Fern (is an adult)

A7 Club, New York City.

Fern (is an adult)

It’s 1978, I’m in New York City on Spring Break from some prep school in New Hampshire. The Ramones and Talking Heads are taking music in a new direction. I’m a freshman in high school and I’m spending the night with my sister and her boyfriend, Win. They have set me up on a blind date. It’s a joke. Except it’s also serious. She’s going to take me out to A7 a club at 112 Avenue A, “The birthplace of hardcore.”

Do you you want to get high, she said the second we escaped the grilling from my sister and her boyfriend. “Sure,” I said. I took the skunky blunt from her hand, noticing the hot red lipstick, and I inhaled as if my life depended on it. I coughed for a bit. We both laughed. There was no pressure. I mean, she was six feet tall with shocking red hair to match the lipstick, high lace-up Doc Martin’s, some plaid highwater pants, and a CBGB’s t-shirt. She was six or seven years older and probably doing Win a favor by taking “the boy” out of the flat for a few hours.

I floated arm in arm the 15 blocks of the fresh March evening. The air was crisp and smelled of Greek food and piss. I could not have been happier in my life. Fern was hilarious. She was trying to make me feel like I was a real prospect for her. She was flirty, touchy, and feely. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get laid or beat up. Not by her, by some riff-raff we’re passing on the street.

The pot kicked in and I could hear music in my head as we skipped the last few blocks to the club. The line snaked around the corner. It was a tiny club. The punk was shimmering out into the night. Everyone in line was smoking a joint or a cigarette. We were all electrified with the drugs, the music, and the night of adventure ahead.

Fern and I kissed a little while we were in line. She had to take her gum out. She put it back in. “Nice,” she said. “You’re a good kisser.” 1o-minutes and a few blunt hits later, we were inside. She held my hand tightly and pulled me into the crowd toward the stage. My eyes were watering the music was so loud. There was no talking. The few times I tried to tell her something, she leaned down and put her ear right in my face, and “nothing.” She raised her hands in the universal symbol for “I don’t know.”

The sweat and mayhem was infectious. Hopefully, not infectious. There was zero room to move and everyone was moving. The music was awful and awfully loud. I tried counting my blessings. I wadded up a paper napkin and made bad earplugs. That helped a little.

For just one second I felt like I was falling. Then like I was in some science fiction movie where everyone in the club were lesbians, and I was the only hetero male in NYC. Fern bounced and smiled and offered me the joint a few more times, but she could see I was gonzo. Just shy of drooling in the corner, I stayed close to Fern’s side, grabbing onto her arm. I was afraid of falling. Afraid of losing my shit. Afraid of what this pounding thrash was going to force me to do. I needed to get out. I wanted to go home.

But, home was a distant concept at this point. My mom had sold our family home and moved to NYC while I attended a fancy prep school. My sister already lived in NY and was making a living as a painter, both fine art and house varieties. Her boyfriend was a sculptor. I had no idea where his money was coming from, but he owned the flat, so that was impressive.

Fern basically dropped me off around 1 a.m. and continued on her merry way. She was meeting friends at yet another tiny deafening club. I was happy to crawl onto the air mattress my sister had set up in the corner of the living room. They had given me a key. I didn’t hear them, so I made myself a glass of water curled up into a ball, and tried to sleep off the vibrating ringer in the center of my brain. I couldn’t shut it down.

Fortunately, the Sony Walkman had been introduced and my sister had afforded me this new “holy fuck” experience. I pulled out a Lou Reed tape, Transformer, and proceeded to lose what was left of my mind for the next few hours until I lost consciousness. I woke to the sound and smell of freshly ground and brewed coffee. There was no milk. Fuck. I would have to fend for myself.

I had no plans for the afternoon. I only had the scent of Fern’s kisses on my neck. I could still feel her hand if I closed my eyes. I’d never been on an adult date. It was when she started smoking cigarettes that I knew I needed to bolt. She seemed okay about it. It was a lark for her. It was the beginning of my adventure into kissing and things beyond. I’ll never forget the blast of those guitar chords in the club the size of a shitty apartment. I called Dwight my roommate from prep school, who lived in some fancy part of New Jersey, and he agreed to come to “the city” for lunch.

A7 club new york city 1979

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