A young man is so strong, so mad, so certain, and so lost. He has everything and he is able to use nothing. - Thomas Wolfe
Walking through the park near the creek on a warm Summer day the breeze is light and comfortable and lost inside myself. Thoughts forming and exploding and thinking of getting a beer or maybe just wallowing in self pity because another romance failed. It was never going to work out anyway, I mean she was troubled and intellectually incurious and I put too much pressure on her from the beginning because I was needy. Like a lot of 21 year olds are, you know. Especially ones with fucked up childhoods and hundreds of unresolved mommy issues. I knew it was cool that she moved back with her boyfriend. Better for her and for me but still I hated that I was alone again and that I’d have to look, prowl, cruise. Rejection and pain were just too constant and so I walked down to the creek and looked at the goddamned water and felt raptured into melancholy and I contemplated how tragic and romantic a figure I was. If only some cute chick was looking at me now she’d see how lonely I was but also how cool and handsome -- and she’d want me. But there was no one around except a family having a picnic and a couple of teenage boys throwing rocks into trees.
I felt a million miles from when I was a teenager. What an idiot that virgin kid was who collected baseball cards and watched Hogan’s Heroes and didn’t know enough to get high. I was hopeless then, now I’m just — I thought this then, ya know — a victim, a victim of the capricious nature of females who always seemed to latch onto me until someone else came along or came back or the ones who wanted to stay with me forever were not the right ones, too clingy, besides I was looking for perfection. I’d mess it up. I knew it, I’d mess it up. The tragic figure. I’d probably be dead in a few years then people would miss me. Now I just looked at the fucking creek.
I was hungry. I needed a cigarette and a beer first or during or right after. Shit, thinking all this stuff through was a pain when I needed nicotine, alcohol and food. I was doing some deep thinking. All about me and who I was because I was into some deep shit. I was no ordinary dude I was clearly special. A talent of the first degree bound for all kinds of glory and renown and there’d be money too. But that was coming later. Right now I needed to head over to the liquor store or maybe the Taco Bell first. But the hell with this stupid creek and the whole damn park and feeling bummed because another chick had split on me and man I had felt like the greatest man alive when I was with her. She was so foxy and other dudes would stare at her when we were together and think that I must really have it together to be with her and they were surely jealous.
So I got a taco and a burrito and gulped them down. Over to the liquor store for a couple of beers and a pack of smokes. Back to the park to explore what was going on in my brain. Easier with a full stomach and would soon be ideal what with a buzz going. Shit what was I worried about man? There had to be a party somewhere in the evening and if not there were the bars and I’d meet someone pretty and the whole process would begin again but this time man I’d be the one ending it or it would go on forever. A tragic, lonely — and here’s the real key — misunderstood figure. No one, I mean no one understood me. I was too deep for that. Maybe, maybe I’d end up with a chick who was so perfect that she’d understand but even then not wholly and completely and totally because that was impossible, I was just way too complicated for that. There was a lot going on with me and I was special baby. Keep looking you ain’t finding anyway to match me for depth.
Drank the first beer real fast. Lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply was pretty much hooked which had been the plan. Since I was 15 I’d been determined to be addicted to cigarettes. That would be cool and part of who I would be and was and am and all that shit. So I started to sip the second beer and think about my strategy for the evening. See what my roommates were doing maybe call a friend. Somebody would be up for going out doing something finding some tail. Hell yes. Then it came for like 30 seconds this deep sorrow all up in me this sadness like you wouldn’t believe that made me just want to cry. Goddamn it was awful. It was about maybe that chick or how life fucks with you or my childhood or the time I had a bad acid trip but it hurt. Wised up to. Gulped the rest of my beer and boom! it was gone. I was me again and ready to do. No more sitting and brooding, time to make it happen. Fuck this park. I crossed the street and headed towards home feeling damn good I mean really fucking A good. Had it whipped, man. Why should I have spent all that time moping by the fucking creek when I could have been doing. Feelings, man. Those would kill you. No need. Just deal with the happiness, the rest was bullshit. Yeah I was contradicting myself but that was just all part of my complexity that was so damn appealing to everyone. Well anyone with a brain.
I walked the beautiful tree lined streets of Chico, past white picket fences and perfect lawns and houses that all seemed to sport fresh coats of paint. It was the middle of the Seventies and things were looking cool every which way. The economy was okay, Nixon had resigned, Vietnam was over and Blacks had civil rights and music was good, movies were good, TV was good and everything was just getting better in the country. Sure there was still shit going on but we had a strong and active press that was exposing the worst of it just like with Watergate. I still thought that United States basically kind of sucked but it was at least a place where you could change things and the art and culture were advancing. Hell, I had money in my pocket and I didn’t work, just went to school in a bucolic setting where there were parties all the damn time and lots of young people and places to go swimming. And it was only a few hours from the Bay Area and home. Life was good, man.
I shared a nice house with two other dudes and they were cool and we made dinners together and would go out together to parities and to movies and to the bars and man I loved, loved, loved being 21 and not having to use a fake ID. What more could you want? And tonight was just going to be another opportunity and I was going to make the most of it and if nothing else, if absolutely nothing else, I was going to have FUN. Get drunk, laugh with friends, dance meet some chicks. Maybe get laid. Why not?
Our house had a big yard perfect for when we hosted keggers and also perfect for tossing the ball around or just sittin’ with a beer and relaxing. The house itself was functional. Nothing special but we had bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and it was clean and sturdy and not too far from anything. That’s all you needed. Got home and roommates were out but there was beer in the fridge and it was my brand bought by me so I could have at it. I called Ed and he was home and we arranged to meet at Madison Bear Garden at 7:30. Cool. I blasted some David Bowie and my head bopped and my mind whirled and when the record ended I fell straight to sleep on the sofa for one glorious hour. Woke up when roomies came home, Rocky and Dennis with some other dudes. More beers and they had news of a party. Perfect. Would meet Ed then head to the party.
Was 5:30 so got into Dennis’ truck and we picked up burgers. Brought them home and mindlessly chowed down. Finally time to wander up to the Bear. Ed already there and a couple of beers ahead of me. I caught up quick and we took off for the party. It was boomin’ music, kegs of beer as in plural and lots of people about half of them chicks.
I whirled and twirled on the dance floor. My mind was a blur of everything all mixed up and coalescing into one thought: let’s have some fucking fun! By god I did. I sure did. So much that I couldn’t remember it when I woke up next morning. That was all right. There’d be hangover stories to swap. Staggered out of bed and Dennis was up sipping instant coffee, he said let’s go to the upper park and swim today. Shit yes. Breakfast then packed the truck with beer and food and on we went.
Sat there in the cab of the truck laughing and drinking and for just a moment I thought about how I felt the day before looking at the goddamned creek and was sad about it for some reason as if it had been important and that maybe I needed to reflect on things more and plan and try to understand. Rapidly came the next thought: to hell with it. Then I took a big swig.