Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sound Affects

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Doom and gloom, doom and gloom. Looking back on my past few posts, I noticed I was starting to sound a little depressing. My tale does have a happy ending, by the way. It just took me a while to get there. Here's a less gloomy story:

I have a confession to make. I'm not writing this from a diary. Oh, do I ever wish I had kept one. But no, this is all coming from my memory of that time 21 years ago. I thought you should know...
Did you ever have that weird experience, when you were doing something mundane, or having a casual conversation, that you somehow knew you were always going to remember every little detail about it? And you think: Why this event? This seems so small. It's almost like deja vu, but with only the 'vu' part. That happens to me a lot.
I got locked out of my apartment on Racine and Belmont one night while I lived with Jody and Scot, and sat on our back porch to wait for someone to get home.
Where the hell are they? I thought to myself. I was looking forward to spending another fun night with them, and hearing about their days at work and school.
I had four cigarettes left, so I hoped it wouldn't be too long. I hadn't a quarter to call someone, let alone enough to buy a new pack. I was glad I still had a few pages left to read in the Vonnegut book in my pocket, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. I read all his books during that fall and winter. His hilarious, rebellious, deterministic view of life was manna to my soul. I was wearing a vintage burgundy and black plaid blazer, and the usual black pants shirt and shoes. I still have the brooches I was wearing that night. I didn't want to ring my land lord's bell, because he creeped me out, and we were always so loud and blasted our music, and I didn't want to give him a chance to yell at me. I sat there for hours, getting colder and colder in the January night, thinking I was so close, yet so far, from home.
I discovered things take on new meaning when you spend hours looking at them. I am always in such a rush to be somewhere or do something, or too immensely preoccupied to ever notice the details of my surroundings. That night I really looked at: my hands, how my shoes were made, how slowly I could smoke a cigarette, how stairs and windows are put together, how all the little noises from my neighborhood made a kind of music, and how beautiful the buildings and trees out my back window looked against the night sky.
How did the bastards who robbed us twice get in? I thought to myself, as I pushed at the door and tried to pry open a window.
I was getting so cold, I knew only a hot bath would warm me up. I loved our large, ancient bathtub. It was the apartment's original one from 1915 or so. Jody and Scot hated that there wasn't a shower attached to it, but I loved laying in the tub for hours, and releasing my bad karma down the drain. Sometimes, instead of me taking a bath, I imagined I was a burly Chicago factory worker in 1947, or an old fat woman in 1955, or rebellious teenage flapper from the 1920's, going about my daily routine, and wondering what my life would be like.

When I moved out of Kip's place and back into Scot's I brought two things with me I didn't realize I had packed: a pregnant cat and a pot habit. The habit I blamed on Evan, the chef who lived with us at Kip's, who smoked it every night. I rarely smoked pot, because I got so paranoid and uncomfortable from it, but Evan, and Jody's boyfriend Dale, had some that was actually pleasant. Whenever I was alone at home, I got high and wasted many hours trying to find the hidden meanings lurking in Low, Ziggy Stardust, or L.A Woman. This phase lasted only for a couple months, because the supply of the 'good stuff' ran out, and the usual paranoia crept back, so I gave it up.
Gidget was pregnant from Kip's cat, and I blamed myself, for not having her fixed. Feeling the little lives growing inside her was quite surreal, and helping her deliver them was even more so. Dale came over one night to pick up Jody for a date, and gave me a present when he walked in. It was one of those customized medallions you used to be able to buy from vending machines, and he stamped it "Dead Sex Kitten" for me. I still have that, too. (It was odd and portentous of him to give me that, because I've played the part of a few 'dead sex kittens' on stage during my acting career.) Jody wasn't home yet, so we watched some tv. A few minutes later, a strange noise came from the kitchen, as Scot walked in the front door. We ran in and saw Gidget walking around in circles.
"She having her litter!" Dale said.
"Oh shit! What do we do?" I yelled.
"Put down some news paper and find a cardboard box. Gidget knows what to do." Scot said.
We gently eased out the kittens that seemed to get a little stuck, and after they were born, we put them all in the box, and put the box on the dresser in my closet, where it was dark and quiet. When Jody came home, we looked in the box, not expecting them all to be alive, but there they all were, nursing away. We kept two and gave the rest to friends.

The early days of working in the salon on Sheffield were great. Despite my boss Consita's complaints about her, our new co-worker Maria was a much needed addition to the salon. She was sweet and pretty and from the suburbs, and wanted to further her life and career by moving to the city. We had a great time working together and getting to know each other. We spent a lot of time flipping through Vogue and Interview and i-D magazines, analizing the hair and make-up, and debating the merits of working for such a petty woman. Maria had a direction and sense of self in her that I admired, and she envied me and my free-spirited life-style and friends. We listened to WXRT and looked forward to their Saturday Morning Flashback show, and always yelled whenever someone said Pee-Wee's word of the day. During my lunch breaks, I would walk through De Paul's campus, pretending I was a student, on my way to two of the places I miss most, and wish were still there: Waxtrax and the Woolworth's on Lincoln.

After cashing my check at the currency exchange on Fullerton by Lincoln from the kindly old Tony, (who took a chance and trusted this kid with 12" black spiked hair and bizarre clothes) I wandered through Waxtrax's used record section for a while, usually snagging a two dollar gem, drooled over their clothes and jewelry, and bought the latest copies of i-D and Smash Hits. It was always a scene in there, and they spun the best tunes. The kids who worked and hung out there were other-worldly, they were so cool. Had they not been taken in context with Waxtrax, a casual observer could easily mistake them for religous zealots or escaped mental patients. There is a very fine line between looking cool or crazy, and they walked it. Across the street was Woolworth's, still with an operating food counter. When I could afford it, I had a sandwich with a cup of coffee, slung by a brittle old waitress, all the while wondering if John Dillinger had ever done the same thing on this very stool. (The Biograph Theater is across the street. He hid out a few blocks away during his final days.) If I didn't eat lunch, I poked around the kitchy junk, hoping for a prize. The best time to shop there was during October, when they had the Halloween stuff out, and I would stock up on cheap, funky make-up. I had a penchant for orange lipstick back then, and it was impossilbe to find, save for October at Woolworth's.
At night, I was always the last to leave the salon. When I wasn't busy, I sat at the desk and watched the night fall through the trees in front of De Paul's mountainous old church. The sky slowly shifted through an impossible number of variations of dark blue, until it was black. I'm going to try and paint that someday I thought. I want to remember this moment for as long as I can.

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