Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Old Lair

On this day in 1972 (45 years ago), my family moved to this house.

My engineer dad got a job at Morganite in Dunn, NC, and we moved from small-town St. Mary's, PA to (really not that much bigger back then) North Raleigh. I marvel at how real estate transactions ever happened without the Internet. Morganite flew my parents down, and they had a weekend to select the house we'd grow up in. As an adult, I thanked Dad for moving us to Raleigh rather than Dunn. His commute was over an hour -- I don't even think the Beltline was completed then. 

Mom moved from a drinking, smoking, card-playing life in a German-Catholic town that had its own brewery since 1872 to Southern-Baptist-dominated Raleigh, which didn't even have "liquor by the drink." As I understand it, the restaurants would have little cubby holes behind the bars, and like, your company would maintain bottles of liquor there that the bartender would pour for a corking fee? Something like that. I think it was bordering on scandalous for a woman to drink or hang out in bars. Then Mom got a job as a waitress at nearby Mayberry (later, Lock, Stock & Barrel), and it was probably remarkable for her to be walking up the street in her little uniform, too. I wish she were around now so I could ask her what it must have been like to pick up and move her family of six to such a foreign culture after she'd lived her whole life in St. Mary's. (I have a bit of an inkling, now.)

The house in Raleigh had woods in back, at least until I was in about 4th grade, when they built houses back there. All the kids would hang out in the woods and build forts. We knew the woods like the backs of our hands. There were trails and places everyone knew: the Bunny Trail, the Whoop-de-dos. There was a burnt down old farm house back there overrun with vegetation. I was shoeless from April to October, crossing the creek over a fallen tree and sometimes even walking barefoot down the gravel Rocky Road to the Power Lines. If the briar patch got me, I washed my cuts with nasty creek water.

Some kids had motor bikes. I knew who was coming to visit by the sound of their bike. My brothers won a Kawasaki from WKIX. I was too little to drive it, but I rode on back and had my bare legs singed multiple times - specifically that time Bob wiped out on Devil's Hill with me and Eric on back. Our house was midway between the Power Lines (the nighttime party hangout) and Colony Shopping Center, and the shirtless freaks and bell-bottomed hippy girls were always stopping by looking for one of my brothers. Sometimes they'd hang out and play ping-pong or TV tennis or Led Zeppelin records or guitar.

We moved to Raleigh two weeks after a mass shooting at North Hills Mall, a mile and a half away from our new house. Our car stopped for gas just after crossing into North Carolina. It was late afternoon in summer, so naturally, it had just rained. Steam issued forth from the pavement like a lava pit in Hell, and my brother Bobby gasped for air as he got out of the car to pee. "Is this what it's gonna be like here??" he asked Mom. She didn't know.

How could she know whether they'd made a good decision, that the house would be in our family for 40 years? That its cracked patio would host killer keggers; that its brown oven produce golden turkeys; that its front stoop shelter a boyfriend's shy goodnight kiss? That, according to my husband, I actually walk differently when I'm within a mile of it because I guess I feel like I belong there?

Random bit of advice, though: If you aim to learn to ride a bike without training wheels, don't let your older brother teach you on a driveway lined with holly bushes.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Shoes with Mojo

Ladies, do you go out to bars alone? And do your shoes have mojo?

My husband was out of town with his other wife the Army again, and naturally there was a band I wanted to see. I first saw Cigar Store Indians, a rockabilly band, probably in the late-90s during my swingdance phase. They are from Crabapple, GA, which it turns out is just north of Atlanta, where I moved about 16 months ago. They were playing at the Star Bar in Little Five Points, where we'd recently seen Southern Culture on the Skids, so I knew what environment to expect and that there was a parking lot and I wouldn't have to walk very far unescorted. So I psyched myself up for it and went out alone. This is not something I have done often, but I have done it. I'm an introvert, remember. I wasn't just going out to meet up with friends. I didn't have the excuse that I was traveling on business.

I've really been wanting to swingdance again lately; it's been a while. I was hoping maybe I could find somebody to dance with last night. If you are at an event that is not billed as a swing dance, you can often still identify other dancers by their shoes. It's true. So to help potential partners identify me, I wore saddle shoes.

Now, I've believed for years that shoes can have a certain mojo, but that was all due to my fuzzy leopard-print, extra-hi-top Chucks that I bought in London. I credit/blame them for some adventures involving a dude with a blue mohawk, but that story will have to wait for another time. But this night, my black and white saddle shoes worked their own little magic, even before I clicked them together three times.

I felt rather self-conscious when I entered the bar at around 9:20. It turned out the band wouldn't start for another 40 minutes, I think, but it was late enough that there were no open stools at the bars, and yet early enough that very few people were standing in the open like me. I tried to find an out-of-the-way place to stand where I drank my Newcastle and of course made a little origami crane out of the label.

Were people noticing that I was a chick out in the bar alone? Maybe they would think I was just waiting for my friend(s) to show up. As more people filtered in, I hoped I was at least not sticking out like the man in the khakis and navy blazer. (Did he just come from the country club?) I finished my beer and the band still hadn't shown signs of starting, so I went to the Ladies' Room and then got another beer.

Then this really tall, black-haired chick in all black comes up to me telling me how she loves my shoes.

"And they look good on you!" she adds, gushing.

I'm like, "Thanks!" Then she asks my name and shakes my hand and tells me her name is Chastity. Then she departs and heads towards the door, like she's friends with the doorman.

Ok, well, that was encouraging at least. I stand there another five or ten minutes, and the band looks as if they are finally beginning to start. Chastity comes back up to me and introduces me to her friend, though I don't think I caught her name. Well, the friend says hi and immediately PUSHES me all the way to the front of the stage - you know, past all the tall fuckers who have started to converge - and straight up to center stage. So I'm laughing and I say thanks, and the band starts. And that's where I spent the whole show, front center stage.

There were a few times when people with cameras asked to get in front of me, and I said of course, and they were always very polite and left after a few minutes. This one chick was like, "You're so little. Stay there!" and then this other chick was also gushing over my shoes. (People, it's called the Internet. They're not hard to find.) But I did keep turning around looking behind me to see if anyone was swingdancing. I think I saw a couple in the back maybe do one dance, but that's it. So I never did get to swingdance, but I had just about as much fun dancing by myself center stage.

Yet all those times I kept turning around, I never saw Chastity or her friend again.

Angels. They were angels!