SOME YEARS BACK A GOVERNMENT-FUNDED STUDY AT A WELL-KNOWN UNIVERSITY BROUGHT ONE HUNDRED MONKEYS AND ONE HUNDRED TYPRWRITERS AND AS MANY OR MORE BANANAS TO A CLOSED ROOM.
THE IDEA WAS TO SEE HOW LONG IT WOULD TAKE THE MONKEYS, WHO HAD BEEN TAUGHT TO HIT THE KEYS, TO TYPE SOMETHING INTELLIGIBLE, KING LEAR OR HAMLET, PERHAPS.
SHORTLY AFTER THE HUMANS LEFT THE ROOM, THE MONKEYS BEGAN RUSHING ABOUT, HURLING TYPEWRITERS AT ONE ANOTHER, GRINNING, LAUGHING, DEFECATING, THEN HURLING DEFECATION AND BANANAS AT ONE ANOTHER.
THEN THEY DID IT SOME MORE.
* * * *
My parents, unfortunately, were low-key people. They avoided extravagance, too-dear expense, showiness. They sadly held that life's import lay in ideas, working hard academically, teaching, advancing social justice, and, even more sadly, not in flashy cars, wardrobes, expensive stereos, color television, outsized properties and houses.
Ceremony and its attendant celebration, such as, say, for my Stellar Bar Mitzvah and the party they held for me that Saturday evening, 25 January 1964, was about The Intrinsic. My parents, non religious, nevertheless encouraged me to get beneath the Torah and Prophets texts I'd haltingly chanted that morning...
...and so you can imagine my thirteen-year-old dismay at the Family Restaurant Pizza plain pizzas for twenty newly-minted teens and tweens, the waxed-cardboard cartons of chocolate milk, and the small vanilla Carvelle's cake they brought down to our tan linoleumed basement rec-room sharing the six-and-a-half-foot-ceilinged space with the twin Maytags, the scratched-up ping-pong table with the sagging net, the 45s playing on my Mickey Mouse -- this is not adjectival but actual -- record player...
Duke Duke Duke Duke of
Pretty Pretty Pretty Pretty Peggy --
(That I retained even one even vaguely cool pal after that night...)
So, at thirteen, and among the oldest in my seventh grade class and a world-class naif -- I'd no idea that Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties had been fast becoming country club Affairs....
...later that spring Ronnie Kintner had his own holy manhood sanctification-morn. The Kintners' gold-leaf invitation -- Ronnie's thick, printed, golden invitation had promised that should we all bear up and not wreck his ceremony with idiotic giggling we, roughly sixty classmates, were we to show up at our junior high by five we'd be taken by rented bus to Philmont Country Club and eat and dance our guts out.
I showed up, we all did, and were driven the twenty minutes to the Affair.
As we tumbled from the bus I knew something was up. I saw all the adult guests ushered in through the main country club canopied entrance. Two older teenagers in ridiculous, impossibly white dinner jackets stepped out from metal doors where our bus had stopped and herded us into what was very fast very clearly a kids-only room with one very long white-cloth covered table.
As we took seats we heard the metal double-doors through which we'd just come click-lock and lock hard. Instantly, white-jacketed waiters, perhaps ten or more and palm-balancing silver-domed metal food trays at head-level in faux-genteel poses and smiles entered through a far corner door and set them on a bare wood table behind the white-cloth one where we now bounced.
The white-jacketed waiters left quickly whence they'd entered, shut and locked those doors, too -- yes, locked -- and every single boy and every single girl realized that not only did the adults not desire our company that evening but that we would likely be unsupervised, thoroughly so, throughout.
While "criminal neglect" was not yet a part of our vocabulary, we all knew Ronnie's parents should never have let that happen. We were delighted.
* * * *
In a Perfect World boys would have asked girls,
May I Get Somethng For You?
Ours Is So Not A Perfect World.
We fell over each other, hurtling toward the food, hurdling over chairs and bodies back to our places with
. oceans of french fries
. buckets of ketchup
. ice cream sundaes in choco-goopy butterscotchy colorful flavors
. spongy cake slices from a cake with "Ronnie!" in script icinged every which way on the sides of four layers
. cold canned sodas in every color known to Monsanto
. oceans of french fries
. grilled hot dogs
. whipped cream scoops and maraschino cherries
. baked beans
. oceans of french fries
and, within seconds, an F-5 Food Tornado:
At some innate primal juvenile signal boys began flinging ketchupped fries and spoons of whipped cream and cherries and forkfulls of baked beans at girls. We wanted to see who could flip most maraschinos and french fries down Bonnie B's beautiful bodice and then at every other girls' neckline and when they, as one force, struck back,
the Monkey-Melee was on. And On.
Some hours on, Post-Wreckage -- even the table-clothed table had had one or more legs battlefield-amputated -- we were again herded...
...once white shirts now rainbowed and cherried and whipped creamed and baked-beaned and in many cases trousers torn at pocket seams, they and dressses and dress shoes and skirts and small clutch-purses fit only now for Third World Donation...we, thoroughly drunk on sugar and sexual warfare...
...back onto the bus and to our junior high from which most of us walked home.
My best friend, Danny, and I wound down from our sugar inebriation in time to look down on our torn and ripped and cherry-splotched "attire" within half a mile from our homes, sober enough now, laughter wearing away enough now, for one of us to wonder aloud what we might say when our mothers would greet us at our respective doors.
It was a dark, terrible moment but not so terrible as the moment when, after I left Danny at his door, I made my sorry way across Forest Avenue and up our front lawn's steep hill that had never seemed steeper. My springer spaniel, Happy, bounded out the front door to greet me, knocking me down. Thinking swiftly as Bar Mitzvah boys are taght to do, I rolled with Happy in grass and dirt -- for I saw my mother at the door, smiling and waving -- and I thought fleetingly I might get away with laying dishevelment, no: my complete dissolution, at loyal Happy's paws.
My mother hadn't raised a Stellar Bar Mitzvah Boy because she was dumb. I was hauled to the shower and told I would work off the cost of a shirt and tie. I cleaned and polished the shoes. The balance of that evening and the next day were spent in solitary and wholly unfair incarceration. Happy (I love her still) stayed at my side.
* * * *
All the monkeys aren't in the zoo...
Every Day You Meet Quite a Few...
You Could Be Better Off Than You Are...
You Could Be Swingin' On A Star.