Thursday, May 14, 2015

First Chapter... 30 Years Ago

I think I've mentioned more than once that I wrote a book.  To date, it hasn't been published.  I bring this up because yesterday, May 13, is the 30th anniversary of the event that leads off the book.  On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police stormed a fortified house in west Philadelphia occupied by a radical group called MOVE.  More information can be found HERE.

The first chapter of my book (which I think I posted on my Myspace blogs) takes place that night.  And it all happened exactly as I wrote it down.  The dates, times, everything were written down in my journal.  And this night is etched in my brain.

So here it is: the first chapter of my book, telling a tale now thirty years old.   The headline next to the date is from the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper.


Chapter 1.1: Black out
Monday, May 13, 1985:  “Police prepare to evict MOVE”

That night, the whole city burned.  The explosions started years before, but the bomb dropped that afternoon.  The concussion bomb fell from a police helicopter onto the concrete bunker, built to hold off an army, resting on the roof of a house in a west Philly neighborhood.  The night sky glowed orange against the low clouds of black smoke.
All of this we knew by watching the news- the reporters were orgasmic at the spectacle.  Now three full residential blocks were engulfed in flames.  MOVE, a heavily-armed “back to nature” group, builders of the bunker, was finished.
That was all great, but for me, lying on the floor of my darkened dorm thirty blocks east, it was not much comfort.  My room was about a hundred yards down the street from the original MOVE house, bulldozed by the police after the first shootout that killed an officer back in 1978.  Our dorm was new, but the surrounding buildings were spattered with bullet holes.  The locals were very pro-MOVE, and very pissed off.
Our R.A., Tyra, told us to strip the mattresses from our beds and lean them against the windows, turn off the lights and lie on the floor.  We were in a blackout; hoping that the mob would sweep past the building if we played dead. 
Outside, the chants were loud and bloodthirsty. 
“Fuck the Police!”
Windows shattered.  Gunfire punctuated their rage.
And this is college, Lance.  This is higher education in 1985.
My roommate “Ripper” and I lay on our floor, staring at the plaster ceiling.  Ripper was short- five foot eight at best.  He had an extremely boyish face which would’ve been more at home on a thirteen year old.  However, he was powerfully built: sculpted like a bodybuilder or a pro football player.  No one doubted he could kick ass.  Well, he could kick all of our wimpy asses anyway.  Ripper also had a dry sense of humor aided by a voice with the character of a deep dial tone.
A radio was playing in Mark and Tom’s room across the hall.  “We are the World” ended for the zillionth time, and the DJ came on.
            “We have news that the Boss is hitched!  That’s right- Bruce Springsteen has married his girlfriend Julianne Phillips today in a secret ceremony that everyone thought would happen tomorrow!  Way to go, Boss!  This one’s for you!”
Springsteen’s song “I Want to Marry You” drifted through the darkness.
Little girl, I wanna marry you
Oh yeah, little girl, I wanna marry you
Yes I do
Little girl, I wanna marry you
“She’s so hot!” drooled Ripper.
“Oh yeah!  Did you see her in that 38 Special video?” I replied.
“Which one?”
“The one with the horses.  Damn!  What’s it called?  I’ll think of it.”
“Just goes to show that an average guy with tons of bucks and a band can still score a hot model.  Look at Billy Joel!” Ripper smirked.
“If I’d Been the One” I almost shouted.
“If I’d been the One.  That’s the 38 Special video she’s in.”
“Oh yeah.  I’m bored.  Want to go to the study lounge?  There’s bound to be people there”
We crawled out our door then slowly felt our way down the darkened hallway wall to the study lounge at the end of the hall, where ten others were lying on the floor- some panicked, some re-assuring, all terrified.  We were on the 3rd floor, far above the crowd, but what was to stop them from coming in the dorm and looting?  Like a bunch of engineering students could stop an armed mob.
Back down the hall the radio started playing another newish overplayed song by Katrina and the Waves.  It was bouncy, happy, perky, poppy, and I just wanted to kick the singer in the teeth as she cheered “I’m walking on sunshine!  Wuh-oh!  And don’t it feel good!”  I groaned and put my head down in my arms.
Abbie was the first one to get the joke.  She started giggling to herself, then bouncing around singing the song in her nasal Cherry Hill accent, her long black hair flailing with her arms.

We all then saw the absurdity of this song playing while we  were laying on the floor of a darkened study lounge hoping that the bloodthirsty mob outside didn’t kill us.  By the end of the song, we were all singing along and rolling about the brown carpeted floor like idiots.

The dorm where this took place, circa 1986

No comments:

Post a Comment