Tuesday, December 23, 2014

***The Teen Scene In Between- With Ike Turner’s Rocket 88 In Mind  

…she hadn’t thought about the upcoming date all that much, hadn’t thought about how Art was going to squire her to the first dance of the school year, the decisive Fall Frolic. She had been slow, late 1950s bewildered young woman who had gotten her “friend” late slow in the boy department (her period but every girl called it anything but that and she had come  to rely on that designation as being as appropriate as any although it was anything but a friend more like a curse). Although given her total logged time on the girlfriend telephone, many times the midnight telephone when she was lonely, lonely more so of late as she had been more distracted, with Jenny who was more up-to-date on matters of the opposite sex. And sex although don’t let that so-called advanced knowledge of Jenny’s part throw you off since most  of what Jenny knew was wrong, wrong gotten from an older brother, Ted,  who like all young men, young Catholic men and maybe every other religious upbringing too, got what he knew of sex from the streets just like everybody else and thus not surprisingly mostly wrong which almost caught her flat-footed in the pregnancy department one time when Sal “protection” might not have protected.  She, despite Jenny’s badgering, was certainly interested in boys and at least theoretically sex, although that interest had a quality of being sealed with seven seals and tied up, tied up with a big bow as she clung to that prevalent mores of saving herself for marriage, or some such thing, saving that is.

This Fall Frolic by the way had a long track record in creating class “items” come senior year. While it was not a formal dance, not even semi-formal like the junior prom, every young woman who planned to attend planned to have a “fox” dress fitting for the occasion and expected that her date would put some extra effort into looking good for the dance. All classes at old North Adamsville at least since 1951 when the underclassmen put up a stink about being shut out were entitled (and encouraged) to attend but no question the event reeked of a senior project. Most of the dance committee were well-known seniors and the band selection and theme of the year’s dance were a senior monopoly. It would take several more years and something like a civil war to break the senior monopoly but by then nobody was committed to an all-out defense of the old traditions. That was the 1960s when everybody was ready for a jailbreak and there was even talk by school officials that the damn thing would be canceled if the drug use could not be controlled (it was out of control as everybody got stoned in cars or in back alleys before the dance and at intermission and there were so many “far outs” uttered that even the senile chaperones knew something was off). So this was the environment which she was approaching her task ahead, a task involving getting the best date possible for the big dance of the fall.             

She knew, knew from Jenny, and knew from about six other sources that the lead-up here was decisive in that one’s date, one’s successful date, at that event usually foretold who one would be going to the senior prom with. Since the end of junior year that choice had come more and more to seen to be Art Graham. Art who began to talk to her in World History class after ignoring her and about every other girl in class as far as she could gather when she, not much for history, started to get peppered by Mr. Nolan, the World History teacher, who thought girls were dumb when it came to history and would publicly try to humiliate as many as possible. Toward the end of the year he had aimed his barbs her way. Art, a history nut and sort of Mr. Nolan’s pet, took pity on her and tried to coach her a little. The coaching paid off and old Nolan backed off a bit. Then she found herself talking to Art about other subjects and he didn’t seem to mind that they were not about history so she started to dream a little about Art, but just a little as summer break kind of ended what had started. They met at the beach a few times during the summer, spent a few hours together but not what any self-respecting girl in 1958 would call a date. So she laid her plans.        

It wasn’t that she was crazy for Art, not in the way best friend, Jenny, was crazy over Sal, Sal with the wavy black hair and athletic build, crazy enough over Sal to let him do what he wanted with her, but she did see him as one part of her “item” for the senior year if only he showed a little spark her way. Although she knew exactly what Jenny let sexy Sal do with her since Jenny burned many a midnight telephone call describing what went down in the town’s lovers’ lane section of the beach she had no intention of letting Art have his way with her, she wasn’t like that. She began to think less of Jenny the more she told her about her sexual experiences but she wanted that dance date and was frustrated when Art kept her at arm’s length.

Damn, she almost had to force the issue and invite him to the dance herself after they had spent some time together in school talking once classes resumed in September and she relied on him to bail her out in Problems in Democracy class where she was more under water that in World History, if that was possible. Then he started walking her home after school, talking, talking about his big future plans, talking about maybe they could go to the movies or to the school football games together. Anything but that damn dance (her term so she, not given to swearing, was certainly frustrated). They spent their time together like that before the date of the dance was getting perilously until one afternoon she asked him if he liked to dance, he said he did although he cushioned the remark with “I’m not very good” and they kind of by osmosis made a date for the Fall Frolics.

And so we move forward to the big night and she was now up in her room (and darting to the bathroom as well) preening herself, fluffing her hair, tightening that damn girdle to make her more slender than she already was, applying yet another touch-up on the make-up, as expected of any girl going to the Frolics with a guy that might form part of an “item” for senior year. She just hoped, hoped to high heaven that he, not known for being a sharp dresser like Sal, would look okay and also not forget to bring her a corsage so she would not be the only girl without one, especially since she practically had to order the thing herself.

She wasn’t sure when she heard the rumble of the engine coming up the street, maybe just before the car stopped in front of her house, but she definitely heard it before Art knocked on the door downstairs as her mother welcomed him in while she was finishing her last preparations. As she came down the stairs she noticed that he looked especially handsome in his suit and with his hair parted just so. Things already looked up for the evening. She did not know the half of it though until he opened the front door for her as they were leaving and she spied that big old Cadillac sitting in front of her sidewalk. Seems that old Art, once he got the message from the time they had danced around the dance invitation, started his own version of the courting ritual and convinced his friend, Spider Mack, to let him borrow his souped-up Caddy. Spider was well known around town, notorious to many parents, especially girl parents for getting the back seat of that vehicle messed up around midnight or maybe later after so two o’clock “chicken run” victory and he collected the spoils of war, some wet girl thrilled by the prospect of that backseat with the king of the North Adamsville muscle car night.

So she knew that if Art had such an automobile and moreover that Spider trusted Art with his most precious possession that the night might be interesting, and she might make it interesting for Art once she thought about that possibility. And off they went, first to pick up Jenny and Sal, she proud to be seem in the company of a man who knew how to bring a girl to the dance in style, and she too thinking how envious Jenny was that she was sitting in the front seat of Spider’s car just like she belonged there.


But that was only the beginning of it once they got to the school gym when the Frolics were held annually. She could hardly believe the transformation of the old smelly medicine ball gym into something that looked like a downtown hotel setting (even if only a hokey North Adamsville setting) with flowers festooned all over, tables covered with school colors white and blue tablecloths, the walls filled with various rock posters to hide the creepy cinderblocks, and the entrance with a trestle also garlanded with flowers. Yes, special. But more special Art seemed a man transformed as the cover band hired for the evening by the Fall Frolic senior committee (like I said before it was always a senior-sponsored affair back then, a kind of last gift to their fellow schoolmates leaving or to be left behind), the Ready Riders, kissed off the old classics, you know Patti Page, Frank, Dean, those guys, that had guided previous dances and kicked out the jams. Kicked out the ones guaranteed parent approved and hence boring, or something like that. She noticed that Art, a guy who said he had two left feet and maybe he did but he looked, well, sexy, had become almost a whirling dervish as he rocked by himself in her direction, that was no other way to put it since previously everybody did a waltz or a variation at school dances also parent approved, to some older rhythm and blues stuff and then laid out the full program when the band tore into a big riffing dose of Ike Turner’s Rocket 88.

That was the tune that everybody at Doc’s Drugstore over on Main was dropping endless nickels and dimes in the juke-box to hear over and over. Although it was actually an older song, maybe the early 1950s, Doc had refused to place it on his jukebox (or rather he was pressured to not put it on his jukebox by those meddlesome parents) since it was considered a “colored” record, you know a race record, back then. Jesus. But the kids, late 1950s kids including apparently Art, flipped out over it. And so the night went as she got more in tune with Art’s new form of dancing and mimicked his moves to his delight. As the dance ended, ended with a slow one by the Dubs’ Could This Be Magic, she, they ran into Jenny and Sal, and she, she who had so often secretly scorned the stuff Jenny told her that she and Sal did down at Adamsville Beach, suggested that the foursome take Spider’s car and go down to that very beach to, well, she said “cool off” after the dance. But you know what she meant just in case her parents might be around, or some girlfriend who would have plenty to say come Monday morning before school girls’ lav talk about how she had come of age, had come into the time of her time. So, yes, if anybody was interested she and Art were an “item” that year …              



Rocket 88        

You woman have heard of jalopies
You heard the noise they make
Let me introduce you to my Rocket '88
Yes, it's great, just won't wait
Everybody likes my Rocket '88
Baby, we'll will ride in style movin' all along

V-8 motor and this modern design
Black convertible top and the girls don't mind
Sportin' with me, ridin' all around town for joy
Blow your horn, rocket, blow your horn

Step in my rocket and don't be late
We're pullin' out about a half past eight
Goin' on the corner and havin' some fun
Takin' my rocket on a long, hot run
Ooh, goin' out, oozin' and cruisin' and havin' fun

Now that you've ridden in my Rocket '88
I'll be around every night about eight
You know it's great, don't be late
Everybody likes my Rocket '88
Girls will ride in style movin' all along

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