John Reed’s book about growing up in Waltham in the late 1970s and early 1980s is under the category of fiction, but parts of it could very well be straight from a memoir.
The main character from the recently released book, “Another Lousy Day in Paradise,” is Jay Cody, and it’s hard to decipher exactly where Reed ends and Cody begins.
In the book, Cody gets a fake ID and sneaks into dance clubs on Lansdowne Street in Boston, just as Reed did when he was 15 years old. Later, Cody gets caught up in a major brawl at the old Wal-Lex Recreation Center, based on a real-life story that made the nightly news, and Reed was in the middle of that melee.
As Reed said about Cody, “for the most part it’s me.”
But not everything is. At one point, Cody shoplifts records from the now defunct Jungle Record Store in Waltham and re-sells them at the high school.
“I did not do that,” he said, laughing. “I know who did do that, but I did not do that.”
Just like Cody, Reed attended Waltham High School from 1979 to 1982. After graduation, he worked at Nautilus Gym in Cambridge – a perfect fit for Reed, who was an Arnold Schwarzenegger disciple and gym rat.
Once he turned 20 years old, Reed became a journalist and wrote music reviews for several publications. Nowadays, he works for Tufts University as a prospect researcher and has been the Saturday night DJ at the E Room inside the Golden Temple in Brookline for the past 10 years.
Although he had the idea to write the book back in high school, Reed said he didn’t actually start work on it until about 10 years ago.
Inspired by his English teacher, Richard Collins, Reed was drawn to the larger-than-life characters from his youth and the places and music of the time.
“There were so many colorful people, characters, people around you,” he said. “This city is full of character. I love Waltham.”
The book is strongly tied to the location and time of the story, as well as the slang. People who attended Waltham High School during the same time might recognize terms in the book such as “Hawkers,” used as a derogatory term to describe the student-athletes at the school.
Although much of the action in the book takes place at the high school, Reed said it is not meant for a younger crowd, describing it as an “R-rated” book.
Part II Tomorrow!
Synopsis for "Another Lousy Day in Paradise":
The years from 1978 to 1983 were an amazing, yet confusing, time. Especially if you were a teenager and living in Massachusetts in the city of Waltham - and Jay Cody was a prime example of the rebellious Waltham youth living in a time when Disco ruled (and then died) and hair styles went from long to feathered. A trip one night to a movie theater changed Jay’s life and put him on a road to what he thought was manhood. Mixed in with what would become Classic Rock, Drugs, Casual Sex, Fights, Concerts, Booze, and you have Waltham (and youth life in general), in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
A teacher once told Jay that Waltham was like a “Paradise.” Living day-to-day during his coming of age years, he felt more like he was living just “Another Lousy Day in Paradise.”