The four of us had some diverse interests, and I honestly wonder sometimes in retrospect how we became such a tight quartet (other than, y'know, all being white and male and straight and middle class in the same grade at the same school). I suppose rather than one huge and specific unifying element there were lots of little overlapping connections. Let us for the sake of argument call these childhood chums of mine Kingsley (our host in the Victorian), Boomer (who lived in the replica of my house) and Scud (who lived in the apartment). All three of them were athletes, Scud and Boomer played soccer together, Boomer and Kingsley had been in Little League together (though by high school Kingsley was focused on the golf and bowling teams), whereas I never played organized sports in my life. Scud and I had both been in the school band together since junior high and liked a lot of the same music (classic rock and heavy metal), and Kingsley also appreciated at least half the same bands, while Boomer (despite being one of the whitest of white people in my thoroughly whitebread blue collar town) was way more into R&B (I swear in fifth grade Boomer’s favorite music acts were Prince and New Edition). Kingsley and I were both deeply into comic books and Dungeons & Dragons, Scud also liked D&D, not so much comics but read a lot of the same fantasy novels I did (Donaldson and Feist and whatnot), and Boomer was willing to play D&D now and then. I’m painting the picture (accurately, at that) that I had more in common with Kingsley and Scud, but Boomer was the one I had known the longest, basically from the day that I started at a new school midway through fourth grade when my parents moved to New Jersey.
One thing we unanimously agreed on was horror movies, which kind of blows some of my previous theories all to hell and gone because, as I’ve outlined, we had lots of different tastes. Maybe just being young, male and hormonal overrode other aesthetic considerations or dictates of our personalities. But I watched a lot of horror flicks during no-special-occasion Friday night sleepovers at Kingsley’s house, during the golden age of VCRs and mom-and-pop rental stores. It’s where I saw The Exorcist for the first time. It’s also where I saw numerous pieces of total trash not even worth remembering the names of. That’s probably the best way to develop a taste for horror, or at least have positive associations with it: experiencing it with your friends, at slumber parties, where when the lights go out and you’re trying to get to sleep you don’t feel as completely freaked out because you’re not alone.
The other thing that stands out in my minds about those nights is the sheer amount of food we would put away. We would order at least three pizzas (at the risk of sounding like That Jersey Guy, these were not 5 dollar Domino’s medium pizzas, either, but substantial large New York style pies) and also pick up an extra-large bag of Ruffles or Doritos, a 1-lb. bag of M&M’s, and multiple two-liters of Coke. And in the morning it would all be gone. Kingsley was in fact a hella-big guy, over six feet tall and notably girthsome, but he only barely out-consumed me and Scud and Boomer. Oh, the youthful metabolism.
You might think I’m reminiscing about these halcyon days because I’ve been thinking about horror movies lately, or because it’s Friday, but I think honestly the metabolism angle is the one that’s most resonant right now. Last night I gorged not on horror movies but on Community, since the show’s early-spring hiatus combined with various network scheduling concerns led to the final three episodes being shown in a single night. (I confess to slight trepidation going in, that I would somehow get bored of too much Community, but I’m happy to report that all three eps were fan-freaking-tastic.) The evening also included some gustatory indulgences: due to a variety of circumstances, the family ended up eating out last night (I had the create-your-own-pasta special), while later on at home on the couch I shared a bottle of rioja with my wife and treated myself to a diet fudgsicle. Not exactly five or six slices of pizza, a quarter pound of M&M’s and a small trough of soda, granted, and neither did we stay up until the sky was getting light, as my wife and I were in bed by about 10:30. But I was feeling it this morning in every way, carbs-hangover and wine-fuzziness and alarm clock going off way too soon. Really almost entirely the opposite of those bygone nights of idle amusement, but my brain (with its perverse love of contrasts) made the connection all the same. Times change, oh yes they do. You can’t rely on that teenage metabolism to keep on running forever, but at least I enjoyed it while I had it.