Way back in 1956, when I was seven years old I received an invitation to a birthday party for the daughter of my father’s best friend. Her name was Shirley and she was a great deal older than I was. In fact she attended Hartman Junior High at the time. She was blonde, beautiful and always nice to me so she became a kind of goddess in my eyes. Shirley introduced me to rock and roll and showed me how to dance. When my family visited with hers she always took me to her room and entertained me as though I was an equal to her. Of course I adored her so when my mother told me that I was going to get to accompany Shirley and some of her school friends to a movie on her birthday I was over the moon with excitement.
A bit of controversy revolving around me put a monkey wrench in the plans. Shirley had wanted to see Trapeze, a story involving a love triangle between Burt Lancaster, Gina Lollobrigida, and Tony Curtis all set under the big top of a circus. My mother was concerned that the material in that movie might be a bit too adult for me and so Shirley’s mom made a last minute decision to take all of us to see Moby Dick instead. This put me in a most unfortunate predicament with Shirley’s friends who complained that I was too immature to be part of their celebration anyway. I recall feeling quite uncomfortable as the group grudgingly accepted the change in venue. As it ultimately turned out I think that I was far more traumatized by the violence from the infamous white whale than I would have been by the romantic scenes in the circus plot. Nonetheless the damage had already been done and I had my introduction to one of the most revered stories in American literature, Moby Dick. Continue reading “My Name is Nickerson”