As I suppose is the common case, high school for me was as great as junior high was lousy. I was about as popular as a non-joiner could be, moved freely between the various social circles, and settled in to a nice work hard, play hard groove. I’d set my sights on early graduation so was busy with that until well after dark five days a week, and as was my habit by then I spent my free time staying just as far as I could get from the neighborhood. There wasn’t anybody there I wanted anywhere near me anyway.
The “home life” was still a suckfest, but it had become a non-violent suckfest. Mommie Dearest hadn’t lost her taste for violence, but had good sense enough to heed fair warning. Daddy Drunkest tried to restore the former balance, but he’s always been nothing but bluff, bluster, and bullshit. Without the threat of physical violence the Rat Bastards were powerless, so I did as I pleased. Where the hell do you think you’re going? Out. What time are you coming home? Later. You’re grounded, mister! Maybe when I get back I’ll be grounded but just now I have better things to do. Where my friends who were grounded might sneak out through their bedroom windows, I just walked right out the front door. Sorry, folks, ya done went and made the wrong kind of monster.
Life was good, and except for the home life everything it was supposed to be for a teenager living south of Los Angeles. The movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High, though not even being researched yet, was pretty accurate for as far as it went. There were beach parties, mountain hideout parties, concerts, midnight movies, long lazy days throwing a Frisbee around at the park, cruising, cruising for amusement at the amusement parks (where the amusing tourist chicks were to be found), and of course liberal violations of marijuana laws. In that time and place the only way for a white middle class kid to get busted for pot was as an additional charge accompanying a more serious crime, or to stupidly piss off a cop. To top off the confluence of it all, the muscle cars of the late 60’s and early 70’s were in the used car market and not out of reach to a kid who was willing to work to get one.
Having been one who was always willing to work to get what I wanted, I had my car more than a year before I could legally drive the thing. ‘Nuther story, that, but I was good to go the instant I got my driver’s license, and go was exactly what I did with it.
I don’t recall how it happened that Riff Raff and I became friends, but it wasn’t long before we became legendary. It was really very funny. The real guy became cool for hanging out with me, and then I became even cooler for hanging out with the legendary ultra-cool Riff Raff, and for a time there were many about who didn’t know that Riff Raff was the real guy. People would tell us about the ultra-cool legendary adventures of Riff Raff not knowing that they were talking to him in the flesh. Of course we played that for all it was worth, and it was great fun hearing about all the things we’d been up to when we thought we were somewhere else entirely. We thought we were at a party on the beach, but Riff Raff was club crawling on Sunset Strip — and vice versa. I always dug the Sunset Strip, which was everything you ever heard it was and then some, and also a lot less. It would later become the scene of a minor downfall for Riff, but no one suspected yet that it would be.
Then somehow or other Riff imposed Elwood into the scene. I didn’t want to be within a hundred feet of Elwood and his amazing collection of annoying nervous habits. In addition to the sniffing and snorting, he compulsively drummed his hands, spontaneously vocalized “huh!”, twitched and jerked, and fell into a bunny rabbit fright at the least provocation. What he thought was a sense of humor looked more like signs of mental retardation, and he was still dressing like a biker despite not owning anything at all with wheels, not even a skateboard.
Every damn time I turned around, Riff was saying, “Hey, let’s go pick up Elwood!”, and I was saying, “No, man, I don’t want to go pick up Elwood”. The guy was hard core annoying, and that “What are you looking at?” challenge that had got him whacked in the face with a three ring binder proved to be another of his annoying habits. If a random stranger glanced his direction in response to a “huh!”, Elwood hauled that turd out and threw it. It seemed that 90% of what I said to Elwood was “Just shut the fuck up”. I didn’t want to be stuck choosing between being the protector friend and the schmuck who wouldn’t stand up for a buddy, even though I didn’t consider Elwood a friend. He was one of those people that often invoked instant dislike and distrust in others, and I was one who responded that way to him.
To make matters worse, Elwood gave off a heavily pervy vibe that just raised my hackles. There wasn’t anything he ever said or did that you could point at and say “Perv!”, and from outward indications it seemed reasonable enough to assume him to be asexual, but my gut instinct was what it was. Riff disagreed with my assessment, but he’s one of those guys who likes everyone because he’s just completely clueless and imperceptive. He’s always surprised when someone does him a bad turn, to this day.
Fast forward through meeting Amethyst and getting burgled by Melvin The Mormon. Amethyst’s house is the hangout, and especially so when I’m not in the mood to pay for everyone’s good time — a thing Amethyst’s mother was always happy to do. Her weekly grocery bill was about the same as the monthly mortgage payment and most of the goodies went into kids that weren’t hers. Just about everyone who was more or less a regular in our interlocking circles was there, digging a sunny California summer day in the pool. We were all young, good looking, and popular, the music was loud, the snacks plentiful, and someone else was footing the bill. It was one of those magical moments when everything was just perfect. The heavens had aligned and Amethyst and I were the most celebrated couple around, the picture of perfect, the leaders of the pack. It was every kid’s fantasy made real, becoming the coolest guy, the coolest girl, and then the coolest couple. Un-fucking-real.
Nobody minded Elwood being there that day. He was doing his usual gig of alternating between being a spectacular ass and sitting quietly alone, and was taking it all in stride when everyone yelled at him to just shut the fuck up. Then I had to bail, as duty called and I had to go earn my paycheck.
The next day, or a few days later, whenever it was, the plan was to take the party to the beach. Different cars went different places to pick up different kids and supplies, and then Riff said, “Hey, man, let’s go pick up Elwood”. The usual conversation ensued. I didn’t want to go pick up Elwood. I didn’t want anyone to go pick up Elwood. I didn’t want to see, hear, smell, or think about Elwood. I just wanted to go have a good time without having to endure the spectacle of Elwood making an ass of himself — an endeavor that required only minimal effort on his part as it was his strongest native talent. The remarkable feat would have been Elwood not making an ass of himself, and so far as I know no one has ever seen him do it. But in addition to Riff’s insistence and a bit of pressure from a few others who thought that I was always too harsh on Elwood, the guy who was one of the second-most-celebrated couple lived just a few doors down so there was really no way to pick him up without Elwood schlepping into the mix. Okay, then, dammit, we’ll go pick up that fucking Elwood but I swear to god if he’s too much the clown I’m going to drown his ass…
Off we went, for some reason in three cars, to pick up Elwood. It turned out to be the proudest day of Elwood’s mother’s entire life, and she was just quaking with eagerness to tell the whole world about it. She was going to make such a huge production of it, in a sly way so it wouldn’t obviously be a carefully calculated grandstand, but everyone around was going to know once and for all that her darling baby boy wasn’t the most pathetic dork ever to breathe oxygen. She came out of the aluminum box that was Casa De Elwood, and called out, “Oh Elwood! Before you go, do you know whose these are? I just found them in your room while I was gathering laundry”. Oh, such a proud moment it was for her…
… In her waving hand was Amethyst’s favorite bikini bottom, which had gone missing and was last seen in her bathroom upstairs where guests did not go.