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Hey, Joe

"Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?"

I'm ten years old, up to bat at home plate in the middle of the street.

"Hey Joe, I said, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?"

I'm creeped out. Not more than fifty feet away, a suburban garage pulsates with noisy drums and amplified guitars (you can almost smell the overheated electrical fuse on the verge of exploding). The music is so loud that we can't hear one another shouting: "It was fair!" No! Foul ball!"

"Oh, I'm goin' down to shoot my old lady. You know..."

The rest I actually didn't know - I was too young to understand why he was goin' to shoot an old lady. But, the impact that the song made on me, the scary feeling, and scary thoughts, still come back whenever I hear the riff.* On the brighter side, the tune also magically transports me back to our baseball diamond in the intersection of Wilmette and Irving, in wonderful Westmont, Illinois, my hometown. Though my parent's house was just over the border in Clarendon Hills, I didn't grow up in that town. All of my childhood activities were in Westmont - the main street, Cass Ave., being only four blocks away; it was five blocks to "Ben Franklin's" dime store (toys! penny candy! new folders for school!); a couple more blocks got me to "Stop and Chat" for salty, swirly ice cream in a wafer cone. Memorial Park, just across the tracks, was always the destination: baseball in the summer, ice hockey in the winter. The public library was next door, until it was moved. The annual carnival event was "Pow Wow Days," in the Bank of Westmont parking lot. Today, it's "Taste of Westmont," stretching over the entire northside business district of Cass Ave., from the Burlington tracks to Chicago Ave. Westmont Central, Westmont Jr. High, and Westmont High, each in turn held a monopoly on my time, forming my early impressions of the world outside, and forming friendships that are now over fifty years strong.

It wasn't necessarily that very day, but I was eventually courageous enough to get close to the garage to see the guys playing (one of them was Tim's older brother - you remember Tim).

"...rolling, rolling, rolling on the river."

"...there's a bad moon on the rise."

I link these songs to that garage band (whether they played them or not). And whenever I hear them, it's "childhood summer," once again.

About six years later, I played in a garage band. We played in front of our high school peers, twice! And, once, in a local pub that the bass player's father owned, passing the hat (so that we became paid professionals that day). It lasted a lifetime and about a year and a half. What a fun time! If I could do it all again, I'd put some cotton in my ears when we practiced, and crack open a window to vent the smoke coming from the fuse box, otherwise, I wouldn't change a thing.

Thanks for letting me share part of my childhood summer with you. I'm hoping it brings up happy thoughts of childhood summer in your hometown. Merry Christmas!

Your friend, P

*The song is not on any of my playlists. Neither is "Riders on the Storm." It scared me, too.


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