You Always Remember Your First, But Do They Always Remember You?

A lot has been made about the "firsts" in your life... First girlfriend/boyfriend, first car/motorcycle, first legal drink, first smoke, first sex, first traffic ticket, first concert, and for some, the birth of your first child.

On a dare from a friend, I once tossed a rock at my first girlfriend and hit her right on the head. I was 8 years old and my first break-up came swiftly. (What was I thinking?)

In the middle of eighth grade, while I was still 13, we moved to Norwich, Connecticut. My best friend there was Rob, who everyone called "Chunk". He was a year older than me and lived one street over making it easy for him and me to hang out. He had a big family and when you were friends with him, you automatically became friends with his entire family. Because his family was so large, instead of buying milk by the bottle, they had a commercial milk dispenser in their kitchen that was not too unlike the one behind the counter of your favorite dairy bar. The milk was always ice cold and whenever I went over I was sure to ask Chunk's mother if I could grab a glass. She always said sure, except one time she said, "No, it's time you have your first beer!". I had just turned 14, I was an athlete, and as she poured me a beer out of a bottle I got a little intimidated. Okay, I was downright scared! Then she laughed, took a big gulp of the beer and said, "Grab yourself a cold glass of milk!" The whole family started laughing and when I realized she was just messing with me, I laughed too.

Sports Studio Photos. Getty Images.

Chunk and I were on the same Little League team, the Red Sox, which wasn't as desirable as being on the Yankees in Connecticut. He was a really good third baseman and pitcher, and he could hit and hit with power too. If I missed a game he could easily take my place behind the plate and catch. When I got Mononucleosis and we were a few games into the state Little League Tournament, Chunk caught most of the games. When they made it to the State Championship and the only pitcher left with a fresh arm was Chunk, my father got a call from the coach asking if I could catch for one game. I had lost a lot of weight and with it, a lot of muscle. I hadn't played baseball in weeks and when I snuck dumbbells into my bedroom to get in some curls, my mother busted me and took me to my doctor where I was warned not to exert myself, or I could get even sicker and miss the entire football season. I was surprised when my father told me I could play. Chunk pitched a great game and I had a great game myself, hitting two doubles and throwing out two runners trying to steal second, but we lost a close one to a very good team. My friendship with Chunk went beyond the baseball diamond, we did a lot of stuff together. 

Chunk was blonde and fair-skinned like two of his sisters and a really good kid. My parents liked him a lot and I was given permission to do stuff with him that I wasn't allowed to do with other kids. We regularly walked several miles into the city and hung out with older kids at Bev's Tea Room, which was a pool hall in downtown Norwich. When Chunk asked me if I wanted to hitchhike to Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly, R.I., about 30 miles away, I fully expected my parents to say no, but when they heard I was going with Chunk they said okay. I was 14, Chunk was 15 and in 1970 hitchhiking was a universally acceptable way of getting around. Everybody called it "thumbing". We made it there in great time, had a great day, and we were home before dark.


When I was a freshman in high school, one afternoon I was thumbing home from Norwich Free Academy on the New London Turnpike when I saw a '65 metallic green GTO coming down the road. It was Larry, Chunk's older brother. At the time Larry worked for the city and most of the work was outdoors. He stood about 6 feet tall with a strong build, dark tan, dark hair, and a beard. He wore Aviators and he was one "crazy bastard". I liked him, made me wish I had an older brother.

Larry pulled over, and with a big smile he said "Get in!". Once I was in and the door was shut, Larry asked me how fast I had gone in a car. I thought about it and said, "One time my father went 70 in our Ford LTD station wagon". Larry laughed, and then he said, "Hold on, we're gonna do 135!". He burned some rubber taking off and then chirped every gear. I peaked over at the speedo, which went up to 140, and Larry hit 135 as promised. I was scared shitless, but man was that fun. I think my addiction to speed was born that afternoon.

One of Chunk's older sisters was a real "Hippie Chick", she represented everything psychedelic to me. Vickie was dark-skinned like Larry and I remember her wearing bell-bottoms, hoop earrings, multi-colored headbands, several rings on her fingers, and colorful hippy shirts… She was beautiful, open-minded, a positive spirit who gave off an incredible vibe. I always looked forward to seeing her when I went over to Chunk's house.

It was during the summer of '71 that Chunk asked me if I wanted to go to an outdoor concert with Vickie and her friends. Are you kidding me? Is that even a question? My parents had no problem letting me go.

It was my first concert and the headline band was "America". It was held at a big open field somewhere in the state, I can't remember where, but there were lots of hippies drinking wine and beer, and smoking pot. It was the concert equivalent of going 135 miles per hour in Larry's Goat. I always liked music, but it was after that concert, my first, that I really developed an appreciation for it that went well beyond top-forty radio.


Mine did not look this good…

My first car was a silver '65 Plymouth Barracuda that had a 273 High-Performance motor, a 4-speed transmission, with a red interior. I bought it for $85. It ran, but not straight. The front end was fucked up and it functioned as a clubhouse and before I got my license and when my parents weren't home, it became an unregistered, neighborhood cruiser. I sold it before I got my license.

This is my '71 Yamaha 350 R5-B as it looks today, 50 years after my father bought it in Connecticut

I had a 3.0 HP Briggs and Stratton mini-bike I terrorized my neighborhood on when I lived in Connecticut, but my first motorcycle was a '71 Yamaha 350 R5-B that I bought from my father for $600 in 1972 after we moved back to Massachusetts. I sold it to my boss's brother two years later for $400 and recently I connected with his son who owns "Cook Cycle" in Walpole, and 47 years later he still has it. It's a piece of my past I'd love to own, but it's also a piece of his past. My father had it before me and his father had it before him. He says he's not ready to sell it, yet…

I had my first legal drink in a Chinese Restaurant (Ba Hia) in Walpole with my father on the day of my 18th birthday, which was the legal drinking age in Massachusetts at the time (1974). Before that, I sat at the bar in the Broadway Lounge in Rhode Island when I was just 16 and got served. After a dozen 7 oz. draft beers each, my friends and I traveled back to Massachusetts drunk as fuck, usually in my friends late 50's, pink Chrysler station wagon, really a Sherman Tank we nicknamed "The Pink Panther". The Broadway Lounge became one of our regular Saturday night stops until we turned 18 and could legally drink in our own state. One night "The Panther" ran out of gas and three of us took turns pissing in the tank. Our alcohol level must have been well over the legal limit because it was enough to get us home…


The morning I got my driver's license I was pulled over for speeding on Plain Street in Stoughton, just beyond West Street. I wasn't doing 135, but I did have my radio tuned in to WBCN and the volume turned up high, and when the Cop looked at my temporary license he shook his head, not believing I would speed just an hour after passing my driving test. I was lucky, he only gave me a verbal warning…

Life is full of firsts and sometimes they can be big mistakes. I think it's healthy to have friends who take you out of your comfort zone and expose you to new experiences. The first person to do that for me was Chunk.

I only spent a year and a half in Connecticut ('69-'71), but I made a lot of friends and had a lot of great times there. When we moved back to Massachusetts, just as quickly as those friendships began, they ended. There weren't social media outlets or cell phones at the time and long-distance calls were expensive. I lost touch with all my Connecticut friends but years later, I've come to realize, at least for me, the memories have never faded…

My friendship with Chunk had a big impact on what I expected from the rest of my life, one full of adventure. When I suddenly thought about Chunk last week and that brief time in my life I spent living in Connecticut, I decided to search him out on Facebook. I tried it a few years ago, but without any luck. This time I found him and he looks great. I think he may have weathered the storm we call life better than I have.

I'll have to wait and see if Chunk accepts my friend request. I'm hoping that he does so we can reconnect for the first time in 50 years…

My FIRST? I never kiss-and-tell…