Of the four or five people who read this, at least two know I used to sing. Emphasis on used to, and always with great decorum in some sort of organized setting. There’s that control thing again. But lurking deep inside me, as I suspect lurks inside every American child who has every sung into a hairbrush or other mic substitute in front of the bedroom mirror, is a secret performer. I’ve moved through many iterations, from The Supremes/Partridge Family/Archies/Carpenters of my early years, through adolescence’s Linda Ronstadt (circa “Heart Like a Wheel”) and The Eagles and The Stones, to infinity and beyond.
So today, I’m holding off on the entry I’d prepared and trying something fun…and I’m hoping you’ll play. I’ve picked a category – ANGST-RIDDEN GIRL SINGERS – and imagined myself as a couple of my favorites. Please, please, please post your versions as what jargon-heads call a “community building exercise.”
If I could roll out of a well-rumpled bed in a shaded frame house in a Texas August, take all my secret bad girl tendencies, soak them in good aged bourbon, squeeze them into the tiny little Levi’s 501s I wore in 1979, and pass them through all the living I’ve done in the last 48 years, who would I sound like? Lucinda Williams. White t-shirt. Scuffed brown boots. Icy beer bottles with labels peeling off. This makes me think of a tiny bit of writing I saved from the fall of 1981 (Be kind; I know this sucks but I was 22 and had been mainlining Hemingway and Faulkner for four years. Think of it as a period piece.). Someone far away who has been invited to read this blog was along on the evening in question…prize to you if you can identify the dance partner!
So we were dancing close and it was very hot and not much cooler outside when we went for air. The band started up again slow so we danced behind the pavilion very slow and close. And I asked him what he was thinking, how the night made him feel. It was kind of misty. He told me that it was nice to sit in the late autumn afternoons when sun came warm through windows and sip something and not say very much that wasn’t important. I thought of geraniums, and wondered if they would grow here in Texas in a window box in, say, November when it’s sometimes hot and sometimes cold. So I told him that I’d like to do that sometime, and he said, “We’ll see,” and I almost wanted him to be my lover. You know, you feel so pretty when you’re dancing with someone handsome and he’s condescending and mesmerizing at the same time. And you feel that ambivalence, that fluctuation, like wanting or not wanting to sleep.
If I could put pragmatism aside long enough to be the serious poet/intellectual I once tried to ape, look less than hideous with stick straight hair and a permanently earnest expression, synthesize (and have actually read) all the books in my shelves, live in a cool-colored, clean-lined city loft, be a good vegan and become very angular, who would I be? Suzanne Vega. Ballet flats. Hepburn shifts. Floaty poet blouses and the slight aroma of sandalwood and pot smoke. FW Girl and Deutsche-boy: Can you whowherewhen this fictionalized excerpt from a piece on our glory days? I’ll cook sumpin’ good on your next visit.
I don’t remember which of the guys got the idea to replace the star on the tree with a picture of John Lennon, but A* handed me B*’s copy of Let It Be and a pair of scissors.
“I’m too stoned to cut straight, and what if I cut George, man? I never liked John that much but, shit, he’s shot.”
All things considered, I didn’t double check with B* before I cut. I handed the portrait to C*, and he pulled a chair over and propped it among the branches. Everyone was quiet for a minute. Just then, someone on the other side of the room dropped the needle on The Stones “Miss You.” There’s justice, I thought. The King is dead. Long live the King. Let’s dance. I chugged the rest of my wine, put the mutilated album back in the block and board shelf, and headed to the floor.
It was just after ten, and faculty were starting to trickle in. They’d been grading all evening and were ready for a break. I felt hands on my waist, and a voice in my ear shouted, “You look thirsty. I’m headed to the keg. Now do you like it with head or no head?” I knew it was Professor E*. “Head, always!” I smiled and slipped away. I’d seen Professor F* come in, and thought I’d best attempt a rapprochement.
I was pretty sure she’d be here tonight. B* had shown up at one of our Friday night department drinking things, and she’d taken notice. His painfully thin, tofu fed demeanor called up her Berkeley glory days. His radar registered this immediately and, being B*, he began figuring out a way to use it. He knew he’d need an outside reader for his dissertation. He’d audited one of her courses, poured it on pretty thick, and my radar detected her attraction. Even though my dealings with B were a deep secret I was pretty sure that, somehow, F* knew. F* always knew everything.
I knew she liked red wine, so I picked up an extra for her and headed that way. We made eye contact and I lifted her glass. The group of dancers blocked my view, so it was way too late to turn around when I saw that B* was on a similar mission. We arrived at the same time, and when she turned to greet him, her gaze fell on the tree and rose to the top. She spun around and hissed, “My God, what have you arrogant children done now.”
This is great fun (for me, at least), but it’s running waaaaaaaaaay too long. You’ll have to wait for my other personae: Joni Mitchell, Roseanne Cash, Madeline Peyroux…. maybe even Michael Stipe!
I await your favorite angsty-girls or boys.
And – don’t worry - I’ll never, ever, mention you by name.