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James R. Stout

In My Room

            Three weeks before I turned 16 my sister got married. My only part of that wedding was to wear a black tuxedo and perform the job of being an usher. I can’t say that I was sad to see her move out though. Oh, we got along great and I wished her the best. But it was her bedroom that I wanted and was promised once she moved out. So, the week that I turned 16 I took possession of that bedroom. Why was that bedroom so much better than the one that I had for the previous 5 years? It had its own dedicated phone. The phone had been a graduation present to my sister when she graduated from high school the year before her wedding. It wasn’t simply an extension line from my parent’s phone line. Nope, it was a separate phone line altogether. A totally different number. I remember it well. 467-3361, It became my phone when I moved into that room. There I was a 16-year-old boy with his own phone line. Could life have been any better?

            There’s a song by The Beach Boys that I always liked. It’s called “In My Room”. It’s full of teenage angst. Although the song was a hit 8 years before I turned 16, it was something that I certainly identified with. There were some changes necessary to make that room totally mine. For one thing, the aqua blue drapes had to go. I painted the room the only color that Mom would allow me to paint it, off-white. But it needed painting since it had probably been a dozen or more years since it had received a new coat of paint. I also had been collecting a great many wall posters. I had a black light as well. I would listen to records with just the black light on and dream of the days to come. In those days, I didn’t look back much. I was more focused on looking ahead. I had a big black light poster that simply proclaimed, “Peace”, and an assortment of posters that came with record albums that I had bought. Heck, I bought some albums just for the posters inside. The Beatles photos from their “White Album” were on one wall, a big 24x36 inch poster from George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” was there. Posters of Harry Nilsson, Three Dog Night, Frank Zappa, Paul McCartney and Wings, and a few others lined the walls.     

            Later, in 1973, there was a big poster purchased at Astroworld of me, my girlfriend, my friend Lonny, and his girlfriend prominently displayed. I got my first real stereo when I was 17 and my parents bought me a stereo cabinet that had room for my records too. An odd assortment of things were on the headboard of my bed. It was one of those old headboards with shelves and sliding doors. There was a yellow flashing light that had once warned people of a construction zone. Don’t ask where it came from because I don’t remember. There was a speaker from the Thunderbird Drive-in. (I plead the fifth). My collection of KILT Top 40 Surveys, a couple of photo albums, a chess set, and the high school phone directory sat on top of the headboard. I had a chest of drawers with my first ever blow dryer (a-la-Keith Partridge), my camera, and a couple of change trays on top. There was a fair-sized mirror above the chest of drawers. I had two closets in my room, but I was only allowed one for myself. The other one was my mother’s “catch-all” closet with things that I’d rather not think about. In my closet, my flared and bell bottom pants hung beside several pairs of thin corduroy pants next to my paisley shirts and my assortment of belts. These included belts that were incredibly wide. My go-to belt was a 2” wide brown leather belt. I had four pairs of shoes. My dress shoes that I hardly ever wore, my suede desert boots that were my “going out” shoes, a new pair of tennis shoes, and my old pair of tennis shoes with a hole for my right big toe to wink at passersby.

            Somewhere in that room were some schoolbooks, but they tended to get buried until needed. I made a lot of phone calls on that turquoise princess phone. Hey, it beat no phone by mile! The room started to get filled up with guitars, a bass, amplifiers, microphones, and the like. I wrote a lot of songs sitting on my bed with one of my acoustic guitars and a spiral notebook and pen. I still have all of the original papers that I wrote the songs on with scratch-outs, chords, lyrics, and notes such as “capo on 2nd fret”. The fact is, that room was my domain. It was my kingdom. I ended up living in that room from September of 1971 until September of 1976 when I moved out to get married. I had great times in that room. Sometimes it was just me and my thoughts, hopes, and dreams while other times friends would be over and we’d listen to records, practice songs, or in the case of a girlfriend, there were some stolen kisses with an eye on the door and an ear tuned to any activity in the hallway. Some of the best memories of my life are from being in that room. Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys said it so well, “There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to”. That was how I felt about my little 10’x12’ bedroom. I’m sure that some of you didn’t get to experience their own room. Perhaps you had to share a room with a sibling. But I’m also sure that there are others of you who had their own room too and have similar stories to tell. If so, then please reply in a comment. I’d truly like to hear about your life in your room.

 

Taken June 22, 1973. I had just gotten home from being gone for two weeks and I had one picture left on a roll in my camera.

I had a friend snap this candid photo "In My Room"

Taken sometime in late 1972. That's the headboard behind me with the yellow light among other things.

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