PARADISE NOW! September 1968
This is the third day of my long stay with my grandparents, which I had waited for with a desire for refuge and quiet. Instead, I find a new girlfriend from next door and soon after we start our kissing. We then become inseparable for days ‘til the “Peabody Museum” wedged us apart…
While in heavy petting Grandma runs into the living room while announcing, “We are taking a trip to New Haven so you can learn some needed culture.”
Popie, half asleep looks up from behind his paper renewed and losing his general lack of interest.
“Wow! My girlfriend can go!” I blurt.
Grandma seriously, “I don’t think she’ll be allowed to come with us.”
My girlfriend is already bolting out the door to ask her moms permission.
“What is the problem?” Popie asks, “Just call her grandmother and ask if she can go. It should be no problem and I will enjoy the drive.”
As quickly the girl is back, bubbling, “It’s okay with my grandma if it’s ok with you.”
I had stars in my eyes—she was so nice.
Popie yells, “For Christ-sakes! Let her go with us.”
“I’m so excited, Grandma! Where we goin?” I say.
“Well it’s kind of a surprise; a place of great culture—Yale University’s Peabody Museum.”
Grandma leaves the room and I hear her make a call and start laughing. I know she is up to some monkey business. Immediately after my girlfriend’s grandmother calls back and explains to me that her granddaughter has a change of plans. Without my new friend, I think the trip will drag. I continue thinking about her all the way to the Museum.
It’s a whirlwind tour in the Peabody Museum, Grandma runs through the exhibits. Popie pays no mind even when Grandma frequently checks her watch, and after minutes, announces that were leaveing the museum. We stop walking after several blocks at a building with a line of people approaching a door with a table outside. From the distance, I see a handsome, longhaired blond man, sitting outside selling tickets.
Grandma exclaims, “Oh my—my—gosh—my—my! Boy, this looks interesting! A play, and look at all the artistic looking people waiting on line. It must be a real cultural event.”
I see draft dodgers wearing blue jeans with holes and half deserved facial hair. Others look war ravaged. Hemp permeates the air mixed with my first whiff of Patchouli oil. The noise of “radical argument” subdues when Grandma; alone collects tickets from the blond man. Popie and I wait by a freshly planted maple while most everyone stares, as if we were some peculiarity. While Grandma haggles with the blond man, he looks over at me from the desk at the door. It takes her a few minutes to gather two tickets.
Returning happily she chides, “We have tickets to the front row, now we will have some popular culture! I have two tickets, and you’re free.”
I walk up to the ticket booth and stare in the eyes of the striking longhaired, blond man with a deadpanned face. His face is unusually square and perfectly chiseled; very long hair and a large blond beard. I continue to stare hard to make my point.
“So…” I ask, “…are you in the play?”
“No, I’m only a student getting some work study hours.”
“What are you studying?”
“Astrophysics and Mathematics.”
“Jeez that’s a load…” I say, “…I can’t even get through my algebra. You must be very bright so you can see that I have a problem. You need to know what’s going on.”
He stares down at the table then to his right, watching my grandparents enter the door to the New Theater. He looks amazed and slightly stunned.
While looking at the advertisement for the coming attractions of Dionysius in 69 and another leaflet describing Euripides, I state, “I guess I’m not old enough to get in.”
“No, I agree that you’re really not…” A long pause follows and I can feel tension. “…but, I am only a student who is taking tickets and money. I can’t determine that you cannot go in. It’s not my job.”
I add, “I hope you understand that I’m not the one you have to worry about. You really shouldn’t miss the coming attraction. It’ll be a whopper.” I see his understanding.
“I’ll watch!—good luck!”
I say nothing as he defers his eyes to Popie and Grandma passing from view into the theater. He shakes his head in disbelief. I walk inside with my stomach in knots wishing I could be back with my girl. Inside I notice the only seniors are my Grandparents and the only person lacking extra keratin is I. Worse was the crowd who didn’t trust anyone over 25 as attested by the Don’t Trust Anyone over 25, printed on buttons attached to their chests. We’re definitely the show before the show. We are the commercial before the main event. The burl that was just before the Burlesque. Popie was suddenly uncomfortable, as he knows he’s been hoodwinked. The usher utters some words about my age; and I mention that I’m not going to cause him any problems while I angrily stare at my grandparents while my thoughts are still on my new girlfriend and my juices were still flowing. The play will not stop my lust.
The play begins—uttering about the state of world affairs; and sound that supposedly resembles Neolithic singing and moaning transcends the previous quiet. Soon, the burning of draft cards and passports becomes easier to understand than the moans. Then the actors remove all their clothes. I’m too mad about missing my girlfriend to take much notice. I hope she’s at home when I get back.
Popie mutters, “Stupid—fffin—crap—shiiiiiii; what the hell is this crap, garbage, help Lord,” louder than the moans on stage.
Grandma gruffly says, “Be quiet this is a place of great culture! No one else is complaining.”
Soon more actors are undressed and then they jump in the bed together and appear to be having some kind of sex act. Finally, Popie uncontrollably stands up, trips over his chair and tumbles with a somersault into the audience in the next row.
Grandma yells, “Popie!”
The play stops—the lights come on showing everyone staring at a poor shaking Popie, standing with his pale face.
Grandma yells, “This is a cultural event and you don’t know how to behave. Sit down or I will find a different ride home.”
Some man yells, “Yeah, like wow man! Like man, what-is-the-matter with you? You’re not hip. Man, you should just listen to Grandma Moses over there because she’s righteous. On the other hand—if you don’t want, to cool out—just leave. We don’t want to put up—with your generations square bullshit.” I am amazed that people are so serious about this play. I thought they were mellow but these “hippies” were anything but. I surmise that watching the play makes up for some political impotence. If think if they only knew about Popie and his travails they wouldn’t’ be so mean.
The play continues ’til Popie yells at Grandma, “What is this dirt!” He gets up and starts to leave again.
Grandma yells, “I will leave you, after all those times you dragged me to see the Burlesque in New London and New Haven … I know why you were going. Don’t think I don’t.”
The lights come on again—the play slowly stops. The actors are wearing frowns of disillusionment.
“That was classy; this is total crap!” Popie yells back,
All of the audience is murmuring.
Grandma screams, “If you make it to the door, I will—divorce you…u.”
The audience yells in unison, “Divorce him—Divorce him.”
Another yells, “Just get him—out of here.”
Popie jumps back to his seat so quickly and so quietly, that everyone’s faces show amazement with the speed and dexterity.
The play resumes. I don’t understand the depth of the play and understood less about Popie’s reaction. The actors’ un-simulated sex must have been the last straw for Popie but I don’t care and only want to get back to my girl. As we leave, all eyes are at Popie. Outside the door the clothes-less are being arrested, handcuffed and shoved into the paddy wagons while they are still staring at us with disbelief. Grandma wisely goes the long way around to avoid another more terrible scene.
Popie starts the car and drives slowly while shaking for 10 miles. He finally says, “That was total crap; with so little class, I can’t begin to see what you saw in….”
Grandma with the anger of the Gods, interrupts, “Don’t ever compare what we saw today with those burlesque—those strip shows that we watched for so many years. You had no good reason to go to those shows and you know it.”
Popie shaking, “You don’t know class when you see it right in front of you. And this is tasteless…”
Grandmas with shaking finger pointing says, “You need to quit while you’re ahead. Especially after rubbing so much crap into my face for years. You tried to find a good excuse to always take me too those shows with all your friends. You think I don’t know what you were doing at those shows. Don’t think—I won’t tell your Grandson right now—if you say another word. How’d you like that?”
Popie says, “Well I…” as Grandma interrupts, “…I said shut-up, not another word from you for at least a week. You know there was nothing wrong with the nudity and other aspects of that show. It was making an important statement about our culture, which has become stagnant with corruption and misaligned principles. You must remember that times are rough, and this show is against those that are trying to take away your freedom.”
I try to take his side, and the wrath of Zeus starts again as I am cut off in mid sentence with, “I will make you walk home right now!”
I was looking forward to a walk, but without the stupid shoes dressed with the Shineola. Popie said nothing for days. Grandmas smug and happy as her trial was complete and her duty as prosecutor, judge, and jury are over.