Oh boy. Two days of snow for me. Thankfully light, but it’s still coming down. I so just want to hibernate right now, but I’m off to Indiana for a secret mission. Hope everyone north of the equator is staying warm. And if you’re south of the equator, have a watermelon
mojito smoothie for the rest of us.
And . . . it's . . . week . . . eight. Is it just me or is anyone else surprised that they are still alive?
My feature this week is about three friends starting a band. For that reason alone, it totally reminds me of Trisha, who had a band (or maybe a few bands?!). It also reminds me of a couple of friends who are skipping the rest of winter and heading out to Morocco to teach drumming for the next few weeks. Here's Virginia's story.
I never wanted to be a rock star – Zoe put me up to it. But then, she tended to lead us in nearly all of our antics. So when she decided we should make a band and get a house, we made it happen. On my dime, of course – it only made sense that I spend all that money that my parents gave to me upon reaching adulthood on something.
Of course, one could blame it all on the fact I already played the drums. For all my parent’s flaws, buying me a real drum kit and getting me a proper instructor was a wise choice. Even as a baby, I’d beat on everything that I could, and when I was denied, I’d try to destroy things in earnest. Not that anyone outside of my family probably knows or realizes, but I have some severe rage. Drumming has always been a way to channel that, and actually having a talent for it… Zoe always compared it to Keith Moon, her unjaded jade eyes glazed with dreams and ruminations.
Perhaps I gave her too much power in my life, but what choice did I have? I had no siblings; my parents thought the correct course of parenting was to buy me off at every possible juncture. This strange and cherished friend of mine who, miracle of miracles, liked me for me was too precious a commodity to squander. Zoe was like that with everyone – she treated people kindly, and managed to somehow seem almost oblivious to those who would wish her poorly. Not that she was invincible, far from it – if she was truly upset, she had no qualms with being true to herself and curling up to sob quietly. She never tried to make a scene – she just was.
But that was only the outer layer; beyond that, there was someone determined to take life by the balls and make life her bitch. Zoe always knew what she wanted in life, and it was about the same as what anyone wanted in high school – to grow up to be rich and famous, to be a big rock and roll star. I gave up on trying to make it clear to her that money couldn’t buy happiness; if it were, I wouldn’t’ve been cutting, getting high, and hiding from the world. No, I would’ve been doing the Charleston on a flagpole while singing glories of glories if money did buy happiness, but that’s just not a fact that ever sinks in to those who have wants, if not needs. That’s why I find it hard to say that she used me, per se – I guess it would’ve seemed that way to most, but really, she knew I’d give her everything I had to make her smile, to make her happy. That’s what sisters do, right?
“I think we can do it, Nina,” Zoe smiled up at me one day over homework. We were flopped across my floor with our third, Lothlorien (Loth, she preferred, but Tiffany she was by birth). Where Zoe was short and lush, Loth was long and angular. All three of us had much longer hair than was the fashion, but it’s what we enjoyed. Sandy brown locks wafted around Loth’s beaky nose and high cheekbones, while black cherry dye graced Zoe’s silken head. I myself opted for purplish black like a bruise; it was a secret commentary on life, like so many things I did or owned. Plus, purple had the fortunate side effect of making my gray eyes look bluer; it was amazing how it made some boys crazy, trying to figure out a bruise and a lick of war paint…
“What do you want me to say, really?” I grumbled, furrowing my brow over a particularly annoying logic problem.
“That you want to be our drummer, and all that entails,” she said brightly, nodding towards Loth, “She’s already bought a bass from the pawn shop, and she thinks it won’t be too hard to take what she’s learned from playing upright in Orchestra to electric. My parents promised to get me a guitar for my birthday next week, and we all know how well I can sing.” She launched into a fake operatic range for the last bit of the sentence before collapsing into giggles.
I couldn’t help but smile myself. Zoe could sing, to a degree. While she would never front Carmen or shimmy around half-naked as a so-called pop star, she could do better than most of the boys on the rock scene, as she proved every time the radio came on. It was why I had the radio off at that precise moment, to be truthful – it’s hard to focus on damnable evil assignments with someone chirping along to the radio, or a CD, or whatever. But instead of commenting on that, I asked, “I didn’t know that you were interested in playing the guitar.”
“Well, we can’t be a band without a guitar,” she reasoned, making it sound quite sensible, “And I don’t know anyone who plays, so I might as well go for it. Besides, with your poems for songs, how can we go wrong?”
I winced; I didn’t like anyone reading my poetry. It was sort of my cap-off to a rage-filled drumming session – I’d get all the ire and hate and violence out, and the puddles of words were the remnants. Zoe had found it like she found anything in my house – by riffling around. It didn’t seem to dawn on her that it was rude to go through other peoples’ personal effects, which made it even harder to be mad at her. How do you scold someone who doesn’t understand that they had done wrong, anyways? Once again, I opted for the less frustrating route and said, “You’ve written some pretty neat things. Why don’t we give some of those a go before delving into what I’ve written?”
She nodded slowly, as if processing my true request. I really hated having to ask anything flat-out, so it was my fervent hope that this subject would never come up again. And in the hopes of redirecting her thoughts, I asked, “What else did you have in mind for this band thing? Have you thought up a name yet, or…”
Zoe grinned, “You know how the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, and that is supposed to be the end of the world?” I nodded, and she continued, “I figured that would be the best band name – 2012. It’s all full of import and mystery!”
I chuckled, “That’s kind of cheesy, isn’t it. I bet if you think about it again, you might be disappointed with it.”
“That’s why I won’t think about it for another second!” Zoe giggled as she stood up. She struck a pose with one hand thrust triumphantly to the sky, and declared, “We shall come unto them like the ending of the world, and blow their minds!” She lowered her arm, and cut an eye to the small kitchen adjacent to the living room, “Got any Dr. Pepper?”
“When do I not have Dr. Pepper? You know the butler does a good job of coming to restock me out here.” I said, rolling my eyes slightly, “Bring me one too, okay? Loth, did you want anything?”
“I’m fine, thanks,” the brunette smiled, pushing a loose strand of hair behind her ear. Loth was a cheerful and pleasant girl without much of a wild streak in her. Honestly, it confused me how she was so… normal… when her parents were almost psychopathically Christian, and were definitely ridiculously controlling. She made me feel almost absurd living in the guest house to avoid my parents, doing my best to pretend we had nothing to do with each other while still living on the same land. They wanted a pretty little dolly to trot out to all their other rich friends, and I wanted parents who actually loved me. And while I would take full advantage of them mistaking money for love…
I sighed to myself, shaking it off as Zoe returned with the sodas. We were adults, or nearly so; Zoe was the youngest of us, and it was her eighteenth that was the following week. I hadn’t really thought about what to do with myself; my parents wanted me to go to college and marry someone rich and give them perfect little grandchildren to make up for my lack of perfection, but I definitely didn’t see myself doing that anytime soon. As it were, we had already planned to blow this Popsicle stand and get a proper house between the three of them; there were some sweet Victorian manors upstate. Heck, we even had a road trip planned for that weekend to scope out some of the prospective choices from the list. It’s not like there wouldn’t potentially be room to rock and roll, considering that some of them were definitely on generous plots of land.
As she handed me my can of soda, Zoe’s face took on a sober cast, “If you’re not really interested, you don’t have to be in a band with me. I just thought it might be something fun to do, growing up to be a big rock and roll star rather than…” she paused, wrinkling her face in overdramatic distaste, “than an accountant, or something that ‘real’ adults are supposed to do.”
I paused, looking at my friends. I opened my Dr. Pepper and drank deeply, as if to buy time before saying, “Let’s see about graduating and finding our house, first.”
And with that, the grins had it.
Chapter Two: False Starts
That weekend, we took off in my Mystery Machine and headed upstate. Much like my hair, my Mystery Machine was making a statement of self that, I suspect, very few people could figure out the import of. It was uniformly black on the outside, blank and uncaring. On the inside, it might as well have been clown barf – it was a cacophony of colours dancing in frenzied splendour. I realized dismally as we loaded up for our trek that the so-called rape van black half would be perfect for instrument transportation – it was padded, if not in the most professional manner. I had had a mattress-sized box secured to the floor of the van in the back, and of course, filled with a mattress. Cushions were secured in mesh bags attached to the back row of seats to prevent them flying around, and there was even some pretty kicking lighting and sound wiring. I’d had it done behind my parent’s back, who like most things, would’ve ignored it for not fitting into their world vision for me.
The colours, of course, were a private commentary on me, myself, and I. The uniform black was, of course, representative of the wall I offered to the world – there was nothing of me for them and nothing of them for me. But the inner turmoil, well… I guess everyone has it, if not quite so needful of displaying it. I think my friends thought it was just a liking of LSD, the psychedelic melting and whirling of the soul that it was. And while sure, it was lovely to stare at after a few hits, all sprawled out on my comfy mattress…
And as for the mattress itself, well… boys were easy prey. And how they could not be, when I’m apparently too unreal to exist? Just give them a little bit of an ear, show a tiny bit of vulnerability, and suddenly, it’s cake to drag them to the back of the van for a bit of fun. And who would they tell, who could they tell? Nobody is willing to believe that I’m human; I’m too stuck up, too stupid, too rich, too much of a black plastic hole. And even now, as I’m driving my girls upstate to find our future home, I clench in thought of my spot of fun after I dropped them back at their respective homes after our study session the other night. I managed to find the one straight (or at least bi) goth boy in the coffee shop, apparently, and he couldn’t resist a chance to unravel my so-called enigma. He was pretty, I’ll grant you, and not half bad for a novice (whatever he might claim about his sexual history), but definitely a paper plate – use once, and discard. Or maybe twice – a girl has needs, after all… not that the real ones are ever satisfied.
So yes, driving upstate we were, all of us in our accustomed places. Loth was sprawled along the backseat, eyes closed and hands drifting along to whatever tunes Zoe had declared to be the choice du jour. Zoe herself was alternating between belting and humming along as she stared out the window, watching the trees speed by. I drove, seeing how it was my van; my left hand trailed smoke out the window, flicking bits of ash against the door as I chained my favourite poison sticks into eternity. Occasionally, a drop of rain would sneak through the crack, splashing my face or arm, but that was the worst that happened on our drive. We were all too excited, on edge; we were on the precipice of adulthood, of being free of our parents, and we were starting to feel the import of it. There was also the fact that we were very sold on a particular house – it looked like something right out of a horror film, and we were all utterly charmed. There was something about turrets that made a girl squeal in delight, though I couldn’t have told you why.
I won’t bore you with the further details of the house hunt. It suffices to say that Daddy’s money does a wonderful job at convincing people that I’m the right person to sell things to. And it was nearly perfect – it wasn’t as big as my parent’s house, but it was mansion enough to most people. There were half a dozen bedrooms, a library – all of those charming things that make it seem like an impossibly large amount of space. Most importantly, it had modern fixtures and fittings, so we weren’t risking burning down the house from plugging in Zoe and Loth’s amps, or more importantly, we had a functioning kitchen. Everything was in basic order, and the final months of high school drifted by with excruciating slowness.
That summer after we graduated from high school was definitely a busy time. Nominally, we were moving upstate to go to college; it was the easiest way to convince our collective parents that it was okay for us to run away like this. I don’t know how taking three credit hours a semester somehow takes it from irresponsible to grown up, but that’s psychology for you. We had a lot of fun hitting up thrift stores looking for chic pieces to decorate our house between disasters in cookery and attempts to get our band going. We even managed to make some connections in the local music scene; there’s always a good one in college towns. Besides, as much as I loved my friends, I needed my distractions of the male variety. To my bemusement and pleasure, college boys were even hotter than high school boys to attempt to figure me out, though they didn’t get any closer in spite of their best efforts. However, their quest was almost completely fulfilled by a suggestion by Zoe, and one of the first bits of discord in our happy home…
“Why can’t we throw house parties?” Zoe opined over a dinner of pizza. She expertly navigated a slice to her mouth without getting cheese everywhere, taking a big bite.
“Because I’m not comfortable with the thought of potentially hundreds of strangers in our home,” I retorted before returning to deciding what sort of pizza I wanted.
“But Nina, it’s going to be one of the easiest ways to get coverage for our band. Besides, it’s not like anyone but you can get to your tower.” She gestured towards necklace I always wore that had the key to my part of the house. I’d staked out turret long before we knew that this house would become our home, and I was fiercely protective of my privacy. I just felt… safe… as if I were in my own little castle. Even amongst my friends, I desperately needed that – I’m still not sure that Loth had ever seen my bedroom in my old house, and if Zoe did, it was because she knew no sin in that regard… hence the key this time. Even if she didn’t understand, she respected me out of the friendship and love she bore for me.
I sighed, grabbing a slice of pepperoni, “Right sure, but aren’t you worried about people messing up our furniture, or…”
I trailed off as Loth started giggling, “Yes, because our thrift store belonged to someone’s grandmother couches will be such a loss!” Zoe started giggling with her, almost falling off of one of those selfsame couches onto the oh-so-fancy three dollar coffee table.
“You might have a point,” I grumbled, pausing to take a bite, “Did you have a date in mind?”
It turns out that, like always, they did have a plan in mind, and were just waiting for me to sign off on it. Zoe had been seeing one of the local promoter boys – Lost or Dreams or one of those artsy names that we all bore. He suggested that the best time to hold a party – “We’ll charge at the door!”, Zoe declared cheerfully – would be at the start of the semester. Apparently, all the kids coming back to school from a summer stuck at home were raring to get the year kicked off by getting ridiculously drunk and seeing a show.
“And after a summer of practice, we’re just the show people should see!” Zoe grinned, her green eyes flashing as they cut over to our ‘stage’.
“It’ll be fun, Nina,” Loth added, smiling gently, “Besides, we have to start somewhere, and this way, we have control over our concert.”
Crap, control was one of my obvious weaknesses; Loth had cut me to the quick! But I didn’t mind, because she was right – it would be fun, and we did have to start somewhere. “Fine fine fine, let’s get this over with.” I attempted to glower, but I couldn’t help but smile a bit – it felt the right thing to do.Our inaugural concert was, as you might guess, not the biggest success. The party itself was – Zoe earned enough for us to cover her share of the bills and more for once. And spurred on by the success of the party itself, she pushed us to practice and improve, and to perform more gigs in our own home. Over the course of the school year, we apparently became the hot party place for some people in spite of the fact that I wouldn’t let Zoe throw more than a party a month. And once we recorded our first hilariously sincere album, Loth did her best to flog that at both the parties, and around campus; she took her education a bit more seriously than Zoe and I did, so was actually taking more than a course a semester. We were starting to feel like we might have something good going, so it wasn’t too hard to accept the suggestion that we should try our luck with one of the local record labels. After all, we were local stars… right?
Supposedly famous or not, I found myself sliding deeper and deeper into misery. Zoe had the right of it when it came to my turret – nobody was allowed. Even though I was deriving pleasure from my little mind and body games with the local boys, I was feeling incredibly isolated and alone. And all those games took place in the spare rooms, the back of the van, their dorms and frat houses… it all meant nothing. But much like my parents trying to by my love and cooperation with money, I was trying to buy love with my body; at least sex and love go together a bit better than love and money… if only just. The whole situation was driving me to riskier and riskier behaviours, so of course it seemed less-than-unreasonable to storm into an office and demand attention.
So, full of ourselves, we took our CD to one of the bigger local record labels, demanding face time with all the wiles and tits that a gaggle of young girls can muster. Much like the rest of the story to date, you can guess the outcome – not good. We weren’t the right sound, we weren’t talented enough, and what the hell was up with our image? Zoe orchestrated such a flounce out of that office that we had no choice but to follow suite – hair and breasts and knees fairly flew out of the office, out of the building, and back to the waiting Mystery Machine below.
Instead of turning on the music per usual, Zoe instead waited until we were moving, and cheerfully piped up, “Well, that didn’t go too badly.”
I shot her a dark look, “What do you mean, didn’t go badly? We got flat-out told that we suck and were wasting their time. Though, I must say, kudos on getting us in there in the first place.”
She shrugged off my bitterness as she always did; she knew there was no point in entertaining it. “We got some valuable feedback amongst the vitriol.”
“What, that you’re the worst guitarist since Wham?” I grumbled, reaching for a lighter.
Loth piped up, “You know, that doesn’t really make sense, seeing how George Michael isn’t really a guitarist.” I caught her eye in the mirror and shot her a dark look, but she did have a point.
“We knew that my guitar skill would always be out of sync with your abilities,” Zoe said slowly, as if she were thinking very carefully about every single word, “Which is why I think that we should find a better guitarist. Besides, that means I could focus on my singing.”
“Did you have someone in mind?” I asked cautiously, swerving adroitly around a turtle-slow old lady, “Someone that isn’t going to steal all our hilariously crap furniture, or drive me to the point of murder”
She smiled enigmatically, waving a bit of freshly scribbled upon paper at me, “We’ll put up some ads and hold auditions. There are bound to be oodles of decently talented folk in this berg.”
I rolled my eyes and sighed, “Fine,” I said, “But they better be able to contribute to the bills if they’re going to move in too.” Not that I thought they could find someone that I’d want to let into our home, or into our private life.
But that was before we held the auditions, and before we found David.
(to eventually be continued!)