A is for Aja
It was the winter of 1981 when my best friend and Long Island University classmate Jerry Rodriguez introduced me to the Steely Dan album Aja (ABC Records, 1977). Though I remember hearing the single “Peg” in 1977 blaring on WABC that fall, I really hadn’t paid much attention to the group. Yet, Jerry, as well as his older brother Antonio, talked endlessly about the group’s jazzy influences and beat writer influenced lyrics. In addition, it was the best chill-out soundtrack of that pop period.
One winter afternoon, our math professor, a young grad student name Mr. Harris overheard Jerry saying he wanted to sell his weights and offered to buy them. Though less than ten years older than us, we still had a “teacherly” respect for him. Yet, the night he came by the Cortelyou Road bachelor pad, our relationship changed.
Insisting we call him by his first name, we made a few drinks, rolled a few joints and put on Steely Dan’s gorgeous Aja. It wasn’t until “Hey, Nineteen” came on that Mr. Harris felt comfortable enough to confess his secret crush on one of our classmates, a beautiful Indian girl who always looked stoned. “I’m in love with her,” he slurred, then told us how he stared at her during class and fantasized about them making love.
After he left the apartment, Jerry and I laughed loudly. “Can you believe that guy?” I said. “How dumb can you get?” Returning to class the following later, Mr. Harris was back to being a regular sober dude and the three of us never hung-out again socially. Nevertheless, at the end of the semester, both Jerry and I passed our math class with A’s we knew very well we didn’t deserve. “A is for Aja,” I said. “More like asshole,” Jerry replied.