A few days after the stinking public school system set its wards loose for the summer of 1969, my parents returned from New Orleans with this 12-string Gibson as a birthday gift for me. I was flabbergasted and delighted, and I kept that guitar within easy reach almost every day.
A few weeks later people were walking on the moon and a few weeks after that a hurricane was barreling our way. As bloody evening news casts from Vietnam steadily contributed to a mounting dread of what lay in store for what appeared was going to be a very short, violently and painfully-ending life ahead, I immersed myself in each exciting event of that summer with wild abandon; playing endless hours on the new guitar, watching the incredible news casts of the moon landing, and wandering the bayou woodlands with our basenji Tanji as Camille approached and the skies grew dark and heavy with her looming wrath. Such a thrill.
Adding to it all, puberty was driving me insane as I noticed just how very nice my female neighbor looked with her curly blonde head of hair in her favorite summertime attire: extremely cutoff bluejeans and white dress shirt tied in front above her oh-so-cute belly button. The guitar helped attract her attention as I began composing my own music with it. Too nerdy a kid to draw much attention without it, she heard me playing in the back yard one calm evening and we would sit in lawn chairs on the back patio, touching bare toes ever so coyly while watching geckos scurrying across vast expanses of plate-glass sliding door to eat flying insects and staring into each other's eyes, dreaming of all we might become together if we ever became a couple. She asked one evening if I was afraid of going to Vietnam. I admitted I was terrified by the prospect. She said her brother would leave soon to fight there and she was terrified for him. I wanted to leap on top of her right then and there but somehow resisted that primal urge and plucked more insistently at the guitar strings instead.
I struggled hard not to fall too deeply into music and love trances which could lead to unconscious bouts of drooling on my guitar as I sometimes was prone to do in those days–as I had done in front of a neighbor the previous summer in a city not very farther up the gulf coast. At end of summer 1969 my family suddenly moved away from that lush green and wet land of fat oaks and slow-flowing bayous and the pretty neighbor girl in cutoff jeans out west to the dry, dusty flatlands of the Permian basin where other girls tugged insistently at heart and gland strings. Some of them there liked my guitar playing too and I ended up on stage performing in a children's theatre group cram-packed with girls before the end of the year.
Ultimately, I didn't have to go to war and die a horrific death in a strange jungle, and those wonderful 1969 excitements live on as vivid memories now. And I wonder sometimes about the girls of that final summer of the 60s and the places they might be now, hoping they're all still well and happy too.