A Life of Letters

Redhead Woody

Posted in 1982, Family, Mom by southpawcom on February 1, 2010

In the summer of 1982, I was by this point living alone at the brick duplex on Ann Street. Bec and Ann-Face had moved out and found sub-letters, two girls whose names if I thought long enough about, I could remember. A blonde and a redhead. Rhonda was one of them; can’t remember the other. They were small-town Midwestern girls, and they both lived in the room next to mine (what had been Ann and Joel’s room). I was friendly with them and would party up a little with them with the guys on the other side of the duplex on the hot sticky nights in the summer of ’82. I remember I would amuse them by walking to their bedroom at around 4 pm with my bong and my sinsemilla and tell them, “It’s time for your daily bong hit.” They didn’t refuse me.

It was kind of a lonely time. Kim had moved away, too, having graduated and already found work with a small newspaper in, I think Clio, Michigan. Mostly I think I realized I had blown it with Rebecca, and I missed her really badly.

I spent much of the summer alone, or with Tim G., the cartoonist at The State News, or Dave B., who was a big doper and fellow baseball nut. I took some summer classes, and I worked as the Editorial Editor at The State News. I smoked a lot of dope and spent a lot of nights at The Peanut Barrel. (Mom’s periodic infusion of cash into my checking account surely didn’t hurt my pursuits.) There were usually some good parties to go to on Friday nights, State News parties, and those cats loved to party, drink, smoke, and most of all, dance.

I would spend hours making what I thought were wicked mix tapes of the very coolest New Wave music and take them to the parties. I would remove whatever cassette was already in the tape player, with the Blasters on it, and replace it with my tape queued to Pete Shelley’s “Homosapien,” and just have the place sweaty in four minutes. A little embarrassing in retrospect, but the sound was fresh and pumpin’. I would go around the room and ask selected folks, “Do you want to go to Hawaii?” When they assented, I would take out a little black film vial filled with the most aromatic Kona bud and a small pipe. It only made the music sound better and everyone nicer looking.

I have a vivid memory of lying on my mattress in my room one morning that summer, and waking to hear the neighbor’s car radio play the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me Baby,” which had busted through to the Top Ten. It had been on my mix tapes for a few months. The moment was vindicating, and it made me smile.

Actually, as I think back on the parties, I’m remembering that I had a pretty good time, and maybe I wasn’t so alone.

Interesting that Mom makes three allusions to redheads in her letter.

  • David was my manager at the Boston Shoe Company on Westport Road in Louisville. He was tall and had this wild red afro framing his very pale, Meat Loaf-like face. He scared the crap out of me, and I didn’t like him when I first knew him. But later he kind of befriended me, and I even remember having beers with him a few times.
  • Sandy, who instigated the divorce, was a dynamite Kentucky redhead. She was the wife of one of Dad’s sales associates, and she was just stunning. I remember her showing up at our house in New Jersey in this gorgeous fur-lined jacket, just red hair and the sexiest face and body, and Mike and I (and likely Dad) were just gaga. Talk about redhead woodies…mmm-mm-mm….
  • Mom was a nature nut, and she loved it when birds would nest near the home. She would watch them for hours and chart their movements day to day. I remember many times as a kid, when a robin would make a nest on top of the wall sconces on the front porch, peeking in with Mom while the mama bird was away looking for worms at all the tiny, dinosaur-like beaks stretched out hungry and squeaking.

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Wish You Hadn’t Ripped Off Ma Bell, Son

Posted in 1980, Family, Mom by southpawcom on January 16, 2010

At the time my mom wrote this letter in November 1980, my life was about to take a dark turn. My dad, who had been diagnosed with colon cancer two years earlier, had been found to have bladder cancer just before I returned to East Lansing for my junior year at Michigan State. He was deteriorating rapidly, and the cancer was about to be found to have moved to his brain. Ronald Reagan, whom I despised, had just been elected president, to everyone’s horror. And John Lennon, an icon and our newly resurgent hero, had less than a month to live.

I was madly in love with Rebecca. We lived together at the Ulrey House Coop on M.A.C. Avenue in East Lansing.  We wore clothes from the Salvation Army and scrimped by, not necessarily because we were destitute, but because we were determined to live simply, “off the fat of the land,” at Rebecca would put it. We also rejected materialism, and I at least had been greatly influenced by my socialist professor of my Urban Sociology class, David Hill, and had learned to hate the multinational corporations that exploited us American consumers and workers while at the same time enslaving our brothers and sisters in far-off lands, such as El Salvador.

Over the summer I had read in a newspaper called the Flint Voice, written and published in part by Michael Moore, who later would become a famed political documentary film maker, about a method whereby one could make long-distance phone calls for free by dialing in a pay phone a phony credit card number with a certain code. It was irresistible — I could talk for hours with my beloved while at the same time sock it to AT&T, who of course had the blood on their hands of assassinated president Salvador Allende of copper-rich Chile. I remember making quite a number of free phone calls from pay booths around Louisville to Rebecca’s house in Detroit and believing it was perfectly all right.

All it took for me to stop ripping off the phone company, however, was Mom’s plaintive story of her bewildering involvement in Ma Bell’s investigation of my deception. It also stung a little bit that Rebecca’s mom also got involved…and perhaps even ratted me out. In any case, I hated to disappoint Mom like that.

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