Damon lived a few houses south of us, on the other side of the street. 6136 was the address. We never talked, not until he mounted what looked like a skeleton on his leather jacket shoulder. Then I suddenly wanted to know him and so I did whatever any 13-year-old kid would do; I struck up a conversation, my curiosity fueling my social bravery. He told me he had a cat and she killed mice and would leave the skeleton on their back porch, as a token of its appreciation for taking care of it and that he mounted the skeleton on his shoulder in appreciation of his cat. I liked that.
We talked about music. He had an older brother named Mitchel who had a record collection that snaked around his room. We immediately liked the Clash and the Psychedelic Furs. It was our entry point into the massive family tree of music. We used to hang out in his basement and listen to records. We cut our hair off with a sewing sheers. We drank Port Wine, three dollars a bottle. Mitchel bought it for us. We kicked over garbage cans and fences and collected expired candy and chips from a trash bin behind the 7/11.
It sucked when Damon went away to summer camp. It was a Jesus, religious camp. Weird because he wasn’t the last bit religious. In fact, he used to mock his mom when she would barge in on us, early in the morning sleeping off a port wine night and say, “Today is the day the lord has made.” Damon would roll over and tell her, “Yeh, but he’s gonna make tomorrow too so let us sleep.”
He went because of a girl – Sandra Boyce. I knew her. She had black hair. She walked pigeon-toed and liked music too, comic books, cars, even baseball. She loved the Cubs and the White Sox because her father had moved to Chicago after the divorce and took care of her every summer so they would go to a lot of games. I could understand how Damon got smitten or whatever by her. Sandra invited a bunch of us over to watch boxing matches on pay per view tv and she didn’t even make us pay! Her mom paid. But to follow a girl to a Jesus freak camp? It struck me as kind of desperate. I was jealous.
Anyway, he sent me a few postcards, funny ones in his patented sarcasm, “Had 20 cents to waste so I though I’d send you this card.” The summer went slow, really slow. I was bored and it was 1981 so there was no baseball in July. The strike was on. I remember how stupid or cruel it all seemed, that word, “strike.” I had grown fond of the Brewers Rollie Fingers knack for throwing strikes that first half of the 1981 season and now that word STRIKE. I didn’t even want to play little league anymore.
But like a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, all things, good or bad, come to an end and so the baseball strike ended and Damon came home from Jesus camp and he had changed, not physically; he still had those bowl cut bangs and long hair in the back and still had the mice skeleton mounted on his leather jacket shoulder, but he was smiling a hell of a lot more and that laugh of his. It was loud and lasted a long time. I told him it sounded fake and he said I was right, that it was fake, that he was faking it until making it. That was his new expression – “Fake it to you make it”
Damon wound up hosting a radio show on the far left side of the FM dial. We lost touch. I wonder if he married Sandra Boyce or if he goes to church? I doubt it. But I’m glad I met him, glad he went to Jesus camp and than came home and I’m glad there was a baseball strike and then an end to the strike. It instilled in me hope that tomorrow might be better.
February 11, 2023 at 10:42 am
Ah, jesus camp. So that’s where talk-radio show hosts located on an extreme end of the dial come from! I should have known. I think most of them, like Damon, are faking it.
I remember as a kid in the mid-1960s hearing for the first time a broadcaster say that Jesus Alou was coming to bat, and I thought to myself, “Can that be possible? Can someone really call himself jesus and not be sentenced to eternal damnation in hell (or with the Astros?)
I’d listen to a radio show hosted by Jesus Alou.
February 12, 2023 at 10:05 am
That’s funny about you hearing Jesus Alou coming to bat and the name….thinking “eternal damnation in hell (or with the Astros.”)
I’ve heard a lot of people named Jesus in Spanish speaking countries, but I’ve never heard anybody named Jesus in an English one.
I think Denny McLain has or had a radio show.
February 11, 2023 at 6:21 pm
The far left side of the dial. Ugh. But that does make me think of the the Replacement song, Left of the Dial. Sounds like great times drinking wine and listening to music while it lasted. Your characters always spring to life. They are vivid and I fell like these are the kind of people I hung out with.
February 12, 2023 at 10:07 am
I’ll have to check out that song by the Replacements. Thanks for mentioning it. Glad to hear that you related to the characters.
February 12, 2023 at 5:27 pm
Your stories always take me out of the day to day mindset. I remember all the odd and wonderful stuff I did as a kid and in my 20s. I appreciate that a lot.
February 12, 2023 at 6:49 pm
Thanks for saying so Bob. It’s nice to know that my writing has that effect. I think I feel the same way, that writing takes me out of the day to day mindset and gets me thinking about previous times and sometimes that gets me feeling a bit better, like I’ve set some painful part of the past free or on the flip side, revisited an enjoyable experience.
February 13, 2023 at 8:52 am
I agree about the painful part. And I tend to forget my past too. And it’s important to go back and remind yourself of how you got here.
February 12, 2023 at 12:15 pm
It’s sad that “far left of the dial” will soon be a dead term. Kind of like cursive and reading newspapers.
I really liked this one, Steve. It made me wonder about all my weird ass white-trash friends growing up in the ghetto. Shit, I was probably white trash myself.
February 12, 2023 at 6:58 pm
Thanks Gary, I’m glad you liked this one. I think it’s sad too that words and things slowly disappear. I have an old TV that has the VHS slot built in and I still have a bunch of VHS tapes and for some reason I refuse to drop them on the curb on garbage day.
February 16, 2023 at 12:37 pm
I think we all had someone like a Damon in our youth, captivating and at least a little dangerous, which makes this play so sepia-toned well.
February 16, 2023 at 6:07 pm
Me too. I liked that Damon was a “little dangerous,” never hesitant to wander down a new road and not too concerned about what other people would think.