While some youths managed to experience actual exploration,
my memories were kept within confined parameters of the suburban sleepover.
Sure, there were exotic differences that found their way into my consciousness.
Each house had its own particular odor: an olfactory fingerprint, so to speak.
Parents were older, younger, stricter or more lenient than my own.
It really ran the gamut -- but you learned different things in surprising ways.
The lush comforts of a Thunderbird's interior cabin, as opposed to our Olds Cutlass,
the unexpected song demo recorded by another father who I never knew was musical.
The magic white noise of a humidifier, expelling its vapors in a way
that I assumed could only improve one's health. I wondered why we lacked that.
The ultimate luxury that blew my mind, though, was the discovery of
this huge canister of Charles Chips' potato chips that was regularly delivered
to my lucky friend's house. We had no such snacking subscriptions.
The best we managed was eggs and milk -- placed into that little silver box
outside our front door. Dairy was not deserving of any diary mention.
We had fun; we had imagination. One friend had an older brother
who had gotten Beatles records before anyone else. It was a treat
to spin those Vee-Jay label 78s, suddenly finding myself
on the very cutting edge of the British invasion. Sure, years later
one of my cousins worked as an animation artist for Yellow Submarine.
He was the one cool relative, the one who rode his motorcycle up from
some East Village party thrown by Peter Tork and then dropped names
to impress me. It worked. Yet my parents never let me go along with him
back into the city with its celebrity mystique. They only let me sleep over
at one friend or another's house. Still, where else would I have had the
terrorizing experience of waking in the middle of the night
when one friend's Persian cat purred loudly while nibbling on my earlobe?
I was more of a dog guy then; I thought the cat was growling or worse.
I stayed up the rest of the night, fearing for my safety.
I survived, learning the quirks of this pet feline predator.
We played knock hockey, we invented games
and played APBA board games I had never heard of before.
They took hours; they required thought and strategy.
Other times we played a buzzing electronic football game
that required little strategy, but only patience and luck.
We had some fun moments, we learned about the electoral college
and The Making of the President; though it would be
years before any of us would get to vote for real.
We tried to hypnotize each other, we discussed
the ways we would become famous rock stars one day.
So while some kids elsewhere were learning names
of birds and trees and various flora and fauna,
I was taking guitar lessons, avidly devouring
whatever the radio played, and learning
the historic genealogy of rock bands and
their revolving evolving musician rosters.
It was all part of my unchartered explorations
during those pioneering sleepover years.
I was putting in my thousand hours
on some extra cot or a sibling's bed,
learning the various ways of the world,
one friend's house and family at a time.