Gawd, I am really craving a burrito. I am not that picky. I would even settle for a Taco Bell bean burrito, something most people in other parts of the world take for granted. In the middle of the USA, after the bars close, lines form at the Bell. Each carload gets a couple of sacks of tacos and burritos. Some of those carloads stop and pick up a twelve of Busch, Bud, or Coors to take back to some one’s apartment or rent house to drink. That happens in the middle of the USA.
The soundtrack constantly changes. At one time, with the skaters, it was the Who, the Clash, the Ramones. Now the soundtrack has faded into Rap or Coldplay.
If my burrito dream were to be granted, I would have a taco platter from Taco Hut in Bartlesville. Back in high school, that was the place to go. My friends and I would pile into my hand me down Datsun B210- in which we would listen to Elvis Costello, the New York Dolls, David Bowie or Patti Smith on cassettes I had taped off my albums. Or, we would pile into my friend Jeff’s baby blue metallic flake muscle car Camaro – in which we would listen exclusively to Styx ‘Pieces of Eight’ on factory made 8-track.
On one such trip, during the dead of winter, we seemed to be the only car on the road, my friend Kelly fired up a joint while we were driving down Main Street. I do not want to seem like a goody-goody but I seriously thought I might run off the road I was terror stricken, afraid we would get busted.
You see, I actually had it pretty easy in high school. My mother told me that if I did not get in trouble, she would give me free reign to do what I wanted. However, if I did get into trouble….here I would have to fill in the blank. The blank I filled in consisted of military service, reform school, locked in my room - Patti Smith albums taken away, Atomic Rooster incinerated in our wood stove, Devo expunged.
At this point, I do not quite remember how I acted when said joint made the appearance. I may have actually freaked – in a nice way, I didn’t want to be labeled as uncool. I was already pretty uncool. I was just coming out of that awkward stage – braces, acne, a lisp that I was learning to correct. This was one of the first times I had hung around Kelly. I did not want her to know that I was such a milk-toast.
Looking back, I cannot fathom the idea of going down Main Street in Bartlesville Oklahoma with a lit joint though I am sure lots of other kids did it. However, I never did get caught doing stupid things like some of my friends. The stupidest of them was a kid who was caught smoking pot in his bedroom. He did not pass go; he was sent directly to rehab. How stupid do you have to be to do that? At the time, I even thought he was an idiot.
Now that I think about it, I think my friend Jeff may have something like ‘he doesn’t smoke pot.’ Kelly then did not light it up. I was not labeled as uncool. Jeff, if I remember correctly saved the day.
Let me explain about Kelly. Kelly was the cool kid who had moved from California – Riverside no less – to Bartlesville. She was the mascot for the football team. She actually was familiar with Elvis Costello. At this point, I think he had only put out ‘My Aim is True.’ She was the cool kid with long blonde California hair and a screw you attitude which was exactly what I needed my junior year.
The first time I met her, I had this ridiculous Harpo Marx bike horn that I was carrying because my friend’s parents’ Mercury Comet did not have a horn. My friend and I would go cruising Bartlesville on Friday and Saturday nights. At TG&Y, I had bought the Harpo Marx bike horn. In that just-out-of-junior-high way, I thought carrying the car horn around with me would be a kick. Looking back on it, I think it was pretty ridiculous. However, being a true goofball, I thought this would be funny. Of course, when my friend and I drove by other cars and honked at them, no one could hear it because it was a bike horn.
This was on a Saturday night of cruising when I first spotted Kelly. My friend and I at one point made our way in to the Youth Canteen which had cokes and pool tables. Being a dumb youngster, I had the horn in my coat like a bottle of liquor instead of just putting it in my coat pocket. The adult that ran the door clearly saw that I was smuggling something in and he had me open my coat and I honked the horn rather meekly. I do not remember his response. Not one of bemusement or amusement, I am sure. Cynicism and weariness would probably sum it up. He was an adult, no doubt, working a second job at a youth center. Kelly, nevertheless, was standing close by and she thought it amusing. At that point we did not yet become friends. That was the first time I met her. That was the first time she met me. Actually, we may not have met. That was the first time I saw her.
Eventually, she and I became friends. How this came about, I am not sure. Maybe it happened because I was the only one at school to whom she could relate. While everyone else was listening to Styx, the Doobies and Ted Nugent, I was listening to Patti Smith, the Police, Iggy Pop, and as I said Elvis Costello. This was more along the lines of Kelly’s taste.
She and I went to many concerts starting with the Police on their first and second tours in 1979, Iggy Pop, Ultravox, and an upstart band from Ireland named U2 who played Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa on the ‘Boy’ tour in 1980. Most of these concerts took place on school nights. My mother let me go as long as I didn’t ditch school the next day which was cool with me because I could show up in my concert t-shirt. On those days, I suddenly felt a little above everyone else.
The day after the Police ‘Outlandos de Amor’ concert - if you can call a few hundred people at a club a concert – we had a pep rally in the high school gymnasium. For many years, I was somewhat of a fringe guy who just sat with whatever group would have me. Most of the time, I sat with the National Merit Finalist crew because they did not seem to be picky about the company they kept.
But that day, Kelly was up in the top of the stands with a group of people. She was quite popular. She had given up the mascot position at this point. Although, I am sure she smoked a lot of pot in California, she smoked pot in Bartlesville to separate herself from the Stepford Wives spawn. I looked up and saw her and knew I would not get the high school shun - someone cooler may come along so move if somebody that is not you comes to sit down - which in those days was fairly common. Of course, I don’t remember the rally itself. I know that she and I formed a special bond that would last past high school. I think perhaps, the pompon squad did a routine to ‘Last Dance’ by Donna Summer. This I remember involved their boyfriends who were wrestlers, football players and basketball players.
There was also a band that performed ‘Alright Now’ by Free. This band was led by a guy that had been out of high school by a few years at that point.
Hanging out with Kelly, that was when, I will say, in retrospect that high school no longer mattered, or rather the politics of high school no longer mattered. We were juniors in high school. Popularity, Kelly showed me, did not matter. She had it and was just as happy to not have it. She did not care that I did not smoke pot. She did not care that I did not drink.
One of the best things about Kelly was she was the most talkative person I have ever met. She could talk for hours without taking a breath. Her conversation was always interesting. She had an opinion about everything. It did not matter that I was not a conversationalist. We were perfect for each other in that way. I was painfully shy at that point in my life. She talked enough for both of us.
Now, I am no longer shy. My father, to some extent, used to embarrass and awe me simultaneously with his people skills. He could go up and talk to anyone anywhere. Most of the time, to my surprise, anyone he approached was always receptive. Of course, I was looking at it from my high school perspective. You did not just walk up to someone and start talking. My dad could and did. Now that I am an adult…
Now, when people stare, I say hello. At the KFC, when I walk in, the young man sweeping the floor looks at me. Actually, he gawks. His jaw drops. I say hello. I am an April Wine song. My high school self would have walked right back out the door. But me now, I am no longer intimidated as I once was. Maybe, just maybe, now, I am an adult. Sheesh, I would do about anything for a burrito right now.