Monday, November 06, 2006

Waiting for the Day

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That song from the previous post, "Los Ninos de la Parque", by Liaisons Dangereuses, was my and Erin's and Ronnie's fave tune from back in the day. When I think of Jody back then, the songs that comes to mind are Stay Up Late, or O Superman. She played Laurie Anderson for me when we first moved in together. ( I know O Superman is long, but you'll feel better if you watch the whole thing. It's like Prozak.)

In 1985, Ronnie worked at Carson Pirie Scott, selling cologne. I remember one night at Berlin we were hanging out, and a guy walked up to us and started a conversation. After a few moments, he asked us where we worked. When Ronnie said "Carson's" the guy said. "The rib place?", and I died laughing.
I always think of that story when I think of Ronnie, because if you ever saw him, you could tell immediately he'd never been within ten miles of a rack of ribs. The guy at Berlin wasn't making a joke.
Ronnie was tall and thin, and impeccably dressed. He dressed more like someone would in Miami than Chicago, so he tended to stand out in a crowd: flowing creaseless cottons, wrinkleless linens, no socks, highlighted-hair, and a year-round tan.
What drew him to me, with my dyed black hair and black eyeliner, I'll could only guess. He asked me over for dinner one night, so I went. This was my first 'official' date in Chicago. He came before Jeff; I met Jeff in the fall of '85, and Ronnie that summer.
I took the bus to Diversey to his studio apartment in the vintage building a block and a half east of Halsted. The place was spotless and sparsely furnished; it was like walking into a Nagel painting.
"Wow! You have your own place! Is it expensive? You must do well at Carson's" I said.
"I do alright." He said. "My dad helps with the rent. He isn't thrilled with the fact that I live in the city. We fought about me moving here for months. He thinks the city is dangerous. He wants me to be in a 'safe' neighborhood. It's funny, we always had a strained relationship while I was growing up, probably because I was more interested in dolls than football, but when I came to Chicago, his fathering skills went into over-drive."
I thought about my father's reaction about my move. His response was: "Hmm."
Years later he told me he thought I was crazy to come here, and was amazed I did it, because the race riots of the 60's soured him to ever wanting to visit the city. Growing up in Wisconsin in the 70's, I never saw anything but white people. Moving here at 19 opened my eyes to the world. The real world. I loved it! Now it's totally different in Appleton. Many cultures blend together. That was and is my favorite thing about living in Chicago.
Ronnie made some pasta and put it in big white bowls, and put them on a large piece of glass that was sitting on the carpeted floor.
He poured us some white wine into large, stemmed glasses, as we sat Japanese-style, watching TV. As we ate, I couldn't help but wonder what I was doing there. Ronnie was very good-looking, but I wasn't sexually attracted to him. Well, I was and I wasn't. He was a lot of fun to be with, and I knew whatever was going to happen that night, it wouldn't be boring.
After dinner, we walked down Diversey to Pinegrove to rent a movie. VCR's were pretty expensive in the mid-eighties, and I remember him telling me his dad bought it for him the previous Christmas. We picked up Body Double, and walked back to his place, after stopping by The Slipper Box, because he wanted to show me some shoes he liked. He seemed to know everyone that was walking on Diversey that night; dozens of people knew him by name. And the owner of the video store greeted him like he was a son returning home from a war. That video store is still there, and it was my video store for ten years, 1992 to 2002, and all I ever got were barely audible thnnnkqoos from his disinterested employees.
We cuddled on the couch while watching the movie, and kissed a little. When the movie ended, he drug out a huge bag of make-up. Working at the department store, he had amassed a huge cache. He said one thing that drew him to me was my make-up, and he wanted me to show him how I put it on. We spent the rest of the night in his tiny bathroom with that make-up, blasting Portfolio and Nightclubbing. When the sun started to come up, he put on a large pot of water to boil.
"That's a big pot of coffee." I said.
"No! It's for my shirt for work. I have to leave at 6:30." He said.
"You boil your shirts?" I said, dumbfounded.
"That's the best way to get them a bright white. I'll make some coffee for you, too." He said.
When he finished with his shirt, we left his apartment together. I took the bus back home to sleep a couple hours before my job.
On my days off, I would train down to Ronnie's work, and we'd walk down State Street to Wild Pair, and buys some wacky shoes, and he'd give me tons of cologne samples, and show me all the good stuff on sale. It was fun watching him interact with the public, because he wore his sexual preference unintentionally on his sleeve, and the visiting small-town shoppers were usually taken aback by it, but because of his immense charm, he always quickly won over anyone who came to his counter.
A few months later, he told me his friend from the suburbs was coming in town for a visit, and that we should all go out together.
"You'll like her. She likes all that weird music you like. Her name's Erin. She looks just like Kim Novak."


Anonymous said...

The weird thing is that I just downloaded O Superman on my IPOD last night. I was thinking about you when I did it. Then, I was thinking that who the hell could have imagined IPODS in the 80s?

Aaron said...

I liked Laurie Anderson's "Strange Angels" album the best...but "O Superman" is a great song, too.

I didn't realize that boiling shirts would get them really white! I just thought that's what people used to do to get them clean. Well, that settles it, I'm boiling all my white shirts this weekend!

Michael said...

Seriously, VERY GOOD work last night in the show!!!!!

Johnny C said...

I think that was the year that I divided my friends into the people who loved O Superman and the people who didn't.

Funny Laurie Anderson story someone just told me. A friends old roommate was "obsessed by Laurie Anderson. He worshiped her. And "by chance" got a job as her assistant in the university that she was teaching at. One of the things in his job discription was to maintain her computer. Her computer had some problem and he tried to fix it, and completely fucked it up. So, his idol, whom he worshipped, "FIRED" him.

Johnny C said...

Oh, and the photo booth photo of you and Ronnie is priceless! I hope it has a happy ending.