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MAKING OUTA Novel of the Fabulous Fifties and Beyond
By David Laurence
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 David Laurence
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCOME GO WITH ME
David Carter peered over his half-glasses.
"Son-of-a-! Can it be-?"
"Hi, Dave," smiled the tall, post middle-aged man now extending his hand toward Carter.
"Tommy Halvert, you handsome devil. Damn! How long has it been? And how are your knees?"
"It's got to be, what, thirty years, Dave," Halvert said. "I didn't make it to either of the last two, you know?" Halvert was referring to both their twenty and thirty year high school reunions, 1979 and 1989.
"Guess who I saw in the parking lot on my way in?" Halvert continued, jerking up a slightly crooked smile.
"No kidding?" Carter said, trying to look nonchalant.
"That's right, Mary O. Haven't seen her in a coon's age, either."
"So, how does she look?" Carter said with a slightly crooked smile of his own.
"Looks like she's about thirty-five, if that," Halvert replied. Then he laughed.
Carter nodded his head as though he had expected to hear that.
"Well, go on in, Tom, and make the rounds. I'll see you in a few minutes; I've got to take care of some business. They've got me on the committee for this thing."
"Okay, Dave. Oh, by the way, my knees are fine," Halvert said with a wink. Then he turned and disappeared into the dimly lit banquet room of the Embassy Suites, in Arcadia, California.
Carter watched his former classmate pass through the doorway, all the while marveling at what the years had not done to him.
"Probably a health nut or something," he mumbled aloud. "Probably live forever." His face suddenly soured. "Hell, nothing's forever," he said, allowing the cynical streak now ingrained in him to rear its head. Then he turned to resume the committee's business.
The banner behind the podium read: "Welcome Class Of 1959 To Your 40-Year Class Reunion." It served as a reminder to those present that, like it or not, they were getting up there in years. But the aging process was not the theme for this night. The green and gold streamers, the menagerie of glossy "forty-fives" hanging from the ceiling by brightly colored ribbons, and the gaily decorated centerpieces, were there to remind the '59ers that they were once very young, and that for the duration of this night they would be young again.
The room filled, dinner was served, and the entertainment began. The entertainment consisted of a DJ hired to play music from the 1950's. His instructions: "Keep the songs coming, and don't play them too damn loud!" It was a marked change from the first few reunions where the music was so loud you couldn't hear the person next to you screaming in your ear at a distance of two inches. And the lyrics during those years were, more often than not, completely unrecognizable, except when they played the "oldies."
At 8:30 P.M. the one hundred fifty guests were treated to a slide show of old school pictures dating from as early as 1954, seventh grade.
There were cat calls and howls, much laughter and even a few tears, then it ended. Soon the small groups, which inevitably form at such affairs, closed ranks. The time had come for renewing old friendships.
David Carter's table consisted of six couples and one single—Carter, having lost his wife nearly seventeen years before. There was Jim and Terry Mangio, Rich Coselli and his new forty-three year old girl friend, Andrea; John Riley and his second wife, Pam; John and Jean Forset; Bob Hickman and his second wife, Carla, and Mike and Kathleen Torro.
It was during the third round of drinks that someone made a remark that caught the attention of the entire group: "Kids these days are no different than they were forty years ago." It was a topic that had been raised during past reunions.
Silence followed the remark. Everyone's mind began to whirl. Are kids really the same now as they were then?
"Yeah, times haven't changed all that much," Mike Torro said, breaking the silence. "I mean, sex, booze—same now as then, only now they're more open about it."
"What about drugs? No one used drugs back then." All eyes shifted to David Carter.
"What about our joint smoking pals, Jack Hassy and Ronnie Derrone?" Torro argued.
"Hell, two guys in the entire school, and they were ostracized for it; no one would even talk to them, remember?"
"Right, they smoked a little grass and I mean no one liked them," John Riley added. "We called them, what was it, ah, dope fiends?"
"Exactly," Carter nodded. "And there were other differences as well." Carter was about to continue, but Rich Coselli jumped in.
"Yeah, my kids—I've got a twenty-eight and a thirty-eight year old—I mean, hell, they're so sophisticated compared to us. I mean they'd have booted us out of school back then had we spouted off even half the views they did in their schools—especially my twenty-eight year old!"
Carter looked at his friend of over forty-five years. Instead of seeing an overweight "Dego" with a receding hairline, he saw a lean, muscular stud, with dark-brown curly hair and rust-brown eyes. Usually wearing black "peggers" (tight pants, tight cuffs), and a black leather multi-zippered jacket with the collar turned up, Rich Coselli was the epitome of the 'Fifties, and the heartthrob of many a poodle-skirted young sweet thing.
Bob Hickman was quick to disagree with his friend. "Nah, hell, Rich, nothing's really changed, except for the players," he said with an authoritative wave of his leathery hand. "Kids today are just more honest. They're not afraid to let it all hang out—as they say. That's the only real difference."
Kathleen Torro had been watching David Carter as the conversation progressed. "Okay, Carter, you look like you're just bustin' to say something," she said.
Carter smiled, but said nothing.
"Come on," Kathleen insisted. "You taught school for a time. I'll bet you know a lot about this subject."
David gazed at his untouched chocolate mousse.
"Let's hear it," Torro persisted.
David picked up his spoon and tapped it ever so lightly on the white linen tablecloth. "Well," he began, "I think 1959 marked the beginning of the end of an era, and what finally took its place in the 60's was so drastically different that it leaves the description 'as different as day and night' wholly inadequate."
"What does he mean?" whispered young Andrea, although everyone heard her.
"Shut up, sweet-thing; you just sit there and look beautiful," Rich Coselli, fifteen years her senior, said. "She's still having a hard time getting all the Johns straight in our class," he added, stroking her hair.
Andrea feigned a dumb blonde look, and then joined in the laughter.
The subject of change could have passed, but Kathleen Torro was persistent. "Granted, the death of John Kennedy caused a change in us," she continued, "but that was in 1963, if I'm not mistaken."
John Kennedy's face flashed into David's mind. He could still see the President's hand extending toward him—just as it did that summer in Yosemite thirty-six years ago—almost to the day.
"Ah, right, 1963," David mused. "Nineteen Sixty-Three was definitely a landmark year. And when did Viet Nam start?"
"We began sending 'advisors' over there around 1960 or so," Kathleen said.
"Okay, Kat, and when did the Beetles first come on the scene?"
"Oh, about that time," Kathleen answered, patting the back of her blonde, curly hair, proud that she knew the answers.
"Three major factors right there," Carter said. "And by the way, I'm not saying that things changed overnight, but think about it. In 1959 what were the most important things in our lives?"
John Riley didn't hesitate. "That's easy, hosing!" he said, raising his hand slightly.
"John!" squirmed his wife, Pam. Then she playfully slapped her husband's arm.
Everyone laughed. After all, who could deny it?
"Ah, right. And what else?" Carter pressed.
"Hell, ah, cars," Coselli replied.
"And booze," Riley added.
"Kicking ass," Hickman said, waving a clenched fist.
"Right, and sports," Mike Torro added.
"So what's so different now?" Hickman argued. "I mean, that's what kids are into today!"
"Maybe, but think about it," Carter insisted. "We were carefree then. Our biggest worry was who was going to score the beer and the rubbers ... ah, of course the latter not intended to include the use of such item on any of you refined ladies, as, of course, all of you certainly were back then."
"Hey, Carter, you still got that rubber you used to loan out?" Coselli blurted out.
Carter's face reddened, then he motioned as though searching his pocket for the object of their conversation. His community rubber indeed had been famous!
Amidst the laughter, when Carter saw that Coselli was about to go into detail about his famous "loaner," Carter quickly moved to change the subject.
"Anyway, we were a nation of hell-raising, generally honorable, moralistic, patriots when we graduated. But a very short time later there evolved a nation of self-indulgent, drug sucking, uninhibited, often very afraid teen-agers, who slowly grew into self indulgent, drug sucking, uninhibited, often very afraid, adults."
"All that because of Viet Nam and the Beetles?" John Riley cried, his hands shooting upward as he spoke.
"Not because of those things alone, John," Carter replied. "Actually, it began even earlier than the '50's—during the Second World War to be specific. Then came the Civil Rights movement and—"
"You mean the black man is responsible for the negative changes you mentioned?" Pam Riley exclaimed.
"They called them Negroes back then," Carter said with raised eyebrows and a pedantic smile. "Anyway, I think the black man's rebellion conditioned us to accept protest and civil disobedience as a way of life. When Viet Nam came the public felt no qualms about rebelling against whatever it was told it was not supposed to like, the war in this case ... at least a vocal segment of that public didn't like it, probably fearing for their own lives more than anything else."
"Most of us missed Viet Nam," Mangio said, thinking aloud.
"Right," Carter returned. "At least we were not really a part of the rebellious mentality of those who graduated after us—the ones who were the first to get involved with the war—including both those who went straight into the Service, and the protesters here at home. College students mainly."
"I guess we were lucky," Pam Riley sighed. Although she graduated with her husband, she didn't seriously date him until after his divorce from his first wife, which occurred years later. "I mean we didn't have a care in the world back then, as opposed to those who followed us," she added.
"You know, I was just thinking," Kathleen Torro began. "I mean, just listening to you guys talk ... well ... I just find it sort of difficult to believe that you maniacs are actually sitting here carrying on an intelligent conversation. I mean, when I think about how you were in high school!"
"What do you mean, Torro, this is a Rhodes Scholars' table if there ever was one!" Rich Coselli blustered, his eyes wide with indignation.
As they spoke, a strikingly attractive woman with flowing blonde hair came to a halt just behind David Carter's chair.
"What have I been missing here?" she said with the same smile that had over forty years before captured the hearts of an untold number of young men.
"Mary O'Connor!" several voices exclaimed in unison.
Carter quickly stood to face the girl he had loved throughout high school, and longer. Unfortunately, he had lacked the courage to tell Mary of these burning emotions—until it was too late!
"Join us, Mary," Terry Mangio said, motioning the newcomer to sit.
Carter felt his pulse quicken as he secured an empty chair from the adjoining table and placed it next to him.
Once situated, Mary was urged to summarize the events of her life over the years. She hesitated at first, but Terry Mangio insisted.
"Well, as some of you know, I taught school in Africa with my husband, Dan. We had one child before Dan was drafted. He returned to resume our work and was killed not long before our 1989 class reunion."
David's eyes rushed to meet those of the woman at his side, but Mary's gaze rested somewhere across the table.
"I stayed there to teach after that and only recently returned to the States. I settled down in La Jolla ... I'm in the real estate business now."
"No more teaching?" Terry asked.
Mary smiled and shrugged her exposed tanned shoulders. "Not for awhile, I need the money," she replied with a smile.
"No remarriage, huh Mary?" Jean Forset asked.
"No," was Mary's only reply. And when she looked up, just for fraction of a second, her eyes met those of David Carter.
"So, what was all the commotion about before I interrupted you?" Mary asked, as though wishing to change the subject.
Terry Mangio offered her the answer. "Oh, we were just discussing our views about how things have changed since we graduated."
Mary rolled her still sparkling blue eyes, ran her fingers through her long blonde hair, then shook her head. "Hum, things have changed a great deal, if you ask me," she sighed. "For one thing, people aren't as crazy as you guys were!"
"Right on!" exclaimed a chorus of voices.
Mary flashed a grin; then her face became serious. "Oh, they're crazy today all right, but they are crazy-mean. Desperate. Drugs have done it, but that's not all."
"You know, Mary," interrupted Andrea, "I graduated in 1974, that's what, twenty-five years ago. Anyway, I went to my ten-year reunion, in '84, and you know what? They voted not to have another reunion, ever! They just didn't care anymore, I guess. I mean like some of them were really weird."
"And how had they changed?" Mary asked.
"Funny thing is, unlike your generation, most of them hadn't changed much at all. There were tons of 'druggies' there, just like in school. Almost everyone I talked to was either divorced, or they had not bothered to get married at all. You know the living together thing. The real shocker was how few of them, married or divorced, had any children."
Carter, always the master of sarcasm and the understatement, grinned. "Sort of career-oriented folks," he said.
"Right," Andrea agreed. "Career was all anyone talked about. It seemed as though everyone was trying to impress on everyone else how successful he or she had become. Like boring, boring, boring!"
"So, anyway," Carter said, locking his hands behind his head and leaning his chair back slightly, "we've got the rise of civil disobedience, the Civil Rights movement, the death of Kennedy, the war in Viet Nam, the Beetles, and the emerging drug culture."
"Okay, so?" said Pam Riley, not sure what Carter was getting at.
"So, as a result of these events, our era became overshadowed and a new era was born."
"And now we have come full circle," Rich Coselli theorized. "Or, if not full circle, kids are at least sort of heading back toward the way we were in the 'Fifties."
"I don't know, Rich, they still have a long way to go," Carter said. He seemed sad as he spoke. "Maybe they play our music on the radio, call 'em 'oldies', you know? They might even do a nostalgia bit on television once in a while, or mock us on Saturday Night Live, but people will never completely return to the morals and values of the 'Fifties. Not ever. Fact is they're going the opposite way!"
"And hell, today's kids," Coselli began, "I mean, they don't even know about Viet Nam. Their war was the Gulf War, and no one protested that. There wasn't time. Anyway, no one protests anymore, except for maybe the anti-abortion people, or the homos, they've been making a lot of noise ever since the AIDS thing started. So, I'd say the kids of today are a whole lot like our generation was, except for the way they dress."
"Yeah, I can imagine what would have happened had one of us guys come to school wearing a friggin' earring like everyone wears now!" Bob Hickman said with a scowl.
"It was like everyone would agree that the owner of the earring would need to be smeared (smeared with lipstick), canned (dumped ass first into a large trashcan and rolled down the nearest stairway), then pantsed (had their Levis ripped off, along with their underwear), sending them on a mad dash for cover!"
Excerpted from MAKING OUT by David Laurence Copyright © 2011 by David Laurence. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you ever wanted to know what life was like in the 1950's forward, read this book . . . you will fall in love with ton of people. Never heard of the author, but he tell a heck of a story!