SUMMER OF 69

It was the summer of 69. Jason had finally and after much uproar graduated from the University of Miami in Florida. He returned home in his Oldsmobile 442 to Narberth where he moved back to his old attic room at our parents house. I was living with a Bryn Mawr College graduate in Lancaster Pennsylvania. What follows is an account of one of Jason’s many visits to the Jersey shore that summer either in the form of a letter to me or to one of his friends.

I took my uncle into the ocean at an unprotected beach and he almost drowned after first losing his wooden leg which he’d been fitted with recently as a result of a shark attack the previous summer. My uncle weights about 240 pounds and it was with considerably effort that I dragged him out of the surf and onto the sand. Immediately I had to plunge back into the waves in order to retrieve his wooden leg which I managed to do. That was nothing short of a miracle. Shark attacks are rare along the New Jersey coast, but from time to time they do happen. I happen to like sharks because, I suppose, they just take what they want, whether it be a seal or someone’s leg.

In the meantime, my aunt Emily who is schizophrenic left the hotel room and was creating a disturbance at a local restaurant. She refused to leave the property when asked, and so the police were called to handle the incident. My aunt picked up salt and pepper shakers and hurled them at the cops. I suppose they had little choice but to cuff her and transport her to the nearest holding cell. When my uncle learned about this several hours later he became enraged and insisted I drive him to the police station. The air conditioner in my car was malfunctioning, so we were both drenched in perspiration by the time we arrived and my uncle had built up a full head of steam and was ready for bear or any large game. We’d managed to get his wooden leg back on with some duct tape, but the cloth on his one trouser leg was missing, his face was redder than a tomato and his clothing was rumpled and in disarray.

The police looked altogether dismayed when my uncle crashed through their front door and began yelling and cursing in a voice which sounded more like an animal’s growl. He stampeded around the room knocking things off desks while demanding that his wife be released from custody. It took six officers to finally subdue him. He was cuffed and taken to a cell.

 I fished in my pocket for bail money but had only six dollars. My heart sunk like a stone. I knew I’d have to call his kids for the bail money. They’d doubtlessly blame me for the fiasco and they’d be furious over the fact I took them to the shore at all. His two sons, both very big bruisers in their mid fifties, owned all kinds of weapons. To characterize them as full blown gun-nuts would not be inaccurate or unkind. My hands trembled as I dialed the pay phone.

 I was sweating bullets.

   Fortunately no one answered so  I left a message for them to call the Ocean County jail about their parents.  Nothing else I could do.

                                     **********************

  My Uncle Charlie and Uncle Edwin were brothers of my mother’s mother and were partners in a printing company in Philadelphia for many years. They were printers when printing was still an art form, and both were considered eccentric. There’s little doubt they had the skill to produce funny paper. I’d like to think they did. All I know for sure is that they were always awash in a sea of cash. My Uncle Charlie owned a yacht of sorts, probably about 32-36 feet, built of wood and suitable for ocean travel. When I reached the age of about 15, the began to take me deep sea fishing.  At first the trips included fishing, beer, and whiskey, but after a few trips they brought two women aboard.  I didn’t figure out right away that they were prostitutes, but in fact they were played out whores from the gritty Fishtown area of Philadelphia. They sported tattoos and cussed a lot.  One of the told me to call her aunt Peg. She said she was 25 and was missing her little finder. Said she lost it in a game of five card stud.  The other lady was about the same age and also had some tattoos. Her name was Fran.  Both had very dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin. I’d never seen olive skin like that before

  “Such a cutie” one of them said about me the first time we met.

 “Yea, just fucking adorable” aunt Peg replied. 

 

It was explained to me that I could go below deck with one or both of the women and play with them but I could never mention it to my anyone.  Being 15 years old with a healthy libido it sounded good to me and so began my introduction to the pleasures of Venus, sometimes with one woman, sometimes with the other, and at times with both at once.  I was as happy as a woodpecker in a sawmill.  My uncle gave me some whiskey to drink because I was so nervous the first time.  If I’d thought there was a better than even chance I’d get the clap I’d have been twice as nervous.  Uncle Charlie gave me a rubber to use.  It was as thick as an inner tube.  I remember how aunt Peg laughed when she saw it.

   “What the hell’s this,” she asked, “Some fucking  army issued rubber.” and she tossed it overboard into the hungry ocean.  “Jesus Christ,  what’s Charlie think I am, typhoid Mary for Christ fucking sake.”

On one occasion I returned from the fishing trip and my high school girlfriend, Karen  was at the house.  She was Irish Catholic and usually a “good” girl but just my luck this time she wanted to mess around as usual and not actually have sex.  Of course I was completely spent from a day on board with the prostitutes and failed to become aroused.  Worse yet, she took note of the fact I smelled l had a sickly sweet odor about me. I told her I’d been shopping at Strawbridges for perfume for her, but she didn’t believe it, especially since I also smelled like bait. 

                 

  Eventually I confessed. She grew livid with anger and stormed out of the house, but not before shouting at my parents who were watching TV in the living room that “Jason was with whores today.”       I don’t think they took her remark literally. More than likely it seemed she was just bent out of shape over something I did (or didn’t do) and was merely hurling an insult. That I might have been partying with hookers was just too farfetched for them to believe.  It would have seemed more credible  to think I was abducted by aliens from another planet.

  Later on, over dinner, my father inquired about my girlfriend’s comment, about the whores.  All I could think of to say was, “Ohhh, you know how these catholics are. It’s All good and evil with them, clean and dirty, God and the Devil.  Must be her time of the month, dad.

My mom tittered and just said, “Oh, Jason, that’s awful{“Pass the potatoes please,” I said, and the subject was forgotten, at least for a while. I finished up my dinner and skipped desert. I was supposed to meet Rod for some shoplifting in Ardmore.  I thought we’d try our hand at a jewelry store there. I needed some expensive present for Karen which cancel out her mental image of me sandwiched between two hookers.

Although I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about the hookers, it was just far too newsworthy to keep quiet about, and within a short time many of my friends knew all about the “fishing” trips and wanted to be included, especially Rob.  On the next outing I asked my uncles if a couple of friends could come along. Uncle Charlie said no and Uncle Edwin said yes, so a coin was tossed.  My friends won the toss.

It was a hot and sultry July day when my two friends Pete  and Rod  walked down the wooden dock with me and boarded the  “Miss Behaven”, my uncle’s boat, and only we knew what an appropriate name that was.  Because there were two more sets of balls along my uncles brought four girls this time.  The wind was blowing stiff from the north and the bay was flecked with whitecaps.  After the boat passed under the Sea Isle bridge the waves breaking across the bow at five to six feet in height.  At that point, everyone had consumed at least six beers.   My uncle cut the motor once we were five miles or so offshore and the waves caused the craft to pitch and roll badly. My friends rushed to the Leeward rail and threw up. Rob was so loaded he couldn’t stand up.  Pete  almost got pitched overboard.  If there was a legal limit at that time to operate a watercraft my uncles were over that, having consumed a fifth of old crow whiskey in two hours. There was nothing much to eat on board other than a box of slim jims I’d boosted from the tackle shop. It was quite a picture of nautical inebriation.

                

                

    I think everyone managed to have sex but was so loaded myself I can’t be sure.  I don’t remember much about getting back to the boat slip or being driven from Somers Point to Philadelphia.  It was late by the time I did get dropped off.  I didn’t realize that one of the hookers got out of the car with me and we both passed out drunk on the front lawn. I slept the whole night with my head on her bosom.  It was a scene out of Maxfield Parish.

 My neighbor saw us still lying under a Japanese Maple tree in the morning and roused my parents.  I must have looked like a total derelict and the woman was dressed in her underwear.  My father looked puzzled when he helped us up and into the house.  My mother found a housecoat for the woman. I introduced her as Betty Jane from Cabrini College in Wayne, an exclusive school for girls.  She looked no more like a coed from Cabrini than a

pigeon resembles a toad.

Once inside the house my mom started asking innocent questions about her college courses.  “Are you in a sorority, Betty Jane”

      I was very much afraid my new “girlfriend” would say something like, “Hell no, why you couldn’t pay me enough to be in some fucking snotnosed sorority, lady.”

       But  instead  she sweetly replied, “Oh yes I tried to get in one but I guess the other girls thought I didn’t have enough class….or something.

     That was a very good thing to say because it caused my mother to feel sorry for her. She got up and went into the kitchen to make her a grilled cheese sandwich.  My dad didn’t say a  thing the entire time but just stared at the woman I called Betty Jane. He didn’t seem at all angry or confused, or even curious. For a moment I thought he might be having a stroke

      Finally he slowly stood up and said, “It’s interesting, really it is, very interesting.” And then he just left the room.

   I had to call my uncle and ask him to drive "Betty Jane" back to her tenament in Fishtown.  I’m sure he was badly hungover but was gracious enough to do it anyway. I’d have to boost a case of beer to repay his kindness.

   My mother never said anything about the incident. Later that day my dad asked me if I had anything to say to him.   “I guess I had one too many, you know.” I said.

“More than one too many I think,” he replied. “and aren’t you a little young to be going out with college girls?”

“I guess, dad, but, you know what they say, age is just a number.”

 

                        (Play "Summer of '69  by Brian Adams)

                                   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFjjO_lhf9c&ob=av2n