In Skater's Time

by Rick Beck

Chapter 7

The Opened Book

The next time I saw Gordo, he was laying on the lawn, where we spent a lot of time. It was my first stop, once I got out and about, and was looking for skaters. For some reason, that small section of grass at the far corner of the mall, was often occupied by one or more skaters. By my third month there, I was beginning to learn most of the skater's names.

Gordo had a piece of grass in his mouth, and he was staring into the clear blue sky, when I skated up.

"What sup?" he said, while not looking at me.

"Not much. I'm surprised to see you here. I've been here two or three times since the last time..., I saw you," I said.

"I know what you're thinking, and you can stop thinking it. I'm not like that," he said.

"You aren't? Like what?" I asked, without a clue.

"You know. What you saw me doing up at Pat's. You see, I got a crazy part of me," he said. "That's what that was. When I get crazy like that, I go see Pat. I shouldn't have taken you up there. You shouldn't have seen that, Z."

"Why not? I won't tell anyone what I saw you doing with Pat. It's none of my business. You tell me one thing, and then, well, you're doing stuff like that. You can see where it might make me suspicious of the things you say, Gordo."

"Don't get to thinking I'm like that, Z."

"Like what?"

"Faggy! I do what I do. I don't know why I do what I do. I saw Pat looking at my package one day, and I figured I'd tease him, you know. Give him a sniff, and then laugh at him, when I walked away. Then he did what you saw him do, and the last laugh was on me. I couldn't stop, until, well, you know until what, Z."

"Gordo, I don't think you know what you like. I've seen you in action, dude. Admittedly, I'd rather not have seen it..., on one hand, anyway. What you and I do is personal, which worries me now that I saw what I saw, but for the record, if you don't know why you do what you do, Pat's just as confused as you are. For a grown man, his life is a mess."

"I like girls," Gordo said. "That's what I'm saying."

"OK. I'm not arguing that point. You seem to like a lot of things. Mostly it's about getting your dick sucked, which you say girls aren't that keen to do," I said.

"You're thinking it," he said.

"Gordo, I got enough trouble keeping my own self straight, and I'm gay, so you can see what a problem that can be. You've got to figure out your own stuff. You say you like girls. So, you like girls. I like girls, and I'm gay. It's OK with me, no matter what you say you are. It isn't my problem. I've got plenty of problems of my own," I said.

"You horny?" Gordo asked. "If you wore spandex, I wouldn't need to ask."

"Look, let's take a break. You're way too confusing, Gordo. The fact you are the only California boy I've done it with, makes that hard to say," I said.

"See, you said it was hard. I figured you were. I can take it or leave it," he said.

"Mostly take it, from what I've seen," I said.

Gordo laughed.

"You know who the Beatles are?" Gordo asked.

"My parents have all their albums," I said.

"Have you ever heard the cut, Helter Skelter?"

"Dude, my parents have all the Beatles albums. Hello. They've got all of John's albums, Paul's albums, Georges albums, and Ringo's album. Yes, I've heard Helter Skelter. I don't like it. It's the least genius thing they did, and way back when, in the 60s, everyone, including other musicians, sat around waiting for what the Fab Four might do next. Helter Skelter is something made up. It didn't exist, until the Beatles existed it. It's not very good."

"That's me. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Each time one of those riffs run through the song, that's my brain. That's what goes on inside my head," he said.

"Dude, you really are in trouble," I said.

He laughed again.

"You want to know why I do what I do, because my brain is helter skelter. My life is those riffs running through that song," he said. "Ringo has an album? He's a drummer. How does a drummer make an album. Ringo Starr's greatest drum licks?"

No. It's not bad. It's old time music," I said, trying to explain Sentimental Journey to Gordo, with little success.

"You've listened to all the Beatles music?" he asked.

"Yeah. They were at the top of the rock and roll charts for the second half of the 60s. All of the Fab Four went on to have successful solo careers in music," I said.

"If they were all that good, why'd they break up?" Gordo asked.

"Because there are limits to how far four musical geniuses can travel together. They had to go their own ways in order to keep growing," I explained. "They stayed together for as long as they could, and then the Beatles were over."

"In case you're hard of hearing, Helter Skelter is what goes on inside my head. They wrote that song about me."

"Charles Manson believed they wrote that song for him, and they locked him and his crew up for the rest of their lives," I said.

"He's that hippie guru guy with all the chicks following him," Gordo said.

"He was insane. He had insane ideas. He did insane things. Anything else Charles Manson was, merely accompanied his insanity."

"How do you know this stuff?" Gordo asked.

"When I began listening to my parents' albums, from when they were kids, they tried to put those times in context, so I'd understand the power in the music," I said. "They called it the soundtrack of the 60s, and their favorite rock and rollers, made some of the greatest music ever made, and the beat of that music, was the heartbeat of the 60s."

"Cool," Gordo said. "You horny?"

I got up the next morning, and being alone in the house, I went into my parents inner sanctum. There was a thirty year old stereo that my mother took to college with her. Above the stereo, on shelves my father made for the purpose, was the music of my parents teens and twenties.

On the shelf with the most prized 60 rock albums, were buttons, rolled up posters, and very 60s paraphernalia. On this shelf were the Beatles albums, in order of release. They were joined on that sacred shelf by Simon & Garfunkel,folk rockers, Dylan, and the Beach Boys, rock and roll royalty. Add the Beach Boys to the shelf of sacred albums, and I knew how precisely I selected a cover, and then removed the record, to set it carefully on the turntable.

I removed the Beatles White Album, which was actually titled, The Beatles, except no one called it that. It was the White Album to the aficionado. When you look at the album, you know why Beatles' fans call it that.

I made sure to put the needle onto the record with all the care a diamond cutter took, before making his first precise cut. As albums go, I wasn't as fond of the White Album, as I was of Revolver, Rubber Soul, and Pepper.

I wanted to listen to Back In The USSR first. It was the cut on that album that had the most meaning for me. My mother told me, that song is how a Russian spy, leaving America describes it in terms the people in the U.S.S.R. recognize. Before Vietnam, before children were seen, and heard, it was a very different America.

My parents told me about it. While my parents were growing up, it was a time of children being seen, never heard from. The music was all Bobby socks and peppermints. The father worked, the mother kept house, and you were obligated to have 2.3 kids. I still don't know how that works, but I don't think it is crucial to my future.

But step out of line, and don't do what was expected of you, and you'd find yourself in deep do-do. Our society was up tight, out of sight, and paranoid. From Saturday night, until Monday morning, everything in America closed, except for churches. You couldn't buy so much as a quart of milk, until Monday morning.

When the 60s began, before the time of the Beatles, when children were seen, never heard. We lived in a state of religious dominance, which was how politicians and preachers saw freedom of religion. It didn't matter if you were religious or not. You conformed, or else. Sunday was the sabbath.

These were called blue laws. No matter if you were Jewish, Muslim, or irreligious, Sunday was the designated day of worship the Christian God. Huh?

I couldn't imagine living in such a place. Everyone was forced to stop all activity, because some folks worship a Christian God in that way. I could see why my country was ripe for revolution and change.

My history teacher, the one who told us about the second half of the 60s, when the Beatles were king, never mentioned blue laws, or religious dominance over all the people. I guess, he only had so much time. He did tell us that Tom Jefferson said, "The tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots from time to time." The 60s were such a time.

Being seventeen, my opinions may be suspect, but the 60s had everything to do with the music, and the kids being very visible and very loud. I knew the White Album, The Beatles. It represented how far we'd all come, not just how far the Beatles had come as musicians.

The America of 1968 was a far cry from where it was eight years early, when the Beatles were playing nightly in Hamburg. That was before Brian Epstein turned them into four Liverpudlians in suits. In 1960, the Beatles were raunchy Liverpool hard asses. They wore leather, and while playing for eight hours a stretch, they insulted and fought with the German patrons, who thought they were all having fun.

Genius obviously fed genius. George Harrison later wrote some of the best post Beatles songs, the way I looked at it, but they were all geniuses in their own way. As the Beatles, they became the best know musicians in the world. Everything they touched turned to gold for nearly twenty years, until someone put five bullets into John Lennon's back. The dream had ended.

My parents' generation lived with one overriding question the peace and love generation needed answering. "When will the Fab Four reunite, like all the greatest 60s bands had already done. On December 8, 1980, the question had been answered by a crazed killer with a gun. Paul McCartney, being caught by the press leaving his studio with watering eyes, he was asked the inevitable question reporters pull straight out of their ass. "How do you feel, Paul?"

Paul's cryptic answer, "Kind of a drag, isn't it?"

After over ten years of separation, the Beatles wouldn't reunite, but as the Fab Four, the Beatles were responsible for more top hits, top albums, along with a staggering compilation of music compositions. It would have made Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven proud. They had done it in the eight years they were recording as the Beatles. The dream had ended as John Lennon was entering the next phase in his career, but the Beatles music will live forever.

I listened to Helter Skelter ten times. I listened to the hard riffs. They were insane. I also knew the story of Charlie Manson, the cult leader who had his followers slaughter two families in the Hollywood Hills. On the wall, written in the blood of their victims, they wrote Helter Skelter and Kill the Pigs. Holding this piece of information out of the news. Those words tied the murders to the same people.

Helter Skelter no longer belonged to the Beatles. It belonged to Charlie, and it came to represent his killer instinct. By the time I came along, Helter Skelter was once again on the Beatles' play lists.

Helter Skelter had been on my mind all night. I knew the riffs Gordo spoke about, and I could hear them in my head, while I was still in bed, without going downstairs to take the White Album down.

Having one outlet for something I'd been trying to work out for about half of my life. While I liked Gordo more than I was willing to admit, I needed someone who was a little less crazy. One day he was going to go skating away from Pat's, or some other gay guys abode, and he was going to skate right into the grill of an oncoming car. You didn't get too close to a kid who admitted he was crazy.

Older guys, guys who know who they are, are easier than guys my age.

"I like girls," Gordo said to himself, because I wasn't listening. "You want to watch me jump the half pipe?"

"You can't jump the half pipe, it's thirty foot across. You never jumped that in your life," I said.

"Only because I just thought of it. I bet I could jump it, if I built a ramp."

"You could break your neck too," I said.

Why hadn't I gone to Ralph's instead of to the mall?

Gordo looked at me. I hope he didn't take my words as a challenge.

"You really are a virgin?" Gordo asked. "You know how many virgins I know? Zero is how many. We've all done it plenty."

"I can't be a virgin. I was with you. I had some experiences when I was young, but I hadn't gone through puberty yet, so they don't count," I said.

"See. Told you," Gordo said. "No one is virgin. Everyone fools around."

"Don't we all? Come on. We'll stop at Macky D and I'll get us some egg MacMuffins."

"It's lunch time," I said, checking my watch.

"You don't know nothin'. You like Egg MacMuffins?"

"Sure, but it's lunch time," I explained again.

He laughed and his board collided with the asphalt, and he was off and running again. This time he looked back and timed the cars more precisely so they didn't need to slam on their brakes to miss him. I still couldn't keep up even when he skated sanely. Gordo was like a live wire. He was always hot. He was always on. He was always going full tilt. I wondered how long it took a live wire to burn itself out. I wondered how stupid you had to be to grab hold of a live wire.

Maybe it was his craziness that was part of the attraction, everyone wants to grab hold of a live wire once, just to see what it's like.

We sat in front of McDonald's eating MacMuffins and drinking coffee. He had a sack full and we couldn't eat them all. He gave the bag with two still left in it to an old homeless guy he called Shep. It made me wonder even more about the brash boy.

He knew a guy who took all the Egg MacMuffins off the rack at eleven. He put them in a paper bag, in case Gordo happened by, looking for them. He had to pay for the coffee, the bag came over the counter with the coffee. They weren't as hot as I like my MacMuffines, but I'm not complaining. I don't know the guy's story who handed him the bag, but I bet it was a good one.

"Want to go to The Record Hut with me?" He asked.

"Sure," I said, before thinking about the consequences. We were off again. I stayed about a block behind. It was all downhill so between cross streets I kept up with him. Soon we were looking up at the Record Hut sign.

He nodded with his head for me to follow, and he walked into the store like he was the second coming. He went directly to where he knew the album would be. Marching, with me in tow, to the counter, smiling at the clerk with a Cheshire cat grin.

The clerk smiled back at him, and it was obvious he was happy to see old Gordo in the flesh.

"Hey, bub, want to make me a deal on this here CD?" He said in a covert voice.

The boy was tall and willowy. His hair was so blond it shined. He had the biggest blue eyes and the worst case of acne. He leaned with his elbows on the counter and surveyed the lean boy in front of him. "Gordo, you know I can't do that." He used his eyes to indicate something or someone was at the back of the store. Gordo smiled and nodded that he got the message.

"Oh, you can do anything you want, Jamie. You de man."

"You're going to get me into trouble," the boy said, looking around at the door in the back. "He's going to lunch. He's just went into the back to wash up. He'll leave in about five minutes. Hang around until he's gone."

"You know I'm here to help you make it through the day, big guy. I told you it isn't my specialty, but for you, since you're good to me," Gordo said lasciviously.

"Go look at albums, will you?" Jamie said. "I'll close the shop, once he's gone. We can, you know."

Jamie' eyes caught sight of me, bringing up the rear, and he was confused. He was confused. I'd seen that look on a lot of faces Gordo came closest to.

"I can do you some good, you know," Gordo said, leaning one arm up against the pole by the register and letting his other hand move up over the cashier's bare forearm. They both watched the fingers slip up the sleeve of the loose fitting shirt.

"Gordo, Stop now! You know what that does."

A door slammed back deep in the store, and a little red sports car sped past the side of the store. Pausing before it turned onto the main drag.

"You're lips say stop, but your dick is saying go. What can you do for me now that I done that for you?" Gordo sounded, absolutely evil with sex. It rang $9.99. The price on the case was $12.99. Gordo smiled and took the sack from the smiling boy. He watched us as we exited the store.

"You're terrible," I said.

"Yeah, your lips say I'm terrible, but your shorts say I'm not all that bad," Gordo said, turning on me with a hostile look, as I checked my pants for any sign of excitement. There was none that I could tell. How did he know?

There was something exciting about how Jamie reacted to Gordo. For Gordo it was all play, but for Jamie, it was serious business. The bulge in his pants said so.

"Why do you do stuff like that?"

" Go ask Jamie how terrible I am, after I've screwed him for a half an hour or so. I don't even do that, and I do it out of the goodness in my heart, because it's all he likes. He wouldn't suck a dick on a bet," Gordo said. "He says he's straight."

"You do it so he gives you a CD you want," I said.

"You don't think I shouldn't get something for making him happy? Life don't work that way," Gordo said. "You take what you can get. Jamie can get CDs, and I can get Jamie."

"Sex isn't something to be bought and sold," I said.

"Man, you ever born in the wrong century. Sex is all about buying and selling. Take it where you can get it? Treat people nice, they treat you nice is all that I'm saying. Jamie's a sweet guy. When no one is there we go in the back and the CD's are free." Gordo said, laughing.

I'd never met anyone who looked at life the way Gordo did. I realized that he wasn't good for me, but how did I break the hold he had on me?

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