During the spring of 1976, it never felt stronger given my March suspension from school for smoking pot, after-school Drug Relate meetings with my fellow troublemakers, the new busboy gig at the Lafayette Club one or two nights a week, and definitely on the weekends.
As kids, we stayed out late, often past ten. When the parents wanted us home, they rang a bell Dad had installed just outside the front lakeside door.
“Michael! Brian! Home, boys!”
The neighborhood dogs barked in reply; we were blocks away playing Kick the Can in another kid’s yard. When night blossomed, the air turned sweeter. And as it breathed in on itself, the stars twinkled like the cymbals in that song where the orchestra quiets and a flute holds a lone note in the air, and a harp shivers into—
—a strumming rhythm guitar, a plodding snare drum, and a softly roving bass guitar all melding into that voice, so sad, so chilling—
“Nights in white satin…”
Coming home from the Lafayette Club, head still buzzing from six hours of scraping plates, the hum of a packed ballroom, shouts and curses from the dishwashers to the chef (and vice versa), breaking glass and running for more plastic bussing tubs…a walk in the night before going home to my bedside AM radio.
“Beauty, I’d always missed…”
After Julie Peterson in homeroom, I had a crush on a local girl who lived at the end of the Point, Kathy. She had long dark hair and a face that betrayed a seriousness that fascinated me. I used to walk down to her house just to be near her. House window lights snapped on and, out on the lake, boats on the bay glided by with their green, red and white lights reflecting off the black water.
“Oh how I love you…”
Why did love have to be so sad, so serious? What would it be like to be happy and loved? To have someone say, “Oh how I love you!” And you could say that to them, too. How would it feel? When you didn’t have a clue, and you were 16 years old, you took in that heady night air for only so long before going home, tossing off your tan corduroys that reeked of cigarettes and coffee, crawling into bed and switching on the radio. Maybe you put on your oversized Sony headphones and melted into that song, often played by Robb Sherwood near midnight, with the sad singer, the softly strumming guitar, throbbing bassline—
“Just what the truth is…I can’t say any more…”
—the orchestra soars—yes, to be in love must feel like that. But then it calms down, and the harp strums and the strings throb, the horns blare, the cymbals ring out an alarm…then the stars twinkle and burn in the night sky again.
“Breathe deep the gathering gloom…”
What did it all mean? Was life always going to be like this, longing and regretting, watching and waiting? My bedroom wallpaper flashed the signs: “STOP. ONE WAY. YIELD. DEER CROSSING. PARKING. DEAD END.” Lovers wrestling as one, old men never getting love, mothers feeding their babies and some cold-hearted orb—the moon, maybe—that’s supposed to be some oracle, something you can go to when you don’t have the answers but are full of questions…perhaps the sound of one gong is all it takes to bring it full circle.
“…And which is an illusion?”