Too Old To Rock & Roll….

Thursday afternoon & the sky is gray. A thunderstorm rolls in with the wind and wisps away my desire to venture out. I gather a better choice is to stay in and finish my packing.

“you’re not taking that box of old albums…” my mom yells from across the room. “We have no room in the new house for that kind of stuff.”

“What do you mean that kind of stuff?” I question knowing that she & dad do not approve of rock & roll nor my heavy metal albums.

“You know what I mean. No te hagas el bobo…” replies mom. Telling me not to act dumb is the answer I expected, but then she shocked me by adding “…you’re too old for that childish Rock ‘n Roll, anyway!”

Wow! she shocked me but got me thinking. Most of the other kids in the neighborhood have switched to disco. We no longer hang out together since going out to the parties & dancing is what is popular now-a-days.

But the rockers at school would never contemplate Disco. We rather listen to a heavy riff of Led Zeppelin or a slurry drool of Ozzy than ever injure our ears with the rhythm of that dreaded Disco beat. We would never be caught having a glare from the Disco ball enter our eyes!

Danny used to love Disco. I wonder what he listens to now… Working on the road and away from home, he probably doesn’t have time for dancing. But I never did like Disco. I like rock & roll and specially Jethro Tull. I don’t know why… it is an oddball choice – or at least that’s what the guys in school say.

Every time I bring it up, they reply. “Tull is dull man!”

I don’t know what it is, but that British/Scottish folk sound really syncs with me. I like the sound of the flute & their crazy medieval costumes. But when I share that at school, they call it weird. I guess it’s time to give up that thought, since the rousing is starting to get mean…

I guess we are ‘Unfashionable to the end’ since the disco kids at the mall just stare at us & giggle calling us long-haired hippies. We seem out of date! This crowd fashions white suits with black wide-collared shirts, their polyester skin-tight slacks – bell-bottomed – with the platform shoes. They no longer work on their Camaros or race their Mustangs.

I guess Rock & Roll is now old & maybe mom is right – I’m just too old to Rock ‘n Roll.

Anyway, we’re graduating tomorrow & that will be the last I see of those “blokes” as Ian Anderson would call them. To continue his vernacular, I will find me a ‘filly for my proud stallion seed’ and never have to deal with the rousing & hazing over a song preference again.

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E-v-i-l Woman…

The sun shining brightly warms my soul. The cool breeze across my cheeks feels really nice today. I feel this air of confidence & the happy-ness showing in my stroll down Salem Avenue. The trees in the park rustling almost in tune with my stride.

Everything seems so clear & brightly beautiful for some reason.

Nothing is going to bother me today!

I reach my street & turn the corner when Rosie comes running up to me with her group of little seven year old friends. Nope, these pain-in-the-butt teenies are not going to annoy me today!

“Pablo has a
g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d!” shouts Rosie in a sing-song tone.

“Buzz off, Rosie” I reply, trying to get rid of her, because she is – annoying! She is a short girl with a fast stride, bouncing long blond hair that is always pulled up into single ponytail. She is usually leading a group of little girls that do whatever she wants them to do. When they are not around, you can see her yanking her little brother – Peter – around by the arm.

She’s OK though, always happy and cheery. Hopping and skipping and just being a little girl.

“Pablo has a g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d!” again she shouts.

This time her friends chime in & they all do their sing-song thing in unison.

“Pablo has a g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d!”

“Pablo has a g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d!”

Intent on having nothing annoy me today, I chase them all away. But Rosie keeps coming back.

As I walk towards the house, Rosie follows me.

“What do you want Rosie?” I ask her, getting annoyed.

“Are you gonna kiss her?” She replies with a dumb giggle & instantly coyly cover her mouth as if she said something she knows she shouldn’t have.

“I don’t know who you are talking about.”
“you really don’t know?” she asks surprised.
“No I don’t, Rosie & stop being such a spaz. Just tell me!”

She laughs & start her sing-song again. “Pablo doesn’t kno-o-o-o-o-w! Pablo doesn’t kno-o-o-o-o-o-w!”
“You are starting to piss me off Rosie, Just tell me already!”

“Well, Kim said that Diana heard Marie say that she overheard Karen & her best friend talking…”
“R-o-o-o-o-o-o-s-i-e! get to the point!”

“She said that she wishes Pablo would ask her out.” Rosie yells!

“What? Karen who? when?” Now she’s got my attention! I’ve never had a girl interested in me – well besides Lourdes on the bus – but she was really aggravating!

“Karen, the Karen? The one that lives on this street? That Karen?”
“Yeah, that Karen! She is so pretty…”

At that point I didn’t hear another word that Rosie was saying. I have never had a girlfriend, let alone kissed a girl! I walk into the house, run right upstairs to my room & slam the door shut in excitement.

“Me and Karen?” wow that would be groovy, man. Karen has got to be the most hip girl I know. She is tall, long slender legs & always wearing those nice-fittin’ flares. She is so fine! with that Brick House figure. Her hair is dark brown worn long and straight. She keeps her bangs clearly off her eyebrows so you can see her blue eyes. She always sits outside, leaning on her dad’s car painting or file-ling her nails.

There are no other girls her age in our group so she usually sits there on her dad’s car or hangs out with the guys. I usually see her waiting in her skin tight softball outfit waiting for her dad to take her to the school grounds. She is younger than me, but she is more developed than any girl in school and she carries herself like a high-school girl! She is so far-out!

All the guys just stops & stare at her. Their eyes are fixated on Karen as she strolls down the street or in the halls at school.

I can just hear it now…

“Hi boys, what’s the matter cat’s got your tongue?” She has that kind of flirtatious way that gets all the boys tongue-tied when she is around.

“Wow, Karen & me – together! I can just see the guys in school high-fiving me.”

The rest of the day goes by with my head in the clouds. I can’t hold it back, who can I share this with?

Danny? no, he will only make fun of me & beat me up for hesitating for so long. So I can’t tell him.

My sisters? Well they are silly girls & will get all gushy & giggly. They will just have a million questions & I just don’t know how to answer.

“Pablo! Girls! Come down & set the table…” Mom’s calling for us breaks my train of thought. My sisters head down immediately, but I come down a few minutes behind.

“Pablo, set the spoons & forks… Nancy has the plates on the table already.”

“Patty get the napkins…”

Mom continues with instructions, but her voice fades away in the background. It starts to sound like “Blah, Blah, Blah!” as my head starts wandering off again and back onto the idea of dating Karen.

Could this be real? Karen is too pretty… This can’t be true! How will I know for sure? I can’t ask her out & take the chance that she may says no! How will I know for sure?

“I know! I’ll tell Leo!” I shouted — out loud apparently.
“Tell Leo what?” Nancy replies.
“Nothing! never mind!”

I put the spoons & forks down quickly & run out the front door. Leo is usually out after all of us go home for dinner, so he has to be here!

I run to the corner and sure enough, Leo is riding his bike in the park across the street.

“Leo! Leo!” I shout out to him “Come here I need to talk with you!”

I share with Leo what Rosie told me & it puts a smile on his face.
“Karen? The Karen? She is so hot!”

I can see him starting to daydream – maybe wishing it was him, so I cut him off. “Leo, you gotta find out for me. You’re friends with her best friend – go ask her.”

He rides off, standing up off the seat & trying to pop wheelies in that crazy way that Leo likes to do. Never really getting the front wheel more than a few inches off the ground, but nonetheless never stopping….

After dinner we all head outside again. Leo is riding his bike in a circle and all the other kids are playing kickball.

“Leo, what did you find out?” I ask him
“It’s true. She is waiting for you to ask her out!”
“What!?!? She’s gotta be wrong! Did she say those words?”
“Well, she was not home but her older sister confirmed it.”
“It’s true! Her older sister is in my class – she wouldn’t lie to me”

So it is true! At that moment the world seemed to come to a stop. The kids playing kickball drop the ball & it just rolls down the street – in what felt like slow motion – towards Karen’s house. My eyes follow the ball and then to my surprise… Karen comes outside.

Her eyes start scanning everyone outside, as if she is looking for someone specifically. My eyes caught hers & she waves to me.

“Go ask her out” Leo elbows me & urges me on.

But a chill runs down my spine. She is so beautiful! This moment can’t be happening. what if…

“This is your only chance! go ask her out!” This time Leo insisted.

I walk across the street with the pretense of getting the ball for the kids, but really with the ulterior motive of getting closer to Karen. I didn’t notice anything or anyone else on the street except Karen. I’m staring at her lean onto her father’s car & she looks at me like asking “what are you doing over there with that ball?”

I toss the ball over my shoulder, hoping it goes in the direction of the kids. I walk up to her & lean on the other car opposite to her.

“Hey Karen. You look nice today.”
“You think so?” she asks – knowing she does, but egging an acknowledgement.
So I take the hint & reply, “Of course you do! You’re the prettiest girl on the block!”

She giggles and smiles coyly. She puts her head down, as she blushes a little and shifts her body along the door of the car.

Again the hint is received & I feel comfortable to continue. We continue talking & I reach out to hold her hands. The moment is magical!

We chatted for what felt like an eternity. Me standing in front of her holding her warm hands. The only interruption came from the kids who kicked the ball in our direction several times. Then they start with a sing-song rhyme:

“Pablo & Karen sitting in a tree, K-i-s-s-i-n-g”

I blush & Karen drops her gaze shyly. “Karen, I like you & I know you want me to ask you out. Would you like to go out with me?”

Holy shit!

I can’t believe I really asked her! “What if she says no – how can I walk away?” My mind just keeps rattling out all these questions of doubt & I put my head down as I already knew what her answer was going to be.

I even let go of her hands & stand up straight. My mind keeps talking “Alright just give it to me! Let me have it in front of all my friends! Come on – you evil woman – just do it!! Turn me down!”

“Sure, I’ll go out with you.” Karen replies softly!
“You will?” I question in shock!
“Sure! I like you too.”

Woo-hoo!! The fireworks are blasting in space! And the marching band is so loud in my head.

“Good, so we’re boyfriend & girlfriend?” I ask – just to confirm it.
“Sure you silly..” she answers as she shyly puts down her head & runs back into her house. “Goodnight! see you tomorrow….”

Boo-yah! I have my first girlfriend! I turn to look at Leo & he signals as if to ask what happened. I run over there and tell him “She said yes!”

Again the marching band is playing loudly in my head! Drums, symbols, trumpets blaring a triumphal march… I catch the fact that I floated away in a daydream & notice Leo riding circles around me in excitement. He is doing his crazy wheel-popping routine. Yanking the handlebars up in excitement & plopping back down. One of these days he will get it – but for now lets just enjoy the moment…

The rest of the night we played while the sky glistened with an amazingly bright moon. Karen sat in her parent’s bedroom window pretending to be reading a book – but looking out at us playing. She would wave & I would wave back to my Rapunzel in her perch.

Our shadow dance only interrupted when I see her put a phone on her ear. “Ahh. she must be sharing this news with her friends” I pretend.

Leo & I continue playing in between my glances up at her window. Finally I glance over & this time she is dancing of joy! The lights go out so I guess its time for bed.

“Goodnight my princess..” I whisper in her direction to where she would wave at me.

That night I slept & dreamt of my princess on the balcony. I, her prince will come and ask her to marry me as I ride in from the mist on a white horse. It was a beautiful & dreamy night.

Next day I woke up filled with joy. Can’t wait to see Karen & hear what she told her friends about us. I go downstairs after doing my chores & after lunch, I head out. Only Leo is out there – riding his bike in continuous long loops as if he is waiting for something. He sees me & goes into his crazy wheel-popping circles.

“Tell me! How do you feel now that you have a girlfriend?”
I thought about it and didn’t really know what to answer. We talk for a long while though.

A guy I’ve never seen steps up towards us.

“Hey, what It Is, man!” He nods his head at Leo in a form of greeting. Leo nods back. This dude does a visual scan of the area as if he’s looking for something.
“What’s up?” Leo asks this guy. Noticing that he is distracted.
Leo asks him “What are you doing in this neighborhood?”
“Nothing. Just came to see my aunt who lives around the corner.”
“4-sho!” Leo replied & thought nothing of it.

This interchange felt weird to me. Something seemed off about this chump. He seems much older than Leo to be in the same grade. I bet you he must have failed the 9th grade several times. He is very tall with a well-built frame. Almost 6 feet tall with a big black bushy, curly hair. He seems to be dressed too nicely. I even smell cologne and he even has a mustache! What’s up with that?

He hangs around for a bit, not saying much just looking here & there.

Leo tries to engage him in a conversation, but the guy seems lost in his scan of the area. At that moment I see Karen come outside.

He notices her too….

“Catch you later, Leo…” The chump says goodbye without answering Leo’s question. Something is weird here.

He then walks away towards the park and sits on a park bench. I walk over to meet up with Karen & try to forget this chump.

Karen & I both lean onto the same cars as last night. She reaches out, holds my hand & gives me a kiss on the cheek. Her hands are soft but cold as if she was holding ice. Her eyes glistening steely blue in the sunlight & looking back at me – but with a glance I’ve never seen on anyone’s eyes before. She smell so nice & her hair looks shinier & brighter than usual – as if she was going out somewhere. We talk for a bit but something feels off in the conversation. She pauses & then she, like in a scene from a B-movie, drops a line from a cheesy script:

“I think we need to see other people…” she said.

Damn! what a downer. This came out of nowhere.

If she said anything else, I couldn’t hear it. I immediately retracted my hands & my eyes glazed over. I didn’t see the same beauty in her eyes anymore. I looked down & walked away. I can hear her call my name, but I do not turn back.

I head over to my safe place. Leo doesn’t say a word. He just sat on his bike with one foot resting on the peddle & the other on the ground – as if he is trying to get a footing. No excitement & no crazy wheel-popping circles. No words. Just sitting there as if he knew something was whacked.

Karen finally gets up off the car & walks towards the park, not looking in our direction at all. She heads right towards the table where Leo’s friend is sitting. Odd she walks right up to him as if she knew him.

All I could do was stare at them. They seem to talk for a bit. Then he reaches for her hand. She reaches out & they hold hands as they continue to speak face-to-face. The soft light from the sun moves & now they are sitting in the shade of the Maple tree. Their bodies, as distant shadow figures, move closer together. She sits next to him on the table. He puts his arm around her & they both tilt their heads in a kiss.

All in plain-sight of what was, just recently my happiest hours.

Leo & I just stand there dumbstruck. Not knowing what to say. Not knowing how to react.

“Leo, what did you say your friend’s name was?” I ask unwittingly but knowing what the answer might be…

Leo thought for a moment & then realized a connection : “Oh shit! His name is Pablo, too.”

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Sweat You Ass Off, Mi’jo

Joe came over today. He has a really bad cold – coughing like crazy – and his voice hoarse and scratchy. I think it’s at the verge of being a pneumonia, but he disagrees.

After being in the house for only 5 minutes, mom yells at Joe. “What are you doing out in the cold with that pneumonia? Oh my God! your voice is ready to go!!”

“It’s not a pneumonia! It’s only a cold. Don’t worry” Joe replies.

But he does not know my mom. She left the room and we went back to hanging out. We’re watching TV and just talking but we are having a good time hanging out with Joe.

I don’t know why all the neighbors don’t like Joe. He is a good guy with a bad reputation – no matter that it’s unearned. My dad does not like him, but my mom does. She says that she sees the kindness in his heart.

“Knock, Knock” my mother says as she opens the door of my room. “Take your shirt off!” She demands of Joe, in her broken English.

“What?” Joe replies with a puzzled look.

“Don’t even try to stop her Joe. When she has her mind set, nothing will stop her.” Danny tells Joe. “Just surrender, It’ll be easier!”
Menthol ChinoMY mom showed up with a container of ‘Mentol Chino‘ & a stack of newspapers. She rubs the mentol chino on his chest and on his back. She lays it on thick so that the newspaper will be able to stick to it.

The room has a strong Menthol smell and Joe is complaining of the smell and that the fumes are stinging his eyes.

“Dile que no joda!” My mom yells out.

“What did she say?” Joe asks.

“Stop complaining and let her continue…” Danny replies, leaving out the curse word.

Now my mother grabs the newspaper. She plasters it on his chest like if she was hanging wallpaper. She rubs it in – almost as if she was trying to rub the newsprint off onto his chest.

She continues with more of the same on his back.

“Now put your shit back on!” She instructs Joe.

Sure enough, Joe is now doing whatever my mother instructs.

She now leaves the room & Joe is just standing there like an overstuffed scarecrow. He has newspaper spilling out the neck & arms of the T-shirt.

Wool BlanketMy mother walks back in, this time with a thick wool blanket that we brought over from Ecuador. This blanket is made of Llama wool and is made by the local Indians. I have many memories of how it kept me warm during those cold winter nights in the Bronx. We used to have nights when the heat would not work & this blanket was the only thing that kept us from freezing our ass of. The whole family would sit under this blanket to stay warm & watch TV.

My mother wraps the blanket tightly around Joe. The only thing hanging out the side is his hands and off the top is his head. Joe is now stiff as a scarecrow.

“Now leave!” My mother instructs Joe! “Mi’jo, Go home & sleep wrapped in the blanket. Don’t take the blanket off no matter how hot you get.”

My mother treated Joe just like she would her sons. She was truly concerned for him. Joe does not question nor says anything but gives Danny a look, as if to ask “What should I do now!?”

My Brother replies “GO & sweat your ass off!

The next morning Joe returns the wool blanket & thanks my mother for taking care of him. He does not have a mother & mom has made him feel as if she was his mother.

“Thank you” is all he says – his voice no longer hoarse or broken. “I feel much better.”

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