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Archive for November, 2019|Monthly archive page

Victoria’s Holiday: Part 1

In The 70's on November 16, 2019 at 4:53 pm

In order to be friends with Victoria, you had to be comfortable with never knowing the whole story. She was a book with pages missing and lines crossed out.  She thrived on being  mysterious and rarely showed her hand. She didn’t hate being perceived that way. 

It helped that she was a master at evading questions- even mine, which were persistent, and somewhat crafty on purpose. My M.O. was to make it seem like I wasn’t all that interested in the answers (but was I ever!) Victoria would allude to many things-(“Wait till you see what I bought/who I met/what I did the other day! You’re gonna flip!”) I’m not saying it wasn’t freakin’ exciting!

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how she managed to obtain so many things and know so many people in so many places. She lived in the same suburb as me- among the cul-de-sacs and good schools and station wagons, but she wasn’t one of us.  

 Sometimes we’d hang out 24/7 for whole weekends.   She always had money, and was very generous with it.  But she had no job and barely went to school anymore (and her single mother didn’t object, as far as I knew!) 

 Victoria had even taken it upon herself to drive when she was on the verge of fifteen, as though we lived in a lawless society – taking over the family’s second car-a wood paneled station wagon, and driving it everywhere, license free. Her mother didn’t do anything to stop her, which was inconceivable to me!  I couldn’t understand it, but I sure envied it! There were no drugs involved (other than pot) nothing seemed amiss, yet something had to be going on, right? Money didn’t grow on trees- even for exceptionally pretty girls. It hurt my head trying to figure it out, because if there was a way to get what she had I wanted in. Who wouldn’t?!

If there were skeletons in Victoria’s closet, I’d never see them, what with all of her stuff!

 

Victoria’s bedroom  was a teenage girl’s wet dream: forty pairs of designer jeans neatly dry-cleaned, hanging in her closet in graduating hues of blue. The closet bulged with tops of all kinds: from bad-ass concert tees to silky works of art that flowed and fluttered past her wrists like wisps of smoke. She had all manner of coats and jackets, from black leather to suede, from faux to real fur- every length, every color, spilling into the downstairs closets, amazing coats wrapped in dry-cleaner’s plastic. And did someone say shoes? From designer heels to platforms that would make The New York Dolls jealous, Victoria had it covered. There were hooks teeming with sparkly belts, scarves and hats. Inlaid wooden boxes of  jewelry: turquoise, black onyx, cat’s eye, malachite, moonstone.  

Walking into her room was like walking into a funky Greenwich Village Boutique – and if I’d been her size (tiny!) I’d have had access to the wardrobe of my dreams. As it was though, I was four inches taller than her, a cat to her kitten. I could wear some of her stuff- her long, flowing blouses and longer fur coats,  her jewelry, perfumes and make-up.  Getting ready to go out at Victoria’s, to me,  was a little like the scene in ‘Night Of The Comet’ where the two sisters  (the world’s most giddy apocalypse survivors) danced around an abandoned Macy’s to the song ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’, the makeup and perfume counters a dreamy free-for-all. Luckily for us though, there were no punk marauders brandishing machine guns and dialing down the fun factor in V’s room- (at least not yet)

Girl having fun…because that’s what they want to do!

Her home was a suburban split level ranch, which her mother had gotten in the divorce. There was an above ground pool in the backyard, classed up by a sturdy wooden deck, glowing at night with twinkle lights during the  warmer months of spring and summer. We’d sunbathe on the deck, wearing string bikinis- slathered in baby oil, smoking cigarettes and talking guys. In the freezing cold winter we’d  camp out downstairs in the shag carpeted family room , sleeping on the giant pull out couch, often stumbling in while the sky was a forlorn light gray, the sunrise minutes away.

I missed her when she went out of town, but it was always fun anticipating what she’d bring back.  I especially loved when she went to L.A. for long weekends, because when she got home it was as if a truck backed up into her room, dumping piles of new stuff. 

Her record collection rivaled Adrian’s. We took numerous Polaroids of each other holding up the latest albums by Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Deep Purple, always with our thumbs up. Often times I would find a new album still wrapped in cellophane, hold it up and ask ‘Can I?’ and after a slight nod from Victoria, I’d run my thumbnail down the crease, breaking the plastic seal, then gently coaxing the record out of its cardboard home, removing its paper sheath- a flat black disc, still virgin, unscratched, un-played. I’d carefully place it onto V’s turntable, the faint crackling as the needle made contact, followed by an anticipated track. I’d sit on the floor Indian style, reading the linear notes, pouring over pictures of the band, looking for secret messages from the heartthrob guitarist or lead singer I planned to marry.

Victoria’s Holiday: Part 2

In The 70's on November 15, 2019 at 7:38 pm

 Victoria was stylish and bohemian, not to mention mysterious- but the things she said- which would sound ridiculous coming out of any other  friend’s mouth, rang true. Because she seemed to possess near magical powers when it came to attracting the right stuff (clothes, records, a car, cute boyfriends, looks, freedom from parental interference) Somehow,   she appeared to be very in control of her destiny-and that destiny didn’t include conforming to suburban minutia.

I had no doubt she was telling me the truth when she announced that we were going backstage  to meet Ted Nugent, Journey and a southern band named Nantucket at New Haven Coliseum. Keep in mind that this was the late 70’s…Ted Nugent was a well-respected, kick-ass guitar player who showed little sign of becoming the extreme, animal murdering, conservative douche-bag he would later morph into. (Admittedly though, the signs were there: the  loincloth, the crazy eyes, the Wango-Tango)

At the time ‘Stranglehold’ was a hard rock staple, as was “Cat Scratch Fever’.  Journey was all over the radio with songs like “Lights’ and  ‘Wheel In The Sky’ and though they weren’t exactly my cup of (spiked) tea, they were okay for a radio band. Nantucket a newly minted southern rock band with one hit song. When I heard we were getting backstage- strangely- it felt like I’d been expecting it all along. Whenever I was with Victoria it felt like we were on the verge of something big. 

back when he was just another run-of-the-mill rockstar…

I’d already had  a ticket for this coming show, purchased weeks before from Ticketron down at the mall. Victoria matter-of-factly instructed me to sell the ticket at the venue, and make a little spending money. Of course! I’d be both a scalper and a backstage guest for the first time, on the same night. Two birds, baby!

Four days later we were on our way. V- chestnut brown hair (with cool red highlights, decades before it became a trend) flowing over her shoulders and halfway down her back, was stunning. She wore a cluster of rhinestone barrettes that looked accidentally placed, but were very calculated. (It took her time after time to get them right) She wore a tight ‘Peaches Records’ t-shirt, knotted up under her chest, displaying her flat (concave!) stomach.  Sterling silver, art-nouveau fairy necklaces hung from her neck in varying lengths. She squeezed into her signature skin-tight Jordache jeans, and pointy toed, dagger heeled suede boots.

She’d decided to dress me as well, citing her good eye for fashion over my blurry one. She took over my bedroom like dictator. She ordered Aerosmith “Get Your Wings’ from my record collection, side one, track two (‘Lord Of The Thighs’) and suggested it was time I framed my Robert Plant poster (the one with the crowd and the dove) because ‘framed art is so much classier, and we’re getting older now.’

She dug around in my closet, sighing hopelessly in despair, but eventually found a short black dress with bell sleeves, and convinced me to wear it with pantyhose and black suede boots. I argued that it was too dressy -I mean- hose?-a dress? but once I tried it on I had to admit it was kind of 60’s cool. She quickly twisted two long braids into my hair, on either side of my face, securing them with suede laces.  I felt transformed. She’d let me loose in her jewelry box earlier that afternoon, and I’d loaded up, Navajo style. My hands were heavy with sterling and turquoise, the likes of which I could never afford.  She even did my make-up, commenting on my ‘large pores’ (“Is that good or bad?’ I asked. ‘Well- it’s not good!’ she blurted out, shaking her head at my dumb question) 

As usual I was impressed with her renaissance-like knowledge- she knew more than a little about a lot of things, and could surprise you with her skills. Today a make-over, tomorrow she might change a tire, whip up a gourmet meal or play bass in an all-girl band! She believed she could do anything, and that belief manifested into her fearlessly attempting whatever was on the table at any given time. (I credited some of her confidence on her drop-dead looks….life was infinitely easier better for the beautiful, so just the feedback alone seemed to inspire a can-do attitude)

We set out in the wood paneled station wagon we’d practically come to call home. It was an obvious contrast-  imagine the Rolling Stones circa ’69-all ruffled shirts, velvet bells and shaggy hair-  driving around in a family wagon.  At least, this was how we saw it, completely flattering ourselves. We inserted it into conversations defensively- how absurd it was-US! -of all people!- in a station wagon! (the old-school equivalent of  the dreaded mini-van) and turned it into its own kind of personal lore.

“Yeah- and here we come, ripping around the corner in a station wagon! blasting Zeppelin!” was a typical punchline to a story, describing how everyone’s taken aback at the mismatch (‘everyone’ is paying so much attention to us in theses tales!) We would have loved to rock a Camaro or our dream car- a Porsche 911, but the wagon was dependable, ok on gas and most importantly: it was transportation! It got us from point ‘A’ (home) to point ‘B'(anywhere but)- and we all knew point ‘B’ was integral to all we could experience, adult free. All of the funny/wild/exciting shenanigans went down at point B (and the droll stuff at ‘A’)  We personally knew many kids, stranded and car-less, stuck at home, on parentally ruled desert islands, who would kill for a set of keys-even if they belonged to a 1971 Ford Country Squire. And this knowledge trumped all other.

“Aunt Victoria, are these your ‘special’ cigarettes on the floor back here?”

  

For the forty minute ride to the coliseum, Victoria brought her trusty, battered cassette tape case, plastered with 70’s stickers: “Disco Sucks, Rock Rolls’ ‘Reality is for people who can’t handle Drugs’ ‘STP’ motor oil, etc. and we cranked our favorite tunes (“Stranglehold’ ‘The Song Remains The Same’) in the surprisingly crystal clear sounding stock stereo. We drove to the liquor store, and after we quickly rolled two joints in the parking lot for later use, we strolled in- every head turning, every eye on us.

Our hometown suddenly felt tiny right then, I thought, standing by the Smirnoff display.  I wanted to yell out: ‘We’re going to hang out with rock-stars tonight!!’, but I felt sorry for the ‘townies’ and their ordinary existence. The liquor store clerk would probably go home, have a frozen dinner and watch ‘Hawaii Five-O’. The woman paying at the register might- what?- go home, corral the kids, then pop the cork on her wine bottle and kill time until she got sleepy. It was so boring, so sheep-like!  I was surely on some sort of trajectory out of ordinary-ness- I was being launched into something greater, something special. Something I half-expected due to all of my day-dreaming.  

I took my cues from Victoria and kept cool, ignoring everyone, keeping up the ruse by sighing, acting bored and ignoring the under- the- breath wolf-whistles from across the aisle, though I was uber-aware of them. I made accidental eye contact with a middle aged man, who lifted his eyebrows up and down at me suggestively. Ewww. Victoria sauntered up to the register and asked the clerk to change a $100.00 bill (mostly to show everyone she had a hundred dollar bill)  ordered two packs of Eve’s, and bought two bottles of  Liebfraumilch and a small bag of Mr. Salty pretzels sticks.

“I haven’t eaten in days’ she commented to no one in particular….which was surprising because I’d just witnessed her scarf down half a tuna sub, along with what was left of a jar of green olives before we left the house. But seeming baby-bird and starving yourself like was an attractive look for a teenage girl- if you were dainty enough to pull it off as Vee certainly was. 

The wine accused of ‘very nearly putting a generation off  drinking wine’ by connoisseurs worldwide, was naturally, our favorite!

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