Thursday, November 19, 2015

FLUTE THING By Peter Nolan Smith

In the Spring of 1969 I ran for president of the South Shore CYO Deanery. My older brother was the incumbent and my election was close to unanimous. Throughout the summer I met with the other officers at the CYO headquarters in Weymouth to plan out our event schedule for autumn, winter, and spring. While we were concentrating on dance and ski trips, the newly appointed moderating priest hectored us to focus on retreats and religious events to combat the temptations of Satan.

"Teenagers aren't worried about Hell or Satan."

"We're in no danger from Satan" I represented over three thousand Catholic youths in twenty-nine parishes south of the Neponset River. Teenagers were more interested in rock and roll than the Devil. None of us had short hair.

"They may not worried about their souls, but the Church is." The white-haired cleric had replaced an anti-war priest, who had been arrested by the FBI and the archdiocese of Boston had sent this fire-breather to resist further slippage of souls.

"That we know, but we've been discussing the possibility of two concerts. One in the fall and another in the winter to bring Catholic teenagers together for a celebration of youth." My apostasy had blossomed into full-blown atheism, however godlessness was considered a psychotic condition to true believers, so I hid my faithlessness under the guise of a Good Catholic.

"Concerts? That's a good idea." Father Glavine rubbed his chin and dead skin flaked from his face. "You mean like a choral performance?"

"No, a rock concert." My inner sanctum backed this plan and my parish priest was behind me.

"There will be no rock concerts on my watch." Father Glavine slammed his palm on the table. None of us flinched in our chairs. It was 1969.

"Our council has discussed the matter. We have contacted the Pilgrims. They're the most popular band on the Shore." Their heavy-set sax player blew a great flute on their cover of The Blues Project's FLUTE THING. "St. Agatha's has agreed to host the event. It's near the expressway, so we can get a good crowd. Their hall holds 800 people. We can sell tickets at $3, making the deanery a profit of $1000 after paying for the band, the hall, and the police."

"You've thought this all out without saying a word to me."

"This is our CYO and the Y stands for youth." I stood my ground and Blake, the treasurer, sold the deal by saying, "The deanery's treasury is running on vapors. We need money."

"Money. That's all anyone thinks about in this country." Father Glavine dismissively waved his hand, eying our treasurer with expectation.

"It helps the world go round." I wasn't letting Father Glavine alone with Blake. We were on to his game.

"Have your concert, but any troubles and you're out."

"Fine."

We had won our battle and scheduled the concert the first Friday of October.

My fellow officers and I blanketed the South Shore with posters. My girlfriend got a DJ to announced the show on the radio. Kyla was the cutest girl south of the Neponset River.

Father Glavine continued to berate our efforts, but we sold over 600 advance tickets, which at $3 more than covered our costs.

"This show is going to be a success." Blake had dreams about having the next show at the Surf Nantasket with a major act like The Who. It was nice to have dreams.

"Work hard and good things happen." I took everyone to the Villa Rosa in Wollaston. Pizza was $2 a pie. I paid the bill from the ticket sales.

The night of the concert we arrived early. A crowd was already at the doors. None of them looked like they belonged to the CYO.

"How many kids you expecting?" the heavy-set town cop asked surveying the long-haired rockers. I knew Officer Farren from his daughter. She was on the cheerleading squad with my girlfriend.

"800. Maybe a thousand." It was a guess.

"There's only two of us." He looked over to his steel-eyed partner. The two of them nodded in agreement. "Any problems and I'm calling the riot squad."

"This town has a riot squad?" Blake was bemused by this threat.

"No, but we could get one together in a hurry." Officer Farren had brothers in the Quincy Police. The town line was less than a mile away. He wasn't feeling funny. Moonlighting was supposed to be an easy gig.

"They'll be no trouble." My hometown was a suburb of Boston, not Altamont.

"Make sure or it's your ass not mine."

He stood on the steps with his arms crossed over his sturdy chest. His partner twirled his billyclub. They were showmen too.

Father Glavine arrived with two other priests with sinister faces.

"I wonder who tey are."

"Probably experts at keeping a space for the Holy Spirit between boys and girls dancing." Kyla smiled at my side. "They might be outnumbered tonight."

"Let's hope for the best."

And we did better than best.

Ticket sales doubled our expectations, although the fire department threatened to shut down the show. Officer Farren quieted that storm with a $100 in twenties. Beer drinking was kept outside by the cops. They knew how to handle a crowd.

The Pilgrims performed for two sets between which the DJ spun records spanning the history of rock and soul. Kids danced in the crowded auditorium without any trouble and the priest drank the beers confiscated by the police. A small disturbance broke out in the hallway between a gang from Southie and some bikers from Wollaston. I stopped it myself by telling the warring factions that the cops were on the way. Officer Farren congratulated my quick thinking.

"Always better to talk than fight."

"I agreed." Kyla hated my fighting.

For the last show the Pilgrims came back for two encores. Lenny Baker's sax on HAUNTED CASTLE left the audience in a Halloween mood, although for this evening everyone was happy with the treats instead of tricks.

The hall cleared with the lights. The hundreds of teenagers vacated the parking lot without incident. I paid the band and the cops, sticking $100 in my pocket to take care of future expenses such as taking our staff out to the Villa Rosa for pizza.

"So that went well," I said to Father Glavine, who was struggling to leave with the two drunk priests.

"Well? I saw scores of kids kissing in the corners. They told me to go away. None of them cared about God. Only rock and roll and sex. And those girls dressed more like Mary Magdalene than The Virgin Mary."

"She was a whore." Father Glavine was also drunk and wagged a finger at me. "The Cardinal will hear of this."

"Cardinal Cushing?" He read the Holy Rosary on the radio every night at 6.

"Yes, and he won't be happy. You have disgraced the Church."

"Sorry you feel that way." I almost called him a hypocrite, but Kyla came to my rescue. She was wearing a band-ad of a mini-skirt.

"Your Mary Magdalene." Father Glavine fled down the steps muttering about sin.

"He's not very happy."

"No, you can 't please everyone." Kyla held my hand. We were in love as only teenagers can be in love.

"No, and I'm not looking to please everyone either." We were on the brink of hell. I pushed my soul over the edge with a kiss and walked out the door with my crew.

The pizza was on me, but after midnight only a young girl's kiss tasted better than a slice.

To hear FLUTE THING by The Blues Project, please go to the following URL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rlmK1IFAc8

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