Scene: Brought to mind by the cover artwork that graces the front of the booklet that accompanied an album I had been reviewing. The artwork contained, in full James Dean-imitation pout, one good-looking, DA-quaffed, white muscle-shirted young man, an alienated young man, no question, leaning, leaning gently, very gently, arms folded, on the hood of his 1950’s classic automobile, clearly not his father’s car, but also clearly for our purposes let us call it his “baby.”
And that car, that extension of his young manhood, his young alienated manhood, is Friday night, Saturday night, or maybe a weekday night if it is summer, parked, priority parked, meaning nobody with some Nash Rambler, nobody with some foreign Volkswagen, no biker even , in short, nobody except somebody who is tougher, a lot tougher, than our alienated young man better breathe on the spot while he is within fifty miles of the place, directly in front of the local teenage (alienated or not) "hot spot." And in 1950s America, a teenage America with some disposal income (allowance, okay), that hot spot was likely to be, as here, the all-night Mel’s (or Joe’s, Adventure Car-Hop, whatever) drive-in restaurant opened to cater to the hot dog, hamburger, French fries, barbecued chicken cravings of exhausted youth. Youth exhausted after a hard night, well, let’s just call it a hard night and leave the rest to your knowing imagination, or their parents’ evil imaginations.
And in front of the restaurant, in front of that leaned-on “boss” automobile stands one teenage girl vision. One blondish, pony-tailed, midnight sun-glassed, must be a California great American West night teeny-bopper girl holding an ice cream soda after her night’s work. The work that we are leaving to fertile (or evil, as the case may be) imaginations. Although from the pout on Johnny’s (of course he has to be a Johnny, with that car) face maybe he “flunked out” but that is a story for somebody else to tell. Here is mine.
Not everybody, not everybody by a long-shot, who had a “boss” ’57 cherry red Chevy was some kind of god’s gift to the earth; good-looking, good clothes, dough in his pocket, money for gas and extras, money for the inevitable end of the night stop at Jimmy John’s Drive-In restaurant for burgers and fries (and Coke, with ice, of course) before taking the date home after a hard night of tumbling and stumbling (mainly stumbling). At least that is what one Joshua Breslin, Josh, told me, he a freshly minted fifteen- year old roadside philosopher thought as for the umpteenth time “Stewball” Stu left him by Albemarle Road off Route One and rode off into the Olde Saco night with his latest “hot” honey, fifteen year old teen queen Sally Sullivan. Here is the skinny as we used to say as per one Joshua Breslin:
Yah, Stewball Stu was nothing but an old rum-dum, a nineteen year old rum-dum, except he had that “boss” girl-magnet ’57 cherry red and white two-toned Chevy (painted those colors by Stu himself) and he had his pick of the litter in the Olde Saco, maybe all of Maine, night. By the way Stu’s official name, was Stuart Stewart, go figure, but don’t call him Stuart and definitely do not call him “Stewball” not if you want to live long enough not to have the word teen as part of your age. The Stewball thing was strictly for local boys, jealous local boys like Josh, who when around Stu always could detect a whiff of liquor, usually cheap jack Southern Comfort, on his breathe, day or night.
Figure this too. How does a guy who lives out on Tobacco Road in an old run-down trailer, half-trailer really, from about World War I that looked like something out of some old-time Great Depression Hoover-ville scene, complete with scrawny dog, and tires and cannibalized car leavings every which way have girls, and nothing but good-looking girls from twelve to twenty (nothing older because as Stu says, anything older was a woman and he wants nothing to do with women, and their women’s needs, whatever they are). And the rest of us got his leavings, or like tonight left on the side of the road on Route One. And get this, they, the girls from twelve to twenty actually walk over to Tobacco Road from nice across the other side of the tracks homes like on Atlantic Avenue and Fifth Street, sometimes by themselves and sometime in packs just to smell the grease, booze, burnt rubber, and assorted other odd-ball smells that come for free at Stu’s so-called garage/trailer.
Let me tell you about Stu, Sally, and me tonight and this will definitely clue you in to the Stu-madness of the be-bop Olde Saco girl night. First of all, as usual, it is strictly Stu and me starting out. Usually, like today, I hang around his garage on Saturdays to get away from my own hell-house up the road on Ames Street, meaning almost as poor as Stu except they are not trailers but, well, shacks, all that the working poor like my people could afford in the golden age and I am kind of Stu’s unofficial mascot. Now Stu had been working all day on his dual-exhaust carburetor or something, so his denims are greasy, his white tee-shirt (sic) is nothing but wet with perspiration and oil stains, he hasn’t taken a bath since Tuesday (he told me that himself with some sense of pride) and he was not planning to do so this night, and of course, drinking all day from his silver Southern Comfort flask he reeked of alcohol (but don’t tell him that if you read this and are from Olde Saco because, honestly, I want to live to have twenty–something as my age). About 7:00 PM he bellows out to me, cigarette hanging from his mouth, an unfiltered Lucky of course (filtered cigarettes are for girls in Stu world), let’s go cruising.
Well, cruising means nothing but taking that be-bop ’57 cherry red and white two-toned Chevy out on East Grand and look. Look for girls, look for boys from the hicks with bad-ass cars who want to take a chance on beating Stu at the “chicken run” down at the flats on the far end of Sagamore Beach, look for something to take the edge off the hunger to be somebody number one. At least that last is what I figured after a few of these cruises with Stu. Tonight it looks like girls from the way he put some of that grease (no not car grease, hair-oil stuff) on his nappy hair. Yes, I am definitely looking forward to cruising tonight once I have that sign because, usually whatever girl Stu might not want, or maybe there are a couple of extras, or something I get first dibs. Yah, Stu is righteous like that.
So off we go, stopping at my house first so I can get a little cleaned up and put on a new shirt and tell my brother to tell our mother that I will be back later, maybe much later, if she ever gets home herself before I do. The cruising routine in Olde Saco means up and down Route One (okay, okay Main Street), checking out the lesser spots (Darby’s Pizza Palace, Hank’s Ice Cream joint, the Colonial Donut Shoppe where I hang during the week after school and which serves a lot more stuff than donuts and coffee, sandwiches and stuff, and so on). Nothing much this Saturday. So we head right away for the mecca, Jimmy John’s. As we hit Stu’s “saved” parking spot just in front I can see that several stray girls are eyeing the old car, eyeing it like tonight is the night, tonight is the night Stu, kind of, sort of, maybe notices them (and I, my heart starting to race a little in anticipation and glad that I stopped off at my house, got a clean shirt, and put some deodorant on and guzzled some mouthwash, am feeling tonight is the night too).
But tonight is not the night, no way. Not for me, not for those knees-trembling girls. Why? No sooner did we park than Sally Sullivan came strolling out (okay I don’t know if she was strolling or doo-wopping but she was swaying in such a sexy way that I knew she meant business, that she was looking for something in the Olde Saco night and that she had “found” it) to Stu’s Chevy and with no ifs, ands, or buts asked, asked Stu straight if he was doing anything this night. Let me explain before I tell you what Stu’s answer was that this Sally Sullivan is nothing but a sex kitten, maybe innocent-looking, but definitely has half the boys, hell maybe all the boys at Olde Saco High, including a lot of the guys on the football team drooling over her. I know, because I have had more than one sleepless night over her myself.
See, she is in my English class and because Mr. Murphy lets us sit where we want I usually sit with a good view of her. So Stu says, kind of off-handedly, like having the town teen fox come hinter on him was a daily occurrence, kind of lewdly, “Well, baby I am if you want to go down Sagamore Rocks right now and look for dolphins?” See, Sagamore Rocks is nothing but the local lovers’ lane here and “looking for dolphins” is the way everybody, every teenage everybody in town says “going all the way,” having sex for the clueless. And Sally, as you can guess if you have been following my story said, “Yes” just like that. At that is why I was dumped, unceremoniously dumped, while they roared off into the night. So like I said not every “boss” car owner is god’s gift to women, not by a long shot. Or maybe they are.