“You come out of a dream, peaches and cream, lips like strawberry wine. You're sixteen, you're beautiful, and you're mine.” -Sherman/Sherman
Saturday, Aug. 24: 2:00 p.m.
It's a sweltering afternoon on the Venice Beach boardwalk. I was cruising around, absorbing the artists and performers and the cosmic crusader, when I accidentally noticed a stunning, sweet-16, bikini bambini who was sparkling in the center of a small crowd of onlookers who were watching a boardwalk artist spray painting another moonscape masterpiece.
I had not meant to stare at her. It's just that my eyes, well... they do what they please. And they were grazing upon her forbidden pasture before my brain had time to tell my eyes, “This here grain is forbidden.”
Normally, when I catch myself accidentally slobbering over teenage girls, I quickly avert my gaze so as not to scare the hell out of the poor thing, and to avoid confronting the depth to which my depravity plummets.
But today-because there was no way she could catch me ogling, and because I wanted to explore the depth to which my depravity would plummet-I kept staring.
She was standing in front of me and to the right. So oblivious to my existence was she that I fearlessly laid my eyeballs directly upon her, delighting in this glorious, unobstructed view; drunk by her pulp and the ocean brine and the staggering waft of paint fumes and her long ruby hair-saturated with red, red, red, shining on her scalp like a bleeding mop-and I was at once reminded of Lisa, Charles Bukowski's red-headed inamorata from his Notes of a Dirty Old Man...
“... With long red hair all down her back;
Jesus, tons of red miracle...
And the body was nothing but SEX...”
Such were my thoughts when the shit hit the fan.
For, her mother-to my horror-was to the side of the crowd, unbeknownst to me, glaring at me, loathing me with the ferocity of the mothers of the disappeared.
The mother shoved me aside, grabbed her daughter, blurted “Pervert,” and yanked the girl away.
Utter shame then.
All inside me I could feel bottoms falling out: the bottom of my stomach, the bottom of my bladder, my heart, liver, spleen-the bottom fell out of every organ, every vessel, every cell-and plummeted downward, into my legs, which then collapsed on themselves-each leg a crumbling tower-and the sky grew dark as the cloud of demolition mushroomed upward, and all I wanted was to leap out of the windows of my eyeballs to escape the conflagration within.
As the mother dragged the girl away, the daughter glowered at me with a look that only a woman–no matter the age–knows how to give. And I am reminded of what Lisa told Bukowski...
“You are a diseased gorilla” she said,
“An under-grown, aged gorilla dying of cancer.”
To make matters worse, the crowd had heard the mother call me a pervert, and now they were muttering and murmuring in the kinds of stark, un-hushed tones that precede a lynching.
I darted away before the noose arrived...
Now, I understand perfectly, why-during the Summer of Samantha Runnion-a mother would be protective of her teenage daughter. But I will never understand mob rule. And this rabble was swollen; ripening on the vine of salty August heat, noxious paint fumes and the fear and hate of a media feeding frenzy that was and is the Summer of Sam.
And that, my friends, is an anatomy of a witch-hunt.
First off, I am not a “pervert”: not in a thousand years would I have approached her or touched her (or pulled her close, whispered sweet lovelets into her ear).
Secondly, I am not a “pervert”: A perversion is an aberration. My actions were normal. All men are rapt by the sight of a beautiful young thing-whether they avert their gaze or not.
Question: How come nobody wanted to lynch Ringo Starr when his song, “You're Sixteen,” topped the charts?
Answer: Because there was no pedophilia media frenzy at the time.
Thirdly, I am not a “pervert”: Maybe what I felt wasn't lust at all. Perhaps it was mourning. Mourning over my own childhood abduction, when Time-the original kidnapper-snatched my youth and ran away like wild horses over the hills.
So you want to call me a dirty old man? Fine. Just be blowing me when you say it. Because I will not apologize for that which, for whatever reason, was instilled within me. Nor will I bury it so it can fester and emerge as a speech tick or a heart murmur or-Santa Maria mother of Jesus help me-a Creed song running around in my head. Thanks anyway, but I'd rather be lynched.