Monkey see, and, alas, Monkey will do

The fool showed up uninvited to the Wildwood, NJ, beach house and created a mess good folk hardly talk about now-a-days. He sat “Indian-style” on the living room rug with Billy Kane, both about the same age, 18 to 19. There were two or three other guys drinking beer as Billy passed ‘em around. And then Kane “barfed” on the fool. Threw up onto the fool’s bare legs uncovered by the summer shorts he wore. “Kanie,” as we called the one who “likes his brew,” smiled a devilishly Irish grin, before offering a fake apology. The fool said nothing. We thought he would take offense by Kanie’s antics, something he had done for laughs before among those who liked his raunchy sense of humor.

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Like the time Kanie was auditioning to perform on television with his singing group, “The Five Jaunts,” an a cappella group that entertained “Under the Boardwalk” and “Up on the Roof” near the row houses back home in Brewerytown, a working class section of North Philadelphia. Kanie let loose with a stinker. I mean, it was so bad, the statue of William Penn standing atop City Hall turned and faced another direction. One by one, each singing group member began to notice. “Ew,” the first tenor, Jimmy Hubmaster said, with nose scrunched up making the universal expression something smelled bad. Carl Disler, our baritone, was more stoic-looking, but did glance in Kanie’s direction. The noxious fume finally hit me, and I stopped singing bass altogether, backing away from the ripe one’s air space. Joe Cleary, the lead singer, yelled at us for fooling around but laughed when we explained what happened. Trouble is, Kanie had little control over the expulsion. It was one of those you really should “never trust,” as Jack Nicholson said in the movie, the “Bucket List.” He let out a “wet one,” moments before we were to meet in the house of Super Lou, a local disc jockey, who would decide whether we were gifted enough to appear on his weekly teenage dance show on that newly created UHF station, Channel 29, owned by Taft Broadcasting. The smell lingered with Kane as Super Lou answered the knock at his Greater NorthEast Philadelphia home, introducing us individually to his wife before being escorted into the kitchen. Did he move away from the group because of Kanie’s aroma? Could not tell, but hoped Lou would remain far enough “downwind“ to enjoy the singing without noticing any unfavorable fragrances. We sang two songs, both of which we practiced for nearly a year on street corners and in Kanie’s cellar at 28th and Poplar. Super Lou liked us. Gave us the “okay” and we performed a week or two later, with nary a hint that he picked up on Kane’s calling card.

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The fool back in Wildwood said nothing about Kanie’s behavior, but went into the bathroom, closed the door and apparently cleaned off the mess. He returned with a wad of toilet paper in his hand. Taking aim at Kanie, he threw its contents at the unapologetic and still smiling Kanie. It was “Scota.” Landed on Kanie’s bare chest and fell to the floor where he still held his beer can. Kanie looked down, gathered up the projectile, and threw it back, missing the fool and hitting another beer swiller. All hell broke loose, as crap got tossed throughout the room, landing on furniture, rugs and the drapes. Not sure how it ended up on the front screen door, but the “shit hit the fan,” so to speak when Monica, the most prim and proper (can anyone say “tight” as in “up-tight”) person I’ve even known, opened the door, asking about the substance clinging to the screen, when something flew her way, and she screamed upon recognizing it.

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The fool left, and was not seen by Kanie and the gang for more than three decades. I think about him when I marvel at how far I’ve progressed, and how great humans have climbed the evolutionary ladder. Actually, we had nowhere to go but up, from when a fool showed how much a monkey we still could be.

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