I – Beach BookS


       We listened to the Eurythmics and got drunk. Chris snuck a bottle of Russian vodka out of his parents’ house, and we stopped at the Dairy Queen on the way to the beach to mix it with some Orange Julius shakes. We poured half the Julius out and filled them up with vodka. Then we smoked a joint.

       We were flying high approaching the Bay Bridge when Chris said the words that would change my life. He told me that Heather Paige was Ocean City for the summer.

       I didn’t know at the time that it was a name that would lead to me helping win the Cold War – and a lot of other crazy stuff.

       At the time I was just drunk and horny.

       “Heather Paige, baby,” Chris said. “She can only have an orgasm with a Republican.”


       “The actress. she played Cosmic Girl in the 70s, on that Saturday morning show. She married a congressman who died a few years ago.”

       “She was on Cosmic Girl,” I said.

       “She’s in her 40s,” Chris said. Her husband worked for Reagan. She’s lonely, but she can only get there with a Republican.”


       He sipped his drink.

       “Did you vote for Reagan?” he said.


       “You’re out.”


       We slowed down to pay the bridge toll. Annie Lennox sang: No fear/No Hate/No pain/No broken hearts.

       “Heath-er Page,” Chris said, like a little song. “She sits on the porch of her beach house in Ocean City. She has this dog that she lets run around late at night. It’s a chocolate lab. You find the dog, you bring the dog back, you lay out the GOP platform, and wammo – nirvana. That’s how it works.”

       The tires to the Camaro went ba-dump, ba-dump as we crossed the bridge. The Chesapeake Bay enveloped us on all sides, a perfect grey plane in all directions. The sun was bright.

       “I bet she’s got a great pussy,” Chris said. “Just a sweet, tasty, real woman lady pussy. A Hollywood pussy. A cosmic girl pussy.”

       I didn’t say anything. I sipped my Julius and thought of my mother and what had happened at graduation. The argument with my parents. About the Catholic Church.

       The green cornfields floated by. Paint a rumor, Annie Lennox sang. It’s a secret/It’s a secret. I looked down at myself. I was in good shape. I wore my white OP bathing suit with the yellow stripe along the waist and my Depeche Mode t-shit. The drunkenness was giving me confidence.

       “We’re Huck and Jim,” I said.


       “We’re Huck and Jim from Huckleberry Finn. We’re riding this wild river, away from civilization and into freedom. This car is our raft.” I felt the argument with me parents fading away.

       “Cool man,” Chris said. “You’re sensitive. Chicks like that. That’s what the girls at graduation said – that Kim, he is sensitive. A writer. Even have a chick’s name.”

       He poked me and smiled. My female name was an old joke that wasn’t funny anymore. I was named after Kim, the Rudyard Kipling character. I got shit for it when high school began, but then I dominated on the baseball field and got into a couple fights and it stopped. I wasn’t too hardcore. I liked bands like the Eurythmics and writers like Salinger, Bret Easton Ellis and Anne Tyler.

       “Are you gonna write a sensitive book Killer?” he said. Some guys called me Killer, a derivative after my name went from Kim to Kimster to Kimmer to Killer.

       “I’m going to write a book about the good stuff.” I said.

       “The good stuff?”

       “Girls and beer and rock and roll. And brother sun and sister moon. And surfing. And movies. And rock and roll.”

       “Better have some action in there,” Chris said. “We are graduates now motherfucka!” Then imitated Schwarzenegger: “EET EES TIME FOR DA ACT-SHUN!!!”

       “Woo-hoo!!!” I cried.


       “YOU GAME ME DUH RAW DEAL!!!!” Chris yelled.

       Chris lifted his Julius and pulled a long drag through the straw.

       “Brother, I am hammered,” he said.

       We came to the far side of the bridge and to the other side. Then we started to drive past the cornfields. I had a fantasy about Heather Paige. She had dark hair and big breasts, like in Cosmic Girl.

       “So all you have to do is find her dog?” I said.

       “That’s it, man. Chocolate lab.”


       He sang: “I want candy!”

II – You Can Fix Your Life

       My parents were angry at me because of You Can Fix Your Life.

       I found the book at the library. It was written by a woman named Karen Summerville. It’s about how your thoughts affect your life and you can make things happen if you think positively about it.

       My mom found it in my room and that’s when the argument began. She told dad and they called Fr. Schroederat St. John’s and made me go see him. He gave me this long talk about the occult, and the New Age, and how books like You Can Fix Your Life are portals to the demonic. “Your thoughts don’t create really, Kim,” he said. “God creates reality.”

       Still, I read You Can Fix Your Life, and followed Karen Summerville’s wisdom. If you want something, she said, you have to do certain things. Write what you want on a small piece of paper. Then don’t tell anyone, but think about what you want occasionally throughout the day – occasionally, not obsessively. Stay away from negative people who might criticize or contradict what you want. Accept that the universe might not want you to have the thing you want. Do not ask for immortality or to hurt another person. After three days, no matter what happens, burn the paper you wrote your wish on.

       Our beach house was the Anchor 8, a white two-story on 42nd street. It faced the ocean and got its name because the owners had eight kids. On each side of us are similar houses. Except they are filled with girls. Each one has been rented by an all-girls school. One was Trinity and the other is St. Anne’s – or collectively T & A, as Chris called them.

       The priests at St. John’s taught us to see God in all things. The beach, the DelMarVa peninsula it was one, and the people here this week were charged with God. Everyone was there this week – Chris, Brendan Sullivan, the best looking guy in the class, Bubbles Nowakowski, the football star who got his nickname when he was laughing so hard at lunch milk bubbles came out of his nose. There was John McDermott, the editor of the student newspaper The Crusader and a huge Maryland basketball fan, and Tim Muller, who loves the Cars and Hunter Thompson and is always arguing about music with Brian Walsh, the Led Zeppelin freak. There was also Kurt Stamey, the science fiction fan who always wanted to talk to me about books like Dune and Neuromancer.

       When Chris and I arrived, the place was empty. It was lunch and everyone had gone out for pizza – getting a good load of carbs before the first-time party tonight. The front of the house was just one big open room, with no walls between the kitchen and the living room. The kitchen  table was just a picnic table and the living room only had one sofa and chair. No carpet, nothing on the walls. You could tell they rented the place out a lot.

       We went out on the front deck. “Nice, nice nice,” Chris said, looking over to the A house on the right. “Anne Sato. Nice. Nice. You want pizza?”

       “You go ahead,” I said. “I’ll catch up.”

       I watched the girls. There was Laura Williams and Nina Ricci and Elizabeth Key and Molly Keefe sunning themselves in front of the T house, and Rebecca Mortimer and Candice Agee and Laura Esposito and Anne Sato doing the same in front of the A house. Anne Sato got up to put some lotion on. I couldn’t tear myself away from her aqua blue bikini and beautiful tight ass.

       The screen behind me door popped open.

       “People are afraid to merge!!!” Jane cried out.

       Jane Sparks was my best female friend, and had a lot of energy. Jane went to Trinity and loved to talk about books and rock and roll. She had short black hair and blue eyes and was pretty.

       “Kim,” she said, “people are afraid to merge.” She was quoting that new novel Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis. When Jane loved something, like a book or the Cure or Fast Times at Ridgemont High she would seek my validation.

       “Ellis is a hack,” I said.

       “Afraid to merge. We’re afraid to merge. It’s a metaphor for the spiritual isolation of the modern world.”

       “Maybe in Los Angeles.”

       “Not here?”

       “Not here. And not tonight.”

       “Let’s get pizza!”

       She was excited. Momentum was building. It was the first day of Beach Week. Once things got going there would be no stopping. Sex, arrests, night swimming, beer, God.

       “I have to do something,” I said. “You go, I’ll catch up.”

       After she left I found a small white notepad in the kitchen by the phone. I took a pencil and wrote on it, “Heather Paige.” Then I returned to my room and out it in the small key pocket of my duffle bag. I wasn’t going to talk about it. Or think about it too obsessively. Or expect it. I would just gently visualize a friendly dog’s face.

       You Can Fix Your Life.

III – How I made out with Anne Sato.

       It happened on the third day of Beach Week. We had a “T & A” party and invited the girls from Trinity and St. Anne’s. We’d lie about having a serious chaperone, and they would then lie to their chaperones about it.

       The party started many hours before the girls got there. In fact, it started at about 10 am.

       The boys were all on the beach sunbathing and surfing. Chris went out to get beer for the party and stop and shop at a couple t-shirt stores. Ocean City is a summer tourist spot, a strip of nine-mile land on the DelMarVa peninsula. It has the Atlantic on one side and Assawoman Bay on the other, and the strip in between is a collection of hotel, motels and beach houses. There is a boardwalk on the south end and high-rise condos on the north end, before Coastal Highway heads into Delaware. You’re surrounded by water and live on beer, Thrasher’s french fries, Dumser’s ice cream, pizza and gyros.

       Chris and I did a line of cocaine in the car. He was wearing his X – Under the Big Black sun t-shirt. “We’re going to eat” he said. “Then we’ll get the beer. We also need some wine spritzers, girls all drink that shit.”

       “Who is doing the tunes for the party?” I asked.

       “Right now it’s Muller. Walsh wanted to do it but I told him no hippy shit. Some Zeppelin is cool, but I want stuff from this century – AC/DC, Def Leppard, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Talking Heads, Prince. No hippy shit. NO HIPPY SHIT.”

       Chris popped a cassette in the Camaro deck – New Order, Low-Life.

       “Let’s go over the rundown,” he said. “The girls we have a shot with.”

       “You mean aside from hookers?”

       “Aside from hookers.”

       “Elizabeth Key,” I said.

       “Yes,” Chris said. “Blonde. Athlete. Fun and funny and will drink a few beers. One of the guys.”

       “Rebecca Mortimer.”

       “Humorless twat. Snob. Negative.”

       “Laura Esposito.”

       “Cool chick. Likes good music and will fuck. Great tits. She may be the one for you. She’s totally into Echo and the Funnymen and you look like Ian McCullough.”

       Chris has noted that resemblance before. But he loved rubbing it in. “Yeah man, those pouty lips, and doe eyes, that new wave haircut. Even the names – Kim KcKenna and Ian McCullough. Mckenna-McCullough. Esposito will love it. It almost rhymes.”

       “Chris Lane,” I said. “What rhymes with that?”

       “Hanoi Jane.”

       I was going to tell him he looked like Andrew Eldridge from the Sisters of Mercy, which he does – that or a slightly more sane version of cult leader Jim Jones, with his aviator shades, dark hair and small features (he looks pretty 70s for a modern 80s music fan) – but I was interested in something else.

       “What about Anne Sato?” I said.

       “Sato is cool. She’s smart. She’s a HIC.”

       “A what? She doesn’t seem like a hick.”

       “She’s a HIC – a Hot Asian Chick.”

       “That blue bikini she wear is nice.”

       “Sato is smart,” Chris said. “I saw her on the beach the other day. She’s reading a book called The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”

       “Kundera,” I said.

       “‘When you approach her tonight, you know what notto do, right?” Chris said.

       Here it comes.

       “You know what the mood killer is, right?”

       He lifted a cheek and let out a long, loud fart.

       “There’s your mood killer,” he said.

       “That’s a people killer,” I said.

       “Oh shit,” Chris said, cracking a window. “That is three days of Budweiser, Taco Bell and weed.”

       I cracked open my window, then closed my eyes and entered the music, those sliding, glacial synths of New Order, “The Perfect Kiss.”

I know

You know

We believe in a land of love

I know

You know

We believe in a land of love

       Anne Sato is lovely. She’s wearing cut off jean shorts and  white halter top. She is deeply tan and has a brilliant, friendly smile.

       “So you’re reading Kundera.”

       “I am!” she replied. “I’m reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It on my reading list for college next year.”

       “Where are you going?”



       “What about you?”

       “I’m going to put off college for a year. Going to work for my dad.”

       “Oh wait, your dad owns that movie theater, right? The one where they serve food and drinks during the movie?”

       “The Cinema ’n’ Drafthouse.”

       “That is so cool! I’ve been there!”

       “It’s pretty cool. I’m taking a year off to learn the business before college.”

       “You’re watching movies for a year!”

       “Watching movies and doing payroll for the waitresses and bartenders and doing inventory for food and drink. all of it.”

       Chris appeared in front of me, screaming the lyrics to U2’s “New Year’s Day,” which was blasting on the boom box.

       “Boy is a better album than War,” I shouted into his face over the music.

He shrugged. His eyes were closed. Like everyone else he was drunk. He bounced away.

       The girls from T & A are here, and quite a few others. Word got out that we were having a party. Chris and I got twenty case of Budweiser. Muller and Walsh came to a compromise. Walsh could play the hippy stuff when things were winding down. For met of the party it would be new stuff. Right now it was U2.

       “I know a little bit about Kundera,” I called to Anne. “The lightness in the book is a philosophical lightness, right?”

       “Yes. Kundera was challenging thus concept of eternal recurrence, the idea that that the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur over and over. He argues that we only live once and that our existence is light as opposed to the heaviness, the burden that would come if we has to live over and over.”

       “I wouldn’t want to go through high school over and over again,” I said.

       “I don’t know,” she said, looking at a group of kids dancing. “This looks pretty good. Beer, music, the beach. I wouldn’t mind getting stuck in this time loop.”

       I kinda fell for her right then. She was awake. She was sensitive and was open to what Fr. Best, the philosophy teacher at St. John’s told us was “the evidential power of beauty” – the ability of beauty to serves as a portal to the evidence of God.

       Anne Sato was cool.

       We talk and drank, and the party got louder and wilder. People paired off, Mueller and Walsh were wrestling with each other in a fight over the music, and a bottle got broken.

       We mostly talked about books and music. She told me she liked Mona Simpson and Thomas McGuane and Anne Beattie, a short story writer for the New Yorker. I told her I liked Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe.

       Then people began swimming.

       “Let’s go!” Anne cried, clutching my arm.

       We were heading out to the porch stairs when this wild looking kid, someone I had never seen before, appeared in front of me. He had crazy punk hair going in ten different directions and was skinny and pale, like he had been hiding under the porch.

       “How many faggots run the Catholic Church?” he said.

       He looked nuts. Then he was gone.

       We striped down to our underwear and went into the surf. It was frightening in the dark, easy to lose direction or get sucked out by an undertow.

       Anne went out fearlessly, swimming hard past the waves. I caught up to her, and we floated on your backs. All I could hear was hissing from the surf.

       We stayed out for about fifteen minutes and then swam toward the shore.

       Suddenly I felt her arms come roundly shoulders. Then she kissed the the back of my neck as we rode a wave in.

       My being seemed not unbearably heavy, but sublime.

       We got out of the water and got dressed, then found a hidden spot behind one of the dunes. Anne smelt like coconut oil. I kissed her and she let me finale her breasts a little. After a few minutes I went for her shorts.

       “No,” she said. “Not yet.”

       So we made out for a while and then laid on our backs holding hands.

       It was late. The city was quiet.  Ten, off to the side about ten years away, I caught something.

       A dog. He was looking right at me.

       I had forgotten about Heather Paige. And the piece of paper in my duffle bag.

       He was a beautiful dog. A chocolate lab.

       I quickly said something to Anne about knowing the owner and how I had to get the dog back. She kissed me and went back to the beach house.

       I watched her get inside safely then turned back to the dog, but he had already taken off and was about twenty yards away. I took off after him, down the alleys between the beach houses. We dashed past motels and two-story surf houses, occasionally catching a wife of weed or the sound of music – Billy Idol (frat guys), the Grateful dead (hippies), Lloyd Cole (artists) or jazz.

       After a couple minutes he slowed to a trot. It was like he was leading me. We went for about another five blocks, him trotting along, me right behind. I was pretty wasted and started to feel a little nauseous when we came to the back of a beachfront house, a gray three story job.

       The dog went around front, to the beachside porch. I turned the corner with him, and looked up.

       And there was Heather Paige.

       “Charlie!” she called down. Then she looked at me. “Did he get out again?”

       There was no way not to love her at first sight. The sexy white bikini bottom, the ice blue Izod windbreaker, that glorious dark Cosmic Girl hair that fell to her elbows. The perfect Hollywood face, with the open eyes that the camera loved, the sympathetic full mouth the perfect skin. She was a sun.

       “Get up here!” she playfully called to Charlie. Then to me: “I’m sorry, did he cause you much trouble?”

       I said something I don’t remember.

       She reunited with Charlie then called down to me. “You want a beer?”

       I quickly claimed the stairs, and there she was.

       You can tell a lot about a person in the first five minutes. It’s in You Can Fix Your Life. Karen Summerville writes that you have to win people over in the first ten minutes.

       I could tell right away that Heather Paige did not want to sleep with me, at least not then, and that the stories about her having sex with guys who returned her dog were not true. She was friendly in that sunny California way, very open and bright and smiling, but her body language and her soul was full of quiet power. She had strong thighs, legs that had spent hours and hours on sets playing Cosmic Girl, and her face could quickly turn serious, with the gravity that came from being a 36 year-old widow. She was not a bimbo.

       “Is Heineken OK?” she said. Her beach house was beautiful inside. The sofa and chairs where white, and there was a giant reproduction of John Coltrane’s album  Blue Train on one wall. As with most beach house, there was no wall separating the kitchen from the living room. all the appliances looked new and expensive.

       “I’m Heather,” she said.

       “Kim. Kim McKenna.”

       “So are you down here for Beach Week?” she asked, handing me a beer. We sat on two cushioned wicker chairs on the porch.

       “I am,” I said.

       “What school?”

       “St. John’s Prep.”

       “Yes, I know it. It’s a good school.”

       I shrugged.

       “You don’t like it?”

       “We just graduated.”

       “That’s not an answer,” she said, then laughed.

       Suddenly I thought of what that wild-looking kid had said to me back at the Anchor 8: How many faggots run the Catholic Church?

       “Kim is a cool name for a boy,” she said. “Were you named after the Kipling character?”

       “I was,” I said. “Right before I was born in 1967 my parents went to see The Jungle Book. My dad loved that movie, read the Kipling book it was based on. Then he read Kim and liked that even more and named me after the lead character.”

       “That character is a great character,” Heather said. “He searches both for God and for justice.”


       We sat there talking some more. I told her about my father owning the Cinema ’n’ Drafthouse, how I was taking year to work there rather than go to college.

       “You know, I used to be in show business,” she said.

       “Cosmic Girl.”

       We laughed. “You remember?” she said.

       “Saturday mornings at 9. Of course I do. You defeated the Sleazoids.”

       “Yes,” she said quietly, like she was remembering a dream. “The solenoids. They wanted to turn everyone into zombies.”

       “Yep,” I said. “Just like the communists.”

       She kind of perked up a little at that. “So,” she said, “you don’t like communists?”

       Whether it was because I was drunk, or because I was horny, or because I wanted to impress Heather Paige, I just let loose. “No, I don’t like communists. St. John’s was full of them. At least the younger priests were all communists. It’s like Diane Keaton says in Manhattan, it’s all a bunch of lofty theorizing to allow people to indulge in their personal and psychological sins.”

       She looked at me with awe, and a new kind of respect.

       So at St. John’s,” she said. “Which sins were those?”

       “Mainly one,” I said. “Pederasty.”

       We sat their silently for a few seconds. I could kind of sense that she was thinking hard about something. Then she said it.

       “So did you think you were going to get laid here tonight? Like if you found a dog and followed it back here you’d have sex with Cosmic Girl?”

       I didn’t say a word. We just looked at each other. Then she laughed.

       I realized that the story about there was fake, was some kind cover ruse for something else, something a lot more serious – and a lot more dangerous.

       “So Kim,” she said. “How’d you like to help America win the Cold War?”

The name of the movie was Red Sunset. It was an anti-communist film, and Heather Paige was playing the mother of a soldier. They were filming in D.C. and Los Angeles in the fall for a release in 1986.

       And Heather Paige wanted me and my friends to go see it. That’s how we could help America win the Cold War against the Russians. “If a lot of people see it, it can help in the effort,” she said.

       “That won’t be a problem,” I said. “My family owns a movie theater.”

       She suddenly became focused. I told her how my father Walter owned the Cinema ’n’ Drafthouse, the classic art deco theater in D.C. He had bought it in 1973 when it was the Boro and was run down and empty and showing porn like Campus Girls in Heat. Dad had gutted the inside and redesigned it to have tables and a kitchen and bar in the back. The Drafthouse frequently sold out, and was often rented out for special screenings and parties – the anniversary of Citizen Kane and Casablancaor the annual Creature Feature Halloween party with Count Gore De Vol, the local late night Channel 20 horror host. Someone even got married there.

       So sure, my friends and I would be able to see Red Sunset. We may even be able to hold a premier there. To do that for a conservative film, to do it in DC and make a big deal out of it – that would get attention. Washington was very liberal, despite Reagan being president.

       I knew Heather Paige was thinking all of this. Having a family that owned a movie theater you often got request form people to promote stuff and have events there.

       “Are you a Republican?” she said.

       “I’m nothing,” I said, watching Charlie the chocolate lab breathing quietly at her feet. “I’m not a hippie, but Reagan is kind of a goofball.”

       She smiled. “You guys are a good generation,” she said. “Avoiding the baby boomer arrogance but not totally buying into the right. Independent thinkers.”

       Then she said, “Do you know how the free world will defeat communism?”

       “With a shitload of bombs?”

       She laughed. “No. With culture. And with love.”

       Then she said “Tell me Kim, what do you love?”

       I thought of riding a wave with Anne Sato kissing my neck.

       “It’s a girl!” Heather said. Mind reader.

       “No no no,” I lied. “I was thinking about a lot of stuff.” I didn’t want to blow a chance of having sex with Heather. My face was giving me away.

       “You’re cute,” she said. “I’m sure you have no problem with girls. But think deeper. Be more specific. What do you love about right here, right now, this week?”

       I sipped my Heineken. These California people got personal very fast.

       “Do you love your friends?” she said.


       “Tell me about them. Who’s down here with you this week?”

       Whether it was the mystical darkness of her beach house porch, the beers I had been drinking all night or the weed I had been smoking, or the fact that I was sitting mere feet from Cosmic Girl herself and that she was smiling and wearing a windbreaker and a white bikini bottom that made me delirious imaging her beautiful Hollywood pussy, I started talking.

       “There’s Chris Lane. He’s my best friend.”

       “Where did you meet him?”

       I smiled. “Well, we had seen each other at school when we were Freshman, but we didn’t really become friends until winter of that year. It was at the 9:30 Club in D.C. Neither one of us knew they other, but we had both lied to our parents about going to movie and instead went to see this German group Einsturzende Neubauten.

These guys combined punk rock with actually using drills and hammers and scrap metal to play music. It was a wild night.  Someone had broken the front door of the building, there was a freak snowstorm and I didn’t think I was going to be able to get home. Chris gave me a ride home. We drove through the snow in his Camaro, listening to REM. Murmur. Not the current garbage they’re doing.

       “That’s beautiful,” she said. “Do you have a girl best friend?”

       “Jane Sparks. She lives next door to me. We’ve been next door neighbors since we were born. She likes dancing and Little House on the Prairie.”

       “Do you love her?”

       Blunt, New Agey Hollywood. Feelings.

       “Well, I mean, yeah,” I said. “Like a sister, not really the other way.”

       “What about your parents? Do you get along with them?”

       “Sure,” I said. Heather could tell I sounded noncommittal. I love my parents. My dad is funny but usually focuses on running the Drafthouse, which means a lot of balance sheets and late nights. My mom has gone around the bend with the religion since she had her conversion to Catholicism when I was ten. She’s close to a lot of priests, including this creepy one, Fr. Ted, who teaches at St. John’s. He comes over to the house a lot to have dinner. One night came into my room, he said by accident, when I was changing.

       I suddenly remembered the fight over You Can Fix Your Life, that I was dabbling into the occult by reading it. I made a mental note to myself to make sure to burn the paper I had written Heather’s name on. It was part of the ritual for positive attraction that Karen Summerville had outlined in the book. On the third day, burn the paper.

       “My dad is cool,” I said. “My mom is Catholic. “Extremely Catholic. It’s why I’m at St. John’s. she had a conversion when I was ten.”

       “The Catholic Church is doing a lot to fight communism,” Heather said. “They are really strong in Poland. I went to a Jesuit school in New York. Fordham. The Jesuits there taught us to see God in all things. Do you see God in all things, Kim?”

       I didn’t say anything. There was an awkward silence.

       “Let me ask you this,” she said. “Do you see things that you love? Like the beach and girls and music?”

       I nodded. I admit it, she was winning me over. She was so beautiful.

       “Then here’s what I want you to do. I want you to spend the rest of your Beach Week with you friends and your girlfriends and your music and your freedom and think about the things you love. I want you to think about how much you love your family, your school, the German band at the 9:30 Club who live in a country that is only half-free.”

       “Can I think of Cosmic Girl also?”

       She laughed. “Yes, you can think of me. That show was part of being free.”

       I kind of sensed that it was time for me to leave. She was getting tired and my beer was almost empty. We sat there listening to the ocean for a few minutes. Then I got up to go.

       “If you see things that you love, and are willing to defend those things, we’ll win the war,” she said. “The Bible says that God is love. Not the master of love, not the maestro of love, not the controller of love. That God is love. That’s all you need to remember. The communists want to take away the things we love.”


fudge photo

IV –  Seeing Love

       I was tired of talk of God, between my ultra-orthodox mom and the pedo priests at St. John’s who were always giving us formulas, complex Thomistic equations for the Existence of God.

       But I liked Heather a lot, and I realized that I could see love, and that I loved the things I loved. I saw love when love was too bright to see, in the morning when the rising sun would cleanse the beach house through the broad front window and I felt like I was inside a dream.

       I saw love in the Jack Kirby Captain America iron-on that I got from the T-shirt Factory on the boardwalk where I went by myself one afternoon so that I could think of my little brother Jack, who was named after my dad’s favorite actor Jack Nicholson and who died when he was just a baby when he didn’t wake up from his crib, and who had Captain America on his sheets.

       I saw (and smelled) love in Candy Kitchen, the heavenly-smelling shop where Anne Sato and I went to buy fudge.

       I saw love in the covers of the books Anne was reading – Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Days Between Stationsby Steve Erickson, and The Accidental Touristby Anne Tyler.

       I saw love in Chris when we had a party and he wore and all night he wore a Culture Club hat that he had found discarded behind a bar and people were laughing and giving him shit but he refused to take it off.

       I saw love in my best female friend Jane Sparks when she got drunk at a party and danced and lip-synched flawlessly to “Art Fails” by the Motels.

       I saw love in the waves and the seagulls and the surfers and their sharp brown bodies and knee-length bathing suits.

       I saw love in the unamused but actually kinda amused face of the local police when they came by to tell us to stop hitting golf balls into the Atlantic Ocean from the roof of the house.

       I saw love in the Atlantic Ocean which is alive.

       I saw love in Chris’s vintage Camaro SS which blew the doors off these guys from our rival school St. Jerome who tried to drag race us down Coastal Highway as two o’clock in the morning.

       I saw love in the face of Annie Lennox, in he power pose on the cover of Touch.

       I saw love in the face of Charlie, Heather Paige’s chocolate lab, who was there when I slipped Heather’s publicity photos, which had come in a brown envelope and which I had picked up at her P.O. Box.

       I saw love in the hot and steamy bushels of crabs and corn and oysters we ate.

       I saw love in the watery stream of blood that ran down the foot of John McDermott, the editor of The Messenger, our school paper, when he cut his foot on a piece of glass and in the lifeguard who patched him up.

       I saw love in the 24-hour walk-in clinic doctor who fixed him.

       I saw love in the face of my classmate Kurt Stamey when we got high and sat on the beach as the sun when down behind us and he talked about Dune for three hours.

       I saw love in the twilight when the sharp long shadows from the beach houses stretch out over the sand.

       I saw love in the face of the cute short girl who came up to me at a party and said, “Why do some people call you killer,” and I explained it was denied from Kim, Kim to Kimster to Killer, and that I wasn’t really a killer.

       I saw love when Bubbles the St. John’s football star slapped me on the back and called me Killer.

       I saw love in the black and white TV that was never used at the beach house except for the one time I turned on Creature Feature late at night and it was showing The Bride of Frankenstein.

       I saw love in Creature Feature host Gore De Vol who made bad punny jokes during commercial breaks and was dressed up like a vampire. (I also remembered that I had to meet with the Count when I got home to make sure this year’s Halloween Monster Bash at the Drafthouse went smoothly.)

       I saw love in the face of President Reagan when I saw it on the cover of a magazine that an old dude at the beach was reading.

       I saw love in my ultra-Catholic mother Carol, with her rosaries and Opus Dei meetings and all-night adoration.

       I saw love in my father Walter and his own church, the Cinema ’n’ Drafthouse.

       I saw love in the beautiful blonde girl from Trinity who appeared at the door one afternoon and asked for me and told me that she had a message that my parents were trying to reach me but the phone in our house wasn’t working.

       I saw love in the face of the punk dude with the wild hair who had been at our first party and had hollered in my face, “How many faggots run the Catholic Church?” and who I saw two days later in a 7-11 in Ocean City buying a Big Gulp.

       I saw love in all the girls from T & A with large breasts and/or great asses.

       I saw love in my body, tight and thin and tan with musculature from swimming all week.

       I saw love in Anne Sato and in her smile and laugh and of in the soft white cotton of the strap of her top as it sat on her shoulder. I felt love when we found a bedroom on the last night of Beach Week and her caresses and her tan lines as I entered her and we made love, and how it was supposed to be like a cinematic moment, two bodies together while the waves crashed outside, and it was but then we heard Chris downstairs with the other partiers and he was singing “It’s a Miracle” off key and as loud as he could.








Photos by by pbump  skeeze  Helga Weber  Cassowary Colorizations valiunic Powellizer