Friday, May 28, 2010

When Doves Go Crazy

I remember the day I heard that voice like it was yesterday. It was the summer of 1978. Or was it fall? Huh, I can't remember, really but I do remember it well. The woman on the radio was singing about wanting to be my lover and wanting to be the only one I'd coo for. Whatever that meant. The song was all over the radio and whenever I'd be driving with mom in her green Gran Torino, I'd TURN the dial in search of it. It drove her crazy, but she loved me and always supported my latest obsession. And I was obsessed. I hadn't even seen what this lady looked like, but even then I knew I was "funny" and at the ripe old age of eight, I was ready for love!!
Mom found the 45 ( you know, the small vinyl records ) at a local record shop but it didn't come with a picture sleeve, but the lady who sang my favorite song with the amazingly high voice had a weird name: Prince. Prince?
Yes, the woman I loved was a man named Prince. I decided to end our romance right then and there and move on to a real woman who was accessible and wholesome; the real girl next door: Olivia Newton-John. I'd seen Grease a million times and now the movie Xanadu was in theaters so she had my undivided attention and she was all I thought and talked about. I was ten now. More mature and definitely ready for romance. Yep, Livvy was my main squeeze there for a few years. At least until the summer of 1983.

I was hanging out with my friend Alicia Powell and her boyfriend and a bunch of other tweens with MTV on in the background. This was when MTV was cool and played videos. Stray Cats, The Fixx, Eurythmics; good music. I wasn't much interested in talk about boys and dresses and things of a girlish nature so I focused on the television. It was then that I saw a video from my old love, Prince. The video was smoky and sexy and best of all, it had two women rubbing against each other!!! It was for the song, "1999". That's it. I fell back in love and I fell hard. This time I was ready to make a longtime commitment and hopped on the back of his bike and we went ridding off into the Purple Rain!!

Down came the Olivia Newton-John posters and up went nothing but half naked Prince pictures. Much to my mother's protestations that he was too old for me. I didn't care. I was hooked. Lucky for me, the movie Purple Rain came out soon after and the whole world got to bask in the genius that is Prince. I remember when I get the album for it, there was a poster that had all the band members on it and there they were: Wendy and Lisa. Lisa had her arm around Wendy and I just about had a stroke. Way too much for my 14 year old heart to take. Not to mention the hormones!! Rumor had it that he was going to tour, but his concerts were known for being too racy and kids weren't allowed. My heart shattered. It didn't matter though because at the time I was living in Arizona and Evan Meacham was the governor. He had made many racial slurs and was publiciy opposed to making Martin Luther King Jr's birthday into a holiday so many black musicians boycotted the Phoenix area. So, that was that.

In the summer of 1986, MTV announced a "win a date with Prince" contest and the winner would have Prince fly into your town and premier his new movie, Under the Cherry Moon!! Needless to say, I didn't win but man, I tried. The movie bombed, but the music was great. Soon after that, he disbanded the Revolution and I was devastated. I've never been one for change.
It was also around this time that my mother suddenly became very sick and then passed away. Prince was there for me, as usual. I started to immerse myself in my collection of all things Prince related. I had bootlegs, posters, videos, scrapbooks, ect. It gave me something to focus on because I was lapsing into a very deep depression. No matter what, Prince was my constant. My rock.

After graduating high school, I moved to Los Angeles and my Prince fetish flourished. I was in the land of swell record stores and ephemera shops. It was heaven. I moved around a lot so, everywhere I went, my ever expanding collection followed. It started to become a burden almost. I was also finding myself defending my love of Prince with the same fervor I defended WWF wrestling: it was real. It meant something. I needed it.

In 1993, I moved back to Phoenix and yes, along came my Prince collection. I was changing and so was the man I loved. Before long, he was getting married (to another woman), having babies and creating music that just didn't seem to do much for anyone anymore. But, it did me. And in the spring of 1997, he came to Phoenix! It was announced that a local record shop would be the only one selling tickets and that they would be going on sale that very night so, I parked myself in front of the Zia Records on Thunderbird road and waited nine hours to get my prized possession: a floor level ticket!! After all these years, me and Prince were going to be face to face. And we were. I was close enough to see the lines in his eyes and smell the lavender cologne he wears. I was in heaven. It was now that I could lay down and die.

Shortly after that first concert, something changed. With me and Prince. We started drifting apart. I mean, I would see him whenever he came to town and I've seen him a few other times around the globe, but I was ready to move on. Changes needed to be made but neither one of us wanted to make the first move. He finally did when he announced that he was suing every and anybody that was using his likeness on the Internet without his permission. This hurt so many people who did nothing but support him during his career and he started making enemies of the people who's only crime was love him for so long. He also went and became baptized in the Jehovahs Witnesses cult, I mean religion and stopped making music with an edge: no cursing, no sex talk and all this talk about God.
Granted, I was making some changes in my life, too: I'd had a heart attack, was dabbling in hard drugs and was just plain miserable. I was losing my edge, too but didn't have an outlet like he did. I was stagnant. What to do, what to do?

In 2003 I made the decision to start selling off my Prince collection. For 25 years I had collected, followed, adored and loved this man and what had it gotten me? Ridicule, heartache and pain in my lower back from lugging him around everywhere I went. A total of 86 vinyl albums, hundreds of magazines, posters, buttons, clippings, videos, not to mention all of the memories sold for a whopping $700.00 to a fellow in Mesa, Arizona. Just about all of that money went to feeding my new hobby: drugs.

The time I spent with Prince was wonderful and I feel lucky to have had him to lean on all those years, but people change with time. So does music. I have him on my iPod though, and I still lift my head if I hear his name mentioned on television or if I'm out and about. Now I understand what he was singing about in the song, "I Wanna Be Your Lover" that I heard back in '78. No wonder mom was concerned. She could never figure out what he was singing, either. Mom, if you're reading was, "I wanna be the only one you come for".

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Death, golf courses and life at the laundry mat.

I apologize, mostly to Chris that I've been shirking my blogging duties. See, I haven't been feeling well the past few weeks and although the mind was active, the body couldn't drag herself to the portable iPad. My strength has been building the last few days so with, "RuPaul's Drag Race" on the television to drown out the noise of the next door neighbors latest public display of domestic discord and Elvis's head resting on the small of my back.....let's get back to business..shall we?

When I was a kid, say around six or seven years old I started to grasp that things and people eventually cease to exist. You know...die. I'd heard the word "dead" and the expression, "passed away" in regards to elderly relatives and neighborhood acquaintances but didn't fully understand the true meaning of death. Yes, I'd had goldfish that occasionally floated to the top of the bowl only to be unceremoniously flushed down the commode, but again I didn't grasp the finality of the concept of death and all that goes with it. Funerals? Coffins? Memorials? Couldn't wrap my grade school brain around it but at the same time, I was fascinated by it. So much so that while the neighborhood girls would hold mock weddings with their Barbies, I would bury them in the little garden we had by our shed. I'd say a few words and in she'd go, only to be pulled out, brushed off and ready for a ride in her new Corvette! My own little blond haired zombie.

It was around this time that my mother was helping her boyfriend (my parents were separated) with one of his side businesses, a laundry mat in Old Tappan, New Jersey. Every weekend I would drive out with her and sit on the folding tables making conversation with all the people while she collected the money, loaded the soap and swept the floor. I remember our garage being filled with those little boxes of soap and fabric softener that you get out of the machine and the smell of Tide being overpowering every time we got out of the car. I was fascinated with how small the boxes were.
One particular spring day in the year of our lord, 1977, it was announced over the radio that the legendary entertainer Bing Crosby "passed away" on a golf course in Spain. I didn't hear the Spain part, but I did happen to notice that we were, at that very moment passing a golf course on the way to our weekend jaunt to the laundry mat. My sister, Jean was home for spring break from St. Anne's School for Girls in Albany, New York and was a part of the festivities. She was 15 at the time and to this seven year old, very worldly. She and my mother were laughing at my rubbernecking in the direction of the golf course looking in vain for the fallen Bing Crosby. I didn't understand. And I certainly didn't want to miss out on the chance to see someone dead. Especially on a golf course. And famous to boot!
Mom explained that he didn't die in the hamlet of Nanuet like I had hoped for, but in a more exotic locale....Spain. Okay, I got that. Understood. But, once and for all I wanted an explanation on what "dead" was. What is this great mystery of life that will eventually happen to us all? Why do people speak in hushed tones and dress in black and all that jazz? So, I asked her. Below is verbatim the conversation that took place:
Me: "What happens to you when you die?"
Mom: "They stick you in a box and they bury you".

Just like that.

Now, I couldn't understand how one would be positioned in a huge Magnavox console television box, but I was starting to understand the concept. The neighbors across the street had a cat that died and they buried him in a Thom McCann shoe box. Like that, I guess? Alright. That took care of the disposal of the body, but what about death in relation to life and more importantly, me?
Me: "Well, what am I gonna do when you die?"
Mom: "You'll be sad for a little while, then you'll get over it".

Just like that.

Jean thought this whole dialogue was the funniest thing she had ever heard. I was frustrated because I felt as if they were keeping me out of the loop and not letting me in on something big. One more thing to add to the, "someday when you're older I'll explain" list. Ah, youth.

It's been 33 years and many many deaths of pets, friends, acquaintances, family members and loved ones since that conversation with my mother in her green Gran Torino on the way to the laundry mat that spring day. I understand now what happens when we die; to our bodies and our spirits. I understand now that death is just a fact of life and it's nothing to fear, really. I understand now that we all have a path to follow and like it or not, we chose it before coming here, and I do understand now that the universe has a plan and when it's ready, we'll be called back "home".
My mother's death in 1986 was the most significant loss I've experienced in this life time. Second only to my beloved grandfather in 1993. After almost 24 years, I miss her every day, and with the realization that I'm just four short years away from the age she was when she passed, I mourn all the life lessons she wasn't around to give me. But that's okay. I was sad for a little while and I got over it.

Just like that.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My friend, Petey.

When I was a little girl, I had a little friend named Petey. Petey was black and always wore the same denim overalls and red and green plaid shirt. We were about the same age and spent many many hours coloring, playing outside and sometimes he even spent the night. He had a penchant for pear juice and my mother aways being the good sport, bought it for him. She would pour him a glass and there it would sit, untouched for days on end. Still, she kept buying it for him so it would always be there when he would come to play. Mom was good like that.

When I started attending kindergarten in the fall of 1975, Petey just stopped coming around. Sure, I made other friends but he was special. Maybe he was jealous. Whatever the case may be, he eventually stopped coming around completely. And I never gave him another thought, until the summer of 1991.

You know, I never really gave much thought to what happens to us after we die until, of course I lost my mother in December of 1986. I was 16. Being raised in the Catholic faith I was taught to believe in heaven and hell and all that jazz, but didn't spend quality time pondering what would happen to me after I shed my mortal coil. I never believed in ghosts and witches and things that went bump in the night. I made fun of people who did. At my sister's wedding in 1984, a woman who was extremely wasted on weed told me I was so psychic that I radiated; i wanted to leave right then and there. Yes, I was easily spooked and movies like, the Exorcist scared the hell out of me, but the idea that people hung around causing havoc just didn't make sense to me. I had other things to think about. Like Prince. Now, mom taught me to always keep an open mind. So, having never had a supernatural experience I said aloud to the fates: if there is such a me.

You know that expression, be careful what you ask for?

The summer of 1991. I was living in Los Angeles but was home in Phoenix paying a visit to my sister. We got to waltzing down memory lane and somehow veered onto a discussion about the afterlife and ghosts. We reminiscesd about our old house in Nanuet, NY and this and that and how we all had vivid imaginations. Okay, I admit that maybe I DIDN'T really see Mr. Snuffleupagus behind the Beil's house when I was four, but I digress...
During the conversation, she brought up someone I hadn't thought of in years, my old friend, Petey. Her exact words to me were: "do you remember when you were little, you had an imaginary friend name Petey? You were so insistent that he was real, mom actually bought toys and juice for him. She used to hear you talking to someone in your room all the time. Then one day, you just stopped. Mom was relieved that you started playing with real kids...".

Soon after that, I had a reading with someone who did past life regressions; Petey was the son of someone I was associated with in a past life I had in the 1700s.

Now, with my third eye completely open and ears firmly in tuned to the ether world, I catch glimpses of Petey now and then. Not to mention a veritable who's who of people who have passed to the other side. No, no one famous. As I've matured, I've been able to balance the two worlds that I live in and don't knock people who do hear things that go bump in the night. I could let it consume my whole life, but I've got other things to think about. Like Elvis.