Friday, June 10, 2005

A summer of Mamas & Papas and then...

NEW YORK CITY - Right after graduation, I spent the summer at Lakewood Beach, a lifeguard with Dan Harp, my cousin Kathleen McAvoy and Kathy Wood (Dan from the Class of '64, Kathy & Kathy from the Class of '65) and some of the songs from this album were big on the portable radio we kept out on the end of the dock while we watching people struggle swimming.

Sometimes we would start up a little impromptu dancing - which the little kids thought was beyond cool - and at the end, we would toss the little buggers into the lake as their reward.

And they loved it...

But the Mamas & Papas songs really came into my vision when I went to Villanova and hitchhiked to New York City (well, really Greenwich Village) for an adventure. And every bar we went into was playing Mamas & Papa's songs.

We should have called that adventure, "Geeks in New York." Three roommates in tan raincoats, wet shoes and short haircuts who couldn't stop looking up at the tall buildings. One of my roommates was from Arizona and actually hurt his neck looking up so much.

Naturally, we got cheated at every bar (Where's the booze in the drinks?), got approached by hookers (You want how much?) and managed to walk into some neighborhoods where white guys in tan raincoats were either morons or federal agents. We were not associated with the federal government, I assure you.

But to this day, when I hear the song below, I remember Lakewood Beach and the summer of 1966. It might have been the best summer of my life. Well, wait, there was 1974, and last summer wasn't half-bad either.


Here you go kids:

I Saw Her Again

by The Mamas and The Papas

I saw her again last night
And you know that I shouldn't
To string her along's just not right
If I couldn't I wouldn't

But what can I do, I'm lonely too
And it makes me feel so good to know
You'll never leave me

I'm in way over my head
Now she thinks that I love her
Because that's what I said
Though I never think of her

But what can I do, I'm lonely too
And it makes me feel so good to know
You'll never leave me

Every time I see that girl
You know I wanna lay down and die
But I really need that girl
Don't know why I'm livin' a lie
It makes me wanna cry

I saw her again last night
And you know that I shouldn't
To string her along's just not right
If I couldn't I wouldn't

But what can I do, I'm lonely too
And it makes me feel so good to know
You'll never leave me

------ instrumental break ------

But what can I do, I'm lonely too
And it makes me feel so good to know
You'll never leave me

Every time I see that girl
You know I wanna lay down and die
But I really need that girl
Don't know why I'm livin' a lie
It makes me wanna cry

I saw her again last night
And you know that I shouldn't
To string her along's just not right
If I couldn't I wouldn't
I'm in way over my head
Now she thinks that I love her
Because that's what I said
Though I never think of her

Thursday, June 09, 2005

From the June 9 Jamestown Post-Journal

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. - Newspaper photographers just love those wreckers. And in this case it being our old elementary school, the readership is guaranteed. Think how many people went through that school. Some of our classmate's parents graduated from it when it was a high school.

It seems like it's taking a long time to knock the old barn down. It reminds me of California, where buildings get knocked down to put new ones in their place because of new earthquake standards. Can't have the old buildings falling down.

And they can't topple them when they hit them with the wrecking ball! (Kind of like the fillings in my teeth from 1960 - courtesy of Dr. Joseph Griffo. Never, never let a dentist take out your old fillings. The ones I had removed about 10 years ago have to be replaced every three or four years. The ones from Joe Griffo are solid as, well, rocks.)

This photo, a grab shot of the front page of the Jamestown Post-Journal comes via Sue Siecker who sent the whole newspaper to me as a pdf file.

I started reading other sections of the newspaper and it's not as bad a rag as it was when we were growing up and it was publishing news about our speeding tickets and other escapades.

I still have the clipping somewhere from when I got tagged for reckless driving on my Yamaha 80 motorcycle - at night. I was speeding and passed three cars on a double solid line. Too bad I didn't look behind me and see Nels Carlson in the Lakewood police car.

He was soooo made at me - not for speeding - but because he knew that he had to give me a ticket and my mother would give him hell the next time she saw him.

He did, and she did and I paid a $45 fine. It seemed like a fortune on my parttime Loblaw's bag-boy salary.

On another, more musical topic:

Marcia Carlson Hein put a notice up here on the blog trying to find Gloria by The Shadows of Knight. And Dave Carlson responded with some sage advice about copyrights. But for folks looking for that song - or the one I'm listing today at the end of the blog - Apple's ITunes has them both.

Today's song? This one you will know the tune for, I'm sure. Boy does it bring back some memories from one summer at Lakewood Beach.



The Sounds of Silence
by Simon and Garfunkel

(words and music by Paul Simon)

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools", said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The music of 1966 - and what it brings back

ZIHUATENEJO, MEXICO - A year ago, I was hanging out in a Mexican bar owned by an American named Rick (yeah, just like Rick from Rick's Cafe in Casablanca) where I met a nice cruising family who had an eight-year-old boy, Martin, and a 11-year-old girl named Emily.

Emily wanted to be a writer, so guess what we talked about. But Martin, little Martin, he wanted to be a musician and learn to play the guitar.

These kids were the best argument I've ever seen for getting children out of those penitentaries we call schools and into the world.

Long story short, while Martin's dad and I sat and swilled beer at the bar several afternoons per week. (Ok, maybe it was every day...) Martin took guitar lessons and learned so fast that pretty soon we could recognize the tunes. I swear it wasn't just the Pacifico beer, which does have some pretty astounding mind-altering qualities.

But the kicker came a few weeks before I was to move my boat Sabbatical back up the coast. It was open microphone night and damn, there was little Martin sitting up on the stool, a whole rock band of miscreant musicians from Z-town ready to back him up. Martin and I had talked a lot about 60s rock 'n roll, and one song in particular that I remembered and really liked. I thought I had heard him strumming it out in front of the open air bar where he got his lessons from an off duty bartender who supposedly was somebody famous. I thought I was just hearing the music because of the young girl who tended bar during the day, but, well...

The tune was made famous by The Shadows of Knight, a group that played the song one night at the old Mar-Mar restaurant where legend has it Dan Harp had to hide under the table with several other SWCS folks when a motorcycle gang came in and busted up the bar. No fans of the Shadows were they, apparently.

And when little Martin hit the first chords of "Gloria," it all came back, the whole episode, Dan Harp retelling that story as many times as people asked him about it.

But Martin was good - damn good and pretty soon the whole place was rocking and rolling and dancing and screaming, and Sweet Jesus, what riot we had!

The music, you see, was/is the key (for me at least) to remembering things such as the great Mar-Mar bar crash, dancing at Snug Harbor, crawling out of the Surf Club at 1 a.m. (in search of breakfast!), or those long summers on Lake Chautauqua trying to find some girls silly enough to go waterskiing with us.

For the Class of '66 - and Martin - here's the lyrics to "Gloria," by the Shadows of Knight. See if you can hear the music.

The Shadows of Knight

Like to tell you 'bout my baby
You know she comes round
Just 'bout five feet four
From her head to the ground
Well she comes around here
Just about midnight
She makes me feel so good Lord
Makes me feel alright.

Her name is G-L-O-R-I-A
Gloria, Gloria, Gloria...etc.

Yeah, she comes around here
Just about midnight
Makes me feel so good Lord
Makes me feel alright
Walkin' down my street
Comes up to my house
She knocks upon me door
Makes me feel alright.

Her name is G-L-O-R-I-A
Gloria, Gloria, Gloria...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Much ado about the hairdo, redux

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. - When Cee Jay first emailed me some time back about the reunion and the website, she referred to this picture.

"Was every day a bad hair day then...and why did it have to be on picture day?"

Well, kind of like Bob Swanson's wild wave, what hair was in 1966 it just was. And I'm no hairstyle critic, but Cee Jay's hair looks pretty good to me in this copy of her yearbook shot.

My own hair? Well, I needed to use more Wildroot, maybe a gallon. (Bob Swanson emailed me to say he thinks he used Wildroot in those days. A photo of him from last summer is up on the discussion group web page. The wave on his head is gone, but Bob looks like he's enjoying the surf anyway.)

So here's an idea - better than karaoke!

With the magic of Adobe Photoshop, we could move some of these hairdos around on people and see what, say, Bob Swanson's wave would look like on my forehead.

How about Cee Jay's doo on say, Cheryl Towers?

Louis Acquisto's hair on Jim Lindell?

Hmmm... that might prove to be a bad hair day for all of us.

So, we're back to karaoke, right?

A wave that you could probably surf on

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. - The yearbook is full of great photos. If you haven't dragged yours out recently, well, grab the bottle of Grey Goose vodka by the neck and hang on tight when you turn the pages.

More than a few people have said, 'My picture is awful' (Right, CeeJay?), but in truth, the photos tell a thousand stories, even the bad ones.

Now today, here's Bob Swanson's entry. In the 20th reunion photo (posted some time ago) he's standing next to me in the back row with Conrad Wilson flanking him on his left. (I was standing next to the lovely Marcia Carlson.)

But Bob's photo from the yearbook is a classic 1966 pose - a fantastic wave up front that probably took a half a tube of Brylcreem to keep aloft.

I sported that look sometimes, but my hair would never hold like Bob's: Brylcreem, Wildroot Cream Oil, you name the product, my hair would collapse into a greasy mess down onto my forehead, which in adolescent years did not need more oil.

The only time my hair could stand up and do-a-Swanson was when I would wash it and walk outside in the winter, where it would freeze solid. Not much of an option.

So, for our reunion, what about everyone trying to redo their hair ala 1966? Do they even manufacture Brylcreem anymore? It could be a contest!

Okay, Okay. This is probably another idea that's likely to die like my earlier suggestion about karaoke at whatever soiree(s) we have.

But look at Bob again and tell me that isn't a great look...

TODAY'S SONG (great for karaoke by the way): It's Only Make Believe by Conway Twitty

People see us everywhere,
They think you really care,
But myself I can't decieve,
I know it's only make believe
My one and only prayer,
Is that some day you'll care,
My hopes my dreams come true...

Monday, June 06, 2005

My story about not going to Vietnam

Fitz - circa 1969
Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
FREDONIA, N.Y. - The Class of '66 discussion group (the link is to the right) has been buzzing with several tales about military service, or in some cases, the lack thereof.

As soon as John Rupp gets up and running on the discussion list, he'll likely tell us about his escapade of getting drafted, but refusing to be inducted. I won't tell his story, but his and mine mesh in the timeline.

In the spring of 1968, we had both dropped out of our respective colleges, (Villanova for me, I don't remember where John was, Florida, maybe.) Neither of us was inclined to do the study part of school, though I must admit the parties, the girls, the ambiance was pretty neat.

But we did have a goal. We decided that we were going to go the Olympics in Mexico City. Never mind that neither of us spoke Spanish, had passports or a dollar. We were done with college and all we had to do was make a little money and Viva Mexico!

My mother - when I finally got up the courage to tell her I was not going back to Villanova for the spring semester - was good about it. "Fine," she said. "Then you can pay me rent. No college, no free ride."

I hadn't factored that in, and after a month of thinking about it and trying to pay her $20 a week, I took the Jamestown bus down to JCC to sign up for some classes. I took the bus because sons who don't go to college also don't get their mom's car to use. At least not in the Fitzgerald family.

And so, while I was going to JCC, I filed to keep my student deferment. Seemed like a bright idea, given how many people were being drafted.

Fast forward to spring 1970. In the ensuing time I had gotten married and my wife was pregnant with my now 35-year-old son on the way. And, from a draft deferment standpoint, my number had come up in the lottery - 330, I think.

So one afternoon I wandered into the draft board in Fredonia, where Gertrude Mampf (Can anyone forget a name like that?) sat as clerk of the draft board. I went in to be a good scout, to let the draft board now that I had a change in my life - I was now married, though I understood that the married deferments had disappeared a year or two before.

Gertrude pulled my file and realized that I had been sitting with a student deferment since 1966 - but was still at a two-year college.

Her little round body (ok, it wasn't that little) shook with joy when she said I was headed for the Army. I pointed out that I had a high number in the lottery but she just grinned and said to watch the mail for a nastygram from Selective Service.

Sure enough, a week later I had a notice signed by her and the head of the draft board to show up for a physical, and after all the tales about that circus (Doug Hooper has arguably the best stories, though read Jim Carr's on the discussion list) I had to change my shorts several times before I finally took the bus to Buffalo,. There I went the through the whole thing, peeing in plastic cups, getting weighed and measured, etc...

And I was convinced that Gertrude was fixing my records while I was getting poked and prodded to make sure that the next haircut I got was more than a trim.

At the end of the day, sitting in room full of pretty depressed guys, the officer in charge did a roll call and asked us what our numbers were in the lottery.

Until he got to the Fs in the alphabet, the highest number I heard was 39. When he called 'Fitzgerald' and I sang out '330' I thought my life was in serious danger.

No one else in the room had a number over 50.

So I didn't get drafted, though if Gertrude Mampf had her way, I might have had a very different life, or maybe no life.

Was she just a mean butt-head, angry because the world passed her by and she was stuck as clerk of draft boad?

Well, on the bus ride back from the Buffalo, I sat with a fellow who was so depressed he was considering just jumping out of the bus emergency door, in front of the oncoming traffic.

In conversation, I told him about my close call and how if Gertrude had had her way, I'd be history.

"Yeah," he said. "Tell me about it. I dated her daughter for awhile."

I don't know if he dated her daughter or not, I only knew that I went home that night and hugged my wife and prayed that Gertrude was busy mucking up someone else's life and that my lottery number would protect me.

By August no draft notice had shown up, through I did get a document - on my birthday, July 10 - telling me that I was officially 1-A status as far as Selective Service was concerned and to be ready for an induction notice.

I didn't notify Gertrude - or the draft board - when I left Jamestown in August to move to California's wine country.

It just didn't seem like a smart thing to do, number 330 in the lottery or not.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

It's Sunday, a day of rest - well, almost

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Here in Sacramento the school board of a local high school has decided not to rehire a very popular football coach, allegedly because the coach decided that he would not let a board member's son be the starting quarterback a couple of years ago.

Here's a link to the story:
  • Bye-bye Coach

  • What a mess!

    But as I was getting all wound up over it, and thinking it would make a good From Where I Sit blog topic, or a topic for this website, I realized that maybe I needed to take a quiet day and not rant and rave. And maybe not even try to strain my brain about our high school daze.

    So look here tomorrow. By then I will be tan, fit, and rested.

    Well, maybe rested anyway.