Jenny's father had decreed that Jenny was not allowed to cut her hair until she turned sixteen, so that waist-length, wheat-colored hair got rubberbanded during basketball, stuffed in a cap for swimming, and in first period economics it was always still wet. Most girls in high school were looking forward to lavish sweet sixteen parties, but Jenny was counting the days until she could cut off all that hair. But the day after Jenny's birthday, her hair was the same length! We said nothing. Maybe she changed her mind!
But the following Monday she showed up with a stylish bob.
Chris was a lanky bassist with plans of attending Berklee College of Music. I was among the few Staten Islanders his age with whom he could have a conversation beyond "Plasmatics RAWK, man!" He was cute, but there was no chemistry. But our friend MG wanted us to get together. We decided to tell her that we did the deed while she was visiting family in Ohio. The setting for our faux-dalliance was his parents' house, in a bathtub filled with lime Jello. She never questioned how long-- to fill the tub, or to harden. The Jello, that is
Arthur was a late-middle-aged therapist with an adorable west highland terrier and a young, chubby boyfriend. They lived in the gayest high-rise in Murray Hill—he always had stories about the famous gays and lesbians he met in the elevator that week. But his best story was this: one time he was traveling out west by car, and he stopped in a highway diner. He ordered a cup of coffee to sip while he perused the menu. When the waitress heard him talk, she said, "Hey, you're one of them New York Jews, ain't ya? I've never met a Jew before."
Siobhan was a woman who was as big as the state she came from—Texas. A six-foot Rubenesque redhead with an un-ignorable presence, she made the time I had to put in working in the accounting department tolerable. She was the office manager and kept all the cranky menopausal accounting ladies cool and happy. In her real life she was a singer (soprano) and a regular at the gay piano bars in Greenwich Village. I liked to imagine that tight jeaned men with moustaches feted her nightly and called her Bubbles. We mourned when she returned to the Lone Star state.
Vinny was a little red-headed kid with glasses who, besides being small, red-headed and bespectacled, had the last name Santana. Every time he was called on or had to go to the front of the class, we'd start singing, under our breath, "You've got to change your evil ways, baby". Occasionally I was dragged into the fray, and accused of being his "Black Magic Woman." We thought this teasing would annoy him, but one September he read his "what I did over my summer vacation" essay, and it was about how he went on tour with his uncle Carlos.
Richard used to hang around the office of the college newspaper, trying to get us to review his book, In A Pig's Eye. It was self-published in hard cover, which was quite a novelty back then. Richard was older than the average student, even at Hunter where there were a lot of older students. We had no idea how old, but he was all gray and it didn't seem at all premature. In A Pig's Eye featured a giant sentient worm, which at one point acted as a sitz bath for the human she loved. It was a strange book.
Robert was the heart-throb of Mrs. Sheldon's 2nd grade. A latte-skinned Puerto Rican boy with European features, he accented his exotic sexiness with v-necked velour shirts, tight black bell-bottom pants, and actual shoes, as opposed to the sneakers all the other boys wore. He parted his slick onyx hair down the middle, like a teen idol. He always looked as if he might break out into a spontaneous tango. He had a tinge of an accent—just enough to make the girls swoon. The girls adored him, but the boys, as you can imagine, were highly suspicious of his sartorial choices.
Artie was a musician and jingle-writer who was peripherally involved with The Sick Fucks, a popular NY punk rock band in the late 70s. Artie was working in an odd area of the directory publisher—the "information services" area. If you lived in New York City, you could call and ask a question like "What's the best oyster bar in Midtown?" and Arnie, or one of his co-workers, would get you an answer. They had a color-coded index card system, but mostly they just knew everything. Artie flirted with all the girls, making up songs about them on the spot.
Michel was my mother's friend's French boyfriend. He looked just like Bryan Ferry, right down to the highly stylish if slightly foppish suits and glossy, sharply parted black hair. Unlike Bryan Ferry, he had a French accent and he was dating my mom's friend. He was some sort of businessman who traveled to New York from Paris quite often. He met Candy at Sutdio 54. His English was OK, but I recall he said "neighborhood" as "neblewood." He would sometimes end up in our kitchen, waiting for my mother's friend, Candy, and complaining that she was crazy. She was.
Chris was so blond he seemed to disappear in the Las Vegas sun. Chris liked to recite poetry at the open mike at the coffee shop. But Chris didn't write poetry. Instead he would memorize a new poem every week, usually Byron or Shelley or something of that ilk, and perform it, in his baggy jeans, old t-shirt, and high-tops. As incongruous as Chris's attire was with his poems, the coffee shop itself was even odder, with molded plastic chairs and a linoleum floor that seemed more like a hospital lounge than a coffee shop with an open mike.