Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

She carried her naked Ovation, no case, to her first lesson with Mr. Meyers.  Later she carried it to her first gig with a rock band. She can’t remember the name of that band.  She can see all the band members in her mind’s eye but can’t place their names.  Hell, she even slept with the drummer five times. Or was it ten?  Off they would go after practice on some nights or on days off to the Motel 9.  He would always be the gentleman and pick her up, say hello to the Mother if she was there and then head out for some afternoon delight.  Not a Motel 6 or a Super 8.  It didn’t feel as sleazy in a more ‘upscale’ motel.  It wasn’t sleazy at all.  He was sexy hot.  He had actually come on to her, winking at her from his kit behind her, watching her ass move as she took her well-rehearsed in the mirror rock star stance, legs spread wide, one knee bent forward or resting on the monitor, with her guitar, the boat paddle as the lead guitarist called it, strapped low on her hips, screaming out a few Pat Benatar tunes.  Hit me with your best shot.  He did and she let him.

The guitar carried her though a lot of disappointment and loss. It helped her write woe is me, love unrequited, love lost songs when she could face the pain front and center.  When she couldn’t, her   That guitar stood beside her as she sang next to her bandmate when he moved on to her fellow vocalist.  She hid behind her guitar when the deepest wound was inflicted, sobbing through an emotional love song, screaming the lyrics to a believing audience. “Man, she sings from the heart.” If they only knew.

anger fueled fingers into power chords of protest and anti-war songs.

That guitar gained and lost her friends.  When she landed in the hospital for a week and then a month   “You have your own.  Why do you need mine?” she replied.  The guitar stayed with its owner and that friend was carried to the pile of exes – boyfriends, lovers, parents, best friends.
recovery, her so-called best friend asked her not, “Is there anything I can do for you?” but “Since you won’t be able to play your guitar, can I have it for a while?”

The guitar finally landed in its own case and was carried to the closet after her first child was born.  The depression hit and it must have been worse than during her protest war, I hate my parents, no one loves me not even my mother, you fucking asshole best friend songwriting days, because she lost all desire,  
energy, gumption, her need to pick it up and allow it to carry her over this hump. The hump was too big.  It carried too much sorrow for too many years.

The guitar was carried to the moving van and into the new house, where it was carried down to the basement where all things bad go to hide.  Three years later, it called to her, a sweet, ‘remember me?’ call to reunite, share memories from their past, rekindle the romance that once burned calluses onto her fingertips from too much playing. She had been singing in a band without her trusted old friend and her fingers were rusty on the strings so she took her old pal for a class at Old Town School of Music where she met new bandmates for a new version of an old band.  Once again, she took her rock star stance on stage and the two of them, trusted guitar and she, wrote new woe is me love lost but I could give a shit about you anymore, you dickhead love songs and re-grew the calluses on her fingertips.
The guitar and her enjoyed the next ten fruitful years together, carrying each other through broken strings and marriages, cracked Ovation body and warped cracked-in-the-head mother, children and plenty of solo gigs, just her and it, before setting it aside once again to deal with life, work, children, dying father, sickly warped cracked-in-the-head mother, another go at acting and a new business.

She picks it up every now and then when a special song is needed for a friend’s living wake or one time stage performance.  It is old, wise, with a sweet aged sound, cracks and all, and her body knows it well.  They fit together like a puzzle, each holding an edge of themselves to the other, creating one undeniable unit of sound, memory (when it does work) and friendship.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tits and Tats

 “When are you going to get a real job?” Uncle Ron asked for the seventh time this week.

But I DO have a real job.  I am a full time musician!

This running dialogue had reached its pinnacle of frustration.  When Uncle Ron painted the living room last year, the very long drive home daily to his home in the milky white Stepfordesque la la land of the far north suburbs precipitated his need to spend the night.  She dreaded those sleepover painting jobs because the statements, questions and conversations that ensued were always the same.
“There are a lot of coloreds in this town.  They cause trouble?”
  No, they own homes here, Uncle.  It’s safe to walk our streets.

She knew each afternoon when she arose after getting to bed at 4:30am that he would give her that sideways looks and then grief about her employment.  At least he gave her time to yawn and open her eyes before he barraged her with the carbon copy conversation of last time.  She had learned to race downstairs in stealth fashion, grab a bowl of yogurt and blueberries and race back to her room before he could form his not so clever quips. 
Uncle, you need some new material.

But he didn’t understand her sarcasm, raised in a small monochromatic town where sons followed in the footsteps of fathers becoming painters and carpenters, mechanics and electricians.  This afternoon was different.  Uncle did have some new material.  He chose to focus on her tattoos today, catching a glimpse of one peeking out from her jersey running shorts she threw on after the gig last night.
“Do you know what those are going to look like when you get my age?”
You mean 78? 
She wanted to throw a dig back at him in retaliation every chance she got.
“You should have thought twice about drawing that, what the fuck is that thing on your thigh?”
It’s the universal goddess figure.
Oh, what the fuck am I trying to explain anything to this archaic dinosaur, she whispered through clenched teeth under her breath.

But this comment, unlike all the others she regularly dismissed, hit her like a brick.  It was something she had thought about actually.  She would be the first one to point out old women with old tats on their tits or chest or neck.  She would repel in disgust at how the legs and torsos of sailor tats were longer and leaner, eye sockets hollow and black, smiles now frowns.  These faded pictures ink a former life of the dyed bleach blonde now yellowed with age and sporting a raccoon stripe of grey down the middle.  The once gorgeous blonde bombshell was now forty eight pounds heavier, which is way apparent in the kumquat shaped, stretched out strawberry tat now pink from years of skin sloughing, the skinny fat juxtaposition that was baby making, now reanimating these ink creatures, giving them new form.

She thought of the women at Walmart, especially that braless redhead, whose nipples now brush her hipbones.  Sticking out the top of Red’s low scoop neck tank was the long ago faded ice cream tattoo with cherry atop sitting in a partially hidden waffle cone and she wondered if the cone’s bottom now drips the ‘melted’ ice cream concoction down those baby ravaged udders and onto her hipbones and then down her legs.  That vision repulsed her to even imagine it.
Where do old tats go?  Do they slip off bodies at an age society deems is taboo and inappropriate for an aging human?  What age is that, she wondered?  Is there a tat cemetery where old eagles and pin up girls and dragons are put to rest?  A tat retirement home where they can all sit around the popcorn machine after dinner at 4pm and tell old glory stories of how they came to be?

Maybe, she thought, human history could be mapped using body art as the language once a person can no longer remember which drug induced spring break or double dare produced which tattoo.

Does ink re-liquefy at cremation temperatures?  Would her goddess return back to the earth after her own children cremated her remains?  She had always been a recycling type of person.  The thought of her earth goddess returning the earth from whence it came made her smile.
“What are you smiling for?  Your kids are going to be really embarrassed at your wake if you show that thing.” Uncle barked at her.  “Just sayin’.”
You just say a lot of things, Unc.  But you got me on this one.  Got me thinking.
“It’s about time you were thinking.  Thinking about getting a real job.”
Sure thing, Uncle.  Sure thing.

Monday, July 29, 2013

3 Seconds

In three seconds, her children’s lives passed across her eyes, passing through her shuddering body, down to her now paralyzed feet, unable to navigate the stairway down to the front door.

Who rings the doorbell at midnight?  Not the mailman, nor the UPS delivery or Orkin man, not the neighbor looking for a cup of sugar.  The only guests at her door at midnight are those in blue uniforms with steady voices.  She knows they don’t want to be here either.

In three seconds, she ran to the landing and froze, unable to will one foot in front of the other to maneuver the stairs that have now multiplied in number, making that trip down an endless, agonizing descent into hell, or worse, the dismal abyss of unbearable loss.  She can’t go down those infinite steps to a door that keeps moving further away, intensifying the three seconds into an eternity that it will take for what’s beyond the door to tell her that her life is over, that everything that went before has reached its untimely end, that she will never hear laughter again, except in those precious photos and grainy videos of piano recitals and pumpkin patches, graduations, locks of hair and never letting them out of your reach.

In three seconds the past is erased, the present is frozen, the future is uninhabitable.  She was hobbled in that moment.  She prayed to everyone and no one for those seconds back, for her breath to return, her heart to reboot.  She asked the universe to forgive every unworthy deed she had committed in her now useless life, making deals, selling her soul in return for those lost in three seconds.

As she steeled herself for what lay beyond the door, she heard her husband below.

“Doorbell’s working hon!”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Standing Ovation

The guitar sits on its stand in her meditation room, which is quite ironic as the rock and roll that it has embodied over its lifetime, lies in contrast to the state of calm and tranquility that this room now holds.  It is an awkward juxtaposition of her need to pick it up and sing the songs of her former band in the room once inhabited by her musical prodigy son, where he homed his craft for eighteen years, leaving phantom sounds and rhythms in the walls and carpet, and her resolute desire for silence and contemplation.

This Ovation’s hollow body resonates sound as the strings vibrate to the slightest movement from this old house that brims with one hundred and thirty three years of history, maybe musical, maybe prayer. It longs for its constant companion during the band years, the Fender Strat, to sit beside in the quietude, perhaps to shake things up a bit, create mutual vibrations, orchestrated by this old creaky house.  Then send both guitars into harmonic bliss, calling on her to listen, pick them up, place fingers on frets.

It wants to be heard again.  The Ovation longs for her to caress its steel strings into life one more time.  After all, it was she who took it out of the basement after it was manhandled and broken by her son’s friend.  She angrily declared that this was her property, not to be touched by anyone else.  It was she who brought it up to her room where it stood by the dresser in its case for four years.  It’s there so I can play it when I want, she announced to her family but secretly as a calling to her own desires to get back to her musical roots.

It recalls her words repeated every few months or when she sees an old band mate.  Let’s put the band back together, man! One step at a time.  First it came out of its sturdy shell and now sits in its stand in her meditation room.  Its pleas are no longer muffled inside the time worn case. It knows it’s just a matter of time. The Ovation waits patiently on its throne, staring at her in defiance of the conflict between sound and solace, assuring her in soft resonances that it can provide both.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Old Guitar

The Old Guitar

Finding the juju in the harmonic oscillations of an old friend.
What tones will call me away from the laundry room?
From that room any music will summon!
But in the garden, immersed in color and scent
I require sweeter sounds
perhaps assistance from the house, from the wind,
whistling through windowpane cracks,
the hum of the furnace
sending hot water through pipes
out radiator vent,
hissing a high note like Steven Tyler or Chaka Khan.
Maybe a quartet or sextet
of the souls residing within these walls,
accompanied by the Ovation six-string band leader
or twelve string Yamaha singer
will call for me from anywhere and nowhere
to negate this senescence,
embrace the rocker within,
coax me into remembrances of song and dance that
fell between the cracks.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Notorious Notetaker

Everywhere there are words.  On blank pads next to the phone at the kitchen counter, tucked into books, in her wallet, pinned to a corkboard in her office, in spiral notebooks previously used in her son’s classrooms, some dating themselves by the stickers on the covers.  Tigger and Winnie the Pooh.  He was in first grade. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers – third grade.

Black fabric blank notebooks, titled appropriately, Notes, in white embossed lettering; twenty-five were given to her by Hanes Intimates to give to her customers but she decided they were too nice to give away to non-writers where they would find their way into some lonely junk drawer, so she kept them all for herself.  These notebooks were scattered throughout the house, one in each room, each containing random thoughts, a start to an essay or poem, dreams that spooked her like that man in the black trench coat that has been a part of her dream world for years, quotes that inspired her or drawings of negligees for her store that would never see a production line.

Some might have thought she had ADD or adult deficit disorder as her one therapist labeled her.  She did not agree with this knee-jerk label.  She could still stay on task, focus, and follow directions. “Thank you for never asking my symptoms prior to giving me your off the cuff, pompous self-absorbed leaning back in your black leather therapist chair, you thought I didn’t notice your not so muffled yawns during my sessions, diagnosis,” she quipped to herself.

Her problem was not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  Her problem didn’t even sound like a problem in her own mind.  She self-diagnosed to the dismay of any professional’s schooled thought.  Monkey Brain Syndrome, Looney Tune Personality Disorder, Oh God I’ve Become My Motheritis, Psycho Hose Beast (given by a prior boyfriend – she ditched the guy, kept the moniker).  This is what happens to a brain raised on Tab, bourbon, white cross pills and pot.

She figured everyone comes into their own insanity eventually, piece by piece, like a writer finding his or her unique voice over time.  Her voices, insane and writer, unfortunately, were scattered throughout her work and home offices in schizophrenic fashion on paper scraps, sticky notes, discarded envelopes and anything else she could get her pen on.  Worried that indeed she was becoming her mother, and losing her mind, and concerned that she told her children to take their crazy mother out back and shoot her when her mind disintegrated into drooling babble and, and wondering how serious they took that directive now that her mind was going sooner than later, the kids reminded her daily with glee.  This worry elicited a need to write down every thought worthy of saving for a later use because she knew she never remembered anything later.

She was not ready for the mercy killing yet.  She still knew what a toothbrush was used for and which key opened the back door, thus proving she knew what keys and doors were, it was just that she couldn’t find those damn keys and she was standing outside the back door in a torrent of rain, cursing her mother’s genes and her own self for trying to be a superwoman when she knew it impossible to keep track of her 1.2 million neurons firing simultaneously, each requiring immediate attention, while searching for those god damned keys!

So the notetaking was essential to her survival.  No, not just to dissuade her eager sons’ polishing and loading their guns out back, but for her own sanity
and the desire to write everything down
        in just one notebook
        in one place
        pretty please?