There was a force inside of us. Or maybe this was more like a need to feel young or a need to have the crazy rush of adrenaline. There is an undeniable need that only comes when you’re still young enough to dare the edge but old enough to gain entry to the big show.
Remember standing on line to a front door where a bouncer stood and asked us for I.D.? The music from inside leaked to the outdoors, like some crazy ride, and here we were, all of us about to enter the demented carnivals of an insane nightlife called “The Club Scene.”
There was a big rush of people heading out east on Long Island. The beaches were officially open and the summer houses were occupied by gangs of crazy kids that planned their summer to be up all night and comatose and hungover on the beach the next day.
Summer living was underway. Pete came up with the last minute idea to head out to Westhampton on a Saturday night during Father’s Day weekend. Johnny the Rug was with us too.
Johnny was hairy as ever and fur-like. I picked his nickname during a playful volley of insults on the beach one day.
I was always the skinny one. I was scrawny and small. Johnny kept on poking at me about this.
I told him, “You have a body like a carpet!” and went off on his hairy chest and back, calling him “A hairy fuck!”
Johnny the Rug insisted this was “manly,” he said.
“You look like a shaggy rug,” I said. Hence the name, Johnny the Rug.
We were all friends and all at the beginning of real life experience. Neither of us knew which direction we would go in. Pete came from money and Johnny pretended to be rich. I was broke and drove around in an old beat-up car.
Safe to say we were all crazy misfits. Johnny walked, talked, and acted, as if he was planning to be the first Greek captain in the mafia. He had a typical “Guido” style that was slightly outdated, even for Guidos.
Pete was short. He was exceptionally smart and very quick. He always had a line to say or a story to tell. He was not always exceptionally picky after a few drinks and the girls he chased often led to the next morning of regret.
We drove out to a place called C.P.I.’s which was big with different rooms and different genres of music. There was a bar outside with a blues player on his harmonica. He sung songs like Red House and Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix. He was pretty good too.
The main room was a large dance hall with crowds of people. Everyone danced. Everyone was beautiful in one way or another. There was something amazing about this.
There was something sexy about this too — the way people danced and the way bodies moved and grinded together. There was skin and flesh and sweat. Everyone was tanned and fresh from the beach. The music blared and the bass thumped to the point where everyone lost their minds.
After a while, the heat was so much, you’d have to step outside to get some air. This is where I would go to hear the jazz bands and listen to the blues player blow his harp.
I saw everyone here. I saw people from my old crowd and my new crowd. I saw people that I knew from different times in my life. Some of them were good people and some were dangerous.
I saw my friend Wally dancing around like a madman. Sweat was literally dripping from his body as if he were dancing at a rave and the ecstasy took hold. His dancing was literally unstoppable.
Wally himself was also unstoppable. Big, tall, strong, and extremely capable; Wally was no stranger to a fight and no stranger to beating up bouncers at a few other venues. Safe to say, I was grateful to see him on several occasions. He used to watch my back for me.
This was as wild as anyone could ever be. I met a girl that night. She was in a band called Bitch Noise. Somehow, I remember this but I don’t know why. She was the bass player and odd as ever. She smelled from a perfume that I couldn’t stand. She smelled like bug spray to me. But hey, we were out. We were young. And we were all crazy as ever.
There were times like this when it was good to lose one’s self. This fit the need to lose one’s mind into the mindlessness of absolute insanity.
I didn’t have to think. I didn’t worry. I didn’t do anything but let the music hit my bones and drive me like a machine.
It was perfect.
Somehow, the party went on and extended to a beach house that was mainly falling apart. The front porch was slanted and the boards were in need of repair. The inside was damp as could be. There were bodies on the floor, sleeping in every room. The place was a wreck; in fact, the house was condemned and claimed to be”unsafe”a short while after. And me, as usual, I couldn’t sleep. Especially not in a place like this.
I took a step outside and lit up one of my smokes. The sun was up and so were a few of my friends. We talked for a bit until the rest of them decided to try and sleep. A few of the people in the house were surfers — and as bad as they were the night before, and as much as they still reeked from the bar and the shots from pretty little shot-girls at the club, and as much as they could hardly stand just a few hours before, they all woke up and ran out of the house with surfboards in hand.
One of them stopped at the toilet to vomit first. He wiped his chin and saw me on the porch.
“See ya around,” he said and then ran over and jumped into the back of a jeep-like truck, which I think was a truck made by International, called a Scout.
Either way, if ever there was a typical surfer’s vehicle; this was it. Beat-up, cool, and screaming the statement of what it means to be young, wild, and totally out of control.
I was alone for a moment. I was thinking about the day, which was Father’s Day morning. I was thinking about The Old Man and what he would say if he saw me then. I suppose he would have laughed. I suppose he would have told me to be careful. He’d have told me, “It’s your turn, kid. Go enjoy yourself.”
There is an age we all go through. And this is the time. This is the window when you can go absolutely crazy. Nothing else matters but the speed of the moment. Live fast. Live loud. Live hard and put everything on the table. Go all-in and leave nothing up to the judges.
There are people that never felt this way. There are people that never lived a moment like this in their lives. There are people that look back and say, “Hey, you know what? I wish I did something crazy. At least once.”
I will always remember this night. I will remember the bartender that flagged me down because he said I had a counterfeit $50 bill, which it might have been fake. I was never too sure.
Johnny the Rug slept on the car ride home. But not me. Pete dropped me off at my car. It was early but late enough in the day that the cemetery was open. I made my way over to visit The Old Man and tell him about the night I had. I told him about the girl from Bitch Noise. I told him about Johnny the Rug and Pete. I even told him about the surfers.
The funny thing about my memories are everyone is young in them. And here I am now, more than two decades later. I haven’t seen Pete in years. Johnny the Rug looks older now. I’m sure Pete does too.
I think about the screaming lunatics that I met that night and I laugh because chances are — these people are probably parents now. They have mortgages and bad backs. Some are bald. Some of the thin ones are overweight now. Some of them are living elsewhere in the afterlife.
Some of them ran around with underwear on their heads and now they’re part of political parties. Crazy, right?
A young friend once told me, “You’re lucky to have memories like this.”
My friend told me, “I don’t have any memories like that.”
We talked for a while. I told the story about the prom I never had and the things I never did. I told about my youth and the fact that while everyone was living the wildlife or going off to college, I was away on a farm because of a list of poor choices that led me to incarceration.
It was suggested to me that although I missed out on my youth, there is no law which states that I cannot find a moment to go out, be crazy, howl with the best of them and break the dawn again. Life can start now, if I choose to start over.
I often regard the words of Charles Bukowski when he said, “Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.”
I know I can’t get my youth back or regain the lost moments or missed opportunities. But there is nothing that says I cannot live now or dance as hard as I can . . .
until I feel free.