If You Can Remember

The late Jefferson Airplane founder Paul Kantner is often quoted: “If you can remember anything about the sixties, you weren’t really there.” I suspect we can apply this theory to many incidents in our lives which are remembered as wild or insane but ultimately as confused and possibly shameful.

How many wild nights have you experienced? Or should I ask how many do you remember?

I started my sophomore year in college living in a dormitory with something like 60 other male students on the third floor of Sproul Hall. I had been elected Treasurer of the floor (later taking over as President when the incumbent was pressured by failing grades to resign) and, having a central room, was often sought after for college pranks, contraband storage, and general non-academic support.

That year we had a freshman from Arizona (a Zoner) who stood knee high to a barrel cactus, wore thick spectacles with a retaining strap, and sported a very dweeby name highly reminiscent of Chatsworth Osborn the Third. Looking back on it, he probably had money and was desperate to be recognized as one-of-the-guys.

One afternoon in December he stopped by my room and announced that he had four tickets to the Rolling Stones concert occurring that evening at the Los Angeles Sports Arena but had no way of getting there, not having a car (which at that time were disallowed for all Freshmen). Could I help?

Well, I found a willing car owner and a friend eager to pay for the gas to get to the arena so the four of us climbing into what I now remember as a 1951 Ford and headed east toward Exposition Park. It is important to consider two things that determined our route: First, the 10 was too new then to even be considered as a route east; and second, other than knowing that the avenues—Pico, Olympic, Wilshire—went east and west, we actually had no idea how to get to the Sports Arena. Remember, this was a time before GPS. Smartphones, and Google Maps.

Somewhere around Western it became obvious that the noxious cloud steaming up our windshield was actually coming from beneath the hood of our purloined car. We eventually rolled into a sketchy service station where a scruffy mechanic pointed out a pin-sized hole in the carburator (or maybe the fuel pump) that was spitting a thin stream of fuel onto the hot engine block. There we were, just blocks away from the Rolling Stones with no extra money, no credit cards, and an automobile that on its best day was a candidate for the junk yard. We were desperate and the thought of missing Mick Jaggar strutting on stage was unacceptable.

So like the highly intelligent and sophisticated university students we were, the four of us chewed a plug of bubble gum and patched the resultant sticky mess over the hole in question and, following the instructions offered at the gas station, rolled into Sports Arena parking long after the concert began. We actually made it to our seats when a now forgotten band was still warming up the crowd waiting for the headliners to appear. An hour later our idols took the stage, although we were so far away that we could barely appreciate how gnarly Keith’s face was.

I don’t remember how we got back to campus or the fate of that old Ford (was it a Willys?), but we all survived and, as the saying goes, went on to tell our grandchildren how we saw the Rolling Stones on their second American tour in Los Angeles.

I can think of two or three other wild alcohol fueled nights but I expect we all have our own stories.

You might have seen the movie After Hours. It’s an early Martin Scorcese film that has a lowly word processor (a person, not a machine) experiencing a very wild night in New York City. It’s one of those movies with a cast of relative newcomers that subsequently became highly sought-after actors and is certainly worth seeing again after 35 years.

Just musing: There are quite a few movies that present a version of a wild night; The Wanderers and Something Wild come to mind. Others?

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