A Random Image

Archive for March, 2011

 
|| March 16, 2011 || 3:45 am || Comments (13) ||

“I wanted to do the music proud.” // Joan Jett

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I stood there and looked at it through the window. Only two other places in town had bars over their glass: The jailhouse and the funeral home. The thick iron grates here at the guitar shop, however, were the most imposing of the three. Bowie (named for the knife, not the androgynous rock star) had a lot more to lose than either of the others.

I was squinting against the one o’clock sun, carefully considering the top of the wall and what was hanging there. Though I’d never been a shrinking violet, being a girl in a guitar store struck me as an entirely different animal. Well, at least until I could round up enough money to merit my walking in there and asking for the guitar to be pulled off the wall for me to ‘look at it with my fingers’.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Henry has always been one to step into my life when I was fucking up or just barely recovered from doing so. When I am a productive, shit-hot human being we are estranged. It’s the weirdest father-daughter relationship ever, I guess; we haven’t been in touch for a while now. I mean, there was the Christmas before last and everything; that had nothing to do with the disarray of my life, but rather the disarray of his. He and his wife of twenty-something years –who, cutely enough, was also twenty-something years younger than him– were splitting and he imagined me to be a sucker thirteen-year-old rather than a perceptive thirtysomething-year-old.

That particular conversation was cool because every time Henry would lie to me I would say something akin to, “That’s not the truth.” I felt a sense of calm that I had never previously felt when communicating with him.

Digression, regression, aggression, bullshit.

Henry was in my life. I’d just finished fucking up really good and was hemorrhaging dignity when he did me a couple solids that were the emotional equivalent of hauling me up by my blouse, slapping a kevlar on my head and telling me in no-uncertains to keep my ass out of the dirt and on the trail where it damn well belonged.

Hallelujah for the Saviours of this world, even if on the three-hundred and sixty-four other days of the year they are balls-deep in random, big-titted bottle blondes.

(To hear him say as his marriage dissolved that if he’d known where he would end up, then he would have tried a little harder with my mother was The Straw. THE Straw. “Don’t tell me that shit, Henry. Don’t say things like that to me. It invalidates all the suffering we did –crying for you, going hungry because we only got one meal a day, fear, marginalization– as a result of your whoring. Your choices were your choices, and I’ve gotten to a place where I have made peace with that. I can’t for one second pretend like those things didn’t happen, though, because they inform who I’ve become in such an important way. To so easily say that you’d fix the suffering we did then if you had known the suffering you would do later is the most chickenshit thing I’ve ever heard. It’s infuriating that you feel you could have fixed things if you had only tried but you chose to quit anyway and, as a result, you left us swinging in the gap between you and mother while she was clawing for purchase and trying to drag us back to safety at the same time.”)

Henry was back in my life. I was twenty-four. I usually wore no eye makeup and my lips were the color of darkly-bruised berries: There was no mistaking which cigarette butts were mine.

‘Back in my life’ consisted of three weekly phone calls and the occasional card. Corny jokes and cards go hand in hand, did you know? If Henry loves nothing else, he loves a confidently-delivered corny joke. All of my father’s girls have wincing down to an art, as well as those sidelong ‘here we go!’ glances we shoot around chairs and walls and stray hairs when Henry is gearing up for a particularly groan-worthy pun.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Dear Henry,
You taught me how to spell ‘Wednesday’ correctly (“Say this, Elizabeth….say “Wed. Ness. Day.”) and you gave me a wealth of material to write about. I can think of lots of fathers who have done less for their girls.
Love,
Jett

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Do you remember? Do you remember that to this day the reason you think that FedEx envelopes are ugly is because for a span of years they came, overly-formal (why the fuck are you too good for regular old letter mail, Henry and Henry’s legal representatives??) and stuffed with edicts more times than you can attach an exact number to?

You knew that FedEx would have a surprise this time, because he told you so. He felt just superior enough to you and just satisfied enough with you to give you some fiduciary comfort and encouragement. You had learned to take it where he was willing to loose it and not expect anything else, because the ensuing post-expectation meltdown wasn’t fair to either of you.

In the cardboard sleeve was a smallish envelope. In the envelope was a check that you didn’t even look at. You held the envelope perpendicular to the palm of your hand, curling its edges slightly. You liked the crispness of it in your hand and the knowing of it in your brain. You stepped out of the car, gravel crunching under your boot, your skirt hem bouncing lazily against the backs of your thighs.

Bowie was the perfect blend of gruff and professional. The three other males there were startled to have estrogen in their midst. You pointed, Bowie retrieved, you laid a hand on the body and closed your eyes, you paid without bothering to play the damn thing. You walked out of the door feeling like you had owned that case and its contents for a hundred years because it was good there in your grip, and familiar.

It was April the first. The fool had turned twenty-five. The night before, in the waning throes of twenty-four, she had slipped off black Docs and slid out of a green dress and told the world that things were gonna be different.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Of course, bar. Of course, guitar. Of course, throwing up before going on because who the fuck plays sober?

Look! It has boobs! It wants to make music for us!

Look.

Look.

My playing is weak, but my voice has always been strong. Mother wrote in my baby book “Cannot carry a tune in a bucket,” when I was eighteen months old. It wasn’t long after that and I was carrying a tune in my back pocket, wearing one like a necklace, balancing one on my head. The voice had a two-decade lead on the hands.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

He approaches me. He wants to write songs together. I tell him I will think about it, but I have already made up my mind, because he has already offered suggestions for tweaks and he didn’t look at my boobs one time the whole time we conversed.

My voice is strong, but my songs are stuck in ‘A’. We write some that aren’t. We sit down one night on opposite corners of the bed, a four-track recorder between us and trap enough material for an EP in there. There is chatter about mushroom pizza after the first song. Other than that, the only words on that tape are ones I wrote.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

One week, then half of another. I walk into the music store –mine this time, the one where I am Princess of the Racks, deliverer of obscure bands, finder of songs based on five words of lyric and a desire to not be shown up by an old person’s “You’ve probably never even heard of him, but….” or a young sophist’s “I bet you don’t know anything about prog rock…”; every answer hastily given is a sweet little ‘Ohfuckyou’, a snotty triumph reasonably delivered– I locomote all the way to the back, pull the bolt on the heavy storeroom door and step out onto the concrete, propping one boot on the wall and firing up a cigarette.

It’s three o’clock. The store is starting to get busy. I have a jacket tied around my waist. I clock in at the front, step down around the counter like I am a customer. Christie is glad to see me. She always is, even though we sometimes make one another furious. Partly this is because we are both newly clean for the second time and neither of us has a lot of  ‘chill the fuck out’ to spare, so we save most of it for customers and traffic cops. Partly it is because I challenge her without meaning to and she’s insecure without realizing it.

We are the only sane, intelligent people on staff (other than our boss, who is really just a dadlike presence to a mess of attractive twentysomethings that the home office pushes him to hire) and it’s nice on the days we get to work with one another.

“I have something for you to listen to later,” I say to her. I reach down into the pocket floating in the vicinity of my right thigh and place the tape up on the counter.

“No time like the present!” She moves toward the tape deck, stopping the ceedee that is playing. Silence in a music store always garners strange looks from shoppers.

Then there is my voice, then there is Christie hissing, “Holy shit, it’s you!” By the end of the first verse I have joined her behind the counter and she has placed her hand on her chest and this, THIS is how I know I’ve nailed it, I’ve hit that fucker out of the park: By the second chorus Christie Who Is Made Of Absolute Stone has tears dropping past her lower lids.

Triumph ricochets around my head.

Two guys approach, “Who is this?” Christie’s hand, which is still pressed against her breastplate, curls into a pointing thing directed at me where I am now standing alongside her, nearly shoulder-to-shoulder. I am too dorked to say anything.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

The last verse was short and to the point:

“Before the winter of discontent / Blows around the fall / Dressing windows for all the world / Is killing us one and all”

…and for as much has changed in my world since I last sang those lines, the world at large has changed dynamically, leapfrogging over itself, keyrings and spare nickels being flung everywhere. To my great surprise, those four lines remain surprisingly true and elegant.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Inspiration,  memory-stirring, blame for this post all lie here: