Diary Entry, May 8, 1961
IN WHICH I learn not quite enough about love.
On the playing field of girlfriend getting, my best friend Steve scored a touchdown his first try. Continue reading “First Girl”
Dating at thirteen is never what you expect: a mishmash of guesswork and lucky moves.
IN WHICH I learn the Facts of Life. Twice.
Dad picked the wrong time and place to explain The Facts to me. The time, well that’s complicated. I’ll get to that. But the place . . .
IN WHICH I learn one way of dealing with a bully.
The solution to three years of Dickie Shears whaling on me was right in front of me and I wasn’t getting it.
There had to have been something about me that attracted these hoods.
You may not believe what I’m about to tell you, and I wouldn’t blame you. I have trouble believing it myself, nearly sixty years later.
IN WHICH I learn the subtle side of conflict.
Paul Dabuse was the toughest kid in the seventh grade and I knew this because I once saw him fight. It was enough to brand him in my brain as someone I didn’t want to mess with. Continue reading “Bullyland, Part II: Up a Notch”
It’s a perfect three-minute teaser for a legendary western by the same name, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.
The song opens with a languid intro on the fiddle, followed by a simple quadruple drum pattern. Then, rising dramatic tension. A few bars later the voice enters, with a tessitura so distinctive I’d never heard one like it before or since. It was halfway between a country vocalist and a pop balladeer. The singer sets the story by painting a scary picture of a villain who terrorizes the townspeople with his “straight and fast” shooting. In the next stanza, the singer’s quavering voice softens the music to introduce an unobtrusive female chorus. In one line he describes the hero, a reasonable man who just wants to live in peace with his girl despite the gruesome gunslinger terrorizing them. Rising crescendos in the chorus inject even more tension, tattoos on the snare drum imitate gunshots, and the song suddenly ends, ambiguously, cagily, without revealing its surprise. It’s a perfect three-minute teaser for a legendary western by the same name. Continue reading “Why We Listened to Gene Pitney”
Chris Montez1 had it right. “Any old dance that you wanna do.” When I was 13 at Holton-Richmond Junior High2, attending class in wooden desks with dried-up ink wells, I used to go to the school dances that happened third Friday each month. They were called “mixers,” because that’s what the girls and boys were supposed to do. Mix with adults gaping on. Of course not many of us did. The concept of a sock hop, with minimal supervision and an outta sight disk jockey, was yet to be in Danvers, Massachusetts.