A Life of Letters

Supreme Songster

Posted in 1984, Friends by southpawcom on March 9, 2012

If one was not a supreme songster but could still somehow be made to feel like he was, my friend Mike M.– the flaming heterosexual — could do it.

Late Mid-20s

Posted in 1985, Friends by southpawcom on March 6, 2012

I remember commenting to Jamie that I was entering my “late mid-20s” on this birthday. That was in an effort to not feel so old compared to the others in my group, who all were still in their early 20s. It made a difference at that age.

I remember also being disappointed at the impersonality of her card. A cat?? Today her choice is redeemed by the nostalgic, period look of the graphic art.

I thought I was getting something started with Jamie in the early spring of ’84 but she got spooked either by something I did (likely) or something she heard about me (even likelier) that she didn’t like.

If my late mid-20s encompassed the age 27, then I got this card in 1985, when I was going steady with Julie. Otherwise it was 1984 when I think I would have gotten something a tinch more personal.

I’ll Be Bummed

Posted in 1977, Friends by southpawcom on February 6, 2010

It’s fun to think about my friend, Mike K., who was a second-tier friend from about 5th grade until the end of high school. Mike was a smallish, sensitive guy with a mellow and ironic sense of humor. He often would pad around the hallways of our high school, usually in the company of a couple of the artier girls, with this unperturbed and somewhat spaced-out look on his face, and when I would see him, I couldn’t help but smile. He’d look up at me and say, “Mark, I’m so bummed….” But when he laughed it sounded a little like a goat. I could make him laugh pretty easily.

Mike was a pretty good actor. He had some memorable roles in our theater days, the Hermit in a one-act play in our “Theater-In-The-Round,” which had lines like, “Drink….drunk….past the twelve….my you’re looking pale today….” He also played Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls” and had to sing “Sue Me.” I remember his angsting out because in his role as Allen-A-Dale in “Merry Yours, R. Hood,” he had to learn guitar well enough to play it and sing a short ballad. He did great!

Mike was actually elected our senior class president. He had a girlfriend for a couple of years in high school, Terri L. They were quite a pair, as she was several inches taller than he. They were kind of like Agents 99 and 86 or maybe Tenille and the Captain.

He drove a beat-up Oldsmobile that he called Clem. Once Will got sick while we were driving and drinking on Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield, and he rolled down the window and threw up all over Clem’s door. Mike was unflapped. Said he, oy vey, “Little Billy….throwing up.” Sunrise, Sunset.

When we were younger, he was the only player on my Little League team who was a worse hitter than I was. His dad was one of the coaches, and having been my son’s Little League coach for several years, I can only imagine how that must have made for some uncomfortable dinner table conversation.

On September 7, 1974, Mike invited me to spend the night at his house, and we went to a beach party. He had gotten access to some Scotch, and it was the first time in my life I ever got drunk. I can still recall the slanted late summer sunshine and jumping around his yard and driveway, jabbering away to nice looking girls at the beach, and feeling the exhilarating effects of alcohol on my wiry teenage frame for the first time.

Mike learned about being depressed well enough, I suppose, that he grew up to become a psychiatrist. He also went gay. Will and I drove down to Ann Arbor about 15 years ago to see him, and he was balding and had a beard. He didn’t seem nearly as fun as he used to be.

I’ll still fondly remember a lot of good times with Mike K.

I had moved with Mom and Dad to New Jersey right after graduation from Andover High and was planning a trip back to Michigan to see friends and family.

Jazz Butcher

Posted in 1986, Friends by southpawcom on February 3, 2010

I don’t at the moment recall just how or when I became acquainted with “Intense Jim” or “Intensity.” I believe he hung out with Keith and Jamie and that crowd, and that I met him in the Dippity Doo-encrusted days of the early spring of 1984. But he was a ruggedly handsome guy with an athletic build, who loved baseball and rock and roll with an equal…well, intensity. He got his name because he always wore a rather scrutinous or analytical expression on his chiseled, Clutch Cargo face and seldom, if ever, laughed or smiled.

For some reason, he looked up to me, perhaps as a guy who he believed might possibly have known more about the aforementioned topics than he. He was a good guy and apparently taught himself to play the guitar pretty well. He was one of those types of guys, like Jeff F., who would for a period of time — weeks or months — hole themselves up in their rooms, not eat or pay heed to the outside world, and teach themselves how to play guitar. And when they emerged, they could play the guitar just as well as they please. Guys can do this, but I think the acetic thing is not for women or girls. It’s intense. I think it might be the same mentality shared by the guys that go to prison and then spend their days and nights in their cells doing stomach crunches and pull-ups until they’re ripped.

Anyway, he was evidently smitten with an artist named the Jazz Butcher. He sent me two cassette tapes with this letter filled from capstan to capstan with the music of the Jazz Butcher. As I recall, I never listened to either, and they were pretty highend cassette tapes, Maxell Metals or something, and I believe I recorded over them pretty shortly after I received them. Sorry, Intensity.

It was unfair of me to do that, because I can recall vividly being so instantly taken with an artist (Social Climbers or Gun Club, for example) that I too had to write or talk about the artist in breathless adulation to any audience I could find and research everything ever written about them in the most obscure of DIY publications.

Had No Idea St. Louis Was So Busy

Posted in 1983, Friends by southpawcom on February 3, 2010

Paul was my last roomie in college at Michigan State. In spring term 1980, he had an opening in his room in the corner of the hallway at Phillips Hall, 2nd Floor. I honestly don’t remember one single day or night in that room, although I know I had them. I guess I may recall some buzzed chats and laughter late in the night between our bunks. He was by far the easiest male roommate I ever had. I guess he was the last one as well. He was a good guy but by no means a close friend.

Paul was from Wahpeton, North Dakota, which is just across the Mississippi River from Breckenridge, Minnesota. His family ran a travel agency and a movie theater in town, and Paul knew how to run the big cinema projectors. He even had a job in East Lansing as the projectionist at the State Theater, which I believe was the last of the downtown theaters there. Paul was a good guy. You could tell he was brought up right in a small town.

He had himself a girlfriend,  I’m pretty sure a girl he knew from high school. Anyway, when he graduated from Michigan State, he moved back home, started working in his family’s business, and married his sweetheart. I know I saw him once in Louisville, and evidently he came back to East Lansing in the spring of ’83, and we got together. I have no memory of it.

I do have lots of memories of going back to Phillips Hall after class some days in my second year at State, after I moved out of the dorm and moved in with Rebecca in Ulrey House Coop, and sitting around with Paul, Glenn, and a bunch of my other old pals, just chilling, sipping beer, and getting stoned. We used to listen to cool music and just chit chat, but at some point someone could be counted on to break out a record of the overture to Bizet’s  opera, “Carmen,” to which we would all “air conduct,” giggling our asses off.

I couldn’t go to Paul’s wedding, and to this day I still have never been to North Dakota. I just hope I let him know that I wouldn’t be making it, so he could get someone else to wear the tux. He was an all right dude. I didn’t know he was into fantasy art, or perhaps it was a druggie allusion for my benefit.

Brewer’s Droop

Posted in 1984, Friends, Ted by southpawcom on January 12, 2010

In the late ’70s and ’80s, my best friend, Ted, pulled together a band consisting mostly of a handful of his college buddies. The Brothers Bohemian were the raunchiest, most beer-fueled pub band this side of Essex. They could be counted on for a few sets of crowdpleasers, such as The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There” and The Drifters’ “This Magic Moment,” but their best songs were their high-spirited originals, such as “Jane, Stop This Crazy Thing,” “Brewer’s Droop,” and “You Fill My Basic Needs.” On occasion, I would sit in with them, most usually taking lead vocals on Larry Williams’ “Bad Boy.”

They played a lot in the dorms and around campus when they were attending Eastern Michigan University, but after college ended, it became more difficult to stage shows. One challenge, of course, was getting the band together and away from competing interests, such as fledgling careers and girlfriends and wives. Another was finding a venue to play. But perhaps the biggest challenge was pulling their loyal fans together again, because without them the Bros Boho probably figured they would come off as just another bar band (a quite unlikely circumstance in the estimation of their followers but a risk nonetheless we weren’t willing to expose them to).

By 1984 they were encouraged to go the DIY route and send home-formatted handbills, hastily Xeroxed, and mailed to their  friends. I was fortunate enough to get one, but as you can see I cared just enough to smut it up a bit but then never mailed it back. I am pretty sure I attended anyway.

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