“Your Eyes Are So Beautiful. Come. Meet My Parents.”

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First of all, yes, I understand the hair IS a problem, but hey!  We all looked something like this – it was the 70s!

My old friend, Keith, died in his late 20s and I’ve been remembering him lately.  His birthday just passed, and coincidentally I found some old photos of high school friends while cleaning a dresser.

One of my favorite memories of Keith was at something called the Tri-County Fair out in Mansfield Township, NJ.  At least I think it was Mansfield.  Nowadays the area is so built up that it looks like everywhere else, but back then it was all farmland and we never knew where towns started and ended.  This Fair had a lot of rides and booths, a regular country fair, I guess.  Anyway I went to the Fair with perhaps 5 or 6 high school friends.  At one point in the evening we came upon this giant slide.  I think there were 4 side-by-side (connected) undulating slides on which you rode this burlap mat.  I figured the hardest part for me would be the scary climb up the stairs to get to the top.  I figured wrong.

Let me say that I DID express my great reluctance to go on the big, scary ride.  I expressed my aversion to both height and speed, but Keith pooh-poohed my concerns.  In fact, Mr. Sarcasm told me that I shouldn’t worry about the stairs.  A fall where I landed on my feet might drive my spine into my ankles, but who would notice a shorter, squattier me anyway?

I believe that was the week I was in love with Blazer SurgeonToBe.  I wanted to impress Blazer, and I agreed to let him “guide” me on the ride.  So I climbed the big, scary stairs.  Now, I’m REALLY high up.  I mean, I can see satellites orbiting.  I look down the slide to the bottom and there’s an assortment of my friends: Keith, Ruby October, Blazer MIT, Blazer CompUSA, and possibly, Ruby Balloon.  Blazer takes my hand and we get ready to push off.  I take a deep breath, and here we go…

Oh, the screaming!!!  Not mine, although my screaming was pretty gruesome…No, Keith’s screaming at the bottom of the slide.  Somehow just after push-off, I managed to pivot around on my little mat 180 degrees in a new, somewhat awkward position, especially since I still hadn’t let go of Blazer’s hand yet. It’s even possible that I ended up pivoting again and ending the ride in a face-first position.  Keith was beside himself.  He was laughing so hard, he couldn’t breathe.  I thought we’d have to get the first-aid squad to come over.  I was fine, thank you very much.  Since I had shut my eyes, I’m not sure what happened from beginning to end.  Keith just kept yelling, “She’s SPINNING!  She’s sliding backward!”  Finally, he collapsed on the ground laughing, which is where I found him when I finally opened my eyes.  Blazer offered to take me on again now that I ‘had the hang of it,’ but I declined.  Mostly because the invitation sent Keith into convulsions.

And while that memory really makes my happy, it’s one small thing Keith did for me that really sticks out in my memory and makes me feel warm.  Keith once stepped in and got me out of a jam I had no idea I had stumbled into.  A group of friends and I were at the Circle Lanes in Ledgewood, NJ, bowling on a Friday night.  I haven’t been bowling in years now, but I do know that now it’s all scored electronically.  What’s the fun in that?  How can you score in Roman Numerals if you can’t actually write it in pencil and see it on the overhead projection?  Anyway, I was 16 and…let’s say…buxom.  I went to the food/bar counter to order some sodas.  There was a man sitting at the counter, nursing a beer.  Suddenly he was on a stool right next to me, telling me that he would help me carry my order, but that we were going to have to go out the open door behind the bar, around the front of the building and back inside to our lane because it would be easier.  Why this would be easier, I don’t know.  I was all set to follow Mr. Wonderful right out the door to the parking lot.  No clue on my part.  All of a sudden, Keith was in between Mr. Wonderful and myself as we were moving toward the drinks.  He took my hands in his and said in an odd Eastern European accent, “Your eyes…they are so beautiful.  Come.  You must meet my parents.” And he took me back to the front of counter where the counter guy had finished putting out our drinks.  Mr. Wonderful yelled, “Good night!” and headed out the door.  Keith didn’t say a word.  He just kept looking at me.  I finally realized what nearly happened.  We gathered up the drinks and headed back to the lanes.  Keith – Mr. Zinger – never said another word about it to me.  Never teased me, never scolded me.  He was just there when I needed him.

I wish I could have one last conversation with him.  One conversation…lasting for the next 30 years.

Apr 10th, 2009

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