Saturday, March 07, 2009

At the Hop

Since design, editing, and production work has ceased on my book Soul Songs, much to my disappointment, I've decided to share "songs" from it with you. This is a nostalgia piece from the early 1960s with rock 'n' roll and Motown songs underlined—some of my favorites from the era.

At the Hop

Dropped. Ditched. Dumped. Discarded. Disposed. Dismissed. I was dumfounded by the number of d words there are to describe how she dissed me. There were Tears on My Pillow because she deserted and dumpsterized me for an old dude. I saw him only once while I was skulking around her house in the dark, but I was positive he was at least eighteen.

Oh, my heart was broken all right, especially when the words of my precious Baby Love, my beautiful Teen Angel, were still fresh in my mind: “You have the BEST lips in the whole wide world!” she used to tell me. She didn’t say that I was the best kisser, mind you, but just that my lips were the best.

Well the hell with her, I thought. Neil Sedaka was singing Breaking up Is Hard to Do every two minutes on the radio, but breaking up was a damn sight easier to take when My Girl was Runaround Sue. There Goes My Baby, I thought, and good riddance.

I figured there were plenty of other land sharks in the water, and all I had to do to land one was use my lips as bait. Not the best kissing lips, mind you, but just the best lips.

“Hey Peggy Sue, wanna go to the hop with me?” Like the jocks that pranced around showing off their muscles, I stood by her locker doing lip exercises to impress her: puffs, push ups, and my specialty, pouts.

“Yeeew, what in the world is wrong with your MOUTH?” Peggy Sue cried.

On second thought, maybe I should forget The Great Pretender and just be my usual charming self, the real me: calm, cool, collected, and remarkably mature for my age.

Help Me, Rhonda, and please say that you’ll go to the hop with me because if you say no I’ll die right here of embarrassment because I really like you and you always wear pretty sweaters and I nearly melt every time you smile at me at lunch but I get so nervous when I try to talk to you and I would call and ask you to go with me only I don’t know your phone number and even if I did I wouldn’t ask you anyway because after I dial the number I always lose my nerve and slam the phone down and I do it about eleven or twelve times in a row which really irritates me (not to mention whoever is picking up on the other end) so I’m asking you right here in person instead and boy am I nauseous so will you Come Go With Me before I throw up?”


Great. Two million girls in school and I fall in love with the chatterbox.

* * * * *

The most brilliant thing I ever did as a youngster was flunk out of high school.

At the end of my sophomore year, I bombed out of an all male Catholic school by failing three subjects. Well boo-fucking-hoo, let the door hit me in the ass on the way out, and Goodbye Cruel World ’cause I’m off to join the circus.

The circus, cleverly disguised as public high school, was the perfect place for a dreamer and a romantic like me. While my former all-male classmates were scrounging around for dates on street corners and in alleyways, I was busy learning the social graces in summer school.

Hello, Mary Lou, let me get that door for you.”

[WHAM, tinkle, tinkle, tinkle]

“Uh, excuse me, Mary Lou, but I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to wait until I open the door before you go charging through it. Boy, will ya lookit all this glass!”

Lesson learned: When practicing the art of courting girls, don’t expect to find the best and the brightest in summer school.

* * * * *

When a girl said, “Yes, I would love to go to the hop with you,” it wasn’t about conquest or scoring or sex.

It was about the thrill and the giddiness of knowing that a girl actually liked me. It was about dancing my brains out, and laughing like a fool, and just being a kid. It was about shyness, and awkwardness, and mutual blushing whenever they played a “slow” one.

It was constant worry, wondering if I was saying all the right things and not doing something stupid. It was treating her with respect like the young lady she was. It was pizza after the hop, and talking about everything and nothing both at the same time. It was walking her home in the dark and protecting her from the shadows—and not letting her know that I was as scared of them as she was. It was the electricity of holding her hand in mine if she offered it, or if it was winter, holding her mitten if she offered it. It was standing on her front porch with rubbery legs, trying to make the biggest decision of my life: should I kiss her, or should I peck her on the cheek, or should I shake her hand (or her mitten if it was winter) and thank her, or should I just run away . . .

You know, I still remember the three nicest things a girl ever said to me during my two years in public high school (listed in reverse order of niceness):

3. “You’re not nearly as dumb as everyone says you are.”
2. “I think big floppy ears are cute.”
1. “I’ll Save the Last Dance for You.”


Mel said...

Age is irrelevant, my dear. I know and can sing, or hum in a pinch, all of these awesome songs. :)

Kim Ayres said...

All before my time, old man, but the feelings were exactly the same :)

Meg said...

That's too bad about your book. I was looking forward to reading it. Thanks for sharing this piece. The nicest thing a boy ever said to me in school. He said, "You're the third prettiest girl in the whole world." I was thrilled of course. The first was the prettiest girl in class, the second was Stephanie from the TV show "Full House".

Charlie said...

MEL: My choice of words about being too young was not a good one and I've changed it. Of course you know these songs!

KIM: I'm glad to hear it. Different country, same humanity and emotions.

MEG: Celebrities don't count, so you were second. And if the fellow had cleaned his spectacles, he would have seen that you were first.

Tiffin said...

Not only is age irrelevant, so is gender. I know that story, Charlie!


Charlie said...

TUI: A female friend of mine who is half my age said the same thing you did.

When we look back it was a wonderful time of our lives, only we weren't smart enough to realize it.

lisleman said...

a new comment on an old post - thanks for taking me on your trip down musical memory lane.

Charlie said...

Whether it's a new post or not, I'm glad you read and enjoyed it.