Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Another rare, special edition post to let you know I care...
I miss Nunzio. I miss his amazing taste and sense of fun and style he had with bars and restaurants. The first place of his I visited was Bazooka Cafe, in 1985, where Angelina's, on Broadway and Addison, is now. It was a cool, kitchy place to have a tuna sandwich, when my friends and I had some extra cash. And Orbit Room, well, it was Mecca for the hip crowd, back then. I took special care to be sure I looked cool in the right way for that place, usually clad in liberal amounts of 1960's thrift finds. If someone said during the course of the night, Let's go to Orbit Room! I would say no if I wasn't dressed properly. On one of the few nights the dance floor wasn't packed, I remember Nunzio dancing to Brass Monkey by himself. He enjoyed his creations as much as everyone else did. Orbit Room's DJ's spun tunes very few dance clubs had the nerve to spin at the time.
It was hard for me to have a conversation with Nunzio; his quick mind racing from one topic to the next before I knew he had changed it. I often ran into him in the 'deposits' line at the bank, his motorcycle jacket on his 6"3" frame towering over us all. He always had a kind word for me, and a big laugh. How can anyone be this cheery this time of day? I would think to myself. Nunzio has since passed on, but the nights I spent with him and in his environs, I'll never forget.
Scot visited me this summer and brought with him a huge collection of photographs from the 80's for me to scan. He had the foresight to photograph the demolition of Orbit Room, in gloomy black and white, with Beth. Scot was always buying ashtrays for that place, for the customers constantly smashed them. Back then, huge tacky 1960's ashtrays were a dime a dozen in any thrift store. Scot invited me to Orbit Room's last party, some time during 1988, but I didn't go. The next day he told me how everyone ripped the place a part to take home a tangible memory of one of the coolest clubs in Chicago:
The Rise and Fall of Orbit Room
And as a extra special bonus, here's a Medusa's booklet. That's right! Booklet!
Medusas's 3rd Anniversary 1986
(Featuring Rex as the cover model. And click on any image to see it larger.)
Link: Beastie Boys
Posted by BC at 11:41 PM
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I began 1988 doing things I've only dreamt of doing. I was finishing up with the second half of my make-up class downtown, and am happy to say hang-overs kept me away from that class only once. I sometimes literally had to drag myself out the door during some of those sub-zero, dark-oh-so-early nights, onto the train once a week to the loop; always forgetting the closest stop to the school. I repeated in my head over and over: Monroe. Monroe. Marilyn Monroe: glamour, make-up. Why I forgot that every week, I'll never know. It really wasn't too hard for me to get to that class; the teacher loved me, and heaped generous amounts of praise on my tiniest of efforts, and was kind enough, during Contouring 101, to call my alcoholic bloat "baby fat". It was as if she knew what a mess my life was, and was trying to tell me if I focused my energy on my natural talents, that that could carry me to a better place.
I wrangled my roommate Margie into being my model for my final presentation, and the category I chose was, of course, Fashion Forward. I took these pictures at our apartment, after the train ride back home from the loop. I don't remember any 'incidents' on the train, but I do remember her not wanting to wash my creation off, and insisting we go to Berlin that night. Her face is so lovely, the make-up practically put it's self on, and back then I thought every woman should look like 1/3 Boy George, 1/3 Siouxsie, and 1/3 themselves, so it wasn't hard to do. I got an A+.
I spent a lot of time, most every night, at Limelight that entire year, and my salon did another hair show there. The long, laborious process of creating hair styles we deemed cool enough to put on stage was a lot easier this time. I actually don't remember what we did with the hair, and I lost the pictures, but I do remember the clothes. I designed and made them, building them off dark green bustiers: dissected charm bracelets sewn onto pencil skirts, black tulle for days, and laminated images pinned on everywhere.
That's a big reason I loved Limelight so much. They gave me and many others a platform for our creativity by constantly hosting events like this. The hair show inspired me to continue to create clothes and jewelry, and I even had nom de plum: Hellen Hevana. Coincidence? You be the judge.
I made clothes and rearranged vintage finds for a few other 'bazaars' at night clubs, and sold a fair amount. But all that work was getting in the way of partying, so I created less and less, and my salon was going through some big changes.
The rift between my bosses grew ever wider, and Consita and her partners one day decided to go their separate ways. Even though Bob wanted me to stay with him, and promised me a space to sell my clothes and jewelery, and a manager's salary, I went with Consita, because I was wrapped just a little tighter around her finger. Looking back, I made the wrong choice, and I often wonder what my life would be like had I chose door number two, but I guess that's what life is all about: the choices we make.
Plus the fact Theresa and Maria were going with Consita to her new salon, too, made my decision easier.
Theresa (her & I, 1990) had been working with us the past year, and her being an ex-punk and a fellow Wisconsinite made us fast friends. She was tiny and a bit plump, with eyes that were made for heavy black eyeliner. She could be sullen and quiet at work, but could let it rip when we went out. Her and I spent many hours deconstructing Consita's character flaws to the point of uncontrollable, therapeutic laughter, which always ended with the question, Why do we stay here?
A photographer came by the salon one afternoon, wanting to photograph us at work, so he hung out with us for the day and took pictures. It didn't take me too long to figure out he really just wanted to snap Theresa, and mainly shot her. A few months later Theresa came to work with the book he had sent her, and there she was; a whole page of her in the mirror lining her eyes. (I think I just ordered that book on line, and if it's the right one, I'll post the pic.)
My time with my roommates, Margie and Stephanie, was coming to an end (Annie having moved back home a few months before) and I was excited to live by myself for the first time. I would miss the girls, but their lives were pulling them closer to school on the north edge of town, but we promised to keep in touch. Oddly enough, Erin had moved into the very apartment, six years later, Margie had lived in in 1988. It took me a moment, on my first visit to Erin's apartment, to realise this feeling of deja vu was real.
I had many reasons to love living with them, but what I am most grateful for was their exposing me to the world of store front theater in Chicago. Margie was constantly going out to catch as many new shows as she could. I went begrudgingly at first, but soon grew to love it's close quarters, and intimate, charmingly grungy story telling.
Although I complain about Consita a lot, then and now, we did spend time together outside of work, partying, mainly, but we did see a lot of movies. I grew up across the street from a theater in my small hometown, and as a Senior in high school, in small town Arkansas, that's all there was to do. But the movies that made it to these towns were of the blockbuster Hollywood variety, and while I'm not knocking them, they do pale in comparison to the art house films Consita and I discovered together. We would seek them out, and weird Hollywood films that were cool and unusual: Down by Law, Mona Lisa, Withnail and I, Babette's Feast, Dangerous Liaisons, Dead Ringers, D.O.A., Salome's Last Dance, Lair of the Whiteworm, and The Moderns are a few that come to mind. I didn't understand most of these films at the time, but I guess that's why we liked them. We would discuss them, trying to tweeze out some sense or the moral they had to offer, with little result. But these movies looked great, and their recondite stories kept us coming back for more.
I found a cute little studio apartment on Pinegrove and Patterson in the spring of 1988, and I greatly looked forward to my new independent life. But had I known the drama that was to play out in that apartment, and how 1988 would end, I would have left town.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
While riding my bike last Friday night, I rode through the wake of women's perfume intermingling with cigarette smoke. I was so startled by the feelings brought up, I didn't think to look for who may have left it behind. I was reminded of the excitement of anticipation of a night out with my friends, the importance of it, and the thrill of new experiences. I still crave those feelings, but find them now by other means: traveling out of the country, acting in a play, or riding my bike for hours at a time.
New Year's Eve, 1987, my friend Delhi drove down from Wisconsin to spend the holiday with me in Chicago. She was running extremely late, so I had many hours to kill waiting for her. I was going through my 'purse and skirt' phase, fashion-wise, at this time, and I would comb through the thrift stores, or my roommate's closets, for just the right 1950's handbag. A 1950's handbag and a black leather motorcycle jacket, to me, is still a great look, for a woman or a man, and that's what I wore that night. Erin hated that I would carry such a purse, and I think I did just to hear her yell at me about it. During the day, I would wear a smaller purse with a long, skinny strap over my ankle length wool coat, with my 1950's men's hat, much to the disdain of the guys who stood next to me on the train. I guess I like it when people yell at me...
God, I hated riding the train Saturday mornings to work. I got on at the Addison stop around 8am, and it would usually be full of people, unsavory types, still partying from the night before, or people just plain uncomfortable to be around.
I always had a story to tell my coworkers each Saturday morning.
One winter morning, the kind of still, sunny, crisp winter morning that always reminded me of the winter days of my childhood in Wisconsin and Connecticut; the kind of day that used to send me racing for my coat to take as long of a walk outside that I could, to soak up the snow laden beauty, a man was sitting on the train, dressed in all white, though not warm enough for the weather, and was swabbing iodine all over his clothes and skin with an old rag, the whole time I rode with him.
I could tell by the look on his face his behavior was compulsive, and he didn't want to be doing what he was doing, but what was odder still was the body language of the people slouching around him: as long as he's doing that to himself alone, I don't care what he does. Unlike the morning I was on the subway in Manhattan in the mid 1990's, when the people in the half full car stopped in their tracks and stared at the man in the Santa hat who dropped his briefcase in the middle of the car and slowly bent over to open it and pull something out. Everyone but I held their breath to see what it was. I didn't care, because I had such a shitty time on that trip to New York, one more disaster wouldn't matter, and I could tell by the man's face he was just an ordinary guy, and it was December after all, and the something he pulled out of his briefcase was a piece of paper.
(More on that trip later. Chronology! I could write page after page on just that subway ride, let alone that trip.)
Delhi finally showed up at my apartment at 10:30. 10:30! I was furious! I wanted to be at Limelight hours ago. And really, I wanted to drink. It's New Year's! I want to drink, I want to be drunk right now. Where is she! I want to drink I want to drink I want to drink.
Delhi was big and loud in every way, and she came storming up the stairs to my apartment with some wild tale about getting lost on the drive down. But she came bearing a twelve pack, and champagne and raspberry liquor, to make those raspberry-champagne-twist-of-lemon drinks we liked so much. This was my first time seeing her since I had moved here, but we picked up where we left off, doing what we do best: helping each other drink and get into trouble. We drank every last drop of booze she brought with her, in an hour, and raced out the door for a cab to get us to Limelight before midnight.
We made it with minutes to spare, and caught up with Consita, my boss, and my Limelight friends who were always there. Consita, as I have already told you, was not the greatest boss in the world, but did we ever have fun when we went out. Tony kept the shots and Long Islands flowing, so all I really remember of that night are flashes of a swirl of noise and color, fake hellos and insincere new year wishes, and obnoxious affected behavior for the yuppie couples that seemed to be taking up way too much space in my playground. By 2am I had had enough, and wanted to leave. I stacked a pile of a dozen donuts like they were plates, and headed out the door with Delhi and Consita for a cab. During the ride, I chucked a donut at Delhi, and Consita laughed, so I thought she may enjoy a donut or ten chucked her way, too. I thought she was laughing, and I took glances at the driver, but he was just sitting there like this was his fiftieth donut fight that night. Consita kind of yelled at me when we dropped her off, and Delhi and I did our best to clean up the mess, and gave the driver a big tip, sadly knowing my hang-over lunch bag from 7-11 would be a lot lighter the next afternoon by doing so.
I was so furious at myself when I got home. I was mad at myself for mashing donuts into my boss's new winter coat, I was mad at myself for drinking so much in that short period of time, I was mad at myself for not having a boyfriend, I was mad at myself for wanting nothing more than to be wasted out of my skull, and having no control over that feeling.
That night, I tore apart my room in my anger, and smashed everything made of glass; I ripped up my artwork, knocked over my dresser, and threw things against the wall, all the while getting madder at myself because I was destroying my possessions, anger fueling even more anger, knowing I couldn't stop, knowing I couldn't stop any destruction that was going on in my life, and not being able to tell anyone why I was doing this, or how I felt.
The next morning, Margie, my roommate asked me how my night was.
"Didn't you hear me smashing up my room? I think I got fired, too." I said.
"Oh, I thought I heard some noise. How did you get fired?"
I told her my pitiful tale through the worse hangover of my life. Even though I had only drank for three hours, I was sick for days.
Me and my roommates laid around the sofa all day, thinking of ways I could get a new job fast, and I was secretly relieved I wouldn't ever have to see Consita again.
I didn't get fired that night, because they forced me to call her to make sure I was fired, after I confessed to them I didn't remember actually hearing those words.
She was mad, and expected me to have her coat cleaned, but I still had a job, during the crash of '87.
For years I hated to ever think about that night and the terrifying, utter powerlessness I had over my behavior, but now I know how important that experience was for me; It was the day I finally learned the truth about myself.
Link: Joy Division
Posted by BC at 9:55 PM
Thursday, October 04, 2007
I'm sorry, I've been neglecting you, my loyal readers. I'm rehearsing a play right now, The Birds, and we open this weekend, and it's been taking up all my time. Come and see it! I am very glad to be doing this show, and it's been wonderful experience, but I will be missing many of the great bands and other theater shows coming up in Chicago in the following months. Check out the Reader to see what's on soon. Really, it's astounding. I'm most upset to be missing Morrissey, of course, but hey, what can you do?
I was going to tell you a mini 80's story, but with the passing of Pavarotti a few weeks ago, I thought I would share this story with you about him, to tide you over til my next shocking post: New Year's, 1987.
In 2000, I was in New York City, walking on 50th Street, and as I approached the corner at 5th Avenue, I saw two young girls, about 15 or so, hugging and jumping together, screaming and laughing, and pointing at a car that was waiting for the light to change. I wonder who they are so excited over? I thought to myself. As I got closer, I saw it was Pavarotti. Hi Pavarotti! We love you! They yelled at him. I couldn't help but caught up in their excitement, and thought wow! it's Pavarotti! Just then, a young lad of the girls age walked up to the corner, and asked who was in the car. Pavarotti! Pavarotti! The girls screamed at him. Who? he asked. Luciano Pavarotti, the opera singer! I answered back in a voice so nerdy and scary I startled myself when it came out of me, because I never knew I was capable of creating a voice like that. Oh. said the lad, as he and the giggling girls walked off down the street, leaving me alone at the corner. The light hadn't changed yet, and Pavarotti was still sitting there, doing his best to ignore what had and what was happening outside his car; I stood there, four feet away, waving at him, hunched over like a slack-jawed, drooling lunatic, for what felt like ten minutes. Wow, he's fat. I thought to myself. His head is leaning on the head rest, yet his gut almost touches the dash board. Finally, Pavarotti turns to me and gives me a strained, two second smile, and I cross 5th Ave., while I watch his car drive away.
Ok, I can't resist. This story reminds me of a story from the 80's. But it's very short:
One sunny afternoon, in 1986, I was walking on Diversey, near the el, when I saw Steven King walking toward me. Oh shit! It's Steven King! I think to myself, as my eyes almost pop out of my head. Oh shit! He knows who I am! I discern from his expression back to me. He starts walking a little faster, and I content myself with a little smile and wave in his direction. We obviously didn't have time to discuss how much his books meant to me, how I would act them out in my room, how I read everything he had ever written and couldn't wait for more, and my dream of writing a book as scary as the ones he had written. Sometimes a smile and a wave is enough, and sometimes it isn't.
Par Time Lovers. did you see that? That's funny. Does the poster think Boy and Stevie are lovers of golf, or make love at the golf course, or say they are golfing when if fact they are trysting somewhere? The possibilities are endless. If you don't know what I'm talking about, click the title of this post to see and hear my favorite duet from the 80's. And to the commenter on the video, that is an expensive designer Gaultier 'bag' he is wearing...
Posted by BC at 11:21 PM
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Halloween, 1987, at Berlin, was quite the Fellini-esque experience, and it's forever burned into my memory. At the last minute, Erin and I decided to brave the giant crowds Berlin somehow managed to squeeze into it's then tiny space, sans costumes. We bought some extra large drinks and staked out a bird's eye perch on their 'dance floor' to watch the night's debauchery. When Berlin was half the size it is now, and super crowded like the night was that night, we always bought extra big drinks, because the four foot squeeze back to the bar, and the hour wait for a refill was too much to take more than once. Berlin had a cash prize for best costume each Halloween, and people put a lot of effort into winning, so it was a great theater.
I say 'dance floor', because for some reason or other, we were hanging out in Berlin's basement earlier in the week with Jim, a bartender, and Erin and I were commenting on the scary noises above us.
"You probably shouldn't stand underneath the dance area. We technically don't have a dance floor, because you need special requirements and reinforcements for it, and we don't have that."
"Oh." We said.
There were many amazing costumes walking in the door that night, but the three I remember most were were Annie and Dave from their There Must be an Angel video, and the Sears Tower. Every Eurythmics detail was perfect and stunning; complete with the three foot crown and five foot long wigs. And the Sears Tower was beyond words. As a teenager I made models of every type, and none are easy to do, so to make a human-sized one, let alone one you could dance in, is a remarkable feat. He even stuck airplanes on wires to look like they were flying around him.
As the night progressed, the crowd worked it's self up into a frenzy, and started jumping up and down on the 'dance floor'. Erin and I knew it's dangers, and we grabbed the drink rail for dear life when we felt ourselves dipping a foot up and down, to the rhythm of Confusion and Why Can't I be You?. I started to imagine the floor's cross beams splintering a little more with each jump, and after an hour, with no disaster, we went to Smartbar. I guess we kind of wanted to see if there was going to be a disaster, for we knew it wasn't a very big drop into the basement, and the drink rail seemed pretty sturdy...
Thanksgiving that year was a pretty dismal experience. I couldn't get time off work to go see the family, and I didn't drive, and all my friends, including my roommates, were out of town. So I got it into my head that I was going to fast for all the people in the world that didn't have anything to eat that day. When I told that to my clients and co-workers that week, they all invited me over for dinner, but I refused. I was alone and at home watching TV, occasionally condemning the selfish world over the plight of the less fortunate, until the commercials for food started to get to me, and I ran over to the 7-11 and bought a bag of junk food, and a six-pack.
Our salon was invited to do a hair show at Limelight that December. It took us all day and night to get our three models ready for the show, but it was a great time. Erin and Donny came by to help out and pour drinks. We each, Maria, Consita and I, had our own ideas for our hair model, but I added a little dose of craziness to them all. Mine was inspired by Moschino's classic model airplane-as-a-hat ad, and a newspaper Mohawk I saw in i-D, though I turned it into a newspaper fall. So dangerous, I know, so I ripped the newspaper out as soon as the show was over. Thankfully, one picture of that night, taken at the salon, with me in the back round wearing Margie's sweater, survives. Tension was a little high that day, getting the models ready, because Consita didn't invite her business partner to do the show with us, and he was there working, and the two of them bickered back and forth non-stop. Our models walked down the catwalk to Les Rita Mitsouko's Marcia Baila, a song you all know I love.
This evening was made much more complicated by the fact that my mother, upset at my absence at Thanksgiving, because of my overbearing boss, decided to drive 13 hours from Little Rock herself, to the salon, to drive me home for Christmas.
"I just want to see your boss try and say no to your leaving with me when I show up there!" She said.
"Well, I have this fashion show thing, but I can leave after that I guess..." I said.
She pulled up to the salon, at Sheffield and Webster, around 9pm, in her little yellow car. She had that car for years; she would drive me and my brothers to doctor appointments and to school in it, so it was very surreal seeing a car I associated with my boyhood in the little town I grew up in, nestled into this big city I lived in now. Erin rode with my mom to my apartment, because she wasn't up for Limelight, to wait for me til 3am so we could start our drive south. I remember being mad I couldn't get wasted at Limelight that night, and I was even more mad when I got home to find she had cleaned my room, and discovered all my dirty little secrets. I was 21 then, and I lived like I was still in high school. Clothes and records piled everywhere, Boy George and Debbie Harry posters on the wall, half eaten food all over the place, but worst of all were all the pictures of naked men my friend Bryan would send along in the letters he wrote me, hidden under my sleeping bag. They were too cute to throw away. Maybe she didn't pay too much attention to what she saw, but she seemed to be more upset about the fact I slept on the floor, and gave me money to buy a futon. The second I got home we were on the road. It was a long long drive, and our only stop was for breakfast from a grocery store in the Ozarks, who's homemade doughnuts I still dream about.
That Christmas was pleasant enough, and I remember it because I recently looked at some pictures, but I looked like someone who had lived a hundred lifetimes, each one more miserable than the last. I was in an alcohol withdrawal haze, which always helps, because I hid my drinking from my family, and would only 'have a few beers', instead of the 8 million I usually drank.
I was thinking of the music and books from this time in my life, trying to come up with a theme song for this post, when I remembered how much I played Eurythmics' Savage. They made videos for each song with Sophie Muller, and together they make up a little movie. That CD and video compilation's fearless creativity inspired me beyond words. I guess it won't ever be available on DVD, so if you can find a VHS copy, dust off your video player and check it out. The books I read were everything by Daniel Odier, The Handmaid's Tail, and an attempt at A Hundred Years of Solitude.
Posted by BC at 9:35 PM
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Sonya lived for the moment more than any other person I had ever met. She was trim and athletic, probably due to her frequent all night dance-a-thons, was African-American, and wore her hair ala Miss Hendryx and her lipstick loud. I first met her and worked with her in 1985, at Demuel's on Halsted near Diversey. Her high energy and bubbly moods were always welcome to me there, and we quickly became each other's interlocutrice; a lot of the time I felt like I had wanderered into Bronte's Gateshead Hall...
Sonya and I were the outsiders, because the owner Demuel shacked up with one of his Iraqi stylists, and with her Iraqi-American sister working there as well, they ran the show.
I got the freaks that walked into the salon, Sonya got the African-Americans that Terry, the manager, couldn't do, and the sisters got everyone else. Not that there were a lot of everyone elses, but had the clients been spread out a little more evenly, Sonya and I would've been a lot happier. And healthier.
We shared each other's clothes and make up, and the richer of us would buy the other's lunch, and we would steal away for hours, either in the back room, where we would cry on each other's shoulders over our sorry, penniless plights, and kick ourselves as to why we didn't leave for a busier salon. It will get better, I promise! Don't leave! Demuel would often say, as he loaned us money, or we would pass out cards to the gang at the Belmont Rocks. Sonya always found someone she knew there she knew, and we would laugh our asses off til it was time to go back and face the music. Sonya and her friend's favorite phrases back then were That's the T! Damn girl, you're full! and OOO, that's woogie, chile!, meaning cool, drunk, and to be avoided, respectively. We would repeat and act those phrases out all day long.
At work, the sisters were fine alone, but when they were together, they would only speak Iraqi, and had loud, salon length conversations, and we couldn't help but think they were talking about us in a negative way. They seemed to have permanent scowls painted on their faces, and a bitterness toward anyone working when they weren't. But when the wind was right, Sonya and I could get them to talking about themselves, and we learned about their difficult, tragedy filled lives in Iraq before they came to the states. They were proud of their Iraqi heritage, and were quick to point out the difference between Iraq and Iran, probably because the hostage crisis was a not too distant memory for Americans. They lost some family members many of their belongings, when Iraq went to war with Iran, and their family barely made it out of alive.
I learned from them that some people divide the world into two different types of people: those who've survived war and unfettered abuse of power, and those who haven't. They could convey to you You think making fifty dollars a week is a tragedy! You think not having money for one lunch is something to get depressed about! You don't know from it! with a slight squint from one eye. I've met these types of people in former East Berlin, too. Twelve years ago, the sting of authoritarian rule and divided families was still fading, and the difference between former East and West Berlin was palpable, from the attitude of a lot of the people I came across. They mastered the You think because you can't speak German you have the right to feel exasperated! Try 28 years of socialism, and get back to me! look with one squint from their eye, too.
I was never sure where Sonya lived. When I started working with her, she updated me to her long, ongoing fight with her exceedingly religious mother, who disapproved of her late nights and questionable company. It all came quickly to a head when her mother found out about Sonya's girlfriends. As a lesbian forbidden entry to heaven, to lay down her weary soul, her mother felt she was given leave to forbid Sonya to lay down her earthly burdens, in her home. Ever.
"What are you going to do? Where are you going to live!?" I asked her
"I was hardly living there anyway. I have friends to help me out. I'll be OK." She said.
Underneath her constant singing and laughter, I could sense the shame she felt about what her mother did to her, and the stress of not having a true place to call home.
She was a different person after that, and only saw and experienced each moment, second to second, she took up space on this planet. She never let it get her down. She always had a smile on her face.
She did what she had to do to get what she needed, and if that meant she had to be felt up by the janitor in exchange for a bag of clothes from the consignment shop next door to the salon, or had to sleep in the hallway of a friend's apartment building, or had to hide the suitcase that held all her worldly possessions in the alley, so no one found out she had no where to go, she did it.
After she dosed me with acid, with only the best of intentions, after my break up with Doug, any consumable from her was suspect. (See Pleased to Meet Me) And because of my over-active imagination and slightly paranoid nature, everything I put in my body was suspect. A year or so later I embarrassedly confessed this to Brad, and his response was I wish! I hope there is acid everything I eat and drink! That would be great! His attitude, thankfully, shattered the spell I was under.
A few months after I left Demuel's, Sonya asked me to put in a good word with my new boss so she could work with me again. I did, and when I walked in the door on her first day there, I knew I was in for a long ride...
She was singing to my co-worker Jim, with her arms flailing, and the animation in her already bright face somehow doubling, while he had this weird look of deep, profound enjoyment on his face, watching her. She was singing a gospel song she learned as a girl, and Jim made her promise she would give him singing lessons.
"I would love to be able to sing like that!"
Sonya's time at my new salon was doomed, because of The Mail-Woman. Oh shit! It's the Mail-Woman! Sonya! Don't let her in here! Goddammit! The Mail-Woman is here again! Aaah!
The Mail-Woman, Lucy, was in love with Sonya. She was white and blond, and looked bedraggled, like she spent the last year crying her eyes out instead of sleeping. They were a couple once, and lived together for a while (thank God), but Sonya soon felt smothered by her constant attention and lack of freedoms. But for months after their break up, Lucy would get drunk after work and drive her mail truck to the salon a couple times a week, first, to beg her to come back, and then to have it out with her, and demand the things back she accused Sonya of stealing.
Their row would start in the mail truck (she somehow always found a parking spot in front of the salon) Lucy, no. Please leave. But I love you, Sonya!, and spill into the street, Get out of here! But I love you! I LOVE YOU!, and tumble into the salon: Are you trying to get me fired? Get the fuck out of here! I hate you! Give me my shit back! You took that necklace! I hate you, TOO!
Needless to say, it drove me and my boss Consita nuts. Jim was jealous of the passion in her life, and secretly looked forward to Lucy's 'visits'.
"Isn't it great! She really loves her. I doubt my boyfriend would ever do that for me."
After complaining to me for weeks about the Lucy incidents, Consita finally fired Sonya. I don't remember ever hearing from her again, bit I feel safe in assuming, because of her indomitable spirit, Sonya is healthy and happy, and laying her head down on a pillow she can call her own.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Not Sonya's story yet, but a little flashback to 1987. Some stories I forgot to tell...
I never thought I would forget her name. I never thought to write it down, because I never thought I would need to. I spent time with her almost everyday that summer of '87, and now she's only a fleeting memory; a collage of fragments: her black hair, her beautiful smile, her green eyes, and lovely skin. Try as I might, I can't put the pieces of her back together.
She worked at Ringo-Levio, and I met her there, because I went there twice a week. I sometimes bought things, but the things I really liked were too expensive. She would tell me when a sale was coming up, and put stuff aside for me. I eventually started going just so I could hang out with her. Sometimes we had lunch, but usually we stood outside and smoked.
She was also an au pair, and would bring the kids to the salon with her for a visit. She visited almost everyday.
The kids were gorgeous and perfect, and I would stare at them and imagine their futures: I got my acceptance for Cornell, today...I'm moving into Grandma's co-op on 52nd...
The kid's aura of wealth and security was palpable, and so was hers. I often fantasized we might share a life together, me as a struggling writer/fashion designer, and her working her way to a degree in art, and the modest apartment we would share in Paris, her parents paying our rent.
I wish I could be this person, I thought to myself, I wish I could trust myself enough to be in a relationship with her, knowing it wouldn't blow up into a mess of tears and accusations five years from now, when she caught me looking at yet another man's ass, exclaiming But honey, I love you for who you are, for the millionth time. Was that enough for her? Should she have more? Was that enough for me? I doubted it.
I still run those little scenarios in my head all the time with everyone I interact with throughout my day; introducing my parents to the ugly checker at the grocer, planning our second anniversary with the pretty blond pedestrian in front of me, or looking for condos with the shady looking guy fulfilling his community service.
Wouldn't that be funny if that really happened? I think to myself. My imagination has no sexual preference, it seems.
One day she was missing from Ringo-Levio, because she had to go to the hospital unexpectedly.
What happened? I said to a co worker.
She inhaled the back of her nose-ring.
Is she ok? I asked.
Um, I guess. He said, non-plussed, and mad he had to take over her shift.
The next day she told me the doctor couldn't take it out, it had to stay there forever. I thought of the little gold back, languishing in her tertiary bronchi like a pirate's lost treasure, never to be seen again.
She brought me soup when I was sick, and old copies of Face magazine, and even though she sensed my attraction to her, she also brought me Dale...
One gloomy hung-over morning, a young chap in a fedora was lurking about the sidewalk in front of Roma's, the greasy spoon across the street from my salon.
Oh my God, oh my God, I can hear it slamming! I was in a panic. Why? Why is this happening! I thought to myself. I saw it slam shut, I heard it slam shut. I was pacing around the salon, not knowing what to do, hoping he was seeing me freak out, and changing his mind about getting his haircut that morning. But no, he came in.
The girl from Ringo-Levio sent Dale to me, thinking we would hit it off. He walked in and took off his hat to reveal a bright shock of strawberry blond hair, and with a big smile he said Hi I'm Dale, you must be Brian!
I knew never in a million years would he go out with me. I knew the part of my life where I had intimate relationships was over for a while. I knew that because I heard the doors to my love life slamming shut, and a distant, echoey voice saying this is going to take sometime; I'm closing these doors, hopefully I'll be back and we'll see what we can do....
After I washed his hair, I said So, do you like the new Depeche Mode? Let's have a black celebration, ha ha. After he left, I cried.
I was right, too. I didn't have my next real relationship (if you can call it that- what a mess that was) until 1993. Looking back, I think it was my subconscious trying to tell me I needed a different approach when I came to relationships. I was extremely attracted to Dale, but too much of my last two relationships had been built around attraction, and they didn't really go anywhere; well they went somewhere, just not very far, and I really wanted to 'go the distance'. I guess this means be careful what you wish for...or at least be certain.
Posted by BC at 10:54 PM
Thursday, August 02, 2007
I guess things happen for a reason. I didn't feel like doing this tonight, because when I prepare to write a post (or anything) I think about it for a while, and eventually sit down and do it. I get the narrative all whirling around up in my brain, and pick it out when it has come into place. But sometimes I just have to sit down and let the words flow, regardless of the outcome...
I wanted to tell you about Sonya, I girl I worked with once upon a time, but first I need to talk about my last post. I don't like to this, because I am such a fan of puzzles and crosswords, and I hate getting hints to any answers. I like to try and figure them out for myself, only looking up the solution when I'm absolutely ready to give up. And because I am such a fan of riddles and such, I like to put them into my stories, and let you try and figure them out. Maybe you didn't even know they were there... but they are. And who really likes things spelled out for them, anyway?
I saw Joan as Policewoman the other night at Shubas, with one of the Joans, and she sang my favorite song of hers, The Ride. Before she performed it, she told us the song was about Whitney Houston, and her tragic relationship with Bobby. Did that ruin it for me? Maybe a little. I had my own meaning about that song, and it wasn't that. She did add that she forgets her inspiration for it, sometimes, but she told us anyway. Maybe in a couple years I'll forget, too, but I doubt it.
Spoilers from my last entry: these are the hidden meanings I put in the post, but if you saw it a different way, that's ok, too:
About the title, Viva Hate: It come from Morrissey's first solo collection, from the year of my post, right after the ending of the Smiths. I can't speak of his meaning of the title, but besides it being kind of funny, for me it means he has accepted hatred as a part of life, and that can be turned into art, and art has a meaning outside of itself. Also, to me, he diffused any bombs out there about what the world at large may be thinking about his motives for a quick solo release. I know my first thought back then, when I heard he had a new album out, was so soon after the end of the Smiths? And it also put the spotlight on the other Smiths as to who may have ended the group, intentionally or not, because he obviously didn't hate his band. All this relates to how I feel about Consita, my old boss, because hatred can be a motivator, and, although I don't hate the person Consita, her actions, and lack of action, greatly upset me, during a time in my life when I really hated myself, and actions, and lack of action. Sometimes hate keeps you alive. It makes you want to live long enough to enjoy a life without it.
The song in the title link; Such a Shame by Talk Talk: A perfect songs that illustrates how I felt about Consita; also represents being on the other side of those feelings, by writing about it, like they did. Most importantly, he's kept his sense of humor.
The Picture; Gene Tierny. Besides being an inspiration for me to try and write as clean and simply as the photos I choose, her Hollywood story mirrors that of Lana Turner's, (I can't be that obvious and put her picture up, now can I? Oops, I already have. I love her.) in that she was on a tour of a movie studio with her family when she was discovered by a talent agent. It represents one of those classic moments we all have in our life when we think about our pasts, and wonder what if I had never met so and so?, or if I had only turned left instead of right that day. Would we know Lana Turner if she chose to eat somewhere other than Schuab's that fateful day? Consita and Bob are a part of me, and paint the picture of me, like the picture also represents. Like it or not, everyone we've ever known is in the picture that could be painted of our lives.
The last line, I sometimes wish we all had heard him that day, has as much meaning for myself as it does for Consita. I was on a very self-destructive path back then, and couldn't open my eyes to the millions of paths that are out there. Sometimes a little nudge from the people around us is all we need to get off it, and sometimes a giant shove. Hearing John English speak that day in 1987 was my ten thousandth 'little nudge' to date, and I was mainly upset by Consita because I recall no 'nudges' from her.
Ultimately, what I meant by this post is that hatred lives, but it's subjective; illusory, and I ask myself How could it be different? It may appear only as a small blip on our radar, but it can consume us.
I'll tell you about Sonya next time...
Posted by BC at 11:14 PM
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
I'm not sure why people hated Bob. Or Healthy Bob, as he was known. Maybe hated is too strong of a word. Maybe he just annoyed people to the point of, to the edge of, hatred. All I know is people, my friends mainly, didn't like to be around him.
I don't remember how or why he was always around Donnie's and Erin's Belle Plaine apartment, but he was there a lot the summer of 88.
Oh God, Healthy Bob is here I would think to myself as I walked into their kitchen on a Saturday night, to put away the beer. We usually hung out at their place drinking before we went out. He'd be front and center, at the kitchen table, among piles of beer and wine bottles, dominating our party with his unwelcome presence, nursing an iced tea.
He called and asked to come over, and I couldn't say no! Donnie would whisper to me.
He seemed oblivious to our feelings toward him, and stuck around us despite our feelings toward him. I could never quite figure that out about him.
He would sometimes show up to our pre-party parties with glamorous guests in tow. A politician's son springs immediately to mind. Whomever it was that night, sulked in a corner til it was time to go. They all came from Planet Bob, and intensely disliked visiting our planet. Or maybe just Planet Erin and Brian, because Donnie seemed to get chummy with them after a while.
Erin and I would ensconce ourselves in her room for most of the night, drinking and putting on make-up, for being around them would remind me of certain people in my past, who I'm being deliberately vague about, and who, during the holidays of my boyhood, would position themselves as far away as possible from me, where we would then engage in our version of a staring contest: they would look at a wall, and I at them, while I would think to myself: They are just going to sit there and stare at that wall and ignore me all day, even though I am standing here, plain as day, in front of everyone, staring at them. Does anyone else see this!
Over the years they warmed up to me a bit, but you can always tell when someone has been forced to invite you to their party.
Anyway, with those past bad memories rising to the surface whenever they were around, it wasn't long before Erin came over to my place to hang out.
But sometime during those evenings with Bob, he would corner me into this inevitable conversation, apple in hand: (His constant apple eating drove Erin nuts.)
"Brian, why do you party so much?" He would ask, with the look of a priest who worked in a really rough part of town, playing upon his face. Bob was very good looking, and had a strong, muscled body, and just radiated this sickening aura of happiness and self acceptance.
"Um, it's fun?" I said back.
"You don't look like you are having fun. You look kind of sad. I used to party a lot when I was sad, but it only made me sadder."
Jody spent months trying to pry out of me any type of deep personal conversation, so I wasn't about to spill my guts to a total stranger. Maybe had I known him while he was still a sad partier, things might have been different.
"Any time you feel like you want to stop drinking, give me a call."
I don't know if Bob stopped drinking because he born again, or if because he went to AA, but I had been around both types of people before, and they scared the crap out of me. But I did spend a lot of time thinking about Healthy Bob, envying him his seemingly total self-love of himself; the self-love that he had for himself despite whatever may have happened in his past, and despite whatever was going on around him, and his ability to have a good time out at the clubs without drinking or doing drugs.
I did want the kind of life he had, but I knew it would be a while before I would be ready for it.
I was sad to hear a few years later, while in Puerto Rico, he was killed. Maybe he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he was in my life at the right time.
In the fall of '88, Maria and I signed up for a make-up class downtown, and Consita, our boss, was livid. The real reason, I think she was mad at us for doing this, on our free time, was that she was upset we didn't invite her, but she couldn't admit it. Her reaction to our taking this class is what started me resenting her. Maria and I spent hours together alone at work when we weren't busy, analysing the hair and make-up we saw in the fashion magazines, and from that grew a desire to experiment with the idea of moving our careers in the direction of make-up, by taking the class, but Consita saw it as a personal snub. She called our idea a waste of time and money. I saw in her her inability to truly see the people around her, and yes, I've been putting off writing about her. My experience and time with her is valuable to me, but for all the wrong reasons: I wanted to grow into a person that was the exact opposite of her, because here were all the things I disliked about myself, walking and talking and signing my paychecks.
But the real thing that made her tick, the main reason I grew to dislike her, and the main thing I learned from her, was her distain toward anyone who she perceived to achieve more success than her, on any level. I started to feel hindered by her presence, with no where to go but down. And down I was going, destroying myself a little more each day with drugs and alcohol, eight feet away from her, five days a week, 52 weeks of the year, for the six years I worked for her.
Earlier that year, we went to a hair cutting class in Minnesota, where the educator, John English, related a story about his experience of working closely with someone who had committed suicide, and how he vowed never to be that oblivious to the feelings and lives of the people he's around on a daily basis.
I sometimes wish we all had heard him that day.
Posted by BC at 11:25 PM
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Ok, so I like totally screamed a little when I saw this; Erin just sent it to me, and I hadn't seen this in a couple years. See that thing by Erin and my heads? I wasn't wearing a bow that night....
So I thought I remembered it grinning, but I guess it was we who were grinning. But you can see the eyes in the mask, right?
From left to right: Brad, Scarlett, Wickie-Poo, Erin, Me.
So I thought I remembered it grinning, but I guess it was we who were grinning. But you can see the eyes in the mask, right?
From left to right: Brad, Scarlett, Wickie-Poo, Erin, Me.
Posted by BC at 10:05 PM
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Sometimes I wish I had better stories to tell, like my friends do. Bigger stories to tell. You know, a story so big, I'd have to lay down after I told it. A story so big that I would have to be institutionalised after I told it to Monty and Kate, and a gay southern genius would turn it into a play. Well, maybe not that big. Um, ok, that big.
Scot, a frequent character in this story, was visiting me in Chicago last weekend, and told me some of his tales from 'back in the day'. Like when he and Beth and Carly stopped all conversation at a crowded Melrose because they were dressed so glamorously, or like the night almost every underground 80's band had camped out around Orbit Room, where the three of them worked. Or the night I fucking missed Divine again, performing, at Limelight.
"Oh, I was there alright." Scot reminded me.
Then there is Beth's famous story, one I can only pray to top some day, that I never tire of hearing from him:
Nunzio, the owner of Orbit Room, called Beth to chew her out because she wasn't at work. Oh shit! I'll be there as soon as I can! she answered back, and ran out the door. Luckily, there was a bus pulling up to the corner as she got there, and she ran on. I'm late for work! Can you drive as fast as you can?! She yelled at the driver.
Now this question (!) was coming from a woman who's fashion creations ran from Nina Hagen meets Dressy Bessy meets Oliver from the Brady Bunch, to That Girl meets Sharon Tate meets Strawberry Shortcake. No one dressed like her. She stood out in a crowd, like a scarecrow. A pretty scarecrow, but a scarecrow none the less.
OK! said the driver, as he hit the gas. Where do you work?!
The Orbit Room on Broadway and Waveland! she yelled.
He drove her all the way to Orbit Room, speeding past all the bus stops, as the would-be passengers gasped in shock or shook their fists. He didn't stop once for another passenger.
Beth crashes into Orbit Room (Beth never 'just opened a door', she always made an entrance, Scot added) ten minutes after her you're late! phone call, and proceeds to tell everyone what just happened.
The CTA may suck now, but it sure didn't back then...
Scot and Beth have a lot of great stories, for they were glued to each other's side for most of 87 and all of 88, and I used to love hearing them back then, but I never wanted to become a character in them. I would occasionally go with them to Smart Bar or Neo, but I preferred their experiences second hand, because they were such a perfect compliment to each other; Scot, long and lean, and an attentive listener, in his mis-matched, tight fitting, all plaid ensembles, crowned with a thrifted top hat, and Beth in her ingenious, well balanced, inspired creations, and her non-stop, mile a minute, frequently nonsensical, but always hilarious ramblings, made me feel like a pudgy, druggy third wheel that shattered their magic.
My friend B. has even bigger stories to tell: getting slapped by our 8th grade science teacher, probably because he hit too close to home, when he screamed kiss her! right in the teacher's face when he was demonstrating on a female student how to prick our fingers so we could learn our blood type, or the night he guarded the men's room at Limelight so a Duran could have a little girl fun, (he worked there, all told, less than two weeks, but got to wait on a band we had spent every free minute listening to in 1982) and more tragic stories, such as the night he was driving back from Florida, and he had to help his sister miscarry by the side of the road, and no one would stop to help them, or tell them where they could find a hospital.
But, alas, they're not telling their stories, so you'll just have to settle for mine, such as they are:
In the summer of 88, Patrick, from Looking for Clues, had rented a great vintage apartment on the second floor on the corner of Halsted and Webster. He had let his hair grow into dread locks, and one day while visiting me at work, my boss told us he had a client who had a 'dread lock dog', and her house was littered with it's locks. I asked him to tell her to save them, and I would try working them into Patrick's hair. When the day finally came, and I had a bag full of dog-locks, I spent the evening sewing them on his head, under a low light from a coffee table, and dying it all to match, while we listened to The The's Soul Mining and Bouncing off the Satellites, (I could not get enough of those albums back then) as a gentle breeze and the sounds of summer trickled into the window. I told him about the ancient cabbie who I rode with a few months prior, and his stories of Halsted's old trolley car, and about the day he saw a woman stuck and killed by it, when he was a little boy, right on his very corner. Can you imagine the horrible noise you had to bear if you lived here back then? I said.
His hair turned out great. So great, as a matter of fact, Milio paid him to model my hair creation under Milio's salon's name. I guess it was pay back for the Looking for Clues moment.
Soon after, news of Billy Idol coming to Limelight after a concert hit the scene, and I had to be there. Patrick worked the ropes for the VIP lounge, so I knew I could be there. When the night came, I had never seen Limelight so packed, and Erin and I ran upstairs to find a bedraggled Patrick guarding the lounge.
"Brian, I could retire off all the money I've been offered by these people trying to get in to see Billy." he said.
"Then why don't you! Take the money!" I said.
"I can't! My boss warned me no one with out a pass can get in, and no bribes."
Patrick gave his only free passes to me and Erin. Nothing spectacular happened that night in the VIP lounge, Billy and Steve looked great, but they just sat there drinking with dozens of floozied up babes. Erin and I stuck together, and pretended to be way more interested in each other, than to what was happening in the room.
The best celebrity advice I've ever read, and that I still (mostly) stick to, is the advice I read in Edie: An American Biography. Andy (I think) was recounting the story of the time when Judy Garland showed up alone one night to the Factory for a party, and everyone ignored her. That took collective balls to do that, to do that to the person who held the title everyone in that room wanted; to the patron saint of iconic celebrity and drug addiction. I took from that to mean the highest complement you can give your idols is to appear like you have more to offer them than they to you. This world might be a less tedious place if more people behaved like Andy.
Many more famous faces wandered into Limelight during the years Erin and I 'lived' there, but if they weren't interested in us first, we weren't interested in them.
Some of those faces never left...
It is a dark and stormy night as I write this, so I'll tell you a scary story.
No, not the scary story about the guy who thought it would be fun to try to slide down the stair railing from the top floor, but ended up falling to his death (sadly, I was there), and no, not the scary story about the prostitutes who got into a bloody knife fight right next to me and Erin, on the dance floor, over a rich john , but an even scarier one...
About ten years ago, I was watching a Halloween special on a local channel about famous ghosts and haunted places in Chicago. It featured Resurrection Mary, and the Red Lion pub on Lincoln by the Biograph, and it's attic ghost, but it also featured a story I hadn't heard before, about the ghost seen at the old Limelight building, which is now Excaliber, and was built in the late 1800's as a city building or something.
"I knew it!" I yelled at the TV. "It was a ghost!"
Me, Erin, Brad, and Wickie-Poo all posed for a bunch of pics in the VIP lounge, and when we got them back, Erin found something weird in one photo. It was so weird to her, in fact, she couldn't look at it any more, and shoved the picture over to me to see if I could see it, too. In the back round was an image of a face so scary and evil looking, I shudder to even write about it. It had a wide maniacal grin, big dark eyes, and looked to be wearing a hood. It looked more like a demon than a ghost. It didn't look like a shadow from the wall, but seemed to be sitting with us, floating next to our heads. I showed it to a lot of people, and some saw it right away, but once it was pointed out, you couldn't unsee it. I kept that picture out and framed for years, until one day Erin came over and said I don't have a picture of Brad and took it from me. I guess we both had made peace with the demon lurking in that picture, for our collective histories with each other were the scariest things of all.
She says she still has it, so one day you will get to see it, too.
Patrick and a Limelight beauty, whose name I can't remember, but David might, 1987.
'Eva', Patrick (with short locks), me with a weird looking head, and Erin, Limelight VIPs, 1987.
A simply gorgeous Margie and 'Annie', in our brittle apartment on Wilton, 1988.
Pudgy and druggy with Margie, Wilton apartment, 1988.
Posted by BC at 9:11 PM
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I was back home this weekend, in Wisconsin, spending time with family, and taking pictures of some of the houses we used to live in in the early 70's. It was nice to see that not much has changed there. Small towns act a lot like trees when they grow: the branches grow up and out, and the roots grow deeper, but the trunk remains relatively the same. I was sad to see Wanzerski's had closed after all these years (I think it's closed, it looks closed). The old sign was still there though, and I'll post the picture for you sometime.
Every time I had an extra quarter, in 1974, I walked down to Wanzerski's; the hot sun of summer on my back, making the three blocks feel like an eternity, as it can only do to a child, to buy Wacky Packages. I rarely saw a soul on those walks to the store, so I would pretend I had walked into a picture in one of the many books my dad had about ghost towns of the old west. A gentle arid breeze waved through the weeds next to the silent school and factory buildings, so silent it was as if no one had ever been there. I saw no movement behind the windows of the houses, but sometimes I saw signs of life in the bar, it's door propped open to relieve the heat: old ladies in faded house dresses, laughing and smoking, with dark colored drinks in their hands.
I spent hours with the photographs in those old west books, fascinated by the effects the decades of sun and wind and sand had on those towns, and I would get a little afraid this was happening to my own town, and we'd all have to move away.
My walk down that same street last weekend, thirty years later (eek! X 3000!), wasn't much different.
The cool darkness protecting the brightly colored products was a welcome oasis, when I finally entered the store. It took me a long time to decide which Wacky Packs would bear the most fruit: I said a little prayer whenever I opened a new package, hoping for a 'product' I hadn't seen before.
But my favorite Wacky Pack was the picture you see above. I put it in the Wacky Pack category back when I was nine, because I only got to see Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World during my infrequent trips to our family doctor, Dr. Haslow. He had a copy in his waiting room, so it was his, and I never got to sit with it and hold it; I could only boost myself up onto a chair and gaze from a far. A jealous, longing gaze.
Annie, Margie's sister, moved in with us a couple months after I did, in 1987. She had wonderfully bright eyes, and an over all brightness to her being that could be a little blinding. She had long, long curly brown hair, and leaned toward tom-boyishness. Her and Margie couldn't have been more different. Margie was 80's, Annie was 60's. Margie was black and white, Annie was tanned and golden. Margie acted only after careful thought, Annie was all impulse.
She was so impulsive, it sometimes scared me. I mean really scared me. She would jump from one dangerous situation to the next, as if she had forgotten every life lesson she had ever learned, like she hadn't existed prior to the new situation. She seemed to live her life as if a giant piece of herself had gone missing, and she was desperately trying to find it, but would forget what she was trying to find half way through.
When ever I thought about the self destructive path I was on, I thanked God there was a path I could see, because I don't think Annie saw any path at all. She felt a hunger and a need and urgency, but saw nothing.
I sometimes got glimpses of the way she saw the world, for she was able make me feel, intentionally or not, the intensity of her emotions, whenever she was trying to cheer me up, or whenever we got onto a topic she was passionate about.
We were pretty much inseparable for a while.
Annie and I often took the el downtown to see a movie, and walked the five miles back home. We watched a lot of late night television together, while she cooed her deep love for David Letterman.
Annie had a few short-lived jobs, but her longest was working as a conductor for Amtrak. I didn't like her having this job, because the only time I got to see her was at four in the morning at the kitchen table, eating breakfast in her dark blue uniform, on her way out the door for another trip. They had her zigzagging all over the country, at all hours of the day and night, for weeks at a time.
Most everyone else would have gone crazy living on a train that was speeding from one town to the next for days at a time, but it made her more grounded. She was less frenetic when I saw her at home. She moved and spoke more slowly and deliberately. She could finally rest and take a breath. I could only reason it satisfied her insatiable need for movement, and a path.
I guess when we get plunked down into this life and this world, a world that can seem so much like an endless forest, the first thing we do is look for a path.
A way out, a way home, a way to the next meal, that is the question I ask myself.
But the one thing Annie didn't fully realise was that this wasn't her path, she was only borrowing one. She would eventually need to find her own.
A few years ago, the Whitney had a Wyeth retrospective, and I went to New York to see it. My joy of finally being in the same room with Christina's World was overwhelming. I was surprised at how large the painting really is. It envelopes you, and invites you in for a walk in her field. But what surprised me most was seeing his other paintings in context to Christina's World. The paintings Wyeth produced right before, and right after, were just as incredible.
Posted by BC at 10:01 PM
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Ok, so I know it sounds crazy, but I met him. Boy George's Little Ghost. Well, not him him, actually, but a version of him. What made me hang out with him? Was it his giant fur, but not really so cool, coat? Was it his bottomless bag of diamonds? Um, yes, it was the diamonds.
I called him Chuck, because he wanted everyone to call him Poo-swahswah or Poopooleenee, or some crap like that, so I renamed him Chuck, which he didn't like. He started talking to me one night in Berlin, about the song that was playing and how he 'wrote' it. He always wore the huge fur coat, and me and my friends would giggle at his 'commercial alternativeness', but his aura of glamour was pretty hard to resist. He was usually sweating, take off the fur! in a slimy kind of way, which accentuated his big, droopy, doe like eyes, in a bad way, and he was always so addled I could never understand a word he said. But he scattered his bag of diamonds far and wide throughout the glens of Berlin, and I'm weak.
One morning leaving Berlin, I ran into Phillip. Phillip was tall and beautiful and an aspiring ballet dancer. He was on his way to Chuck's and invited me with him. The walk through the city in dawn's first light made me dizzy. The longer I stayed up without sleeping, the more the world seemed to slip away, and all that was left was a tightrope for me to tread upon. Tread softly... a distant voice calls. Oh, believe me, I AM.
We make it to Chuck's apartment on the lake, at Irving and Lakeshore, and press the number 35 in the elevator. Cataclysmic bombs of holy yellow and gold smash into my face and blind me as Chuck opens his door to greet us, and I almost turn and run, til I realise it is just the sun rising over the lake, it's intensity magnified by it's reflection off the water, as it comes through his dozen east facing windows. His all white apartment is bathed in this beautiful glow while we float above the city:
Chuck and I are wearing all white, as if we had planned it that way, and Phillip sits down next to us carrying a mirror and some vodka and ice.
"Chuck, your apartment in incredible! How long have you lived here?" I asked.
"This is me and my boyfriend's place, and we've been here a couple months now. We stay up almost every night to watch the sunrise."
We ramble on for a while, but soon Philip is in Chuck's closet, trying on his clothes, and Chuck stumbles away to help him out.
I walk over to the window and open it all the way, and stick myself out, resting my elbows on the sill, letting the wind wash over me. I contemplate the earth below. I contemplate the earth. I was in this position for a while until I realised Philip and Chuck were standing close behind me, gazing at the lake with me, watching the morning turn into a glorious day.
I walk home in a haze that grows ever denser, on a tightrope growing ever fainter, wishing I could stop finding myself in situations I felt powerless to stop. Wishing I could stop wishing. Longing for the days when I would let nothing keep me away from an entire day outdoors.
I lay my head down on my pillow, not understanding how I became this person who did things they really didn't want to do. Wondering why I didn't do the things I wanted to do. I thought about the story I read in high school in a magazine about CA. I thought about my first recovery meeting when I was 16, where I knew I wasn't ready for it. Was I ready now?
Posted by BC at 11:28 PM
Sunday, April 29, 2007
I met my new roommates, Margie and Steph, through my ex, Jeff. Jeff had a way of attracting arty, bookish girls into his ever widening flock of fans. His flock of girls were usually single and hated it, but because they were light years ahead of the guys their own age, I knew they would be married to lawyers and professors when they were out of school, and in the world of men and experience. He and I, of late, and by 'of late' I mean the summer of '87, had taken to going to Neo on Wednesdays for ladies night. We loved the cave like darkness, the close quarters, mobs of hipsters and great music. Margie and Steph were students at the time, going to Mundeline, which is now a part of Loyola, and we would meet them every Wednesday.
Jeff sent them both to me to do their hair. Margie had a porcelain white complexion and black bobbed hair, and usually wore Paloma's Mon Rouge . Whenever I twisted and wrapped and spiked her hair into the latest 80's look, I aways asked her: are you sure this isn't too much for the train ride home?
"People sometimes laugh and point, but I don't care!" She said.
Margie was an old soul. She wore the subconscious weight of thousands of years of existence with the ease of a heroine from Greek mythology. Her aura read: Yes, this is my 681st human form, but hey, it's addictive and I still give it my all.
She was wise. She knew the inner workings of the human soul and could communicate that to you with a tilt of her head and a purse of her lips. I loved her.
When Steph came to the salon, she got on every one's nerves. The salon was small, and her out sized personality commanded ever one's attention, as she roared through her appointment. She was a big, buxom girl, and had big blond hair to match. She liked to talk about Sex! with Men! and Lady Parts! But her fondest way to unnerve me was to say, over and over, it's just your imagination, Brian.
Now, I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and if you're going to tell me something that weird, you must have a good reason, so I allowed her to repeat this to me, until I figured out her Magritte-like riddle... or was it more a What is the sound of one hand clapping?
She was an art student after all. I never did find out what she meant by that. Maybe that's the point.
Stephanie had weight issues, and mother issues. They came to a head soon after I had moved in, when Margie confided in me Steph's mother was glad she had diarrhea for the past two weeks, because maybe then she would lose some weight.
"Just pile it on, Mom! Put it with all the rest of the baggage you've given me!" She yelled into the phone.
Steph was a big boned gal, but by no means large. She wore her ample frame with womanly pride, liberally doused with fake Poison. Or 'pwah-ssauwn', as she called it. The constant assault of fake Poison's malodorous fist drove Margie nuts.
Steph identified with strong women, and often blasted the music of Janice and Sinead. I sometimes thought she acted too well the part of a loud, large woman, as if she had been labeled such in her junior high school days, and found a way to embrace her moniker and push it into the room ahead of her, as if to say I already know what I am, so shove your assumptions up your ass!
I say that because she and I had quiet, profound moments together, and her understanding of the hearts of the artists she loved was quite vast. But she would quickly shatter those moments with a well timed shove, sending me toppling onto the coffee table, sending her into gales of laughter.
"Aww, come on, that didn't hurt!"
I loved her, too.
During one appointment, Margie mentioned to me she needed a third roommate, as theirs was moving out. I jumped at the chance, and asked if it could be me.
On my first night living on Wilton and Addison, Margie and I sat in the kitchen and talked for hours while we drank cup after cup of tea and I chain smoked. I usually preferred to quietly observe people, but she caught me in one of my rare talkative moods, and she had a way of making me spill my guts:
I'm making some clothes to sell at a fair I love to make clothes I'm gonna be a big designer some day When I was a kid I saw pictures of this designer-guy who made a big splash in the early seventies with these woman's suits that had these weird pointy shoulders and I said "that's gonna be me someday!" Crazy, huh? I'm so excited my dad said he'd pay for me to take make-up classes at this school in the loop It's some kind of lame modeling school but hey I could learn something! Could I practice on you You have such a great face What kind of tea is this it's good God I smoke too much Do you think Steph would mind if I ate some of that pizza in the freezer What time does she get home...
The best way to describe the apartment would be to say it was brittle. And highly flammable. It was an old brick and wood two-flat, that I am sure is torn down by now. The fire place still worked, and I know the century of use dried that place to toast. Steph had a bizarre, gigantic Mexican chair and table set made of bark and wicker in the living room, and the wiring hadn't looked updated in fifty years, so we rarely put bulbs in anything. We all had our own room, and Steph and I had to keep our doors closed, because the sight of piles of clothes everywhere embarrassed Margie and her guests. Whenever I dared to enter Steph's room, to find something of mine she had borrowed, her messiness would scare me straight for a while, but my resolve quickly got buried under records and magazines and t-shirts.
The basement doors didn't lock, so a homeless man 'lived' there for a while. Thank God the washer and dryer was near the door, for that was the creepiest place I'd ever been. I loaded the machines with one foot out the door, in case I needed to make a quick getaway. I knew someone was watching me when I did my laundry.
Posted by BC at 1:09 AM
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Oh geez. Wow. It's been weeks since I've been here. Sorry.
Did you ever wonder how things happen? You know, things... happening. What moves all this life on our planet forward? How did this world go from dinosaurs to plastic surgery? Or from Pangea to Scotch tape? I guess it's somewhat easy for me to understand going from stage coaches to SST's, profit was involved, but what about a world without roses, to a world with them? What does that? In regards to my life, I know it's not me changing it. I'm not saying I'm passive, and I just let things happen to me, I do have plans. But how many plans for our life, or anything, have we made that simply failed to come to fruition? Endless endless lists, I'm sure.
A song for Jody. Quiet life. Huh. "...here comes the quiet life..." You know what that is, right? That's sarcasm.
My time with Jody was coming to an end in the summer of 1987. The apartment we shared still holds many contradictions for me. They jump up to the window and bark at me like a puppy over due for a walk whenever I ride my bike down Pinegrove and glance west on 3700 block.
As you may or may not know, I like to spend a lot of time wondering about the past. My own past, definitely, but also the past of the people who lived in the old buildings I've lived in over the years. The apartment I shared with Jody was built in the 20's, in a old Jewish neighborhood. I spent many hours at the window wondering what kind of cars went down the street over the decades, what people wore when they dressed for the temple's services down the block, what kind of noise their shoes made on the sidewalk. Where did they work? Did they take a street car to the loop? What did the housewives do while their husbands were away, and what did they cook for dinner? What did the holiday meals smell like, and who would come and share it with them? What radio shows did they listen to? What did they do to pass the time during a long winter's evening? Who died here? Who was conceived here? Where did they move from? Where did they move to?
But while I lived there I mainly I thought about why I was not going to live with Jody after the lease was up. She was a very positive influence for me, but I saw her life moving forward, and mine slipping into the chains of self destruction. I had my good moments; some moments of serenity, but I did not know how to move in them and move forward, without wanting to shatter everything and try to put it all back together. I couldn't talk to Jody about this. Or anyone. At the time I would wish and pray there was someone I could talk to about how I felt, someone who could tell me what to do, but my mind was made up: I was too broken to ever be 'fixed'.
"I was happy these past three years. I was!" I would think to myself. "What happened? Why do I feel so out of control?"
Jody would complain to me about our lack of conversation, and all I would think was who would want to hear about all this crap that kept rolling around my brain day in and day out. My endless loops of despair and self loathing.
I guess when we don't share our problems, we're afraid of the cure, or not ready for it. If there's one thing I've learned about myself, it's that I have to be teetering on 'the brink' before I would do anything about it. I knew that brink was out there, waiting for me, but I couldn't see it yet, so I bided my time.
I knew Jody had the cure. I guess I was enjoying wallowing in my own crapulence too much to stop, so I moved out. Well, maybe not enjoying it, really, but I knew I had to live like this awhile longer; observe it, take notes.
I would miss our times spent at her family's house in the suburbs, hanging out with friends in our living room, and shopping and cooking for her. I would miss marveling at the depth of her intellegence, but what I would miss most of all would be watching her grow from the college student I met a few years back, into the woman she was determined to become.
Posted by BC at 10:30 PM
Monday, March 19, 2007
Let's read from the bible, shall we...
"When people look back at 1987 in years to come, they'll remember it as a year stamped indelibly with the creativity of the fashion buying public. Accessible fashion, cheap and well made from the chain stores, has provided a ready canvas for the creative impulses of British youth. When garments like denim and MA1 flying jackets become too popular, an artistic burst of customizing soon turns them from a uniform back onto a unique outfit. This isn't elitist embellishment, it's the consumer dictating a dress code of ideas, a subversion of a familiar logos, with cultural reference points, colliding in jigsaw collages. It's belt buckles on hats, footballs on heads, it's signs and objects in unexpected places, and through it all runs one constant- THE FAMILIAR IS BEING APPROPRIATED AND DEFILED BY THE IMAGINATIVE- using old i-D images with police logos and tube tickets, film stills with restaurant bills and Safe Sex badges. So this is what's really going down in 1987. So toast The Appropriators!"
i-D Magazine, June, 1987.
Yes, i-D magazine was my bible back then. I spent hours and hours with each new issue, from 1985 til about 1993. I think it was the models. The clothes and the style, of course, gave me a reason to keep on living, but the models, mainly inspired me. Their photos had a zen-like calm; a clean, creaseless glow. A smooth, proportionate balance between line and form. A self-loving, fearless, effortless, unaffected beauty. I wanted that. I tried to smile like them. I posed like them. I tried to make copies of the clothes they featured. I wanted that perfect combination of camera-ready beauty with a high style, a what-will-be-cool-in-the-states-five-years-from-now-but-is-already-cool-in-London look at all times. And I definitely became an Appropriator: I stuck anything and everything on my jackets: brass house numbers, cut up perfume boxes, laminated porn and print ads, tacky brooches, etc. I wanted to look like I had just stepped out of that magazine. At the time my self loathing blurred my aspirations of i-D beauty, but looking back on my old pictures, now I can say I think I came pretty close to achieving my goals...
Three short stories about boys I knew in 1987:
Chris (he and I, circa 1989) bounded into my salon with Kool Aid blue hair and a bright smile, with Scot, one night in 1987, while I was closing up. He looked all of 14 years old, but convinced me he wasn't- he was 17!. Scot and I saw less of each other now that we didn't live together anymore, and told me he had started dating Chris, and wanted me to meet him. He was the type of person you instantly liked. His boundless energy for fun and adventure inspired it in the people around him. That first memory, along with so many others, are so clear in my mind, and he is a big part of who I am today. On the night I met him at my salon on Sheffield and Webster, the universe, or the powers that be, pushed a little self-destructive nonsense out of the way and made some room for Chris. I think that happens when you meet someone you will some day in the future spend a lot of time with, or when you will be one of the last people they will ever talk to. But in '87, he was someone I saw only occasionally, at Medusa'a or Smartbar, or on the street with Scot, but I always marveled at the world wise maturity of this young kid running around Chicago's nightclubs.
I was so insanely jealous of Rex (he and I, 1989). He was a model. He was gorgeous. He was in the Miller Light TV ad shot at Medusa's. He was the face of Medusa's in 1987, in their giant full page ads in the Reader. I would see his face blowing down the street in the form of litter. I want to be litter! I would think whenever I saw him. He was a friend of Scot and Jody, and whenever he came over to pick up Jody at our apartment on Pinegrove and Waveland for a night out, he would get to talking to me about working out and lifting weights. I started to gain weight around this time, probably due to the quart of Bryer's mint chocolate chip ice cream I would eat four times a week, and would complain to whomever would listen about how fat I was getting. Jody tried to convince me I would lose weight if I cleaned the apartment more, but that was a small motivator. Rex was a lot of fun back then, and it was hard to dislike him, and he played down his photogenic beauty buy hiding it under the alternative uniform of that time: Doc Martins, black jeans, and a motorcycle jacket. We had a falling out one night in '92, and even though he would let me borrow his expensive designer clothes, and let me borrow his Gaultier jacket for a trip to London in 1990, I haven't spoken to him since.
Edward, Edward. Whatever became of Edward (he and I, 1990). I don't remember how I met him, but whenever I ran into him out at a club, he glued himself to my side for the night. He was tiny, like Chris, with long, straight black hair, and perfect skin. He looked like he had a little Native American in him, especially when his hair was longer. He would visit me at work a couple times a week, bringing his special brand of x-rated humor with him. I was never really sure how he liked me, but I enjoyed his company non the less. Or I should say I learned to enjoy his company. He could be so loud and out of control with his desire to entertain me, I would often wonder if this would finally be the night he got kicked out of Berlin or whatever club we were in, or if this would be the night he got arrested. After I knew him for a while and realised he had good intentions, but few boundaries, I had a great time being with him. One night I think he was trying to tell me he liked me more than just as a friend, and in typical Edward fashion, he grabbed my hand and dragged me out of Berlin, not telling me where we were going, because it was a surprise. We got to a door on Broadway near Diversey, with a little sign that said Second Story Emporium. I had no idea what that meant, and after climbing the stairs, his hand still in mine, we entered a large room, empty, save for a lighted glass counter and a man sitting behind it.
"That'll be ten dollars." He said.
Edward paid him and walked us to another door. It took my eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness, and while that happened, Edward disappeared. The room was a maze of about a dozen 'closets', for lack of a better description, and a little 'porn theater' off to one side. The faint pinkish light cast by the few bulbs present didn't hamper my ability of seeing some familiar faces lurking about, and hands on crotches. As you may have figured out by now, I don't just 'give' my sexuality away: intimacy for me involves lots of conversation, an understanding of my partner on more than a surface level, and definatly a big bed, and more light than this. I was pretty freaked out being there. I wandered through this sex maze for a while, trying to find Edward, and settled in the theater to wait for him to find me. The little attention I attracted was easily scared off by the repeated application of my "Red Diamonds" Baroni lipstick. Fifteen minutes later, without Edward, I was back at Berlin, telling my friends about this freaky place I had just been, and everyone I had seen in the sex closets.
After much thought, I've decided Echo's Silver is a better theme song for this post. Also, I found some 'appropriated' images I wore back in the day: a Gaultier ad and an image i-D encouraged it's readers to customize with, which they published in a subsequent issue. Inspiration.
Posted by BC at 11:19 PM
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The day I turned 21, in 1987, was a bright sunny day, with not a cloud in the sky. Bright and sunny, but not warm, because my birthday's in April. It was one of those chilly/sunny combination days I love so much. It was a chill that gently caressed your skin; it didn't sink in deep enough to make you cold. It had just enough kick to it to make you want to calmly breathe it deeply into your being, and let it invigorate you.
It was an unusually still day that day, too. The old, giant trees of Waveland and Pinegrove sat silently in their mist of baby-green budding leaves, slowly revealing their secret to anyone who cared to watch. The late afternoon sun lit a patchwork of April yellow up and down Broadway, and gave a comforting glow to the few of us that were outside at that moment.
The color of the sun that day reminded me of the neighborhood near a lake in Wisconsin I lived in for a while, in the early seventies. I tried to remember a birthday from that time, and as I walked over to the Orbit Room to meet Scot, who had recently started working there, I recalled in a flash my ninth birthday on Tayco Street:
My parents were divorced, and my dad took a road trip with his girlfriend to Las Vegas in 1975, to visit his brother. I was very upset he was taking this trip, because he would be gone for a long time, and I would miss him terribly, and he would be away for my birthday. He did his best to comfort me, and told me the weeks would fly by, and he'd be back before I knew it. He also told me he would mail me a special present from Nevada.
I sat on the porch waited every weekend hoping to see his Jeep driving down my street, hoping this was the weekend he was coming home.
"Your dad's not coming this weekend, Bri, he'll be back in a couple weeks." My mom said.
My step father made those weekends me and my brothers usually spent with my father a special time, because we were so sad he was gone. We sprawled out on the living room floor as he read us the Sunday comics, he made us his special oatmeal, and we screamed and yelled at the TV during the afternoon wrestling matches.
My present from my dad came in time for my birthday, and I was so excited to get something in the mail that was for me, because mail was a grown-up thing.
It was a small white box, and in it was a western belt buckle. Not a toy, or a game, but a belt buckle. Is he sure he sent me the right thing? I thought to myself.
Even though I loved it, I stared at that box and it's coppery contents for hours, pondering it's meaning.
My mom must've noticed me doing this, because later that day she told me You're a young man now, Brian, and there comes a time when you get less toys for presents, and more special ones. That is a very special present.
When my dad eventually came home, he showed us all the pictures he took, and he told us about driving in the desert, and gambling in the casinos, Something you have to be 21 to do! he said.
That's twelve years from now. I though to myself. I wonder where I'll be when I'm 21?
Well, I was on my way to Limelight. The bouncer at Orbit Room was a dick, and told me to come back at midnight, because I wasn't 21 yet. I had been there a million times, but he turned me away.
I went to Limelight with Erin and Danny, and met my boss Consita and her friend there. I remember being really happy that night. I didn't get overly drunk, which was rare back then, and I took some pictures. I was happy my childhood was over. I had very little idea how I was going to be and adult, but my limbo period was over. I had been living on my own since I was nineteen, but to the world I was a child, until that day.
There was so many, many things about my childhood I wanted to leave behind me, and I thought now that I was 'officially' an adult, I would be able to.
I didn't belong to anyone now, and the past I had spent so much time fretting over, belonged to the child I used to be, not this adult I am now.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
In the waning months of the summer of '87, when Jody and I still lived together, Doug came for a visit. Yes, Doug, the ex who I was having such a difficult time getting over, came to see the Gay Pride parade. I wasn't sure of his motives for the trip, but I agreed to spend the day with him at the parade. I don't know if I'm blocking this memory, but I don't remember if he stayed with me, or with someone else.
We left my apartment on Pinegrove, and while walking down Halsted, my shorts caught on something, causing a huge rip. A rip so big I had to go back home to change.
All the planning I did on my appearance to give Doug an I'm-just-fine-and-dandy-you-made-a-mistake-by-leaving-me-I'm-gorgeous-and-you-can-never-have-me-again impression, all the hours I put into sewing those shorts making them perfect, went down the drain.
When we finally did make it to the parade, I was in for the shock of my life. Every single person I had ever met in the year and a half since Doug left Chicago was at that parade, and remembered my name and said hello. Every single one, every few minutes, all day long. I had no idea I knew so many people.
Hi Brian. Hi. Hello Brian. Hey! Brian! Hello! Brian! Hi! Look! It's Brian! Hi! Hey! Hi! Hello! How are ya?! Hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi....
I felt like Marilyn, in that early eighties made-for-TV movie, in the scene in Central Park, where she's walking anonymously with a friend, and her friend asks her why she's not worried she'll be recognized and mobbed by fans, and Marilyn replies: She's not here right now, that's why. Do you want to see Her? And the actress 'turns on' Marilyn, and starts slinking through the park, and is instantly surrounded by adoring fans, while her friend shrinks away, shaking her head in amazement.
Doug was also amazed by what was happening that day, and kept asking me how I knew so many people, and I said, Oh, you know, people just like me, I guess.
And just when I thought this spell of adoration had ended, and new group of people would round the corner, and it would start all over again.
"Well, you seem to be doing fine here. I'm glad you moved here. Are you happy here?"
Doug said,when we got back to my place.
I didn't know what to say. My feelings were divided. I loved being in this city, and knew I should be here, but I wasn't with him; he had ended our relationship and left Chicago. Did I have the right to tell him the pain I was going through because of our break up? How shattered I was? How crushed my sense of self was? Did he need to know how deeply I felt for him, even though I would probably never see him again? Should I tell him how in awe I was of him, and how privileged I felt knowing he wanted to be with me, the short time we were together?
I looked at him and said...
Well, I don't remember what I said. I probably didn't say anything at all.
Me and Tony Tasso, Limelight, 1987
21! Limelight, 1987
(left to right) Erin, Danny Wickie-Poo, Linda, Me, Consita, and unknown cutie, Limelight, 1987
Posted by BC at 12:26 AM