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Sunday, June 10, 2012

LEATHER-FACED HANDBAG


THE REMINDER: Under the ravenous sun, as Paige and I were biking today, we passed a bored copper toned teen girl sitting on a storefront sidewalk right outside a tanning salon.  It was obviously a slow day at her work since the sun itself was doing quite a better job than what her employers could offer the public.
Paige said, “She is well on her way to becoming a leather-faced handbag.”
THE MEMORY: Around 1989 Screeching Weasel toured the East Coast.  We were an unknown punk band in a sea of hardcore, especially on the East Coast, where blue collar skinhead bands like Gorilla Biscuits and Judge ruled over the punk populous.  In order to cultivate “all ages” audiences for our new geek-ridden brand of melodic punk music we had to head out of the Hardcore dominated cities to the outskirts of town where we played peculiar little venues like local VFV Halls, Bowling Alleys, Dingy Basements, and on one particular occasion, a Nursery School amidst a deep pastoral forest.
In a well secluded tiny suburb somewhere in Connecticut a kid, let’s call him Eric, who heard our demo and wanted us to play for him and his friends, met us in the early evening standing on the circular driveway leading up and around a one story Nursery School surrounded by winding roads, leafy trees and million dollar homes.  There were finger painted portraits of six legged tigers, purple monsters, and stick figure families decorating the front windows of the nursery school.  
What had we gotten ourselves into this time?  
Eric was standing with a small child by his side; the last to be picked up by a tardy parental figure.  Eric pointed us toward the direction of the parking lot.  As we parked, the missing mother arrived.  She opened the passenger door from the inside without getting out of the car.  Eric, nearly a child himself, padded the kid on the head and helped him into the front seat.  He then looked in our direction, secured his glasses firmly on his thin nose, quickly ran over, and greeted us with smooth-palmed handshakes as we exited our cramped vehicle.  He told us that all the children were now gone.  His mother, who owned the nursery, was the only one left in the building.  She was in the kitchen filling large plastic bowls with M&Ms and Jelly Beans, to serve to Eric’s punk friends.  We could load our equipment into the center of the children’s play area in the main room next to the yellow mini-tornado slide.  
Eric was a very easy going polite young teen, slightly nervous, yet confident and preciously excitable.  The night before we had just played at a venue called the Electric Banana in front of an audience of three, for a calloused old creepy promoter named Vinnie who was notorious for pulling a shot gun out on the entertainment instead of paying them.  We, of course, were not compensated for our poorly attended performance, and we uncharacteristically did not cause a stink in fear of being shot.  Eric promised to pay us a hundred bucks out of his own pocket, already had it tucked in the aforementioned pocket.  He offered us payment before we even played.  So no matter how this nursery school show was to turn out, it was already more inviting and profitable than all our previous shows combined.
No more than a half hour later Eric’s friends began to show up.  It turned out he had quite a few associates.  There were at least fifty teen punks, many from neighboring towns, littering the carpeted play room.  One mohawked individual was riding from one end of the room to the other on a plastic big wheel.  Four punk girls in fishnets with bleach streaks in their hair were sitting on small pink chairs around a tiny table playing a heated game of Old Maid.  One group of older teans walked in with a bag containing a bottle of booms.  Eric walked right up to them, told them, “Dude that’s not cool.  My mom is trying to help our scene, so don’t ruin it.”  They apologized, brought the bottle back to their car, came back in and grabbed a bowl of M&Ms for themselves.  They stood in a corner all night eating chocolate candy.
I don’t remember the show, but I think it went smashingly.  We sold merchandise and watched punks slamdance in the most careful fashion I had ever witnessed.  One or two of them may have gotten some rug burns, but that was the worst of it.  What I remember most was Eric’s bony mother walking with a sexy swagger as she filled and refilled bowls of candy.  She would have been quite a beautiful lady-mommy if it hadn’t been for the overwhelming smell of hairspray and her orange tinted leathery face.  At the end of the night, Eric helped us pack of our vehicle.  We asked where we could stay, and he said he had made arrangements with his mother to stay at their place.  As a matter of fact she was very much looking forward to making us a midnight snack.
It must be stated right here that we were not much beyond our teen years ourselves, we were in our early twenties.  The oddness of the night was strange and otherworldly yet vaguely familiar and delightfully maternal, so not uncomfortable in the least.  The midnight snack with the mother was a bewildering yet pleasing mixture of sexual innuendo and motherly love.  She fed us three platters of pigs in a blanket and a full jar of homemade oatmeal cookies.  She and Eric took turns asking us questions about the tour.  It became increasingly obvious that Eric’s Mother had a crush on Ben.  She sat next to him with a plate of pigs in a blanket occasionally feeding them to him by hand.  Eric showed no signs of being put off by his mother’s flirtatious nature.  He was deep in conversation, enjoying every minute.  He was one of the few of his group who would actually choose to leave the confines of their childhood security to head to the city for college.  He was meant for things larger than this small town could provide.  He was not annoyed with his upbringing, he was just one of those punks with a head full of questions and endless ambition.  Years later I seem to recall him writing me a letter from a city college.  He was on the verge of graduating with honors.
We outlasted the mother.  She fetched extra sleeping bags and fresh smelling pillows then dismissed herself.  She may have pointed the way to her room, but more than likely that did not happen.  The evening was just an innocent playful way to make herself feel young and wanted again, having just been divorced, left by her lawyer husband, for a younger woman.  Ben is not one for subtlety but he was always good at stating things abrasive yet too observant to be dismissed.  Once he was sure the mother was too far away to hear us gabbing he asked Eric, “Dude, what’s up with your mother’s face?  She could be a hot commodity if it weren’t for the leathery tan.”  Eric was not offended in the least.  He gave Ben a knowing smile.  He then quietly lead us up the stairs to a his mother’s private workout room.  This house was spotless, it even had that room that no one is allowed to step foot in.  The ones with plastic protected furniture so they wouldn’t get stained.  They had a gazebo, I love gazebos.  Anyway, we arrived in the workout out room.  It was pure white; white carpeting, white walls, and white workout equipment, but in the middle of the sterile room their was a Space Odyssian-like stainless steal behemoth.
“Is that a fucking space coffin?”
“No, it’s my mother’s tanning bed.”
“Whoa.”
“It gave her skin cancer.”
We laughed.  Not because it was explicitly humorous, but because it was so instantly and shockingly sad that there was nothing else to do but laugh.
Then I asked, “So she doesn’t use it anymore?”
“No, actually she uses it even more.  She’s addicted to it.”
“Fuck.”

1 comment:

  1. Hello John... I recently checked out your blog, and from reading your writing here, I now need to get to reading your book, which I didn't get to do yet, because immediately after giving it to me for Christmas, my sister asked to borrow it, so that she could finish reading it. In the meantime, I also need to get caught up on your blog stories, because I find myself enjoying them immensely....Bob

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