Category Archives: Music

In Your 20s and Confused? Get Over It

I try to stay out of the internet fray. In my 20s I remember getting steamed over all the articles about about the baby boomers. You couldn’t pass a newspaper or magazine without seeing a headline about how many of them there are, their spending habits, who they were marrying, where they were choosing to live. And the TV shows! I let “Thirtysomething” piss me off every single week. (Apologies to my beloved sis who loved that show — love you!) There were way more of them than my Gen X, and it seemed to me they were just this giant vacuum cleaner of materialism sucking up all the resources in their path. The media coverage of it led them to think they were entitled to it. Meanwhile Gen Xers were left with their crumbs and dust and a string of Republican presidents to try to patch together a life. So, yeah, that’s why they call us cynical.

Did me getting pissy about it change anything? No. Did I manage to patch together a life? Yes. And maybe I could have done it faster if I hadn’t wasted so much energy getting my panties in a twist about them. Or maybe that’s just the nature of being a 20-year-old. Your fairly new life panties get twisted about stuff. You are at the start, and while you know the most you’ve known in your whole life, it’s still not actually that much. You have to figure it out as you go. One thing I learned from those years is that I am happier if I don’t get caught up in the media stories about stuff that is only a thing because they are writing about it. Sometimes it’s insightful or entertaining, but mostly it just makes you feel bad.

So I set up a bubble against what I think of as psuedo news stories (as opposed to fake news — that’s a different post). Pseudo news is: yes, it’s true that the boomers are a very large and influential generation; however, that fact alone does not make them news. Of course staying in the bubble was much easier when it was just print and TV. The internet pummels the bubble much more, and it’s inevitable that things slip through. Just retrieving my email on Comcast, I get pelted with clickbait headlines and pictures of people I don’t recognize, “ripping” other people I don’t recognize. But no matter, I’m older and crabbier now, so even when the bubble is breached, my alter ego Blanche takes a drag on her ciggie, downs a shot, and says we don’t give a flip. I get my real news elsewhere.

Except on rare occasions when my pissy 20-year-old is poked.

I read a story about how all the #metoo and attention on sexual abuse has got men in their 20s questioning their own behavior. That’s a good thing. The situation also seems to have men and women in their 20s allegedly confused about the rules of dating. The article earnestly quotes men and women who say they don’t know how to act, and interviews with concerned therapists who say their male clients are so befuddled they are afraid to even go on dates. Wah, wah, wah.

Cue eye roll. This, my friends, is pseudo news.

Just because you have more information about something, especially about sexuality and dating, don’t expect it to make things easier. In fact certain information will make it a lot harder. But that’s what is called “growth,” which often hurts like hell when you are going through it, but can make you a better person.

Twitter alert: Life is just awkward and uncomfortable, if you’re lucky. It can also be much, much worse. If it’s just awkward, count your blessing and move on. And if you happen to be a confident, focused 20-something, you will hit a confused patch at some point. There’s no skipping stages.

So forgive me if I’m rolling my eyes at the 20-somethings who are confused about dating. Since the cavemen were trying to hit cave women over the head as a way of asking them out, or hoping her brother was home instead, or she was more interested in gathering nuts and berries with the hot cave ladies, dating has always been confusing. More so when you’re 25, but it’s no picnic for anyone. If you work at it, you just get better at knowing your worth and what you want. And even when you do, you still sit across from your date and think, does he like me? Should I go home with him? Is spinach in his teeth and his collection of antique dentist equipment a deal breaker?

Wah, wah, you’re confused about dating. Welcome to Human 101. Now you’ve forced my hand, and I have to tell you a Story. One of those Older People Stories you hate, because who gives a flip about older people? Well, you brought it on yourself, so listen up.

When I was in college, my friends and I went to a frat party, and did all of the usual things one does at frat parties — drink, dance, and then sneak past the “Private Do Not Enter” sign in the stairway to raid the refrigerator on the 3rd floor when our drunken snackies set in. What? Like anything in a frat house is private, and BTW we were the ones in danger — it was food that 20-year old boys were pretending was edible. It was slim pickins, believe me, but we represented ourselves well.

Anywho, a very large, drunken frat brother named Quentin started dancing with me. As a nerdy, introverted woman, I had ZERO experience with boys. In high school I had an unrequited crush on a friend, and as a junior I went to the senior prom with THE king nerd of the class, pocket protector and all. He was a nice enough, but two shy nerds do not a make out session produce. Freshman year in college was no better. Another unrequited crush on a friend, and I had been hit on by a super awkward guy in a chem lab class (it mostly involved staring, so I have to take my friends’ word that he was hitting on me). Another friend had professed his like for me while he was drunk and I was trying to get him home safely. Not a super turn on. Oh, also, I had been told plenty of “scared straight to virginity” stories. And I was brought up Catholic. See? You think you have dating problems? Puh-leaze.

So there I am dancing to Micheal Jackson with Quentin; then a slow song came on, and I was enveloped by his gentle, yet giant bear-like arms, and suddenly there was a tongue in my mouth. A sloppy, drunk tongue, if I’m going to critique it 30 years later. Okaaaay. I was not really enjoying it, but here’s the thing. He was black, and I thought if I pulled away, he would think I was a racist. See? This is what I’m saying about awkward, stupid shit in your 20s. So I let it go on for a while, plotting my escape. I think he may have asked me if I wanted to go back to his room. So I took the opportunity to say, “Wait here, I just have to tell my friends.” I know, I know! Why not just say “No, thank you,” and move on? Because you’re 20, and you don’t know what the hell to do because Catechism never covered this, except to tell you never have sex. So all you are left with is to do dumb stuff like try to prove you are not a racist and running away.

So I ran off and found my friend Rosemary, who I unceremoniously grabbed and marched her home with me. And during the 20-minute walk home I was on a drunken, sobbing loop to her: Dance, tongue, big arms, he’s black, I’m not a racist, I just don’t like tongue in the first 5 minutes of a non-date; Dance, tongue…and on and on until we got home.

The next day found me immobilized with the double-whammy of physical and emotional hangovers. I sought out Rosemary to apologize and studiously avoided Quentin (who of course lived in my dorm). But here’s the thing:

Neither of them remembered anything about that night. Rosemary stared at me blankly during my apology and then laughed at me. At one point Quentin saw me, and I saw the same blank face. Had I gone to his dorm room, he would have surely had that face in the morning. Awkward.

The racism guilt lingered until finally my friend Sonia, who is black, told me to knock it off. So I did.

As the Who sings in “Another Tricky Day,” “You irritate me my friend, this is no social crisis … just another tricky day for you.”

I get it, it is confusing. We’ve all been there, and there is no magic way around life’s obstacles. Keep your good friends close, have an escape route, do your best to learn what you can from each awkward encounter. Oh, and stay off the internet. That thing will make you crazy.

Photo credit: Flashbak 

It’s in the Dance

Dancers of the waltz, foxtrot, tango, cha-cha, salsa, and others will laugh at me for this, but after dancing to primarily disco music for the several years, I just realized that dancing to music of different eras requires different moves. The dance goes with the music, Astaire. Because I don’t dance formally and instead let the music move me, I think of my dance moves as just that — moves in sequences that match the music.

But the place where we dance on Sundays has changed, and where it was 95% disco and 5% other, it’s now about 50/50 disco/80s music. A recent night was more like 30/70, disco to 80s. Don’t get me wrong, I love the 80s and danced away my 20s worshiping at its music altar. I don’t think I’ve ever danced side-by-side with both kinds of music, though.

It took me a while to notice this, because I was still getting over the change of the music and the addition of 3 big screens and videos in a fairly small venue. Why do club owners think videos are a good idea? If I wanted to watch videos, I’d stay home and drink for a lot less. Not to mention, the total hacked transition between songs that videos necessitate. I will admit that the subtleties of a really good DJ are lost on me, but I sure know when a song is ripped from me mid-beat and mid-move, and the next thumper is shoved down my pelvis. Plus, isn’t there enough change in the world right now? Do you really need to mess with my Sunday night dance traditions?

But I digress.

The day after the 50/50 night we commented on how hard we had danced. I didn’t think much about why until the next week when it was almost all 80s music. My friend and I talked about how disco is a happy kind of music that encourages free-flowing movement. It lends itself to a prop, say like a scarf that one might twirl around and let float to the beat. On the other hand, a lot of 80s music has a harder sound. I realized that I haven’t been using my scarf as much lately. 80s music doesn’t seem to have the same kind of call for it. Or its uses are less floaty and more, say, tie my hands up or slap my butt. That’s Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty.

My friend and I were still on the dance floor, trying to sort out the more nuanced differences between the 2 types of music, when Ms. Jackson came on. As we watched her on the damned big screen whip her arms, legs, and body around in unison with her dancers, my friend said triumphantly, “80s music is more choreographed!” And suddenly all the other 80s videos and songs flashed through my mind: hard beats and tight arm and leg moves. No free-flowing motion or twirling partners. Just an organized group of people doing identical rocket shots that burn calories and leave different muscles sore the next day.

A light dawns ovah Mahblehead, as they like to say around these parts. It’s a nod to the actual seacoast town of Marblehead and also a word for a person who has mahbles for brains. For the record, I don’t live in Marblehead. But now that I have been enlightened, watch out, all you formal dancers. I got the waltz, foxtrot, and tango on my mind, and I’m coming for you — me and my scarf.

 

Eclipsed

The kid and I were in Columbia, South Carolina to see the total Solar eclipse. We’re still trying to get back to Boston, but that’s another blog, or maybe not — 3-4 hour delays seem to be too common to even make fun of these days, at least on Delta.

I could make fun of the total eclipse-related “traffic” we were warned about in South Carolina’s capital city, but I’d have to use Boston as a comparison, and it’s weird even for me to brag about how much more traffic we have: The bumper to bumper crawl around the city or coming to a dead stop on the Pike on any random day just before Boston or between the 3 Worcester exits (that’s Woostah to you) — where you can be stopped in traffic long enough for a drink and a cigarette. Heck, it can take 2 hours to get home on the train after the Fourth of July fireworks. So when they said plan ahead, I was thinking along those lines. Thank you, Columbia for not even coming close.

But none of that matters, because for almost 2 hours, we watched the greatest show on earth. The eclipse forecast, which had been updated daily like Vegas odds, this morning finally settled on 90-plus degrees and 50% chance of cloud cover — even money. The lucky bit was that the clouds were those great, big puffy ones that play cat and mouse with the sun, so I figured at some point we’d see something. But even if we didn’t, we were with a group of other eclipse enthusiasts, at the SC State Fair grounds, surrounded by happy tailgaters from all states, setting up their canopies and chairs, grilling, laughing, playing catch, playing music.

And then it started. Wearing our glasses that looked like we were from a 50s 3D movie, we watched as the first dark sliver appeared. The glasses block out everything else, so all you can see is a sharp gold ball, with an ever growing black bite getting taken out of it. It was great just to focus on that, and try to forget about lying on the ground in the sun’s heat. The clouds came and went. When a cloud blocked the sun, we cooled off in the car. But then I started enjoying watching the way the glasses made everything blank, and then the gold ball would peek through the darkness as the cloud passed by. While the eclipse was already an immense gift, this slow uncovering of the partially eaten gold ball made the experience even more dear. This might be all I was going to get, so I sweated, watched, and decided whatever sunscreen was left on me would have to do. 

The cars next to us were playing music, and I had to chuckle at the appropriateness of “Black Hole Sun” and “Sky Full of Stars.”

Half way. It was taking forever and not long enough. Texts from various friends rolled in, the first from my friend who was watching the total eclipse from Oregon. He was already finished seeing the eclipse before we even started, and he said it was amazing. Sending happy updates to friends, I watched the sun get darker. The clouds began to thin out, with bigger blue sky gaps.

At the 3/4 mark, the dark curve seemed to move faster. It wasn’t quite so hot and a slight breeze kicked up. People who had been only sporadically paying attention were alert and calling to their eclipse mates to come out, to come see. The sky light became more subdued, like before a thunderstorm, but more dull yellow. 

The full eclipse would occur at 2:43 and at 2:40, someone started playing “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and a bunch of us laughed. 

The light arc was now a thin strip, disappearing at the edges…”Turn around bright eyes…” 

The last bit of light flared in what’s called the diamond ring, and we all cheered and clapped. The sun was a black circle with just light wisps of the corona showing. It was magnificent. Tears leaked down my face, and the kid came up behind me and gave me a hug. It was that kind of thing, like you wanted to hug the person next to you because of the magic and the beauty. All around the horizon, in every direction, the sky looked like sunset. With the heat blocked, the air cooled. 

“It’s going to come back soon,” said the kid, and my human instinct kicked in — No! I wanted it to go on a little longer, watch it longer, have a chance to let it sink in. But I am just a speck in the face of these enormous celestial bodies that carry on in their own mysterious ways. 

And then the diamond ring flashed again, and the sliver of light returned. The crowd clapped and cheered again — harder this time — for the flawless performance, and exclaiming delight in their own way. The kid thanked me for arranging the trip, and I gave him a hug. 
People started to pack up, but I lingered a bit, watching the inverse of the event while the light reclaimed its usual state. But nature had given us enough, more than enough, and a sun shower turned into a sun-blocking cloud, and a bit more rain. It was time to go. 

So it doesn’t matter that we’re still sitting in the airport 8 hours later, still waiting to get on the plane to Boston. Today we witnessed an amazing miracle, something much bigger than ourselves, and it eclipsed everything else. 

Odds and Ends

First, happy Fourth of July to anyone who feels like celebrating it. Here in Boston, we’ve had absolutely perfect summer weather all weekend, so I feel like I’ve won the weather lottery. Perhaps it’s because we spent most of the spring in cold rain. The rain we needed; the cold, not so much — I really didn’t need to see that my heating bill for May and June looked a lot like March and April. I don’t live in the far north; heating bills in June are simply wrong. But the weather has been so lovely and uplifting lately, I may actually throw myself into the Boston fireworks fray tomorrow. Or I’ll just watch them from my driveway. We’ll see…

Second, I’ve been collecting photos from my commuting travels that have made me giggle. Maybe you will, too.

The Tank

I learned to drive with what we lovingly called The Merc or The Tank, our 1968 Mercury station wagon with fake wood side paneling. It was the perfect car for a new driver because you could back into anything without getting a scratch. Except a fire hydrant, but I swear, dad, that wasn’t me. Someone must have hit me in the parking lot. Rude bastards. The Merc’s other claims to fame were the gas tank falling out while my sister and brother were waiting at a stop light, and the frame rusting clean through during one of my drives. Other than that, it could hold all my friends and was totally awesome. Those are just fond memories though, right? I mean none of those italicized words above even exist anymore. Or do they…?

I saw this in Boston, near North Station a few months ago. As far as I could tell, it had its gas tank intact. The ghost just adds to the “car of teen years past” moment.

ab_merc

Follow the Guy with the Black Briefcases

There must have been a 70’s vibe in the air, because not long after spotting the Merc, I saw this guy on the train. Who has two of the exact same cases, the perfect size to carry money or diamonds? What else could they be? Seriously, these are the “mistaken identity” suitcases of any 70s detective show or heist movie. You know, one has the diamonds that were stolen in a meticulously planned jewelry store heist, or, alternately, the priceless Queen of Sheba Black Diamond stolen from the Museum of Easily Lifted Artifacts. The other suitcase is usually owned by a hapless woman with lots of granny underwear and nighties. Hilarity ensues when the robbers grab her suitcase instead of the diamond-laden one. And she wonders how she’s going to sleep in diamonds. What I couldn’t decide was if this guy was one the of the original thieves who locked the lady in the closet and grabbed both suitcases to open at a secret location. Or was he the surprise third character who is also after the diamonds and locks up the thieves and the woman in the closet together. I decided it wasn’t worth risking getting thrown off the train or stuffed in a closet to get a closer look at him, so we’ll never know.

 

ab_switchedsuitcases

The Dancing Shoes

So this one was on my walk to the train, actually not far from the place where I found Barbie’s walk of shame dress on the sidewalk. It certainly is a lively neighborhood. I walked by these for a couple of days, and they reminded me of the fairy tale, “The Dancing Shoes.” In the story 12 princesses are locked in their room at night with new dancing shoes (they were always locking up the women back then) but in the morning their beautiful shoes are all danced to pieces. Sounds like a good time to me. The king can afford to replace them, but he doesn’t like not knowing what his daughters are up to. So he decrees anyone who can find out what’s going on gets to marry one of the daughters and gets the kingdom when the king dies. However, if you try to find out and fail, your head gets cut off. Pretty high stakes and the princesses gleefully drug all of the arrogant princes who try to find out, and they sleep the whole night away. Royal heads are rolling. A humble, injured soldier meets an old women, who essentially sells out the princesses by telling him not to drink the wine they offer him. And she gives he an invisible cloak so he can follow them! I guess girl power wasn’t a thing yet. I mean c’mon, all they are doing is dancing and wearing out shoes. How terrible, they must be stopped! So of course he follows them, and discovers they have been hanging out with 12 princes from an underground kingdom and dancing the night away. But the jig is up, the oldest has to marry him and her sisters were “condemned to be placed under a spell of enchantment for as many days as they had danced nights with the princes.” You’d like to hope that in 2017, the three princes/princesses/generally fun people who owned these shoes fared better.

ab_dancing princesses

Beauty’s Where You Find It

This is also on my walk to the train. Some of the walk is classic urban grit, like this rusty fence and broken stone wall that’s part of a bridge. The train goes underneath it, and the road is busy, and it’s near the airport, so right at this point I’ve forgotten about dancing princesses and absorbing the trains, planes, and automobile ambiance.

ab_rustywalk

But then when I take a few more steps , I come upon this:

ab_sweetpeas

A riotous symphony of color of totally wild sweet peas. Perfect.

 

Active Bystander Intervention Workshop in Boston Area

I want to spread the word about a great active bystander intervention workshop that I took a few months ago. I’ve been trying to make a clever blog out of what was a very insightful and useful experience. But with the kid graduating, and end of the year school activities, and teens hanging about the house more, I’m more scattered than usual, which is actually a little frightening. I’ve been sitting with my computer on my lap for 2 and a half hours, and this is what I’ve accomplished so far:

  • I was compelled to obey an urge to listen to The Motels — the entire “All Four One” album — on my record player.
  • I moved two big boxes out of the way to search for the vinyl, but didn’t find it.
  • Instead, I found Loverboy’s first album, David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust,” and the Cult’s “Love” album, and plucked them from the bin to listen to.
  • I spent 5 minutes looking for the power cord to the record player, cursing freely until I found it right next to the player.
  • I put the Cult record on turntable, only to walk away and download “All Four One,” on my iPhone.
  • I listened to every song and sang every single word.
  • I listened to “Only the Lonely” twice.
  • I then finally put the needle down on Cult’s “Love.”

Okay, so I’ve actually accomplished quite a bit. But this still isn’t a clever blog, so I’ll just be practical and helpful instead. The bystander class reversed a life-long feeling I’ve had that as an introverted person (when I’m with strangers — if I know you, I’m a big loudmouth), I could never be useful in this kind of situation. Rona Fischman is a terrific facilitator and taught me how to work with my natural reserved inclinations and that everyone has something to contribute to help keep our world respectful. That’s pretty damn amazing.

Active Bystander Intervention

This is a two-part class, given on two consecutive Monday nights, June 19 and June 26, from 7 pm to 9 pm. Learn active bystander intervention techniques to reduce the impact of aggressive social behavior. If you see someone being bullied, how can you help? How can you do it safely? How can you help without the risk of making things worse? The program also includes techniques for interrupting everyday social aggression with people you know, as well as preparation for acting with strangers. The cost is now $60, but you can get a 20% discount to friends of past participants (that’s me) with the promotional code “B_friend”. Click here to register.

I have to go listen to Loverboy now.

 

 

Racism: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

I’ve been thinking a lot about racism lately, and that’s my unfair advantage as a white woman: I get to think about it in an abstract way when I have time, interest, and energy. I don’t have to step out the door every day and deal with it myself or worry about a male child or a man in my life being followed, threatened, or shot for simply existing.

I’m a bleeding heart liberal from a genetic pool of people who are pre-disposed to giving others breathing room–the Dutch, so that shit’s genetic and deep. And right now pretty much everyone and every group is under fire, so how’s a lefty girl to choose? There is a macabre buffet of social, political, and environmental issues to choose to fight for. It’s an embarrassment of riches: immigrants, women’s reproduction, the environment, the political collapse of the Democratic Party that lost its focus on helping people without a voice. And then there’s the stuff to fight against, like white supremacists, people who shout using all caps in electronic communications, and Kellyanne Conway–call me conservative, but I don’t believe cyborgs should have full human rights until they can be better calibrated for balance, oh, and have a functioning brain.

So in this Cheeto flea world I’ve been darting around like a dog chasing rabid squirrels and collapsing in a corner panting until I catch my breath. Then another Cheeto flea tweet crosses my Facebook feed and I’m off and running again.

And I don’t even like exercising.

So what can I do? Where should I put my energy, because at 51, I can’t be giving it away for free like I did when I was 25. Except if you’re a hot man, then please step up to the front of the line.

Where was I? Ah, right, stop and focus. Recently a few conversations with my friend Sonia have helped clarify for me that race underpins so much of this–this fear that some white people have of losing ground they only got by 1) existing and 2) pushing down everyone else. This fear made Cheeto flea number 45. This fear continues to openly hate Obama, which is the most fucked up kind of ignorance and blatant racism. I can fight for gays, women, immigrants, and religions, but if Blacks are still considered subhuman, then everything else I do is just a Band-Aid. I should know. I went for marriage counseling around year 10, and that Band-Aid prevented us from getting to the root cause. 10 years after that, we got divorced. I’ve learned I can’t wish this crap away or think it’s one and done. That’s just for romantic comedies, and that is some of the fakest news ever.

Meeting Sonia in college and having some illuminating discussions about everything from rock ‘n’ roll to race inspired me to later read a lot of Black history that I was never taught in school, like the Civil Rights Movement. In 1986, smack in the middle of my conversations with Sonia, Spike Lee came on to the scene with “She’s Gotta Have It.” That was also life-changing–a whole movie about black people just doing regular things like trying to find love from a Black perspective. That shit was radical. Still is.

Eventually Sonia moved away, and I didn’t meet another Black person. Well that’s not true. I bonded with a nice, funny guy at a bad job. We had a lot of fun at work, and I still make this great potato salad recipe he gave me. I proposed that he and his wife hang out with my and my then husband a few times, but he politely declined. I thought at the time of something Sonia had told me about Black people having trouble trusting white people–some of us are pretty sketchy, after all. But now that I’m thinking about it, the same thing happened a few years later with a white couple, so maybe we were just a boring white couple no one wanted to hang around, Black or white.

You see how confusing this race thing can be?

After Sonia left, the gay people decided they did want to hang around with me. That worked because I don’t really think like a straight, white person. I never was big on getting married, although I did try it–it didn’t take. I’m not into working for big companies, climbing ladders, or having a big house. My one kid is great, but if he were not possible, I would have been OK not having a kid. My Moroccan friend once told me, “You’re a weird American.” And she was a weird Moroccan, so she would know. I got to know the struggles of gay people trying to define themselves outside of society’s norms–I was trying to do that too. If you’ve ever heard someone’s coming out story, which usually involves the terror of revealing your true self to those closest to you, knowing you may be rejected out of hand, then, straight, white people like me should be grateful for what we have. I just wanted to work in a nonprofit and be a writer, which meant squatting on the outer edges of American prosperity–most families don’t kick you out for that.

And so I have been to the Gay Pride parade in Boston every year, and was at Cambridge City Hall when they handed out the first gay marriage licenses, and benefited from lots of gay men giving me their cast off furniture. And then we got a Black president, so what could be better? Gay marriage! Black president! This lefty girl was snug as a bug in a rug.

Until, um, now. Cue “Home Alone” screaming kid–note that he’s white.

I’m getting back to where I started all those years ago freshman year talking into the night with Sonia about the difference between black and white hair and ashy skin. She was brave enough to let in this crazy white girl into her life and that changed me forever for the better. It’s time for me to speak up and talk about race, rock ‘n’ roll, and hair–I learned from the gay rights movement that’s what being an ally is. I have the socially acceptable attributes like being white and straight, so I need to use my ninja skills to help others and look at my own biases along the way. Yes, even the Spike Lee-loving liberal has biases. Nobody needs a clueless ally, and white, straight cluelessness can be the worst.

So what are you being called to do? We will most likely intersect and join up at some point in a big-ass massive rally that could maybe fill Rhode Island. We’re going to need all our passion and commitment to make these long-term changes. And while you’re doing your thing, try to also to hear out whatever it is others are saying, even if it makes you uncomfortable. When I hear about the environment, sometimes I want to yell, “I stopped using aerosols, I recycle, I cut up the damn plastic rings around a six-pack of soda! What more do you want from me!?” And when I put my big girl pants on, I can say, yeah, I know there’s more to it than that. Fight, and listen, and if all else fails, laugh at yourself, and keep moving.

Photo: Sonia and I getting our U2 groove on 2 summers ago.

I Need a Story

Post march last week, I smacked into a wall. The fast and furious issuing of Executive Orders set my head spinning like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. And while that was pretty bad, with enough meditation, denial, and wine, I can manage to block out most of it and hone in on the essential things I am able to take action on. The harder thing was having my infusion of hope from the march get diluted when a gentle, respectful comment from a dear friend reminded me I could be doing more to connect with and support women of color right now. It was that realization that smacked me into the wall — the Cheeto Satan nonsense had moved the wall pretty close to my head, but that I had let down a dear friend finished the job. I tried to write about it for this week’s blog, but that is going to take some time for me to process, so stay tuned.

So I kind of just mentally wandered around this week, staring into the distance. The emails pouring into my inbox to sign this and make these calls and announcing every minute detail of the Cheeto immobilized me, like a rabbit in the face of an oncoming car. Not even my ciggie-smoking, whiskey-shot-downing alter-ego Blanche could rouse me, though goodness knows she tried. By chance I had picked up a copy of Watership Down from the library. My sister and I both read it in high school and loved it. We even have nicknames for each other from the book. We were reminiscing about it at Christmas. If you haven’t read it, it’s a story about a small band of rabbits who leave their safe warren because one of them has a vision that something terrible is about to happen. They escape only to encounter many other difficult and dangerous situations, from crossing a river to encountering unfriendly rabbits, snarling cats, and wire traps. They manage to survive by using all the skills, cleverness, and strengths of the group. Not a bad reminder right about now.

I was curious to see if the book still holds up some 30 years later, and it totally does. In addition to giving me some respite from political and social onslaught, it also reminded me of the power of storytelling. Not just me reading the book, but in the story, there are a number of times when the rabbits, who are naturally nervous creatures, need help winding down from some dangerous situation or gathering their courage to face a difficulty. The leader rabbit calls for a story to settle the troops.

And so, to help ease myself away from the glaring, paralyzing headlights, I’m going to tell a story. It’s a funny story that doesn’t really have a moral, but it did take place in that hallowed time of the early 1980s, when we were slam dancing in clubs, trying to look like Madonna, and fighting for abortion rights thanks to Ronald Reagan. It reminds me that difficult things, good things, and funny things are always happening.

It was 1985, and by some miracle, my group of college friends in Boston found out there was going to be a 10th anniversary Halloween showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in New York. By miracle I mean this was pre-internet days, and so we probably learned about it in some crazy way like in a flyer, newspaper, or a magazine. Or maybe even a stone tablet. It was on a weeknight, and with the energy only a group of college kids can muster to find inventive ways to entertain themselves, we decided to go. We persuaded the only friend we knew who had a car to drive us. Andrea was from Columbia and asked for our help to buy a car, but all we’d really done was watch her with our mouths open while she paid cash for a brand new car, with nary a haggle. As I recall it was a red sporty thing that clearly needed a trip to NYC. So 6 of us piled into the car: Sonia, the cool black girl from the West Side; Michele, the super girly-girl Spanish chick from Brooklyn; Rosemary, the fashion punk from Buffalo; and Gloria and I who came from CT. Gloria was holding down the preppy fort, while I was a punk wannabe. In fact for this trip I dressed up like Dr. Frank-N-Furter from the show — black lace camisole, leather mini skirt, fishnet stockings, high heels, and lots of black eyeliner and dark lipstick.

We left in the late afternoon and headed south. At one point on the highway, a guy started honking at us and making rude gestures. We rolled our eyes and sucked our teeth at him, until one of us realized he was pointing down as if to have us look at something. When we finally did, we realized that Rosemary’s leather bag was half in the car and half out. A quick open and shut door while speeding along the highway retrieved her bag. It had a big hole worn through on the corner and a fair amount of the contents had spilled out. We resolved to not diss honking guys anymore. The next 4 hours passed mostly in the way you would expect from 6 college women, including that at one point several had to pee. We were trying to make it to the city in time for the show, so we hadn’t really planned on stopping. But Rosemary, Gloria, and Michelle couldn’t hold it anymore. The problem was we were kind of lost. GPS not even being a twinkle in anyone’s eye at that point, we could have used a map. But what losers bring a map on a fun road trip? We were off the highway on a deserted road that felt safe enough to pull off for peeing au natural. The rest of us waited what seemed like a short time when suddenly, Rosemary, Gloria, and Michelle tore open the door, jumped in an yelled, “Go, go, go!”

At this, poor Andrea was confused and started asking questions, and then worse, started trying to obey the red traffic light, even though there was no one on the road. We’d neglected to explain to her that when someone is chasing you, you hit the gas and worry about traffic rules later. When she finally understood what she was supposed to do and we were safely away, we found out that our friends had been rushed by a mean, barking dog, followed by a guy yelling to get out and carrying a gun. If that’s what you get for peeing, I don’t want to know what you’d get if you were actually going to steal something.

But being clueless and 20 years old has its benefits, including staying focused on the very important goal of getting to The  Rocky Horror Picture Show in NYC by midnight. Once we knew he was safely in our rear view mirror, we laughed at the crazy gun man and fretted over the traffic. We were cutting it close. We drove around NYC, got lost, yelled at the natives in the car for getting us lost, until finally, we found a place to park. We ran the multiple blocks to the show — we were only a little late. Panting and sweating, we arrived to discover…the showing was the following night. After a short discussion about blowing off school and staying until the next night, we did the next best 80s thing. Desperately Seeking Susan had recently come out, and we were obsessed with getting into the groove. One of the scenes was shot at a NYC club called Danceteria, so off we went. Because it was Halloween, the streets were filled with people in costume, and I fit right in. We had a blast at Danceteria, despite the fact that my friends wouldn’t let me make out with a guy who was dressed like a priest — I was a rebelling Catholic, what can I say? I finally took a break from dancing to go to the bathroom, and while I was in line, I looked down and noticed one of my boobs had fallen out of my camisole — this was waaaaay before any “wardrobe malfunction.” I’d like to credit New Yorkers with having seen everything and that was why no one batted an eye. That sounds much better than what may have been the real truth — my boobs were really too small to be noticeable in or out of a camisole.

So we danced until dawn and found a breakfast place to inhale the time-honored food of people who stay up all night–bacon, eggs, toast, and coffee. Tireless Andrea drove us home and we got back to Boston in time for my 8 am class; the only thing was that in the unforgiving, harsh light of early morning, with bleary eyes and smeared makeup, I looked like a vampire call girl. No way was I going to class like that. So like a good vampire, I hid from the light, splashed water on my face, peeled off my clothes, and passed out in my bed. I’d do the Time Warp again some other day.

And so that’s my story. I’m still a little twitchy like a nervous rabbit, but I also made myself laugh and smile over the flash of boobs past and road trip shenanigans. I can hop cautiously out of my hole, sniff the air, and move forward.