Tonight the family is going to eat their Valentine’s Day Dinner – my childhood favorite – with such epicurean delights as raviolis, homemade sauce, tomato and mozzarella bruschetta, red wine or cherry Koolaid and jiggly desserts. That is, everything on table is red and white. Ma decorates everyone’s place settings with Valentine’s cards and gifts and little boxes of conversation hearts and chocolates. Be Mine! Yours! Hot Stuff!
My most favorite Valentine’s Day happened when I was, I think, 15. Johnny B was a sociable cad, a Hugh Grant meets Danny Zucco type of character that you knew was an unabashed Lothario but you couldn’t help liking him all the same. I reckon he was the type of guy that hung out with both the cheerleaders and the behind-the-school pot smokers. Johnny B was a year ahead of me in high school and I kind of knew him through band. I forget what he instrument played but I think he was a percussionist.
Anyway, that V-Day started out as any other. But by second period, rumors about Johnny B’s crazy M.O. were starting to circulate. After third period, I was walking to trig and crossed Johnny B’s path. Before and after this date, I don’t ever remember Johnny B having business in that particular hallway at that particular time but, nonetheless, there he was. When he saw me, reached into his bag and with a “Happy Valentine’s Day” handed me a card.
I smiled and tucked it into my pocket. During trig, I opened it and discovered that it was one of those 10-cent drugstore Valentines (I forget the comic on the front) that had a handwritten note on the back. It said “I would walk 500 miles… just to be the man who walked 1000 miles to fall down at your door. Love, Johnny B” I suppose Benny & Joon was a popular romantic comedy that year.
During lunchtime, the whole school was a buzz with stories of Johnny B’s canvassing technique. Some claimed it was merely rumor but I convincingly presented my evidence as truth. By the end of the day, there was no more speculation. Every single lass that went to that high school had received a Valentine from Johnny B. In fact, I got two, but that’s not really important. The bottom line is that Johnny B spent time hand writing close to 1,000 Valentines, each containing a unique lyric.
What I like about this memory is that it shows an amazingly bold and unbiased act of kindness effortlessly displayed against the social minefield of high school. One can get roses and boxes of chocolates and pre-printed cards but I really think that, at least for me, it’s these kinds of thoughts from the heart that really matter.
I don’t know where Johnny B is these days. I heard about 10 years ago that he became a transient, moved to Santa Monica and was living in a van down by the pier. Well, I hope he’s happy. Here’s to you, Johnny B.