Thursday, April 21, 2011

THE EDGE OF WHITENESS

The year is 1973.The first day of our freshman year in highschool. Me and my cousin, Skinny, stand by ourselves in the foyer checking out our new surroundings - fresh faced, spindly- legged girls chattering excitedly among themselves, blond crewcut jock types boastfully talking football, scientific braniacs nervously expounding on the latest mathematical theories. Classic paintings of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson adorn the foyer walls. Everybody - everything  had one thing in common, though. They were all white. Painfully white. The kind of white people who should never be exposed to bright sunlight. Thank God me and Skinny had some color, I thought to myself, owing to our Sicilian heritage. At least we  were olive-skinned. At least we could get brown in the summer. These other kids - no hope.
  Suddenly, a dilapidated school bus from like - the 1950's - comes chugging up the street, spewing clouds of black smoke everywhere, immediately followed by another equally monstrous relic. The gears groan and the buses screech to a thumping halt right out in front. The joyous buzz inside quickly dissipates, replaced by a thunderous crescendo of Earth, Wind & Fire, as the doors to the ancient vehicles creak open.
  One by one they pour out. Giants. Imposing Black giants - and those were the girls! Then the boys swagger off the bus - grown men compared to the rest of us, actually. Me and Skinny glance at eachother, then back to the stunned crowd among us - now looking even whiter than before. They advance towards us, sporting wild afros, black du-rags around their heads, confidently displaying cut-off tee shirts. Even their tatoos had muscles. Smoking Kools, boomboxes hoisted upon their shoulders, one of them gulps down the the last drop of a mysterious brand of grape soda - then smashes it to the ground.
"Oh shit!! A chorus of cheers and shouts arise from his friends.
At that moment, I am sure that everyone of us boys standing in that foyer experienced the same basic sensation - that of our pre-pubescent wee wees shrinking up into the recesses of our white Fruit of the Looms. The era of busing had come to Roselle, New Jersey - and nothing would ever be the same again.

This is a sample of my memoir - THE EDGE OF WHITENESS. Although a sort of a quirky coming of age story, it is also a humorous and edgy social commentary on one communty's reaction to the inexorable march of change which defined a unique time period - the funky, soulful early 1970's. It is available on Amazon Kindle and also my website - http://www.joemontaperto.com/  -hope you enjoy it!

Joe Montaperto

3 comments:

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Sounds fun!

Marilyn

BillieJohn said...

Hey Joe...great to see you jumping into the blog!

Billie

Joe Montaperto said...

Hi Marilyn and Billie;

Thanks for the comments! I think it's interesting that there has been much written and said about the political, social, racial and cultural changes in the 1960's, but there hasn't been nearly as much written about the early 1970's - when many of the experiments and social reforms put forth in the 60's- were actually implemented. Busing was a major issue in this period, as the different races and ethnicities were all thrown together for basically the first time. It was a scary and exciting time, as in many cases there was simply no frame of reference for close interaction with the "other" race. A unique, soulful and sometimes terrifying time. In my book - THE EDGE OF WHITENESS - I write from the perspective of an Italian -American(Sicilian) teenager who eventually crossed over into the black and Puerto Rican communities before multi racialism was popular. Even more confusing was that I "looked" Puerto Rican, so you heard regular debates about whether you were really "white". It was hilarious, exciting, scary and sad all at the same time, and when I look back on it, also a privilege to have been a part of.