40 Days to 40: Day 35. Random Year Memory: 2003
This was the year I moved to Chicago. My
travel companion ex-boyfriend at the time and I made the drive from New York City in a rented Dodge Shadow stuffed with all my belongings and two cats. We stopped for the night at the halfway point, somewhere outside Pittsburgh.
This is a story about manners. At checkout time, the morning after our road trip stay, set to hit the road, friend sitting with all that stuff in the car, I approached the front desk to check out.
At the desk sat the same very nice lady who had checked us in late the night before. She had laughed out loud at the way my face lit up when she said we could have a waterbed if I wanted. She was one of those maternal, jolly, innkeeper types.
Once you’re that far out west in PA, it’s culturally the Midwest. And so my interactions with everyone on the road by that point carried this momentous weight of “these are the People amongst whom I’ll be living.” Sharing a laugh with front desk lady had meant something.
So the next morning, she was sitting behind the desk and no one was being helped. She smiled at me as I walked up. I proceeded to the desk, greeted her, and said I’d like to check out.
Out of nowhere a woman, whose type I’d come to know all too well, said “Excuse me. I was first. That was very rude.” I said, “I’m sorry, there was nobody else here at the desk.” “Well I was here but you didn’t bother to check. You just barged right up to the desk.” She was one of those matronly, frumpy school-marm-sprayed-mall-hair types who expects the world to walk around on egg shells while reading her mind. The sort to stand helpless when an elevator door opens, while everybody waits for her to get the fuck on.
But punch her I did not. Instead I got all in my head about moving west, being shamed in front of the nice front desk lady, and just plain being scolded. I panicked. Maybe I am hopelessly brazen. Maybe I was supposed to ask everybody in the hotel lobby if they were in line at the front desk, in spirit if not in person. Maybe I was, better yet, supposed to timidly cower nearby and wait for a “next!” signal of some type before approaching the bench.
Then I don’t remember what happened, but I’m sure I defended myself further and apologized for any misunderstanding and I’m sure I was trying to hold my own while wanting to seem nice for the front desk lady.
What I do remember is what happened after the School Marm left the lobby for whatever reason. Front desk lady said, “You were not rude at all. SHE was rude.”
It was like the Fairy Godmother had chosen ME to go to the ball. ”You were not rude at all. SHE was rude.” Bippity boppity boo, bitch!
I’ve carried that with me ever since. Even if I had been rude, that lady was rude no matter what. Screw her for labeling my actions and chewing me out in all her bitter, insecure glory.
I love New Yorkers. I think this story bears parallels to a lot of the attitude people in my current region of the country have toward them. Yes, New Yorkers put on their big kid pants go about their business and do things efficiently without first checking to see if it’s OK with you and your mommy. But have a heart attack on the street, and they will fight tooth and nail to be the first one to help you. Labeling all New Yorkers “rude” doesn’t make New Yorkers Rude. It makes YOU rude. Front Desk Lady said so.
40 Days to 40: Day 36. Random Year Memory: 2004.
I will state for the record that this writing experiment is killing me (and yes I know resistance is a compass to what’s important and blah dee blah writing writing daily writer-ton blah daily daily The Artists Way The War of Art writing resistance blah).
Blech. It’s not only a chore to get this done each day when I’m swamped with work and chilluns, but it forces me into feeling like I’m writing my memoirs, and writing memoirs is DEPRESSING (I imagine it is; never tried it, but it seems as though, at least for an ordinary sort of human like me, it would be super draining to sit down and try to recapture ones life in some sort of memorable way).
So I won’t try that. No pressure to be memorable here. I just pick a year from the machine, think of some random memory that happened that year and write down what it was. GET OVER IT. YOU CAN’T QUIT. THERE IS A HASHTAG.
2004. I turned 30. I lived in Lincoln Park. I worked in the legal dept. of a financial firm at the Options Exchange. It was my first full year in Chicago.
The Beastie Boys released To The Five Boroughs. I walked into the TOWER RECORDS, may it and its kind rest in peace, and bought the ecologically-packaged CD with the big pullout of the [altered] NYC skyline. I was homesick for New York. I walked miles around Chicago listening to this album over and over again. I can’t remember if I had an iPod yet or if this was still on my “Disc man.”
It was also the year I got really into improv at the Second City Training Center. I was in classes and doing shows and that whole thing. Side note: I’d moved to Chicago 2003 for this purpose in the first place, thinking I’d do the Conservatory and then go home. I’m still here.
So as it happened, I got cast in my very first Donny’s Skybox improv show, by which I mean an improv show performing at the Training Center’s theater. I’d wanted to do a show outside of classes and I auditioned and got it and was excited and — wait, maybe it wasn’t my very first Donny’s Skybox improv show. I don’t remember. Regardless, I was new and awestruck enough by the thought of participating in a Donny’s Skybox improv show that WHEN THE BEASTIE BOYS CAME TO TOWN ON THEIR TO THE 5 BOROUGHS TOUR I LEFT THEIR SHOW EARLY — DURING “PAUL REVERE” — TO APPEAR ON STAGE IN MY DONNY’S SKYBOX IMPROV SHOW.
This is my biggest regret in the history of music fandom. I have 3 top pop cultural regrets in life, and they all involve being a Good Girl:
3) Going to Amsterdam on Spring Break in high school and never once smoking weed.
2) Declining the opportunity to road trip to see the Grateful Dead in the summer of 1995 because it would be too much gas money and we’d already seen a bunch of Phish shows (Jerry would be dead the next month).
1) Leaving a Beastie Boys show early to participate in an improv show at Donny’s Skybox.
They made a crowd-sourced documentary of the To The Five Boroughs tour called Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! I’ve watched it and its bonus features exactly 832 times. Awesome. I Fuckin’ Left That Show Early.
Here is the thing, though. I did it for the work ethic! I did it for committment. I still remember hearing my footsteps echo on the empty staircase of the United Center and I left all alone, sans boyfriend who remained behind, singing along to all the lyrics of “Paul Revere” as it blared from the stadium …
Oh wait a minute! My bf eventually came to see me in the Donny’s Skybox Show. And I know this because I remember him meeting me there afterwards. WHICH MEANS, given that I distinctly recall having left the concert without him (because I shared a cab East with some dude who told me he was having a bad acid trip and spent the entire ride picking apart the show, which was a huge buzz kill, but I didn’t want to disagree with him because acid) — this means that I left the concert early to be on time for PRE-SHOW WARM-UPS. GAH! THE INTEGRITY OF IT ALL!
[Side note: This is a pattern, actually. A few years later I left Rage Against The Machine early at Lollapalooza to do an improv show. Not a big deal really. But then just last year we left a Phish show early because of a rain delay and the fact that we are parents with a babysitter and also we were freezing and soaked to the bone and we are old. Lame, but not something I truly regret (except that they did a very rare and coveted performance of “Harpua” with, perhaps ironically in the context of this story, cast members from Second City). BUT EVEN STILL, I honestly don’t care (saw it on YouTube). I was a mom by then. It was lovely just being out of the house with my husband for several hours, and getting a little not-like-I-was-in-Amsterdam-above for a minute or two].
So, wow, I suppose I’m an early leaver. Sometimes that’s no problem.
In the case of the 2004 Beastie Boys show, it was a problem. I would see two more Beastie Boys shows in my life. Both on their next tour, for The Mix-Up, and both the “small venue” versions of that tour, with minimal rap (still amazing shows). I would have tickets to the following tour. It would be cancelled due to illness … Now my heart sinks and I feel petty because I feel like I’m making the ensuing tragedy all about me missing a show. Let’s not even go there, it’s way too sacred.
I really just started this story with the intention of saying: “Look at how seriously I took improv in 2004! I left my favorite band to do warm-ups!”
At the very least, I can always point to that moment if anyone ever were to call me a slacker without honor.
It’s a little story I got to tell.
40 Days to 40: Day 37. Random Year Memory: 2013
Well, the random number generator turned up last year. Let’s see. It was the year in between babies. I still know way to much about last year to have to dig.
Let’s choose something non-baby. Let’s go with a personal story. Crickets chirp. Do I even have a personal story that’s not baby-related?
Hours later and still nothing. Flipped through my calendar. All of my stories are related to the children in some way (the first half of the year is filled with ovulation dates btw).
Except one thing caught my eye from last August: The Breaking Bad Finale. The Breaking Bad Finale was arguably the most anticipated and beloved media event of 2013. I remember the night it aired. Matt had to work, and we don’t have cable. We had to wait. In the middle of the night, an anonymous friend had already supplied a DVR’ed copy. I got giddy. I woke Matt. He was mad at being woken up. But then we watched it. Impeccable.
Enough has been said about the show itself. I think I even posted about it on this here blog. So rather than go into recap/review mode, let me just state for posterity, with just 37 days to 40, that the BB finale was the most satisfying TV finale of my lifetime, perhaps tied with the final music montage of Six Feet Under (tears!).
My baby blue.
40 Days to 40: Day 38. Random Year Memory: 1980
Well this year is an easy one, sadly. I didn’t need to look it up. It’s the year John Lennon was shot and killed outside his NYC home, less than a mile from our UWS apartment.
He had just turned 40.
I was 6. I already knew and loved Sgt. Peppers. I became fascinated by my parents’ vinyl, and the photos on the album.
Before he died, I’d made a puppet of John in his green marching band jacket and glasses. It was made of construction paper and labeled “John Leenon.”
After the murder, my mom took me to a vigil of some sort in Central Park. I assume that was 1980 also, however he was shot in December and I don’t recall it being cold. I recall walking along Central Park West in a crowd. “Hippies” carried “boom boxes” playing Beatles music. My mom told me, “That’s a Beatles song” every time we passed a new one. I’m sure I was asking her, the way kids do.
They tied yellow ribbons all along the fence outside the Dakota where he lived. I told my mom that building looked like a haunted house. She said it’s funny I should say that because a scary movie was made there.
Those are all the memories I can grasp onto surrounding the incident. The people we saw, the music that played, a picture in an album jacket, a creepy-looking house and an art project. This is how children process the world. No news reports or gruesome details, just the sensory experience of it all.