Journal entry: September 1, 1984 (age 15)
With my 27-year-old brother, Jim, driving, the trip from Binghamton to New York City takes less than 3 hours. Other brother Dan, 16, took today’s white-knuckle ride in stride, but I was a bundle of nerves. That drive time didn’t include our stop in Poughkeepsie, where we picked up my brother, Bob, 22, and our cousin, Mark Raleigh, who is about Bob’s age. The Raleighs live in Poughkeepsie, and Bob is attending the Culinary Institute of America in nearby Hyde Park. It’s been fun telling people my brother is with the CIA, even though he’s been dealing more with brulées than attachés.
Bob and Mark have been hanging out together a lot. From the stories they started telling in the car, that sounds like a great thing for them, and a bad thing for the people of the Hudson Valley. They have left many of the area’s nightspots looking like a hotel room after The Who checks out. They are both championship partiers, storytellers, and troublemakers. In the cramped car, the easiest target for their tandem mayhem was the 15-year-old geek they both refer to exclusively as “Timmy.”
“Hey, Timmy, do you still like that band, America?” asked Mark. “Yes,” I said, “they’re awesome.” “But wasn’t their last hit in, like, 1975?” continued Mark. “Actually, they hit number 8 with ‘You Can Do Magic’ two years ago,” I replied. Then he went in for the kill. “Oh yeah, that’s another one of their drug songs.” He went on to say that it was common knowledge that America were “druggies.” He said their biggest hit, “A Horse with no Name,” was “obviously” about heroin. This prompted me to launch into a high-pitched, fevered defense of my heroes, describing the lyrics of “Horse” as imagery from the environmental movement. Mark wouldn’t drop the subject. Even after I realized he was only trying to get me going, I couldn’t help myself from replying to his every jab with a finely-tuned argument like “Shut up, Mark!”
Finally, we arrived at our destination, Shea Stadium. Jim is a huge Yankees fan, but they are playing in California this weekend, so we were going to see the Mets. Unfortunately, just as our father had done on a family trip years before, Jim did not think to buy tickets in advance. This was a problem, being that this was Labor Day Weekend, and the Mets were playing the best team in the National League, the San Diego Padres. That’s how we ended up in a Times Square movie theater watching C.H.U.D.
C.H.U.D. stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers and not, as Jim suggested, Cannibalistic Housing and Urban Development. (That might have made a better movie, actually.) The fact that we were in one of the world’s great capitals of culture and had chosen to watch a film about defomed vagrants who eat faces didn’t bother any of us. If we couldn’t partake of the national pastime pioneered by Abner Doubleday, we might as well immerse ourselves in the American tradition pioneered by the Donner party. As we exited the theater, Mark asked me if I had ever heard of an America album called Cannabis-tic Heroin-Using Druggies. I controlled the sudden impulse to eat his face, but just barely.