Steve Sherry's The Vagabonds of '74

Early '74

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Early '74 Montclair, New Jersey, Alf a most unusual friend
Cedar Grove, New Jersey my little town....Miss Munches House, Newberry's, Cedar Grove Pool
Hitchhiking To Albuquerque 1972, The Commune and Krishnamurti, University of New Mexico
Seeing Badfinger At Carnegie Hall, The Dugout, McSorely's Ale House
Seeing Bob Dylan, "The Poet Lad" At Madison Square Garden
South End Pizzeria, Van Gogh and Plans for California
Jersey Shore Recollections, Summer of '71. St. Louis, The Gateway of the West, The Road to Colorado
Rocky Mountain Panorama, Problems with the Pinto, Ritchfield Utah???
California! Lennon's Lost Weekend, Venice Beach, Malibu
Pacific Coast Highway, Panoramic Visions and the Magic Carpet Ride To Santa Barbara
San Francisco, The Shelter, The Warf and the Hole in the Wall Hotel
Sacramento, Jumping A Train? Wierd But True, The Shock of My Life
Oblivion, Reno, Good Samaritans and The Ghosts of Woody Guthrie, James Dean and Tom Joad
A Night In The Can in Kansas
University of Kansas at Lawrence and The Doobie Brothers
True Meditation Foundation of Human Understanding, "How Your Mind Can Keep You Well"
Vagabonds of '74 Part 2: Old Friend Ollie, Meeting Veronica, The Suburban in Montclair
BOSTON, The Leap of Faith and A Night in a Shelter
Sleeping in a Newspaper Truck, Cambridge Hippies and No Turning Back
Squatter's Rights: 269 BROADWAY, Furnishing Our Hippie Pad
269 BROADWAY becomes Miss Dale's Farm
California Hippies Arrive. Free Food from The Docks, Strange Encounters
Kenmore Square Blood Bank
Leonard Cohen, Patron Saint, Ali Defeats Foreman and the Great Squash Fight of '74
Vivid Visitors from New Jersey,
The Invasion of Boston University, Taking Over The Dorm
Jonathan Swifts, Harvard Square and The Sugar Shortage
Beacon Hill Gulf Gas Station and Reflections Atop The Longfellow Bridge
Christmas 1974 in Montclair, Returning to Cambridge, "13th Floor Panarama"
Bandages, Canes, Barroom Brawls and Spontaneous Conversation
Meeting Leonard Cohen
The Beginning Of The End and Saying Goodbye
Vagabonds of 74 Epilogue
Essex Catholic Memories: Crosby, Stills & Nash, Marty Liquori, Mark Murro, City Stadium, St. Benedicts, Dylan, Positively 4th St.
The Essex Catholic Wrestling Team 1971: 8 District Champs, Ting A Lings, Hitting the Town....
Essex Catholic Teachers and Students, Br. Harrington, Mr. Lamb, Mr. Taglieri, Mr. Zarro, Simon and Garfunkel
Random Events at Essex Catholic 1967-1971: Stuff Happens! Bomb Scare, JUG!, Abbey Road
Essex Catholic Senior Year 1971: World Trade Center Rising, The Staircase from "A Hard Days Night?" Meditation, MySpace: "Jersey Shore," Crosby, Stills and Nash Epilogue
The Jersey Shore: May, 2011 Brielle....Sea Girt....Introspection On The Sand.....
Essex Catholic Memories 2012

My Friend Alf, an unforgettable character....

     It was early January 1974.
New Jersey was in the grip of winter and there wasn't much of anything going on.

I was in my room in Montclair awaiting the arrival of  Alf,
who was on his way down from Cedar Grove, the little town where we  grew up.
 
Our experiences went back to the time when I was 7 and had gone to the South End Woods
with my older brother Eddie to look for salamanders and snakes.

     On the footpath we encountered a group of kids building a fort, hammering away and chopping branches to use in the construction. 

We stopped to watch, becoming aware of one fellow stacking logs,
all the while chanting  poetry that was slightly obscene.

He was tall and older than me, 8 or 9, with wavy hair and an attitude that made him seem
a little dangerous.
 
I was intimidated and kept my mouth shut as he barked out poetry while continuing to stack logs.

After we left I asked my brother who the tall kid was.

"That's Alf.....he's in my class.....
He lives right down that street in one of those houses......"

                                                      
                                                    
 I was glad to head for home but the poetry Alf had been reciting stuck in my mind.

From that day on I gradually got to know him and found that his gruff exterior
was a ruse to hide a Vulnerable Soul.
 
An intense person, he had a tendency for good natured mischief
and we complimented each others personalities.
 
 
 
 By the time I was 10 and Alf 11, we were hanging out regularly.

We both liked music and found that our tastes were pretty much the same.
 
 
 
In 1963 The Four Seasons were very big
and "Sherry," "Candy Girl" and "Walk Like A Man"
resounded from Transistor Radios all over suburbia.
 
 
 
     Everything was unfolding logically until one day
Music came pouring over the airwaves unlike anything we'd ever heard..... 
 
"I Want To Hold Your Hand" was a quantum leap from the music of the era
 
and The Beatles, "overnight, swept up the youth of the world." 

 
Not only did music change but styles of clothing, hair, language and culture.  
 
Life took on a  whole new meaning and Alf and I, like everyone else, were caught up in the craze.
 
 
We harbored fantasies of forming our own group. 

I remember walking up Pompton Avenue one afternoon
and making a pact that one day we would form our own band.
 
We even shook on it.

 
The following Christmas when he got a tape recorder,
we spent hours singing into it and trying to come up with our own tunes.

He still had his talent for poetry
and as we got older he used it as a shield  against the cruelty of the world.

The strategy was simple, if he could keep people amused,
they'd be less inclined to lash out at him which is what some people liked to do.

Such were the travails of Alf, whose life
wove in and out of mine on a regular basis. 

                           
                                               
                                                               1974

     Now, a decade later,  profound social events reshaped the world.
 
I was home in Montclair awaiting his arrival which could be a haphazard proposition.

He might not show up at all depending on who he ran into on his way over.

If he got wind of a Party you might not see him for days but when you did,
he'd always have an excuse to explain his absence.

Whatever, you could never pin him down and he would disarm you, 
forcing you to forgive him.....
 
He had that kind of charm.....  


 I picked up my Yamaha and started strumming chords.
 
I knew that when he did arrive we'd be spending time "jamming"  as we liked to put it.
 
Jamming with Alf  was always fun and we never knew what creativity might come up with.
 
 
 
I stared around the room, typical for a young man in 1974 ..............
 
a stereo with a stack of LP's, 8 track tapes, girlie pictures on the wall,
 
Bohemian Garb consisting of jeans and flannel shirts draped over the sofa in the corner. 

 
It was below "shabby chic" and I was poor as a church mouse
 
but it was a roof over my head so I couldn't complain.  It was home.


When I heard a knock at the kitchen door I ran downstairs
and there Alf stood in his Winter Coat
and hat with a smile on his face and holding a 6 back of beer.

"What's happnin' bro, come on in!"

He placed the 6 pack on the table and extended his hand.
 
A handshake was always the first order of business with Alf.
 
 
 
We shuffled into the living room to say hello to my Grandfather.

He was in his 80's and spent his days sitting on the couch watching T.V.
and smoking cigars, blowing huge clouds of blue/gray smoke that hung around the room.

The dense smoke could almost knock you over but provided an atmosphere
that was both Mysterious and Soothing...... It meant that the old man was content.

"Hello Mr. Stewart."

"Who's that Alf?"

"Yeah, how's everything?"

Not everyone was regarded with the same courtesy
but Alf won my Grandfather's respect with his Winning Personality
and never failing to chat when he felt it was required.....


We bounded up the stairs and into my room. 
 
"What took ya so long, man? I was waiting for hours."

In the house for 5 minutes and already under siege,  Alf  launched a counter offensive.

"I had to hitchhike down here man, then I had to go to the liquor store.  It took time!"

"You hithchiked?  I thought your father was driving you down."

"He was..... but I got caught up in some (pregnant pause) .....bullshit."

He had a special way of embellishing the "b" in bullshit that gave it added effect.
 
His lips would purse as the word slowly erupted.
 
It gave authenticity to his woes and always made me laugh.

"What kinda bullshit man?" I said, smiling. 

"Just some....Bullshit !!!.
They're into some kind of strange.....bullshit," he said with a pained expression.

 
A moment later two brews were cracked open.
 
We drank a lot of beer in those days. It cushioned us from the world.

Once we were caught up on the latest news Alf's eyes wondered over to the guitar
propped against the sofa.

"Grab the ax Davey,  I've got an idea."
 
 
 
We huddled together and as I strummed,  he geared up to sing,
 waiting for the right moment to jump in, he listened then began to croon:
  
 
"Well see the mountains, see the trees, see the ocean too,

I'll be gettin down the road..... cause I'm feelin kinda blue 

Hey, I'm tired of this old world, this bullshits gotta stop

You'd better get out of the way my friend before I blow my top...!"


The fun had begun, a give and take that ranged  from Poetic to Hysterically Funny......
 
I listened with a smile as inspirations of my own began to bubble to the surface:

 
"Well, I gotta get away from here,  gotta get away from you

not because you're so uncool but that you haven't got a clue...."


It went back and forth with  Alf fumbling for the right words
but in the end pulling a rabbit out of his hat.

I'd play slower chords, mellowing him out and he'd sing in his most sincere voice, 

"Well see that girl with the long black hair

and the crystal eyes of blue,

She used to ride in my Riviera

but now she rides with you....."


I would strum, stifling laughter until he'd look up and start laughing too.

It was all part of the fun and there were many jam sessions like this.
 
 
Sometimes others would sit in but it was always Alf and me 
 
banging away on that guitar........
 
.....even as the Wicked World was closing in around us..........

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