In June of 1962, my mother, a high school cafeteria manager, took a summer job in the San Bernardino mountains, managing the kitchen for a YMCA group from Lawndale, a tiny city just a few miles away from the popular southern California beaches. Surf City, Here We Come. I immediately recognized that the teenagers from that group seemed to have sprung from a much livelier and sexier genetic stock than the Italian-American adoptive family that had raised me. I’d been avoiding dancing with chubby Catholic girls who all reeked of Mum deodorant and wore bras that seemed to have been constructed out of bridge cables. Now, I found myself surrounded by dozens of beautiful teen-aged surfer girls gliding across the camp grounds, sporting long, straight blond hair and impossibly tight butts, all of them seemingly free to mingle with both campers and staff, and who all seemed to be engaged in charged, passionate relationships, with no mumbling priests, stinking incense or the ghosts of long-dead saints to cast a pall over the proceedings. I felt like throwing my arms into the air and shouting These are my people!
I remember being absolutely taken by a dazzling girl around my age, probably fourteen years old, a tiny, platinum-haired beauty (even her eyebrows were platinum!) given to hanging around the pool and strutting across the camp grounds in a red skin-tight bikini. I couldn’t stop staring at her. And she had an equally beautiful twin brother. I can remember wishing that I could lead both of them into the forest and French-kiss each of them, one at a time, for as long as I could get away with it, sometimes feeling that the three of us had all been born in the same hospital ward. Somehow, I already understood that an errant DNA molecule stubbornly coursed through my veins, leaving me equally attracted to both sexes, and I saw no reason to hide my impulses. The great discovery I made at Camp Conrad was that as a Protestant, one could be, simultaneously, both holy and horny at the same time, and never have to fear the eternal retribution I could expect to suffer at the hands of the Jesuits who managed the Catholic high school I attended.