When I was growing up on Riverview Avenue in Lodi there were always a ton of kids around. We’d play punch ball, wiffle ball, basketball, hide and seek, It was the type of neighborhood that if you did something wrong someone’s parents would slap you and send you home and tell your parents what you did then you’d get slapped all over again.
I was thinking about various kids I grew up with. There were a few of us around the same age group, Kathy Grant, Susan Lucas, Scott Williams, David Plauchino, Christine and Ryan Kincaid to name a few. We would all run around the neighborhood, in and out of each other’s houses. Summers were quite magical. There was always a radio playing, Music Radio 77 WABC of course.
It was very much an innocent time. I was the oldest of the group. There were older brothers and sisters around. I had played with them at some time, Scott’s older sister Barbara, Kathy’s older sister Irene who used to beat me up and throw me into the Foglio’s hedges. You couldn’t escape these people nor would you want to. They were your basic good-hearted people.
It was all fun and games, rough and tumble. Most of us had gone to the same school, St. Francis de Sales, the others had gone to Washington School on Main Street. As time went on new people came into our circle. Chemistries had changed, puberty around the corner.
I let Johnny Serpone neck and feel up Michelle Kwiatkowski on our back porch while my parents were at work.
No one else in the circle had designs on anyone else. Serpone was a bit older than the rest of us, Michelle was my age. I suppose being a girl she hit puberty before I did. She had boobs. None of the other girls did.
We grew up and away from each other once high school started. I’d see the friends from back then when I would drive by up the block, a honk and a wave would suffice. The days of hanging out, swimming in Susan Lucas’ pool listening to the top forty countdowns were gone.
Years later when I was bar backing at McSwells I see a familiar face on the other side of the bar, Christine Kincaid. She looked good, she had grown into a woman. It was a bit odd to be washing glasses and filling the beer cooler while she and her boyfriend were having some drinks. I breathed a sigh of relief when they left. Not that I was uncomfortable, just felt a bit odd.
Never expected to see her at McSwells. I never saw her again after that one time, she passed away from ovarian cancer while in her twenties. So sad. At my father’s wake I reconnected with Kathy and Irene Grant. Kathy was even more adorable, and Irene had stopped beating up on me. Lucky for her because at that time I’m sure I could’ve taken her.
We made plans to have some drinks and a few months later we met at McSwells, Kathy and Irene and Susan Lucas. It was all very adult and civilized. Kathy and Susan reminded me about how I used to tease them and act like a bee. I came out of the closet to the three of them, showed them a picture of Bill. They didn’t shriek or run away in horror. We made other plans to reconnect more frequently.
The next time I saw Irene and Kathy, they told me Susan was now a lesbian and living down the shore. That was a surprise. I thought that since I was able to come out, Susan felt empowered to do the same.
It didn’t last long. Susan who had a history of illness passed away a year or so later. Very sad. I heard that Susan’s girlfriend was being shut out by the surviving Lucas’s. At Susan’s wake after expressing my condolences to her mother and her brother, I walked over to her girlfriend. A tough looking dyke with a mullet.
I explained who I was and how sorry I was to hear about her losing Susan. She was passive. I found out later that this woman made Susan’s life hell and tormented her, going after her finances while Susan was in the hospital. Very sad.
If there is an afterlife, I’m sure Susan Lucas and Christine Kincaid are having a good time listening to Music Radio 77.
Nowadays I run into people from the neighborhood at wakes.