The Magic Hat
I guess you call this a pork-pie, but it wasn’t like any other pork-pies I’m familiar with. For one thing, it had a very wide ribbon. It was blue and matched my stovepipe cords and suede boots. Lots of people said I looked like a Native American in it, which was really cool by me since I considered Natives a lot more enlightened than Christians. It had been my grandfather’s Sunday go-to-church hat in Hepler, Kansas, until he’d bought a new one. I had access to one of those early letter laminating toys, and put the letters “LSD” on the front in black. The first time I showed up for PE wearing it, Smitty called me into his office. I tossed the hat into my gym locker before going to see him. I’d never been in his office, before or since. “Don’t bring the hat in here,” he said.
“I put in it my locker,” I explained, not quite understanding his meaning. “Keep the hat in your hall locker,” explained Smitty. “Don’t bring it into my locker room again or I’ll confiscate and destroy it. This is your only warning.” That hat was magic. It got a rise out of Smitty and right after I started wearing it, I found myself a member of the Knight Riders, one of the best garage bands in town.
Hayes brought me to officially meet Carp, the new lead singer. We were all going to get high for the first time. Carp had wild marijuana plants he’d recently harvested and dried and was ready to test. (Ditch weed was all over the county because a major hemp processing plant had been located near the railroad tracks in the North End. The plant later turned into a cap-and-gown factory. The reason we had blacks in our North End is because work in the hemp factory was so hard, they had to import their labor from Southern states). We smoked several joints with Carp and his then-fiance, a gorgeous goddess. (Carp would eventually go through many more, but they were both madly in love at this time and just engaged after only a few dates). After every joint Carp would look at us and say, “Feel anything?” I was pretty foggy just from being amongst these dudes. I can’t say for sure the weed had any effect though. At one point Carp leaves the room with Hayes, and then Hayes comes back and immediately starts hitting on the goddess. Wow, was she surprised, since Hayes and I were both well-known virgins at the time. Plus, Carp had a mean temper and she knew it, and even though Hayes was trying to get her to give him a “hello kiss,” she wasn’t biting. On the way home, Hayes told me Carp put him up to the whole thing just to see if she’d kiss him. I guess it was Carp’s way of testing if she really loved him or not. Most girls couldn’t resist Hayes’ movie-star looks, and Carp knew it. Hayes was laughing really hard at the idea he would do anything like that behind Carp’s back. Nobody fucked with Carp.
The next day, the Knight Riders (minus Carp) introduced me to Carole, and we smoked one of those joints in Haye’s car at a Uni High welcome-to-school picnic. I remember how surprised my brother and his friends (see “Smartest Kids in Town) were to see me show up with my new rock band! We all had fun hanging that day. I had a new mission now. Which was to make Carole my girlfriend, which might be a problem with Hayes and Knight, since I clearly detected they were both head-over-heels in love with her as well, and completely under her commands and control. I’d never been in love before and would spend hours staring at the telephone. After two hours, I might pick it up, lift the receiver, then put it back down. This could go on for a long time, but eventually I knew I would get up the nerve to call her.
One Saturday afternoon, I was pretty bored and all alone at home, when I put on my magic hat and walked out the door, vowing to do the first thing that stimulated me. A bus stopped in front of me. I had never ridden a bus in my home town before, but they had just created this new set of lines, all color-coded, that were crisscrossing the twin-cities and campus, so I hopped right on board just to see where it would take me. It took me to downtown Champaign, where I got off right in front of the big department store, where the Finchley Boys were having a show, right at that very second! I learned a big lesson about not sitting around doing nothing, but always projecting into the universe that day because, low and behold, Carole and two girl friends were attending the show and I quickly hooked up with Stuart Tarr and another dude and before I know it, a three-couple energy cloud is forming around us.
I’d already learned Carole was sort of seeing Larry Tabling, the Finchley’s bass player. That news just meant I’d spend the rest of my teenage existence avoiding any contact with Tabe, even though he’d be close to a lot of my close friends. But after the show, the Finchley’s disappeared, and one of the girls suggested we all go to Carole’s house and make-out in the basement. Holy cow! This was it! I was in hot band, I was with the greatest teen goddess in the universe! I was about to make out for the first time in my life! I was in love with Carole! Unfortunately, I was about to blow it all, big time…..
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