Rubén


 

 

Would you believe I never took guitar lessons?
He sure plays a mean guitar. Guitar Hero, that is!

When I lived in Back of the Yards, I met a wide variety of Mexicans. Rubén Martínez was an unusual acquaintance of mine in that he was more the friend of a friend rather than a direct friend. He always seemed so full of energy for someone who was always high. He looked like your typical drug burnout with shoulder length hair that he parted down the middle.

In the seventies, no one wanted to part their hair in the middle lest anyone think that they smoked pot. Rubén, however, always parted his hair down the middle to flaunt the fact that he was a burnout and smoked pot. And he wore a miniature coke spoon around his neck just in case the occasion to get high on cocaine presented itself. Because of the thousands of people like Rubén, McDonald’s had to change their coffee stirrer from a little spoon on a long stem because people like Rubén used it to snort coke, to a flat paddle and later a small straw. Needless to say, he was always high and always looking to get higher. Sometimes he wouldn’t even respond to his own name. I once had to explain to him that he was Rubén and that’s why people who wanted to talk to him called his name. He was too high to understand me, though.

Anyway, thanks to Rubén, I attended my first rock concert. Led Zeppelin came to Chicago in January of 1975 and word was out that all the tickets would sell out immediately. We went to old Chicago Stadium box office about two hours before it opened at 10:00 a.m. We didn’t want to oversleep the time of the first ticket sales, so we stayed up all night drinking wine. We also contemplated doing immoral and illegal deeds, but we decided against that in order to buy the Led Zeppelin tickets without incident.

When we arrived at the ticket office at 8:00 a.m., we were tired, but determined to obtain tickets. I drove my 1975 Pontiac Firebird as close to the box office as the police permitted me. Rubén collected our ticket money and ran toward the Stadium like a deranged lunatic. Several policemen tried to stop him, but he dodged them, jumped onto the hood of their unmarked police car, then to the car roof, before leaping to the front of the ticket line. When he dissolved into the crowd, the police stop chasing him. We waited patiently for him in my Firebird that was parked a block away, but within view of the ticket office. An elderly woman, perhaps the grandmother of one of the expectant concertgoers, passed out hot chocolate from a thermos into Styrofoam cups. About four hours later, Rubén emerged from the ticket office with six concert tickets! We were going to see Led Zeppelin in concert!

When we went to the concert, I was shocked that everyone was smoking pot. I had never smoked pot in my life, but I got high just breathing in the concert air. I’ll never forget my first concert!

The last time I saw Rubén was at that Led Zeppelin concert, partying, getting high, and bouncing his head to the music. Years later, I heard that he was arrested several times for drug sales. He finally made the big time and was arrested for a million dollar drug bust. For me, he just vanished into the crowd of drug dealers and addicts, never to emerge again.

High on LSD


This sign is not on Lake Shore Drive.

As long as I now have your attention, I would like to inform you that, yes, indeed, I am still high from my drive this morning on Lake Shore Drive. That’s LSD as in the acronym for Lake Shore Drive and not the hallucinogenic drug (for those of you who are actually high on LSD).

I have always loved cruising on LSD! I mean, Lake Shore Drive. I love it! LSD begins/ends at Hollywood on the north end; I’m not sure where it begins/ends on the south end because every time I passed the Museum of Science and Industry, I would mysteriously find myself NOT on LSD.

There is something very relaxing about driving on Chicago’s lakefront on beautiful, sunny day. I have so many fond memories to my earliest driving days of speeding on LSD in my buccaneer red 1975 Pontiac Firebird in 1975 when I was only 18. Whenever I felt depressed, or extremely happy for that matter, I would cruise up one end of LSD and then back to the other, for no practical reason other than it was FUN! You see, I loved driving my car! Despite all the usual problems of an eighteen year old, I drove a brand new Firebird that I bought all by myself!

Every time I drove on LSD, I played special driving songs on my car 8-Track player: “I’m in Love with my Car” by Queen, “Ventura Highway” by America, “Highway Star” by Deep Purple, “AutoBahn” by Kraftwerk, and of course, “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta, Haynes, and Jeremiah. LSD was so soothing since I was under so much stress at the time. I was unhappy at home, I worked full-time on the midnight shift at the Derby Foods peanut butter factory while I was still in high school. Driving was a nice emotional release from all my problems.

So this morning as I’m driving on LSD, I had this incredible flashback to the days of my youth when I was to know what it meant to be a man. Oops, I just quoted Led Zeppelin, another favorite of mine. I kind of miss my 8-track player now.

Nostalgia in the future


Passionate about nostalgia on the radio!

I have reached that age where everything reminds me of the past. Listening to the radio, I remember what I was doing when I heard the song the first time years ago. It reminds me of how I used to be and who I wanted to be, but somehow I realize that I haven’t changed all that much, and in some ways, I’m still the same boy deep down inside. When I hear an old song on the radio again, I still like (or hate) the song as much as I did back then. I recognize some songs after only three or four notes.

My sons are amazed that I recognize those old songs on the radio. I told them, “You know how you listen to some songs over and over again? Well, I used to do the same thing when I was your age!” And that’s why the songs remind me of my youth. And that reminds me of a Led Zeppelin song whose title I can’t recall: “In the days of my youth, / I was taught what it means to be a man,” which in turn reminds me of my first car and my first “real” girlfriend of that time period and how I almost lost my virginity while listening to Led Zeppelin. But that’s a blog post for another day.

My present didn’t quite turn out the way I expected. Perhaps, I should start creating some good memories now so that I may have some good nostalgia in the future. When I recall my past memories of how I expected I would be now, my nostalgia sure hasn’t lived up to my expectations, in the past or now. I should have thought of my past for the future in the past and not now in the present where I regret not having created better memories for my future in the past. I wish I could go back in time and do things focusing more on the future. But that’s all water under the bridge now. There’s no use crying over spilled milk.

Sometimes when I wax nostalgic, I wonder why no one uses the word “wax” (as in “to increase in size, numbers, strength, prosperity, or intensity”) anymore. I also wonder why when I refer to the waxing and waning of the moon, I get some strange stares. In fact, the other day I was waiting in line at the supermarket when I was thinking about the cycles of the moon and I accidentally uttered, “I enjoy the waxing and waning of the moon” out loud. Suddenly, I was all alone in the front of the line facing a nervous cashier! They probably didn’t know what I meant by “wax.” I should be more careful when and where I wax nostalgic.

In the future, I would like to recall the past with fond memories of my present “present.” In the future, no more regretting the past and loathing the present. Because today is the first day of the rest of my life!