“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” - from 'On the Road' by Jack Kerouac
I was the first person at my school to learn of President Kennedy's assassination. I always walked to grandma's for lunch as noted previously. Usually I sat down to eat and watch The Donna Reed show but this one Friday there was no Donna Reed. Instead some guys in suits were talking about the president being dead. I thought that John F. Kennedy had to be the greatest guy on the planet at least the smartest and most important -- hey, I was nine years old. After eating I caught up with my friends at the school playground and told them the news. They didn't believe me. Why should they? We returned to class after the bell rang but Ms. Phillips -- our teacher who seemed to be about 100 years old -- wasn't waiting for us. A minute or so later she walked in with a few tears on her cheeks and told us the president had been killed. (It made quite an impression on my classmates that I had been telling the truth and that they had heard it from me first.) We got to go home. Like a lot of Americans we spent a most of the weekend in front of our TV sets. Dumbstruck. However I was in stupid Sunday school when Oswald was killed by Ruby. You better believe the president's assassination had a profound affect on me. For one thing I took it for granted that those rare public figures who we trusted or admired could be taken away. When four years later Dr. King and RFK were killed well I had very little faith in ....much of anything. Jaded at an early age. Helluva way to go through life. First mom was a loony now the president killed. What the hell could you count on? (I later spent a lot of time research the JFK assassination and have become convinced that he was killed as the result of a conspiracy that the government had covered up. So add cynicism to the mix.) I was nine so I kept on keeping on my primary focus was on being a kid. But it felt like there was permanent overcast until....
Everything changed a few weeks before my 10th birthday. There was this rock group called The Beatles that appeared on The Ed Sullivan. I was curious. I watched. I was stunned. The world opened up in ways I hadn’t imagined. There was music and hair and girls and this feeling this really very different feeling. Like there was a world aside from games and school and parents and it existed as much within me -- if I let it -- as it did outside of me. But it was this all encompassing thing that was beautiful and had....
That was it. There was a beat. And there was excitement beyond touchdowns and home runs. There were dreams and reality mixed together in this wonderful collage like I had new blood. Wow.
(I had to grow my hair out.)
I had to think about being...cool. Cool became like a thing in my life. A style a way a separateness from the ordinary and I knew then if I didn’t already that I was different. I was special beyond just being like a unique person and all I was part of this difference this new thing this cool and this rhythm and this beat. Excitement. Yeah know I could fly.
I didn’t have these words for it yet but soon The Who would say it: talkin’ bout my generation.
And ya know what else? Fuck the traffic patrol that was for squares. That was for them. Ya see at Jefferson if you were in the 5th and 6th grades you could be in the traffic patrol and get a special hat and sweater and carry the big sign on the street corners before and after school and you’d get out of class a couple times a week to drill. No no not me. I was eligible all right which made it all the sweeter to say no thanks and that thanks was not emphasized but sort of out of the corner of the mouth. So while the “good kids” had drills and the girls went to home ec I was left with the bad boys and damned if I didn’t find some kindred spirits. It was The Beatles for them and being different and knowing we were special. On we go.
So yeah my cockiness came out early. Helped along by my abilities in sports. I wouldn’t know true stardom until I started excelling in soccer in my teens but I was pretty good at everything despite being short.
I tried my had at music but had no affinity for it. That was okay I’d someday be famous for other things like writing a novel. I was on my way and The Beatles would provide the soundtrack.