Our week of Cabaret with Elton John at the Troubadour finishes up with over-sold shows. Tony is letting fans in at the back door for $100. No matter how persuasively we argue with Marty, we stay fired from our internships on ‘New York, New York.’ At least the movie’s new title and Nina’s song are retained. Liza and Bobby fly back in time to begin the next phase of filming with a revised script. We squawk that the Astaire and Rogers dance routine is stolen from us, but at least he keeps it in the finished version. Despite our efforts, the film misses its box office numbers and is considered another Scorsese bomb. We avoid Marty for a time in order to not remind him how we jinxed him twice. The word is he’s depressed and doing drugs. We may have had a hand in his temporary demise. Like all good American stories, he has a strong next act starting with Raging Bull, again De Niro to the rescue. Bronx to the core.
The Lear leaves us in Ames, so I can prepare for Harvard. I need to say goodbye to all my friends. Jack stays with me, too. He has Isabelle to pack his undies in New York. Mom and Molly missed me all summer, while the twins revel in our return, driving us all over Ames to see friends and frenemies. ‘Gator is in pre-season with the State football team. I can see that the weight training has really bulked him up. He is a monster on the gridiron. I laugh when he challenges me to another arm wrestling match. I’m even more of a wimpy musician than before. His posse has followed him to State. They mostly miss the cut for making the team and are now reduced to hangers-on status. Surprisingly, Noah makes the team. I guess all that running around as Bunny the horse’s ass has toughened him up. He winks when he sees me. I still wonder if it means anything. Jocks aren’t subtle but he is proving to be the exception to the rules – to all the rules.
editor’s note: It’s still going strong in Ames, much changed as a sports bar downstairs and the pizza joint up a flight. My nostalgic pie doesn’t live up to its memory. It seems like it is mostly takeout for the greatly enlarged State student population. They have half a dozen delivery guys. The Pit has learned you need to change to survive.
I insist we take the train to Boston. Jack is used to my slumming as he calls it, forgoing use of the family Lear jet. The moms and twins drive us to Des Moines to catch the transcontinental Amtrak. We make the twins promise to come visit us in Boston for a college football weekend. They know all about ‘The Game,’ between Harvard and Yale in November. We have a small sleeping compartment, called a Pullman. Amtrak is tacky, dingy and threadbare. I like our farewell at the station but am ready to get off and fly when we change in Chicago. Jack refuses to switch, promising night-long sex in the Pullman. Instead, we buy hair bleach and by the time we get to Boston, we’ve turned our slightly grown-out skinheads into white towheads . We tell our fellow freshmen we’ve been surfing all summer in Malibu. No one believes us, as we lack real tans. We sweat to each other we’ll stop lying about ourselves. Already the guys in our dorm wonder how we can be so close, me from Iowa and Jack from NYC, having supposedly just met. The liberal bastion of Harvard is no place to be openly gay. The Ivy League has its standards. We pretend we are just getting to know each other as new roommates. There are several other freshmen who are friendly and constantly hang out in our room. We challenge them to show some musical talent. That usually means they sing college football fight songs. Have they forgotten rock n roll? Cambridge is still known for its folk scene, but it lacks local heroes. We discover a club across the river in Boston’s Kenmore Square. The Red Sox are having a good year, after last season making the World Series. The rock club is around the corner from Fenway Park, a bar called the Rathskeller, which we quickly shorten to the Rat. They have local bands and occasional New York celebrities like the Ramones play in the basement. There is a walk-up to the street where we sit and harass the baseball fans streaming from the T to the ballpark. Some actually come in after the game, all pumped about their team’s winning ways. We love that the catcher is called Pudge, whom we rename Pudge Packer. That is enough to start fights with the diehards. Everyone likes him because he hit the winning home run in the sixth game of the ’75 World Series. Someone retrieved the ball in the Rat’s back parking lot, selling it to fans celebrating after the game. The first thing we learn is to avoid letting the locals, called Townies and Southies, know we are Harvard students.
The idea that college is a place to grow up reinforces my observation that most students are socially retarded. We spend class time being lectured by professors and graduate students who see themselves as archly humorous. They parade out their tics and eccentricities as endearing expressions of their superiority over regular people. It is too easy to snidely puncture their self-aggrandizing. Most of the friends I make in class see me as a crass cynic of all things Harvard. The polite term was contrarian, which I dispute as too cranky, like an old curmudgeon, a stereotype I see in certain professors. A few weeks into the semester, I receive graded papers that remark that my ideas do not reflect the thinking of the class. I failed to parrot back the teacher’s ideas and premises. Original thought automatically drops my grade a full letter. Jack, of course, is the star of charm and receives the highest marks for regurgitating the lectures he studiously records in his extensive class notes. He offers to share these notes when his papers receive ‘A’s’ and mine are ‘C-‘ or worse.
“Your charm will get you everywhere in class but nowhere in life,” I remark.
“Oh, Tim. You’re such a Townie.”
Most nights we entertain two distinct groups of friends – his clique of popular ass-kissers and my misfits and pot smokers. The Rat is my test of which friends really like me. When we go to shows there, Jack’s friends have to let everyone know they are Harvard boys – not a good way to make friends with the locals. My friends generally scowl and stand against the walls, making no effort to be friendly. They fit right in. We spend more time outside on the curb in Kenmore Square harassing the baseball fans and Boston University students unlucky enough to wander by. Our Townie reputations are enhanced by making fun of any and all students. Jack feels it is disloyal to pick on them ‘just because they can’t get into a really good school.’ One BU undergrad actually gives as good as he gets, quickly turning our taunts against us. He is a gangly tall kid from Long Island, with a honking nose and the Bronx accent to go with it. His name is Howard. We keep calling him Joey Ramone. He takes it as a compliment. Forty years later, he makes millions on Sirius satellite radio. Too bad he has to live on a satellite in outer space. Not many places to spend all that money. His main expense is live streaming porn.
The problem with the Rat is a lack of new local bands. There are too many stadium rock wannabees who see Boston-based rockers like Stephen Tyler and Joe Perry as examples of how to make it in the music business. Swagger is everything in projecting their rock stardom. They forget you have to play music to be in a band. Aping their heroes, like J Geils Band or even worse, Boston, is about all they can manage, swinging their big hair around like they are really into it. The big Boston music scene excitement is the release of The Modern Lovers’ first album. Ironic because the band has already broken up. The Rat crowd disdains the band for its Harvard roots. Jonathan Richman sounds like a folkie and dresses like a Mod. He is disrespected because he spends his time in New York, as a Lou Reed groupie, and in LA. Just my type of guy, until I find out that Joan Jett’s producer, Kim Fowley, is also his producer. All this scene gossip comes from nerdy rock historians, reading music magazines at Newbury Comics. Every scene needs a place for its gossip mavens to hang out. It is a several blocks from the Rat on Newbury Street.
Jack tries to make me a more serious student, to better fit in with the whole college scene. We agree to keep our visits to The Rat as a secret vice, indulged occasionally on a week night. As proper Harvardites we are expected to study hard all week and let loose on the weekends, with football the focus of the social scene. We try out for the Harvard Marching Band, telling the Director we played with Iowa State’s band as an electric spirit section. We’re informed that the Harvard Band plays real instruments and doesn’t do ‘electric.’
“Don’t you wanna inspire the players and get the crowd a’goin’ to beat Dartmouth?” I slip into dialogue.
He looks shocked at my grammar. “Maybe that works at farming schools. You don’t come to Harvard to get the students ‘a’goin,’” he mocks me. We are dismissed.
“See,” Jack admonishes me. “You need to make a better impression if you want to do things your way.”
“I’m not interested in impressing old fossils like that guy.”
We’re disappointed to not make the Harvard Marching Band. We decide to form our own Harvard Standing Band, recruiting anyone we can find to jam on guitars in our room. When we add drums, the resident advisor advises us we were making too much noise. He tells us we can play in the House basement. We move down to the boiler room and retaliate by turning the amps up as loud as possible. Our friends report ghost-like, muffled wailing seeping through the entire House’s thick 19th century brick walls. Jack’s ‘soc’ friends abandon us, while my misfits find the boiler room a congenial atmosphere, mostly for smoking pot. Without Robby to strong-arm me, I seldom smoke. My pot-head days seem over. The music we play is unlike any of the bands we’ve been in. We are more introspective and self-involved, not Southern Blues, but more industrial, grinding dirges. Jack buys a MOOG, which keeps us moody and futuristic. We start dressing like aliens. One night we go to the Rat, dressed in plastic trash bags. It’s a particularly rowdy band that night. We take the T home in not much more than our underwear, with ripped and tattered plastic strips not really covering our nakedness. The guard at the entrance to Harvard Yard reports us, resulting in a trip to the Dean’s office. We bring in the ripped outfits to show we had started out fully dressed. Circumstances caused our undressing. The Dean seems more interested in a description of our gay underwear. We tell him to contact Felix at Out & Proud in Miami for a catalog. Speechless for a moment, he dismisses us with a speech that basically says ‘don’t be so gay.”
“But Harvard is going co-ed,” I argue.
Jack grabs me and we depart.
“Being gay doesn’t make us co-eds,” he argues.
“Well, sorta,” I shrug.
Jack remonstrated that I need to use proper speech. That hurts, Jack as tutor.
Harvard is slowly going co-ed. There are girls in our dorm. We can take classes at Radcliffe. I sign us up for an 19th Century English romance novel course. I call it ‘Heathcliffe at Radcliffe.’ We dress up as the Bronte sisters and fit right in, until someone realizes we are boys. We’re kicked out for being perverts. How fun.
It all comes to a head in our religion class. The professor is one of those ‘God is Dead’ types who teaches the bible as literature. Jace has been attending with us, as he is perplexed about the afterlife. We discuss my tripping on belladonna and how he’d been brought back from the dead by the Guardian. He’s unsure if his current state is considered afterlife. I suggest it be called between life. I’m not so sure if when we both die that the spirit world will be called an afterlife or just the end of life as we know it. It seems like something that requires psychedelics to pursue. I need Robby to take the lead. Jace finds the professor irrelevant to our concerns. Being bored, he floats around the room, playing subtle tricks with the lights and heat. His antics catch the attention of other inattentive students. I call it flea behavior and warn him that someone is going to swat him. He finds the idea amusing, wondering if he will feel swats from a person attuned enough to sense him. All these thoughts are tied up with his insecurity that we’ll be separated after death.
The class is held in a lecture hall, like most of my classes, large with little interaction between students and the instructor. The professor is going off curriculum by discussing his belief, based upon the scientific method, that there is no spirit world. He feels all avant-garde to be saying so at a college founded in the 17th century to teach theology. He goes on and on proving his theory that there is no scientific proof to an afterlife.
“Of course, there have always been reports of near-death experiences and going to the ‘light.’ The non-religious also report ghost sightings. To prove my point, has anyone here ever seen a ghost?”
Jack is tugging on my sleeve to keep me from raising my hand. Suddenly we are the center of attention in a group of 500 freshmen. Once I get my hand up, several other hands pop up as well.
“Well, this is a first. Please stand and introduce yourself. Pray tell, what does a ghost look like?”
“I’m Tim Castle. It’s the ghost of my best friend and band mate. He looks like he did the day he died, a 15-year-old.”
“Perhaps you weren’t ready to let go of your best friend?”
Jace is fully awake and bouncing up and down from being investigated at Harvard.
“I wasn’t. I wanted to die, too.”
“Probably such an emotional experience helped you visualize a ghost. Did you ever see him again?”
“I see him every day. He lives with us in Mower House.”
Everyone laughs at what they believe is my putting the professor on.
“Does anyone else know you’re living with a ghost, Mr. Castle?”
“Just those who like him. They feel his presence and after a while they see him, too.”
“It’s nice your classmates make you feel better over losing your best friend, son,” he patronizes me.
“My roommate, Jack here, sees him,” I out Jack who was sinking as low as possible into his seat.
“Well, stand up and tell us, Jack,” the prof orders, “what’s it like to have a ghost for a roommate?”
Jack stands up but is speechless. I have to step in.
“We’ll sing you a song we learned from the Cars the other night about being in a class that is clueless about what we already know.”
We began a Cappella:
‘I don’t mind comin’ here
And wastin’ all my time
‘Cause when you’re standin’ oh so near
I kinda lose my mind, yeah
It’s not the coat & tie you wear
It’s not your long stringy hair
I don’t mind you bein’ here
And wastin’ all my time
[Chorus:] I guess you’re not what I needed (Not what I needed) I needed someone to feel
I guess you’re not what I needed (Not what I needed) I needed someone to believe.’
The class is laughing as we mock the prof. Jace adds insult to injury by rushing around the lecture hall, opening and closing windows and turning the lights off and on. Finally, he takes the prof’s notes and scatters them into the air. Jack grabs me and rushes us out of the lecture hall, Jace follows, looking quite contrite.
“You’re out of control,” Jack yells at us.
“That teacher is stupid. He couldn’t see past his own limited ideas. He teaches anti-religion. The Bible is not literature, like Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales.”
Dozens of students have followed us into the hall, surrounding us as we argue.
Jack burst into tears. “You’re ruining my college experience.”
I hug him, but it makes him uncomfortable in front of other students.
“Someone asks, “What’s that song you guys sang?”
“It’s the Cars. We saw them at Paradise Ballroom over at BU.”
“That was cool. The professor about had a heart attack.”
“Maybe it will change his limited point of view about religion.”
“Like my Biology class when all the prof teaches is botany ‘cause he wrote a botany text. I’m pre-med. How much botany do I need?”
“Enough to scribble Latin prescriptions that no one else can read,” someone jokes.
“You may want to transfer out of this class, before it’s too late,” someone suggests to me.
“If I have to transfer, its back to Iowa. At least people there don’t blow their egos up to the point they look foolish.”
“Don’t quit,” a quiet girl pleads. “You’re the only boys who treat us as normal in the dorm.” She is one of the Radcliffe students who lives with us at Mower House.
“I love it here, but I don’t think I’ve learned anything yet. All the kids at the club in Boston think we’re Townies. I don’t fit in here.”
“None of us fit in at high school, mostly because we got good grades. This is where we are supposed to ‘find’ ourselves.”
“I never lost myself,” I assert. “But having to lie that I’m a Southie Irish dropout to make friends in Boston seems hypocritical.”
“You can’t leave,” several kids cry.
The situation escalates when the Dean shows up with our religion professor. We are escorted to his office, seated in the waiting room, while the professor relates what we did.
“Maybe you think pranks and insulting respected teachers is part of your college experience. Riding naked on the T is one thing. Disrupting a large lecture room is over the line,” the Dean doesn’t bother to hear our side of the incident.
I go ahead anyway and make our case. “We felt the class omitted belief in the teaching of religion.”
“What?” he is stunned. “You want to teach the class. No, don’t answer that. You, Mr. Castle, are arrogant to a degree I have never seen. At least 60’s protesters had a political point of view. You just need to get attention for some emotional need we apparently cannot meet at Harvard.”
“You want me to leave? All those kids outside your office want me to stay. My point is I am not learning here. I think you owe my dad his tuition back.”
Jack steps in, with a charm offensive. “Dean, please let us explain. We really were only answering Professor Reinhold’s questions. All those pranks were not done by us.”
“You mean the lights and windows, as well as stealing Dr. Reinhold’s notes.”
“Not us, Dean. I can’t explain it. We were just standing at our seats. We sang a song we had made up because we want to learn about religion and don’t understand why we have to give up our beliefs.”
“This is about pranks, not freedom of religion, Mr. Stone,” the Dean backs down.
“Probably some MIT students did it to mock us,” Jack has no problem making false excuses.
“This is your second visit to my office and school has been open less than a month. Your good standing at Harvard will change if I see you again.”
We are dismissed. Outside the Dean’s office a small group of our classmates are waiting to hear the verdict.
“Are you quitting, Tim,” the Mower House co-ed anxiously asks.
“He never gave me the chance to. We’re on warning and heading for probation,” I complain.
“Can you play us that song you sang?” one of the other supporters asks. “And who are the Cars?”
Off we go to the boiler room for an impromptu performance by the Sitting Band. Jack wants to ban the pot smokers. He worries that we’re inciting our own expulsion.
We set up the guitars and play the original version of ‘Just What I Needed.’
….. I don’t mind you comin’ here
And wastin’ all my time
‘Cause when you’re standin’ oh so near
I kinda lose my mind, yeah
It’s not the perfume that you wear
It’s not the ribbons in your hair
I don’t mind you comin’ here
And wastin’ all my time’
I’m determined to make my college experience more than just ‘wastin’ all my time.’
Jack is bereft about our warning from the Dean. I’m tempted to dismiss his worrying to a nerdy need to fit in. I know he is concerned about our personal relationship as well. I do my best to comfort him.
“Do you really like it here?” he asks.
“I’ll always be a townie at heart. I love we’ve found new friends to join us as we experience Harvard. I thought you had learned that authoritarian figures will never appreciate us. When we appear, they see chaos walking in the door.”
“Do we have to cause so much trouble. That Religion prof believes he’s teaching us the important parts of being Christian. You treat him like a charlatan.”
“We’re barbarians to him, a threat to everything he believes. How else do you confront tyrants?”
“He’s an old man who’s lost his faith.”
“You feel sorry for him?”
“What’s the point of going to school if you don’t believe in the teachers?”
“How can we learn if we don’t question everything?”
“It’s no longer the sixties. Why are you rebelling?”
He has worn me down. We decide to get away for the weekend. The football game is not in Cambridge this weekend.
“Let’s go to Northampton. You can meet Joey and we can date Smithies.”
There’s a ride sharing board that lists drivers willing to take students to various girls’ colleges in New England. You only need to share the gas expense. Jack bemoans that freshmen aren’t allowed to have cars. I point out that this is the first time we even need a car. We find someone going to Northampton. The driver says he can arrange dates for us on Saturday night. We’ll drive back after wild blind dates that end with the girls’ ten pm curfews. Troy is a junior and seriously dating a Smithie. He promises us ‘hot’ dates.
Jack is about to announce we are gay but I cut him off. “We need to experience normal college life,” I whisper.
We finish the week without further classroom interruptions. We study on Friday night at Widener Library, doing all our class assignments for Monday. Returning to the dorm, it is obvious we missed out on everyone getting drunk. The steps to Mower House stink of vomit. Guys we barely know come running up, saying we’re righteous dudes, in honor of our surfer haircuts. Jack looks distressed, worrying our road trip will be more excessive drinking. I drag him to safety on the girls’ floor, knocking on Jill’s door. She had said we were the only boys who treat her like a real person. Her roommate says everyone was down the hall in 3D.
“Why aren’t you there?”
“I have to study.”
“We study together in Widener. Join us next time,” Jack is his gracious sycophant self.
She looks surprised and smiles.
We knock on 3D. Someone yells, “No need to knock. It’s open. Com’n in, girl.”
They are surprised to find that we’re boys.
“We need to escape the drunken teenagers downstairs,” I explain.
Jill jumps up. “You’re just as welcome as any girl,” making Jack smile. “I was just telling everyone about your performance in Religion.”
“We blamed it on MIT tricksters,” Jack crows.
“You really sang a song in class?” one of the girls looks amazed.
Jack can’t resist and reprises our classroom revision of the Cars’ song.
‘I don’t mind comin’ here
And wastin’ all my time
‘Cause when you’re standin’ oh so near
I kinda lose my mind, yeah
It’s not the coat & tie you wear
It’s not your long stringy hair
I don’t mind you bein’ here
And wastin’ all my time
[Chorus:] I guess you’re not what I needed (Not what I needed)
I needed someone to feel
I guess you’re not what I needed (Not what I needed)
I needed someone to believe.’
I jump in with Jack. The girls love our duet.
“I told you,” Jill crows. “And they also are cute,” as if that was debatable.
“Do you have a band? Is that one of your songs?” they all ask.
“That’s the Cars’ song. They’re a local band. We saw them last week in Boston.”
“You sing great. You must be the band in the basement,” Jill is our shill.
We just shrug.
“Whatcha all talkin’ about?” I ask. “Boys?”
“Who’s hot and who’s not?” we want to know.
“Footballers, definitely not.”
“Wait ‘til you see them in those tight short pants.”
“Ew,” they scream.
“Everyone will be out there yelling for them on Saturday”
“Not us. They’re gross.”
“Y’all don’t like muscles?”
“Not when they parade around the dorm in nothing but a towel.”
“That would be Jake the Rake,” we surmise, having been pushed aside in the hall.
“The cute ones never seem interested.”
“All boys are interested. Maybe they’s shy, just needs sum one ta smile at ‘em.”
“That’s what girls think, too,” a pretty blonde complains.
“Have y’all bin to the mixers.”
“The cattle calls? No one cool goes.”
“Y’all’s jist silly nillies waitin’ ta be asked,” I surmise.
They all giggle.
“Y’all gots ta come with us to the club in Boston,” I suggest.
“Tonight. Right now. No time’s like the present.”
“We’d have to get ready. And curfew starts at ten.”
“Jist com’n rite now. This club don’t have no dress code. Ain’t no curfew at Harvard.”
“They lock the gates to the Yard.”
“That’s what the guard’s fer, ta lets ya in. We gots wrote up when we came in last week in nothin’ but our skivies.”
“You don’t speak all country in class,” one girl notices.
“Y’all’s our friends. Ain’t no need ta impress ya. Com’n,” we order.
They all giggle and rush off to spruce themselves up. We hadn’t exactly described the Rat for what it is – a dive.
Two T lines later we walk up into Kenmore Square. We escort five cute co-eds, nervously going to a nightclub for their first time. They expect the Stock Club and are getting Berlin 1930.
Jack and I whistle and sing ‘Welkommen’ as preparation, walking backwards and singing to our audience of five freshman girls.
We keep acting out Cabaret as we walk down the stairs into the Rat. We introduce the girls as they strut past the bouncer. We all go in without paying the cover charge.
The girls are less anxious and ready for anything.
“Don’t be a’tellin’ ‘em we’s Harvardites. Our friends here are Southies & Townies,” we whisper.
Now they look scared.
“Don’t worry. We’ve scored big with y’all ‘Cliffies. Watch and see if these ol’ Townies get up the nerve ta talk with ya.”
Never shy, I guide the girls over to locals with whom I’ve been friendly. No introductions are needed. I explain that I had dared the girls to come to the Rat. The Townies need nothing more in order to step up and beat their chests about the glories of the place. Jack arrives with drinks, sending me back for the cups he couldn’t manage in the first trip from the bar. I doubt that his charm will succeed in keeping the Townies at bay. Feminism will be put to the test with our troglodyte friends butting heads (and hopefully no other anatomy) with these ‘Cliffie girls. Let the evening’s main event begin.
I return and discover I have one extra cup of beer. I head straight for the lady’s room, where the most innocent girl is refusing to escort the most aggressive Southie into the bathroom.
“Here’s your beer,” I move in for the rescue.
“Oh, thank you,” she barely whispers.
“Thanks a lot, bud. Where’s mine?”
“You won’t find it in the ladies,” I quip.
He snorts and goes back to search for other prey.
“Thank you,” she gasps. “He was so forward. Why would he want to use the ladies bathroom.”
“Oh, probably because he’s a pervert.”
“Well, thank you again.”
“Just stay with the group. Don’t trust any of these guys. They lay on the charm just so they can brag to their buddies.”
“You and Jack aren’t that way,” she corners me.
“Well, don’t ruin our reputations at the club. They think we’re locals, not students, let alone from Harvard.”
“Oh,” she contemplates how all her life she’s aspired to be at Harvard. The concept of it being a social handicap is new. “You’re so worldly.”
“Let’s get back to the group. I’ll tell you about cruising on Miami Beach as a 14-year-old.”
“Cruisin’? Could you drive at 14?”
“Naw. Just pickin’ up chicks and rulin’ the boulevard.”
“We thought you were just a country hayseed. It’s Jack who’s lives in the City. You both seem so comfortable with each other when you just met as roommates this month.”
“Well, don’t give away our secrets, but we met in junior year when he was my under-study in ‘Mid Summer’s Night Dream.’ It was such a hit we had to leave – me to my mom’s in Iowa and Jack to some rich prep school in Switzerland.”
“Is he really rich?”
“Pampered and spoiled. I am his first real friend. Mummy had ruled his life before he met me.”
“Is that why you came to Harvard. Everyone’s betting on how soon you’ll get kicked out.”
“Tell ‘em they needs to shorten their bets. I’s already on double warning.”
“Don’t get expelled. Your life will be ruined.”
“My life jist keeps on a’gittin’ better.”
“You are Country,” she leans over and kisses me. We are back with the group. All the locals whistle at the kiss. The other girls grab her and run to the bathroom to compare notes. The lech that had tried to drag her into a stall looks disgusted. My penchant for making enemies in juvie has returned at the Rat.
“Learn anything?” I kid the lech.
“Ya just moved in on my territory.”
“They call me Mr. Smoothie.”
“I’ll make you inta a Mr. Smoothie if ya try it again.”
“You need a beer,” I wrap an arm around his neck and lead him to the bar. I wink at Jack, who is just watching me.
When I get back, he’s up on the stoop to Commonwealth Ave.
“Why are you out here? We gots ta watch out fer the co-eds,” I ask.
“They’re off peeing together. I was alone when you went off with Guido.”
“I think his name is McGuido.”
“Let’s get back before the McGuidos horn dog the girls,” I put my arm around him. Jack gives me a quick kiss as I lean over him. The boy behind us gasps.
“You guys are fags.” he blurts out.
“Do we look like English cigarettes?”
He laughs. “It’s cool. I’ll never tell.”
“Thanks. What’s your name?”
“David. I’m from Waltham.”
“You make watches,” Jack tries to act like a local.
“That gig disappeared years ago.”
“Com’n inside with us. We’ve got five co-eds from Radcliffe to protect from the goon squad.”
“I’m not old enough to get in.”
“Then why’s ya hangin’ out?”
“Just bored. Nothin’ betta ta do. I wanna start a band.”
“We’re in the Harvard Standing Band,” Jack brags.
“You’re fags like all Hahvahd boys.”
We all laugh.
“If we get you in, don’t tell all our secrets. At least you’ll get the pick of the co-eds.”
We walk up to the bouncer. Jack slips him a ten and asks nicely to let David in with us.
“No drinking,” we are warned.
“No problem. He’s too skinny to drink.”
David is a high schooler, 17 years old. Jack chats him up while I get new beers from the bar. We share our beers with him. He is too skinny to handle even beer and is soon telling wild tales of high school life in Waltham. The girls are back and adopt him as their pet. The Townies stay away.
A local band gets up and surveys the crowd.
“Who let Minehan in?” the singer addresses our group.
“We adopted him,” Jill answers. “He’s our pet for the night.”
“Good luck with that. Just don’t let him drink.”
“That what everyone says,” I laugh.
David grabbed my cup. “Too late.”
The girls rush up and stand in front of the six-inch stage in the basement of the Rathskeller. The band is inspired, rushing through their songs. The beer has liberated the co-eds, who dance and yell at the band. Exposing their Aerosmith roots, the locals play ‘Walk this Way.’
The girls start strutting and mouthing the title lyrics to the Townies, daring them to dance with them. There are no takers. Jack, David and I are less inhibited. David jumps on stage and joined the singer on the chorus. Jack and I dance with each other, gyrating our asses back to back.
The band exits to whatever serves as a green room. Minehan refuses to give up the stage.
“Do that song you do,” Jill yells at us.
We jump up and asks Minehan if he knows The Cars’ ‘Just What I Needed.’
The band has carelessly left their guitars by the amps. David nods vigorously and picks up an axe. I get behind the drums and Jack is on bass. The girls are squealing from excitement. Two run off to the ladies, like they were about to pee their panties. We are halfway done with the song before the real band realizes we have taken over their instruments. They rush us to reclaim the stage. As they push and shove us, we continue to play, eventually finishing the song before we are evicted from the stage. The bouncers round us up and continue the shoving until the three of us are out on Commonwealth Ave. The girls run out after us. We lay on the pavement, out of breath from laughing. The girls stand there, not sure whether to roll around with us on the dirty curb. Eventually we have to run to the T before it closes at midnight. No one wants to pay for a cab across the river. The T gates are already closed. Minehan says goodnight, thanking us for getting him on stage. We said no way is he leaving. He’s our soul brother.
“I ain’t a fag,” he drunkenly proclaims.
“So what. You like being on stage. Maybe you’re just a drama queen.”
He tries to punch us but falls down. “Two Beer David,” we rename him. “Two is too much.” The bouncer was right.
The girls pick him up. “We don’t care if you’re gay,” they try to console him. In his alcoholic state, he can’t figure how we have turned the tables on him.
“We won’t tell,” Jack promises. “You can stay with us in the dorm room and take the T home in the morning.”
He’s in a stupor while all eight of us ride back to Harvard Square in a cab. The cabbie says we’ll pay double if he pukes. Jill offers him her purse in case he can’t help himself. He is fine. Teenage drunk is more a state of mind than a blood alcohol level.
At the Yard gate, the guard recognizes us, remarking that at least we have our clothes on this night. He lets David in with our explanation about the state he’s in. We can’t abandon him. I tell the guard that David is a Minehan.
“Yer a good Mick,” I tell him.
“Sure’n ya’s one yerself,” he answers.
The girls keep giggling, sure that they are going to be written up for coming in after midnight.
“It’s not the dahk ages, ya know,” I try out my Irish brogue. They laugh even more.
We tuck David into Jack’s bed. He’d been out on his feet for some time. The girls all kiss us goodnight, even kissing David, which I consider sexual assault as he is totally unconscious. No way he can give consent to be kissed. He does murmur something and smiles.