Cheap pick

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As a teenager, I didn’t have that many people threaten to kick my ass.  Mainly, I just got shit-talked in the bathroom and cried after.  No real harm done?  Anyways, there was this one girl who lived in my apartments who transferred into my middle school and her name was let’s just say Vivian West just in case.  She lived with her dad, and their apartment was always messy, and that’s saying something coming from me since my mother was a you-know-what, rhymes with “disorder.”  Also, I remember him being a drinker, which is saying something, because my mother always had a jug of Reunite in the fridge and she knew exactly how much she had in there, which I learned the hard way once when this guy I liked who I wasn’t supposed to let in the apartment took a swig of it and she noticed and called his parents and that was maybe the worst thing that has happened to me ever.

Well, Vivian had a year or so moved away when I ran into her at the Hasting’s Records at the Ridgmar Mall.  I was flipping through rows and rows of records, looking for the cut-outs because those were cheaper, hence my Goanna and Fastway albums.  She marched right up to me and said “Christy Stratton, I’m going to kick your ass!”  I think I was alone, because I remember not having any backup, although wouldn’t it have been great if I had a boyfriend who stepped up and said “Excuse me?”  Ha ha boyfriend, right, teen me?

I then inquired as to why Vivian was so inclined to do this.  She said it was because she heard I was talking about her.  Now, listen, I wouldn’t have put it past me back then to speak ill of someone — it was dog-eat-dog, and I used whatever tools I had available to me to survive.  In some cases, that meant sharing my negative opinions about people.  But I assure you all, I did not know what she was talking about.

Weeks passed.  I eventually got up the nerve to go back into the Ridgmar Mall.  I had no choice — it was the only game in town mall-wise.  Things went back to normal, and what I mean by that was no one was threatening to kick my ass — such a funny term, come to think of it, because it doesn’t sound like it would hurt very much at all.  Summer came, and friends and I had taken to seeing concerts at Six Flags over Texas.  Adam Ant, Huey Lewis and the News… those were just two of the three acts I saw there in the mid-80’s. The other one was Cheap Trick.

What you’d have to do before these shows — since it was festival seating — was to line up in a designated roped-off area near-ish the venue during the day.  But it wasn’t a line, really, it was more like a mass of humanity you’d stand in the hot sun very near for hours on end.  Sweating, stinking, accidentally touching.  Also I wasn’t into hats back then.

My tiny, nimble friend Wendy took it upon herself to crawl between people’s legs and work her way to the front of the throng — so we had a fighting chance of getting good seats if she wasn’t trampled to death.  This was maybe the only time in my life I was glad to not be tiny and nimble.

I was separated from all my friends and about to pass out from heat stroke when the crowd was set loose and we all took off, although I knew I was the slowest runner, so I decided to stop and watch where everyone scattered to so I could assemble us all.  Plus, running.

Once we had our seats, I got up to get water because I was super weak from the waiting ordeal.  Ha ha water, right teen me?  It was for sure a Coke.  On my way back, strolling down the aisle with my bud Wendy, without a care in the world, la la la — who did I see coming up the way?  Not Robin Zander.  Not even Bun E. Carlos.

VIVIAN.  WEST!

She didn’t see me, thank almighty Isis.  I then did that thing where you avoid someone by getting super into whatever the person you’re talking to is saying.  Poor Wendy didn’t know why I was white hot focusing on whatever — I didn’t share the Vivian-threatening-to-kick-my-ass story with anyone, since me talking about her was what got me into troubs in the first place.

Vivian saw me, though, and called me out!  Was she going to kick my ass right here in front of all these stinky people?  I had seen fights erupt at concert venues before — in fact, concert venues were the only place I had ever seen a fistfight up close.

But the weirdest thing happened — she smiled and greeted me all friendly-like.  It was all ‘Hey! Oh my gosh!  So good to see you!  How’s your mom?’ — that sort of thing.  In retrospect, I believe she may have been on drugs.  That was the last I saw of that gal and I am grateful for it.

The show was great, and we were close enough to be near where Rick Nielsen threw out like a thousand of these.

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I also had an earplug I bought from a Security guy for $5 who claimed it had been wedged in the ear of one of the members of the band.  I got rid of that years ago when I realized that people can lie to you sometimes.

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I learned the truth from Seventeen, part 2

IMG_4197Clearly I didn’t listen to you last year, dear readers, when you voted for me to coldly send my collection of 80’s-era Seventeen magazines to the garbage dump, like so many vegetables after weeks in my crisper.  Well, I’m going to review an additional issue (December 1985) and give you another chance to do the right thing.  Follow your heart, wink wink.

We begin our journey with an ad for FDS: Feminine Deodorant Spray.

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The FDS Woman.  Always nice to be near.  Because she doesn’t smell like ass.  And look at how unflattering the hot pink balloon pants are on that gal in the front — no wonder people think she might stink, she could fit a colostomy bag in there!

Perhaps most offensive to me about this picture is that some rando in the crowd is holding pom poms.  Um, I don’t think so Biff: only the cheerleaders on the field would have them, because, hello, pom poms were officially issued to us.  Maintained by us, fluffed painstakingly by us.  They weren’t just handed out willy-nilly to any el stinko in the bleachers.

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Whoa whoa whoa… this spray is made specifically for odor of the vag variety you say?  So… um… are we supposed to spray these deodorant chemicals directly on it?  That doesn’t make sense because stinging.

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I’m sorry… which look is supposed to be sexy?

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Here’s one of the things I love about the 80’s looking back — we wanted to be women. Sophisitcated women who may or may not be wearing wigs and who have confidence enough to cover every inch of skin with fabric.

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Ah, yes, finally, the reason why we all read Seventeen: for it’s scientific factoids and info about international customs.

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DIY baby bob bangs, okay Seventeen, there you are.

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Okay, firstly, I’m sorry, but this isn’t real estate agent Bea Montague — it’s totally Kim Dickens. And secondly — again with the clean thing!  “I feel like I’ve just showered every time I tape in a Lightdays.  It’s a good thing, too, because for people to love us, we teenage girls need to maintain a near antiseptic-level of cleanliness, like we’re in a hospital prepping for surgery.”

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Just, yes.

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Everything.

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It’s okay that this is basically the haircut I have now, right?

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I got my flats, I got my sparkly purse, I got my old lady comb… GLITZ, a-you been a-PUT ON!

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This is a New Year’s Eve dry dip of parsley, egg whites, red peppers, egg yolks and olives.  I’m guessing you’re supposed to make this if you hate all of your friends.

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“Soft” tampons?  Was that a thing?  I only use ones made out of steel wool.  And just look at that girl’s smug face, like she thinks she’s THE BEST at wearing soft tampons and only pretends to be humble when asked about it.

Ack!!!  But look at this in the fine print:

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“I felt cleaner, cleaner than with a pad.”  Not just “cleaner,” no, “cleaner, cleaner” as if she’s pausing, really giving it some thought as to the level of clean she feels wearing these tampons.  Like, okay, there exists a passable level of clean, which is disgusting, but then there’s this level of clean above that, which is extreme and acceptable.

Is it me, or were advertisers trying to scare us into thinking we were filthy?  It so worked, I pretty much thought I was gross most of the time.  But I can laugh about it now ha ha?

Well, what do y’all think?  Have I made my argument for keeping these, or should I coldly throw these in recycling, like so many empty cartons of milk I barely rinse out beforehand?


On the cover was the Rolling Stones

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What you are looking at is the cover of a paper I wrote in middle school.  I can’t imagine how I accessed a copy machine to provide the photo — did I get my mom to do it at work, or did I trouble the office staff to let me impose upon them to make a copy?  Whatever, I knew even then that everyone judged a book by its cover and I wanted mine to mentally prepare the reader for the kick-assedness within.

And, not to brag, but lookee:

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That’s right, y’all.  Grade A.  Whoever this teacher was, she put a lot of emphasis on form and neatness — it add up to 2/3 of this grade!  I could just have written blah blah blah a million times! With my gorgeous penmanship and peerless spacing, that is.  But I had been given an opportunity to tell the story of Mick, Keith and the boys to Mrs. Whoever, and I would never have squandered that.

Now, no paper on the Rolling Stones would be complete without this:

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A pretentious poem.  It was written by Andrew Oldham, as a brief internet search helped me to discover.  Not sure why I didn’t credit him?  Was I attempting to pass his work off as my own?  It makes one wonder.  I mean, how was a girl so confident in her abilities that she put a photocopy of a photo on her front cover be so insecure as to think crediting a poet would somehow detract from her work?

Okay, so let’s get to the meat of the thing:

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I think by far the best passage is one where I say “Myths naturally begin at the very beginning and the history of the Rolling Stones is no exception.”  The implication, I suppose, being that myths are the only things that begin at the very beginning.  Regular old stories start at the mid-beginning.

Now, that sentence definitely sounds like a young me.  But this one sounded a little too sophisticated: “Their presence has so dominated rock and roll that they virtually determined what a rock band should look like and sound like.”  And in a couple of sentences before, I use the word ‘catalyst.’  I’m not saying any of that is genius, but it sounds a little beyond my level of articulation at the time.  Good thing I have hoarded my primary source material to do some investigating:

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Wait… that’s my title!  I plagiarized the title?  Good grief.

I opened the book, hoping upon hope to find out that I wasn’t a little cheat.  Let me tell you, even though this book has a fun, colorful cover, inside it is very dense and dry.  I couldn’t find any of the hokiest of my lines within.  Whew!

Then I flipped it over:

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The blurb reads “… they created the blueprint of the rock band; they are the constant against which all others are measured.”  I have to admit that pretty much sounds like the same thing I wrote, and therefore proves that I am a fraud.

Near the end, on page five, is a passage that I would describe as “a young girl’s explanation of Altamont”

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“Many scenes occurred through the opening acts of violence and repulsiveness.”  See, the violence, I’d expect from the Hell’s Angels, but I didn’t know they’d also shit their pants and throw up all around.  I especially like the “After one death and many injuries, it was then, mercifully over.”  It’s like “After the man was nearly drowned and his limbs torn off one by one, he was happy the torture was through.”

Also in that sentence, as you can see, is perhaps the most embarrassing thing about this entire paper: that I liquid-papered a mistake and forgot to go back and fix it once it dried.

I finally got to see the Rolling Stones in concert in the 90’s.  But it was during that ridiculous “Love is strong and your so sweet” period.  We were in the back of the Rose Bowl and the screens were projecting cartoons or something, not the actual band playing, and when they did give us a flash of the band, the sound was moving too slow to sync up with the performance, which was distressing to say the least, a waste of money that I didn’t have to say the most.

You are voting on the paper only.


Headphones, Jack

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Something was brought to my attention today.  I may have one too many sets of cheap/free headphones.  Sometimes, I can’t even open my headphone drawer — that’s how many heaphones I have.  I could say I used them for running, and needed extra, because after so much running they just fall apart, like tennis shoes do, now I forgot where I was going with that.

One of them is a child’s set (it belongs to my son) but I usually don’t bring them along to the restaurant to plug into the iPad lest people think I’m not just a bad parent, but a really bad one.

I can’t do the buds, so just forget the hell out of that, jerk who might have tried to help me out and suggest that space-saving option.  I need my entire ear canal enveloped in delicate, comforting foam.  And I need the security of a plastic thing resting across my hair, or, for a time in my twenties, across the bandanna covering my hair.

Actually, I long for a pair of those big, bulbous ones from the 70s and early 80s.  I can distinctly remember frequently plugging those into my stereo — I had finally gotten one (a stereo; the headphones were my father’s) in high school as a birthday gift from my mom and her boyfriend.  It wasn’t a particularly good or nice stereo, mainly because 3 of the main knobs belonged to a different unit altogether.  Mom said the store didn’t have the knobs in, that we would get them later, that these were temp knobs.  Picture a stereo from the 80’s, then picture that the 3 main knobs, not the fat ones but the smaller ones, stuck out about 3 inches and looked like someone forced them on with a tool.  Plus the knobs themselves looked like their original purpose was to wind something.

It’s because I was so excited to finally be able to listen to the radio and my records on the same console that I bought that cacamame story from my mom and that guy in the first place.  I was the music girl, the one who had the records that older people knew about, plus the obscure 80’s ones like Goanna and Let’s Active.  How was I to impress the teen set with this inelegantly refurbished model?  Well, the real knobs never came, so the answer is I didn’t.  I even offered to call the place periodically to check the status of the knobs, but mom said she’d do it, which I guess was code for she’s not going to do it.

So we’re voting for getting rid of all but the child’s headphones, although I need one for running and a spare for running.  So to get rid of one of them.


Pink and green and stained all over

In the mid-1980s, I carried the hell out of this purse — of course I did, it was pink and green and monogrammed and a clutch.  Its insanely high level of preppiness cannot be denied.

Preppy was the style du jour for us gals at Monnig Middle.  You know how today boys wear their pants around their thighs and girls wear skirts so short you can see their couscous?  Well, back then we wore cummerbunds and knickers to school, I guess like we were playing in a golf game and then going to a formal dance right after.

Thanks to The Official Preppy Handbook, edited and co-written by Lisa Birnbach, we knew all about the principles of prep.  As 13-year-olds, we had yet to grasp the concepts of irony or parody, so to us, this was a real guide to how to be preppy and we were deadly serious about following it to the damn letter.  To that end, we decided to give ourselves preppy nicknames like the ones described in the book.

As you can see from this photo, I was the self-appointed keeper of the log of who was who, nickname-wise.  I was Corkie.  Yes, as in the character from Life Goes On, which was, shut up, a terrific show.  (Then that doll Kellie Martin went on to play the main character in Christy, which is arguably the last great prairie show.)

I got the purse somehow I really don’t remember.  But I made the mistake of washing it and it bled all over itself.  I’ve hung onto it all these years in hopes that stain-removing technology would evolve. I, for no reason at all, have always been an optimist.

I recently took the purse to a specialty dry cleaner that was recommended to me, and they assured me that nothing at all could be done about the green-on-pink staining, now or probably ever.  To this I said “boo!” and marched out of there in a huff not really I was real nice.

Okay, so the voting here is on the purse, NOT the book.  Even with some pages missing and others defaced, I will keep the book forever.


Just what I needed, Part 3 of 3

So, where was I?  Oh, yes, the New Cars (featuring real Cars Greg Hawkes and, most importantly, Elliot Easton) pricey VIP concert tickets which I had in my possesion.  I roped my sweet new fiance Gary into going with me.  I felt he needed to see this side of me before we went any further.

They told all of the VIP’s via email that we were allowed to bring something for the band to sign.  Of course I’d bring my copy of Elliot’s 1985 solo album: Change No Change.  I was sure he’d be impressed – I’m a real fan, not some poseur who just likes to throw money around.  The album’s cover is black, so I bought a silver paint pen for him to sign it with, because I think of everything sometimes.

The day of the concert, we arrived at the Universal Amphitheater and were led in by a cute, college-age girl whose job it was to wrangle us.  I hated her.  I would have killed for this job as a young woman, did she even know how good she had it?  Would she ever?  Should I explain it to her?

Okay, so, this girl, who probably had never heard of the Cars before this job, sat us in a spot out of view of the band as they rehearsed their set.  Elliot was in charge of things, you could totally tell.  Signaling with his hands, saying things with his voice – he was choreographing the dance that was the New Cars.  I had never loved him more.  Then the rehearsal ended, and the Girl Who Has Had More Than One Exchange With Elliot Easton, You Know It said it was time for the meet and greet.  I felt my throat tighten; my body became cold and unmoving.  A dream was about to become reality – most normal people think this would be amazing and not be sick to their stomach and want to run crying to the bathroom pretending to have the fast poops.

We filed out and into a tented area where we were instructed to form a line perpendicular to the table where the band sat, open faced and ready to receive us.  Then the line started to move.  The closer we got to the table, the more I wanted to expire before I got there.  I had been waiting for this moment all my life, and yet all I wanted to do was run away and dive into the Waterworld moat.

I felt bad for Gary as well – I gave him the terrible task of getting my Shake It Up album signed – but only by the two original Cars.  He’d have to pull it away from the others.  To this day I don’t know how he did it, nor do I want to know, because rudeness terrifies me.

We inched forward…  Oh my stars.  It was happening… what’s happening… where am I?  I felt a shortness of breath and my heart race – please oh please let this be a grand mal seizure.  Throughout all this panic, I kept the line moving ever forward.  The order of it all kept me from losing my mind.

Before I knew it, I was standing right in front of original keyboardist Greg Hawkes.  I smiled at him, nodded and said hi, all awkwardly.  Next to Greg sat one of Todd Rundgren’s buddies.  I smiled at him, too – whatever, I’m nice.

Next was Elliot, looking resplendent seated in the center – like the Jesus of the New Cars.  The guy in front of me was slow, so I was stuck smiling at Todd Rundgren’s buddy more.  The guy moved on.  Elliot looked at me.  I stepped up to him and I handed him my album.

“I brought this silver pen,” I said, indicating.

“There’s a grey one here,” Elliot Easton said.  I looked down – there were Sharpies in at least three different colors.  I felt like an asshole!

“Oh!” I said, and just stood there like a ding dong.

He signed his name and handed the album cover back to me, and I said nothing else.  I am such a planner – why didn’t I plan something to say to him?  I have written an entire Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tribute speech to the Cars in my head once during a long drive – why couldn’t I summon up something from that?

Mercifully, I reached the end of the slow-scooting line, turned, and rushed toward Gary with a sense of exhilarated relief, the kind you feel when you exit a really scary haunted house, one where they have no boundaries and grab and poke you.  But then the girl said we needed to get back in line – we’d each be taking a picture with them!  Oh, how I wished Gary would just punch me in the face.  Someone – please stab me in the neck with your keys!

With sweet Gary’s encouragement, I found the strength to pose for the picture – and another one for safety!  You know, up to that day, I always thought that, had I lived in pioneer times, I would never have survived.  I think the strength I showed that day proves otherwise.

Here I am, managing to live through a very pleasant experience.

After the meet and greet, a half-assed buffet, and a trivia contest where I won a t-shirt, of course, we were herded back into the amphitheater and watched The New Cars from our amazing seats.  I would have wept through the entire set, but one of Gary’s friends had joined us, so I acted like I was having fun instead of dying inside.

This is me saying to Elliot “Back off, I’m engaged!”

Okay, so here’s the stuff:

The t-shirt is fairly new and it doesn’t fit.  There’s a picture disc, a tour program, and a homemade Cars button since I could never find one.  Also included but not pictured are my Circus magazines and loose-leaf pictures of the band cut out from magazines I once put into collages.  I’m keeping the signed records, obvi.  And this other unwearable t-shirt.


Just what I needed, Part 2 of 3

OKAY, so… 2002?  2003?  I wanted to wait out traffic after work so I stopped at the Chin Chin in Bev Hills for dinner.  I walked in, approached the hostess stand and… talk about dim sum and then some… Elliot Easton was there, eating with three dudes!  I wondered — did he notice me noticing him, and if he did, was he flattered or creeped?  Keep in mind I was alone and staring right at him for like a solid minute.

My table was kiddie-cornered to where he and the dudes sat.  I tried to eat my Chinese chicken salad like a person, but it became unwieldy and the wonton crisps were spilling out every whicha way.  I wondered if Elliot saw this, and if he did, would he think I was clumsy, like a woman in a romcom?  Or clumsy, like a woman who’s just gotten out of prison?  I used the time I spent corralling the crisps to try to decide if I should say something to him.

I decided against it, because I do not approach those I admire, for fear of their contempt.  I learned this the hard way at 9 years old at a skating rink in Texas, when I made the mistake of telling this girl who had just won a skate-dancing competition that she was a good skater.  In truth, she was just little and sassy and won the crowd over without having to skate particularly well.  And back then I was really impressed by girls who were small for their age.  After I congratulated her, her two guy friends started harassing me and hurting my feelings.  I can’t remember what they said, but if it upset me back then, chances are it was either “That girl has dandruff” or “That girl just farted.”

Now, I knew Elliot was way too awesome to say I have dandruff or anything, but if his reaction to me was less than “this encounter has made an indelible impression on my life,” I would be heartbroken.  And I was sure another, more ideal opportunity to meet Elliot would present itself – maybe something that involved working together on the internet.

A couple of years later I heard a commercial on the radio (which is a miracle since I always flip past them because I like to rock): the New Cars would be playing the Universal Amphitheatre as part of their Road Rage tour.  The New Cars?  I was intrigued and hopeful.  I got home and went to their website and discovered that the members of the New Cars were: Elliot Easton, original keyboardist Greg Hawkes, Todd Rundgren, and a couple of guys he knows.

I had only seen the real Cars in concert once, when I was 14 with my friend Craig Rodgers and his brother and his brother’s girlfriend.  Seeing them live moved me so profoundly that I cried when it was over.  Craig asked if I was okay.  Inside I thought “no, I’m not” and I said “no I’m not.”  I didn’t know how I was supposed to just go back to my life after that — but I managed to, and good for me.

Now!  How was I going to get good tickets to this show?  You can’t just camp out on the sidewalk outside a Sears like a hobo like you could in the 80’s.  As a teenager, I did this many times with varying degrees of success.  There was Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A tour, where I couldn’t get off work early enough from Baskin-Robbins, so I was, like, 30th in line.  Then the sprinklers went off — people scattered, there was lawlessness.  But then I got front-row tickets for being first in line for the Moody Blues.  I was actually the only person in line for nearly 3 hours.  I didn’t get it – what teenager wouldn’t want to see the Moody Blues play the hits from their parents’ records?

I found out from the New Cars website that for $500, you could get a VIP experience, which included a premium seat and you could watch the sound check and meet the band!  This situation brought together two of my favorite things: Elliot Easton, and throwing money at a problem.

Come back everybody and find out what happened next!