We'd met at the start of the school year, both iconoclastic dweebs united by our outsider status. My tininess and his obesity made us unsuitable for football, our temperament and lack of any particular interest kept us out of the substance abuse crowd, and that left us with very little to do after school. His poverty any my Dad's disapproval eliminated video games (on line roll playing games were years in the future) so we drifted into the safe insular world of books, 'zines circulated only to ourselves, and music. At the Babcock Jr. High School, Richid and I would sit together in study hall and at lunch, two embryonic homos and each the extent of the others social circle, pouring over the latest issues of Heavy Metal, Cream, The National Lampoon, NME, and Trouser Press.
Richid would bring his older sister Stephanie's record albums with him on the bus from the remote farm country of Dunn's Corners: Queen and Cheap Trick, Supertramp and David Bowie, and I'd take them home with me at the end of the school day. Later in the evening after delivering my newspapers, while my father sat in his rocking chair with his paper in the front room downstairs, I sat on a black vinyl barstool in his back bedroom work shop upstairs. Around me were basses and guitars in various states of assembly or repair, banjos, dulcimers, a marimba, a Hammond B-3 and Farfisa organ. His stereo was set on racks of vinyl albums: Beatles, Stones, Traffic and Cream, and surrounded by wire racks of dusty 45's in colorful paper sleeves reading Chess, Decca, Sun, Motown and others, and shoeboxes filled with homemade cassettes. The pale blue and bittersweet orange diamond patterned wall paper was almost completely obscured by the blister packs from small tools and gadgets, direction sheets, warranties and owners manuals from every appliance and piece of electronic equipment purchased since he'd moved into the house. With only the meter lights illuminating the room and reflecting off the collaged and textured walls, lacquered wood and chrome and gold bright work of the instruments, I listened to all of it, Dads and Stephie's both, fitting each disk on the spindle of his turntable and and carefully setting the tone arm at the edges, the volume low enough not to disturb my Mother in the kitchen below.
After supper, I'd retreat to my corner room under the eaves. I'd plug in the "party light" from Radio Shack,and sit cross legged on the wavy pine floor boards listening to my wood grained Panasonic clock radio as the bulb heated up the convection current which spun the multicolored acetate disc inside the faceted plastic dome. A kaleidoscope of colored spots would pass over the walls, the speed increasing with the filament's temperature. The spots rolled across the black and white Marilyn Monroe posters thumb tacked to the wall, flickering over her outstretched arms and multiple open mouthed smiles. The dots rolled over my drum kit, the landscape of clothes and books and sneakers, and the wicker peacock chair I'd bought for a princely $50 at Ruby Vine's Railroad Salvage. I heard the very end of disco radio broadcast by KISS 101 Providence, the then progressive WBCN Boston, and the student DJs at Brown, U. Conn and U.R.I.. Westerly was isolated enough from Boston, Providence and NYC television broadcasts that it had had cable since the 1960's. During one home room Richid gushed breathlessly about the launch of MTV he'd witnessed at one of his babysitting gigs, at finally seeing the bands we'd seen on the glossy pages. I'd later secretly join him after his charges had been put to bed and before moms and dads returned. We saw an irridesent David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes", Bow Wow Wow's near naked mowhawked Annabella singing "I want Candy", Duran Duran looking at "Planet Earth" while leaping aroung in their bizarre and fascinating new romantic clothes, and the Buggles "Video Killed the Radio Star". There was nothing like it in the navy blue, brown and grey landscape of Southern New England. We were hooked.
The school year ended and the baby sitting with it. Richid and I didn't see each other over the summer. We were too young to drive, there was no public transportation, and my parents couldn't see wasting all that gasoline driving way out to Dunns Corners for no good reason, so instead we talked for hours on the telephone(local calls were a flat monthly charge) about books and buildings, the clothes people wore in New York and London, and the bands in the magazines. One afternoon, I peddled my bike to looney tunes record store , and with the paper route money wadded in the pocket of my toughskins, I purchased my very first albums, two solely on the basis of reviews ; blondie's 'parallel lines' and 'the specials', and Rachel sweets'protect the innocent', because I'd seen her perform on the Merv Griffin show, wearing the same leather jacket on the album's cover. I didn't attend the free town sponsored summer day camp at Franklin Field Playground that year. I'd listen to records in the back room 'till dad came home, and the radio in my room after that. I'd pass the days Idly lying on my bed by the open window, leafing through the 1950's and 60's issues of Life, Look , and the Saturday Evening Post I'd fished out of the Lions Club paper drive box, along with back issues of Penthouse and Playboy, and the more intriging Hustler, with photos of men and women together. I read all of the articles. I sliced out advertising clip art with an Exacto knife and formed my own collages on the bedspread. Cars approached from town, the sound of tires on pavement and the hum of engines compressing as they approached, and then expanding and fading as they headed on to the new ranch houses sprouting in the woods at the end of our I9th century street. Across the oiled gravel pavement,the Carroll girls floated around the broad granite steps in front of their faded Athenian house, braiding each others long golden hair and dancing to songs on the tinny top 40 transister radio set on the landing. The three of them were identical but in descending size, like a set of tanned, long blond haired Ukrainian matrioska dolls. Gary Numan had a hit that summer with 'Cars", and the hooky base line floated up to my room through the gnarled branches of the ancient oak tree several times a day.
For my birthday In August, tired I guess of the invasion of his sanctum, Dad presented me with a black Scott receiver and silver Panasonic turntable, rigorously researched for optimal cost/value ratio in the well thumbed pages of Consumer Reports and in consultations with Harry Leizer at Leizer Electronics,. If I was home, it was on. At opposite ends of the floor in the evenings, Dad would listen to Heart and Fleetwood Mac, and I to The Cars and Elvis Costello, who he remarked once when he passed the door that he liked. Prince, the Shags and Talking heads annoyed him, and he'd order me to lower the volume ( though he always said 'please") when I played them.
School started again in the fall, and Richid's after school baby sitting in town resumed. Mom wanted to add a particular channel on the cable, which came bundled with MTV, so now I had that to watch at home. The paper route expanded into a small empire of five routes, and the increased income was devoted to multiple album purchases, and an increasingly peculiar wardrobe. Once again in home room, a breathless Richid announced another sea change in our lives; that GaryNuman was touring the states, that he would be playing at the Ocean State Theater an Amtrak ride away in Providence, and that WE were going to go.