Blast from the past.
I just got that photo in my email yesterday from one of my oldest friends in the world, Christina, who still lives in Cleveland. I was 19 in that photo...I think it was taken in either late 1989 or early 1990. That cat's name was Felix (he was just euthanized about 3 months ago at the ripe old age of 15) and he had just been neutered. Felix was a cool dude...you'd pet him like a dog, he'd fetch, go out and scrap with skunks and raccoons, and return home all beat up but ready to do it again the next day.
So because she dug up that old photo, I dug up an old record we would dance to around the same time that photo was taken at the Nine of Clubs in Cleveland, a long-gone industrial/house music bar/club thingie in the warehouse district. Not a gay bar, but not exactly a straight one either. We loved the place...I'd scam drinks by flirting with both men and women (I was only 19 and had huge black "X" marks on my hands), and we'd sit and chain smoke and talk shit about people until this song would come on...then we'd go to the middle of the dance floor...wearing our black motorcycle jackets...hair hanging down into our eyes...and dance like retards because we just didn't care.
Sometimes, I'd even smoke pot in the parking lot with a young Catholic priest. Edgy, huh? At least I never got into his Jeep. Mama didn't raise a fool.
By the way, that track is called "A Day in the Life" by Black Riot, a DJ Todd Terry alias. It was released in 1988, and you'd hear it coming out of clubs and being sampled like crazy all over the Great Lakes region. I heard it all the time in Cleveland, that's for sure. Funny, when I went to New York, the music was a much different. Not as edgy or raw as the stuff coming out of Detroit.
Now, when I said Christina was old, I'm not saying she's OLD old (she's almost exactly a year older than me) but I've known her since elementary school. I forget what grade I was in, but she shoved me at the drinking fountain once and I cut my lip. Years later when we were in Catholic school (I was in 7th grade and she was in 8th), we would walk home from school (she lived 3 blocks away) and just talk about everything under the sun.
One warm, sunny spring day, we were walking home together. We were wearing our school uniforms...hers was a white blouse and a plaid skirt, mine was a pair of navy blue corduroy jeans from the The Gap at the now torn down and redone Severance Center, a light blue shirt, and a navy blue tie, loosened a bit because it was warm. She was reading a book titled "Rabbit Is Rich" by John Updike at that point (she has a genius IQ and is one of the biggest bookworms I know), glancing at it while we talked about wierd random stuff. Time travel. How many moons Jupiter had. Cars (she's a gearhead like me). How much we hated the nuns. Who was the biggest bitch at St. Louis School. The Doppler Effect after an ambulance passed us.
Suddenly, as she glanced at her book, she started laughing.
"What?" I asked.
"This line...you have to read it," she answered, handing me the book. I looked down and read this:
Cunt would be a good flavor for ice cream.
"What the hell is a cunt?" I asked her, handing the book back to her. I knew every cuss word in the world but this one was kinda new to me.
"You don't know what a cunt is?" She laughed.
"No, I don't. Tell me."
"Fucking tell me!"
"Nope." She was being a brat.
"I'm gonna start yelling it," I threatened.
"Don't you dare!"
"CUNT CUNT CUNT CUNT CUNT CUNT CUNT!" I hollered, walking down a peaceful, idyllic Cleveland Heights residential street on that warm, sunny April afternoon. A woman watering her flowers stared at me, mouth agape, hose hanging in her hand. "Christina is a cunt, a CUNTY CUNTY CUNT," I sang, until she smacked me on the back of the head.
"You'd better look that up before you start screaming it up and down the street, Chad," she said, laughing so hard she could barely breathe.
We parted ways at her street, and I continued walking home, whispering "cunt cunt cunt" under my breath so I wouldn't forget it. "Hey!" Christina yelled, "Call me when you look it up!" and started laughing again.
When I got home, for some reason my mom was home from work early, so I asked her where their Websters New World unabridged dictionary was located. I grabbed volume one, lugged it over to the kitchen rotary phone, and looked it up.
"What?" asked my mom.
"Nothing," I said, cringing, knowing full well this was the wrong thing to say to my very Catholic mother who would now use her Polish/Irish midwestern Catholic skills to pry the information she wanted from me. She was, and continues to be, a master at this.
"What did you need to look up?" she asked, brushing away a few errant strands of blond hair from her green eyes. She was only 37.
"Just a word I heard."
"What word is that?"
"I'd really rather not tell you." Damn, again, the wrong thing to say.
My mom put down a wooden spoon she was holding. "Tell me what word it was," with her Serious Tone. She was bluffing with the Serious Tone...but she didn't know I knew she was bluffing. It was a weak hand, but it was all I had.
"Mom, I'd really-"
"TELL ME," she demanded, pressing harder, slightly jutting out her lower jaw. Damn. I didn't know she was gonna pull out the "TELL ME" card accompanied with the Threatening Jaw Jut so soon.
"I don't think it's a word you've ever heard before," I replied, gingerly.
Mom snorted, then smirked. "Try me."
"Okay, but you asked me to tell you, so I can't get in trouble for saying it if it's bad."
"Oh for Christ's sake Chad, just tell me." She was tired of my shenanigans and my dodging, and I realized I was at past the Point Of No Return with her. Her curiosity was piqued, I was cornered, and she was gonna find out what The Word was at any cost. Checkmate. Mom: 1, Chad: 0.
I took a deep breath.
"Cunt," I said, matter-of-factly.
There. I said it. I hoped she was happy.
"What?" she asked, not quite believing her ears.
"I HEARD IT THE FIRST TIME, CHAD," she said, with a strange look on her face. A few years I later came to recognize that face as the "I Need To Appear Stern Right Now But I Am Trying Not To Laugh, Unfortunately" face. Only then could I use it to my advantage.
I thought, Duh, then why did you say "What?" when I said it? Pshh.
"You know that's not the nicest word in the world, Chad."
"Yes, I know. I just looked it up," I said, gingerly, not quite sure if I was In Big Huge Trouble or not.
"Where did you hear it?" she demanded.
"It was in a book a friend was reading and she wouldn't tell me what it was and she told me to look it up." My mom did the exact same thing. She'd never tell me what a word meant if I asked her. I always had to look it up, even if she knew what it meant.
"Who asked you to look it up?"
"What book was she reading..." my mom muttered, trailing off. She shook her head. "You know what, never mind," said, heaving an exasperated sigh. "You know not to say that word, don't you?"
"Yes, mom." Duh. Like I was gonna walk down the street yelling it or something.
Mom rolled her eyes and returned to stirring a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough. "Stay the hell out of this dough, Chad," she said, with her Slightly Widened Eyes expression, coupled with her famous Jaw Jut and Gravely Firm Tone. Basically, a full house as far as playing her cards with me. The woman meant business, I was hopelessly outfoxed, and I sat there meekly.
She turned on her heel and went upstairs.
As soon as I heard the upstairs bathroom door shut, I grabbed a chunk of dough, stuffed it in my mouth. Mmm...so, so good. She made chocolate chip cookies from scratch and god damn they were good, but the dough was just simply ambrosial. Chad: 1, Mom: 1.
I grabbed the reciever off the hook, and dialed Christina's number, thankful it didn't take very long to dial because of all the 3's in it.
"Helluh?" It was Christina.
"Did you look it up?"
Christina started laughing.
"Why the hell didn't you tell me what it meant before I started hollering it up and down Woodridge?"
"You are so fucking retarded."
Suddenly, my mom came downstairs and said, "You yelled that word while walking down Woodridge?" I was screwed.
"Christina, I have to go," I said, and hung up.
"And I thought I told you to stay the hell out of the cookie dough!"
"How do you know?"
"I always know, Chad. I always know."
Mom: 2, Chad: 1.