and Virginity Lost, Part 1
History And Virginity Lost
WHERE were you when Armstrong walked on the moon? Do you remember? I love those "where were you when" questions. I think itís because they ask about history that you live through and make you feel a part of it. Actually, we are a part of it. Take me for example. I grew up in the sixties, the most passionate and tumultuous decade of this entire spectacular century. I was doing a lot of things in a lot of places when a lot of history went down and I was a part of it all
The JFK assassination - I was the kid walking home from school. Ruby shooting Oswald - I was one of the millions who saw it live on TV. LBJ announcing that he wouldnít accept the democratic partyís nomination for a second term - I was the one cheering in his living room, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, the splash down of friendship 7. I was there for it all
So, where were you when Armstrong walked on the moon?
Me? I was the sixteen year old kid losing his virginity.
New Jersey is not the way most Out-of-staters think it is. People who donít live here usually assume that the entire state consists of what can be seen from the turnpike or the Garden State Parkway. Congested suburbs, ugly industrial cities and crowded tourist traps along the shore. Thereís actually much more to it than that
The Pine Barrens, for example, is the single largest expanse of undeveloped forest land to be found anywhere between Boston and Washington DC. To the south Cumberland and Burlington counties and to the north Warren and Sussex are rural and agricultural producing everything from cranberries to corn and tomatoes. Yes, thatís right, rural New Jersey and quite beautiful too. Just take a ride on interstate 80 through the Delaware Water Gap sometime and youíll see. Weíre up to our eyeballs in beautiful and fascinating places
And then thereís Morristown
Of all the hidden gems youíll find nestled in the hills of northern New Jersey my hometown of Morristown is singularly unique. One of the oldest towns in the state, sign posts at the city limits proudly boast "Welcome to Morristown. Military crossroads of the revolution". And thatís no bullshit. The foothill region of northern New Jersey was of much strategic importance to old George Washington. The endless valleys and hollows were just the places to hide an entire army in need of retreat. In 1969 they still provided much valuable cover for good kids wanting to do bad things
The early evening of July 20, 1969 saw the end of a long hot day in northern New Jersey. Hazy enough to make the sky colorless but not overcast enough to protect you from the scorching sun. I sat on a park bench in the square at the center of town taking one last drag from my cigarette then slipping off my India sandal and crushing it out with my bare foot. My feet were callused from going barefoot a lot and I kinda got a kick out of the way I could do that
The summer was shaping up to be a pretty interesting one so far. On the historical front, Woodstock was still a month away but as of July 20 the Eagle had landed and manís first walk on Terra Luna was at hand
On the personal front, well, there was this girl.
I had been seeing Lisa Wass for a little over a month. We were introduced by my best friend Ducky Drake. Duckyís real name was Spencer but as kids weíd nicknamed him after the little cartoon duck from the Drakes cakes commercials on TV. Tall, well muscled and almost absurdly good looking, the nickname didnít suit him but somehow it stuck
Lisa was the younger sister of Duckyís girlfriend Karen. Short with brown hair and sad puppy eyes I found her attractive in a voluptuous Cheerleader sort of way. We met at Duckyís house. She wore these tight white levis that hugged her little round butt in a way that made me crazy. I donít recall ever asking her for a date or even having much conversation with her. She didnít talk much. Seems like we just found ourselves making out in the back seat of Gene Swensonís car one night going home and hadnít stopped since. Most of our relationship took place in secret. Lisa was the preppie middle class girl next door. I was the bad ass long haired rock and roller from the wrong side of the tracks. The middle son in, what was known locally as, the notorious DeFranco clan. It was really my older brother Eddie who was the hell raiser. My younger brother Tony and I merely walked the trail he blazed with the unearned reputation he forged. And, even if my reputation was somewhat undeserved, in the world of middle class nineteen sixties sensibilities, letís face it, I was every parentís worst nightmare and not the sort of boyfriend Lisa could easily explain. I didnít mind it. The stealth aspects of our affair just made it seem more romantic. In 1969 I was sixteen years old and technically still a virgin. From the moment I met her a relentless voice in my head kept saying "Sheís the one. She will be the one". I lit another cigarette and wondered when or if my friends would show up. We almost always just meet in the park and figured out what to do from there. In a way, I didnít really care if anybody showed up or not. Iíd have just as soon gone home to watch the moon walk on TV
In the counter culture world of the sixties it was hip to be indifferent about the space program but I couldnít help being fascinated by it. The NASA public relations machine tried so hard to frame it all as a picture of superior American technology and integrity. I suppose, to a degree, it was so but in my opinion they came straight to the point and missed it completely. Their obsession with promoting all the successes and burying all the failures obscured what a heroic undertaking it actually was. It was the Apollo 1 fire, a major glitch, not NASA making it look easy, that first made me realize that the men who rode the rockets not only did things that had never been done before but did them with absolutely no certainty of what to expect. In those days it was the first time around for everything
"Hey Dave", came a voice from behind me. It was Ducky. I turned and saw him strolling up with Karen and Lisa
"Hey man", I returned, "I see you got two girls there"
"So I donít have one. How bout you let me have one"
"Ok. Iíll letcha have this one". He linked arms with Lisa and swung her over to me
She gave me a kiss and smiled slyly as if to suggest something was up
"So. What are we doing?" I asked
"Well", Ducky began, suddenly very businesslike, "We were thinking it might be nice to go swimming. Itís so hot."
I looked at Lisa. Then Karen. Then Duck. They were all looking at me as if the ball were in my court
"Ok" I said wondering what they were up to, "Where?" "Black River falls", said Karen
"Yes, the falls", Lisa chimed in. She slid up in a way that really got to me
"Iím game. Any idea how weíre gonna get there?" Black River was remote
A good twenty miles from town and none of us had a car. On the other hand its remoteness meant that weíd likely be skinny dipping. An appealing idea with the girls along
"Whatís Gene doing"? Ducky asked.
Gene Swenson was our ace in the hole whenever we needed wheels. He seemed to have unlimited access to his parentís car. We both played in a band together so it was generally assumed that I had the inside track on him. That wasnít necessarily so
"Well, I guess I could call him."
Lisa grabbed my arm held it to her breasts and nodded
"Iíll call him"
As I headed out of the park the expedition to Black River seemed to acquire a sense of urgency. Something in Lisaís over eager insistence began to fill my head with ideas. I wondered if Gene was still home and if heíd be game for it. After all, we didnít have a girl for him so heíd have to go along with being the odd man out
I was about to cross the street at the southwest corner of the park when the light changed. I looked to my right and there was Gene driving his parents big white Mercury Monterey convertible through the intersection. My, how convenient, I thought
"Hello Gene", I said casually as he passed by.
He looked up, as if startled at the sound of my voice and then over at me
"Over there", I said pointing towards the park. He pulled up at the curb
Ducky and the girls were already gathering on the sidewalk as I trotted up
"Wow Dave. Howíd you get him here so fast?" said Ducky with a grin
Gene hopped out of the car and asked what we were doing
Most people didnít understand or appreciate Gene. He played keyboard in the band, which was cool, because he bore a striking resemblance to Ray Manzerak. Tall and rawboned with wire frame glasses, He had a reputation for being a cold fish of a guy. Some of the kids at school jokingly referred to him as Mr. Spock. They were wrong. Fact is, Gene loved a good time just as much as the next guy. True, he was a bit on the analytical side but there was a passion to him that went over most peopleís heads. It was music
Iíve played with a lot of musicians down through the years but Iíve seen very few with talent like Geneís. He had perfect pitch. No, really, perfect pitch. We used to play a game. Iíd play these oddball chords on the guitar while he looked the other way. Even I didnít know what they were half the time. And heíd identify the chord
He could pretty much master any musical instrument he picked up within a few weeks
I pitched the idea to Gene. He thought about it for a moment then said,
"Sure. Letís go. Iíve even got a few towels in the car. Weíll need gas though"
I fished through my pockets. I had three dollars and change. Ducky had six. We each coughed up two with Gene throwing in one making a total of five
Ah, those wonderful sixties when gas was a mere 29 cents a gallon. You could cruise all night on five bucks. Even in a Mercury
The fastest route to Black River Falls was down I 287 to the Bedminster exit. It involved some doubling back on route 206 but the quick ride down the interstate took less time than making the trip on secondary roads
Without thinking, Lisa and I took the back seat while Ducky and Karen hopped into the front with Gene. Privacy was always accorded to the couple occupying the back seat for purposes of making out and an unspoken protocol said that the couple who had it on the trip out would be expected to yield it on the trip home. Lisa and I decided to make the trip out really count
We stopped for gas in Mt. Kemble Lake just before the ramp to the Interstate. At 8:15 PM, with the sun already well beyond the horizon, daylight still hung stubbornly in the sky
As we started down the highway Lisa sat in the opposite corner of the Mercuryís huge back seat feigning shyness, her long hair flying every which way in the wind. She looked over at me and smiled a kind of "why donít you come on over?" smile. I reached out, grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her over to me
In short denim cutoffs and a light blue surfer shirt she still managed to look like a preppie. Lisa was like that. You could place her on an east village street corner dressed in rags and sheíd never lose that rich girl look
Eyes were being kept respectfully forward in the front seat. Karen was punching furiously at the radio buttons trying to find some music. All that was on were news reports about Apollo 11. I would have gladly listened in on Armstrong and Aldrinís progress but the consensus was for music
"Here", said Gene producing an eight track of Creamís "Wheels Of Fire". Ducky plugged it into an in-dash player. Suddenly "White Room" was blasting in the car
Lisa entwined her arms loosely around the back of my neck and looked daringly into my eyes. There was a fearlessness in her that excited me. I pulled her in close and kissed her deep and probing. She probed back. We could go on like that endlessly until our mouths got numb. Only teenagers ever kiss like that. My hand, resting on her leg, began moving up the inside of her thy. I slipped, undaunted, through the leg of her cutoffs and stroked her lightly through her panties. She gasped slightly and I whispered in her earÖ
"Mmmmmmm", she returned nodding
I honestly canít remember anything ever not being OK with Lisa. There are moments in life when everything seems perfect. They arenít necessarily the big moments. They are what I think of, so often, as the fragments of ordinary days. It could be something as simple as the way the air smells at a happy but otherwise unremarkable time. Somehow it makes a memory that lasts forever. A memory of one of those moments was formed as we flew down the Interstate racing with the sunset. The music blasting. The car speeding along. The wind entwining our hair I as we kissed. My fingers loving the silky smooth feel of her veiled wetness
"There is no substitute for youth", said a coworker of mine in 1991.
Actually, we were having a conversation about an up coming George Foreman fight. We were sitting in a conference room at our office having coffee when he said it and I found myself wanting come up with a sarcastic response. The remark struck me as arrogant. "Speak for yourself", I was about to say when I caught a glimpse of my own reflection in the window glass. I was pushing forty at the time and, I guess, I just didnít want to hear stuff like that. And even if old George managed to prove him wrong a time or two since then I suppose the thing that really pissed me off was that the remark was, for the most part, true. The reflection proved it
What is the sensation of your fondest summer memory? Does it sound like a staticy old tube radio broadcasting a Giants game from the polo grounds in endless silver blue twilight? Does it have the placid scent of salty sea air at the shore or maybe the smell of birch logs on a campfire in the mountains? Does it taste like the ice cream cone you bought at the Dairy Queen, melting faster than you can lick it? Maybe, just maybe, it feels like a kiss or looks like sunlight flicking shadows in that green place where your fingers once traced the every curve and secret spot of someone new who made you feel new things
To me itís all of that and then some but the ultimate summer metaphor will always be the ageless young girl. She remains forever young and beautiful while I comb whatís left of my hair, survey the bags under my eyes and check out the expanding gut hanging over my belt with a nagging little voice in the back of my head saying "Told ya so"
Could be itís just what I deserve
By 8:45 the day bright sky was giving way to a deep purple sunset. Just over a low rise on route 206 the intersection of Fairmont Valley road came up fast. It was a dangerous intersection, worse for cars pulling out onto the highway because of the blind rise. Gene made the turn without slowing down and headed down the long hill into the town of Fairmont Valley. Just beyond the town were the Black River Falls. Beyond that, Who knew?
© Bob Ayers
Copyright © Bob Ayers