Talkin’ Ford-Carter Mock Debate Lovesick Blues

“Alley Cat” echoes from a banquet hall at the Thunderbird Motel in Bloomington, Minn.

It’s a Tuesday night. Nov. 30, 1976, in fact.

Pan the camera from the hall to the lobby, all decked out with faux and authentic Native American artifacts, where a 17-year-old boy slouches on a sofa, brownish-blonde hair falling into his eyes, his arms crossed.

He stares at a TV, bored out of his mind.

His mother is still in the hall, watching an organ recital hosted by Bodine’s Music.

They’re having their somewhat regular mother-son cultural appreciation night out.

It’s going swell.

***

Three days after the post-church date with Linda, I told Kristi about Linda. She … didn’t take it well. That same afternoon my first driver’s license arrived, so it was bye-bye learner’s permit. With wheels at the ready, I called Linda on Thursday to see if she wanted to go a movie, but she said she felt like staying home. If I didn’t get the hint, the diary doesn’t reveal that until exactly three weeks later.

A coterie had formed that fall: Jeff Taylor, Mike Elyea, Skeeze, me … and a pretty, umm… ample-chested sophomore named Kathy Perry.

Kathy was like one of the guys.

Except all the guys wanted to hang out with, well, that guy.

I was probably less transfixed, given my persistence to see Linda and new troubles with Kristi. So we all hung out together: over lunch, between classes at our lockers, at football games.

And Skeeze became one of my closest confidantes, especially during the whole Linda/Kristi thing. Few of my classmates wanted to hear about a “potential homecoming queen from another school that I really couldn’t ever get a date with again.”

So, it was my private anguish and Skeeze, ol’ buddy ol’ pal, was a sympathetic ear.

Gradually, by mid-November, new opportunities presented themselves: the editor-in-chief of the school paper brought me in as feature editor and columnist.

After my first column was published, I received a call at home from the editor of The Laker, a local newspaper. “We talked for a while about my writing for [the paper],” I wrote in the diary. “He said he’d pay me for feature articles…sounds like a good out-of-work-money-making prospect. Doing what I do best—write.”

Six days before that call I’d had a conversation with Skeeze about all the things that were frustrating me: the long hours after school at the Club, the hopelessness of the Linda situation. We came to the realization that the last church date with Linda, on Oct. 17, was “like a psychological goodbye.”

The diary was my confession: “I guess me and Linda are kinda through.” It was the first time I’d faced it. And I think having that witnessed by a good friend cemented the realization.

My frustration with the Lafayette Club, after a year there without a raise, was coming to a head. The night of Thursday, Oct. 28 I drove to my shift only to be told by Bill, the banquet manager, that I wasn’t needed.

I then drove out to Shorewood, past the summer of 1974 lakeside haunts with Peter Martin and his tales of love with Swedish exchange students.

It was a windy night.

It felt like something, finally, was shifting.

***

Now picture a high school gymnasium, echoey, brightly lit. Up in the bleachers is our motley crew: Jeff, Mike E., me, Skeeze, Kathy … also joined by Kristi and three other kids. It’s Monday afternoon, Nov. 1, 1976.

Down on the floor are two podiums with microphones. Behind the left podium is a heavy-set black-haired senior named Steve Sundberg.

To the right, Doug Ernst, all sideburns and snark, and dressed in suit and tie, stands at the other podium. Sundberg is role-playing Gov. Jimmy Carter; Ernst, President Gerald Ford.

We’re watching the one-and-only mock debate between the candidates, being that the election was the next day.

According to the diary, the substance of the debate was of vastly less importance than how “cool it was all of us goofing around on the bleachers.” The students submitted their ballots (mine went to Gerald Ford, if you can believe that) and after Carter won, I wrote: “He better do a good job.”

By Nov. 11 I’d decided I wanted to quit the busboy gig at the Lafayette Club. Dan tried to dissuade me.

I admitted to the diary that it wasn’t because I worked too much, I was just “looking for new things.” The editor gig at the school paper, the offer at The Laker, the decision to let go of the whole Linda thing … things could only move forward by completely letting the other things go.

The following Saturday at the Club I told Bill I was quitting. He said I should write up a formal notice.

Dad even got into the act, apparently flustered by my late nights out.

When I was late for school one Friday, he threw cold water in my face while I was still in bed.

Guess I finally got my wake-up call.

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~ by completelyinthedark on December 10, 2011.

2 Responses to “Talkin’ Ford-Carter Mock Debate Lovesick Blues”

  1. ah yes classic old-style parenting 101 (throw cold water in your sleeping childern’s faces to show them you care) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Happy Friday! I will be republishing posts through the summer while working on a side writing project.

    Like

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