I made a mistake last night. Actually, two mistakes. The first mistake was watching “Funny Girl.” It was going along fine, I was about half asleep, then Streisand sang “People.” It barely started when the memories came roaring back… the most wonderful memories, wild and intimate memories, memories of times, places and people who would shape who I’d become for the rest of my life.
It’s weird, so many things happen to us when we’re young, things that we pretty much take for granted, things that might have been surprising to us at the time, but not that unusual. Then, looking back on them, many of them were the very things that changed our life’s direction, our perception of what was real, even changed who we were to become as adults. (‘Argh, I still hate that word ‘adults.’) Don’t ever refer to me as an adult, I will have to hurt you.
“Ha!” Someone said. “No one would ever accuse you of that…”
My memory of “People” drifts dreamily between summer campfires and easy trailer court nights in Montana to sitting quietly with 5 others in an upstairs bedroom in a farmhouse in Indiana, listening to “People” on the radio and feeling tears flow. We all knew instinctively that it was a special moment in time, that we would probably never be together like that in a group again.
Where are those beautiful people now? I know of only one. The rest have disappeared into the mist of time and space, to be only fleetingly remembered within a tiny capsule of my memory. They are gone, as am I to them, to reside briefly only in the mind of one who still cares, who still remembers.
Another song that was a hit that summer was Petula Clark’s “Downtown.” But “People, people who need people…” is the kicker for me. Just those first words, and here they come again. Just the tiniest slice of an old song, and my mind and memory spins wildly, almost out of control. There is so much, so very much in those memories. That group of folk I hung out with that special summer, the new friendships, the puppy loves, the intimate moments we shared, thinking we were so cool, so smart, maybe even so worldly, while we were really so painfully new.
For my part, I spent most of that summer working in a gold mine outside of town with four other, much older men. Having dropped out of the U. Of Montana that spring, I had to get back into school somehow to stay out of the Viet Nam draft. I applied to the Berklee School Of Music, back in Boston, and by mid-summer, knew I’d been accepted. Knowing where one’s immediate future lay back then was an almost heady experience, with the rest of my summer being firmly committed to keeping my mining job to help pay for the first year back East.
Pat Rose, a waitress at “The Farg” gave me huge encouragement to follow my love of jazz. My mom wanted me to go back to the U of M and become an English teacher. Joe Glosson (Joe The Bear) fed me writers and poets and snippets of life back East that would serve me so well later on. Judy Smock gave me quiet support to follow whatever artistic direction I might stumble into. Yvonne DeMars taught me that wooing a young woman such as herself was going to take a lot more class than my snappy one-liners like, “Hey, Sweetie, your hair looks great, how ‘bout a little kiss?”
Rick McGregor was my best friend back then. A guitar player, a finish carpenter and an excellent artist, he showed me, by example, how to believe in oneself, how to show respect and support to others, and how to have a good time without getting crazy. (Actually, we never quite got that one…) We played music together in my parents’ bar all summer, two or three times a week. We couldn’t know that it was the last time we’d be playing together, as Rick died of a brain hemorrhage that next January. He was only 22.
Yes, it was a truly great summer, and in hindsight, a very pivotal summer, for I would go on to music school back East and never settle back in Montana until my retirement some forty years later. I lost touch with all my young friends from that magical summer, except for Joe The Bear, whom I visited in Indiana several times and ultimately was chosen to be his best man at his and Eunice’s Wedding. We remain good friends and in touch to this day.
Welcome then, to the inner sanctum of my memory, whenever I hear “People Who need People.” We truly are the luckiest… oh god, here they come again. And this time with a few tears.