The Adventures of the Odd Boys: A True-story…Chapter Five
Rob AKA "Shaggy"
Freddy AKA "Fatz"
Javier AKA "Toro"
Francois AKA "Paris"
Intro: These tales are true events from my teenage years. These stories take place in Brooklyn, NY, between Spring 1983 and the Summer of 1985—my “glory days” and the best time of my life. These remembrances are about friendship and young love. My recollections revolve around the close group of friends I had at the time, and about my first love—the one that got away. The one you never forget!
An Odd Boys Halloween Adventure
It was late October 1983 and Halloween was here! Halloween had always been my favorite holiday. Even as a young kid I preferred Halloween to other holidays. Sure, you get presents at Christmas but on Halloween you get to be a glutton with candy. The only thing better than toys to me was chocolate. Plus, Halloween was when all the monster movies came on TV. All the old Universal classics like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf man and the Mummy aired this time of year. At 18 years old, I still loved those old films. (I admit I still like them now.)
This was the age of early cable TV and VCRs. I had the (now defunct) WHT network for cable and a brand new VHS player. So this year was a novelty because we could now pick-and-choose our movies, making sure we got to see our favorites. The list of horror films we chose was a classic line-up. My Odd Boy buddies and I had a dozen films picked out to watch on the week of Halloween. (Halloween was more than just one day to us.) We chose Dracula, Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, the Son of Frankenstein, the Ghost of Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, the House of Frankenstein, the House of Dracula, the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and King Kong. Twelve of the best!
In earlier chapters I introduced you to the Odd Boys, of which I was one. There were four of us and we all had nicknames. I was “Shaggy”, and my pals were “Fatz”, “Toro” and “Paris”. I was the nerdy, brainy one. Fatz was cheerful and carefree. Toro was tough but loyal. Paris was cool but crazy.
We all loved Halloween and this was the first one that the four of us were going to spend together. Fatz and I had shared a few Halloweens but this was the first time that Toro and Paris were going to be with us. This was going to be a big night for me. I was 18 but I was as excited as a little kid again. It reminded me of how giddy I used to get when I went Trick-or-Treating as a kid.
We’d spent the weekend (Saturday Oct. 29 and Sunday Oct. 30) watching the 12 films mentioned above. Now it was Monday the 31st. It was Halloween! And for many high school kids, Halloween meant an unofficial day off from school (Which means they played hooky.) It was almost a tradition. Some people called it ‘Cut Day’ because every cut out of class. I, of course, was in college now and had just started my first semester. I really didn’t want to miss a day after only seven weeks of school, so I went, but my mind was on Halloween night and my pals. Fortunately, as my schedule stood, I got out early on Mondays. I was free at 1:30, and after the hour and 45 minutes trip back from Long Island City, I was home by 3:15. I walked my dog Scrapper and then I called my buddies and told them I’d meet them by 4:30. Normally I had to be home for dinner at 6:00 (My mother was fanatic about all three of us being there for dinner) but I made a deal with mom that if I got a ‘B plus’ or better on my last test, I could skip dinner. I got an ‘A minus’ so I was free for the evening.
It was time to get into my costume. I was going to be Lt. Columbo. I had an old raincoat. It wasn’t the right color I needed (I wanted light brown and I had yellow) but it was faded and worn enough so that it seemed more pale than yellow. I found an old dress shirt that hadn’t been ironed and one of my dad’s black ties. I hadn’t shaved and I messed my hair up. To complete the look, I had one of my grandpa’s old cigars. I looked in the mirror.
“Not bad,” I said. “Not perfect but close.”
I tried imitating Peter Falk’s voice and walked around repeating “There’s just one more thing”. I thought I made a pretty good Columbo, although Scrapper looked at me strangely every time I used my gruff voice. At 4:00 I petted Scrapper goodbye and went out to meet my pals. I was early because I was looking forward to the evening. Grandma was at the front window. Grandpa was out on the porch with a hammer and nails fixing something. (He still loved to tinker and putter, bless his 80 year old heart.)
“Make sure you’re back for dinner!” Grandma said, as she always said.
“Mom knows I’m going out,” I said.
“Are you sure?” she challenged.
“She’ll be home in two hours. You can ask her then.” I said. “I’m going out for Halloween.”
Grandpa stopped what he was doing. “I remember this costume party I went to once.”
Oh no! Whenever he started with ‘I remember”, I knew it was going to be a long story. He started to tell me about a party when he was in his twenties that he went to dressed in his volunteer fireman outfit, and then there was a fire in the house next door. I could guess where the story was going, but fortunately, I was spared listening to it because we were interrupted.
I recognized the Grand Am that pulled up and honked at me. The shaded window rolled down and I saw Gina--my lovely Gina--beckoning to me. I was always glad to see her, especially now.
“Damsel in distress!” she yelled, which meant that she needed my help.
“Excuse me, Grandpa,’ I happily said. “That’s my friend.”
I went to her car, relieved, and filled with excitement that my dream girl was here. “Hi,” I said, smiling that silly smile I always smiled when she was around.
She looked at me strangely. “You look a mess. Your clothes are all wrinkled.”
“I’m Columbo!” I said.
“You know, the detective,” I told her. “He’s on TV.”
“Oh,” she answered. “Anyway, I need you. Get in.”
I was always willing and happy to do anything Gina asked. I jumped in the passenger seat. I heard my Grandmother exclaiming, “Look! He’s getting in a car with a girl!”
I ignored her.
“What’s up, pretty lady?” I asked Gina.
She held up a book. ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte. “I need help with this.”
I’d been helping Gina with Literature and history lately. She wasn’t big on reading and even worse on retaining what she read, so I had to lead her by the hand though the world of classic literature.
“I have a report due this week and I haven’t read it yet,” she said. “The only thing I know about ‘Wuthering Heights’ is that it’s a Pat Benatar song.”
“And you need help writing it?” I said, more as a comment than a question.
Gina put on her sweet voice and used the flattery routine. “You’re so smart about these things.”
She knew I wasn’t going to refuse her. I never could. “Okay, sure. We’ll get together tomorrow after I get back from school and we can work on it then.”
“Great,” she said. “Now there’s just one more little thing. We’re going to be discussing it in class tomorrow and I have no idea what it’s about. Can you, like, give me the cliff notes?”
“I’d be happy to talk you through it,” I said. “But I have to meet my pals. You remember my buddies.”
“How could I forget?”
“Well, we’re going to the city and I have to meet them soon,” I said.
“No problem,” she said. “I’ll drive you. You can tell me about the book on the way.”
“All four of us?”
I saw my pal Fatz, who lived on the same block as I did, coming out of his apartment building. He looked around for me. I got out of the car and waved to him. ‘Over here, buddy.”
He came toward the car. Fatz was dressed in a NY Giants football jersey and helmet. Not the greatest costume but it was hard for someone of his sizable girth to find an appropriate costume. (The alternative was Santa Claus.) “Hey Shaggy.”
“We’re getting a ride to the city,” I told him. “Hop in.”
“Cool!” he said and climbed in. The car creaked and drooped down on one side as the big guy got in. I could see Gina wince, as if he was going to hurt her precious car.
“Hey, Gina, what’s up?” He said.
“Hi Freddy,” she replied. “Nice costume.”
“We should go to pick up the rest of the Odd Boys,” I said.
“Odd, Boys,” Gina repeated. “That totally suits you guys.”
“We’re owning it,” Fatz said.
Gina started the car and I told her where to go to pick up the others. “Now start talking,” she said. “Tell me about ‘Wuthering Heights’.”
So I started telling her about Heathcliff and Cathy on the moors. It’s one of my favorite books so I was able to elaborate in detail. She nodded and seemed to be taking it all in. A few minutes later, we reached the street corner where Paris and Toro were waiting. Paris had a leather jacket on and his hair combed back in a DA like Fonzie. When he saw us he gave a double thumbs-up and went “Heeeey!” As for Toro, he was wearing an identical yellow-and-black track-suit to the one Bruce Lee wore in “Game of Death”. He also carried a pair of nunchucks.
“Come on in, guys,” I said. “We’re being chauffeured.”
“Heeeeey! Cool!” Paris said, in Fonzie mode.
He and Toro got into the backseat. “Hi guys,” Gina said.
“S,up Gina.” Toro said.
“What’s up, Gina?” Paris said.
Paris was squeezed in between Fatz’s wide girth on one side and Toro’s broad shoulders on the other. “I feel like a slice of bologna!” he said.
“Hang in there,” I told him. “We’ll be there in a half hour.”
“Easy for you to say,” Paris snapped. “You’re in the front seat. You’ve got room.”
“Stop being a baby,” Toro insisted.
“Yeah, take it like a man,” Fatz said.
“I wish I was Plastic Man,” Paris cried.
Gina started driving. “Go on with the story,” she said to me.
“What story?” Toro asked.
“I’m telling her about ‘Wuthering Heights’,” I answered.
“What’s ‘Wondering Highs’?”
“Never mind,” I said. “I’ll tell you later. You guys just talk among yourselves.”
“I don’t have enough air to talk!” Paris whined.
I continued to explain the book to Gina as we drove along the Brooklyn-Queens expressway, then over the Brooklyn Bridge into downtown Manhattan. I finished summing up the book just as we arrived at the Film Forum Theater.
“And that’s the end of the story,” I said. “You get the gist?”
“Of course I got it,” she said, as she double-parked the car. “I’ve got brains to go with these stunning good looks.”
“Will you marry us?” Paris said.
“Yeah, all four of us,” Toro added.
Shaggy’s got dibs,” Fatz said.
I was getting annoyed. “Why don’t you guys get out and wait on line, huh?”
“Awww, they want to be alone,” Toro said.
“We’ll cut out,” Paris said. “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.”
“Watch us fade,” Fatz said.
I looked at Gina, embarrassed. She didn’t seem to react to the sledge-hammer clues they were dropping about my affection for here. “Just go!” I said.
Fatz and Toro got out on opposite sides. Paris spread his arms. “Air, at last!” Then he got out of the car, grinning at me mischievously.
When we were alone, I said to her,” Thanks for the ride. We’ll work on your essay tomorrow.”
“Thanks,” she said. “You always come to my rescue. What would I do without you?”
“You’d be totally lost without me,” I said.
“I so would,” she said. “Thanks for saving my pretty pink ass again.”
“Anything for you,” I said.
She gave me a peck on the cheek and said, “You’re the best!” I got out of the car, feeling good. Gina drove off and left me smiling that goofy smile again.
“Yo Don Juan,” Fatz yelled. “You gonna join us?”
I got on line with the rest of them on the line.
“Going the tutor route, huh?” Paris said. “Good move. Playing to your strengths. Win her over with your big brain. Nice!”
“You Casanova,” Toro said.
“Oh, shut up!” I grumbled.
It was a fairly long line for the movie and lots of people were dressed up in costume. The Film Forum Theater was known for showing old classic movies and new foreign films. That night, the Halloween themed special double feature was two German silent classics, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and “Nosferatu”.
As usual, Paris and Toro found some girls to flirt with. Fatz and I talked to each other but I wasn’t really listening. My mind—as it often was—was on Gina. I wondered if I was making any headway with her at all. She relied on me and needed me. But that wasn’t love. In my view, two out of three was bad. But as long as we were still close and spent a lot of time together, there was still a chance. The odds were against me but somehow, I was going to make it work.
Fatz was starting to get impatient. “When are they gonna let us in.”
“Patience,” I said. “Good things come to those who wait. Got to have patience.”
So that’s the end of chapter five and my Halloween tale. Join the Odd Boys again in Chapter Six as a trip to the laundry leads to an unexpected adventure.