“Where’s the party?”
At Palisades High in the late ‘70s, everything was about status. From your jeans to your preferred radio station or your brand of cigarettes, every choice was critical and every mistake had consequences. But in the hierarchy of cool, knowing where the parties were by the last bell on Friday, was a surefire way to establish your rank. In order to possess this sacred knowledge, reliable sources were essential. Being a Gemini with a journalism career in her sights, reconnaissance was second nature.
I had friends in high places. I had friends in low places. When I wasn’t in class or ditching class I was typically planted in the unsanctioned official smoking section at the front of the campus. I read Shakespeare for fun, played tournament tennis, kept pace with the biggest stoners and knew the lyrics to every Led Zeppelin song. I was a social chameleon, able to hold my own among top-tier overachievers and absolute fuck-ups alike. The only kids I didn’t gel with were the theater geeks (Forest Whitaker and Penelope Ann Miller among them.)
Junior High had been a horror film and I was perfectly cast as its leading reject during my final semester. I had one friend that wasn’t a book or a record and she was equally awkward. Lunch period was usually spent alone, crouched behind a tree on an ivy-covered slope as far away as I could crawl from all signs of life, but still on the right side of the chain link fence. I was Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club sans dandruff.
I spent much of that summer before high school locked in my bedroom deeply contemplating my social deficits, fantasizing about Robert Plant and wishing I was someone else. Someone with Stevie Nicks’ hair, Susan Dey’s figure and a boy in the band. One hazy day that cruel summer, I replaced the tobacco in my parents’ cigarettes with oregano, snuck a couple a swigs from their well-stocked bar and proceeded to lock my door, empty my closet and take stock in front of the full-length mirror.