Uncle David wasn’t around much the summer of 1969, but evidence of his interests were almost everywhere at Nana’s house. I discovered his Steppenwolf, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, The Ventures and Beach Boys albums and used the TV in his bedroom to watch a rerun of Jack Palance’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Palance was always convincing when it came to evil and repressed violence. “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Spinning Wheel” were album tracks that appealed to my imagination. The Ventures hadn’t yet replaced Leroy Anderson as the background music of late night TV. They were still cool. Listening to the Beach Boys, I kept hearing Chuck Berry melodies and was happy to see he was given credit in the track listing parenthesis. I wondered why the Beach Boys weren’t doing something original like The Beatles, then I heard “Good Vibrations” and “Heroes and Villains” and recognized that they could also do something new and original. I discovered an old pinball machine and everything necessary to assemble a shotgun shell in the garage. I even found David’s shotgun.
I spent a lot of time that summer talking to Curt, Norman, and one of their new friends, Nick, about the drug references in Beatle songs. These discussions took place on a couch in Mrs. DeElton’s basement where the old barber chair was still the centerpiece. I still liked to go for a spin and would listen to the trio talk about getting high and sex while I went round and round. They were extremely interested in hallucinogenic drugs. Curt even said that he had tried LSD once on the other side of the basement where it was dark and dirty.
I didn’t spend much time with Nana and Grandma that summer. Nana wasn’t feeling well and Grandma was away at work most of the time. I was on my own, doing whatever I wanted to do, and that was just fine with me. The previous summer, I had slept in Grandma’s bed, but this time around I used an extra bed in David’s room. I was told not to mention sleeping with Grandma to any of my friends. I wasn’t really sure why that was important since I slept with Grandma when I was little, but Nana and Grandma seemed to be concerned about what other people might think, so I kept it to myself. At the time, I thought it might have something to do with them being too poor to have an extra bed for me, but now I realize that they didn’t want people to think I was being sexually abused. I wasn’t.
The summer of 1969, I spent a lot of time meditating on Mrs. DeElton’s front stairs. I would sit there with my eyes closed for a longtime letting my mind wander. Jeannie gave me some chocolate that she said was dosed with a mind altering drug, but it was only Ex-Lax. My mind was not altered. David came by while I was sitting on the stairs and we talked for a long time about many things. He seemed different to me. Nicer.
David had been to Vietnam and had stories about Vietnamese prostitutes with razor blades between their legs that they used to emasculate American soldiers. He didn’t talk about war. All he had to share was sexual horror stories. He talked me into buying his pinball machine for fifteen dollars, but when it came time to go home at the end of summer, my father told me that there was no place to put it and no way to transport it. It was left behind with my fifteen dollars.
I was becoming a horror film aficionado and there was a film playing at the Fairfax called The Witchmaker that was a must see. I was told that there was some female nudity in the film, which was true, but as low budget horror movies go this one had some scary moments. It was dark when the film got out. I didn’t walk home. I ran.
I had been reading a pornographic novel that I found in David’s room. Thanks to the novel’s graphic descriptions of various kinds of love making, I could hold my own in the boys club discussions that went on in Mrs. DeElton’s basement. The carnival aspect of some of the Beatles’ songs and our teenage knowledge of carnival type rides like the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Zipper lead to the creation of the Sex Fair, a teenager’s misogynistic fantasy that was Fellinesque before any of us had ever heard of Fellini. The Zipper, for example, became the Unzip Her.
Vincent Price made so many bad movies better. I saw House of Wax, in 3D, on the big screen when it was re-released in the early sixties, but my first exposure to The Tingler was on afternoon TV. All the kids on the block must have been watching that movie. We were all talking about it for days. I put a rubber glove in the bathroom sink and covered it with catsup to scare Jeannie when I was about ten and she ran home in tears. In the summer of 1969, I decided to take scarring the girl-next-door one step further.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that a shotgun shell without a load of BBs was just a cap and gun with just a cap was a cap gun. I went around the neighborhood popping off blanks and at one point held the gun out Grandma’s bedroom window and called Jeannie to her bedroom window. I pointed the gun and shot right at her. Boy, was she frightened. I never saw anyone look that frightened who wasn’t in a movie. I guess she didn’t tell on me because there were no repercussions to my blast. I put the gun away and never felt like playing with guns again unless it was for a movie or a photoshoot.