Friday, August 27, 2010

A 'teenage loser' in the summer of '65

Jeff Klinkenberg, (right), in the 50's, and on a fast track to becoming a "teenage loser"

My friend Jeff Klinkenberg, who just happens to be Florida's best storyteller, demonstrates why he deserves that title with a great story in Sunday's St. Petersburg Times about teenage angst and misspent youth in Miami.
I was a teenage loser. In 1965, when I was 16, I was what the cool kids called a "fink." Being cool was beyond me. I had no car and no access to a car, which meant I was a fink who rode a bus — or even more damning in the hot-rod era — a bicycle. Girls liked dangerous boys who burned rubber, smoked Pall Malls and got in rumbles. I read Tarzan novels in my room and built Popsicle stick rafts under the bridge on Sixth Avenue. I liked to fish and catch snakes and study my pimples in the reflection of the water.
In 1965, Florida boys often had summer jobs. Rich kids parked cars at the fancy restaurants or toted golf clubs at the ritzy country clubs. I mowed lawns. On a good Saturday, I mowed half a dozen with our terrible, always-on-the-fritz Briggs & Stratton that stalled the instant it approached Mrs. Crespo's jungle of intimidating St. Augustine grass. Then I'd edge, rake and sweep for $1.50 a yard, hardly enough long green to pay for a roll or two at the bowling alley. Yes, finks liked to bowl, even if they bowled alone.
No Jeff, you were not a loser. All the "dangerous boys who burned rubber, smoked Pall Malls and got in rumbles" are in prison or dead.

Nevertheless, a great piece!

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