This story is told through the eyes of four characters about their lives during the early sixties and late seventies.
"I'm Alvin Goldsteen also known as Flirty Al. I want to tell you about my all about myself from my childhood to my stint in the 1960s psychedelic rock group The Lone Wolves. I want to start with telling you a little bit about my childhood. I was born on May 28, 1955 in the Brunette Hill neighborhood of Katie Springs, New York. I am mixed with English ancestry on my mothers side and African American on my fathers. I have one older brother named Jason Goldsteen. We're are half brothers because we had different fathers. While living in New York between 1955 and 1962 living with Jason was pure hell. The only saving grace was that I helped my mother around the house. Jason was unreliable and a troublemaker. He was always outside hanging with the neighborhood kids getting into trouble."
"I was very active in school, I was in the drama club. I performed in community plays usually taking the opposite roles of the lead. I felt that by doing that I would be setting a foundation for future endeavors in theatre and film. My father died while I was an infant which left her a widow. Jason's father left as soon has he learned she was pregnant which is unforgivable. So I believe that Jason was acting out partially because of it. Honestly his behavior towards my mother and I were inexcusable. Jason would always beat me up when mother was away at work. But I always fought back regardless of how much bigger he was than me. In 1961 my mother lost her house and we relocated to the southern tier of New York and settled in Queens. There were nights when my mother would be frightened and scream in her sleep."
"I would comfort her back to sleep like a son should. I never knew why she was screaming but would soon find out. Being from western New York and the quietness we were used to Queens was definitely a contrast. People everywhere and it was busy. My mother always had a vehicle but it was so hectic at times that she would catch a cab or take the subway to work. While she was away I took charge of the house. I didn't care that Jason and I were three years apart because responsibility didn't have a age requirement. But responsibility was something she instilled in us and I applied it to my everyday life. Jason started experimenting with drugs as early as six years old. My mother would beat him and take to psychiatrist and rehabilitation centers but nothing seemed to work. Eventually my mother threw in the towel as far as Jason's drug experimentation but reared him in everything else that valued important."
"I remember when in September of 1961 when I was six years I would beaten up by Jason and his friends. They drug me into the street and left me there. I was almost hit by a car but I got up in time. I couldn't believe my own brother would try and get me killed. I never thought he despised me so much that he would go to such great lengths to try and kill me. I told my mother and she beat and had me step outside the room while she disciplined him. I noticed that after every beating he got he would beat me harder every time we fought. He took a brazing iron and burned my arm. I retaliated by grabbing a large butchers knife and cut him across his chest. He left me alone for the next few months after that but the verbal antagonism didn't stop. I wrote my first song at six called A Fathers Light. When I sang it to my mother that was my first singing experience. My mother was a contralto so she knew what my vocal range was just by hearing it. Jason was jealous because of my singing and dancing abilities. I remember time in 1962 when I was taking a shower Jason turned off the hot water and I had to bathe in ice cold water. When I dressed myself for bed I went and spoke to Jason about the cold water. He quickly denied my claims of him turning off the hot water. I decided against telling my mother because she was already stressing on how she was going to make rent, lights and water. I felt so helpless."
"Despite being a child I wanted help her because being financially limited was not fun. There were nights when I would see my mother dressed in skimpy outfits. I would see men dropping her off. Jason told me that I had to accept that our was a whore. I told him that she was not that and watched her come upstairs. When we were inside my mother hugged me. I hugged her back and I felt tears stain my shirt. My mother was crying which was something I never saw her do. She made two cups of coffee and she talked about how she may have a steady job. I was too young to understand but one thing I knew, a job meant financially stability and more breathing room. She started work that Friday. I cooked baked fish and salad and along with lemon iced tea. I knew that since she was working having a hot meal and clean house would bring my mother a great peace of mind. When she came home I hung her coat up and led her to the kitchen."
She sat down and I poured her a glass of iced tea. She savored in the flavor and told me it was delicious. I glowed from her compliment and ate dinner with her. She asked me where Jason was and I told her I didn't know. She sighed heavily and walked into her bedroom and showered. I washed the dishes, showered and went to bed. We didn't attend church because my mother believed them to be hypocrites. The following Monday morning I found two of Jason's friends asleep next to me. I woke them up and told them to get out of my room. They didn't budge so I pushed them both out of my bed. I made my bed and went to shower. When I came out an hour later they were gone. I went and questioned Jason. He said that needed a place to crash. I asked him if mother knew about this and he said no. Fortunately mother was standing in the doorway. Jason looked dumbfounded and lost. She asked what they were doing here and he said that they didn't have a place to crash."
"She said that she didn't care to never invite anyone to her house again. Jason huffed and went back to bed. My mother and I walked to the kitchen and had a cup of coffee together. There was an hour before school and I was already dressed. Jason was still in the bathroom showering. Mother yelled that he better not be late because she wasn't driving him. Thirty minutes later Jason came out dressed with backpack on. My mother greeted him and he ignored her. She reprimanded him and told him that when an adult speaks to him he speaks back. He sighed and said good morning. He didn't acknowledge me but I still told him good morning. Soon the bus arrived and I kissed mother goodbye and headed out the door. As I took my seat Jason's friends threw paper balls at me. Instead of retaliating I ignored them and looked out the window. I was thinking about what would life be like outside of New York. I was thinking about a place like California or Washington state. When we arrived at school I stepped off the bus and entered the building. I didn't have any friends there. I was an outcast due to my biracial background. I didn't mind it because it was something I couldn't help. I walked to the cafeteria and helped myself to some cinnamon rolls and apple juice."
"I loved sweet breakfast food and cinnamon rolls and iced glazed donuts were my favorite. Jason was around the cafeteria somewhere. I sat at my usual table alone and ate alone. The teachers tried to get me to open to the other students but I didn't want to because I knew the results. Plus I liked being alone it was less drama and chaos. When the bell rang I headed to class. I sat in class and took notes. We had a mathematics test. Math was my best subject and history was my weakest. When I finished which was thirty-five minutes later I handed in my test. I received my grade immediately. I scored a ninety-six. For the remainder of the day we had recess which was when I sat alone at the playground bench writing songs. I never fell in love so I wrote songs about struggle and dealing with ignorant people. I never showed anyone what I wrote because it would cause a political uproar. A teacher was walking in my direction and I quickly put my lyrics in my pocket."
"When he sat down he asked me why I wasn't interacting with the other children. I looked at him and said that I didn't want to and that no one understand me except my mother. He said that I'll never know unless I tried. I never took him up on that and remained on the bench writing after he left me be. When recess ended I got up and lined up with the rest of the class. One of the white boys in my class pushed me to the ground and called me mulatto. I gritted my teeth and rose to my feet. I turned around and punched him in his face. I saw blood grace my knuckles for the first time when he stumbled back. Somebody told the teacher that I broke the students nose and was sent to the principal's office at the end of the day. My mother came up to the school and asked me what happened. I told her that another student pushed me and called me a mulatto. Her facial expression went from worry to anger immediately. She asked where the other student was and the principal said that he was the nurse's office."
"She asked if he received punishment for his actions and the principal said no, and he was wearing a smile. My mother took my hand and said that if I were sent here again for defending myself she would raise hell the next time she came. She took my hand and we left the school. When we got to the car we saw Jason already standing there. He was leaning on the, and he looked annoyed. We got in the car and Jason asked me what happened. I told him that I was attacked by another student for being different and I defended myself. He said that I should learn to keep my head down because we lived in a time when biraciality wasn't accepted. I told him I didn't care and that everyone has something that's different about them whether its there skin or whatever. When we got home when mother was out of earshot Jason told me he was ashamed to be my brother because I was mixed with African American ancestry."
"I told him he didn't have to talk to me for this rest of his life. He said that as wonderful as that sounded he couldn't because we lived together. I went to my room and sat at my desk. I grabbed a framed picture of my father. I held to my chest and cried. He was gone forever and I was fatherless. I envied the fact that Jason had a father but he wasn't active in his life. My mother didn't want him near her or her children. She told him that when he turned eighteen and wanted to talk to him he could. I looked at the picture one last time before placing it back on the desk. A knock came on my door. I asked who it was and it was my mother. I let her in and she led me to my bed and sat next to me. She apologized for my fathers death. I then proceeded to ask her about him. She told me he was a air force first lieutenant in charge of the investigation division. He died overseas while on assignment. The money he left my mother she never received. She called about right after she heard he died and never received anything. She gave up after while and found other things to support us. That's why I hated how Jason always complained her not being there. She placed her arm around my shoulder and told me that everything was going to be okay."
"I was never one to question my mothers optimism or integrity. After we hugged she left my room and I began singing the songs I wrote at recess. I didn't know how to make beats but I could write the hell out of songs. At four o'clock I helped my mother prepare dinner. Jason was outside on the porch talking with his friends about girls. I think he matured faster than most girls because he was making out with a different girl every week. We made sweet cornbread southern fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, greens, black eyed peas and peach cobbler. When we finished everything and gave each other we high five and set the table. Jason came in and sat down. Mother told him to wash his hands before sitting down. Jason got up and walked to the bathroom and washed his hands. He returned a few moments later and sat down. He asked what we were eating. I told him that our dinner menu and he asked if I helped prepare and I told him yes."
"His face turned almost pale as a fishes belly. My mother slammed her face down on the table and Jason quieted down and began eating. After dinner mother and I washed dishes. Afterwards we took out the trash and mother went to her bedroom. I went and took a shower. After that I did my homework. I had math and science homework. I spent an hour and thirty minutes on it. When I finished I put in my backpack and got into bed. At around one in the morning I awoke to my mothers screams. I turned on my lamp and ran to her room. She was tossing and turning. I awoke her and wrapped my arms around her. After she calmed down I made her a cup of tea and sent her back to bed." When I awoke at my regular time I made my bed and took a shower. When I came out I headed to the kitchen and greeted my mother. She smiled and greeted me and I turned on the water and put my coffee contents into my favorite mug."
"When the teapot sounded I turned off the burner and poured the water into my mug and stirred the contents. I placed the pot on a cool burner and walked over to the table and sat across from my mother. I asked if she slept well after I made her a cup of tea. She said she a little bit and took a sip of her coffee. Jason came into the kitchen and sat down. He greeted mother and grabbed himself a bagel and spread some cream cheese over it. I greeted him and asked him how he slept. He just looked at me and took a bite of his bagel. I just rolled my eyes and drank my coffee.When I finished mother walked back into her bedroom. I washed my mug and walked to the livingroom to await the bus. Jason came in and sat in the recliner. I looked out the window in thought. Mother came into the livingroom and looked at us and smiled. I smiled back and Jason just wore his usual jerky expression. The bus arrived at their house. I hugged her and headed out the door. The day was pretty okay for me. None of the kids messed with me and vice versa. As usual I didn't speak to them and they thought I was wrong for it. Around October money became tight again because my mothers hours became short. I found work as a paper boy. Jason didn't care as long as he had a place to stay."
"He crashed at his friends house. In November Jason's father appeared. My mother had us go through the back window. He had set our house on fire. I wanted to murder him because my mother worked hard to get the house. After he left we came around to the front of the house and got into the car. Mother started the engine and we hit the road. We had nothing but the clothes on our backs. We traveled on the road for the next few days. We traveled through several states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota. When we got to South Dakota mother cut through Nebraska. Several days later I awoke and saw the California welcome sign. I was so excited couldn't believe what was happening. I mean I always imagined what it would be like but I never thought we'd move here. We entered the northern region and settled in Kingsley."
"We stayed in a hotel. When I stepped out of the car I felt that the weather was different. It was warm and friendly. I never stayed in a hotel before but it was almost like an apartment. The next day mother went out and looked for a house. Thankfully her job transferred her here and by the end of the day we had a house. We may have had a house but we had to start over. We had no clothes or food. Mother took us shopping that weekend and we got some clothes. That Monday she registered us for school and we started on Tuesday. Being the new kid wasn't new to me because I was an outsider back home in New York. Mrs. Gromlin introduced me to the class and I introduced myself. I walked to the fourth row and sat down. There was a boy on my right. He had a dark aura to him. On my left there was a girl who looked nerdy."
"Ms. Gromlin started the day by having a mathematics warm up. I soon found out that California stayed cool because the weather was the same year round. Back home in New York you always needed two layers of clothes, so this was foreign to me. When we went out for recess I sat by myself. I pulled out my notebook and started writing a song. I was so deep into my element I started bobbing my head. Ms. Gromlin must've saw because the next thing I knew she was sitting next to me. She asked me what I was writing and I told her a song. She said really and I said yes. She asked me to sing it to her. I was shy and blushed at the pressure cooker she placed me in. I cleared my throat and began singing. I was a little pitchy but I that was because I was nervous. When I stopped she applauded me and told me there were school wide talent shows held for every season excluding summer. I wasn't sure I wanted to do that seeing how I just got there and everything but took mental note of it."
"We sat and talked for the rest of recess. I learned that she was from Pennsylvania and moved to California in 1953 when she was sixteen and resided there since. I told her that I missed New York but I immediately grew to like Californian weather. She agreed with me and said that she liked it because Pennsylvania was too cold for her. When it was time to line up I walked with Ms. Gromlin over to my classmates and we lined up. We walked in single file line back inside the building and headed to the classroom. I felt I had found a confidante in Ms. Gromlin which is why I sung in front of her. I went to lunch and sat by alone. We were assigned to sit with our class but the school wasn't strict about the class eating together as you were in the cafeteria. I looked around and saw everyone mingling and laughing amongst their friends. I yearned for friendship but I knew I couldn't have it because of me being biracial. When lunch ended I threw my trash away and lined up. The rest of the day went by without a hitch and I walked home. I was greeted by my mother when I came through the door. I spoke and wave as I shut the door."
She asked me how my day was and I told her it was good. I told her that I sung for Ms. Gromlin. My mother covered her mouth because she and Jason were the only ones that knew I could sing. I wasn't shy but I was when it came to people I just met. I didn't want word to get around school that I could because I knew they would try to utilize me for everything. I walked to my bedroom and put my backpack in my desk chair and laid down on my bed. I looked up at the ceiling fan with my hands behind my head. I sat there for about ten minutes and decided to start on my homework. At four o'clock I finished my homework and walked into the kitchen where I saw my mother standing at the stove. I asked her if she needed help and sher politely said no. I walked over to the stove to see what she was cooking and smiled. She asked if I had seen Jason and I said since school was dismissed. She sighed and shook her head. I walked into the den and sat down on the love seat. I saw Cass Mareen's 1959 television special. She had a vibrant personality and it showed when she performed with others and by herself."
"It had been three years since her death and the world was trying to recover from the loss. She was a drag queen movie star and singer-songwriter. She was a very successful businesswoman and had a large following with women and the underground burgeoning gay community. When I saw her out of drag I couldn't believe my eyes. She said she did drag even outside of work, because that's how she felt comfortable. My mother owned all of her records and even still has the newspaper that had her death announcement. My mother grew up listening to her and she always said that Cass Mareen was her tunnel light as a teenager. I saw why because there was this insistent optimism about her that resonated onscreen and on records. As I was watching her Jason came in and switched the station. I told him that I was watching television and he said that no one wanted to watch that faggot. My mother told him to watch his mouth."
"Jason ignored and continued watching television. I walked to my bedroom and turned on my television. I put it back on Cass Mareen's television special. I sang along as Cass Mareen danced. At five o'clock I washed my hands and went into the diningroom and sat down at the table. My mother had prepared catfish, crouton salad, baked shoe string french fries and pink lemonade. It looked simple but tasted exquisite. I asked mother how her first day of work at her new location and she said it was fun. I guess California is in complete contrast from New York in every way. She said that she made a little more than she did while in New York. Now that was shocking to me because New York is an expensive place to live but I guess every location and state's economy was different. Jason looked in between mother and I. I didn't know what was on his mind because he finished dinner in a heartbeat and went to his room. My mother was a worry wart and after dinner she went to Jason's room to check on him. He said he was fine and my mom said okay and didn't pressure him to talk. She came back into the diningroom and helped me gather the dishes in the kitchen and we washed them together. She asked me if I made any friends. I told her that I hadn't she looked at me sadly and ruffled my hair. She told me that making friends isn't easy whether your a child or an adult and that the only thing I could do was try. After we finished cleaning the kitchen we both retired to our bedrooms. I took a shower and went to bed. I dreamed about being onstage by myself wowing the crowd and them demanding an encore."
"I awoke the next morning with a new resolve. I was going to make some new friends. I didn't know who but I was going to try. When I got to school I walked to several tables and each of them did the same thing. They turned away or looked at me strangely. The day went as usual and before I knew it school was over. I decided to walk home instead of catching of the bus. As I came closer to the end of the street I saw a crowd and walked over to it. When I squeezed through the crowd I saw a girl standing there. She was snapping her fingers and singing. She looked so groovy with her gray muumuu and black go go boots. Her hair was a bright copper red with blond tips. She was moving her feet freely and swaying to the breeze with her chin up. She was singing a song she had wrote. I thought to myself 'This girl has some serious pipes'. She looked at me and smiled as she continued singing. I smiled back and continued to watch her. When she finished took a bow and everyone applauded her."
"As I was walking away she called out to me. I didn't want to talk anyone I didn't know so I continued walking until I made it home. My mother asked me how my day went and I said it was great. She asked me if I made any friends and I said no. But I did mention that I saw a girl on the corner singing and dancing. She asked if I spoke to her. I said I don't talk to strangers and I came straight home. She laughed and said everyone that becomes friends starts off as strangers. She told me that I couldn't allow my mixedness to stop me from connecting with others. I told her I'm just afraid of being alone because of it. She hugged me comfortingly and kissed my forehead and told me that things would work itself out. I went to my room and did my homework . I helped out with dinner and washed my hands and my mother and I ate dinner. When I finished I told mother I was going to wash dishes and she told me no. It sounded very firm with a kind tinge."
" She said she wanted to have a long talk with Jason. So I kissed her goodnight and headed to the bathroom for a bath.When I came out I heard mother and Jason arguing. How come he couldn't just keep his mouth closed and take the lecture. I walked into my room and shut the door. I got into bed and fell fast asleep. The next morning I awoke and headed to school. When I arrived I saw the girl from yesterday. She walked over to me. I didn't want to be rude so I didn't walk away. She shook my hand told me her name was Kimberly Bradshaw. I shook her hand and said my name was Alvin Goldsteen. We started walking together to the cafeteria. We talked about our favorite bands. I found out she was a die hard fan of Cass Mareen and Ginger Paxton. I didn't like Ginger Paxton because I felt she was overrated. But I loved Cass Mareen to the ends of the earth. Kimberly argued that Ginger got just enough media attention and that Cass Mareen was underrated. We spent the rest of breakfast harmonizing until it was time for class. When we got there a guy dressed in dark attire was sitting to the right of my desk. Then there was a quiet girl that sat behind me. I had found a lifelong friend in Kimberly and I was sure she felt the same. She was a hippie from Rhode Island and was outspoken as as she could be."
"When recess came Kimberly and I walked over to my usual spot and we started conversing. She asked if I was new to the neighborhood and I told her I was new to the state. She asked where I was from and I said New York. She was shocked and gave me high five because we were both from the east coast. She had these earrings that had the letters R and I inside them. Her face was round and plump and had lips to match. She wore a light orange tented muumuu with a pair of flat bright red go go boots. Her look definitely defied the early sixties.I asked her where her defiant look came from and she said she was just naturally like that. She said that her mother was a rockabilly in her teens during the early fifties. We spoke for the entire duration of recess. We then exchanged lyrics with each other. She read them and asked me why I wrote songs about struggle. I told her that I come from a struggling family but we've managed to make it despite what tried to break us down."
"She smiled and said that was very empowering and it could speak to people. I read her lyrics and saw they were the complete opposite of mine. Hers shouted optimism and free love. I looked at her and asked if she felt okay. She asked why and I said because she was writing about free love and optimism which was unheard of and prohibited at the time in early 1960 conservative America. She said she didn't care what the country or world thought about her music because they needed to hear it. We spent the rest of the talking about music. Before recess ended Kimberly hugged me and said that I was the first friend she made. I was shocked because she seemed so lovable that you couldn't hate her. She said that people didn't talk to her because she was outspoken and heavy. I thought that the social suicide of the fifties were over. But I had to remember that the early sixties were conservative. We lined up and headed back inside. We did spelling, science and history for the rest of the day."
"When school was dismissed Kimberly and I headed out the classroom. We headed to the bulletin board where we found the bus roster. I found out that mu mother removed me from the bus roster. I was relieved because I could walk home with Kimberly. We walked home together. We discussed things such as what was going on in politics and television. Kennedy had won the election two years ago and America felt at ease. Kimberly felt that America was starting to somewhat shift but not quite. She said that president Kennedy was opening some people's minds from the older generation. I told her that even though some people's eyes were opened others were still stuck in their ways and couldn't be changed. Kimberly said that someday she would change how things worked here in America. She said that celebrities were in a position of influence and power. With that power you could influence people to do the right thing."
"I agreed with her. We soon came to her block and we hugged each other. I told her I'd see her tomorrow and vice versa. She headed down the sidewalk and I crossed the street. When I got home I rushed to the kitchen to tell mom of the new friend I made. It was only one and that had been good enough for me. She was excited to see that old glimmer in my eyes again. She asked what their name was and I told her it was the girl I had saw on the corner the previous day. She said that was wonderful and that she sounded like a good kid. I agreed and went to my bedroom and did my homework. That night at dinner the phone rang mother went to answer it. She screamed when she heard who was on the other end. It was one of her friends back when she was a teenager in New York. I was glad to see her happy and not stressed. I had made a new friend and she reconnected with an old one."