It was Spring Break, and I had just gotten in from college. My parents and I were sipping Coronas, and I was explaining to them why I hadn't gone to the Bahamas. "It's such a drag to get down there," I said. "Then there's the commercialism, the sunburn, the overpriced drinks." My mom asked what would constitute my ideal Spring Break. I told her, "That's easy, Mom. I'd meet a beautiful Al Green fan, we'd smoke a couple of Js and make love in her Manhattan apartment until classes began again." I really hated the beach.
Our aged, somber grandfather clock rang midnight, and I sat on our burgundy living room sofa, watching my parents ascend the stairs to their bedroom. I resituated myself on the floor by my father's stereo, donned my headphones and cued up Al Green's Greatest Hits.
The first time I listened to "Tired of Being Alone," it had been on a portable boom box, in a cornfield not far from my home. This girl I was with was calling out for the Lord like no zealot ever had, and I kept telling her, "It's alright, baby, it's alright. Tell me how you like it. Just tell me. Yeeaaah!" Because Al makes every man feel like such a goddamn pimp.
And "Let's Stay Together."
Junior high school, my first girlfriend. We'd been listening to her father's stereo when her Yiddish-speaking grandmother caught me going down on her little shayna punim. The old woman was cool about it, I guess, and I know that her eyes were bad at the time. But I still felt uncomfortable carrying on a conversation with her, my pants at my ankles, my soldier still partially at attention.
There's an Al Green song to go with every STD, every hard-on, even -- tacky as it sounds -- every kiss. (I've only had sex, like, twice. So kisses, for the sake of this argument, will have to count.) I freely admit that I wasn't listening to "I'm Still In Love With You" when I rekindled my high school romance the summer after freshman year, on the playground at an elementary school, between recesses. (But, for what it's worth, I might have been humming the tune to myself.)
I was at an Al Green show at the waterfront in 2003, and my favorite tune at the time was "Here I Am." During the song, I grinded with this fat housewife, and we appeared on the Channel 10 Evening News. I received praise from all my friends and family for making the woman's day. Truth is, I liked it. The ballsy brass at the chorus makes every man and woman horny. And perhaps all-around happy, too. And as I sat in my parents' living room listening to that track -- on loop, in fact -- I knew I had to do something bold with my Spring Break. "Here I am baby / Come and take me." The album fades on that refrain.
It was 1:30 a.m. when I shut off Al Green's Greatest Hits. And then all was quiet. I blew out a candle and poked the charred logs in the fireplace. (It was still cold in Pennsylvania.) A spark flitted into the air, then died. And as I ascended the stairwell, my mind harkened back to my ideal Spring Break, my city girl. I needed to smoke. I would have to buy some pot from the high school kids the next day. Or, better yet -- I needed some love. I needed to boost my grand total to three.