Monday, August 24, 2009

Left To My Own Devices


Once upon a time, I did so much laundry with Todd, I can't help but think of him every time I do mine now, in my murky 1910 basement.
When I was sixteen, I lived down the street from him, and during that summer of '82, I bore witness to his every waking moment. Happily so. Like Tonto, or 'the Professor and Mary Ann', I was never center stage, but enough for a supporting role, in his story. Yes, Todd saw himself as a star. He was beautiful after all, with his bright green eyes, curly blond hair, and quarter back's build, and he loved the attention it got him. He transformed himself into the role of a 'star' from the one he was forced into as a teen: that of the town pariah. If you grew up gay in the 70's, chances are you know what I mean.
He lived above his landlady Bernie, who smoked despite her oxygen tank, who would shout quit smoking Brian! whenever I passed her door on the way up the stairs to Todd's. I would smile and nod and wave.
We walked the few blocks to the laundromat lugging his baskets. (Both the Laundromat and Bernie's house have since been torn down.)
We would talk about guys we liked, and school, and I would help him shake the lint and wrinkles out each piece of his wet laundry before it went into the dryer.
"Doesn't it all get smashed up in the dryer, anyway? Doesn't the lint trap catch it all?" I would ask.
"I don't care! Every piece must be shook out!" He'd reply.
Todd was a few years older than me, and starting culinary school, and I envied his independent life, and asked myself internal questions about my own, as I watched him live his. Would my life be like his, after high school? What will I study for a career? Where will I live?

His apartment was a little threadbare and depressing, with it's greying white paint and bare bulbs. The few pieces of furniture were clean but over used, and cheap when it was new, in the sixties. Littered about were hand me downs of hand me downs, small attempts by his mother and sister to add a sense of home. But it was his.
To cheer the place up, I painted him a picture of Marilyn Monroe, based off of a photo of her with Carl Sandburg.
Todd was often overwhelmed by the demands of school, and cursed his plight, and instead of studying, ran out to the gay bars every chance he got. He eventually ran off to Colorado for a year with his boy friend Opey, so he could quit school without listening to the wrath of his family, who payed for it.
I moved out of state later that year to finish high school, and watched, through the letters he wrote to me, his enthusiasm for Colorado, and Opey, wane.
Todd's is a long story I hope to tell in more depth sometime, but hopefully you get an idea of him. I don't know if it's Todd's or Bernie's ghost, or just my imagination, but as write here in the Viceroy, and breathe deeply, I get the distinct waftings of their old Memorial Drive duplex. I mention where I am right now because I am meeting two old stars of my story from the eighties, tomorrow for lunch. What, it's only been twenty years since I've seen them?!

Now why did start telling you about Todd? Oh yes, because I saw him as a kind of mentor, and I studied his life as a way of figuring out my own, and that reminds me of my state during 1991. I hated I hadn't a person in my life like Todd, because I had no idea what the hell I was going to do with me life any more. I felt so stagnant and stuck somewhere I didn't want to be, but I had no idea where to start changing.
So when Erin asked me to co-host eighties night at Neo with her and Carlisa, I jumped at the chance. I was nostalgic for a life yet lived, and went back to the past to live for a while. I knew the answers to any question about my life back then, and I basked in the warmth of old news.
They were fun, crazy, drunken nights, and we dressed up to the hilt. Neo is where I got my first taste of performing on stage. We paid homage to our idols by lipsynching to their songs to a mostly disinterested audience.

At the time, my past had little comfort for me, but it was all I had, so I stuck around...

At Neo 1991
'Nona Hendryx & Boy George' at Neo
'Nina Hagen & Boy George' at Neo
Disinteresting: Boy George
Disinteresting: Nina Hagen


1 comment:

Aaron said...

I LOVED my old studio in Peoria with the peeling wallpaper and bare bulbs. I got this marvelous sense of freedom, since I paid for it myself!

*sigh* I miss the days when squalor was acceptable. Oh well, maybe they're coming back again.