THE JACE EXPERIENCE Chapter 14

“It was twenty years ago today,
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.”

Songwriters
LENNON, JOHN WINSTON / MCCARTNEY, PAUL JAMES
Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Had it just been twelve days ago that we left Grant’s BBQ? Was I no longer a kid? I felt incredibly different. But Jack was lying next to me, still asleep. Max looked up when he saw me move. He wanted to do a joint run to Robby’s. We had school in a couple of hours. I decided not to tell Mr. Clark that Andy Warhol was coming to the ‘Tempest’ performance. I wondered if anyone knew what we had done over Spring Break. My swim team tan had completely faded. Would people question why I hadn’t been laying out in the sun. Now I felt a bit more like a high school kid. After school, we’d be at Michael’s for band practice. An ache in my heart told me I really wanted to see John and work on his guitar playing. Tim 333 I’d completely forgotten about ‘The Out-Crowd.” My mind was revving up. My heart said to cuddle with Jack.
“Fuck you, mind,” I said out loud.
Jack rolled over. “What?” he mumbled.
I slid into his embrace and went back to sleep. I still was a teenager.

Mr. Clark looked up as Robby, Grant, Hippie, and I walked into English class.
“All hail, Caesar,” he announced.
“I thought we’re doing ‘The Tempest?” I asked.
“Of course, you’re right,” he answered.
The class broke up; laughing at Mr. Clark’s joke? – laughing at me?
“Et, tu, Brute?” I got in the final word and laugh.
On second thought, Mr. Clark said, “Why don’t all four of you take the class and tell us what you did on your school vacation?” He sat in my regular seat, at full attention.
I let Grant take the lead. I figured he’d talk about what he did and that would be enough. He was prepared, having written a “What I Did on My Vacation’ paper.
“It’s a rap, Mr. Clark. That okay?” Tim 381
“No vulgar language.”
“I’ll bleep it.”
“Go ahead.”

“The name is Max
I’m a big black dog
Like girls in the sack
They say I’m a god.

My master he died
I’m with his best friend
That memory seems fried
It’s like the end.

Went to New York
Black’s beautiful there
Acted like a sport
All the girlies were fair.

Now I’m back
Still am black
Take me aside
I’ll never lie.”

The class erupted in applause (we were all drama queens). Mr. Clark was satisfied. We got our regular seats back.
“We are doing ‘The Tempest’ in May. Has anyone read the play?
Everyone kept their heads down.
“Does anyone know what it’s about?”
“A storm?” Hippie raised his hand.   Tim 131
“Yes. That’s what a tempest is. You know anything more.”
“These rich people are having a party in the country?”
“Why do you think that?”
“I saw the movie.”
“Well, that’s a good start. Gregory. Why don’t you be the director and assign roles. We’ll read the first act today.”
He had only a few booklets so everyone would have to share. Jack moved to my desk and we shared the one seat together. Mr. Clark noticed but didn’t say anything.
One of the girls raised her hand. “Mr. Clark, can the girls go back to doing the female roles? My mama says I’ve been acting all uppity since I was on the crew last time.”
“What does that mean, ‘uppity?’”
“I just run around all the time playing sports and making my brother do all the chores.”
“Just call it role reversal. See what she says. But why not do a modern version of the play and let the girls play some roles? What do you think, Gregory?”
Hippie looked around, as if the question wasn’t directed at him.
“Me? Please call me Hippie.” Everyone laughed. “Sure. I don’t wanna play no girl.”
Robby scrounged down, Tim 134 not willing to argue. I felt sorry for him. Ever since our fight, I felt he didn’t love me anymore, in his homophobic way.
Mr. Clark went on to explain the plot so far, to help choose the best actors for the roles.
“Yesterday, we introduced the sailors, incompetent and drunk, causing the shipwreck of the King of Naples, his family and followers. Today we cast Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, his daughter, Miranda, stranded with her father since she was three, twelve years ago; Ariel, a spirit who, rescued by Prospero from an evil witch, is beholden to Prospero; and, Caliban, a deformed slave and son of the Island’s witch Sycorax, impressed into service to Prospero. Ariel has caused the shipwreck by creating the Tempest.”

Hippie asked me who he should cast for the four roles.
“Grant will never be the slave, so cast him as Prospero. Robby will love being the rebellious slave. Jack can be the spirit, Ariel. Ask Kimberly to be the young daughter, Miranda.”
Hippie followed my advice and the chosen characters stood in front of the class and did a first reading of their lines.
“Start after Prospero lays down his cloak,” Mr Clark instructed.

(Look it up if you love Shakespeare).

PROSPERO (Grant)
‘Lie there, my art. Wipe thou thine eyes; have comfort….’

Ariel explains how he has shipwrecked Prospero’s enemy, Alonso, King of Naples, with all the passengers now survivors on the isle. Ariel asks for his freedom, but Prospero reminds him how he was cursed by the witch and Prospero used his magic to save him.

‘This damn’d witch Sycorax..’

Ariel is dismissed and Miranda awakens. Caliban has become Prospero’s slave now, as well as Ariel.

A poisonous exchange between Prospero and Caliban comes alive with Robby throwing himself into the role. I had expected him to sulk and withdraw from the acting. He doesn’t hold back.

‘When thou camest first,
Thou strokedst me and madest much of me, wouldst give me…’

PROSPERO
‘So, slave; hence!’

Exit CALIBAN

 

Mr. Clark stood and clapped.
“This is a good place to stop for the day. Keep the script books and read ahead. There are other characters to be cast. The play is full of magic and romance. The first Romantic Comedy…Go, go, my pets.”

English was my only class with Jack. I waved good-bye to him when he looked back from the hall. It was our first separation in almost two weeks.
I approached Robby.
“You were really good in your role.” I complimented him.
“I guess you couldn’t make Grant a slave.”
“He’s more of an Uncle Tom type slave.”
“Like a house nigga?” Grant was right behind us. “It’s all cool. I like having Robby as my house nigga.”
We all laughed, a little nervously.
“Com’n, you’re better than being embarrassed about stereotyping me. I prefer blatant racism to sissified ass-kissing.”
“Still we won’t make you play a slave.”
“Thank goodness for little favors. Com’n guys, let’s ditch and share a spliff.”

It was too tempting. We followed him to where he and his boys always ditched. All we had to do was take Bird Road to Dixie Highway and suddenly we were in the minority. We hung out at a corner store and smoked without bothering to look around. I felt I was back in the Bronx, but with much nicer weather.
Clyde was ecstatic to see me, especially with no Jack in sight. I was politely nice to him, which made him grumble that our trip had killed my sense of humor.
Grant stuck up for me, “You should see these whites boys rap with the brothers in Central Park.”
“Say what?”
“We had a full-on face-off with a local posse, with the girls doing the mouth beats. I even busted a few moves and rhymes. Then these white boys had to bust out. Jack rapped, “my name is Jack Town, I never back down, This is my man Tim, Girls, give him a spin.”
This pleased the boys mightily.
“You’s a bad influence on dese nice white boys,” Clyde said

It felt comfortable standing in the warm spring sun, with a slight sea breeze coming across Coconut Grove from the bay. Clyde slipped his hand onto my shoulder. Tim 254
“Don’t git riled,” he whispered. “If I don’t make a move, these boys won’t never ever let me live it down.”
“It ain’t you, that’s wrong here,” I admitted. “Can we keep it as friends, without making you sad.”
“I ain’t sad, boy, if you’re sayin’ ya likes me.”
“I do, Clyde. I just have a burnin’ love for Jack. I ain’t no pimp, but if’n y’all come by Out & Proud in the Grove after school, I’m sure we can find some sweet white boy for your likin’. Long as yer not just a player.”
He busted up. “You are too smooth, man. I’ll never stop likin’ you.”
“I’m just sayin’ there’s more action out there if yer willin’ to look.”
He kissed me on the neck and I shivered. Time to go.

We made it back to Nutrition just as Jack came from second period.
“How was Biology?” he asked.
“We ditched and hung out on Dixie Highway with Grant’s boys.”
Jack looked at me. “Was Clyde there?”
“Sure. And he made all the moves, but I’m back here. I told him there was fresher white meat at Out & Proud.”
Jack smiled and gave me a quick kiss. There was a sudden hush in the courtyard. We were not alone.
Jack looked around and quietly said,Tim 290 “Anybody bothered by us kissing? Y’all know we’re boyfriends.”
The quiet was deafening for about five seconds.
“Hell, no,” some redneck yelled. “All the more ladies for us.”
All the girls were clapping and some guys whistled.
Jack grabbed me and we really kissed. Tim 178 There were lots of wolf whistles, until AP Spencer told us to break it up.
“No PDA on school grounds.”
We had made it into the mainstream. Getting Jack worked up with jealousy really paid off. Clyde was standing across the courtyard, smiling.

I called Felix. He was busy but said to come by after school. He could use us at the store. He was now working out of a warehouse, doing mail order. He told Jack not to wash the soiled briefs. He was so crassly commercial.
After school, I told Grant that he needed to check out our ‘hood. He’d be back in time for the last bus as we had band practice at 5. He said Clyde’s brother would pick them up at Michael’s. We rode our bikes and met them at the Grove bus stop. We showed them where Out & Proud was. When the four of us arrived, we were greeted as heroes by the kids at the annex. Dave and Jazz were there acting as DJs for the sock hop. Clyde complained that they were all so young. We went into the store, where all the pre-teen girls were picking out clothes for their boyfriends. Phillip was in charge again.
“Hey, boyfriend,” I called out to him
He saw me and lit up. Then he saw Jack and gave me an evil look.Tim 331 It was all good.
I introduced Clyde personally to Phillip, telling him to set him up with someone at least his age.
“How about older?” he asked.
“Not really old, just someone his age.”
“How about someone like me?”
“I’ll leave him with you, Rocky Horror. He’s been chasing me too long.”

Everyone but Clyde went back to the sock hop. I looked around and didn’t see a single black face. We had a problem. I couldn’t prance these black boys around as underwear models. Those long johnsons would be too much of a distraction. Why weren’t black and Hispanic kids coming to the Grove? Were the white kids too cliquish? Was it just economics? Were they more homophobic than the suburban kids? Too many questions. I decided to call Felix about hiring Clyde. My underwear model career may be over.

“Whadya mean I need to hire a black? They don’t come into the store.”
“That’s the point. Why don’t they come in? Maybe they don’t feel welcome?”
“Com’n. We’re the outcasts here, like in ‘Out & Proud.’”
“And the only Hispanic we see there is you.”
“So this kid, how do you know he’s even gay?”
“Believe me, I know.”
“Some trick you wanna palm off on me.”
“More on Phillip.”
“Well, let me talk with him.”

Phillip proved more than amenable and Clyde was hired.
Next I called Susan at my dad’s office.
“What’s up, honey?” she was so hip.
“I quit my store job today. I thought Jack and I might be able to eat dinner with you and Dad more often. We need to schedule more band rehearsals with our outdoor concert coming up.”
“My goodness, Tim. We’d love to see you boys more. I almost hesitate calling you boys. You certainly are mature for a 16-year-old. Your dad likes to eat at six. Just let me know in advance, so I can be prepared for hungry teen stomachs.”
“Not tonight. I’ll let you know in advance.” I promised.

I knew that the Stones had their cocktail hour at six, so we’d have to get Isabelle to prepare an early meal at that house. Still, we’d be spending more time with our parents. Band time would now coincide with our smoke out time, which would have to be moved to Michael’s. Max would have to get used to waiting until 7 pm for his weed fix.

After I got off the phone, Clyde and Phillip were all smiles.
“I got me a job,” Clyde crowed. “Phillip’s my boss man”
“Let’s see what Grant and Jack are doing in the Annex and let them know.”
Grant was debuting Jack’s rap persona, Jack Town, trying to get some of the younger boys to rap with them. They were too shy, but one or two came up, after their girlfriends pushed them to get up there. One boy had pushed his jeans down and pulled up his briefs to look fly.

“My name is Tray
But I’m not gay
I havta wear these
So my girl is pleased.”

Jack encouraged him.

“She must be fly
If I have to try
To look all gay
To make her day.”

‘Her name is Michelle
She makes my dick swell
…”

Everybody screamed, “No. Stop. That’s over the line.”
Grant took over:

“When you wanna rap
You rhyme to a beat
If words you repeat,
It’s truth, not uncouth.”

What my friend Tray
Is trying to say
When he thinks of Michelle
It makes his heart swell.”

“There’s truth in a rhyme and a beat. You just say what comes into your head without thinking too much. Tray wants to say he likes Michelle, but he let his dick do the talking for him. Now he’s got to pull the right words out of his ass…”
“No. Stop. That’s way wrong.” All the girls complained.
“See what I mean. You want us to filter what we say. But if Michelle wants Tray to filter why he’s attracted to her, he couldn’t say what he’s really feeling. She may never know. How sad.”
“That’s gross,” one girl objected.
Everyone laughed.
“That’s why what you hear on the street may be more real than what you hear at school. Sometimes you havta get out of school to get down.”
Grant got his posse to rap one of the new songs on the street:

 

“What are you going to do when you get out of school?
I’m gonna have some fun.
What do you consider fun?
Fun, natural fun.”

Songwriters
NOBLE, REGGIE / BROWN, RICARDO / CALHOUN, WILLIAM / ROLISON, DEDRICK “MACK 10” / SAVAGE, JAMES
Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group, Royalty Network

A bunch of the kids jumped up, singing and dancing to the chorus. At least, they were not shy. Dave put on James Brown’s ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” to get the dance party going again.

 

 

“Well, that went well,” Grant joked.
“Language, dude,” I kidded him.
“That’s just how we talk.”
“These kids will get used to it. Phillip just hired Clyde to work in the retail shop.”
“Whoa, Clyde in a suit.”
“Naw. He’ll be his own fashion trend.”
“You down with that, my man?” Grant asked Clyde.
“’Course. Minimum wage means a pay raise for me.” Clyde gave Phillip a huge grin, which after a second of shock was returned in spades. I may have flunked Sex Ed., but I was an ace at matchmaking.

I took Jack aside and told him about the dinner plans I had made.
“You really like putting on a show for Mummy’s cocktail hour?”
“Sure. Don’t you.”
He smiled, “Yeah.” 04
“And we will eat at my house, too. I can’t believe I want to do it.”
“Why all the changes?”
“It’ll make band practice better. We can work with The Out-Crowd before dinner. Then come back at 7 and have the whole evening to get False Gods ready for our first big concert. And, maybe I’m getting mellow after everything that went down during Spring Break?”
“You’re so sweet,” and Jack kissed me.Tim 307
The whistles we heard meant the kids missed nothing that was going on.
It was time to go to Michael’s for practice. Clyde insisted on staying with Phillip for on-the-job training. Grant broke up, “We know what that means.”

He decided to come by himself to band practice. I told him Hippie would give him a ride home. He promised massive spliffs. I realized he wanted to join the band. We could treat him as we did Iggy, when we needed his specific genre. As soon as everyone was at Michael’s, he passed around his Jamaican Ganja. Tim 600

Our management style was called chaos. It was all about logistics. Stu, Mike, and John had swim practice after practice at five; Scott was now driving them; I figured he’d like waiting for band practice to be over by visiting Lydia: they  were back on again. Dave and Jazz would finish at Out & Proud after practice at Michael’s. Robby, Jack and I had play rehearsal after school; then we’d all get to Michael’s to work with the cover band, go home to eat, and be back by 7 pm for our band rehearsal. The Jacette’s would come some evenings except for Jenna who would work with The Out-Crowd, have dinner with Michael and stay when the other girls were coming. Max would go wherever he wanted, but come home with me; on special nights he’d go home with John if Mom Watts agreed. That left Grant hanging; he said he’d go home after play rehearsal and get his mama’s car to come to Michael’s at 7 pm.

We talked about new songs for the concert. We had learned in New York that our shorter songs worked best in a rap mode. Instead of making the lines longer, we would write more songs about Miami, with a blues feel or maybe rhythm and blues with some soul influence. Also, we should do some fast thrash metal to get the crowd excited. Our goal of getting a solid set from playing road houses and New York had only shown we needed to write more songs and revise the current ones. New songs meant we needed to test them at parties before the concert. Frat parties would be the tests. We talked about money. It was agreed that regular members would all get equal shares. Bonus money would go to special appearances like Iggy, Grant, Jenna, and Jill. Half of all proceeds would go to Mike Sr. for expenses and future investment, like studio time, equipment, and publicity. Someone asked where Jimmy Olson had been.  After my experience with Jon Landau, I could care less, but Michael pointed out he was the main reason people came to the Viscaya show.
“If we’re just doing house parties, we don’t want too many people showing up.”
“Wrong,” Michael asserted. “If we get press for whatever reason, it’s all good. No such thing as bad publicity.”
“If it gets people to come to the concert to see us, great.” I agreed.

We could talk all practice, but it was time for the Out-Crowd to show us their current set. Max and I sat by John. He was so happy to see Max, getting down on his hands and knees to play with him. Max loved it, playing right along, expecting second-hand weed at any moment. Tim 311 John looked at me with the same expectation. Naturally I had a joint behind my ear. Jazz and Dave sat with us while we gave Max his afternoon fix. Stu, Mike Jr and Jenna watched us get high. They usually were gone when we indulged. I got down with John. Max lay on his back, his legs kicking spasmodically, as we rubbed his belly. John rolled around with him and ended up against me with Max on top and my arms around them both. It was too much for Stu, who lay down with us.
“Do I havta get high to cuddle with Max?” he asked.
“No, duffus. Get down here. The pot is for Max.” I avoided telling him he couldn’t smoke. I could see Scott’s expression when Stu told him, which was a guaranteed event. Soon Mike Jr and Jenna were on the floor, too.
“Why don’t you do a dog song and get Max on stage with you?” I suggested. “How about Elvis’s ‘Hound Dog?’
“Naw, that’s about stealin’ yer best friend’s girl,” Dave remarked.
“How about Bowie’s ‘Diamond Dogs?” Mike Jr suggested.
“That’s pretty X-rated,” Jack objected.
“The Out-Crowd isn’t ready to really rock?” Robby egged them on.
“You guys get all the really cool songs,” John observed.
“Can we change the lyrics so it’s not about drugs and sex?” Jack said. “And change the name from Jack to Max?”
“How’s this sound?” John got up and played the psychedelic guitar licks.

“Whoa. When did you start playing like that?” I was stunned.
“It just came to me now.”
It was so like Jace, I couldn’t stop myself from tearing up. Jack held my hand. Jace would have punched me. I needed the pain. John started over and Mike changed the lyrics slightly:

‘As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent
You asked for the latest party
With your silicone nose and your freak show clothes
Dressed like a priest you was, Tod Browning’s freak you was
Crawling down the alley on your hands and knees
I’m sure you’re not protected, for it’s plain to see
The diamond dogs are poachers and they hide behind trees
Hunt you to the ground they will, mannequins with kill appeal
(Will they come?)
I’ll keep a friend serene
(Will they come?)
Oh baby, come unto me
(Will they come?)
Well, she’s come, been and gone
Come out of the garden, baby
You’ll catch your death in the fog
Young girl, they call them the Diamond Dogs
Young girl, they call them the Diamond Dogs
The Halloween Max is a real cool cat
And he lives on top of Manhattan Chase
The elevator’s broke, so he slides down a rope
Onto the street below, oh Maxie, go man go
Meet his little hussy with his ghost town approach
Her face is sans feature, but he wears a Dali brooch
Sweetly reminiscent, something mother used to bake
Cracked up and paralyzed, Diamond Dogs are sableized
(Will they come?)
I’ll keep a friend serene
(Will they come?)
Oh baby, come unto me
(Will they come?)
Well, she’s come, been and gone
Come out of the garden, baby
You’ll catch your death in the fog
Young girl, they call them the Diamond Dogs
Young girl, they call them the Diamond Dogs
(Bow-oo-ooh)
Call them the Diamond Dogs
(Bow-oo-ooh)
Call them the Diamond Dogs
In the year of the scavenger, the season of the rich
Sashay on the boardwalk, soiree to the ditch
Just another future song, knowin’ it’ll never kitch
(There’s gonna be sorrow)
Try and wake up tomorrow
(Will they come?)
I’ll keep a friend serene
(Will they come?)
Oh baby, come unto me
(Will they come?)
Well, she’s come, been and gone
Come out of the garden, baby
You’ll catch your death in the fog
Young girl, they call them the Diamond Dogs
Young girl, they call them the Diamond Dogs
(Bow-oo-ooh)
Call them the Diamond Dogs
(Bow-oo-ooh)
Call them the Diamond Dogs
(Bow-wow, woof woof, bow-wow, wow)
Call them the Diamond Dogs
Dogs
Call them the Diamond Dogs
Call them, call them
Call them the Diamond Dogs
Call them, call them, ooo
Call them the Diamond Dogs
{Keep cool
Diamond Dogs rule, okay}
Beware of the Diamond Dogs
Beware of the Diamond Dogs
Beware of the Diamond Dogs
…’
Songwriters
BOWIE, DAVID
Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV

Our young protégées wanted to grow up. They were excited and into it. The lyrics were still too much for the pre-teen set.
“Okay. Make sure everyone knows it’s a song for Max. You should repeat the bow-wow-wows.”
“I can get him to bark,” John claimed. He played the ‘Call them the Diamond Dogs’ line, then looked at Max and sniffed.
Max barked twice, thinking John had sniffed out weed. John repeated the line and sniffed the different barks and woofs to the beat. Max had perfect pitch and rhythm. Everyone cheered.
“Okay. Max is a natural star. But you can’t play it at a dance party. Next party we play, we’ll have you come out, leading Max.Tim 315 If we get an encore, you’ll play instead of us.”
“All right.” They were stoked.

Scott walked in, ready to take the boys home. He nodded to me and Jack. He seldom showed the humor we had shared through our many pranks and antics together in the past. I didn’t expect much from him. I worried that once Stu told him about the pot smoking, he’d make them quit the band. It was that rigid thinking that had made it impossible for him to accept that he had loved me. It still hurt. I was more concerned that three members of The Out-Crowd would be forced to quit. Jack reached over and held my hand. Was he being possessive or did he sense my unease.

Once the kids were gone, we continued our discussion about the set we needed for the Skynyrd concert.
“We’ve got to play more blues,” Michael noted.
“Why can’t we play a few covers to get the crowd going?” Robby wanted to know.
“Wanna try doing that with this song I started writing?” Jack suggested.
I was amazed. Usually I wrote lines and we all worked on them with the music. Jack never said he wanted to write. I wasn’t jealous, just pleased he was into it.
“It’s called Life’s Lies,” and he took my guitar and played a slow heavy chord pattern. I was thunderstruck; when did he start playing guitar?

“This is our life,
our pride alive
Its our times
Lost our minds
Stupid rules rule
Demand we act
Just like fools
To be like you.

Look at me, you havta scream.
You think we be freakin’
You gotta be fast to not be seen.
No wonder we’re always sneakin’

I wanted to kiss him. I wanted to slap him. Was he trying to better me as songwriter. He looked up at me. His eyes told me he only wanted my approval. Dario 06 My smile was ear to ear. I wanted to tell him I liked the internal rhymes. The slow tempo allowed me to riff off of them. I rushed over and picked him up, shaking him.
“We can now sing and play together.” I thought how much it was like Jace and me. “Why didn’t you say that you played?”
He just shrugged. Maybe he didn’t want to upset Casper. It didn’t matter now.
“We’ll go to Spec’s and get you your own guitar.”
“S’kay. I have a Stratocaster at home. You really like my song?”
“Of course. We can go from it to right into ‘Sneakin’ Around.’
“I’ve got a faster part that brings it back to the opening verses. Wanna hear it?”
“Jesus, don’t stop now,” Robby added.

“These lives…
Are mine to give.
Live your lies….
Death’s negative
It’s no surprise
When you die
To realize
You had no life

Some friends are gone
Way too soon
Missed for what they did
Missed for what they didn’t

You live the 9 to 5
At home the baby cries
Like desperate housewives
Bills eat you alive”

We all got up and practiced the new song and coupled it with ‘Sneakin’ Around.’ It was taking a short song and turning it into an anthem, like Queen did. Jack used Dave’s guitar (my old Mustang) to play on his song. I was glad when we did the old Sneaking song that he put down the guitar and came around behind me, to sing over my shoulder, grinding into me. Since we didn’t usually do that in practice, everyone else came to a screeching halt. Mike Sr came into the music room, asking what was wrong.
Michael avoided the grinding issue, “Jack’s playing guitar now. He never told us he played.”
“Just like when Jace was here…” Mike Sr realized he may be hitting a painful nerve and trailed off. Jack looked quickly for my reaction.
“Nope,” I said. “Jace was showing us how to play. Jack’s showing us how to write songs that go with our regular songs.”
Jack beamed, until I sat down hard, not able to stem the tears.
“I’ll never replace him,” he promised “I just wrote them this morning in class. First time I’ve been away from y’all. It made me start missin’ you.” Jack looked right at me. I felt like a waste case, having gone off with Grant to get high, while all he wanted to do was help the band.
“I need you more than I needed him. He was the one who needed us.” I broke down completely. Tim 08
“How about pizza?” Mike Sr tried to calm the waters.
“Can you order in? We need to work on the new songs, at least one more time through.”
“Sure. I’ll go pick it up,” Mike Sr was glad to get out of the teen drama scene.

We worked on the transitions between the songs. I really let all my emotions go into the blues riffs in Jack’s songs. They made my heart lift from the sadness.
“I got another one, if’n you wanna hear it?”
“’Course, asshole. You’ve been holding out on us. We need more songs. Why didn’t you play them before?” Robby asked

“It’s called ‘You.’”

“I say, …you…
You’re such a fool
You’re just a tool
But I love…you

I say…. you…
What can we do?
You said we’re through
What can I….. do

I say,…. you…
We break the rules
We look like fools
I really need…. you…
I say, …you..”

It really freaked me out. Was it about us breaking up? Was I to blame? I needed him so much at that moment.

“Pizza’s here,” Mike Sr announced.
Everyone just sat there, looking at Jack.
“It’s from Sorrento’s, boys. What’s wrong? No teenager ever turns down pizza.”
“It’s okay, Dad,” Michael said. “Jack’s written a song that’s scared us. That’s all. I think it’s what we do. Scare each other, then come back stronger.”
Michael was so wise.
Jack looked at me, then at the others.
“It’s just a song. I imagined what it was like to break up. It’s not what’s happening.”
He ran over to me, hugging me, until I hugged him back. All I could think was how I was getting high and fending off Clyde while he wrote that we had broken up. The guilt I felt was ridiculous. It hit me. The emotions of the song were so powerful. I felt what the blues was about for the first time, really felt it.
“It’s brilliant. It’s desperate and powerful. It’s our first blues song. All we usually write is about having fun and adventures. This is so much deeper.” I hugged Jack. Tim 575
I picked up my guitar and played a long, slow riff with dark, minor chords and muted leads. Mike Sr put the pizza down. Jack sang all the words, barely looking at me, not daring to do so.
“Then, we can go into the first sex song:”

“He’s the boy who breaks all the rules.
He takes his time until you’re primed,
then gets it done 60 seconds flat.
Out the door always wanting more.
Don’t tell him you’ll do it later when you know
he’s gonna do you now.
Love it.”

“Jesus,” Mike Sr said as he walked out.
A minute later he returned, with two six packs of PBR tall boys. Tim 449 Cracking one himself, he told us to grab a beer with the pizza.
“Yesterday I have the Archbishop of New York telling me Tim has performed a miracle and should be sent to a seminary to become a priest. Today you’re singing bawdy songs about getting it on with your boyfriend. I have no problem with you boys being together. I just don’t wanna know about it.”
“We havta sing about what’s real,” I asserted.
Grant took Mike Sr’s side. “Being gay is okay but all the drama is killin’ me.”
“Your best friend’s gay.”
“You mean you or Clyde? I’m down with the gays. I like it that you have someone. I just don’t wanna know all about it.”
I had kept my head down, trying to get my feelings to stop boiling over.
“Mike, you chewed me out when I broke down at Spec’s because I couldn’t take you being so nice to me. I straightened up. Look how far we’ve gone. I think we’re all over-wrought after the long road trip and the Easter performances, all the shows in New York.”
“I think we have to be real when we sing about love and sex,” Jack argued. “Bowie, T-Rex, the Dolls, they all sing about it without directly saying either way. It’s called androgyny. Bowie It gives hope to lonely gays that there are people who understand how they feel without telling straights to fuck off.”
“So you boys go both ways?”
“We both have real girlfriends. It’s just that we love each other more, not them less.”
Michael jumped in. “That’s why Jenna likes them being with Flo and Edi. They love them but are not going to have full-on sexual relationships. We’re all too young.”
“Well, thank god for that,” Mike Sr. sighed.
“At sixteen, it’s just easier to be with a boy,” I asserted. “Nobody’s getting pregnant and we’re learning how to make a relationship work. Girls actually prefer us because we don’t pressure them all the time.”
“Sounds more like friendship than love,” Mike Sr. countered.
“There’s guy friendships and girl friendships. They’re different. Girls don’t want to share with other girls. Guys aren’t so emotional. We can have as many friends as possible. It’s the love and sex part that is different.”
“We’re with you, Mr. Antonio, we don’t care to know the details. I’m just happy they have each other.”
“Girls like us when we fag off on stage. Their boyfriends get jealous and wanna kick our butts. The girls stop them from actually doing it.”
“I don’t wanna see you boys get attacked or hurt.”
“We get the crowd riled up. Energy, even hate, needs to get out. As long as it stays on the floor, we’ll be safe.”
“I must be the only parent in the world that can have this conversation.”
“We don’t see you as a parent. We know that you’re a great dad to Michael. You taught me how to get my dad to come around. For a time I so wanted you to be my dad, but I now love my own dad just as much.”
“Tim, you are too much of a charmer.”
I knew he was right, as usual. It worked for me. Tim 592

We finished the pizza and beer. I asked Mike Sr. to discuss a business idea I had.
“Can I get your assistant to contact Ry Cooder’s studio in Memphis to help us with the Skynyrd concert?”
“Sure, but what’s up?”
“It’s about our set list. We may need to pump it up.”
“Well, come by the office tomorrow after school. I’ll tell Jay you’re coming.”
“Great. Jay does a great job for us.”
“Just don’t have him doing things behind my back.”
My charm was working on Mike Sr.

Everyone split. When Jack and I got to my house, the folks were sound asleep. It was midnight. I left Susan a note that we’d eat dinner with them the next night. We couldn’t wait to get in bed together. For the first time I was the sixty-second man, but I knew I wasn’t out the door. I let Jack have his way with me, enjoying the feeling of letting go to his demands. I no longer cared if bottoming was my role. I figured I’d catch him in the shower in the morning.
He rolled off of me. “I’m sorry I upset you with my song. It was the first time we had been separated in the longest time. I was feeling the loss. It became a song, just not about us. It was as if we broke up.”
“Never. We’ll never break up.” My usual doubts were no longer there.
My OCD did kick in. “Hey. We haven’t seen Jill and Wilkie for the longest time. We’re their gay parents. We’re neglecting our straight children.”
He gave me the strangest look. I forgot that it was Jace who was my co-parent. Instead of feeling lame, I knew it was something we could share together.
“Let’s get Jill to sing a Rod Stewart song at the concert.”
“Sure,” Jack sleepily agreed, “As long as it’s a ballad; he sucks at rock n roll.”

By Wednesday, we were back into the school/practice routine. We even were on time to Mr. Clark’s class. There we continued reading aloud scenes from ‘The Tempest.’ I was not really into more Shakespeare but we had two months to get it together. Jack’s nerds started hanging out with us at Nutrition, braving the general disdain for socializing with the stoners. It may have been a step up the high school social order from their point of view.

After School, Jack and I went to Mike Sr.’s office and met Jay for the first time in person. He had been so much help during our ‘tour.’ We needed to thank him. I also thought he seemed gay. I was intrigued to find out what he was really like. He had to be at least in his twenties to be working.
“You think Jay’s gay?” I asked Jack as we got to the office.
“You usually talk to him. Should I be jealous?”
“Let’s try to bring him out. He can be our ally in the music business,” I deflected the jealousy. “Let’s both treat him that way but not really flirt with him.”
We walked in to the office, and just as Jay looked up, Jack and I kissed him on either cheek. He didn’t flinch and looked quite pleased. Tim 399
“That’s for helping us so much the last few weeks. We couldn’t have survived without you.”
“Just doing my job, boys,” he beamed. He was about 25, well dressed and extremely confident. We had an excellent ally. “What can I do for you today?”
“You know about our band? All we used to do was play cover songs at parties.”
“Yeah, I read the articles. I sent them to Ry Cooder. I used to play in a band when I was your age.”
“Great. Then you can understand how freaked out we are about opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd in a couple of weeks?”
“Well, yeah. But you boys seem to handle the pressure. The tour went well. You got to play your own songs and all.”
“Well, the truth is we’re much better as a cover band than doing originals. The crowd really gets into the songs they know and love. Our songs lack that familiarity.”
“You just want to keep playing covers?”
“We’re hoping you’d get Ry to get us rights to play a few covers to get the crowd on our side. We’d keep the excitement going with our songs.”
“Well, he’d want to cut your performance fee to pay the royalties.”
“The money’s not as important as putting on a great show. How much are we being paid anyway?”
“You don’t know?”
“We just let Mike take care of the money. We don’t get much until we’re 18.”
“What covers do you want to do?”
“Any Southern Blues hits – Allman Brothers, Doors, Jefferson Airplane, ZZ Top. Also, any English Invasion bands, like the Animals, would do. Maybe he can get a deal on certain songs so we don’t lose much on the fee. We can play anything that everyone knows.”
“So, you want me to work my magic.”
We hugged him and this time he did turn red. He told us he’d call with a list of approved covers.

“He’s hot,” Jack noted after we left the office. Heads turned with that comment. We must look strange, two 16-year-olds, barefoot and in ratty jeans, on the twelfth floor of a Brickell Avenue office building in downtown Miami.
“No smoking pot around him,” I forbid Jack. The looks we got.

The next few days we fell back into our school routine. Eating with my folks was silent torture, but everyone was happy to be together, even Max. The first night we ate at the Stones, his whole nerd pack of D&D players showed up before cocktail hour. We had to entertain them in his room. Isaac was over-excited to be with us. He spilled the beans on Jack’s guitar playing. Tim 617 It seems Jack had tried to start a band with the group. He was so embarrassed when Isaac told me there were a slew of songs Jack had written. If he was trying to make me mad at Jack, it was a dud. I was so happy to have some songs to work with. We were desperate for more songs. We couldn’t play covers and all we had were the roadhouse songs and some new ones that hadn’t been played in front of anyone. Jack brought out a notebook of his songs, Dungeon Dweller, Lords of Time, Apocalypse Now, Curfew. They were all ponderous with fancy words no one knew. Perfect for our Southern Blues debut. I grabbed Jack. We hurried to Michael’s to work on the songs.

I was showing Jack how I was going to change the tempo and the chords, while keeping the lyrics. I figured it would confuse him to write new words. I used slow blues riffs as the intro for each song. At the end of the songs I added long guitar solos. Jack didn’t know what to do, so I showed him how to play rhythm on my old Mustang.
Michael walked in.
“You’re early.” Jenna was peeking around the corner.  We had interrupted their regular make out session.
“We’ll just go into another corner and make out, too.”
Michael placid demeanor momentarily changed to an odd expression.
“What song are you playing?”
“Jack has a bunch of songs he wrote for his old band. We’re working them into our style of Southern Rock. They’re pretty gothic.”
“Kool.” He was interested and got behind his drum kit. Tim 608
Jack played him the rhythm track to Four Horseman. He was soon following along. Hippie and Robby came in together. Soon we were rocking out to a whole bunch of new songs. With the two from the morning, it was seven new songs, plus our original eight songs. We had a 15 song set. Progress.

I stayed over at Jack’s. I told him to tell his nerd friends to come to our practices at Michael’s. He pulled out all these costumes he had made.
“Why did you fool me about being in a band before?”
“I like you telling me what to do. Why do you think I was your understudy for ‘Midsummer’s Night?’ I’ve been doing drama club for years. I just was so crushing on you, that being your understudy was all I wanted.”
“Get over here. There’s under-studying to be done.”
He jumped up on the bed. He definitely was loved back.

The next morning Jack and I both dressed as preps. After school we went around to the University frat houses and committed to house parties the next weekend. We just walked into the frats and found out who the social chairmen were. They all had heard about the party we played at Christmas and the Wilkie send-off. We upped our price to $300 a night plus 25% of the door. They were glad to pay.

Next we went to Out & Proud. Clyde had obviously moved in on Phillip, ordering him around and generally taking charge. It was a match made in Hell. They were oblivious to our scrutiny.
“You seemed to have passed job training,” I observed.
“Of course,” Clyde agreed. “Felix asked if you would do a photo shoot for the catalog. It comes out next month.”
“Just us two?” I wasn’t sure the Out Crowd guys should strip for Felix.
“He wants me, too. He has come up with a design for the man with bigger equipment. It’s called a boxer brief.”
“Anything to satisfy the customers.”
“Great. Go get changed. We’ll shoot it at the Annex. The kids can be spectators for a runway show.”
He had really taken over.
We set up so each of us would walk up and back with the skivvies showing above the waist bands of our jeans, Tim 143 then strip behind a screen and come back out in just the underwear. Tim 76 He set up the cameras, with Dave, Jazz, and Phillip at various positions. We were ready to roll in fifteen minutes. The kids were totally into it, yelling and screaming when we did the first strip. We couldn’t help laughing and acting unlike any runway model would ever act. After the shoot, the kids all demanded to buy the used product with our autographs written on them. tim-801

Escaping the kids, we went over to Jill and Wilkie’s place in the Grove. They were glad to see me. I introduced them to Jack, my boyfriend.
“Our little fishboy is growing up and not so shy,” Jill remarked.
“Tim was shy?” Jack exclaimed.
“At 14, I was his only friend,” David claimed.
“Well, there was also Stu.”
“The 10 year old motor mouth? You can’t count the ankle biters.”
Everyone laughed at me, which felt cool.
“We want to get Jill to sing with us at the Skynyrd concert. It’s in two weeks.” Tim 296
Jill beamed and David shook his head. “Still trying to horn in on my girl?”
“We’re your gay parents. She needs more to do than hanging around and pressing your Speedos.”
“Bloody Women’s Libbers, are ya?” in his precise English accent.
“Just standing up for ‘our’ Jill,” I quipped back with a fractured Brit accent.
“Right wanker, y’are.”
Jill took Jack aside for girl talk. They were soon fast as thieves.
“How’s yer cousin Joey doin?’”
“Hard to tell. He’s stuck in a bungalow in West Hollywood. I call but he never picks up.”
“Sounds like a drug problem.”
“I am worried.”
“Well, you can’t always save the world, Tim, let alone those you love.”
“I’m finding that out. We went to New York for Easter. The Catholics and Baptists are setting up youth shelters in Jace’s name. We’re really tight with Andy Warhol. He’s coming here this Spring to see our Shakespearean play. You wanna meet him?”
“I wish. I’m off the England soon. Trying for the Olympics next year.”
“Will Jill go with you?”
“Once she graduates in May.”
“Aha. You do need your gay parents, after all. You can’t just run off and expect her to twiddle her thumbs at home.”
“Twiddle dee dee,” he broke up.
“What are you boys laughing about?” Jill walked back in with Jack.
“We’re needed as gay parents again, Jack. David’s off to Jolly Old London again, leaving this damsel in the lurch.”
Jack gave me that look because I had mixed him up with Jace again.
“Right. I never told you that Jace and I made sure Jill didn’t stray last Christmas when David was gone.”
“I’ve always wanted to parent. I just didn’t expect my child was going to be older than me.”
“You have an old soul,” Jill encouraged him, holding his hand.
I reached for Wilkie’s hand, but he saw it coming and moved back.
“It’s all set. Jill will sing ‘Reason to Believe’ and we’re responsible for fending off groupies,” I crowed.
We all laughed. I felt an undercurrent of sadness that they were separating again.

We were back at my house for dinner. We had more to talk about, as we had been working all afternoon, making money. Dad wanted the details of our negotiations with the frats and how much the modelling was paying.
“We should clear $2000 for the frat parties. Felix will pay us for the modelling once the catalog comes out. He pays 10% of sales. It may be a lot or if nothing sells, not much.”
“Sounds like he treats you like a partner. You only get paid if the product sells.”
“It’s just fun, Dad. If it succeeds, we get paid, if not, it’s only the time we wasted.”
“Time is money, son.”
“Jeez, Dad. We’re only sixteen. You know that Mike Antonio has set up trust funds for college? Half of what the band earns goes into the funds.”
“I have to admit the band has turned into quite a success.”
“We are doing what we love and somehow the money has followed,” Jack piped in.
Dad wasn’t used to Jack acting like one of the family. I changed the subject.
“How are the wedding plans coming? Have you chosen the groomsmen yet?”
“Terry and Helen are coming with the boys. I’ve asked my boss at work and Joe Mertz. You have any suggestions?”
“I know Jack would be pleased. I consider him family.”
Jack and Dad both turned bright red. Dad hated being put on the spot, but he was learning to put up with me.
“That sounds great. Do you really want to do it, Jack?” he asked.
“Sure. That would be a thrill. Is there a Bachelor’s Party?” Tim 577
“I’m not sure I approve of that,” Susan rescued Dad.
“How about if Tim and I put on a sketch at the rehearsal dinner?”
“As long as it isn’t the Great Coming Out.”
“Oh, it will be all about the bride and bridegroom.”
“I can hardly wait,” Dad groaned.

Once we had all finished, Dad made a great show of feeding Max the scraps. Jack and I knew Max was really excited because we were going to band practice and he’d get his pot fix. Riding to Michael’s with Max trotting along beside us, we reflected on the fun of just being kids, still riding bikes. Tim 271
“I kinda want to get my license soon. We have permits,” Jack announced.
“And give up the pleasure of riding through the Gables?”
“You are really happy, huh?”
“What’s not to like. We have total freedom, the band, friends and each other.”
“Don’t you want to travel and meet new people and see new things?”
“We will, but we always will be together.” I was feeling crushed that Jack needed more.
He looked at me and knew what I felt.
“Don’t be scared of what may come our way. I’ll never leave you.”
We leaned over and kissed each other, still pedaling along the tree-shaded streets. We were still 16 after all.

.Tim 324

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