In 1969 I was in 11th grade at East Islip High School in East Islip, Long Island, New York.
And, as usual, I was the new kid.
See, my father lobbed resumes around the country like a guy firing the t-shirt cannon at a Bucks game. Then, every time he landed a better job, we’d get our marching orders. “Pack your stuff. We’re moving.”
Between 3rd grade and my senior year in high school – 9 years – I went to nine schools.
So, in East Islip High school, like all my other schools, I spent a lot of time on the outside looking in. I’d hear classmates talk about the parties, the dances and the bonfires I missed. And I’m not blaming anyone. Why would they invite me? I was a blip. In and out of the schools before anyone noticed.
But there’s a bright side to moving around. My family is very close; you know ‘cause half the time we were the only people we knew! 1 We saw a lot of the county. Learned some useful life skills like how to make friends fast. Junior year it was Tim, Steve, Kendall, Lucy, Marci and Toby; Toby Berkowitz. I always liked that name; Toby. Toby and I were both in chorus. We found each other online a few years ago and still stay in touch. The internet has been great for people like me who thought we didn’t have any roots.
Oh and that year, Junior year, I had the absolute coolest part time job. I worked in a factory where we did contract work pressing vinyl records. I worked in quality control. My job was to sit in a soundproof room with a set of headphones, crank the music and listen for defects in the records! OK, it was kinda lame when we were duplicating Dean Franconi’s Romantic Strings but pretty cool when we were pressing Steppenwolf or Three Dog Night.
And you might say, “Peter! How do you get a great job like that?” And I’d say, “Hey, don’t ask me, ask my father! He ran the place.”
He did something else nice for me that spring.
The factory landed a contract with Apple Records and my father brought home a box of 50 copies of the album Abbey Road by the Beatles four months before it was released! He said, “Here, you can share these with your friends.” That was a moment for celebration! 50 copies of a brand new, unreleased Beatles album was enough coin to buy me some serious attention at school. I handed a copy of Abbey Road to every one of my friends and still had 43 copies left over. I gave one to my drafting teacher. To Annette in chemistry who always smiled at me. 3 I gave one to every person who’d ever been nice to me and everyone I hoped would be nice to me Senior year.
In April of 1969, I was probably the most popular kid in my school.
Sadly, I was a one hit wonder. I didn’t have a followup album. And, about the time I ran out of my copies of Abbey Road, we got our marching orders again, “Pack your stuff, we’re moving.” I was off to be the new kid in Sumter, South Carolina.
But, I left Long Island pretty sure that there were 50 people who’d remember me every time they thought about Abbey Road.
That’s what I asked Toby. I DM’d her last week and said, “What do you remember most about me in Junior year?” She said she remembers me as a “sweet kid with a good sense of humor.” 4 “No, Abbey Road!” “The Beatles album?” Yeah, the Beatles album! I worked in the record factory. Gave you a copy of Abbey Road like four months before it was released to the public!”
Nothing. She didn’t remember a thing about it.
Which I guess says a little something about “buying” attention. She remembers me for me; but not for giving her a Beatles album!
Clearly, I should have given Toby’s copy to someone else!