Monday, February 27, 2006

I remember being propositioned...

At the time, I lived in an apartment building right in the downtown core of Vancouver. It must have been 10:30 or 11 at night, when I was walking home from a friend's place, dressed in ugly grey sweatpants and a t-shirt, real casual. I was tired and a bit cranky, don't remember why.

As I stood on the corner waiting for the light to change so I could cross the street and go home, a car drove by sloooowwwwlllly. The window lowered, and the man inside called out. "How much?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing! I get that a woman standing by herself at dark in the downtown core is probably "working", but in the area I was in, the girls dressed UP, wore furs, expensive boots, mile-thick make-up. I was in sweatpants and sneakers, for goodness sake! My hair was unkempt, I had no make-up on, and I was CRANKY!!!

"Buddy, you have GOT to be kidding. If I was actually working this street, which I'm not, you would not be able to afford me."

The window rolled back up and the car drove off as the light changed. I shook my head and crossed the street. I mean, I was in sweatpants! Sheesh.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I remember getting a free ride...

I was probably 11 or 12, and our family was visiting the Red Deer Exhibition. There were fairway rides, carnival games, a little rodeo, and a show in the evening. It was quite an outing for us, and my little sister and I were very excited!

I remember sitting on the grass in the sunshine eating the lunch that Mom packed so we wouldn't have to buy food. I remember scouring the area with my sister to get pop cans and beer cans so we could get the money later. I remember running into Tommy Hunter on the midway and asking for his autograph, secretly shocked because he was drinking a beer! (Hadn't I seen him singing hymns on his TV show? How could he sing gospel and drink beer? I was confused.)

I also remember not having any money to go on the rides. Mom gave us permission to go look at the midway, but no money for ride tickets...our family just couldn't afford it. I don't think us kids felt too resentful, but we couldn't help feeling a bit disappointed. At least we were allowed to roam--we were thankful for that.

As we strolled along, a carnie called out to us. "Hey, girls, come ride the Tilt-a-Whirl!"

I felt like such a hick. "We don't have any money."

He paused a second, then hollered out to us, "Aw, come on, anyway...I can't run the ride unless I have two more people."

Sis and I looked at each other. Did he mean for free, or were we going to have to pay? I felt very uncertain. "Come ON!!" he hollered. So we jumped on the ride, hoping we wouldn't have to bring our parents over later to pay for our foolishness. The ride was exciting, we screamed our heads off, and then it was over. He waved to us as we left...and that was it! He hadn't asked for tickets! It really was free!

I still wondered about the incident, so when we went running back to Mom to tell her all about it, I asked her if it was right to take the free ride. I'll never forget her answer. "Honey, if someone gives you a gift, you don't make them feel bad for giving it. You smile and take it, and say thank you very much." Spoken like a true pastor's wife!

I would be reading a book, and some character in the book would say "We don't accept charity!" and I just wouldn't understand how they could be so cruel and proud and thoughtless. It never seemed like a positive quality to me after that lesson from Mom.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I remember meeting a nice guy and a jerk one evening....

It was 1988, I think. Ray Condo was playing a Rockabilly Christmas party at Club Soda in Vancouver. I knew exactly what I was going to wear: a 1950's vintage red velvet dress, off shoulder, tight waist, huge circle skirt. It doesn't get more rockabilly Christmas-ey than that! Hair in a high pony-tail, bright red lipstick, and black vintage pumps...I was in the zone.

I left my girlfriends at the table and headed to the counter to buy another drink. As I passed by two Fonzey-types with slicked back hair and black leather jackets, one of them called out, "Nice tattoo...can I get a closer look?" The dragon tattoo on my right shoulder blade was peaking out over the top of the red velvet, so I stopped and let him get a closer look. He was very polite, not at all intimidating. We had a nice little conversation about tattoos and the beauty of my dress as his friend stood looking as bored and unimpressed as he could.

I didn't recognize either of them from the usual gig crowd, so I asked them if they were from Vancouver. The silent guy finally piped up. "We aren't from here! We're from L.A., we're here working on a show..." like I should know who they were, but I didn't know who they were, and his attitude was off-putting. I said it was nice meeting them and headed back to my friends at the table.

"Oh my GAWD, do you know who that was?? You were talking to Johnny Depp!!!" they gushed, pretty much in unison.

"Who's Johnny Depp?"

Open mouths, rolled eyes..."He's only the cutest guy from 21 Jump Street!"

"Oh, right, that show they film here. I don't watch TV, I'm too busy living my life at the moment...which one was Johnny?" My friends were disgusted with me, but they pointed out Johnny, the nice guy, and told me the name of the jerk, Richard Grieco, also from 21 Jump Street.

As Johnny just kept getting more famous and Richard just kept getting less famous, it was no surprise to me. I sometimes wonder if they remember that evening when they met a girl in a red velvet dress that wasn't impressed with their celebrity.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I remember an interesting old woman at Expo 86...

It was a very exciting day for me and my friends. One of our favorite bands, Einsturzende Neubauten, was going to be playing the International Stage at Expo. All the way from Germany, they were "industrial" before Nine Inch Nails were out of diapers, and I could not wait to see them live!! Lucky for me I worked right outside of the Yellow Gate at the Expo grounds, so as soon as I got off work, I rushed on to the Expo site and got changed in one of the Ladies Washrooms. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror putting on my silver lipstick with the black lip-liner, powdering my face with white powder, adjusting my fishnets, making sure my hair was pointing straight to the sky...much to the curiosity of the normal women who were merely there to wash their hands. I remember feeling very powerful and alien. I felt Alternative.

As soon as I was ready, I headed to the International Stage to line up. I wanted to be in the front row for this show!! Hooray! There were only a handful of people in line, other Alternative types whom I recognized from around town...but right in front of me, there was a prim little woman, probably in her 60's, with her grey hair in a neat little bun, her hands holding a tidy little purse, and sensible shoes on her feet. What was she doing in the line up to see this noisy, noisy band? I figured she must have read her schedule wrong, so I struck up a conversation with her, hoping to save her from standing in line for the wrong thing.

"So, do you know what you are standing in line for?" I asked politely.

She replied, quite excitedly, "Oh yes. I'm waiting to see Einsturzende Neubauten!"

I hope my jaw didn't drop. I really hope it didn't. I was flabbergasted! "You know their music?" I asked.

"Oh yes. They are one of my favorite Industrial Noise artists." She smiled sweetly at me.

Who was this woman? She stayed for the whole concert, sat in the third row. I saw her take earplugs out of her purse and insert them in her ears before the show started. The show was brilliant: gut-wrenchingly loud, metal grinders and sparks and fire and mayhem--and through it all, she sat beaming. I couldn't take my mind off her! She was, sitting there in her cardigan, more Alternative and Strange than I had ever been. To be that comfortable in one's own skin, to not feel the need to put on a costume to fit in...she shines in my memory like a beacon of Truth and Mystery, an angel whom I am only beginning to be as free as.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I remember getting frostbite...

Junior High was a bad time for me; I tend to not drag up memories from those years too often, but I just saw my old gym teacher walking down my back alley, and this memory popped up unbidden.

I'm not quite sure of the year, either 1977 or '78. It was one of those days where the mercury had dipped down to -38 C or something ridiculous like that, one or two degrees too warm to warrant closing school for the day. We were taking skating lessons for Phys Ed at the time, and were expected to walk from the school to the arena, a good eight or nine long blocks. I had forgotten my mittens on the bus. I knew this was a bad thing, I wasn't trying to be tough or anything....but nobody liked me in those years, and there was no way I would be able to borrow gloves or mittens from one of my fellow classmates, so I began the walk with bare hands. I kept clenching and unclenching my hands, stuffing them in my pockets, moving my fingers, trying to snap them....they hurt so badly after only a few minutes! If I kept my hands in my pockets too long, my skates would start to fall and I'd have to steady them, exposing my fingers to the frigid air.

I only got half way. I went into the drugstore to warm up. My fingers were white, and I couldn't move them. As they started to thaw ever so slightly in the store, I was overcome with the worst pain I had ever felt like someone was trying to saw off my skin with a rusty hack-saw. I began screaming in pain, I couldn't help myself! Some of the girls from my class had also come in to warm up, girls who generally hated me and tormented me as much as possible. I could see the confusion in their face as they felt compelled to help me, yet repulsed and embarrassed by me and the scene I was making.

Somebody had the presence of mind to call the doctor, who had an office just down the street. He came running over, put his arm around my shoulder and began walking me to the clinic. As we walked, he grabbed some snow in his mitten and covered my white fingers with snow. "You don't want them to thaw too quickly or it will hurt!" Gee, really? I figured that one out in the drugstore.

My parents were called, and I got to go home for the rest of the day with the last three fingers of my right hand bandaged up to protect them. Over the next few weeks as they healed, the top layer of skin on each finger came loose and eventually shed off, like a snake shedding its skin...I remember grossing out my gym teacher by pulling the skin on my right pinkie finger up and down like a little jacket. I figured it was the least he deserved for making us walk that day.

Seems to me that from that day on, whenever a class had to go to the arena, the school provided a bus. Me freezing my fingers sort of made me the sacrificial lamb, taking one for the whole school. You'd think the students would have been more grateful....