The older I get, the more I grasp the concept of tempus fugit.
Time flies, baby.
After all, here I am in late July – the year more than half over – and stunned by how quickly each page seems to tear itself from the calendar.
When I was a kid, the summer seemed so blissfully long (some might argue, achingly long, depending upon how frequently they uttered the expression “I’m boo-rrrr-eedddd! What am I going to do today?”) You exited school in late June and those still-warm days of early September seemed an eternity away. Forget the Gregorian grasp on your birth date – you never really aged until you tossed the whites in storage and graduated to your next level of schooling. That step always seemed like an eternity – even when you were stuffing your last S’more of the season down your pie hole mere moments before that initial blast of the bell and a brand new school year.
For those of you who read my best bud Sean’s Blog, you’ve no doubt heard tale of his great archeological find. An audio cassette tape – thought lost for the ages – was recently unearthed from its decades long hiding place. I believe it was nestled between that ancient Pepsi and his collection of movie ticket stubs from the year 1992. (“Yeah – wouldn’t want to part with that vintage Hanover Mall – Cinema 4 – Universal Soldier – Admit One”.
Anyway, you can read Sean’ tale there which is mostly spot on (even though he posesses details I either forgot or was not privy to – being on the other end of the meet and greet).
One important element left out – and the absolute essential for all great origin tales – is the initial conflict that must be overcome. I speak of a war that began between his former co-consiprator, Johnny B (a.k.a. Johnny Disco but not to be confused with Johnny’s Bravo, Dangerously or #5) and I.
It all started one sultry summer’s morn – positioned at the exact epicenter of my annual “I’m booo-rrrr-eeed as hell… and I’m not gonna’ take it anymore” rant – as I exited my house on Albion Street with a gleaming white egg in my pocket. I didn’t know what I was going to do with this orb, but I knew for damn sure I wouldn’t be eating it. Not because I meant any mischief, it’s just that brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note this was an ivory oval and hence, I hadn’t a clue of its shelf life. Plus there’s the fact that I can’t stand the taste of eggs.
There I stood on my front step, staring down a summer’s day of infinite possibilities. There I stood on my doorstep, a gawky teen with his hair shellacked in such a spiky porcupine pompadour it would give a taxidermist wet dreams for a week. There I stood with a white egg in my pocket that I had zero intention of imbibing. There I stood awaiting fate.
Destiny arrived in the guise of one Johnny Disco.
See, on that particular day, Disco made the mistake of cutting through my L shaped side road in lieu of sticking to the main thoroughfare of Rockland, MA. By turning onto my street, Disco decided to run the gauntlet as my street was a veritable hive of ruffians, malcontents and scalawags. Oh and there was this one guy who cross-stitched our whiffleball uniforms. Hey, every hive needs its queen.
Had fab fly Johnny Disco been on the wall rather than in the ointment, he would have caught this dire warning mere moments before mental synapse coaxed a left out of him onto Destiny Drive.
My Friend Steve: Hey, what do you have there in your pocket? A 38 special?
Me: About 12 inches! (Back in my day, I was the local Guttenberg. Yup, I was a regular Mahoney.)
My Friend Steve: Seriously.
Me: Oh, this. (pulling out the egg) Say hello to my little friend. This is my Blue Plate Special. (Yup, I was a pitch-perfect Pinchow.)
My Friend Steve: What are you going to do with it? (Pause) Eat it?!? You know, brown eggs are…
Me: I reckon I’m gonna’ throw it at someone.
Unfortunately, Johnny B was not privy to that back and forth and so he continued on his merry old way – while at the end of the road – I took turns polishing my egg and coaxing my spikes skyward with a generous reapplication of Dep.
Finally, the moment of truth arrives. Johnny B hits the nexus of Albion Street. All’s quiet save for a makeshift tumbleweed of Big League Chew wrappers rolling in the stiff breeze. Disco takes a right to continue on his way home – (“almost home”, he whispers) – when suddenly ‘porcelain death’ crosses his gaze. From my perch behind a tree, I had let the egg soar but had miscalculated. The egg flew a few inches ahead of his brow and crashed harmlessly on the pavement. Disco turned to ID his assailant. He caught my weary gaze and suddenly found himself swarmed on all sides by the Albion Street Irregulars. Sensing his retaliation would have to wait for another day, he quickly beat a retreat. My gaze turned down towards his soles and I detected a minor victory. Trailing off his fleeing combat boots was a slight wisp of yoke. I had made my mark. I had earned my gang stripes. It would be 40’s all around, that evening.
Two minor victories were celebrated that day. While my posse feted me for such a crowd-pleasing display of absolute cowardice, Johnny Disco walked home with the invaluable knowledge that he now knew his assailant. I could have blended into the crowd, chased my osmosis jones and become Borg, but I had stood a few inches forward buoyed by my backup. A statue of bravery cast in balsa. Disco knew his mark and had gathered enough information to ascertain where to strike. After all, a 3.8 fl oz tube of Dep Gel could only last so long. He would trap his quarry at Brooks Pharmacy.
2.5 hours passed and I realized I needed to make a gel run. I scanned the neighborhood looking for back-up, but everyone had mosied off to their afternoon siesta. If I went too long without my own brand of hair poisoning pomade, I knew those nagging pangs would strike and I’d reach for any stiffener I could find. That’s the slippery slope that ends with a fella’ secretly taking squirts of his sister’s Aqua-Net to chase the addiction. I couldn’t have the death of the Ozone layer and the subsequent billions of humans that follow on my good conscience.
So, I jumped on my sister’s powder puff pink Huffy BMX (mine was in the shop) and cruised on down to the Rockland Plaza, a shopping center situated mere yards from Johnny Disco’s lair.
My eyes darted everywhere, surveying the parking lot. The Rockland Trust. The dumpsters behind K-Mart. The Cajun Joe’s chicken joint. The coast was clear. I entered Brooks and made a bee-line for the H & B lane.
After fumbling through the inventory, I found exactly what I was looking for. Dep Gel Lavender Scented Mega Sticky Hold & Sea Cucumber Spritz – “the way a man was supposed to smell.” As I stood up, my eyes were fixed by a vamp’s gaze. Johnny B had found me and stood a mere aisle away from me. And he brought muscle.
Enter Sean O’Brien.
I know what you’re thinking. Who brings a pipe cleaner to an egg fight?
See – I told you this one is the origin tale. How interesting that it took so long for OB to enter the story? Anyway, Johnny B let his eyes do all the talking and what his eyes said were, if we don’t settle this now, I’m gonna’ let my string bean friend eat you alive. I got the message loud and clear. Seeing how skinny this guy was, he had to be like Kate Moss ravenous.
Now, in a perfect world, a guy would admit he is wrong, apologize to Johnny B for the unfortunate egg incident, shake hands and put the whole sordid affair behind him. That’s in a perfect world.
This is reality. Israel bombards Hezbollah. Pepsi challenges Coke. Scott Baio hates Erin Moran.
Thus I do the very worst possible thing. I grab for the first thing I can find on Johnny B’s person – his backpack – and run into the parking lot launching it through the 5-inch wide gap opening of a locked Chevy Astrovan.
Essentially, I practice a little martial tactic of brinksmanship. I play Kruschev to Disco’s Kennedy. I bring my world to the brink of war.
So Johnny B and his flunky Jack Skellington grab me and force me to wait alongside this car for an hour – for the return of the car’s owner so that I can explain how Disco’s backpack ended up on their His and Her monogrammed floor mats. And wouldn’t you know it – when the owners did return – they end up being a married couple from my family’s church who know me well enough to offer a polite “we understand” yet not so well enough that they won’t offer me up as this year’s whicker man at the strange pagan burning festival said church holds each year.
Anyway, let’s skip ahead a bit. Months pass and this terrible trio engages in the same dirty dance. Sometimes I gain ground while other times they wield the high hat. For example, there was the time they tossed my BoSox hat to the top of the Papa Gino’s roof – where a quick check on Google Earth tells me, it still resides.
As I neared 15 ½ – the legal age for gainful employment and gun running in the great state of Massachusetts – I decided I needed to get a job to fund my wicked Jolt addiction. Perusing the options laid out across the great metropolis of Rockland, MA – I quickly realized it was either the salt mines or Papa Gino’s for me. Blechhhh. I’ll take the salt mines. Of course, the salt mines wouldn’t have me (too dainty they said as I sniffed), so in lickety split fashion I was hired at Papa’s.
Day One on the job anywhere is the easiest day of your life. You perform a little meet and greet. You quickly size up who’s hot or not. You get deluged with a ton of information that you are virtually guaranteed to perform a brain dump of that evening in your sleep. And then they stick you with some menial job that any chimp can handle – be it dish washing or tunnel ceiling installation.
As this tale twists, Day 1 on the job at Papa Gino’s introduced me to my new coworkers – Johnny B and Slim Shady or Sean O’Brien to you laymen. Geez, what is with these guys and my karma.
Anyway, this ended up being for the best. You spend enough time in the foxholes with someone and even your worst enemy can become your best friend. Although – now that I think of it – that’s a terrible philosophy. If you catch your enemy in your foxhole you better damn well fire off every last bullet into their brain pan as their apt to do the same to you. Ahhh, my kingdom for a time machine…
Anyway, my tour of duty at Papa’s brought Sean and I in heavy rotation. And as year’s passed by – Sean drifted out of Johnny B’s orbit and stated hanging with my bud Jay, myself and a few other cronies. Eventually Sean and I solidified the bond and became the BFF (Best Friends Forever – which we remind ourselves of before braiding our hair and settling in for a night of So You Think You Can Dance). Of course, this inevitability was aided and abetted by the Chili Peppers and Lollapalooza as Sean and Disco had tix to the the show and Johnny B ended up ditching Sean with no announcement. Then came word that Johnny B was headed off to Cali to pursue his dreams. Before you knew it, I had myself a flunky.
All right – I’ve rambled on long enough. This is merely prologue to the great adventures that we and our supporting cast of great friends and associates have had over the years. But that’s a tale for another issue.