January 31, 1966   no responses

“Help Wanted!” A brand new A&P was going to open within walking distance of our house in New Windsor. When”my mother saw that “Help Wanted” sign hanging in the store window,  she was determined that I get my working papers as soon as I turned sixteen so I could contribute to the family income and not be a “lazy bum lying around the house”. Part of the process of acquiring your working papers was going for a perfunctory physical to prove you were in good health. You would think I was going to work in a coal mine and be subjugated to Dickensian child labor. Mamma Rose drove me into Newburgh to see an old Jewish doctor who had been contracted by the city. Herr Doktor’s dark, musty and creepy office was located across from beautiful Downing Park nestled like the witch’s hut in Hansel und Gretel. Dr. Mengele’’s high-pitched nasal voice and bedside manner would later remind of Laurence Olivier playing the mad Nazi dentist in Marathon Man. He asked some very basic health questions with an accent I could hardly understand. He gruffly listened to my heart with a stethoscope, so cold that I jumped off the soiled paper on the exam table. Since I was now standing and shuddering, he asked me drop my pants and cough for him. Like a hawk swooping down to pluck a little furry bunny in his sharp claws, he grabbed my coglione so hard, cracking them like the Nutcracker. I so quickly zipped up that I got my weenie caught in the zipper – Ouch!  My mother unclipped her red leather coin purse and gave him two dollars. Herr Mengele stamped the papers with all the diligence and brio of an SS Officer. The A&P Supermarket would be the anchor store in the mall next to newly built condo complex  called Squire Village. It was built on the open field where I once sledded in the winter and took hay rides in the fall. The architecture was vaguely colonial in style with the condos sited around a town square building with clock tower overshadowing an in-ground swimming pool for residents only (on hot summer days I would sneak in past the oiled, tan lifeguard and pretend I lived there). I submitted my application at the Newburgh A&P located on upper Broadway where training would be held till the new store would open within a month. Mr. Smith, the soon-to-be Squire Village A&P manager called to say I got the job at the minimum wage of $1.25 per hour and could I start on Saturday from ten to seven? I was so nervous for my first day at work that I got up at 5am. My Dad drove into Newburgh but I got at the store a bit early at 6:30am. Some of the overhead harsh florescent lights were on but the front door was locked. I could see two men ripping open cardboard boxes with single edge razors, stamping the contents and stocking the shelves. I waited till “ten to seven” as asked and knocked and knocked on the front door to no avail since they were so far in the back of the store. So I used a trick the principal of Sacred Heart would use. Sister Margeretta would rap the inset window pane on the classroom door with her wedding ring, symbol of her marriage to Christ, and startle us and the teacher out of our seats. So using my class ring I began rapping rapping on the window store. Finally one of the guys came to front and tried to chase me away. I started to widely gesticulate like Ruta Lee on the TV charades show, Stump the Stars, acting out why I was there. After three attempts to give him the clue, the man finally let me in. “What da ya want?” he crankily shouted. I could hardly get the words out now, my stutter being so bad. “Mr. S-S-Smith s-s-said that I sh-sh-should s-s-start today and be-be-be here at ten to seven.” The man must have thought I was an idiot. And I am sure he did when he started to laugh and say “Oh silly boy, oh silly boy, he meant you are to work from ten am to seven pm not start 10 to 7 am! “Oh”, I managed to get out, “Thank-Thank you sir.” The automatic door hit me in the ass as I shuffled out. By now my father had driven home and I didn’t have a dime to call him to pick me back up. It was too early to go for breakfast at Commodore’s, the German soda fountain a few blocks up on Broadway. So I walked over to Sacred Heart Church, sunk down in the back pew and sat through the 7:30 and 8:00 am masses. I then read every piece of literature put out by The Blue Army and the Society of St Jude, patron saint of the hopeless cases which surely was me. Suddenly the church bell rang out: 1-2-3-4-5-5-7-8-9 then 10 big gongs. I sprang up, hitting my knee on the brass clip on the back of the pew that used to hold men’s hats. I had fallen asleep from being so distraught and waking up so early. I ran up Ann Street, almost got run over crossing busy Lake Street and took the shortcut through the back parking lot separating the A&P and Grand Union. The store was now bright and bustling as I slammed into a shopper, almost knocking the two shopping bags out of her arms. I hurried past her, mumbling my apologies, right up to the office in a booth that overlooked the store like a watchtower at a concentration camp. Taking off my cap, I sheepishly looked up at Mr. Smith, who was pouring over yesterday’s receipts. At last he glared down at me through his half glasses which slipped off his nose and bounced on his chest being caught by the attached gold link eyeglass chain. “Young man, I hope you are not going to make a habit of being late. Punctuality is the politeness of kings.” I froze there still, daren’t to look up. “Master Anthony, just don’t stand there, go and clock in.” He tossed me a punch card from his aerie that I managed to catch as it floated down from Valhalla. It took me till 10:30 am to figure out how to manage the contraption. I worked till 7:30 pm on the dot that night putting in a full 8 hours. During the day, Mr. Smith, the commandant sternly warned me not to work a minute past 7:30 pm; I would not be paid overtime. As bagger and shopping cart boy, I worked diligently and was never late again the entire month I was at the Broadway store. At the checkout counter I would neatly fill the paper bags making sure to put the heavy cans on the bottom, distributing the weight and gently placing fragile items on the top especially the eggs or a loaf of white bread. I would occasionally carry bags out to the car for some elderly lady and received 25 cents as a tip. I would then on my return, push any empty carts in the parking lot up the hill in a gleaming aluminum train back to the front of the store. Mr. Smith, looking less like Otto Preminger in Stalag 17 but more like Odin since he had a glass eye, was so impressed with my work that he said in the new store I would be assigned to the produce department. Over the next three years I sort of became Mr. Smith’s pet and I became the apple of his eye so to speak. The new store opened and I could now walk to and from work from my house through the Squire Village complex. I was very lucky to have Mr. Dominic D’Auito as the produce manager. He was an Italian sly gentleman, a little younger than my father with a wicked sense of humor. He was always making jokes about the Jewish women who would squeeze the tomatoes, haggle over the prices or complain about the quality or freshness of the produce. Not terribly politically correct, he would make me laugh when he crooked his finger up to his nose to signal the approach of one of the Jewish ladies. We would then run behind the two-way mirror behind the produce case and watch the unsuspecting customer and make very acerbic comments on what she wore as she sniffed a melon for ripeness! He taught me all about the different kinds of fruits and vegetables – how to unpack them, keep the fresh, inspect them and prolong their shelf life. He took great care on how to display the produce with attention to their colors alternating them so they looked like a Busby Berkley arrangement in Technicolor. He instructed me how to use the beautifully white enamel Hobart scale; sliding the calibration bar back in forth to get the correct accurate honest price. To this day I can estimate the weight of an item just by holding it in my hand which came in handy on dates! After weighing an item, I would mark down the prices with a green crayon on a brown paper bag making sure to put a line under the price so the checkout girls could legibly read the price and know it was 69 cents and not 96 cents. Stapling the bag shut and placing it in the cart for the customer, I would always offer a polite, “Thank You Ma’am.”

In the middle of the Saturday  afternoon Dominic marked down prices on any highly perishable items since we were closed on Sundays. I closed down the department by taking all the perishables like lettuce, scallions, berries, and parsley etc. out of the cases, gently putting them in boxes and storing them in the walk-in refrigerated locker. I would then take all of the chipped ice out of the tables and drain them dry. One final Windex cleaning of all of the case windows and I was done. Sometime Mr. Smith let me take home any stuff that had been marked down since it would not last till Monday. After work I would usually meet my mom at the new Squire Village Cinema and catch the 8:00 o’clock movie. Or sometimes I would go over to my friend Ralph’s place. He lived in the condos right behind the fence behind the loading dock that separated our store from the Village townhouses. Ralph was the only kid I knew whose parents were divorced. He lived with his Mom who worked nights at a local diner so he was often alone. We would watch TV or play scrabble or wrestle.  Ralph was a tow headed tuff loner who would make me do things that supposedly he thought I did not want to do. I worked every weekend and all summer from 1964 to 1967 and got to know the guys in the Meat Department especially Joseph the butcher who would give me special cuts of meat to bring home to Mom. I would sometimes have lunch at the coffee shop next door with Mr. Smith who would always treat me to grilled cheese with pickle and fries that I always ordered. All the full time adult staff loved me but curiously I was not liked by the part time staff that was mostly my age. I often went over to Mr. D’Aiuto’s house and got to know his daughter, Maria who was a older than me and yet looked younger in an autistic kind of way; shy, demure, and protected by her father reminding me of Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda or Susan Harrison, J.J Hunsecker’s sister in The Sweet Smell of Success. He would drive me after work to his house for dinner where his wife made a big Italian dinner, my favorite being spaghetti with braciaole. They became my surrogate family and he was always trying to get me to take Maria out since he thought I was a fine upstanding Italian boy. I never got the hint to take her out or so he thought.  So on New Year’s Eve 1966 Dominic and his wife took me and Maria down to Nanuet to see the road show presentation of The Sound of Music presented in 70 millimeter. I was so excited by this since we would get to see the show as it was presented in New York City with intermission on a big screen with multi-channel stereophonic sound. It was a bitterly cold night as we drove the 30 miles to Rockland County, me sitting as far away as possible form Maria on our faux date. When we arrived I opened the car door for her and grabbed her arm as we hurried from the parking lot to the lobby. Dominic treated us all to buttered popcorn. Graciously or guiltily, I bought Maria the souvenir book as a present as well as one for myself of course! The overture finished and my heart leapt as the curtains parted to reveal the Austrian alps and the sound of  wind coming from the back speakers, the birds coming from the side speakers as the camera swopped down to catch Julie Andrews spinning around on the high tor filling the front speakers with  voice singing “the hills are alive with the sound of music.” I whispered to my Maria, “They left out the intro to the song!” Somewhere during the film I murmured they left out the songs of the Baroness and Max! (she should have known then). During the middle of “I am Sixteen going on Seventeen,” Maria reached over and held my hand. I limply held it back staring straight ahead, being engrossed in the scene and angry that I was being distracted. Little did she know I was fantasizing that Rolfe and I were holding hands, dancing from bench to bench in the gazebo. The audience clapped when Leisl yelled “Whee” in the rain at the end of the song, giving me an excuse to take my hand away from Maria.

It seemed like a long way back to New Windsor as I sat looking at the window pretending I was Maria on the bus staring out into the distance whispering “I have confidence in me.” I didn’t. We had a bottle of Cold Duck back at Dominic’s’ house to celebrate the New Year and I suspect to help grease the wheels at the supposed love match.  Dominic and his wife went to bed and left us alone. We turned the TV on watched the final hour of Guy Lombardo playing at the Waldorf=Astoria – ‘Enjoy yourself; it’s later than you think.”   It was late as the cloistered Maria drove me home. With my hand on the car door handle, I gave her a quick peck on the cheek as I dashed out and down my driveway. At 2am, my home was a silent cold, dark Neuschwanstein Castle with no handsome King Ludvig to meet me at the door but only a sleeping Hexe in the downstairs bedroom. I took my shoes off and slowly crept upstairs to my bedroom. My father was snoring away in his bed as I got into the other bed next to my brother Michael, pushing him up against the wall to make room. The frost on the window lit by the street lamp make interesting patterns on the ceiling as I drifted off to sleep dreaming of my little Nazi boy, Rolfe who somehow looked like my friend Ralph. I could sleep in late till 8am tomorrow; the A&P was closed for the holiday.  I had January 2nd off too but Mr. Smith asked me if I could work from 10 to 7… You wait, little girl, on an empty stage For fate to turn the light on Your life, little girl, is an empty page That men will want to write on You are sixteen going on seventeen Fellows will fall in line Eager young lads and rogues and cads Will offer you food and wine Totally unprepared am I To face a world of men Timid and shy and scared am I Of things beyond my ken I need someone older and wiser Telling me what to do You are seventeen going on eighteenI’ll depend on you Finaletto: As fate would have it, 30 years later in Austria, Gary and I would have a private moonlight dance in that very gazebo from The Sound of Music, invited by a business colleague of ours who had access to a private estate where it had been transferred. On that very same trip I did get to meet a Mad King Ludvig look-alike at a cocktail party who I shamlessy flirted with to no avail..

 September 9, 1965   no responses

http://www.ridgwayfire.org/DSC_3712.jpg

 Most towns in rural America depend upon their local volunteers to put out fires, in contrast to the urban, paid professional fire departments. The volunteers are a very proud group of guys who respond instantly when the siren wails out across their towns alerting them to drive to the company firehouse and jump on the red pump truck to the scene of the fire. These volunteer companies would sometimes celebrate the anniversaries of their founding with parades and picnics. Every summer, fellow volunteer fire companies would come from all over the state to march in the town parade followed by a beer fest. Dressed in their finest uniforms with white cap and gloves, they sometimes hired a band to walk in front of them in order to win the prize for best participation.

**********

My good high school friend Alan Tomer held the Second Trumpet Chair in the NFA High School Orchestra. He never could knock out my other good friend and neighbor, Peter Peluso from the coveted first chair. Alan though was first trumpet in the Newburgh Combination Drum and Bugle Corps.

One day in the summer of 1965 over at Alan’s s house, while listening to the LP of Alex North’s score of the movie Spartacus, he got an emergency phone call from his band teacher, Mr. Louis Aulogia.  The Drum and Bugle Corps had suddenly lost their bass drum player to an ankle accident and there was a firemen’s parade the next day.

The Main Title of “Spartacus” blared out over the hi-fi as I was rapping out the percussion strokes on the coffee table when Alan turned to me unexpectedly and said: “Anthony you can do it. There’s nothing to it – you just bang out the beat like you are doing now. It will be great fun, and you get paid!” Of course my usual immediate response was NO. Alan kept pressing. I had just seen The Music Man and when he mentioned that I got to wear a uniform I could see myself magically transformed like at the end of the movie, marching down Main Street USA. I kept thump-thump-thumping till Spartacus finally expired on the cross and the Exit Music played and the tone arm lifted up into silence. I gave a final rap on the table and I gave in. We turned off the RCA console and for the rest of the afternoon I was in Alan’s hands as he taught me the basics of banging the drum (slowly).

The Newburgh Combination Drum and Bugle Corp was a small, historic 10 -15 piece band (the instrumentation depended on who showed up). I would get $5 to march in the Goshen Firemen’s Parade at the other end of Orange County. Our local Vails Gate Fire Department had hired the band to play for them in the parade. The next morning I went over to meet our bandleader Mr. Aulogia who was very grateful to me stepping in. He gave me a uniform and some rudimentary instruction.

And so started my marching days…

I loved my red (almost salmon) and powder blue uniform, gold epaulets and cap with patent leather visor. It was made of heavy wool so on hot days when I sweat or got caught in the rain, I smelled like a wet dog. It was a classic band uniform, a bit ill fitting on the large size. I looked like Nathan Lane playing Matthew Broderick playing Harold Hill. To complete the look, I got a brand new pair of white, cotton parade gloves, the kind with a little button snap across the palm. I loved the way the soft cotton gloves snugly felt with the three little ribs on the back outlining the span of my hand. The sound of the snap was mysteriously sensual to me – that pop when it closed encasing my hand in white innocence –SNAP!

We rode to Goshen NY in a yellow school bus. The firemen sat in the back while we sat in the front with instruments piled all around, under and over us. The parade would usually begin outside of a township and we would march in front of our firemen, who were smartly erect, carrying their company colors.  We would walk many miles up hills, around fields with nobody to play for but ourselves or the occasional barking dog, annoying kid on a bike or housewife poking her head out of the front screen door. I wasn’t allowed to ever stop playing the big bass drum strapped onto my shoulders even if no one was around.  I had to keep the beat, to keep us in step. Even when we stopped, I kept it going so we all could start on the right foot so to speak, right first, then left, right, left, right left….I always had an innate sensitivity to music so keeping the beat came easy to me.

It was always exciting when we finally entered the town strutting down its Main Street. The crowds now lined the sidewalks, clapping and shouting out encouragement. We picked up our pace a bit and the fireman stood at attention as we passed the host fire department house. Our march would end up at a park or behind a VFW Hall for beer guzzling barbecue. This was the time for the fireman to party. Being a minor, this was the least favorite part since we had to hang out and watch the guys get drunk. We would sit a picnic tables while the wives of the host company doted on them, serving barbecue chicken, potato salad, corn, watermelon and homemade pies. The guys would tell ribald jokes, smoke many packs of cigarettes and tap the bottomless kegs.

This was when I noticed Joe McDermott who was one of the butchers at the Squire Village A&P where I also worked in the produce department. I guess he had been in the back of the bus on our long hot ride over. He shyly came over and sat next to me offering a sip of his warm beer. He was a sweet gentle 40 year old man who lived in Campbell Hall with his ailing mother. We laughed over the fact that here we were in Goshen far from where we worked but had never really met. We spent the rest of day together filling the longueurs with shared sips of beer. He sat next to me on the bus going home. It made plenty of pit stops for bathroom breaks and for the emergency sudden up chucks on the side of the road.

I marched all the rest of the summer and rehearsed all winter. I learned all the great marches of Sousa, Goldman, Bigelow and Fillmore. It wasn’t too difficult to follow the notes on the scores during our midweek practice in a small place over Woolworths. Music has always been my escape and refuge so playing in the band was pure heaven for me. Standing in back, making eye contact with the conductor, watching his downbeat, I set the rhythm and pace of the march.

“And you’ll see the glitter of crashing cymbals

and you’ll hear the thunder of rolling drums

and the shimmer of trumpets.

Ta-ta-ta!

And you’ll feel something akin to the electric thrill

I once enjoyed when Gilmore, Pat Conway,

The Great Creatore, W.C. Handy and John Philip Sousa

all came to town on the very same historic day”

Joe and I became fast friends and we would try to time our lunches together. We ate at 11am so we could sit alone in the tiny lunchroom with a single small window overlooking the side parking lot of the supermarket. He always brought lunch that his mother made for him, neatly packaged in a brown paper bag, sandwich in waxed paper, thermos of hot Irish tea and a piece of fruit. I grabbed a grilled cheese and fries from the Squire Village Luncheonette next door to the A&P. We talked about movies, records I had bought, books we were reading and dolce far niente. In our small lunch room sometimes though we so quiet I felt like the blind man and Frankenstein – “Friend.” Once in a while our knees would touch under the small oak Alpine table. I wondered how innocent the awkward brushing up was. I was not sure and sometimes I would place my knees precariously close hoping to be touched.

Mr. Aulogia was a great band teacher and I learned to read music more and more. I tried playing the snares but didn’t have the time to devote to it, so I branched out into playing the cymbals and the triangle. I learned that the triangle is the loudest sound in the orchestra. I was fascinated by the musical arraignment of the instruments which grew into my studying the great Broadway arrangements of Robert Russell Bennett, Sid Ramin, Luther Henderson, and Hans Spialek. Once in a while we would give a performance in the park and play more formal concert pieces arranged especially for band like ones by Percy Grainger or Frederick Fennell.

One night in midwinter, Joseph, as I now called him, asked me over for dinner to his house in Campbell Hall to meet his mother, have dinner and to stay overnight. It made sense since his place was not close by and I didn’t have a car to go home late at night. We could go to work together in the morning.  My mother suspiciously gave me her OK to go.

I went to the Squire Village Drugstore and bought a Whitman Sampler to give to Joseph’s mother, Mary. She was a frail 80 year old Irish lady who accepted my candy and excused herself to go to bed early taking the candy to her downstairs room. It was 7pm. He had brought a steak from the store which he had carefully chosen and cut. Joseph broiled the steak and warmed up small white potatoes with parsley and strings beans which were cooked to a gray color of death that his mother had prepared during the day.

Joseph lit some candles and played Jackie Gleason’s album, For Lovers Only. The steak was expertly prepared and finished off with a drizzle of lemon and olive oil. I noticed that it began snowing when “But Not for Me” started to play. I was waiting for something to happen as I watched my Anne Page vanilla ice cream melt as I began to swirl it around with my spoon, making lovely pink streaks with the Jane Parker strawberry sauce. We cleaned up listening to “Lester Lanin at the Tiffany Ball.” He washed the dishes while I dried. I felt like Cinderella in the kitchen with a reluctant White Knight. It was time for bed.He showed me to a quaint little room off the hallway upstairs near to his bedroom. There were flowers on the night stand which I guess he had set out that morning. He pulled down the covers for me, walked to the door, stood in the doorway for an uneasy moment, wished me good night and left.

All night I waited for him to come to my room. I could hear his mother snoring lightly downstairs and I jumped a couple of times when I heard a noise near my door but it was only Tabby the cat. Outside the wind blustered and howled as I read a copy of Peyton Place that I had stolen out of my mother’s closet. I pulled the quilt around me and finally fell asleep as dawn just about broke. I woke up to the smell of Eight O’Clock coffee and homemade pancakes that Joseph had prepared from scratch. Mrs. McDermott sipped her Irish Tea from a saucer, blowing across it to cool it down. I thought I felt Joseph’s leg graze me under the table but I realized it was only Tabby doing her morning stretch. We drove to work but didn’t have lunch together that day.

In the spring, rehearsals continued and our platonic A&P tete a tetes continued. Nothing happened, even sitting alone in the brand new Squire Village Cinema watching “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” It was time to take things into my own hands as I realized that I was Harold Hill and he was Marion the Librarian and not the other way around.

The firemen of Vails Gate hired us again to march in Suffern NY on Labor Day. It was a great parade held in the late afternoon with fireworks to follow that night. Sitting in the field behind the Suffern Rec Center, Joseph once again slipped me some beer. It was a hot day and long parade and I drank a little more than I was used to. We lay on the grass looking up at the sky-rockets and as I was quite lit, I reached over and took his hand into mine.

When we left later that night, I boldly followed Joseph to the back of the darkened bus and stepped over him and took the seat next to him by the window. I stared outside the window watching the houses go by like Maria on the bus from the convent to the house of the Baron von Trapp – “I Have Confidence in Me.” The drinking continued as the firemen were stumbling around down front singing “The Ballad of the Green Berets” that somehow segued into “Strangers in the Night” complete with slurred “Do doby doby do”s.

I noticed that this time his knee was definitely touching mine. I was feeling very sexy but nervous. I fidgeted with my white gloves, putting them on and taking them off.  SNAP SNAP SNAP. Emboldened by the lager, I reached over to his dark blue slacks and lay my hand on the definite rise that I had kept looking at out of the corner of my eye. SNAP Somehow I unzipped him. SNAP I could feel his hardness as we both looked straight ahead as the fireworks of the town we were passing through lit up the sky casting red, green and golden glows over us. SNAP I remembered the steady beat of the march as I held tight. SNAP I didn’t realize I still had my white parade glove on when I suddenly I felt some rockets going on down below. SNAP Startled at this quick sudden explosion, and not knowing what to do, I awkwardly took my soiled white glove off and tossed it out the window of the bus somewhere onto the passing highway. SNAP Joseph quickly zipped up, jumped up and joined his confreres. I sat there with one glove on. We arrived back in Newburgh and spoke not a word as he drove me home to New Windsor. SNAP

Music has always been part of my life. Its transporting power lifted me up and out of “my own little corner” of Newburgh to Siam, River City, Iowa or Bali Hai. I buried myself in my record collection till I could find my own Emile de Becque, Billy Bigelow or Harold Hill. It took me awhile though to realize I had the casting all wrong. In a way, I was The Music Man and I didn’t have to march to the beat of a different drummer I was the drummer. I set the pace and led the band and was marching center. Sometimes I got off on the wrong foot but I was not going to let the parade pass me by. One day I would spot that special someone, I would reach out into the crowd and grab Marion Paroo and together we strut down Main Street or Broadway.

September came and it was back to school for my senior year. I worked only on the weekends now so I never saw Joseph again who worked Monday through Friday. Pete Peluso had graduated that past June so my friend Alan got to be first trumpet. Our band rehearsals continued in winter through the spring. When I reached into my uniform jacket the following summer only hours before our first parade of the season, I discovered I had only one glove. I made a mad dash in my full uniform down to the Army & Navy Store on Broadway to buy a new pair of white gloves. Breathlessly back in time, I didn’t miss a beat – SNAP!

 August 20, 1964   no responses

My previous entry of August 6th (see below) on the memory of the smell of the Toni perms still haunts me and my thought turned to bygone scents of my youth:

Evening in Paris-

On Mother’s Day I would buy my Mom the deluxe gift package of the perfume. It came in a lovely dark blue bottle and the had a big powder puff.

Noxzema-

I remember my mother covering her face every night with it. “No more wire hangars!”

Old Spice-

My Dad’s Father’s Day gift of cologne mixed with the smell of printing ink from his factory job.

Ben Gay-

Oops!  I read this advertisement wrong and I rubbed it on the wrong spot once. Boy did it burn…

Jean Nate

Another gift for Mom – she we take a bath with the Nate bath oils and rub the essence oil all over her body. She did something with white wine vinegar behind closed doors, which I could never figure out. When I asked her she said she was making a salad…

Charlie-

This was my mother’s other cologne. Remember Bobby Short singing the jingle?

Jiffy Pop-

I love the smell of burnt popcorn in the morning.

Cod Liver Oil-

Ugh!

Nine Flags-

I loved this set of men’s colognes in sexy, phalic little bottles each named after a country: England, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, France, Spain, Hong Kong, Italy & Brazil. My favorite was Italy with a Sorrento Lemon aroma.

 

Mimeograph Fluid & Airplane Glue-

Sniff……

 March 31, 1964   no responses

A Short Drama in Three Acts with Epilogue

by

Anthony Napoli and the Holy Spirit

Produced by the Sacred Heart CYO (Catholic Youth Organization)

Directed by William and Lillian Andersen  (a drama teacher and his over-weight wife)

Scenery by Joey Joe, the school janitor

Costumes by Beulah Politti, and her staff of old Italian ladies

Music by Miklos Rosza as adapted and taped by Fr. Dominic Leo, the parish priest.

PLACE:              Action takes place in two different areas and times:

TIME:                 Newburgh New York – 1964

                                Backstage and dressing rooms of Gallo Hall in the basement of Sacred Heart School

                             Jerusalem – 30 AD

                                 The Upper Room, Golgotha and a Tomb

CAST OF CHARACTERS

JUDAS……………………………………………………………………………………………… Anthony Napoli

Judas played by Anthony is 16 years of age with a lean, dark and hungry look similar to a young Basil Rathbone.

CHRISTUS…………………………………………………………………………………………………Marc Burnett

Marc is 17 years old with red hair, porcelain white skin and rounded muscles and plays The Christus as a  teenage Jeffrey Hunter.

MARY MAGDALENE………………………………………………………………………………….Betty Davis

Betty Davis is her real name; 15 years old but has been around. She would have played Rizzo in Grease if she were born later. – “If she coulda been, she woulda been.”

ANGEL………………………………………………………………………………………………….…Louie Falco

  Louie is a beautiful 14-year-old Italian boy who later became a hairdresser.

ROMANS, PRIESTS, APOSTLES……………………………………………………….…Teen youth of the CYO

  Boys and girls 14 – 17 years old, all straight or so we assume.

Authors Note:

It is the weeks before Easter. Anthony after attending the parish’s Passion Play the previous year is in rehearsal for this year’s production.  A passion play is a staging of the last days of Jesus Christ, usually from the Last Supper to the Resurrection.

Sacred Heart’s Passion Play is held in the school basement, called Gallo Hall. The hall was named for one of the founding pastors and is also the site of Saturday Night Bingo, School Talent Shows, Class Assemblies and Social Events.

The spectators sit on metal fold out chairs set theatre style with a center aisle facing a typical small grammar school stage.  The CYO, Catholic Youth Organization, produces the production and the cast is comprised of the parish club teens – sons and daughters of second generation Italians.

The hall is darkened and lots of colored gels should be used to set the stage. There is no scenery to speak of beside a long draped table for the Last Supper; a large wooden cross for the Crucifixion and a paper mache tomb made from a large refrigerator cardboard box for the Resurrection.

All the music is from the LP collection of Father Leo. It is comprised of cuts from the soundtracks of the film scores of Miklos Rosza’s “King of Kings” and “Ben Hur”. It has all been copied to an unwieldy cumbersome TEAC tape machine and is played over the school sound system. 

Beulah and her old Italian ladies of the church have made colorful costumes for the temple priests; plain rough canvass robes for the apostles; leather skirts for the Romans and a white cotton vestment with matching loincloth for Jesus. Wigs and beards are fashioned from strands of knitting wool and mop rope.

William and Lillian Andersen, a married couple that teaches at the local Junior High School, direct more like traffic cops. They move the crowds around the stage to make tableaux vivants. Lillian loves her pizza breaks during rehearsals. William likes to teach the boys how to apply stage makeup.

 The style of acting and mise en scene should be reminiscent of Luchino Visconti – operatic and passionate not unlike a silent movie staring Gloria Swanson and Ramon Navraro. Think Vincente Minnelli and his staging of “The Nativity” for the Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall minus the camels.     

                                                                                                                                        

ACT I

SCENE ONE

Dressing Room off stage of Gallo Hall

ANTHONY

Hey Marc, does my beard look all right?

(ANTHONY looks back in the mirror and sees MARC taking off his t-shirt)

MARC

Hell, yeah it looks like Anne Marie’s pussy but upside down!

ANTHONY

How would you know?

                            (Adjusting his beard)

MARC

I know more than you think I know…

(Giving a knowing look)

Here, can you make sure my makeup is covering the back of my neck?

(ANTHONY applies some Max Factor tan makeup on MARC’s bare nape and shoulder)

ANTHONY

Let me do your back now so it will be easier later for the crucifixion. We don’t want a white pasty Irish Catholic Jesus on the cross.

(As ANTHONY’s hand moves over the small of MARC’s back, it gets quiet. MARC catches ANTHONY’s eyes in the mirror.

(BETTY DAVIS abruptly enters, dressed as MARY MAGDELENE)

BETTY DAVIS

Have you seen my jar of oil…(she stops) …Hey, what’s going…?

(Silence)

ANTHONY

W-w-w were just going over lines.

MARC

 “One of you shall betray me”

BETTY DAVIS

Yeah?  Well get it over it Mary! (She chortles)


SCENE TWO

The Upper Room

CHRISTUS

Take and eat. This is my body. Take and drink. This is my blood of the new covenant.

                            (All share the bread and wine except for Judas)

MARY MAGDELENE

I am not worthy even to wash thy feet.

                            (She washes his feet and uses her hair to towel them dry)

CHRISTUS

Verily I say into you, before a cock crows three times, one of you shall betray me.

APOSTLES

Is it I? Lord, is it I?

              (Judas does not answer but knocks over a cellar of salt and runs off)

   (Cue the “Way of the Cross” from “King of Kings”)


ACT II

SCENE ONE

Dressing Room

ANTHONY

It’s gonna feel cold.

(He rubs his hands to warm them up as he slowly applies Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Oil lotion all over MARC’s chest)

MARC

Hey watch it! You’re dripping it all over my costume!                        

ANTHONY

What costume? (Laughs)

(At this point MARC is wearing only a white loincloth)

MARC

Do my legs too.

(ANTHONY gets down on his knees and starts to apply the lotion, starting at the calves and eventually moving up MARC’s legs)

MARC

Do I look sweaty enough? I love the way the light shines on my body when I hang up there.

ANTHONY

No, Shh! You need more.

 (Shaking the bottle to get some last drops of the oil out)

Hold on, I missed a spot.

(Applying some to his inner thighs)

(Their eyes meet)

(Silence except for the off stage music cue of the “Way of the Cross”

theme from “King of Kings”)

(ANTHONY’s hand flutters up lightly touching the outer rim of MARC’s garment. He holds his breath and his finger still. Both do not move for a few beats)

 

MARC

 Line… Line    What’s’ that line? Damn …“Into thy hands I commend my spirit” Oh yes.

                            (Breaking the freeze, he runs off almost late for his entrance)

ANTHONY

“Lord, I am not worthy”

                            (Cue the ROMANS and the TEMPLE PRIESTS)

SCENE TWO

Golgatha

CHRISTUS

They know not what they do.

(Hanging on the cross, his feet resting on a little wooden platform to hold him up)

TOWNSPEOPLE

Crucify Him!

(Shouted out very angrily doing the citizens of Oberammergau proud)

ROMANS

Isn’t he one of them?

(Some CYO macho boys dressed in leather skirts point at Judas)

HIGH PRIEST

For 30 pieces of silver, he betrayed him with a kiss!

                            (Eerily looking like Fagin from “Oliver Twist”, he spits at Judas)

 

JUDAS

I have sinned against God and Man!

(Judas runs out in great despair, hands in air like a Yiddish actor playing the storm scenne in “King Lear.”)

CHRISTUS

Into thy hands I commend my spirit.

(With a great sigh)

(Cue the thunder)

                            


ACT III

SCENE ONE

Backstage

MARC

Whew, I am glad that’s over till next year.

                            (ANTHONY helps MARC down from the cross.

                            He grabs him around the waist and lowers him)

ANTHONY

Damn you’re heavy. You smell like a baby’s bottom.

(As the descent continues, ANTHONY slips slightly and holds him tight in his arms as they gently crash onto the stage floor. They lay still for a moment like a Pieta)

MARC

“In three days I will rise again”…

             

ANTHONY

                       (Prompting him)

“Lo today you will be with me in paradise!”

(They both laugh and rise)

(Cue the Resurrection)


SCENE TWO

A Tomb

MARY

I have brought my oils to anoint my Lord but they have rolled the rock away and there is no one in the tomb.

(A blinding light shoots out of the tomb and a handsome boy appears all in white)

ANGEL

Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here? He is risen as He said!

(He stands akimbo like  Donatello’s David)

                           

CHRISTUS

                       (Suddenly appearing upstaging the Angel, hands raised to the heavens)

  (MARY draws near to Him)

Do not touch me! I have not yet ascended to my Fathter.  Remember me. I will be with you always even onto the end of time.

MARY

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

(She drops the jar, swoons and runs off stage almost knocking down ANTHONY standing on a chair with a rope around his neck)

 

(A brilliant magenta gel shining on the Risen Christ overcomes the shadow of Judas dangling from a tree)

JUDAS

I am damned!

                       (The 30 pieces of sliver roll down stage)

(Cue the “Alleluias” from the finale of  “Ben Hur”)

Fallen Angel


EPILOUGE

Dressing Room

MARC

Grab me a towel pal.

 (He tries to wipe the baby oil encrusted makeup from his back)

ANTHONY

Hey dummy, you missed a spot.

              (ANTHONY towels his back)

   (He sings softly)

“Oh Lord, I am not worthy…

Another openin’, another show

 From Philly, Kansas and Balti –mo”

Hey, I think you need to take a shower to get the rest.

MARC

My Dad is out of town– wanna go up to my house and hang? You can help me get this crap off.

ANTHONY

Sh-Sh-Sure

(Quietly ANTHONY cleans MARC off. Taking his time, turning over the towel over and over, restoring MARC’S skin from Max Factor #5 tan to his natural Carrara Marble white, He notices his blue veins, light freckles and wisps of red hair on his arms.)

(Continues to sing lightly)

“A chance for stage folks to say hello

Another openin’ to another show.

Strange dear, but true dear

When I’m close….”

(He stops as BETTY DAVIS slinks in dressed in a new Montgomery Ward A-Line dress; shorter than she was allowed to wear at school)

BETTY

Hey Marc! You were great tonight! You shined! Mrs. Andersen has invited me out for some pizza? Wanna come along?

                            (She poses in the doorway)


MARC

Wow, Yeah!      

(Stunned at the transformation from Mary Magdalene to Teen Dream)

I am starving!  Yeah lets do it.

                            (BETTY and MARC start to exit but stops…)

Hey Tone, do you mind…?

                            (A long embarrassing pause)

ANTHONY

Oh s-s-s-ure, go ahead, I am tired anyway.

(Singing under his breath)

“That’s why the Lady is a tramp.”

MARC

“Night Anthony.

ANTHONY

‘Night Judas. 

“Same time, next year?”

MARC

Huh?

                               (ANTHONY doesn’t answer as MARC and BETTY exit)

(ANTHONY stands there alone, holding the towel and the empty Baby Oil Lotion. He takes the noose off around his neck and starts to take off his shirt, changing out of his costume)

ANTHONY

(He sighs, standing like Ave Gardner as Julie LaVerne on the dock at the end of the movie “Show Boat”)

“Fish gotta swim

 Birds gotta fly…

I gotta…”

A FIGURE

(And suddenly there was a figure in silhouette appearing in the doorway, framed by the bright lights from the stage)

Where is Marc?

ANTHONY

“He is not here.”

(Silence)

(ANTHONY wipes the sweat off his brow. It is red from the makeup)

A FIGURE

Hey, you missed a spot on your back. ( he draws near)

(A drop of Baby Oil Lotion has dripped on a magenta gel and fills the air with an incense of innocence)

(Father Leo has forgotten to turn the TEAC tape player off and the “Alleluias” from “Ben Hur” can still be heard offstage)

CURTAIN

 

******************************************

2008

POST SCRIPT

The following year, Anthony decided to write his own Passion Play called, “The Road to Golgotha.”

I discovered a copy of the script in that bottomless cardboard box my sister found in the family attic this past summer.

He made Judas a sympathetic character that acts with Jesus to fulfill his plan of redemption.  How curious that it is so similar to the controversy over the recently discovered “Gospel of Judas”. Both have the same basic premise.

The CYO never performed it. 

After re-reading the script, I thought it best that is stay unpublished and remain on the bottom of the box of ones youthful attempts. However, it inspired me to write the above Pirandellian  “Mystery Play” based on true incidents.

 November 19, 1963   no responses

 

NFA

Some evenings from November to November I think back to my sophomore year, social studies class in high school at Newburgh Free Academy  – NFA. Mr. Cushman was a wonderful teacher. He was a suede patches on the elbows, pipe-smoking kind of guy.

Once a week he made us all read a paragraph from our textbooks. He would start down one row and go down and up the other till the entire class read a selection. As a stutterer this was death by slow torture. When it got to me, I would sweat and stammer and stall and hardly get the words out.  I wanted to disappear when it got to me. And I figured out a way to do just that.

As the dominoes were falling and the reading crept inexorably closer for my turn, I raised my hand to be excused to go to the bathroom. “Yes, Mr. Napoli? “ “May I please be excused, Mr. Cushman?”  He would hand me a wooden pass that allowed me to go out into the hallways. This gnarled block of wood was sticky and had so many names carved on it. It looked like scrimshaw. Off I went to the Boys Room and I timed by return so the reading would have passed over me and on to the next row. WHEW.

Well there’s a legal limit as to how many times Mr. Cushman would permit me to “go”. I suspected he amusingly and sympathetically knew my ploy and he began to change up the patterns to trick me up and perhaps to ease up the tension of the inexorable countdown. In short, I was simply not in a congenial spot for getting away with this too much longer. I figured out if I spent more time in the bathroom the odds of being called upon to speak would be less.

So on one Friday afternoon I made my judgment call and left with my pass to freedom. As I sat in the stall (stalling so to speak), I looked at all of the writings on the partition. “See Sally for a good time – Joey’s mother wears army boots – I love Amy – The Nap is queer.” The last entry made my heart stand still. I tried to erase the magic marker entry with spit and toilet paper. It was indelible. When I was done, my fingers tips were blackened. I washed my hands but there were no paper towels. It still looked like I had been fingerprinted for a heinous crime. After a long, long anxious time I went back out into the hallway and to class.

The room and halls were empty.

All the classrooms where empty. It felt like that movie where the guy wakes up after taking too many sleeping pills and discovers the city is abandoned due to a nuclear bomb threat or by an invasion of aliens. I forget which.

I wandered down a corridor and turned a corner past the auditorium and the glass shelf full of trophies won by our football team, the NFA Goldbacks.  There was one jock way down at the other end of the empty hall taking his cleats out of his locker.  I approached the Senior cautiously.  “Wh-wh-where is everybody?  What ha-happened?” I sputtered. “Didn’t you hear, dummy? The President was shot.” The jock banged his metal locker door shut.  The wooden pass dropped to the terrazzo floor.

I walked all the way home that afternoon, November 22, 1963.

 

“Don’t let it be forgot

That once there was a spot

For one brief shining moment

That was known as Camelot”

 September 10, 1963   no responses

 

 

Boys of Summer

1963

1963 was the last idyllic summer of my youth before I turned 16 and got my working papers. Do you still get working papers today? I had to go to a doctor and “cough” to get approval.

I got up at 8am after my parents left for the factory. I had my chores to do: clean the house which meant dusting the furniture, vacuuming every day and scrubbing the toilet with Tidy-Bowl. One day I combined Tidy-Bowl with bleach and was almost asphyxiated by the vapors!

At noon I made lunch for my brother and sister. I had to watch the Match Game and I Love Lucy till 1pm. If I didn’t have to mow the lawn, I would get out our patio lounge chair with multi-color plastic webbing and laze in the shade of our back yard with my heavy plastic transistor radio close by (the kind that the batteries always leakded through with acrid grey yuck). As I drifted in and out of napping while reading James A. Michener’s, exotic novel Caravans, I dreamt of the two Arab boys from the novel, dressed in white briefs dancing languidly in the woods next to me

At 4pm it was time for the Broadway Hour on our local AM radio. They played an entire cast album within the hour and this is how I got to be a Show Tune queen. That summer they started a contest where they played a song and you called in if you knew which musical it came from. Well I was the big winner. I would sit by the phone have six digits dialed on our rotary phone and as soon as I heard the first note of the song I dialed that last digit and got through.

“Is it “Young and Foolish” from the 1955 musical Plain and Fancy starring Barbara Cooke?”  I won a case of Fresca, fried clam lunch at the Dairy Barn, a hot-wax car wash, and two tickets to a local summer stock production of Barefoot in the Park at the Cecilwood Theatre.  I was winning so much that the finally had to make a rule you could only win once a month. But that did not stop me. I had my brother and sister call in for me!

At 5pm the lazy hazy afternoon ended as I set the table and waited for Mom to prepare dinner. Of course I washed the dishes afterwards and brought out the garbage.

 September 3, 1962   no responses

Christmas is right around the corner!

Wow, where did the summer go?

Mums are in and summer is out.

You better not get D’s again in conduct on your report card this year.

Don’t’ worry, Indian summer is coming and it will be hot again.

The beach is better after Labor Day.

The summer doesn’t end on Labor Day.

Boy, did she gain weight over the summer.

When are the Jewish Holidays?

I love the talent section of Miss America.

Is Bert Parks the MC again this year?

How much did Jerry Lewis raise on the telethon?

Are those his real tears?

I bought you a lunch box last year. How did u break the thermos?

I am not making a turkey for Thanksgiving.

We’re eating out this Christmas.

 August 6, 1962   no responses

Toni perm

I was walking past a beauty parlor the other day, a wave of nostalgia overcame me like Proust’s smelling his little cookies. It was the acrid smell of someone getting their hair permed that brought me back to 1950.

There was a Saturday ritual of my mother sitting in a kitchen chair applying the contents of TONI on her hair, a home permanent wave brand concoction. That pungent vinegary smell transports me back to that afternoon with my mother, applying that horrid stuff and asking, “Am I done yet?”  Then she would don this huge plastic bonnet of her Sunbeam Hairdryer and bake!

Because of “Toni”, I always resented when someone spelled my name with an “i”. It’s TONY! Of course in Italy Toni is the way you spell Tony but I was too macho to accept it. Plus growing up I was Anthony anyway and my dad was Tony.  And the boys name Francis is spelled with an “i” so go figure…

 January 26, 1962   no responses

Hey Culligan Man! by pjryan.

My mother tried all different brands of detergents but she couldn’t get a good head of suds in the laundry. When we lived in Brooklyn, Tide was the soap of choice. Once in a while she used Duz if it came with a dish towel in it. But up in Newburgh, the washing machine agitator swirled back and forth in dark gray waters with nary a bubble. My mother was distraught, all the whites were coming out gray and the colors were less than bright. She tried Lux, Borax, Surf and Oxidol to no avail. What was a mother to do?

Our water supply came from a well and a pump in our basement. We were used to the pristine purity of NYC water that travelled all the way from the Catskills in underground aqueducts and out of our faucets – not this infernal metallic country water pumped up from hell. My Dad finally figured out that we had hard water. You can’t get a bubble out of hard water. You couldn’t even get lather up from a good bar of soap when you showered.

Then one day I heard a commercial on the local radio station – “Hey Culligan Man!” The Culligan Water filter system would make everything all right. The water would be soft and sweet and my Moms’ wash the envy of any Chinese laundry or French Cleaners.

Mom had me call up and make an appointment for the water softener to be installed. It involved a complicated hookup in the basement before the water reached the hot water tank. I scheduled a visit for a cold Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12th when the holiday was celebrated on the actual birth date and not watered down into President’s Day sharing it with Washington. My parents still had to work since the factory had an order to get out but I was off from school. About 11 o’clock in the morning, a small van pulled up into our driveway and out came a man in a spiffy gray uniform, The Culligan Man! I opened up our front doror and waved him to go back around the house to basement. He trundled along with a propane like tank on his hand truck. I met him at the back door.

Go to fullsize image

Our basement was dark, humid and unfinished in gray cinder blocks with a dusty concrete floor and dimly lit by a 60 watt naked light bulb bobbing unadorned from the ceiling. Two laundry lines stretched from one end to the other with wet clothes hanging to dry like veils in a harem. I let him in. As the tank bounced over the ridge in the doorway, he caught me staring at him as he struggled to get it up and over. “Hi I’m Jim, you’re Culligan Man.”  He was an attractive guy probably 40 or so, husky with his gray trousers bunching up nicely. He took off his Eisenhower cut jacket to reveal a barrel chest under his white shirt with bow tie. He kept his cap on with a sporty tilt. I brought over a chair from our summer kitchen table set and sat close by to watch him install the tank. Michael and Karen were out playing in the snow so we were alone.

He worked steadily explaining to me step by step all the advantages of the soft water system. He turned off all the water. He cut a section of the pipe, expanding the joint, screwed on a casing and looked back to see me watching. Over the next 20 minutes our eyes often met as he worked and explained to me:

“At Culligan, we understand how important water is to you, your family, and your home. Which is why when you trust Culligan with your water needs, we promise to deliver one thing: better water, pure and simple”

Slowly, meticulously he assembled the unit; lifting and straining to get the pipe to fit into the tank and make a perfect seal. Suddenly turning around to reach up to an overhead connection, he lost his balance a bit as I grabbed him by the waist to hold him in place. We stood there for a moment till I quickly grabbed a towel off the line popping off the clothes pins in my haste to cover my embarrassment.

With a little few little grunts he wiped his brow with a clean rag and cleaned up any mess he had made. “OK it’s ready to go! Why don’t you help me turn it on?” He stood back to admire his work and gestured to proceed. I put my hand on the bright new shiny copper valve he has just installed. It was tight and wouldn’t budge. He put his hand over mine and we both turned it slowly till it moved.  WHOOSH – and a CLANG CLANG . We could hear the water whisking through the pipes into the tank and back out and up and around and up into the house above..

He smiled at a job well done as he gathered up his tools. Putting on his jacket, he asked me to come over to sign off on the job. He held a metal like box and I pressed hard as I signed my name through the carbons. He pulled a lever and out came three copies, white, yellow and pink. I got the yellow slip. His signature, James Mac Donald floated above mine. With a tip of his cap, wink and a smile, he grabbed his hand truck and off he went. I locked the basement door and I ran upstairs. I stood by the living room window, slyly watching through the curtains as he got into his van and drove away.

 

From my pocket I pulled out the now soiled rag I had surreptitiously took while Mr. MacDonald wasn’t looking and  held it to my nose to smell his sweat. With a sigh, I went over to my stereo and put on “Naughty Marietta” from my Readers Digest Collection of Great Operettas. I got undressed and took a shower to test the system.  I sang along “Napoli, Napoli, Na-a-apoli” to the Italian Street Song as I stepped into the tub.  I brought the rag in with me and used it as my washcloth. When “Ah Sweet Mystery of Life” came on, miraculously a rich lather sprang from my bar of Dial soap and I slavered it all over my body in rich luxuriousness. A hot steady spray cascaded from the spigot as the Prell worked up in my hair into a white icing. My body was sleek like an otter as I soaped myself up using his rag.

 “All the longing, seeking, striving, waiting, yearning

The burning hopes, the joy and idle tears that fall

AHHH…”

 The bathroom window fogged up as the room clouded with steam. Anna Moffo and Peter Palmer sang out and reached a melodious peak – “For it is love alone that rules forevermore!”  I almost slipped when I got lost in the moment. I bent over to pick up the dropped bar of soap and the rag that I had dropped now brighlty white, clean from the suds swirling around my feet. Yes, the water was now so soft but I was now so hard. 

“Hey Culliagan Man!”

 January 2, 1962   no responses

It was a stormy afternoon in late October “What are you two doing up there?” my mother yelled up from the bottom of the stairs as Joey was getting close. Too late! As I pulled off to answer her, Joey shot over and past my face and it all landed on my yellow chenille bedspread. I hurriedly yelled back, “Nothing Ma, we’re listening to records.” Whew! I wiped the mess up with my jockey shorts and quickly hoisted them back up. While buckling my jeans, I jumped on the bed, sat on the stain, and pretended to read the LP liner notes on the back of the cast album of No Strings, a musical about an illicit interracial romance. I turned up the volume on Diahann Carroll singing “Loads of Lovely Love.”

Joey was my stocky Italian neighbor who lived around the corner and was a year behind me at Sacred Heart Grammar School. His sister, Celeste was in my class and we called her “Celeste the Chest,” because even in the 8th grade she had big bosoms that the school uniform only accentuated. They were so big that she self consciously walked with her arms folded under them to keep them hidden and aloft. However she was the brightest in the class, the teacher’s pet and was often asked to be the monitor when Sister Vincent left the room. She got back at my tauntings by ratting me out on my class clown shenanigans when Sister returned.

Joey came from a typical large Italian family complete with an ancient toothless Sibyl-like grandmother living in the extra bedroom. They became my surrogate family and Joey’s mom often asked me to have supper with them – I always eagerly accepted. In time I became a pest. I would doggedly hang around, sort of sad sacked, begging to be invited over. No one was ever invited to eat at our house since my Dad had Parkinson’s disease and all visitors were forbidden. So as a typical child I sought love where I could find it at Joey’s dinner table and in Joey’s burly lap.

So on that rainy afternoon, I had invited Joey up to my bedroom to listen to records. We sat on the bed next to each other as I commented on Richard Rodger’s clever idea not to use strings in the instrumentation of his show, No Strings. My hand lay idly next to his soccer thigh as my finger gently stroked the outer seam of his jeans. He did not pull away as we both stared ahead listening to Richard Kiley sing “The most entrancing sight of all is yet for me to see…” My finger tracked a path to his inner seam and traveled north to the bunched-up juncture where the seams gathered at his crouch. Slowly I maneuvered up and flicked the copper slider open on his zipper as I pulled it down over the shiny teeth while they made a nice metallic purr. Joey was wearing box shorts so the jack quickly jumped out of the box. “No Strings, No Strings…” It didn’t take long, but long enough for my mother to get suspicious of why we were being so quiet in my room. “What are you two doing up there?”

Joey jumped up and ran down the stairs, saying good bye to my mother and slamming the screen door behind him as he ran out into the autumn storm. I was still shaking in fear of almost being caught. Side One was over and I flipped the black vinyl disc to Side Two. Diahann CarrolI sang softly to me, “And the dearest love in all the world is waiting somewhere for me…” I quickly took off my BVD’s and with some spittle cleaned up the chenille. But what to do?  I put them back on and walked nonchalantly downstairs to the bathroom. Then I washed the drawers in the sink using the golden bar of Dial soap, and I wrung and wrung every drop I could to get them dry as possible. I put them back on. During dinner I could still feel the clammy bottom of my underwear wedging up and moistening up the green vinyl seats on dinette chair. Pretending to clean up some crumbs, I used my Marcel paper napkin to dry off the chair as I got up to clear the table and wash the dinner dishes.  It wasn’t till Bonanza was over that they were fully dried.

At 10 pm I went upstairs to bed. As I pulled down the covers on my side of our double bed I noticed a small translucent stain on the pillowcase. I quickly jumped, in, pulled the covers over my head and waited for midnight.  Quietly I slipped out of my bed and silently removed the offending pillow case. The house was eerily still, with just the whirr of the fan blowing hot air up through the vent in the bedroom floor grate from the basement’s fiery furnace two floors below. I reached the top of the stairs and slowly descended step by step like a somnambulist, being careful not to slip on the carpeted treads. I was wearing my socks, so I almost skidded on the last one as I grabbed onto the varnished banister to keep from falling but still landing on my butt.

I reached the bathroom and in the darkness turned on the faucets, trying to balance a warm flow of a slow steady stream so as not to make a splashing noise while the water hit the enameled basin. I held the pillow case in my hands, gingerly fingering from the outer edge until the tip of my forefinger reached the dry parchment-like spot. I moved the cloth back and forth under the cleansing stream, gently rubbing with my thumbs like a priest cleaning an ablution cloth after communion. Using a towel that hung on the rack jutting out from the Sears & Roebuck pink plastic bathroom tiles, I pressed out the stain and my afternoon sins.

 

As I was starting to return upstairs, from the dark cavern of the downstairs bedroom my mother moaned out, “Anthony, what’s all that noise? It’s after midnight.” I quickly replied: “I had to go the bathroom, Ma. Go back to sleep.”  “Good, I warned you next time you’ll have to wash your own damn sheets if you pee in that bed again,” she sniped.

I was so nervous, I tripped again on the steps going back up, knocking an arts and crafts picture I made of a Pixie that now appeared to be leering down on me in judgment. I cursed my mother underneath my breath for fouling up my afternoon plans with Joey. I  put the pillow case on the grate and let the hot air blow through the thin worn out fabric. I waited for the next cycle of hot air to start blowing up again to warm up the chilly room and cover my footsteps  as I put the case back on the pillow and flipped it over so the almost dry spot was on the bottom.

My father was snoring lightly in the next bed and I had to push my brother Michael over in our bed to make room for me. I stared up at the attic ceiling and watched the shadows, menacingly dance made by the trees buffeted by the still continuing storm. It was past the witching hour as I drifted off to sleep, dreaming of demonic pixies, Sears & Roebuck catalogue men in their underwear, cackling witches, Celeste tethered like a balloon in the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade  and Joey sleeping across the woods… “waiting somewhere for me”.

The storm subsided. I woke up the next morning with an angelic smile on my face as I hummed  the song, “Joey – Joey Joey, – Joey – Joey Joe” from the Frank Loesser musical, The Most Happy Fella. I stretched my arms luxuriously back behind my head in bed and kicked off the covers. I figured out when we would meet again at Bingo!   But oh, there was another damned spot on the sheets…