First there was the astral projection. There were at least three girls in my class I wanted to see naked and I figured if I projected my mind out of my body at night and went into their rooms I would see them naked.
I got ten different books about astral projection, including “Journeys Out of the Body” by Robert Monroe. I was 13.
“Remember that time you asked me about using lead wires in a paper pyramid to get psychic powers?” Robert Levinson asked me the other day, referring to one of my “techniques.”
I forget this part. But it was certainly possible. Lead wires, pyramids, burning incense, talking to ancient Egyptian gods – all of this was possible for me on the path to nudity.
None of it worked. No naked girls. Six years later it worked. But not through astral projection.
And what was so great about it? It started off with various degrees of humiliation, starting with taking my shirt off and ending with much much worse humiliation. The shades and degrees of it changed but the actual shame and guilt didn’t stop for a long time.
Then one day Tracey, the first naked girl of my life, threw popcorn at me in a movie theater. I don’t like sharing popcorn in a movie theater but it’s a SIN to eat popcorn before the previews start.
But to prove my love, I had to share. And then she started putting her hand in the popcorn before the previews. She was eating.
“Don’t do that,” I said. “Wait.”
So she picked up the popcorn and said, “Fuck this!” and flung it all over the floor.
I went out and said, “I had an accident with the popcorn. Can I have a refill.” They gave me one and I sat on the opposite side of the theater.
Of course you can guess what happened next. We kept going out for another two years.
During that time she threw a tuna bagel at me. Another popcorn incident. And she blamed me when the stove blew up in my face and caused the fire department to bring down the embarrassment of the entire street on us.
Yes, it was my fault. I had put the gas on and then thought I needed to light the match a few minutes later. But I was young and I was clumsily pretending to be an adult.
Only six years earlier I wanted to get another book on astral projection. Maybe it was on something called “soul travel.” It was for sale at a bookstore on 9th and Broadway called Weisers.
I skipped school. I would hide in the backyard until I heard the garage door open twice (both parents leaving for work) and then run across the corn field to catch the bus into NYC.
I was wearing a cashmere sweater and had a garbage bag with me but not enough money to buy the book.
I used the garbage bag to go from trash can to trash can to find coke cans that I could redeem for five cents each.
I had glasses, braces, wild hair, acne, and a preppy argyle sweater. As I was going from trash can to trash can people would stop and stare at me. I was afraid of them.
Eventually I quit. I couldn’t find enough coke cans. Or I was embarrassed. Or I got lazy.
Sometimes you don’t really know the reasons you quit something.
You just quit and then life feels better for that moment.
Like you can do whatever you want except the one annoying thing you were trying to do.
“Did you hear him tell that story?” Claudia told my kids last night. “What other kid does that? Were you paying attention?”
They just looked at her. They weren’t sure what point she was making.
“You should listen to him more,” she said.
But their minds were far, far away. Going to worlds I will never visit. Going to worlds I’m scared they will never come back from.
p.s. My 11-year-old just looked over my shoulder and said, “I don’t think you are qualified to post something with that title.”