Archive for the reminisce Category

THE GIN MILL

Posted in personal, reminisce, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2010 by kimmy

When I was in college, my bff Sara and I haunted the local dive… which was literally underground and aptly named The Cellar.  Our undergraduate budgets didn’t allow for lavish evening entertainment, so we made do with 25-cent beers and double-bubble nights, swilling well-gin cocktails until we were sufficiently hammered to tolerate the throngs of disco divas at the local club across the street.

Not much stood in our way of a good time.  We trekked out in sub-zero temperatures in platform shoes and skin-tight jeans, daring any passerby to thwart our quest for fun.  There wasn’t much to be had of it, especially in the middle of the Illinois cornbelt, but what little we found we maximized.

It usually involved ridiculing the spandex-clad and, in my case, slamdancing into the carefully coiffed Farrah Fawcetts, sending their scrawny glitter bodies careening across the dance floor.  What do you mean we had to listen to KC and the fucking Sunshine Band?  Only occasionally would the dj relent and play some homogenized punk music, most of which would send the dancers off the the floor to stare in resentment while I pogoed.

Sara was more diplomatic.  She danced to all variety of music, swaying with her cocktail in hand and her giant 70’s perm bouncing in time under the disco ball.  By the evening’s end, there was usually a line of drooling men waiting to escort her home.  Unless the gentleman was exceptionally hot, she graciously declined the offers with the explanation that she had to get her unruly friend back to the dorm before she caused any serious harm.

But that was only an excuse to get away from the dreary ISU hangouts and head into Bloomington where our rock and roll Mecca waited for us.  Otherwise known as the Red Lion Inn, it was a dingy nightclub frequented by local and quasi-national bands and the scene of many a howling night’s fun.  There were no disco dancers, light shows or coke spoons, although the smell of reefer did on occasion waft from the ladies’ room.

Here we were free to dance as we pleased until the overhead lights were switched on and we remembered we weren’t as free as we surmised.  There were classes to attend in the morning and papers to write in the evening.  We left grudgingly in the early morning light, accompanied by the twitter of birds which we quickly came to resent.  Why did they have to herald the end of our night of fun?  Morning came too quickly.

… prompting the men to act too boldly.  Again they fluttered around Sara, this time begging to take not only her home to their bed, but her unruly friend as well.

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BRING OUT YOUR DEAD

Posted in personal, reminisce, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2010 by kimmy

It had the earmarkings of a truly life-changing week.  And it did change me… but in ways I didn’t anticipate.

I was on retreat in Kansas City, trying to make sense of a life which had become incomprehensible.  The grounds were beautiful and I walked them everyday, sharing my despair with the trees.   They must have heard my pleas because not long after, my walk was accompanied by an enormous bird.  She had an eight-foot wing span and kept pace with me, always twenty yards ahead. 

It never occured to me to wonder why she was out of her normal habitat, or if she considered me prey.  Instead I followed her, listening to the heavy whoosh of her wings as she lighted from branch to branch, hoping that she would reveal her secrets.

She did, of course, a few days later when I realized that my marriage had died.    Why hadn’t I seen the vultures circling earlier?  I knew that it had to be buried, but the pain of this knowledge was so profound that it paralyzed me. 

And there was more to come.  I left the retreat the next day and rode to the airport like a zombie.  The highway was just a blur; the voices on the radio, a jumble of noise.   I paid no attention and just stared out the window, watching the fine Missouri homes pass by in streaks of color.

“… he died in a helicopter crash at Alpine Valley.”

The location roused some recognition in me, and I turned up the volume.  Stevie Ray Vaughan was dead on a hillside in Wisconsin.

It felt like a knife in my heart.

I couldn’t stop weeping.  And couldn’t understand why I was weeping for a man I had never met.  The dj’s were hushed, reverent as they recapped his life and played songs from his repertoire, but I didn’t hear them.  I only mourned the loss of, what felt like, a brother.

There was no respite when I returned to Chicago.  I walked into my apartment and dialed the phone.  I had to speak with Kathleen.

There was no answer.  Oh, why was I gallivanting around the country trying to find myself when she was in such frail health?  She had been good friend for ten years, but all I could recall in that moment were her lips stained with morphine.

“When I go, I’d like it to be of heroin overdose.” 

She couldn’t have meant it, so many years ago, laughing with the recollections of youth.  But her words were prophetic, and she had died in my absence, after a long battle with cancer.

What more would my winged messenger bring?  At the wake, I saw more than Kathleen’s body lying in the coffin.  Domestic fantasies, idealistic visions and adolescent dreams were nestled next to her, waiting to be interred forever into the cold ground.

THE BACCHANAL

Posted in musings, personal, reminisce, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by kimmy

I didn’t really want to go, but was so starved for fun that I agreed.

Someone said that off-campus parties were much more interesting than the dull frat and dorm varieties.  After sampling both, I reasoned that anything was better than what I had witnessed, so when my bff and partner-in-crime Sara suggested that we attend a rugby party, I threw on my party clothes and met her on the quad.

I didn’t know anything about the game, other than it was played by jocks.  I had a rather low opinion of sporty types then; the athletes in my high school were more prone to bullying than to winning, usually targeting as victim the artsy geek set with whom I ran.   At most, I expected a few loudmouths and a keg.  What I got was a lesson in the dangers of presumption.

We made our way to a rundown Victorian house on Fell Street.  The music and the crowd was staggering.  I couldn’t believe so many people were crammed into one space.  We squeezed past the mob clustered at the front door and threaded through the heat and noise to the back of the house.  There was hardly room to breathe.  We stopped in the kitchen, near said keg, and spied the only space free of human occupancy:  the greasy stove.

Ever the practical Virgo, Sara swept away the dirty pans, covered the burners with paper plates and parked herself on one, inviting me to join her.  Not only did our makeshift perch offer easy access to beer refills, but it afforded us a lofty view of the proceedings, which were becoming crazier by the minute.

More than a few drunken fellows threatened us with a hotseat and tried to switch on the knobs.  We discovered high heels made an excellent deterrent when our warnings weren’t sharp enough.  After fending off another such attack, Sara’s attention was suddenly caught by the whiff of a pungent odor. 

“Do you smell that?” she asked, cocking an eyebrow.  I turned around in alarm, fully expecting to find the pilot light extinguished and a cloud of gas at my back.  “Girl, it smells like SEX in here!”

I laughed, relieved and wondered if her imagination had run wild.  Or I least I did until the Elephant Train waddled through the kitchen.

“Hah, there’s your explanation,” I said, nodding to the line of naked men.  A dozen of them were bent over, holding onto each other’s wands, snaking their way through the crowd.  This clearly was a departure from the homophobic behavior I had usually associated with sportsmen. 

Sara shook her head.  “I said sex, not butt crack!” she shouted, the words nearly lost in the din.  The kitchen swelled with more people, eager to gawk at and tease the nude oddities.  A few beers were hurled at them, along with friendly insults as to their rookie status.   These were team players apparently, participating in some strange rite of passage.  I felt that strange prickly feeling along my spine, the one that warns me of danger and I wished I was elsewhere.

I plastered on a smile, but inside I began to question what I was viewing.  Why didn’t I find it funny?  Was I just a closet conservative?

The sound of singing ended my reverie.  Loud voices.  Mens’ voices singing an off-key version of Alouette, the French nursery song.  We peeked around the corner and saw a choir of men singing to a girl who was hoisted onto the shoulders of a particularly brawny player. 

Alouette, gentille Alouette
Alouette, je te plumerai
Do we love her saggy tits?
Yes, we love her saggy tits!
Cardboard box?
Cardboard box!
O-o-o-oh…

We laughed.  That girl must have been hammered, or a hard-core rugby groupie, to voluntarily endure the unflattering attention paid her.  We snickered some more, safe on our stove aerie, until we saw the girl summarily dumped from his shoulders and replaced by another Alouette girl plucked unwillingly from the crowd.

After a few choruses, she, too, was replaced by another. And another.  And another.  A loud voice from the kitchen alerted the singers to our presence.  “Hey, there’s a couple back here on the stove!”

Sara and I looked at each other in alarm.  Neither of us desired the dubious honor so we ditched our seats and gave our would-be captors the slip, making for the door by way of a side room.  As we neared the exit, Sara stopped short and tapped me on the shoulder.

“I told you it smelled like sex in here,” she said triumphantly, nodding toward a small knot of people.  They stood in a circle,  casually drinking beer and staring at the naked couples fornicating on the worn hardwood floor.  “The nose knows.”