It’s cold out. My chores are almost all done. I’m taking a break for the pause that refreshes. And my mind, for reasons totally unknown to me, travels back to that day on the Steel Pier…
Her name at the time was Grace Letizia. Her current name will remain anonymous in case she thinks we don’t escape this tale without looking like two of the biggest nerds the goddess ever created. The place was the Steel Pier on the Atlantic City boardwalk. The year is a bit vague but probably right around 1960 or so. (This is one of those details that Grace will always remember thus lessening the load on my fragile memory.) The person at the center of the maelstrom – Ricky (oh god I think he looked at me I might faint) Nelson.
Grace and I had only recently truly discovered boys and what they were for. And Ricky (it’s like he’s singing right to me) Nelson checked all the boxes and then some. Given that this was the late 50s, Grace and I knew less about sex than we did of Buddhism despite our advanced ages of almost 13. So for us, checking all the boxes meant he was cute, could sing and was totally beyond the grasp of anything but our dreams. Seriously, how perfect is that.
Grace and I took the Boardwalk to the Steel Pier early so we could catch every show. You see, boys and girls, back in the day, if you paid your admission fee to the Steel Pier, you got into everything for free as often as you wanted. Movies, shows, diving horses – the possibilities were not limitless. But we were entranced. We wanted to make every one of his three or four shows that day. We had a plan. Well, not really. But we eventually came up with one.
Ricky (be still my beating heart) Nelson was appearing in the ballroom at the end of the pier. There were no seats. When the doors opened, you tried not to get crushed in the rush to be right up at the stage. When the show ended, Ricky (he has blue eyes to die for) exited and got in a limo waiting for him on the side of the ballroom. Grace and I somehow knew this. And we were there.
So here’s the way the day went. We went to a show. Listened to him as much as we could over the screaming – and yes, that was us screaming – then rushed out to where he would be getting into his limo, then rushed back to the front of the theater to get in line again to be the first one in for the next show. We’d stand there for upwards of two hours and then repeat the whole process.
Oh yeah – and it was about 90 degrees out and the ballroom was not air conditioned. Opening the side doors clearly didn’t help. But when you’re young, you can endure anything for the man you are sure will be the love of your life until the day you die – or become a Salesian nun.
We did this until it was dark and we had to go home. Apparently at some point during the day, Grace developed a cold. It was miraculously cured by being crushed in an overheated room amidst a crowd of screaming Ricky (marry me and I will adore you forever) Nelson fans because when we got out, it was gone. A miracle you say? Or did Ricky (he is like a god) Nelson really have the power to cure her?
We’ll never know. But I do know that we went home happy that day. Very happy. We may never have been the most popular kids in our school. But we found infinite ways to stay happy – at least, that’s what we told ourselves. And honestly, it’s probably more true than not.
Thanks, Ricky (sweet mother of Jesus, look at those lips) Nelson. I’m not entirely sure for what, but a thanks seems to be in order.