Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Betwixt, Between Pt. 1

Caught Betwixt and Between

“You don't know what's going on
You've been away for far too long

You're out of touch, my baby
My poor discarded baby
I said, baby, baby, baby, you're out of time”

That song and those words by the Rolling Stones. Damn. I remember sitting in my room and listening to that song and realizing how true to life it was. They burned with meaning. I was out of touch without a doubt.

In the summer, post Staunton Military School, I felt like a stranger in a strange land. Though I was home with all those creature comforts, home cooked meals and family support, becoming a normal public high school student after the strict rigors of SMA was going to prove awkward. No dawn reveille, uniforms, drills and parades- all that was gone. The senior year lay ahead.

Such was my state of mind, I woke up one morning and literally clawed the wall with frustration. The marks remained there for the time we lived there, serving as reminder of what it felt like to be a teenager.

First, my appearance was out of touch with the times. This was the roaring ‘70’s, a time for sideburns, mustaches and long, long hair. Mine hair was regulation short and for people who did not know me, they probably suspected I was a narc. Of course, my friends at first howled with laughter. They handed me a cruel nickname for a while, I just can’t remember what it was (soldier boy?), but it sure stung. When your pals laugh at you, that brings you down, down, down.

My chief compadre during this period was Charlie. Charlie made life bearable in that period. We were thick as thieves.

Charlie and I enjoyed a mutual sense of sarcastic humor, all kinds of music, a love of cheap kung fu movies, and getting blitzed as much as possible on the weekends. Charlie was smarter than me and could fit easily into the advanced classes, whereas I was not of that cut. We both viewed ourselves as outsiders as we weren’t jocks (though Charlie practiced karate), socialites, egg heads, nor real stoners for that matter.

Charlie and I would walk for miles up and down Kanawha City, looking for something to do. With no driver’s license, you hoofed it to get out from under the parental regime; free to be a stupid teenager. One night, we ended up in the local donut shop. (One note: I wore a blue wait jacket that looked like it was military. Added to the effect.) We were sitting at the counter, drinking coffee and stuffing down donuts, when Charlie noticed that an older man was eavesdropping. He started a conversation that didn’t make sense at first, but then I got where he was going. The gist of it went something like this.

“What are you gonna do, man?”
“I don’t know.”
“But going AWOL is a crime.”
“Yeah, it is.”
Mr. Old Perky Ears was beaming. He could not have been more obvious.
“But did you have to hit him?”
Pregnant pause and look of consternation.
“Yeah, I did. I had to get out of there. I couldn’t take it anymore.”
We both did our best amateur acting, keeping the affair serious.

It wasn’t until we were outside that we let down the façade.

One evening, we decided to share and be helpful, as it were, to our fellow KC residents. An open window provided us an chance to release a delicate fragrance (Generously provided by a plumbing elbow pipe nicknamed “Dillinger” because it released a two inch “shotgun” cloud. There also was a "Dr. Grabo" in use at one time or another.) into an apartment. Not a particularly bright idea, but it was amusing at the time. We also "perfumed" some one's jeep. We watched them get out and go into the drug store. Like the crazy bastards we were, we opened the door and gave the owner something fresh scent to contemplate when they returned. When the dude returned, I have wondered what went through his head.

Charlie tried to teach me karate or taekwondo in vain. I even took a class with him at a local church. It was a helluva workout. The thing is, I would try to practice this under strange circumstances.

There used to be a movie theater in KC, long before your multi-plexoramas were a bad dream in some corporate toadie's head. Some really awful kung fu movie was playing and we just had to go. We grabbed the front row, our heads leaning back just to get the full screen view. On this occasion, Charlie was the one with the greater sobriety and it fell to him, poor man, to keep me in line. When the Jaws trailer came on the screen, I about came out of my seat. In fact, I think I slid several times onto the floor. It was if I was deep in the ocean swimming with the shark. Yes, kids, I was very taken by this trailer. Charlie, acting as the patient adult, would ignore my behavior or reel me back in.

Once the kung fu extravaganza began, I kept sending karate chops his way throughout the movie. As he would tell it later, my pathetic attempts at the martial arts were so slow and sloppy that he blocked them and kept on watching the film. He could have smashed my face, but much to his credit, restrained himself.

I did break him up one during the film. The bad guy was having his way with a young concubine and after about five grunts, he climaxed. "What a great lover." was my only coherent comic aside for the day, but it was a direct hit and had him laughing hard.

One of our friends was working the concession stand and I said hello to him as I went into the bathroom. Evidently, I did some martial arts exercises in there- if you can just imagine. When I got back to my seat, Charlie asked, "Where the hell were you?" I didn't realize that I'd been gone that long. Time is relative after all.

When we were leaving, Charlie had a convo with the concession guy about me, claiming he kept hearing strange noises coming from the bathroom. He explained that the Kung Fu master had decided to practice in the bathroom. God knows what I did.

More fun to come.

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