As a boy at the god-awful age of 16, I lived on Staten Island, the forgotten borough of New York City. I had a cluster of maybe five close friends and some peripheral ones who occasionally appeared, and we would hang out. Being the bad guys we were, we often did our hanging in front of the library, which if the truth be told, was close to home: I lived behind the library. Sometimes we sat in my dad’s car, which was even closer to home and never moved, and listened to “Cousin Brucie” Bruce Morrow and “Murray the K” Kaufman and a host of others, double entendre intended. We were all great students and athletes, and we never drank or did drugs, and sometimes I wonder what kids today would think of us.
One of the songs that hit the charts and the hearts that summer was “Sherry” by the Four Seasons, released in the heat of August to add steam to the life of an already hot and bothered 16-year-old male. I remember one night as we stood on the corner in front of the library, looking more intellectual than tough, one of the new neighborhood arrivals came by, a girl to die for, whom I suspect many may have died for by now. I knew then that I would never forget her and I haven’t, but her family left town about as quickly as they had arrived, which happened a lot in my neighborhood. I don’t remember her name, and I don’t remember what she looked like either, but she was hot, I think. I bet you’re wondering what, in all that’s forgotten, I do remember.
I remember the song “Sherry” playing on someone’s transistor radio, I remember it being a very hot night, and I remember this hot girl. I was a very shy kid, but on this hot summer night as the Four Seasons heightened my senses with words about red dresses and twist parties and moving nice and easy, I found words coming out of my mouth, asking this girl where we were going (and I probably looked behind me to see who had actually uttered those words). With that she took me by the hand and walked me out into the middle of the road over a manhole cover and pointed down. “There. There is where we are going,” she said. “Where? What is there?” I asked, and she said, “Straight to hell.”
I may not remember her name, face, or what was so hot about her to begin with, but I remember those words, and sometimes on a hot summer night I can still see that manhole cover and hear the words “straight to hell,” and I wonder what she knew that I didn’t. That same year the Vietnam War was escalating, and many soon to be 18-year-old males were indeed heading straight to hell.
There are more thoughts on this and other things on the shores of Rambling Harbor. Join me there.