When I was in high school, I had a pretty select group of friends. We were all musically talented and active in choir, band, and/or drama. We were all honor students. And we were all bored.
Brunswick in the summer always smelled like mown grass, hot asphalt, and old cigarettes. When I was growing up there, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. The big thrill was driving to Parmatown Mall…once you had a car. More often than not, my friends and I would either convene in James’ basement for gaming or at Jason’s house for…shenanigans.
Jason’s house boasted a central location, parents who were willing to put up with our bullshit, the Tahitian room (more on this in a later post), and the rocks.
If you followed the sidewalk next to Jason’s house until it ended at the field, and then hiked up the hill about a quarter mile, you’d find a path through the trees and underbrush that led to a collection of large stones deposited there by some ancient glacier. The stones ringed a central flat space, perfect for a fire. This became our personal Stonehenge, where we’d gather and celebrate the sacraments of Midwestern youth: illicit beer, smokes, and big talk. More often than not, one of us brought a guitar. There’d be songs and stories; nothing organized, nothing formal. Just shootin’ the shit, the way you do when you’re young and you’ve got all the time in the world and nothing to fill it. Eventually, we’d tire or the mosquitoes would drive us out, we’d head back to the house, then wander home.
The rocks were necessary. The ritual of them brought us together, made us vulnerable, gave us strength. Tony would eventually immortalize them in a song. They were worth singing about.
I’m not sure what teenagers do these days with their friends. My kids seem to see their friends outside of school rarely. I wonder what they’ll talk about as their rocks. I don’t know how to create strong memories digitally…I’m of that generation who needs to move through the physical world to build meaning. The more I watch them, the more I respect the experiences of my youth, not enough to try to recreate them but to hold them close to me to keep those flames alive as I become an older man who doesn’t always connect with the culture that surrounds me.
The rocks still loom large in my mind. When I moved back from Los Angeles, I made a point of trying to find them. They are gone now; a housing development stands where they once stood. Worse, I’ve lost that cassette tape with Tony’s song on it. Immortal means something different at 17 than it does at 46. Somewhere in between, vulnerability to time is no longer a choice; it’s a fact.
“And today’s for sale
And it’s all you can afford
By your own admission
Well, the whole thing’s got you bored
And the Lord uses the good ones
The bad ones use the Lord…”
Let’s Get The Show On The Road, Michael Stanley Band