And now it’s here, summer, and I am thinking of how it was when the days were long and the nights were hot. The lights were bright and the music was good. I remember.
In fact, I remember it all. I remember the bars on the waterfront and the friends I thought I’d know forever.
I remember the songs that played throughout different periods of the night and towards the later hours; they’d always play the song Sweet Caroline at a place called Paddy McGee’s.
Everyone sang along too.
At this point, the crowd was thick and the liquor had flowed enough to fuel the patrons that stood and danced around at the outside bar, which was on the canal, and tucked away in a town called Island Park
This was our go to place during the summer. We’d always swear we’d go somewhere else, but lo and behold, we’d always end up at Paddy’s on the weekends.
We were young and untested then. We were also young and unmolested by many of life’s circumstances. We were unaware of the things that come with adulthood. And of course we were. We were just puppies then. We were young men pretending to be grown and pretending to know what we were doing. But truth be told, we had no idea what was in store for us.
I was on the verge of so many new things. I was in an awkward phase, which was uncomfortable, but I was also approaching new things, a new life, and the new idea of breaking away and moving out into my own new world.
Like I said, however, I was young. Like I said, I was untested and unmolested by things like having a mortgage or even a steady car payment. At the time, I drove a beat-up blue four-door Chevy with blue fabric interior, a sagging headliner above the driver’s side, and a windshield that slightly leaked during heavy rains.
The trunk of my car was filled with garbage and the remnants of other wild occasions and overnight trips that turned crazy. I didn’t have much money. I didn’t have much of anything at the time. But I had my youth.
I had no intentions of attempting love or at least a truly intimate and meaningful relationship. I had been burned by this previously and swore that love did not work, nor was it real.
If anything, I believed love was an acquired taste, which to me this meant that no one really ever loved each other (except for our parents) they just endured one another and stayed together because this is what we are taught to do.
Things like marriage, family, children, and the two car garage and the white picket fence was a blueprint forced upon us all, which I wanted no part of; but yet, I did want a part of it.
In fact, I wanted it all but I was too afraid to dare and subject myself to the vulnerable emotion of love and fear of love going without return.
Ah, what it was to be young; to confuse lust with something meaningful. I was in transition. I was in the middle of changing crowds and changing my mindset.
I was insecure about a lot of things and growing, going out, living as fast as I could, exploring, and finding out what it means to break the hours of dawn, and yet, somehow, I still make it to work the next day. I swear I had nine lives at the time or maybe even ten or twelve.
There were different places we went to throughout the year. Summertime was strictly for the waterfront though. We would make our journeys out to the East End and to some of the East End hot spots.
I have nights which I remember after a few sexual escapades that were equally triumphant and especially lonely.
I recall and morning in Southampton, parked by the beach. I was sleeping in the backseat of my car with a strange girl whose name I never knew.
She smelled like the drinks she drank and the cigarettes we smoked. She was blonde, pretty I suppose, and half-sleeping, half-drunk, and halfway coherently talking about her friends, which she had no way of getting in touch with.
I recall standing with my outfit from the previous night hanging on my body, my long hair messily blown by a kind, offshore breeze. My shirt untucked, belt buckle and top pant button was open with my fly unzipped mostly down.
I pulled out one of the last few Camel cigarettes from a mainly crushed box, placed the filter in my mouth with my best stance to seem cool. I lit the end of my smoke and blew the excess up into the somewhat gray morning air.
There was a haze to the morning. The sun had just made its way onto the scene and had only begun to burn its way through the clouds. I smoked my cigarette and faced the ocean. I watched the waves come in and pull back to sea. Meanwhile, there was a girl in my car, talking to herself, and complaining about the fact that she had no idea how she would get home.
Keep in mind; this was far before the cell phone era. This is back when people actually went out and interacted.
This was the time of my young adulthood. I was free to be me and free to explore. I was unattached but wishing I could find someone that I could attach to and not feel lonely or be on guard all the time.
I remember one of the girls I knew used to tell us how she kissed a few frogs in her day. I suppose this meant she was trying to find her prince, which is not to say she was princess material either.
However, I was never sure how to explain the other side of this equation.
The only thing I could think of was the glass slipper and trying to find the right fit—and that was it.
That’s all I’ve always been trying to do. I’ve always wanted to find the right fit.
Safe to say the drunken girl who babbled in the backseat of my car and smelled from kamikaze mix (or whatever drink it was) was not the fit for me. I knew she wasn’t going to be my princess or inevitably my queen.
But who then?
It is summer now. If this were back in the day, every weekend would be spent out somewhere, sunning throughout the day, home to shower and eat, dress myself, and then back out to find my fit.
I tell you I was about to make a change. This was around the time my love affair with the city began to switch gears.
I was working in the city. I was there on a daily basis but my love affair changed one night when I decided to break away from my crowd.
I took a walk downtown near the Hudson. I saw the moonlight shine within the indentations of the moving ripples along river’s surface. I saw the buildings across the way, which was New Jersey, which seemed like another country to me. There was so much I had yet to inspect or explore. There was so much I hadn’t done.
There were things I was intimidated by. There were dreams I had. There were things I wanted to try but I was always held up by the taste of my social crowd. I had never dared to be me, which means that I had never dared to be free either.
I remember walking up 14th street on the Westside where the streets were still cobblestone. I remember walking around and looking at the different types of people. Some were regular and straight laced. Some were a bit more fashionable. Some were crazy, some were wild and some men were dressed as women.
What I admired most was not the way people were or who they were. What I admired is people walked around, comfortable to be them, exposed without fear, and me, I was this kid from another planet and literally afraid of everything.
I thought of some of the writers that came from the downtown scene. I wondered if this could ever be me, writing, hopefully with something interesting to say.
I was young at the time and too afraid. I was eager though. I was hungry and burning to live but I was still too cautious to shed my old skin. I was too afraid to tell anybody my dreams. But moreover, I would never tell my dreams to anyone because what if I mention my dreams and they never come true?
How do I rebound from that?
Most of the old places we used to go are all gone now. Paddy’s shut down several years ago. The places in the Hamptons are a mystery to me now. Besides, the world seems less sociable now that technology has pulled off its trick. Everything is cell phones and texting. They have apps now. Back in the day, apps meant appetizers to a meal. But not anymore . . .
Know what I miss?
I miss the diner runs after the late long nights. We all met there. We all order the usual meals. And me, I ordered a cheeseburger deluxe with fries covered in melted mozzarella cheese and brown gravy on the side.
I miss the songs I’d only hear while standing outside at the bar at Paddy’s. I miss the people I swore I’d always know and always be friends with.
I miss the old friends that moved away and passed away. I miss the endurance of youth and my body’s ability to heal and be more resilient.
I even miss the lonely dilemmas. I miss the moments of reflection I’d have after the night was over, wondering if I would ever find my way or find the place where I could fit.
If you would have told the 26 year-old version of me that this would be me at 46, I probably would have laughed.
Then again, I might have been happy because no matter how long it took me; at least I did something to move closer to my dream.
I suppose the younger version of me would be happy to know that I moved away from the crowds. I’d be happy to know that being alone is not so lonely or tragic. I’d have been relieved to know that it is okay to go out and do your own thing without the need for approval.
Would I go through it again if I could?
Probably not . . .
Sometimes I get a bit nostalgic though. I listen to songs that would play in the places we used to go. I close my eyes and smile because whether the time was good or bad, at least I can say I lived.
I can say I did the dance, that’s for sure.
I used to have a friend named Johnny the Rug. I will spare the details of The Rug’s name or the reasons behind it.
But hell, that kid was a trip.
No class. No filter. But he was good time.
One night he pissed of one of the shot girls/waitresses at a place called Bright Fellows. She was yelling at him and then me and then at my friend Pete.
She was carrying a drink tray, which was green and semi-rounded with an indentation meant to fit against the side of the shot girl’s body.
There was a grip from the bottom for the shot girl’s hand so she could hold the tray up while carrying drinks.
However, on top and to the side of her shots, which were like test tubes of colored liquor was a black box. In this black contraption was the shot girl’s little cash box.
I grew tired of her yelling at me because I don’t drink. I grew tired of her yelling at Johnny the Rug and Pete as well.
So, I shamefully (but not so shamefully) admit that in mid insult, as the shot girl was barking her degrading comments to my friends, I slipped behind her and swiped her little black box from the top of her drink tray without detection. She was so busy yelling and being a bitch that she failed to notice what happened.
My friends were drunk at the time of the theft. Suddenly, the shot girl realized her little black box was missing. She started screaming at my friends, “Where’s my box?”
“Where’s my black box?”
She threatened and cursed and threatened some more
Johnny the Rug was never quick to begin with. He was good and drunk. So was Pete. They had no idea of the box nor did they see me take said box, walk away to the other side of the club, empty the contents, which was only about $45, and then I made my way back to my friends. They had no idea why this little pint size of an average, mediocre, somewhat decent bodied, but not suited well, and foul mouthed shot girl was shouting in their faces about a black box.
I approached them.
“We have to go,” I said sternly but in a calm way to not cause attention.
“That girl was yelling at me about a black box,” said Johnny the Rug.
“Did you take her box,” asked Pete, to which I answered with a smile, “We really have to go. Like, right now!”
I am not that guy anymore. I don’t steal or condone stealing by any means but the shot girl had it coming!
Ah, to be
young and not care about consequences.
To be young and untested or unmolested by life’s terms and still believe I could conquer the world
Think I’ll go listen to a song by a band called Looking Glass. Or maybe I can listen to Thin Lizzy. Or wait no. I can listen to Steely Dan’s Reeling in the Years