February 5, 2016, Phoenix- I had my lunch, of spicy California rolls, at Dreamy Draw Park, a popular desert redoubt, on the northeast side of town, before going in for what was an encouraging dental checkup.
While sitting in the coolness of the Sonoran Desert, I went back, in my mind to the years of adolescence.
1960-High Point: The New England Shopping Center opened.
Low Points: Ellen moved; my Grandma died.
People in the Heart: Barbara I., Ellen S.
Places in the Heart: Makepeace Hill, Johns Pond (Mashpee)
1961-High Point: Hiking Mt. Chocorua, NH.
Low Point: Having a stupid meltdown, while on that camping trip.
People in the Heart: The Geotis family, who moved into the Statuto’s old house; the members of my Boy Scout troop.
Places in the Heart: The White Mountains of New Hampshire (all of them).
1962- High Point: Family gatherings at Kingston State Park, NH.
Low Point: Five days in the hospital.
People in the Heart: A tall, beautiful girl in our grade (anonymous, out of respect to her and her loving husband); my then new friends, Dean and the late Mike; three beautiful sisters, who were friends of our extended family.
Places in the Heart: Canobie Lake; Kingston State Park.
1963- High Point: Putting an end to being bullied in Grade 8.
Low Point: The death of John F. Kennedy.
People in the Heart: Half the female population of Saugus Junior High School.
Places in the Heart: Every school building that was torched by a serial arsonist, who was in our class.
1964- High Point: Promoting out of Grade 8.
Low Point: Dealing with enuresis.
People in the Heart: Those three beautiful sisters; the thugs who actually stood up for me.
Places in the Heart: Our cellar, where I could shine the family’s shoes and listen to the richness of pop music; Breakheart Pond.
1965- High Point: Getting my own newspaper route.
Low Point: Dealing with a pedophile.
People in the Heart: My neighbourhood group of friends (who remain my friends, to this day).
Places in the Heart: Breakheart, Johns Pond, the Saugus Howard Johnson’s Restaurant (where so many of us hung out); Mt. Chocorua.
1966- High Point: Getting my driver’s license.
Low Point: Working out the bugs in my own driving behaviour.
People in the Heart: Most of my newspaper customers; Coach Wall, who put me through Driver Boot Camp, and whom I credit for 50 years of driving, with only two, one-car, accidents; Joan M., one of my best female friends, ever.
Places in the Heart: Martha’s Vineyard; the above-mentioned spots, from 1966.
1967- High Point: Getting a job at a supermarket.
Low Point: Struggling on the job.
People in the Heart: Bob Powers, my first boss, and one of the finest people for whom I’ve ever worked; all my above-mentioned peers from Saugus High.
Places in the Heart: Merrymeeting Lake, Alton, NH; Fireplace 10, at Lynn Beach.
1968- High Point: Graduating Saugus High School.
Low Points: Not taking college seriously; all the crap that went down that Spring.
People in the Heart: Ron Gerace, my fourth boss; Professor Ahmad and Jim Gorman, who tried to set me straight about college; Kathy W., to whom I should have paid more attention.
Places in the Heart: The old campus of UMass-Boston; the Back Bay; Hampton Beach, NH.
1969- High Point: Completing Army Basic training.
Low Point: Leaving college, feeling like a failure.
People in the Heart: My Army buddies, Tim and Mike; Drill Sergeants Cummings, Wescott, and Green.
Places in the Heart: Downtown Columbia, SC; Myrtle Beach; Indianapolis.
Junior High had its share of abysmal moments. High school, I must say, was freeing. I had a core group of friends, and yet made the rounds of several groups of people, in Saugus and in nearby Melrose. I was too young, emotionally, to have attempted college. Girls and protest marches were way bigger in my life than studying. So, 1969 found me treading water in a job at my Dad’s GE Plant, then signing myself up for the Army. It was past time to stop being the family nuisance. On June 16, 1969, I left for Fort Jackson, SC.
I did not, in the scheme of things, end the ’60’s too badly. By October, 1969, I had made a place for myself on a “clean-up crew”, re-establishing Army postal service to the residents of Tri-Service Barracks, Fort Myer, VA. Still, the bugaboo of alcohol dependency, along with mild autism, kept me from bonding with many people and created all manner of problems, with my family and with others, who didn’t know me very well. The hiatus of Boot Camp and Advanced Individual Training did bring me a bit further along towards adulthood, but relapse came, once I was back in routine.
The ’70’s would be the first of my two lost decades.