Tuesday, January 10, 2006

BK

No, the title does not reflect my lunch--Burger King. It is the initials of a person from whom I recently received an email, an acquaintance from the past. It is somewhat fascinating and to a degree weird when someone you barely knew and had virtually forgotten about randomly contacts you. I guess the longer I'm online the greater the chance of this happening. This is what he wrote:

O-man,
I recently stumbled on your blog while I was surfing the net. I must know you but I can't recognize your photo or the background info I have seen. I have only read a small portion of your blogs but it looks like you were born in 1955 and went to Maryknoll. I was born in 1955 and graduated from Maryknoll in 1969. So you should have graduated Maryknoll in 1968, 1969 or 1970. Looks like you also went to Loyola High (the only Jesuit high school in LA in the 70's). I went there from 1969 -1970. You write some funny stuff and bring back great memories for me. So who the hell are you?!!!!

It's good to know that my secret identity is still intact. Only those with an O-man secret decoder ring know the truth. In any event, I was surprised to learn that BK had found me. I had previously heard from another friend that he had become quite a successful attorney and now enjoys influential standing in LA. I, of course, emailed him and he revealed how he found me. I can't believe anyone would be doing a Google search on the Roger Young Auditorium and JA dances. I didn't think ANYONE remembered it, let alone do a write up for some newsletter. I am absolutely flabbergasted. At first, I thought it was the entry on eating grass, but I later figured out it was about my days as a Glob (good little Oriental boy).

Anyway, I remember BK as one of the westside guys in the class above me. Thoughts of him bring back memories of when he was in the 8th grade and I was in the 7th, when we had a joint Halloween event in the clubhouse at Maryknoll. It was, for us, a special event where the upper class (8th was the highest grade) introduced the younger class to the intricacies of "mixers." We were only between the ages of 12 and 14, and it was my first taste of male-female group socialization. Or more simply put, a dance party. It was held in the afternoon between 1 and 3 PM, so the windows were covered with black cloth to give it that evening look, turning it into an adventure for me. It was fun to dance to songs I had heard on the radio and pretended to be as cool as the teens on shows like "9th Street West" and "Soul Train"--no one watched American Bandstand for dance tips, believe me.

As you might imagine, we were stuck in cliques, usually split between the cool and the uncool. I, of course, inclined toward the uncool. I mean, only the uncool would have thoughts of desperately trying to figure out how to avoid embarrassment? Who should I ask to dance? Would she say yes? What if she turns me down? These questions seemed so momentous back then. Of course, this line of inquiry took on special meaning when the topic of conversation turned to slow dancing. No one would dare say it, but I know that the only thought in my mind was: What would it feel like to have my body pressed up against another body distinctly different from mine? As you might imagine, I was pretty excited.

I was partial to Top 40 fare, such as "Midnight Confession" by the Grassroots and "People Gotta Free" by the Rascals, but the cool kids more or less controlled these affairs, and we were subjected to a heavy dose of soul music, which of course was not a bad thing. After listening to a few songs, I actually danced--I'm not sure if a simple side-step actually constitutes dancing these days--to "Tighten Up" by Achie Bell and the Drells from Houston, Texas, and found it quite exhilarating. So this is what dancing is all about! I thought. Moving your body to the rhythm of music with a girl as a partner, exhibiting yourself before a group of your peers. Today, I might describe it as a tribal ritual that prepares the participants for some level of physical bonding. But back then, I'd have just said it felt groovy. Suddenly, there was the crooning of Smokey Robinson.

I did you wrong,
My heart went out to play
And in the game I lost you
What a price to pay, I'm cryin'
Oooo Baby, Baby.

My friends and I stared at each other, silently gesturing with our chins, egging each other to go out and ask someone to dance. By the time one of us had gotten the nerve up, the song was over--I mean, tunes were only a little more than a few minutes back then. But one of the cool guys came by, bragging about his little adventure. Oh man, those titties were so soft. Kinda small, but... Hahahaha. Who should I dance with next? Hey, put on another... And he faded away as he flitted off like the butterfly he was.

It didn't help when we saw someone in the corner making out. It was BK. There he was, facing the corner with someone's hands all over his back. Woah, are they, like, kissing? Here? When the voices around them rose to a loud murmur, he turned around quickly to reveal he was all by himself. All he had done was wrap his arms around himself, rubbing his own back passionately, giving the impression that he was making out. We howled in approval, even as Sister Patricia rushed over wondering what all the commotion was about. Of course, there was nothing, really.

As Jr. Walker and the All Stars sang "What Does it Take?" I was desperately trying to screw up the courage to ask someone to dance the next slow song. When I heard the telltale strikes of the snare drum and the short strokes of violins of the introduction, I just had to ask someone to dance. I strode over to a group of girls sitting down in a row of chairs against the wall and asked one of them. She acquiesced. We got to the dance floor just as the Delfonics started to sing.

Many guys have come to you
with a line that wasn't true
and you passed them by.

Now your in the center ring
and their lines don't mean a thing
why don't you let me try...

I didn't really know what I was doing. I mean, practicing regular dance steps in front of the TV was doable. You didn't need a partner since dancing didn't really involve touching. But to cuddle? I was beginning to panic. But I glanced at the others to get an idea of what I was supposed to do, put my arm around her waist as she put her arms around my neck. We kinda rocked left and right as we took small steps that moved us--naturally it seemed--in small circles. As I imagine it now, I probably looked awkward, but that was the last thing on my mind. The butterfly was right. They ARE soft. That's all my little brain could muster.

Well, "La-La-Means I Love You" was another really short song--two minutes and eleven seconds?--so it was over all too soon, which was just as well for a guy with only primitive, tribal thoughts on his mind. Amazingly, and perhaps rudely, I can't for the life of me remember who I danced with. This was a signal moment in my life--the first time I actually held a girl in my arms--and I can't remember who it was. All that remains in my mind is the sensation of softness. I can almost recreate the situation in my mind right now, and this in itself allows me to imagine one particular girl. But this is just the idle imaginings of a old man.

I had the opportunity to dance one more slow dance, this time with an 8th grader--Patsy?--and this was a point of pride, as my friends later reminded me after school. Y'know, the older woman? Hahhahaha. Anyway, at home, a younger friend dropped by to ask me if I wanted to go trick-or-treating with him, but I declined. I suddenly felt too old, too worldly for such childish activities. I had touched a girl in a sexual way; not that we had sex, of course, but the sensations aroused could not be described in any other--albeit innocent--way.

I hadn't thought about my first dance in a long time, but the email from BK opened a floodgate of 38-year-old memories. BK wrote that he doesn't really remember the incident I described above, and I wouldn't be surprised if I have gotten the particulars wrong. But someone did act like he was making out, and in my addled 50-year-old mind, it is inexplicably linked to BK. Either way, it's just an innocuous memory that was amusing to recall. Dude, thanks for jogging it for me.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amazing how you remember things from 38 yrs. ago. I don't recall any special events when I was 12 yrs old. I don't even remember my first dance. heh.

-Grace

shiz said...

What a wonderful post :) It leaves me with a picture-esque image mixed with my own memories of that age..