Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Missing Words

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Because I haven't written a post in a while, the breeze coming through my window smells like a long time ago. Maybe because we're having unseasonably warm November weather, it smells like 1984, a time when I felt like I could do anything I wanted. It smells like I imagine it would if I were in the arms of a lover on my back porch. It smells like a London night in 1990. It smells like change, and boring routine. It smells like it did when I was 19, and I liked everything about myself. It smells like a fire-escape balcony in the Village on a March afternoon, in 1991. It smells like eternal hope and utter defeat.
It smells like water under the bridge. It smells like the past.

When Erin walked into the room, I was pretty much in awe. I was in Donny's apartment in 1986, waiting for her to show up so we could go out. They had worked together at I. Magnin in Oakbrook a few years back, and remained friends when he found a new job. She was wearing a tight sleeveless gold metallic dress, and her ubiquitous leopard-print purse, looking like a blonde new wave Brooke Shields. We instantly hit it off, and started talking about music. Her true music love was Duran Duran, due in part to the exotic locales featured in their videos. My first born is going to be named Rio no matter what! she said, and I confessed my year-long dive into their first album, with the eponymous title, what small town teenage gay boy wouldn't love the music of guys dressed like Marie-Antoinette after a long day of palace scrubbing, but jumped off their band wagon when they hit the American top 40. (My late friend Chris P loved that opening shot of Roger in the Planet Earth vid, and copied that pose whenever he was in the photo booth in Berlin.) Erin and I both loved a lot of the same bands, bands that pushed limits and had brains and weren't afraid to use them, and we both spent way too much of our free time playing records. I was in a major 4AD phase at the time, and her a Pseudo Echo one. 4AD stuff still holds up pretty well, but, sadly, not the latter.
After our first night out together, Erin and I talked on the phone almost everyday, for hours at a time. I looked forward to her phone calls, and started to see them as some kind of college course, because she was so knowledgeable to the ways of the world. She wasn't afraid to lecture me about my faults or the faults of the world, probably because her parents met at an Ayn Rand society, and raised their kids in a home stuffed to the brim with her philosophies:
"Brian, you spend way too much time in gay bars. Most of the world is straight, and until you can accept that and learn to live with it, you can't grow as a person...No, I don't think there should be gay marriage! Marriage is a hold over from the days when men owned the women they married. We all should have 'legal unions'...I reject the fact I have to be thin and pretty to be a happy woman in today's world. If I see Sheena Easton in another Bally's commercial, making me feel bad because I'm not working out with 20 pounds of make up on my face and wearing a trashy outfit, or another Weight Watchers ad with that idiot Lynn Redgrave peeing her pants because she can eat a soulless muffin that won't make her butt bigger, I'm going to scream! Why can't women be happy as they are? Why so much pressure to be thin!...What's so bad about doing drugs? Why is everyone saying 'just say no'? Drug use has been around since the dawn of time, so there must be some reason for it. I've tried some, and they aren't for me, but who's to say what I can or cannot do, as long as I'm not hurting anyone?"
I, of course, immediately read every Ayn Rand book I could find at the old Fullerton Avenue library next to the El, the bulk of which went right over my 20 year old head.
Then she went on to talk about a study she read about Native Americans and their high number of alcoholics, and the relationship believed to be linked to their 'circular thinking', because for thousands of generations they were so closely tied to the cycles of nature. I couldn't grasp the concepts she was talking about; linear thinking versus circular, but I read between the lines in what she was saying, and tried to think about the way I thought, because I drank a lot. And then when she said the ancient Greeks (or was it the Romans? or was it the Egyptians?) saw their past as being in front of them, and their future behind them, I gave up.

I felt comfortable enough with Erin to make a confession to her one night while she was driving me home after a night at Limelight. I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn't know what exactly it was, so I made a guess, and told her I was 'mildly manic-depressive'. I felt that was a good guess, because that was how I usually felt, though I was more like 'kind-of-happy', or 'somewhat-less-depressed' versus manic.
"Everyone has something wrong with them, Brian. That's how life is. It's how we deal with our problems that's more important. Have you seen a doctor?" She said.
"I can't do that, I don't have the money or insurance. If I tell my parents I think I'm crazy, they'll make me move back home. I can't do that!" I said.
"There is probably some free clinic or center you can go to in the city. I'll ask my mom."
She did get me some information about some programs, but I didn't follow up on them. I guess I was afraid to. I went to an AA meeting when I was 16, and sitting there watching people tell the truth about themselves to each other, and then imaging myself doing the same, was something I knew I was incapable of doing at the time. I'll just figure it out on my own. I was happy a few years ago. I can get back there. I thought to myself.

On Erin's first visit to my salon, I bleached her hair blonde. It just had to be done. I knew her stunning features could only be magnified with a halo of blonde, and she quickly earned the nick-name Madonna Reed. She was immediately annoyed with my boss, Consita, and her queen bee ways. The bleaching process can take a while, so she was subjected to her for hours.
"How can you work here with her! She never shuts up! The same rambling stories, hour after hour! How does she have any clients! I can't breathe! She's driving me nuts!" She ranted while we ate lunch across the street at Roma's.
"I know, it takes a lot of stamina to be around her. I want to quit, but I make money here, and I would have to start with nothing again if I went to another salon. She's a lot of fun when we're not at work. It must be the Gemini in her." I said.
"I bet if you worked downtown you would make money. Actually, I understand your attraction to her. She's very extroverted, and likes an audience. You want an audience, don't you? No, you want to like having one, like she does! That's it! Like it or not, you've always had an audience, haven't you?" She said.
"If by 'audience' you mean 'unwanted attention', then yes." I said.
"Toe-mate-o, toe-maht-o. We should start a band."

In the early days of Erin and I knowing each other, she would drive in from the suburbs and pick me up from my place on Pinegreove and Waveland, and we would go to Limelight, then Medusa's then Berlin. She blasted Lloyd Cole or one of the dozens of mixed tapes I made for her, (sadly, all the tapes were stolen from her car, along with her stereo, a year later) as we circled around the Belmont area a million times looking for a parking place, as she screamed Why can't someone tear down some of these slums a build a goddamned parking garage!
Soon, at Berlin, we started noticing a guy with lip-liner lines around his lips, like a messy asterisk mark, hanging near us, looking like he wanted to talk to us.
"Erin, that's the guy I saw on the Belmont El platform the other morning, with the bright red lipstick and giant pink Barbie ribbon in his hair!" I said. We stared at each other that day on the El, he like he knew we were going to be spending a lot of time together in the not-too-distant future, and I like I was trying to figure out if he was A: a drag queen? His ankles are too hairy, not to mention the five o'clock shadow. B: a lunatic? Those lycra pants are too perfect for a loon, and I just saw that t-shirt at Blake. I eventually came to the conclusion that he was C: a genius.

"Hey guys!" Danny said as he walked up to us. "Want some lipliner? I call these 'fire-cracker lips'!"
And, of course, his nick-name was Madanny.

I can't resist...Here's some pics:
Limelight, 1986
Medusa's, 1986
Me and Consita, Limelight, 1986
Berlin's booth, 1987
Me in a bad mood with Chris P, Berlin, 1989
'Madanny', 1988


Aaron said...

"Most of the world is straight and until you accept that and learn to live with it, you can't grow as a person."

Wrong-O! I accepted that and learned to live with it years ago, and it was only when I stopped trying to fit their (pedantic and uninteresting) mold that I actually grew at all as a person...

(She's right about the parking on Belmont, though...)

BC said...

How do you have time to leave comments with all that rehersal you're doing?!

What she was trying to tell me was I could go anywhere or do anything I wanted to....she saw how insecure I felt in non-gay places...

Aaron said...

Then she was right about that, too! Look how secure and comfortable you are now. And a whiz with the wigs--why, you can even make Yukon Cornelia's hair look serviceable! :-)