A Life of Letters

I’ll Be Bummed

Posted in 1977, Friends by southpawcom on February 6, 2010

It’s fun to think about my friend, Mike K., who was a second-tier friend from about 5th grade until the end of high school. Mike was a smallish, sensitive guy with a mellow and ironic sense of humor. He often would pad around the hallways of our high school, usually in the company of a couple of the artier girls, with this unperturbed and somewhat spaced-out look on his face, and when I would see him, I couldn’t help but smile. He’d look up at me and say, “Mark, I’m so bummed….” But when he laughed it sounded a little like a goat. I could make him laugh pretty easily.

Mike was a pretty good actor. He had some memorable roles in our theater days, the Hermit in a one-act play in our “Theater-In-The-Round,” which had lines like, “Drink….drunk….past the twelve….my you’re looking pale today….” He also played Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls” and had to sing “Sue Me.” I remember his angsting out because in his role as Allen-A-Dale in “Merry Yours, R. Hood,” he had to learn guitar well enough to play it and sing a short ballad. He did great!

Mike was actually elected our senior class president. He had a girlfriend for a couple of years in high school, Terri L. They were quite a pair, as she was several inches taller than he. They were kind of like Agents 99 and 86 or maybe Tenille and the Captain.

He drove a beat-up Oldsmobile that he called Clem. Once Will got sick while we were driving and drinking on Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield, and he rolled down the window and threw up all over Clem’s door. Mike was unflapped. Said he, oy vey, “Little Billy….throwing up.” Sunrise, Sunset.

When we were younger, he was the only player on my Little League team who was a worse hitter than I was. His dad was one of the coaches, and having been my son’s Little League coach for several years, I can only imagine how that must have made for some uncomfortable dinner table conversation.

On September 7, 1974, Mike invited me to spend the night at his house, and we went to a beach party. He had gotten access to some Scotch, and it was the first time in my life I ever got drunk. I can still recall the slanted late summer sunshine and jumping around his yard and driveway, jabbering away to nice looking girls at the beach, and feeling the exhilarating effects of alcohol on my wiry teenage frame for the first time.

Mike learned about being depressed well enough, I suppose, that he grew up to become a psychiatrist. He also went gay. Will and I drove down to Ann Arbor about 15 years ago to see him, and he was balding and had a beard. He didn’t seem nearly as fun as heĀ used to be.

I’ll still fondly remember a lot of good times with Mike K.

I had moved with Mom and Dad to New Jersey right after graduation from Andover High and was planning a trip back to Michigan to see friends and family.

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Then I’ll Have Everything

Posted in 1977, Chrissy, Loves by southpawcom on February 4, 2010

I treated Chrissy pretty poorly. This letter dated June 7, 1977, sent just a few days ahead of my graduation from Andover High School, makes that pretty clear.

She was a year younger, and I went out with her because I couldn’t go out with Mary H. or Mary G. or who knows who else. She was apparently star-struck by the leading men of classic American cinema, such as Clark Gable and Fred Astaire, and the only thing I could think was that she was attracted to me from my leading roles in the high school musicals. I had to look up the source of the poem on page 3, and sure enough, it is from a Barbra Streisand song.

I do remember having a lot of fun with Chrissy, and in retrospect, she was not a dummy. But so arrogant and cocky was I in our relationship that that is exactly the nickname I gave her: “Dummy.” She would even occasionally refer to herself as “your dummy.”

I wish that I still could unburden myself of things I don’t particularly care to do with the simple reason that I don’t feel like it.

Do You Still Want Me to Play, Or Should We Call It a Day?

Posted in 1977, Loves, Nancy by southpawcom on January 12, 2010

Nancy was my girlfriend in the first semester of 11th grade in the fall of 1975. She had a pixieish face framed with a layered blond ’70s hairstyle. Over her blue eyes was a pair of gold aviator frame glasses. She wore a musk perfume.

Nancy played the piano better than I. She also sang in the exclusive girls’ vocal and handbell ensemble at Bloomfield Hills Andover High School, the Jills. I remember, too, that she played in the marching band, and I can remember some crisp evenings in the stands watching her play at half-time that fall and how she looked in her band uniform and hat (pleasing in a fetishist sort of way), but I don’t remember what band instrument she played.

As time went by, she ended up going out with Ted, my best friend. I don’t remember all of the circumstances, but I seem to recall that she broke up with me and soon was seen hand-in-hand in the hallways with Ted. I don’t remember being heartbroken about it, and I sure didn’t resent my pal for that.

In spite of it, though, I wrote a pretty decent song for her, titled simply enough, “Nancy.” I could probably still play most of the ballad on the piano, or at least fake it, and I’m pretty sure I could sing it entirely. I was asked a lot in high school to play the song at parties or when people were gathered around the piano before choir class. The chorus:

What can you be thinking, Nancy

When you throw it all away?

What are you feeling, Nancy?

Do you still want me to play?

Or should we call it a day, girl?

Oh, Nancy. Oh, Nancy.

By the time she wrote me this letter, she was in her freshman year at Michigan State, obviously enjoying all of the fruits of being young, upper-middle class, and unchaperoned. She had fallen back squarely into the realm of “friend” by this point and was eager to share her new experiences with me.

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