Wild World

After seeing Bonnie Raitt in concert for the first time last week at the Linda Ronstadt Music Hall, formerly named Tucson Music Hall, it brought back a memory from almost half a century ago of the only other concert that I’d ever seen there.

It was probably 1974, and the artist was Cat Stevens who was born Steven Demetre Georgiou in 1948 to a Greek Orthodox father and Baptist mother and went to a Roman Catholic parochial school and later after an humiliating very public jilting by a then famous Boston stripper to whom he was briefly engaged at the height of his pop star fame followed by his near drowning in the Mediterranean Sea our much loved “Cat” converted to Islam, renamed himself Yusuf Islam, moved to Iran, married, sired offspring, then endorsed the fatwa on Salman Rushdie issued by the satanic madman Ayatollah Khomeini (who is most likely barking in hell right now), and later made a comeback in recent years as an old muslim, ex hippie, rock & roller, with very few of us still remembering all this history. Ironic, isn’t it, that the author of “Peace Train” should have such a horrific detour in what was once such a love, peace, joy, and groovy existence, huh?

But I digress.

Back in 1974, I was just trying to work up the nerve to ask Cheri Ney, the pretty girl who I had a crush on in high school, to go with me to see Cat Stevens in Tucson, a ninety minute drive south on the freeway from our hometown in Tempe, Arizona.

It was in some nondescript study hall with the teacher giving our class time to work together in groups while he went to the teachers’ lounge for a much needed smoke or drink or something.

It was me, the long haired stoner editor of our high school newspaper who wore bell bottom jeans, ruby red platform shoes, bright floral hippy shirt, and rose-colored glasses, all standard regalia for the mid-1970s, pretty Cheri, her best friend Dawn Lloyd who was even prettier than Cheri and way the hell out of my league but who once kissed me a few years later at a Jerry Riopelle concert on the stroke of midnight during a New Year’s Eve at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix when she was dancing up the aisle and we suddenly found ourselves face to face with me in my aisle seat without a date at the wonderfully fortuitous moment of 12 o’clock on the morning of a very Happy New Year! Dawn recognized me from high school, and blessed she me with her sweet lips in a moment of sheer coincidence and grace . . . but that’s a story for another time and I again digress. Anyway, with us was my friend who was a jazz guitarist but whose name I can’t now remember.

Still working up the nerve to ask Cheri to go with me to see Cat Stevens, I just casually mentioned that I had two tickets to the Tucson concert. Cheri said, “Oh, I LOVE Cat Stevens!” Dawns eyes brightened too. My friend who knew that I had a crush on Cheri blurted out, “HEY MARK, ask Cheri if she wants to go with you!”

An awkward moment ensued.

I hesitated, bleeding out all my little self confidence in seconds.

Cheri waited a second more, perhaps horrified that I might ask her out, perhaps confused by my hesitation, perhaps truthfully speaking the lie she then spoke, “Oh I have something else that night.”

I hadn’t even said what night the concert was.

I ended up asking the plainer but very buxom hippie chick from my government class. We had a great time smoking doobies down the freeway in my father’s station wagon, really digging Cat Stevens at the height of his musical genius and virtuosity and sublime poetry, laughing and talking about our favorite songs on the drive back, and finally sharing a sweet gentle kiss at her door when we arrived home after midnight the next day. For some stupid reason, I never asked her out again. I can’t even remember this young woman’s name as I write this.

When I told Karen this story last week, she seemed wholly uninterested.

Women . . . what man can figure them out?


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