Funny how a celebrity birthday announcement in the paper leads directly to a totally spontaneous reaction which then leads to another …George Clooney is celebrating his 50th birthday and since my wife is such a big fan, I decided to send birthday greetings from the two of us to his Facebook page. Goofy I know, but harmless and I thought my wife would get a chuckle from my telling of all the interesting things I do to pass the time each day. I told George (I feel comfortable calling him George, unlike let’s say, had her favorite been Pierce Brosnan, then I would refer to him as Mr. Brosnan) that on my 50th birthday, I was so moody that my wife whisked me away to New Orleans for seven days. It worked so well as a cure-all for me, now that we were directly connected by Facebook, I could tell George that if he happened to be a little down he should perk-up in the French Quarter. Trust me when I tell you if you are not a happy person after a few days in New Orleans, you probably need to see a personality disorder specialist!
Then I got to thinking where was I and what was I doing fifty years ago? The year would be 1961; the place would be a small suburban town fourteen miles outside of Philadelphia; I was a sixteen year old horny male with a driver’s license. My worldly knowledge primarily consisted of knowing and liking the new President of the United States, another horny male who didn’t need a driver’s license. Kennedy getting elected introduced me to the world of politics and I never missed any of his intelligent, witty televised news conferences. Kennedy also proved my Father wrong in his prediction that JFK would never be elected because of his religious affiliation. It is my first memory of my Father’s opinion being proven wrong. 1961 was an emotionally transitional year for me. My girlfriend for over a year decided it best to take a break, and because of that and other reasons described later I was pretty mopey most of my junior year in high school. One afternoon I had my Father’s car, a Renault Dauphine (who ever heard of a Renault Dauphine either in 1961 or now?) whose two noticeable features were a rear engine and a stick-shift transmission that did not require a clutch pedal. So I have this tiny go-cart of an automobile in the high school parking lot and when it is time to leave, I put it in reverse, turned the wheel all the way in one direction, waved goodbye to my friends and seconds later, without nary a glance into the rear-view mirror, propeled backwards into a fourteen foot cement pole holding a basket ball net. The dent was so large, it converts the rear engine compartment into a V shape which results in not being able to get out of reverse gear. So after considering suicide, running away, and blaming it on my sisters, I drive in reverse on open streets for a coupe of miles until I park in front of my house, which is on a one-way street heading the wrong direction for my reverse needs so the car is pointing in the wrong direction from every other car and I’m hoping no-one will notice, especially not my Dad. (I’m sixteen and horny…give me a break). The man never, never, never believed my story, even after I showed him where and how it all happened. The indestructible pole just stood there silently, not showing a blemish from the crappy Dauphine. I concede that the total distance of the large arc I made from where I was parked and where I hit the pole was considerable, thereby making it difficult to believe that anyone paying the slightest bit of attention would be capable of pulling off such a blunder, but hey…I was a kid with more important things on my mind. A year later when I graduated from high school, a large number of friends signed my yearbook with comments about the French schoolyard incident; the one I remember most was “don’t worry Alan, I’ll never tell your Father what really happened to his car”.
There is one other strong memory I have from 1961, with the help of photographs from the event. It was my Junior Prom and my date was a friend and not really a girlfriend. It was a great evening laughing and dancing to the such standards as “Stand By Me”, “The Wanderer”, “Hit the Road Jack”, and “Runaround Sue”. A week later when I looked at all pictures capturing the event for posterity, I could not get over the fact that my date’s bosoms were at a diagonal angle; one higher than the other…really, truly, in EVERY picture. I always thought the other kids were laughing at my jokes, but maybe not. At the 25th reunion after a few cocktails, I mentioned this fact or optical illusion, whatever, to my previous prom partner. She gave me a look that strongly resembled my Father’s favorite look which conveyed pain and disbelief, then called me an a**hole, and walked away. I don’t know how that engineering feat was accomplished, and I never asked, but you would think that a horny sixteen year old male would have noticed. Sixteen and oblivious; perhaps the way it should be.
So again, happy birthday George -really -because of your birth and subsequent newspaper announcement, I have had fun thinking and sharing about 1961. Time to be moving on in 2011.