Teen Jesus – 08. The Hand of Fate

Jace’s Promotion

 

Is it the hand of fate that gets Hippie Greg to bring Tim and Jack to his Baptist youth group? I appear there to a young girl in the throes of holy rolling and speaking tongues. Then a drunken heckler in Coconut Grove gets beaten down by Tim. The cops wonder if Jesus was rowdy and misbehaved as all teenager. My death makes Tim a pious heathen. He’s soon leading church youth groups to Teen Jesus. I help by the laying of hands on the gullible teens. It works best on girls who easily convince the boys to be ‘touched.’

Along the way my angel leads us to my grand finale at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on Easter Sunday. I do my part, disappearing on the altar’s crucifix  and ascending into heaven in a shower of shining diamonds, backed by a medley of Pink Floyd songs. Unfortunately, Tim reverts to a major meltdown. Hippie saves the day by kicking him off his ass to start rescuing teen prostitutes in Times Square. The churches form youth shelters named for me, remembering my final words – ‘protect the children.’

 

“You’ve done well, Jace,” Fred beams. “You may get that Teen Jesus role approved.”

I forget whose idea that is. I am spending most of my time tending to the guardian needs of the kids I touched. I make it fun to get rescued by Teen Jesus. Girls just need to feel loved. Boys need pranks and antics to enjoy their rescue from the dark side. Even Robby has his moments of being good, but usually I am just a foil to his bullying during the Robby Magic Mean Show.

 

My personal crisis comes that summer when Tim is subjected to mental torture in a youth prison. He hardens his heart and refuses to let anyone in. For four months he lives in the Everglades, believing everyone has abandoned him. He ends up on the road, working as a prostitute throughout the south. Once four truckers repeatedly rape him for twelve hours without respite, he hits rock bottom. Passed out in an Alabama ditch, I lay with him and enter his dreams. I show him a way out of this mess by finding his birth mother in Iowa. Subconsciously he accepts that the Jace he knows is a delusion to keep me alive. He uses the ghost as an alter ego to replace me, someone he can manipulate and give him purpose in the remaining years of his life. Together, he and the alternate me create bands with performances in Iowa, New York, Boston and Hollywood. He’s an honors student at Harvard and publishes a business case study in the Harvard Business Review. He works with the best Hollywood movie producers as a music coordinator and is a founding member of the LA Punk Rock scene. Then he dies in a surfing accident,  believing he’s surfing into the sunset with me and our dog Max. End credits.

 

So much for Tim. He really got me out of the rut from being an abused child. I’m a little jealous that he stole Max from me,  but the dog deserves to be with someone who’s a pot-head. Teen Jesus is unable to get stoned. I never really enjoyed it anyway. I like to harass Robby when he is pulling pranks on the latest gang of junior high pot-heads hanging out in his bedroom. With Tim in College, Robby recruits Dave to be his foil in whipping up terror in the eyes of the 13 to 15-year-olds smoking pot in his bedroom. As soon as Robby has the kids cowering in the corner with his holy water tricks or other devil-summoning, I appear and raise him into the air and chase the kids out of the room. One time I allow him to fly down the street screaming satanic curses at the hysterical boys.

 

Eventually I convince Robby to attend Rollins College where his high school Shakespeare teacher Mr. Clark is now a teacher. My evil step-brother Jeff has been released from juvenile detention and is now back at Rollins as a second year freshman. Our goal is to make him so miserable that he drops out and goes back to working at Burger King. Robby purposely dresses identically to Jeff. Then, he gets the football players to chase him for no other reason than he is a long-haired hippie. He leads them in Jeff’s direction, disappearing into the trees and laughing as the ignorant jocks beat up the hapless Jeff. Making Jeff miserable doesn’t make me feel better about all the years of abuse. Robby’s need to be stoned and cause havoc eventually gets him suspended from Rollins. He can care less. Mr. Clark is devastated, mostly because he never fully ‘seals the deal’ with gay impersonator Robby.

 

Robby returns to Coral Gables a month before Tim dies in the surfing accident. No one is really surprised that Tim ends up dead. The alt-me and Max are no longer heard from as well.  The only exception is Tim’s latest boyfriend from Oregon, Trevor, who had only been with Tim for three days. He is the son of a Baptist preacher-man and extremely naïve. His love affair with Tim is a complete shock to the choir boy. He is completely open and sincere. When I come to him in his dreams, he at first mistakes me for Tim. There was no hesitation about accepting me into his heart.

Once Trevor returns to college in Oregon, I spend long evenings debating the Teen Jesus phenomenon with him. He surprises his Phi Psi fraternity brothers by no longer practicing gay sex. He can never love anyone in the same way and intensity that he loved Tim. The straight brothers are relieved not to have to deal with more boyfriends among the pledges.

 

Trevor becomes an college activist for homeless, throwaway kids. He finds his place in the Campus Crusade for Christ.  Right from the start, he encounters vociferous resistance from the youth leadership. His belief that Christ was a rowdy, fun-loving teenager is attacked as heresy. Almost all the student members are on Trevor’s side. It’s the adult staff against the college kids. It doesn’t go well for the staff, especially when it turns out that several of them have extensive police records for seducing and abusing youth. Trevor’s ability to instantly trust or distrust anyone at their first meeting is shared by all the other trusting members. When a newcomer is open and trusting, the typical golden glow that surrounds Trevor and the others intensifies and can be seen by all the other students. With the Campus Crusade for Christ thrown off campus, the student membership reorganizes. The group’s new name is The Golden Shower after I repeat my explosion of golden snowflakes  when Pink Floyd is played. That name dies years later when gay groups adopt it for its scatological humor.

 

Trevor’s Dream

I worry that Trevor is in denial about not being attracted to others. His parents are relieved that he survived the Sodom and Gomorrah of Hollywood. They are proud of his budding ability to speak out on issues and his charismatic presence. Preacher Dad hopes his son will follow him into the ministry. That dream blows up when Dad attends a youth meeting on campus. When the discussion turns to sex, he is shocked to hear Trevor talk about the innocence and purity of young love. The permission for sexual exploration with only those of your same age is too much for Preacher Dad. Rejection of young love is a golden glow-killer between father and son. Everyone sees the glow disappear. The others commiserate with Trevor. His dad is pitied. Trevor is conflicted between ‘honor thy parent’ and ‘suffer the children.’ I decide to visit him in his dreams.

 

Trevor is home in Astoria, dreaming he’s playing on the beach with the family bull-dog, Tuffy.  I insert myself into the Tuffy role for this dream. Trevor tosses a stick several times. I waddle after it and bring it back to him. Tuff is no spring chicken or an energetic puppy. Trevor tosses the stick into the water. I run after it but stop short of the surf, turning around and glaring at Trevor.

“Really?” I ask.

“You can talk?” Trevor is stunned.

It is a dream.

“If you think I’m swimming after some random stick, you have another thing coming.”

“Whoa. You don’t like playing fetch?”

“What am I now – ten-years-old? That’s like seventy in dog years.” I trot back to Trevor and sit down.

He sits with me, scratching my ears and patting my head. The ear stimulation almost makes me cum. My back leg thumps the hard sand.  The petting feels like being hit on the head with a hammer. Trevor notices my discomfort and stops. I sigh and lie down. Trevor lays back and we talk.

“Why aren’t you at college?” I ask.

“Home for the holidays.”

“What happened with that boy you liked so much?”

“You know about that?”

“That’s all the folks talked about that weekend you were in LA.”

“He died,” Trevor sounds sad.

“What about your roommate.  Can’t you bring home someone who really likes dogs.”

“I like dogs.”

“Right. You like to send them into the waves and watch them drown.”

“You don’t like playing with me?”

“How about you chase me?” I pick up his wallet and run off. He chases me all over the beach until I collapse. I guess I am seventy.

“That was fun,” I remark.

“You’re not so old.”

Trevor grabs me and we roll around in the sand. We look a mess. I shake sand all over him. He stands up and it all falls off.

It is a dream.

“Take me to college with you. It’s boring here with you gone. The folks are too old to play with me.”

“They’re not seventy, like you.”

“I still got some puppy in me.”

“Well, you could stay at my frat. You may get hazed.”

I growl. I am still Tuffy.

Trevor wakes up. Tuffy is laying at the foot of his bed. Trevor grabs and shakes him.

“Wanna go to College, Tuffy?”

“Woof. Woof.” The dog is clueless.

 

Tuffy is a hit at Phi Psi. Trevor continues to talk to him.  The dog totally understands but never talks back. He is the perfect friend. With the Campus Crusade kicked off campus, the students in The Golden Shower need a place to meet. Trev convinces the seniors at Phi Psi that Golden Shower is not a bunch of crazy Jesus Freaks and to at least allow a trial period for them to meet at the frat on Sunday afternoons, when the frat members are hung over and sleeping in. After attending various church services, meeting at a frat is a relief from the moralizing and opprobrium of traditional churches.

 

Once John Landis and the National Lampoon crew show up to film ‘Animal House’  at the abandoned frat next door, the excitement level at Phi Psi ramps up. John Landis appoints Trevor as coordinator of cast extras. The well dressed and mannered Golden Shower members make excellent extras as members of the more exclusive fraternities. After shooting all day, everyone puts aside their roles as good or bad students and hangs out together. The Golden Shower attitude about sex (trust your heart) works, and they all becomes very cozy. Trevor’s reputation as a gay boy serves him well with the Christian girls who make it their mission to ‘save’ him. The Golden Shower’s primary rule is never to be judgmental about conflicting religious dogma, dietary strictures, as well as sexual preferences. Hanging out at a frat seems second nature after a while. Once the movie finishes their shoot, The Golden Shower applies to take over the abandoned fraternity house next to Phi Psi as a residential and social center for the Jesus freaks. Trevor’s preacher-man father is pleased to see that his son is spontaneously founding his own congregation. Father and son are back on speaking terms, avoiding sexual issues, and pretty much agreeing on all other doctrine. The Golden Shower’s Sunday afternoon meetings are moved to the morning after they have their own building. Most students prefer to attend services with their friends, rather than judgmental adults. Dinner is served immediately afterwards. Someone puts up a sign on the The Golden Shower’s house – Angel’s Home. The Phi Psi’s put up their own – Devil’s Pit. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

 

Robby’s Trials & Tribulations

Meanwhile back in Coral Gables, Robby slowly accepts that he is no longer Peter Pan and will soon turn twenty. Jack comes home for Spring Break with Minehan and the Neighborhoods in tow. The Stone mansion has plenty of room for the extra visitors. Jack realizes he no longer wants to play D&D. The staff is expanded to keep up with Jack’s high maintenance friends. It’s only for a week. Mummy and Daddy wisely spend the time in St Bart’s. Minehan has purged his neighborhood friends from the band and is needs a drummer. Michael offers the music room for rehearsals, playing drums for the Boston boys. Robby is incensed and refuses to be upstaged. He and Jack get Hippie to escape childcare at the two moms and play as a trio. Mary, Flo and Edi show up and help Jack with back-up vocals. It is a constant jam session at the Antonio mansion. Mike Sr. provides beer and hires clean-up staff. After three days,  many old fans of False Gods and new fans of the Neighborhoods are hanging out. The music room is bursting at its seams. An abandoned movie theater in downtown Miami is rented for the final weekend and the multi-band jam session moves in. The Out Crowd kids feel excluded until Dave and Jazz start charging admission at the door, plus running a beer-only concession stand. Stu and Mike Jr hear about the impromptu performance and show up ready to play to the college crowd. Stu is still in junior high. Mike Jr. refuses to play the dance oldies that is the Out Crowd’s standard set. They have been working on more current cover songs, like Jim Croce and Tony Orlando & Dawn. They are roundly mocked. Minehan, the high school dropout, takes pity on them. He has them playing faster and singing about lost girlfriends. It’s a jam session that lasts from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.  John, Dave and Jazz make all the money as well as playing in the Out Crowd. When Robby demands to be paid a kickback, Stu tells him he’s now old and not scary any more. Stu knocks him off his drum seat, revenge from two years before.

 

Jack tells Robby to get up off his ass and go to Boston with the Neighborhoods. They supposedly have a new drummer lined up from the Rat. Robby notes he can beat out anyone from Boston. Minehan says Robby is old but that he’ll give him a chance. Dave takes over pot sales and Robby’s bedroom pot den is closed. The remainder of Robby’s stash is packed up for distribution and sales at Harvard. Grant is a freshman at Howard and promises to create a Ganja supply chain between DC and Boston. The only profitable industry on the East Coast is the black market. The Oil Crisis has led to a deep recession. President Carter’s economic plan is to switch to peanut oil. That industry is located in Georgia. New York City is about to go bankrupt. The music industry continues to flounder when the record business can’t sell disco as rock and roll. Springsteen is a star but he only makes money playing Jersey seaside dance halls. Punk Rock is not about to save the music business. As Scorsese said, ‘this is no bizness for kids.’ Jack is talked into letting Robby room with Minehan and him. Before leaving Miami the three of them are already fighting about who gets which bed. Jack is refusing to sleep with Robby and Minehan is not about to give Jack back his bed. David agrees to try for the hundredth time to sleep in his girlfriend Carol’s room. Robby brings a sleeping bag for Jack to sleep on the floor. It’s all drama to be repeated endlessly in Cambridge and Boston.

 

Driving back to Boston from Miami is a repeat of the 1975 False Gods tour of the South. Robby shows the way to the Daytona and Charlotte road houses.  The Neighborhoods are out of their element. Southern bar crowds don’t warm up to kids playing punk in 1977. No one wants to hear about The Rat. Again, the bar takes are great and the band makes good money. As far as gaining new fans, it was more like surviving beat-downs at the end of their sets. Only the Charlotte roadhouse asks the band back for a second night, mainly because local fan Floyd alerts all the hillbillies to come out from their ‘hollers’ for the shows. Minehan cares less about popularity than getting the crowds excited. His worst beat-down comes in Charlotte when he approaches fans at the bar after finishing their set, looking for adulation from what he thinks is a great performance. He still sports a serious black-eye when they arrive back at Harvard in Cambridge.  Carol is suitably sympathetic at the state of her beat-up boyfriend. Just not upset enough to let him spend the night on the third floor of the dorm.

 

Minehan is officially granted admission to Harvard after scoring honor-roll grades during the fall semester. Missing three days of classes after Spring Break has him in Dean Epps’ office with an official warning that he will be on on probation. He was better off as a sneak-in student. Waltham High mails him his diploma since he passed all his classes at Harvard.

David tells everyone that his birthday is coming up soon and plans a party in the Harvard Yard. When he gives his favorite guard Mick an invitation, he is again in the Dean’s office for failing to get a permit. Robby has passed the audition to be the Neighborhoods’ new drummer. At his first show at the Rat, the original drummer Mike stages a protest. After the set, Robby is surrounded by Mike and his friends for a beat-down. I have to rescue him by flying him around the club while he screams  satanic curses at his abusers. Superstitious Catholic boys, they quickly exit the Rat. The rumor is Minehan made a pact with the devil to guarantee The Neighborhoods’ success.

 

The final straw occurs the night before Minehan’s birthday party. When dorm residents find out he is just turning 18, they are outraged that David lied about his age all year-long. A snitch goes to the Yard Police and exposes Robby’s pot dealing out of Jack and David’s room. A police raid discovers a sizeable quantity of dope, confirming the drug distribution accusation. All three are expelled from Harvard. Jack is devastated. He has only recently been accepted by Porcellian and is awaiting acceptance at Hasty Pudding. His social-climbing dreams are shattered. The Stone family name protects the three roommates from actual prosecution. It is handled internally by the Harvard Campus Police. Jack is secretly told to reapply in the Fall. Minehan is told to go back to Waltham High School. Dean Epps has no idea who Robby is. Mick the friendly Harvard Guard stands up for David and gets a two-week suspension for dereliction of duty.

 

The boys are given 24 hours to clean out their room. Jack is in shock. He has never been in trouble before. Mummy is on the warpath and on her way to collect her little boy.

“You’re such a wimp, Jack,” Robby mocks him. “Mummy to the rescue?”

“You’ve ruined my life,” Jack screams at Robby.

“Jeez, Jack. You’ve been in trouble since the day you and Tim showed up here,” Minehan piles on. “Take a hint. You’re ‘A Rebel Without a Cause.”

Jack is not a fan of minor meltdowns. 3D girl Jill, having crushed unrequitedly on Tim, is now stuck dealing with Jack. She creates an improved model of proper propriety. Jack decides he’s now a lesbian, rushing to Smith and the welcome arms of his girlfriend, Trudie. She promptly declares she is not a lesbian. Jack’s plan to register at Smith, until his readmission to Harvard, goes for naught. Minehan retreats to Waltham with Robby still a sneak-in roommate. That arrangement lasts a week. With nowhere better to go for the down-and-out Harvard rejects, Tim’s cousin Joey gives the three of them a room at Rahar’s in Northampton. Jack persistently pursues the revival of his relationship with Joan, much to the despair of Tim’s ex,  Trudie, who is dealing with her own meltdowns. Trudie is not subject to tearful outbursts. Her outbursts are fiercer. Baseball bats are known to appear. Only Jack’s sense of good manners can tame the rock n roll widow. Trudie needs Jack to calm her down. The two of them work on Joan to take Jack back.

Minehan has other ideas – the Neighborhoods (with Robby and Jack on drums and bass) are hired as house band at Rahars’s for the month of May. While Jack is pursuing his failed girlfriend relationship, David and Robby cultivate a rabid following among the local high school dropouts.  Rahar’s becomes a hangout for the underage rebels. Joey attempts to limit their access to just the boys’ upstairs bedroom only. Once the kids start sneaking into the nightly shows, the local police warn Joey he risks losing Rahar’s liquor license. The night Jack comes back from Smith after a final rejection as a male lesbian, he finds his meager personal effects stacked on the porch outside the bar. David and Robby are waiting for him to again solve their homelessness problem. A limo ride to the Dakota assuages their egos. A day of pampering in NYC ends with the arrival of Mummy and Daddy.

 

Teen Jesus is aware of all this teen drama. I finally tell Minehan in a dream that he is too good to be wasting his time with the rich Miami kids.

“I’m a rich kid,” he asserts.

“Your parents totally ignore you. You’re free to roam around the neighborhood. Just not to spend their money.”

“Ya got that right. And, who are you?”

“I’m Jace. Some people call me Teen Jesus.”

“You died with Tim.”

“That was Tim’s Jace. Tim was delusional after I died and made up the whole Teen Jesus trip. I’m strictly his guardian angel.”

“Like I Dream of Jeannie?”

“I recently was promoted to the real Teen Jesus.”

“You have your own delusions.”

We laugh.

“You still gonna help me play the MOOG?”

“You don’t need lessons. You have all the talent you need.”

“At least someone finally knows that. Can’t you stick around to help my band mates?”

“What if they get better than you?”

“That’ll never happen.”

“Okay. Anytime you need me, you know the magic word.”

“What? You mean ‘Please?’”

“No. ‘Help.’”

He understands. But he’s never asks for help from anyone, dead or alive. He finally finds his niche 30 years later– a replacement in The Replacements.

 

Road Trip from Hell

Rejection by Smith means Jack no longer claims to be a lesbian. He and Robby fly back to Miami. Dave refuses to give Robby back the pot business, after Robby’s entire stash was confiscated in his Harvard bust. With Grant in DC,  the ganja connection refuses to front Robby any pot. Scrounging for roaches and loose shake keeps him going but a reckoning is at hand. After years of ‘maintaining’ his high without ever coming down, Robby refuses to humiliate himself to Dave and beg for pot. After a week of no pot, a significant change of personality is unfolding, Robby becomes quiet and no longer obnoxious. Only Jack finds the change positive. Everyone else is shocked that Robby is boring. Jack reunites with his first girlfriend, Edi. She is living off-campus at the U of Miami with Flo, Jenna and Mary. Robby is unwelcome there, as Mary is now going out with her old boyfriend, Ned. Jack decides to attend classes at the U of M with his friends. Daddy is not amenable to Jack giving up on Harvard. The fix is in for Jack to return to Cambridge in September.

I slip under the covers one night after Jack is sleeping. I enter his dreams.

“Jace. You’re not with Tim?”

“This is a dream. I want to get you out of your funk.”

“Better to work on Robby. He’s suffering severe pot withdrawals.”

“I am aware. He’ll be fine. What are your plans?”

“Daddy wants me to get a job at a bank until I re-enroll at Harvard. “

“Sounds exciting.”

“Maybe I’ll go into the pot business. At least Robby has connections.”

“Like that worked out so well in Cambridge.”

“Someone snitched.”

“There’s always someone. I’m avoiding guys named Judas.”

“It’s boring in Miami.”

“You know, Tim paid three’s months’ rent in Hollywood.”

“You want me to be a prostitute on Hollywood Blvd?”

“The prostitutes are on Santa Monica Blvd.”

“I’m not doing that and Daddy won’t pay my rent.”

“Edgar Bronfman Jr is setting up his own record label. Your friend Jay is the lead lawyer. You can be an A&R (Artist & Repertoire) rep.”

“You’ve thought this all out?”

“I’m no longer a lame duffus.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“I’m bored, too. Being Teen Jesus isn’t that much fun. And you need to get out and do this on your own. Mummy won’t approve of running off to Hollywood.”

“Good. Tell Robby we’re leaving.”

“This is a dream. You go tell him.”

 

The Teen Jesus Motto is to be open and loving. Getting Jack and Robby into Jack’s Cabriolet  for the trip to Hollywood is only the first obstacle on the road to getting the word out that Teen Jesus is the Second Coming. Jack rightly blames Robby for his expulsion from Harvard. Blame is not a word in Robby’s vocabulary. Robby is stymied in reclaiming his dominance of the Coral Gables junior high pot trade from Dave. With no stash and no cash, Robby is operating from a position of no product. His only selling point is his reputation for providing free joints to his buyers when they visit his bedroom.  Dave is your traditional dealer, no cash no sale. His older brothers are the strong-arm in this operation. Many a junior high pothead is reduced to slipping twenties out of their parents’ purses and wallets to meet the demands of the Shanahan brothers after being fronted an oz. without the means to pay up when the bill comes due. These 14-year-olds dream of the good old days of kicking back and sharing a joint in Robby’s bedroom. Wishful thinking never solves a kid’s dream of free pot. Robby’s pleas to share the riches with Dave fall on deaf ears. Surreptitious surveillance of Dave’s house is thwarted by the guard dog that the older brothers installed there. Where is Max when you need him?

 

Michael tries to get Robby to pursue a new career. To Robby that means dealing harder drugs. PCP is a recent addition to the recreational drug trade. The Miami connection is willing to front dealers with a stern warning that payment must be made at the end of the week. As a result, the supply exceeds the buyers. Robby’s try-it-you’ll-like-it sales technique backfires on him.

“This shit smells like formaldehyde,” Mary’s boyfriend Ned complains. “That’s what they shoot into you after you’re dead.”

After that image percolates among all his customers, the default reaction after smoking PCP is to become a zombie,aimlessly wandering around and bumping into everyone. Robby is so desperate to create sales that he fronts a small quantity to Jazz. Jazz immediately violates the cardinal dealer rule, ‘don’t get high on your own supply.’ On his first sales attempt, the buyer rips off Jazz after he gets so confused about the transaction that he hands over all his stash and gives the buyer back all his money as change. Jazz becomes so upset, he turns himself into Emergency at Mercy Hospital. They lock him in the padded room. Dave’s older brother is able to get him released without being arrested himself.

Another time, Robby gets Jack to drive him to his PCP dealer’s house, telling Jack the guy wants Robby to play drums in his band. Jack’s inexperienced driving skills gets them pulled over by the police. Robby hides the stash and a .38 revolver under the front seat of the Cabriolet and pretends he is a normal teenager. Jack is so nervous and upset that the cop makes him pass a sobriety test.

“Cool, Jack,” Robby compliments him on not blowing the test. “You kept your head.”

Jack drives two blocks and kicks Robby out of his car.

“You got me expelled from Harvard and now I almost went to jail for twenty years for distribution,” Jack screams at Robby.

Once Jack gets home, he realizes the drugs and gun are still under the passenger seat of the Cabriolet. He calms down enough not to destroy the evidence. He calls Robby who has walked home and tells him to come get his contraband. The Cabriolet is parked unlocked on the street in front of the Stone mansion.

 

The next incident involves Robby and a shootout in Hialeah with the PCP dealer. Robby stays underground at Ned and Mary’s off-campus apartment. That is not a stable situation with Robby blaming Ned for stealing his girlfriend back. Robby comes to Jack’s, begging to stay there.

“Only for one night,” Jack relents.

A week later the situation has escalated with Hialeah gangsters cruising the Gables looking for Robby. Jack is desperate to evict the unwanted dealer from his house. He convinces his father to get him a job working with Edgar Bronfman Jr’s record label in Hollywood.  Daddy refuses to bankroll Jack’s move to LA. Jack meets with Jay and convinces Mike Antonio that since he never uses any of the college trust funds the band earned, he should be funded for his ‘internship’ at Universal Music. Jack is given $1000 traveling money and promised three months living expenses once he is working in LA. Somehow Robby finds out about the plans. Jack packs the Cabriolet the night before he is  to leave.

“I’m leaving tomorrow,” Jack announces to Robby. “You have to move out.”

“Fine,” Robby doesn’t complain.

Jack expected Robby to make a scene. Robby leaves the Stone’s and sleeps on the grounds of the vacant Biltmore Hotel’s golf course.

 

The next morning, Jack is tooling up I-95, toward to Fort Lauderdale, when Robby pops up in the back seat.

“Surprise,” he joyfully announces himself.

“Fuck,” Jack exclaims. “No way. You’re not coming with me.”

“Why not? You need someone with balls to make it in Hollywood. Tim’s dead. Remember?”

“You asshole. You ruin everything. I’m stopping and letting you off here. You can take the bus back.”
“I can’t go back. They’ll kill me.”

“Just another day in the life of a drug dealer.”

Jack pulls off on the Route 441/Alligator Alley exit in Davie.

“Get out,” Jack orders.

“Let’s go to the camp where Tim stayed in the Everglades. Maybe we can get high and I can stay there.”

Against his better judgment, Jack takes the local highway.

“Vic said it’s just north on Route 27,” Robby is navigating.

“I’m not taking you any further,” Jack tries to sound butch.

“Right.”

 

The Cabriolet is a hit at the Sawgrass Campground. None of the hippies’ vehicles are newer than early sixties VW buses. Most were run down American post-war junkers, built to last three years and break down from scheduled obsolescence.

“Where’s Vic’s place?” Jack asks a shoeless kid.

“Are you Tom’s friends?”
Jack senses he is in hell again.

“I’m one of Tom’s boyfriends,” Robby lies.

The kid looks horrified but points out Vic’s Airstream. The old Ford F-50 is parked in front.

 

Vic is pleased to see them, remembering they are both friends of Tim.

“How’s that old Hillbilly Brother?” Vic asks.

“You don’t know he died?” Robby breaks the news.

“Oh, no.”

“Y’all don’t git out much, do ya?” Robby laughs. “We’re driving to LA to keep Tim’s legend alive.”

“I knew that boy’d be a legend,” Vic is on board. “Ya come to remember him here. He was quite popular, him and Tom on a Alligator Alley Ad-venture last summer. Y’all wanna git high?’

“Does the Pope shit in the trees?”

“Com’n inside.”

 

They follow Vic into his trailer and soon Jack is more concerned with satisfying his hormones than getting rid of Robby. Vic has finally found a willing participant in the corrupting of one of the rich Coral Gables boys. While Vic soon has him in the bedroom, Robby make use of the time to relieve Vic of most of his supply of dirt weed. Things are looking up.

After sex and Vic’s specialty of rice and beans, everyone gathers for a singalong. It lasts until the sun goes down. After we play ‘All the Young Dudes,’

 

Vic becomes anxious to continue his exploration of the gay life and insists that the two boys spend the night. Robby offers to join in but is rebuffed by Jack. Vic is not ready for three-ways.

In the morning, Jack is anxious to leave. The first day of the road logged less than a hundred miles.

“You let Vic know that you’re staying?” Jack attempts a reasonable getaway from Robby.

“I cain’t,” he holds up the full baggie of dirt weed.

“You ripped off Vic?” Jack is still credulous about his traveling companion.

“He don’t know it yet. We need to make our getaway soon.”

“You’re such an asshole,” Jack is indignant.

“You’ve always known that.”

“You’re staying here. Give Vic back his pot.”

“What about your wallet?” Robby holds up what he had sneaked out of Jack’s jeans while our hero was otherwise occupied.

Robby jumps into the Cabriolet’s driver’s seat. He also has Jack’s keys and starts the engine. Jack piles in on the other side. The only response he has is to sit there with his arms crossed while Robby gooses the gas and fish-tails out of the campground.

No one says anything for an hour.

“Let’s go to Disney World,” Robby decides as he turns off Route 27 at a sign for Orlando.

Jack just glowers.

“Here’s yer wallet back,” Robby tries to make peace. “I’d never steal from ya.”

“Like I believe you.”

“I don’t need yer money. I can sneak into Disney World.”

“And I’m supposed to sneak in as well?”
“Naw. Y’all got enough to pay.”

“You’ll get busted and expect me to bail you out.”

“That’s cause we’re partners, right? Partners on the road to fame and fortune in Hollywood.”

“You’re deluded.”

“Tim was doin’ it, ‘til he went out and got hisself killed.”

“Like you care?”

“Git over yerself, Jack-Off. He’s dead. No one to blame but hisself.”

“You just don’t care.”

“We was friends long before you come along. It’s my pot that got you a’goin’ to git in his pants. My pot was the matchmaker who lit the fire under your ass. You need to give me credit for yer love life.”

Jack buries his head in his hands and sobs. “Nothing’s gone right since he left Harvard.”

“Who wants to live there in the cold and dreary winter?”

“Tim kept me warm.”

Robby reaches over and puts an arm around Jack who moves closer. Robby puts a hand on Jack’s thigh.

“You asshole,” Jack screams, no longer comforted.

Robby laughs. “The world don’t care what you think Jack. Just roll with it.”

“Stop the car,” Jack orders.

“Ain’t we goin’ ta Disney World?” Robby laughs.

Jack sulks as they pull into the parking lot of the Happiest Kingdom on Earth. The boys glare at each other for a minute.

“I ain’t got no money, so pay for me to get in,” Robby demands.

Jack just sulks.

After a minute, Robby gets out of the car. “You’re a cheap bastard, Jack. I’ll sneak in. See you on Treasure Island,” he yells over his shoulder as he marches to the Magic Kingdom.

Jack moves over and puts the top up on the convertible VW, locking it up before walking to the Entrance.

 

The price of admission is $3.50. But then you are required to buy a booklet of tickets specific to the popularity of the rides. Pretty cheesy. Space Mountain is the only actual roller coaster; it requires an E ticket. Jack is pissed off at even being there and decides to not buy any tickets. He goes to the security station to see if Robby has been apprehended going over or under the wall – no such luck. It takes awhile to find the way to Treasure Island. It requires a boat ride across the lagoon. It doesn’t take long to find Robby. He’s smoking a joint in the cave. The odor leads Jack right to him. He has several stoners happily sharing the pot.

“Hey, Jack-off. Hit the spliff and put on a gay show for my new friends,” Robby hands him the joint.

Jack doesn’t hesitate, taking a massive hit and launching himself at Robby. The followers step back to watch the action.

Jack knocks Robby down and swings like a girl with blows that can’t harm a mosquito. Robby jumps up and prepares to defend himself. Time for Teen Jesus to reign down righteousness. As Jack keeps swinging wildly at him I swat him on the face, head, stomach and butt. Robby goes twirling backwards and starts to fall down again. I lift him off the ground and hold him against the cave’s wall. The stoners accept the fight as part of their stoned reality. Robby is used to not fighting back against a foe he can’t see. Jack is in shock, able to see me for the first time since Tim died. It doesn’t stop him from continuing his girly swings at Robby, who is plastered against the side of the cave.

Robby goes crazy trying to get away and starts screaming oaths in his black magic/druid language – the Druid Rosary – in English, ‘Goddess, lady, queen, mother.’

“First Bead: Bandia, Bbantlarna, Banrion, Mathair

Second Bead: Bandia, Bantlarna, Bbanrion, Mathair

Third Bead:  Bandia, Bantlarna, Banrion, Mathair

Fourth Bead: Bandia, Bantlarna, Banrion, Mathair

Fifth Bead: Bandia, Bantlarna, Banrion, Mathair”

 

The stoned teenagers crouch in the corner, terrified at black magic invading their pot experience. Jack can see me holding Robby in the air. In shock, he stops whaling on Robby. The stoners quickly evacuate the cave, rushing back to ‘It’s a Small World, After All”.

“You’re not dead?” Jack needs an explanation.

“I’ve always been dead,” I counter.

“I thought you had to go to the Afterlife with Tim?”

“And where would that be?”

Robby sits up on the floor of the cave. “Who are you talking to?”

“It’s Jace. Who do you think was hitting you and holding you up in the air?”

“No way that’s Jace. It was much more powerful.”

“I got an upgrade,” I tell Jack. “I’m now Teen Jesus.”

“Jeez,” Jack looks overwhelmed.

“I prefer just plain ‘Zeus.’”

“Where have you been since Tim died?”

“Being Teen Jesus takes a lot of my time. I was in your dreams often. Remember the sticky sheets?”

“I thought it was wishful thinking.”

“Who are you talking to?” Robby has recovered.

“It’s Teen Jesus,” Jack giggles, still high. “Come to put you in your place.”

“How do I get to see him?”

“Well, you could let him fuck you for 24 hours straight like I did.”

“That ain’t happenin.’”

“Let’s go to the Haunted House and shake things up.” Pot always makes Jack feisty.

 

Several of the stoners are lurking about the cave’s entrance, confused about what has happened. As we board the ferry across the lagoon, we notice a boatload of security officers going the opposite direction. We evade our capture. It puts everyone in a good mood.

I scout out the Haunted House, finding a back door used by staff into the behind the scenes area. I crack the door open and lead our group of miscreants inside – no E ticket required. We call it an F ticket ride. As regular patrons get off the elevator into the bowels of the Haunted House, I attack them with unseen blows to the guys and groping of the girls. As they scream and start running to get out, Jack and Robby lead the others in jumping out from behind pillars and staged closets to scare the fleeing guests. Each new elevator car brings additional victims. The whole basement fills with terrified customers. Some realize it’s all in fun and join in spooking the unsuspecting. A group howl is reaches higher and higher decibels until Security arrives to investigate. It’s time to leave through the back door.

There are now about fifteen active ghosts streaming down Main Street USA. Pirates of the Caribbean awaits us. We swarm into the shallow water and storm the boats full of riders. I keep us ahead of the Security posse, which slowly responds to another ride gone bad.

At Frontier Land we interrupt the hourly gunfight at the OK Corral, tossing the paid gunslingers into the hidden nets below their rooftop sniper nests. We swarm across the false-fronted rooftops. The official Sheriff and his posse continue to shoot blanks at us. We fall into our roles, diving off the roof into the nets below after faking our deaths.

I open the backdoor to Space Mountain which reveals the control room where Disney creates the effects of space travel on the riders as they travel to the stars. We find the console that turns off and on the motion picture projector playing the movie of space travel. We flick the reverse switch on the projector making the effects look like the passengers in the roller coaster cars are going backwards. We escape quickly, knowing Security is gaining on us. We stand around the exit from Space Mountain, laughing at the nauseous and disoriented customers who traveled backward in space.

“What year is it?” we ask the stumbling space travelers.

When they said, “1977?” We answer, “Einstein was right. You traveled back in time. It’s still 1976.”

Standing around is a mistake. Security is hot on our heels. We think we look anonymous in the crowd at the exit to Space Mountain. Maybe our wet jeans from ‘Pirates’ gives us away. They round us up and march us to the Security Office, where all our misdeeds have been recorded on VHS tape. Disney has all the latest technology.

“What do you have to say for yourselves,” the Chief of Security demands.

“Just another day in the Magic Kingdom,” Robby is not intimidated.

He laughs. “Well, you did sneak in to all our E-ticket rides. But instead of turning you over to the Orlando Police, how about staying on and working as special hosts for guided tours?”

“No, man we’re on the way to Hollywood. How about a recommendation at Disneyland in case our Hollywood dreams don’t come true,” Robby is banking on stardom, not a role player at Disney. Several of our stoner pals are locals and take them up on their offer.

We were told to wait for the Police.  Within five minutes, Robby leads me to the spot where he sneaked in. We sneak out. I let him drive the Cabriolet. We fishtail out the parking lot of the Happiest Place on Earth (if you are deluded).

 

That was fun,” Robby observes. “Let’s go to Silver Springs. We can chase those water skiing bathing beauties.”

“We’ll never get to Hollywood at this rate. We’re barely a hundred miles from Miami,” Jack complains.

I put my arms around him and he relaxes. We jump in the back seat and make out. Robby ignores us and just drives. We continue on Route 27/441 north. Robby keeps asking us if we want to stop at stupid tourist attractions, mostly alligator fighting camps. We just ignore him. Jack’s pot-driven horniness keeps us busy. Finally, Robby stops for gas, demanding money to pay for it. Jack panics when he can’t find his wallet. Robby has stolen it again. Taking a twenty, he flips the wallet into the back seat. Jack becomes distracted, counting the bills to make sure they’re all there. Robby has yet to actually steal anything from Jack.

While Robby fills the gas tank, a hitchhiker walks over and asks for a ride. He jumps in the front, thinking Jack is sleeping in the back. His name is Dwayne, from Oregon. He has long dark hair and wears no shoes. He fits right in with good ol’ boy Robby. He’s been working construction after the latest Florida hurricane and is finally going home. Jack whispers to Robby not to tell Dwayne we’re gong all the way to California. Unable to continue his molestation of Teen Jesus, Jack falls asleep. Robby buys a road map at the gas station. He and Dwayne plot the next stop. Dwayne sings our old Janis favorite, ‘Bobby McGee.’ ‘He thumbed that VW all the way to New Orleans.’

 

New Orleans

Jack perks up as Robby drives the Cabriolet through the bayou of Louisiana toward New Orleans on the other side Lake Pontchatrain.  Never having been to New Orleans, he has certainly heard of its reputation, “it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy and god I know I’m one.”

 

 

“It’s the Mississippi,” shouts Dwight as they approach the eastern side of the ‘Big Easy.”

“Let’s do acid,” Robby is inspired. “Just like in ‘Easy Rider.”

Dwight just shakes his head. Jack relaxes. Hard drugs are not on his bucket list.

“Well, then,”  Robby relents. “How about we hit one of them bordellos.”

“I ain’t got no money,” Dwight admits. He sends all his paychecks home. He says they need it, with all the lumber mills in Oregon shut down by environmentalists.

Robby gives Jack the eye, hoping he’ll spring for some x-rated entertainment. Disney World was cool but sex would be better. Jack just glares at Robby.

“Oh, well, we can always sell you on Bourbon Street. Those queers are always on the lookout,” he cannot let it go without a wisecrack. Dwight looks horrified, not expecting that twist in his free ride west.

“Don’t worry,” Robby reassures  him. “Gays aren’t into the hillbilly look.”

Dwight looks less than assured, reevaluating Robby’s good ol’ boy cred.

It’s time for Teen Jesus to remove Robby from the driver’s seat. I yank on the steering wheel, causing the VW to swerve back and forth on the two lane highway. A trailer tractor barrels toward us. I keep the Cabriolet headed right at it. Everyone screams at Robby, including Robby, until, just in time, I swerve in the other direction. It’s fun to be evil. Robby pulls over and everyone is sweating. Jack throws him in the rear and takes the wheel. Time for more Teen Jesus miracle. I create a mini-tornado racing down the road, straight at us. The Cabriolet shudders once and lifts off the bayou, turning over twice and crashing back down on all four wheels. The Cabriolet is thrashed – all the fenders are falling off and the axles are broken. I whisper to Jack that seat belts will be needed soon. He’s yells at Robby to buckle up. Dwight decides he’s safer out of the car. My second tornado descends immediately in front of the Cabriolet. Jack yells duck at Dwight who stands there frozen in place. Off we fly.

Robby tries to throw Dwight’s duffle bag out of the back.

“Stop,” Jack yells. “It’ll just fly away in the tornado.”

At which point we all fly away, leaving Dwight knee-deep in the swamp as all his worldly goods remain in the flying VW.  We are too busy holding on as the Cabriolet twists and turns in the tornado vortex. This time we head deep into the swamp before splashing unceremoniously into the murky water. The car sinks to the swampy bottom.. The water rushes in as the boys struggled to escape.

I spot an inquisitive animal watching the struggles from the swamp bank. It looks like a giant rat.

“Excuse me,” it speaks. “I am no ordinary rat. I am a Beaver Rat, called Coypu.”

“Well, excuse me, Coypu,” as I take over the rat’s consciousness. I feel more like a swamp rat.

Welcome to the Bayou.

Jack and Robby sit silently glaring at each other with the Cabriolet filling up with swamp water.

“Are you going to sit there forever?” my rat persona asks them.

Robby screams as Jack clutches him for protection. What is wrong with them. I’m now a two foot long herbaceous rodent. Have they no shame? I swim over and chew through Robby’s seat belt strap to release him. Grasping his shirt collar I drag him to the swamp bank, returning to retrieve Jack next.

“Save Dwight’s duffle,” Robby yells at Jack, ignoring that Coypu is the one doing all the saving.

Jack realizes he can walk through the swamp water. At least someone doesn’t need rescue by a rat. He grab’s Dwight’s duffle bag and wades to the bank where Robby lies shaking and trembling from his tornado experience. Jack hangs his head from the crushing of his dreams of arriving in Hollywood in a pink convertible. Robby recovers enough to start going through Dwight’s duffle bag.

“What the hell?” Jack complains. “That’s not your stuff.”

“Look,” Robby pulls out a thick wad of twenty-dollar bills. “How’s ol’ Dwight gonna get this back. And how are we gonna get out of here?”

“Follow me,” Coypu orders, nosing the boys to get up and move toward the other swamp rats, who are grazing on shoots and roots that grow on the banks of the bayou. They remain unconcerned with human intruders. I pause to chew on a couple of shoots while the boys catch up.

“Is it time for lunch?” Robby jokes.

“You could use a break from your all meat, all the time, diet. It makes me sick that you both are cannibals.”

“Jesus Christ, Jace,” Robby complains. “When did you become a vegetarian?”

“Look around,” I point out the grazing coypu. “What else is there to eat?”

“We could roast up a couple of your buddies,” he retorts.

That gets the herd’s attention. A couple of coypu snarl at the deranged stoner. That gets his attention.

“They understand what I said?”

“Not the words, but they can sense you mean them harm.”

“They’re just swamp rats.”

“They are smart enough to know you’re just a burn-out.”

Robby shakes his head. “How do we get out of here? I got places to be.”

“Yeah, and people who’ll kill you if they find you.”

“How do you know that?”

“I know you ripped off your dealers and they’re cruising the Gables streets searching for you.”

“What do you care?”

“I’m a guardian angel, protecting you from yourself.”

“Well, get me out of here.”

“I’m not doing my job very well.  We’re miles from civilization.”

Jack is bored with Robby’s whiny complaints and starts pulling out roots from the edge of the bayou creek. Several coypus drop succulent shoots at his feet. He washes them in the creek and chews on the roots. Smiling, he reaches over to pet his benefactors. One bites his hand.

“Jesus, Jack. They ain’t pets.”

I go over and lick his bleeding hand. The wound closes up and the blood stops flowing. Jack washes off the spilled blood in the creek. Several caimans, small alligators, show up at the smell of blood. Jack screams. The coypu hiss and charge the one caiman that has crawled up the bank. With a snap of its jaws the caiman grabs a coypu, snaps its neck and swallows the rodent whole. I join the other coypu in herding Jack and Robby to safety away from the creek. The boys are scurrying on their hands and knees to safety.

“Jist like Tommy’s Gatorsaurous tale,” I observe. Jack gives me a nasty look for bringing up his underage rival. It’s too much for the boy and he starts to cry. All the coypu huddle around him, nuzzling him. One crawls into his lap. Such a touching moment. Robby just glares at me.

“You think I don’t know this is all your doing?” he accuses me.

“Just the two tornados,” I confess.

“Then get us out of here,” he demands.

“I thought you were just along for the ride, like old Dwight. You gonna steal all his hard-earned cash?”

Obviously, the thought crossed his mind.

“I ain’t worryin’ ‘bout ol’ Dwight. He took his chances ridin’ wid us.”

“Lotta good that cash gonna do ya in this here swamp.”

“Shut up,” Jack screams. “I can’t stand listenin’ to y’all talk like hillbillies.”

“Naw. We’s swamp rats now,” Robby laughs.

The other coypu decide to make Jack their pet and comfort him as his anger at Robby slowly ramps down. He cradles one rat who has settled into his arms. We are herded to their shelter, a downed tree whose roots provide cover from the rain.

“Welcome to my house,” I greet them. Their disdain for living in the mud is obvious. The other coypu ignore them as we all settle in for a warm afternoon nap before foraging for the evening meal back at the creek’s banks.

“There must be some people living out here,” Jack sounds desperate. “Can’t we at least look for civilization?”

“Not happy with the accommodations? The coypu have welcomed us to their home,” I state.

“I’m not willing to live like a rat,” Jack declares.

I check my coypu’s memory and visualize shacks built like tree houses nearby. The inhabitants resemble lumbering giants in the swamp rat’s memory.

“Follow me,” I order before letting my coypu regain control of his body so he can lead us to civilization. It’s seems to take forever to find the shacks. When the coypus get lost they just settle for roots from a nearby creek bank. It’s not long before they find a new sense of direction and we head off in a different direction. I laugh at my coypu when I realize that just to torment them he is leading them no where.
“Okay, you caught me,” the rodent leader confesses.

I promise to give him back his body once we reach the shacks. I take over for just a second to prove I can do anytime I want.
“Okay, Okay,” he squeaks. “It’s not far away.”

Demon possession trumps the rat’s need to get even with us.

 

Soon we are at the edge of a large clearing. As remembered, the humans have built tree house residences, a whole Swiss Family Robinson village, except the shacks are rickety and falling apart. Similar to trailer trash, we’ve found a colony of swamp trash people. The coypu refuse to go any closer, settling beside the village creek for more roots and shoots – lunchtime.

I watch as Jack and Robby walk toward the nearest shack. A boy looks down from his perch

“Whatcha tout volee?” he sings out in Creole pidgin.

“Si vous plais, assistez nous,” Jack responds in his Swiss seminary French.

“Cain’tcha parley in English, ni ni eske ou touris?”

“What kind of English is that? Jack responds.

“Se jan nou pale a.”

Jack collapses from fatigue and frustration. Robby falls down, too. The Cajun boy just sneers at them in disgust for being unable to speak properly.

 

Teen Jesus Flashback

As promised, I release my alter-rat persona. He leads the other coypu away from ‘civilization’ to their home under the fallen tree. I check on the needs of other Teen Jesus acolytes. Aaron and Paul in New York are back in trouble with the Jewish elders, who want the two of them to choose one religion to both follow. I rustle the pages of the Temple’s Torah to get the elders attention, telling Aaron to stand up for Paul.

“Who says you can’t believe in two separate religions,” I tell him

The boys smile at being divinely inspired.

“You can’t tell me I can’t be Jewish if I attend Catholic services on Sunday after Shabbat on Friday and Saturday. You don’t own me,” Aaron makes his point.

They join me in singing Leslie Gore’s 50’s hit.

 

“’Cause, you don’t own me
Don’t try to change me in any way
You don’t own me
Don’t tie me down
‘Cause I’ll never stay

I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So, just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way that I want
To say and do whatever I please

I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So, just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you
I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way that I want

Songwriters: CINDY WALKER,EDDY ARNOLD

© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Teenage rebellion has kicked-in. The boys are now 14. The rabbis just shake their heads. They let Jewish kids come of age at 13. What do they expect?

We laugh together. When they try to hug me, my incorporeal body is just wispy clouds. It kills their glee at disrespecting the elders.

“Sorry,” Aaron apologizes to the rabbis. “We get carried away when Teen Jesus is around. He just wants us to be good Jewish kids. It reminds him of his youth in Palestine.”

“They had teenage rebellion two thousand years ago?”

“He may have been the first one,” Paul remarks.

All is forgiven. One rabbi has an image in his mind of shepherds rocking out to their flocks on their Pan pipes.

 

Time to check on my other charges. When I appear to Tommy in Fort Lauderdale, his current girlfriend has learned to sense my presence. She instantly goes into exorcism mode, waving incense and praying for protection from my blasphemy. I hastily retreat. Tommy is entirely amused by the whole soap opera. After her victory over me, they have prolonged sex. I return to sodomize Tommy, while the girlfriend has multiple orgasms. We are all divinely inspired. Three-ways rule.

 

Next is is a return to the animal world. Tuffy, the bulldog, now rules Phi Kappa Psi at Oregon College, as John Landis, prepares to start shooting his first hit movie, ‘Animal House,’ there. Trevor is my master. I let him tell me what to do, and all is well. I’m too old to do tricks. When the frat boys discover that I get hard when they ruffle my coat or rub my ears, Tuffy is declared a ‘homo dog.’ I’m mostly left alone after that, which is a relief.