My mother was convinced that Satan was using rock-n-roll music to destroy the youth of our country; present company included. More than once she confiscated and destroyed a rock music album that she deemed to be offensive. Remember the cover of Who’s Next by The Who? Gone. Or the bible verses on the back of Aqualung by Jethro Tull? Blasphemy. And Give me an F… chant by Country Joe McDonald on the triple album Woodstock. Gone. Gone. And gone.
Rock and roll was evil—pure and simple—so I learned to hide my albums and my activities. The less she knew, the better it was for both of us. It was just self preservation on my part.
In 1973, a new hard-rock tune, Frankenstein by the Edgar Winter Group, caught my ear. WRIF played the hell out of it. It quickly became my favorite song. I bought the album and I played the hell out of it too. And, I turned it up to eleven whenever I could. A few months later, I saw an ad in the Sunday Detroit Free Press for the Edgar Winter Group’s concert at the Masonic Temple in Detroit. It was a dream come true. I mailed off a money order and received four tickets a week later. I asked my best friend, Lorena, to go with me. She was thrilled. Better yet, she had a driver’s license.
Lorena wasn’t my girl friend; she was one of my best friends that just happened to be a girl. Get it? We went out together all the time, but our friendship was strictly a brother-and-sister” type relationship. Most people assumed—my mother included—that our friendship was much more intimate. It wasn’t.
The day of the concert arrived the same week that report cards were sent home. Lorena had received a “C” in some class and she was grounded until the next marking period. The next marking period? That’s six weeks! That’s like forever in teenager time. Since she couldn’t go to the concert, she set me up with one of her good friends who could drive and we went to the show with another couple. The concert was awesome.
It was around midnight when I arrived home. My parents were already in bed. The phone rang as I entered the house.
“Hello?” I answered softly.
It was Lorena.
“Eugene? Is that you?” my mother called from her bedroom.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Who called?” she asked.
“It was a wrong number,” I said.
I returned to Lorena’s call. She wanted to hear everything about the concert. Not wanting to wake up our families, we both whispered. About this time, Lorena’s father walked through their dark house into the kitchen and cut an extremely loud fart. Pffffffffft! I even heard it over the phone. We could barely contain our laughter and we couldn’t understand our whispers.
“Can you come over, right now?” Lorena asked.
“I’ll be right over.” I said.
I slipped out the back door and rode my bicycle over to Lorena’s house. She met me in her driveway around one in the morning. We walked down to her boat dock on the St. Clair River and wrapped ourselves up in her blanket. We watched chunks of ice float by as we talked about the concert, our high school classes and life in general.
At one point, I distinctly remember impersonating Bill Cosby. I recounted the skit where he had placed a frog in his pocket that croaked on cue.
“Hey old weird Harold, I’ll bet you fifty cents my leg can burp.” “Croak,” I said.
We laughed and talked for hours. The time flew by. Around four-thirty in the morning, the sky began to lighten. Our time was over. When we stood up, we noticed the bottom edge of the blanket was dirty from the wet dock. Lorena didn’t want to explain to her parents why her blanket was soaking wet and filthy, so I rolled it up and offered to wash and dry it. (What a guy.) Done deal.
It was around five in the morning when I crept back into my house. I threw Lorena’s blanket in the washing machine, added some soap, started the wash cycle and went to bed.
My mother woke me up with a start that afternoon.
“Eugene! Whose blanket is this?” she asked with an irritated tone.
She was holding the wet blanket and she was very upset. I was still very groggy. She repeated the question a little louder. It didn’t occur to me how incriminating this evidence might appear to my mother.
“It’s Lorena’s blanket,” I said.
“And why is it in my washing machine?” she asked.
“Cause we got it dirty,” I said quite matter of factly. (Sheesh. Get a clue, lady.)
You could see the fruit spinning in my mother’s mind. One-by-one, they all lined up. Her eyes widened.
“Tiny! Get up here!” she called to my father who was downstairs.
He climbed upstairs to my bedroom and stood next to my mother.
“Your son has got some explaining to do,” she stated like a prosecuting attorney.
I was wide awake now and I quickly went into damage control mode. I tried to explain that this wasn’t how it looked, but she would hear none of it. Abruptly, my mother left my bedroom and my father followed her.
Cool. That was easy.
I fell back into my warm bed with every intention of going back to sleep. A moment later, I heard my mother shouting downstairs. (Now what?) Whoever she was yelling at now wasn’t saying anything. Unless…unless—oh shit—unless she was on the telephone.
And she was.
“Lorena, you need to get over here right now!” she shouted.
“Oh, I think you know exactly what this is about. A dirty blanket!” she said.
I scrambled down the stairs and tried to stop my mother before she completely ruined my life.
“Mom! No! Stop it. She’s already in trouble,” I said.
Now I was referring to Lorena being grounded, but that’s not how it sounded to my mother. She freaked.
“Tiny!” she yelled.
My dad walked back into the melee.
“Eugene has gotten Lorena in trouble,” she said.
“Great day in the morning,” he said.
“What? No! That’s not what I meant,” I said.
Lorena was still on the phone and I’m pretty sure she was laughing.
“Get over here right now,” my mother told her.
Lorena said she was eating dinner with her family and then she hung up. (What balls.)
“Hello? Lorena? Lorena?” My mother spoke into the dead handset.
I loved it.
But I was also pissed. And embarrassed. I took the wet blanket from my mother and put it in the clothes dryer. My mother called her pastor and spilled her guts to him. I went upstairs to my bedroom, shut the door and put Frankenstein on the turntable and turned it up to 11.
They say nothing spreads faster than a good rumor.
The following Monday at school, it seemed that everyone knew that Eugene had gotten Lorena in trouble and there was a dirty blanket to prove it. I hadn’t told a soul. I’m positive Lorena hadn’t told anyone. That left the Pastor and the Deacons of the church. So much for confidentiality.