I woke up at 4 this a.m.- about 30 minutes ago- and couldn't get to sleep. Whether a symptom of or a defense against, I began thinking about the year of our time machine 1976 and all the things that were happening or about to happen in my life. And the more I remembered, I began to wonder how I would have gotten through without the music.
This was the year I began to transition from the safe haven of Ron Gregory and WOWO to the exotic and dangerous territory of WMEE. Hence my first real tastes of the Rolling Stones and Led Zep, and songs like the Isley's Fight The Power. We were just coming off the trauma of the mid-year replacement in 8th grade of Mr. Walker with Mr. Stork- a replacement we had caused and felt horrible about. A trauma that was mitigated somewhat by the fact that ol' Stork was a decent enough chap for a mildly-repentant hippie. This was the season in which I learned to cuss- unfortunately- and got my first inklings about the nature of sex, and of love beyond the grade school crush of the month.
The safe haven of life in a tiny Catholic school was soon to end forever, an ending I've never truly gotten over in my heart. Soon I would be facing not only the new experience of high school and having to find basically a whole new field of friends (and vastly different relationships with those who remained), but doing in it in an environment where the population of one classroom was close to the size of four GRADES at my old school. I would not only be facing malicious bullying for the first time, but also religious prejudice, which absolutely took me off guard.
I would be facing this in a new framework personally. A lifelong two-handsful of warts would evaporate almost overnight because ( I swear to God this worked) I cut a potato in two, rubbed it on the damned things, and threw it backwards over my shoulder, never seeing where it landed. That was the good side.
The bad side was that I was just months away from my mom's tearful announcement that she had Leukemia and her swift and painful rush to death just weeks before I started high school. Not only was I facing figuring out how one lived without a mother, but I was doing it while taking up her position as the victim of my dad's emotional bullying when drunk. At least this was a transition in the fact that I had been getting more of it anyway as I got older. But now I was getting it all, not to mention the guilt and grief dad felt over mom's passing plus his own very sober and very real trauma of having to be a dad learning to raise a son alone, a son who was learning how to be a father's child alone. It was not a fun time between us.
Mom's death changed the whole structure of our family. The days of Thanksgivings and Christmases with the whole family together vanished in a eyeblink. Rumblings started over doc's treatment of mom and over who got what. And the house got a lot quieter. My faith had begun to change as well, the result of getting a New Testament from the Gideons and actually getting to read a Bible for myself for the first time instead of the pre-digested pieces that Church and school had taught me all my life. Things like Mary, the rosary, confession, purgatory, and most important, salvation came into question. If God gave us the Bible, why wasn't the Bible the last word?
I met my oldest friend this year, the one I mentioned on last night's post, along with her brother. This family became a HUGE part of the transitions going on. We would go on to become the core of our high-school "clique"- the clique that encompassed all those who could never fit into any other clique. This group, and my appointment as the "official" joke-teller to the seniors, were all that bought me survival through my freshmen year.
Did I mention I became a freshman that year? That encompasses all the teenage angst at its genesis, all that "life or death" crap we went through back then, never knowing better until we were too old to do anything about it. Jobs, careers, college, all became part of the worry-set this year. And to top it all off, the two true loves of my life, the Oakland Athletics and the Miami Dolphins, were beginning their own transitions. The A's were about to go from three time world series champs and 5 time division winners to a club that needed good luck and a stiff breeze at their backs to avoid 100 losses every year. The Dolphins would soon have their first losing season in the NFL- something that had been unthinkable for 6 years now.
If anything caused my hatred of change, this year was it. And the only sane and good thing I could wrap around me was the music. And as we shall see, even it was changing. A year like the summer of '75 would never come again. As Don Henley would later sing, this was the end of the innocence. I sometime get crap over on bestalbumsever.com for my top 50 list. Why do you not have any new stuff? How do you explain to a 20-something that it's because these are the years you LIVED through?
First thing I remember was askin' papa, "Why?",
For there were many things I didn't know.
And Daddy always smiled; took me by the hand,
Sayin', "Someday you'll understand."
Well, I'm here to tell you now each and ev'ry mother's son
You better learn it fast; you better learn it young,
'Cause, "Someday" Never Comes.