Paradise by the Black Floodlight

Black Light Party

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Paradise By the Black Floodlight

My teenaged son is trying to convince me to remodel our 100-year old basement so he can hang out down there with his friends. His ‘friends,’ include a gaggle of fruit–flavored-gum popping pre-pubescent girlies, dangerously wizened by a mainstream culture that makes them notorious for snapping poochy-lipped, borderline porno ‘selfies’ yet walking around clueless in filmy see-through shirts, with their padded push up bras and loaded ovaries like it’s nothing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m relieved to know my son is popular with the opposite sex. It’s just when that plethora of purple knees parades past me in the dead of winter, it’s a bit unnerving.

Then, I rewind that old tape deck in my head and start clicking through the tracks, back to a time when teens wore beat up jeans made holey by hard use, not by design. In the 70’s, the refinished basements of middle suburbia housed denizens of intoxicated teens marinating in sloe gin on Saturday nights and arriving at school Monday morning with a row of purple hickeys tattooed around their necks to match their ruined reputations.

“That’s not going to happen, mom,” he reassures me.

“Oh, really? Do you know how many perfectly nice girls get themselves pregnant in refinished basements?”

“That’s a myth, mom. That’s why they invented playgrounds and cemeteries.”

The 8-track clicks to the next track, the one where we’re all gathered down in Dave Mc Gee’s parent’s finished basement, ‘finished’ meaning Dave screwed black lights into all the lamp sockets and taped psychedelic posters over the flaking cement walls.

We’d use Dave’s Cheech and Chong record to clean our pot and, in keeping with Dave’s horticultural pursuits, he’d collect the female seeds freed from their buds as they rolled down the inner fold of the open album cover. Thus inspired, we blew rings of Colombian Gold smoke, perfect halos hovering over our heads. We tapped and kicked countless kegs and held more make out sessions perfectly synchronized to Meatloaf’s “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” than I care to remember, and did it all with nothing more than a cheap fabricated drop ceiling between us and Dave’s sweet but tragically un-hip parents.

“I’m not as innocent as I look, “ I say finally, noticing the mail pile in which, by some cruel twist of cosmic irony, my AARP Magazine has been delivered on the same day as my Rolling Stone. I decide to use it to my advantage as I wave them both in his face.

“You see these? Proof of wisdom. Proof of cool. No basement.”

“Wouldn’t you rather have me home safe instead of out gallivanting in the streets,” he says using my own phrase as ammunition.

Up until this point, he and his friends have taken to ‘hanging out’ in our yard on our trampoline. I won’t let them jump on it, and I always turn on the garage floodlights, so they sit around in a bouncy circle wearing sunglasses against the glare and swapping occasional bits of spit that freeze on contact during the autumnal equinox and are probably the reason this conversation about the basement even got started in the first place.

I feel myself weakening, thinking perhaps it’s not such a bad idea after all. I mean, let’s face it… I’m not as pathetic as Dave McGee’s parents, who actually believed the leafy crop basking beneath the grow lights between the aluminum foiled walls of his bedroom closet were an experimental strain of rare Chinese tomato plants he was growing for Biology class.

After all, I’m a product of a different generation. We’re invented MTV. We know the lingo. We grew up watching Barretta. We can talk street.

T-t-t-talking ‘bout my generation- Jive turkey.

I flip through a box of old business cards until I find my general contractor’s number. I dial him up. He puts me on hold with the radio tuned to MGK, the station of choice for a baby boomer customer base.

I’m only half listening, the tune vaguely familiar. I’m idly doodling, sitting on hold, humming along, until suddenly… “DO YOU LOVE ME? WILL YOU LOVE ME FORVEVR? DO YOU NEED ME? WILL YOU EVER LEAVE ME?...”

I slam the phone down on Meatloaf faster than he’s going to get to

second base. We won’t get fooled again. Then I wander into the yard and eye up the empty trampoline, wondering if Home Depot even carries black floodlights?

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Comments 2 comments

Pearldiver profile image

Pearldiver 4 years ago from Tomorrow - In Words & NZ Time.

Oh wow... beside our tramp was a 35 foot pool and that was on a level below the 'semi' finished basement which contained a pool table, good sound system and my son's room and ensuite. It had many benefits, but most of all it meant that he had a space in which he and his friends could be, without being lost to another world. I feel for your decisions on this issue.. there are many downsides as well.. but feeling at home at home, I believe out weighs all them.

Nice work this, glad that you shared it.. I love your writing style.. and why not? I'm sure that we all agree how cool you are.. especially surviving Meatloaf! Take care.. write more.. finish that basement.. :)


greatparenting profile image

greatparenting 4 years ago from philadelphia, pa and corolla, nc

Very cute. I love the way this is written. And, I think it's not so bad that your son wants to hang at your house with his friends. It mostly indicates he isn't planning to do anything that wild, right? He must think you're pretty cool, too. (Or really out of it, I suppose.)

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