The Trip Back
Jones Beach concert 1999
(turn up the volume and read s l o w l y)
So I'm sitting at the Moody Blues concert at Jones Beach tonight, and I find myself transported back in time and space. The houselights are off, the stars are out in force, Justin Haywood is in great voice, and the sweet smell of Marajuana fills the air. Call me a hopeless romantic, but my eyes are welled up with tears. Although my wife is seated next to me, my mind is wandering down memory lane......... It's the sixties, and I'm in Central Park again. It's a past life alright. I'm a concert photographer so I have one of the best seats in the house..... fifth row center. Can't remember exactly who I'm watching? Arlo Guthrie? BB King? The Temptations? It's all a blur of loud music, pot, wine, and good vibrations. Someone brought a bag full of little Italian plums. Another has a skin filled with Boones Farm wine. Joints are being passed back and forth, forth and back at a dizzying rate. It's a much simpler time. A time of flashing the peace sign at a total stranger, and getting a big smile while it's being returned. Whatever was available, was freely shared by all. We looked mostly alike. Long hair, faded jeans, tie-dyed shirts, beads, chokers and headbands. Something momentarily breaks this vision and I'm slammed back to the present. An audience of middle aged, pot bellied, graying, boomers. The Moody Blues are backed tonight by the Long Island Philharmonic. Let's face it, although we loved their wonderful, intense mixes of rock and roll, and classical poetry, we're all here to see if Justin Haywood and the orchestra can do justice to Nights In White Satin one more time. A song for the ages, the music of our lives. I lean over to my wife and whisper in her ear, "I wonder if I'm getting an old fashioned contact high here"? The smell of pot pervades the air and I'm back at my old apartment in the Park Slope of 1970. It's early morning and I awaken with some sweet young thing lying sleeping next to me. I don't know how she got there, and more sadly, don't know her name. I'm immediately taken by her long dark hair and the curves of her body. Her young musclular legs are as smooth as silk, and taught as rubberbands. I look around and see my room as if for the first time. The mattress, (leave the last "s" off for savings my timetravelling mind says), is on the floor. Art posters on the walls. Record player turning silently. Overstuffed pillows all askew. The sweet familiar scent of pot in the air. I'm being pulled back to the present, but decide I can control it, and stay here for a bit longer. I look at my hard 20 year old body in the mirror and notice tears streaming down my face. The record player is now tracking .... "Nights in white satin, never reaching the end, letters I've written, never meaning to send...... beauty I've always missed, with these eyes before, just what the truth is, I can't say anymore.... The flashing lights of the stage show bring me back to the here and now full force. Old Justin is hitting all the notes as if he didn't age a day in the 30 years since I first heard that song on the radio! My wife reaches up to wipe away the tears from my face, not knowing the brief trip through time I had just taken.
The Park Slope Years; early 1970's
Seems like everyone worked on Wall Street in the 70's. I moved into a run down brownstone on Prospect Place around 1970. My brother Gene, his wife Joan and their 2 boys, bought it for a song and became the only white folks on the block. I lived in the ground floor apartment with my girlfriend Linda. I followed in my brothers' footsteps and became a Stockbroker at the too young age of 22. I wore a a three piece suit, smoked cigars, and wore wingtipped shoes. Despite all these concessions to style, I had a full beard and longish hair, and thus was the whizkid "hippy stockerbroker" to the conservative office oldtimers. We never got a seat on the hot, sweaty & disgusting IRT to the city every morning to work. I hung onto a strap for dear life while enjoying the odors of the poor working slobs next to me. I had my first real job, and enjoyed the prestige and the title of Financial Planner. In reality I was still the little shit from Coney Island, this time playing with peoples serious money on the big stage. I was a great salesman, even so young, but really had little idea of what was going on around me. Catch Charlie Sheen & Michael Douglas in the film "Wall Street" sometime. It's not too far from what it was like. Very high pressure to sell, sell, sell, or you're out on your ass.
Back in the Slope, we spent weekends looking for garbage that we could use to decorate the house. Gene built a big tank and filled it with caustic stripper. We would dump in a piece of junk from the gutters, and in a few hours out would come a beautiful piece of antique oak. We demolished walls by hand. Carried 50 lb bags of cement up 3 flights of stairs.... and sometimes took a break eating dozens of White Castle burgers. We made that dump into a beautiful place. My brother even built a goldfish pond in the back yard. It was a tiny piece of paradise in the middle of a huge slum. In the coming years, it became trendy for white couples to start buying up these brownstones in terrible neighborhoods. They called it gentrification. We lived with wrought iron bars on our windows, and would hear the blasting Latin beat along with the gunshots in the night from 5th avenue. We eventually had a mix of great neighbors like nowhere else in the world. Hippies, lawyers, accountants, musicians, gays, Jesus freaks (as they were known back then), black, white, Puerto Rican, Haitian, everyone got along like family on that block. Heck we even had a lesbian couple next door! We had a block association, produce co-op, block parties, and weekend cookouts in the back yards. When there was a room to be painted, or a roof to be tarred, or a floor to be put down.... without asking there were always neighbors to pitch in and help. We all had tons of house plants, cats, great record players, and alternate side of the street parking. Our Brie was runny, and we had wine with every meal. We hung out at the Aquarius coffee house, or Snooky's Pub. We bought fancy teas and coffees, and ate Hagen Daas ice cream. We had dinner at least twice a week on Atlantic Ave, or over the Manhattan bridge in China Town, where our picture was on the wall as if we were celebrities. We smoked pot by the car load. Seems like it was 24 hours a day.... but marajuana was good then, wasn't it? God knows we must have had at least 4 different types of Bongs! Many an evening was spent incessantly chatting about what the Beatles were really saying, or lying on the floor listening to the same Allman Brothers album skipping over and over again, too stoned to get up and advance the needle.
I learned the real lessons of life being the youngest in that crowd. We discussed politics, sex, and what it really means to be a hip New Yorker! I watched all the older married couples relate. Gene & Joan were the perfect couple, and my mentors. So complex with just the right touch of intellectualism and real world flaws to deal with. I wanted to be just like them. For the first time in my life I had terrific role models. I learned to grow emotionally, and from my brother to not be afraid to try anything, if it made you a better person. I eventually shed the immature and macho Coney Island kid, and became a semi-cultured, semi-adult craving self improvement at any cost.
Then I watched helplessly as just about everyone on the block, including by brother and Linda & I, split up after reading a book called Open Marriage. "I don't know what I want, but I need to go out and find it", she told me in a moment of crystal clear obtusity. I was absolutely and totally crushed yet again by the woman in my life. She got her own apartment near Prospect Park, and we saw each other off and on for awhile until it finally died out. The stockbrokering also went south with the awful market of the early 70's. Gene was a Wall Street bigshot, rising to the top of the food chain during the ate 60's bull market, but was now reduced to being unemployed and directionless. He was forced to sell the house and split the money with his soon to be ex. He moved upstate to start a hippie like commune and make stained glass lamps. I too discovered the joys of collecting unemployment checks shortly thereafter, and took up the guitar, where I met the future Mrs. Perfect. I played with Paul & Eddie Simon and learned from that whole crew including Danny Kalb, David Bromberg, Eric Weiss and Dave Van Ronk. I then did lots of concert photography, mostly to get free tickets and hangout backstage. Someday I'll post those pictures. Sorry but most of those exciting days backstage with Ron Delsner & Scott Muni & Dion & the Eagles, have been permanently removed chemically from my memory. When that middle 70's thing died out, the biological clock made us move to Long Beach Long Island, to have babies in the suburbs. It's amazing how much Long Beach looked like Coney Island. I really wish those Slope days went on forever, but I guess we all have to grow up and move on.
( the future Mrs. Sinrod...... what did she see in me?)
The Weed Years or.... the years we forgot;
This is going back to an era when it was illegal to do anything but drink. The establishment wore black shoes and had short hair. We needed something for ourselves and it was Marajuana, and it was good. One of the reasons it was so good was because our parents said it was bad. We bought it in Central Park for $1 a joint. Come to think of it can you imagine buying anything today from a stranger on a street corner that you put in your mouth? It was an era of trust, even with your local drug dealer. When we needed quantity, we would sneek up to a 3rd floor walkup in SOHO at 3am, and sample serious stuff from a guy selling exotic weed by the pound. He would have bins full of all kinds of stuff, and many bodies lying around on the floor in various states of waking sleep. It was between $20 and $60 an ounce for the expensive Hawaiian, the rest was much cheaper. Did anybody really know the difference? We had trust.
We took turns having big weekend parties. Chips, pretzels, wine, cheese, whatever was put out was quickly gobbled up. We sat around in circles and passed joints around. From mouth to mouth. My kids won't even drink out of their brothers glass! We had all kinds of crazy homemade bongs going as well. We thought it made everything better. Food, (how could you go out to eat without it?). Sex. The movies. Music. The topic of discussion was always the same. Highness. Are you high? Boy..... am I high! How high are you?.... Wow...... I....... am..... so.... stoned. Are you feeling it? I'm a little buzzed now. What did you say? Giggle giggle. This went on forever. The record in the background was sometimes skipping over and over again, but no one heard it, cared, or had any energy to get up and fix it! Sometimes someone would freakout with what we called pot paranoia, and it was always because it was "bad weed". In the middle 70's the good street pot was replaced by cheap chemically laced junk. It was scary, dangerous and bad for your head, and suddenly it wasn't fun anymore. The politically correct police had us believing in the worst. Blindness, impotence, brain cancer. Then we had children, and the weed years were gone for me. I tried growing my own in the suburbs, but it just wasn't the same. How do you tell your young children about "just say no", when we said yes? I have chosen to tell my boys the whole truth about what we did. I'll let you know how it turns out.
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