Reaper for him.

“This is Edward. He’s going to illustrate a story about Dakota playing for the runaways.”

“Oh. Will Aaron and Paul be in the show?”

“Why not,” I figure it’s good he has friends now.

“I’ll come back once we get your parents to approve another show. We can rehearse, maybe write a song or two.”

“Cool,” he lays back, blindly searching for his bong, which lays just outside his reach. Nina just observes. I pick up the bong and put it in his hands.

“Ta,” Jules smiles.

 

We walk down to the Lennon-Ono apartment on the third floor. I knock and hear, in a North English accent, “Com’n in. Not locked.” John trusts the Dakota staff to keep him safe. He is sitting with Yoko, who has baby Sean on her lap. Familial bliss.

“I know you,” he remarks. “Your Jules’ friend.”

“Tim,” I answer. “This is my associate, Edward Gorey. We were just upstairs with Jules and Nina. Can we get permission to do another show at St Patrick’s?”

“Why not?” he agrees. “Are you some soul saver type.”

“Naw. I’m just a saint. They call me Teen Jesus.”

John laughs.

Yoko perks up when she hears Gorey’s name. “You’re the pen and ink guy at the New Yorker.”

“National Lampoon now. They pay better.”

“Always black and white. Don’t you like color?” she loves speaking with other artists.

“I sometimes do color, but leaving white where color would go lets the viewer’s imagination fill in the blanks.”

“Let me show you what I’m working on,” as Yoko gets up, giving Sean to his father, and leads Gorey to her work space.

John looks at the chubby, whiny baby for a second. He hands him to me, calling for the nanny to fetch Sean.  After the nanny takes him away, Ringo appears, happy to have avoided the domestic bliss of a screaming baby.

“Come meet Julian’s guitar teacher,” I’m introduced.

“Good-oh, boy. Julian’s really improved the last few months,” Ringo praises my laissez-faire style of teaching.

“He’s a teenager now. Look out. You’ll be drumming for the Beatles, Part 2.”

“Good idea. They gave me the boot from Part 1.”

“We need to do another show. How about you try out. Jules will never be a real drummer. He smokes too much pot and can’t pay attention long enough to finish a song.”

They both laugh.

“I’ll play guitar with Jules and we can call it the Beat, half the Beatles,” John jokes.

My plot is falling into place.

“Jules won’t admit it, but he really wants to play with you. All that music is just bubbling up inside his heart.”

“Beatles songs?”

“Yeah, but he does have his own music. That’s why his playing has improved. He’s playing from the heart. It’s real rock n roll.”

John and Ringo look at each other, perhaps remembering how it was when they were teens.

I go for clincher, “How about you get up with Jules and sing ‘Oh, Yoko,’ to her at the end of the show.

Ringo laughs at my manipulation.

“I’m not sure he’ll play that. He still takes Cynthia’s side in the divorce.”

“He yearns for your approval, Dad,” I go for the kill.

“Yeah, Dad, give the bugger a break,” Ringo bugs his ex-bandmate.

“We’ll see. You want permission for him to perform. That’s fine, as long as it’s for charity. What do you charge nowadays, Rich, for guest appearances?”

“Too much. I’ll have to see how well these kids play. I may be perfect for a gig like this.”

My Beatles days are back. Even if it was just The Beat.

“Let’s go up to 407 and invade pot city,” I suggest. “We can jam. You decide if we’re up to your standards, Starkey.” I use Ringo’s real name.

“Call me Rich, mate.”

“Right on. Better than Ring,” I joke.

He gives me a funny look.  He’s the oldest Beatle but seems to have retained his youthful exuberance better, even with a beard. Later, I have to call him Sir Richard. Now, I’m just having fun.

Edward stays with Yoko, doing sketches for her. She’s amazed how quickly they get done. He’s following her creative ideas. Another collaboration of 60’s artists, the hippie generation. They know how to share.

We walk into the stoner pad, causing a commotion as bongs, pipes, roaches and baggies become hastily invisible. We say nothing.

“Com’n, Jules. We need a little smoke to get us in the mood to jam. You’re being replaced on drums,” I indicated that Ringo is the new drummer. Ringo inspects Jules’ basic Pearl set, smiling like Elton had done upon discovering the standup piano in Hollywood – a trip down memory lane. Ringo rearranges the set-up. Soon we’re ready to go.

“You want me to do a song with you?” John asks his son, whose eyes lose that stoned look he generally sports. “What song do you want to do?”

Jules is at a loss for words.  They both pick up acoustic guitars

“How about this one, it’s a Ringo hit?” John starts in on ‘Octopus’ Garden.”

 

 

Jules isn’t clueless, jumping in at the intro. I play rhythm, happy to be second fiddle, with Nina on bass. John and Julian sing to each other. Ringo keeps the drumming simple. Everyone is smiling.

Jules is biting his lips, keeping the tears from flooding from his overloaded eyelids. John gives him a big hug once we finish.

“I knew you had talent,” John compliments Ringo.

Everyone nods. We jam on some of the Dakota songs. After Ringo agrees he’ll play pro bono for the church group, I suggest we play the hit song Nina has written. It’s been number 1 all summer on the Broadway hit parade.

“It’s not really rock n roll,” Jules explains.

“Yeah, it’s jazz. Maybe there’s a genetic reason Nina wrote it.

I start singing,

“Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leaving today I want to be a part of it: New York, New York…”

 

The two Beatles just laugh, but we play it all the way through as a trio.

Ringo sings his cover of ‘You’re 16’, pulling out a kazoo. I have my harmonica to jam together.

 

 

We finish with Ringo singing rockabilly to ‘Honey Don’t.’

 

 

It’s time to rescue Gorey from the Dragon Lady.  It turns out they collaborated on several works. Yoko’s painstaking process gets washed away by the speed of Gorey’s sketching. He promises to return and continue their collaboration.

“That was fun,” he announces as we walked to across Central Park. “Much better than sitting in that dreary midtown office, waiting for the kids to give me an idea.”

“Wait ‘til you come to our band rehearsal. You’ll be inspired by music. It’s is totally ephemeral.”

“Art needs to be fun, not serious. Those Harvard grads at the National Lampoon aren’t kids. They’re playing at being actual adults. No one in their twenties has a clue. They’re too serious. It’s supposed to be a humor magazine”

“Wait until they have families. They’ll realize they wasted their youth pretending to be adults.”

We both laugh. I figured he’s gay since he has no family. Freedom to be what you are meant to be.

“Feel like checking in with the Church’s program for runaways? They’re always fun.”

“You have quite a bag of tricks for an out-of-towner.”

“I love the City. Somehow I ended up in Iowa last year.”

“Life’s endless bag of tricks.”

 

Father Frank is in his office, now a permanent fixture in Cardinal Cooke’s administration.

“Tim. Where’s your partner in crime?”

“Still living up to his family name at Harvard. Meet Edward Gorey. He’s helping me on a Jace’s Place project.”

“Something I don’t know about yet.”

“How about another Beatles reunion performance for Youth Group on Thursday?” I chortle, unable to suppress my glee at instigating history. “It’s just John and Ringo. They’re calling themselves The Beat, half of the Beatles.”

“They’re going play for free to kids when promoters are offering a million bucks for a concert?”

“Ringo’s staying at the Dakota, so we’ve been jamming. They have so much fun, they want to put on a show. The lawyers won’t let them play for money.”

“Who am I to stand in the way of the Beatles. But you need to speak to Cardinal Cooke. I promised I’d deliver you, if you showed up.”

“The long running Inquisition of Teen Jesus,” I scoff.

“He really likes you, Tim. Why do you always avoid him.”

“He wants me to be a saint. Jace is Teen Jesus. I’m just the sidekick. Locking Jack up in a Swiss seminary didn’t go so well, did it?”

“Save me the problem of explaining why you won’t speak with him by at least saying hello.”

“Okay. Please show Edward the Cathedral. He’ll be documenting the show with his illustrations.”

“Of course, you’re Gorey, the cartoonist at the New Yorker.”

Edward grimaces but refrains from correcting the priest.

 

“Tim, my wayward son. So happy to see you,” Cardinal Cooke embraces me.  I’m not required to kiss his ring.

“I’m always happy to see you, Cardinal.” I realize that I really am. I relax.

“How’s Jace doing. Still ever-present in your life?”

“That’s changed. He remains a 15-year-old while I’m now 18. And, I’m at Harvard. He thinks I’m old and boring. He disrupted my Religion class when Professor Reinhold stated that the spirit world does not exist. The professor teaches the Bible as literature.”

“Good for Jace.”

“His heart is pure but he’s still a kid with a need to show off. He fears we will be separated when we are both dead.”

“You know what I think.”

“Of course. We’ll be at the right hand of God.”

“That isn’t comforting to him?”

“He feels he was bound for Hell before he actually died. Then he came back as a ghost. He thinks I made it happen because I can’t let him go.”

“Sounds like a 15-year-old. The simple solution seems best.”

“You are so nice to be concerned about us.”

“Nothing’s more important than the saving of a soul, especially a child’s.”

“Thank you for caring and sponsoring the Jace’s Place project.”

“Anything we can do?”

“Well, we want to play for the youth group on Thursday night.”

“In the Cathedral, like last time? Will the Beatle show up again?”

“Two of them. Ringo’s staying at the Dakota. We invited him to be our drummer. Please let it be a surprise, as Beatle reunions are in legal limbo.”

“Like Jace?”

We both laugh.

I had wondered if that is his status. Terrorizing junior high kids with Tommy may get him demoted to Hades. I’ve always believed his pure heart will save him.

After our talk, I rejoin Gorey and Father Frank. They are enjoying a glass of wine for lunch. As the two of us walk back to the Lampoon offices, we talk about the upcoming show. With Gorey’s surrealistic black and white drawings, I can write a review of the show that captures its ephemeral nature. Publishing it in the Lampoon will make it more fantasy than reality. The long walk  inspires our imaginations.

 

PJ is incredulous when I describe what is planned. He wants to pay me a $1500 retainer for exclusive rights. I make him pay it to Gorey and suggest he get a raise, referencing what the Rolling Stone is paying Ralph Stedman for his Gonzo journalism drawings.

“You pull this off and you’ll get a thousand a week,” he tells Gorey.’

I guess I passed the audition. I swear everyone to secrecy. Gorey is ecstatic with his $1500. He goes out and buys a white raincoat to replace the dreary, grimy one he’s worn for too many years.

Feeling flush, I go to Trash & Vaudeville at St Mark’s Place  and buy a full-on black outfit, including a black Levi’s jacket, my cowboy roots showing. To top it off, I buy black Beatles boots with heels. I look and feel ten feet tall. The clerk throws in several black tees with T&V on the front. Luckily they don’t carry black underwear. I can’t betray Felix by showing up on Page Six in black briefs. I’ll never understand underwear fetishers.

 

Next: https://timatswim.com/eighteen-chapter-1-part-2/

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