(note: i've got a picture, but blogger is being all uppity about posting it, grrrrrr, blogger, why you gotta be like this? i thought we were friends)
Here is another story. My friend and I found ourselves in center city one time, when we were fifteen. We probably should have been terrified, but we were very focused on our goal, so we didn't have much periphery vision. I guess it worked out nicely. This isn't much beginning middle end but it is a nice little parcel of an event. Sorry that it doesn't really go anywhere, I guess. I'm still fiddling with the editing and am not completely happy with it, but it's in its best form yet! Now get in a circle on the carpet and sit cross-legged and still, I'm gonna read this one out loud and show you the pictures before I turn the page.
- - -
"Karly, I don't have a good feeling about this. I mean, no one can hear us in these stairs. It's dark."
"It's ok, KatieBee, I have my knife."
Somehow, the idea of a knife in Karly's hands comforted me.
- - -
Karly and I were in college algebra together in tenth grade. We would take turns sitting next to Brian because he was more beautiful than any person we could think of. We didn't get particularly good grades in that class.
We weren’t thinking of our grades at that moment, though. Right then, we were in the silent, wooden stairwell of some old factory-turned-apartment-building on Jordan Parkway. Someone painted the building’s window frames rainbow colors in attempt to get certain kinds of people to want to go to that part of town. Those kinds of people just started calling it the Gay Ghetto.
A pair of suburban sixteen-year old girls didn’t exactly belong in that section of town, but we were there anyway. I wore my favorite tee shirt and Karly brought her favorite knife. Karly at least had a little foresight about our endeavor. The goal of the evening was twofold: we wanted to dance and we wanted to see the concert. So far it didn’t seem like either was happening, we barely found the place. The police blocked off street after street with their flashing lights and yellow tape. We were moths maddened by the porch light as we tried to get to the right building, turning corner after corner in our cars and still running into those pulsing red and blue lights.
We had to walk under a bridge and through an alley and past a cove of homes built by people who didn’t have enough money to live surrounded by real walls. I couldn’t understand why people feared these places. Maybe the August air and grass growing up in the sidewalk cracks that did it, but the colors were clearer on that short walk in Allentown than they had ever been in my subdivision. Cement and brick and graffiti were more honest than the green lawns and the houses that sprang up almost overnight. In hindsight, I should have been terrified, but Karly had that knife and Karly could always make me feel comfortable.
- - -
I first saw Harry and the Potters when I visited my sister in Boston. The two guys in the band were, theoretically, Harry Potter from year 5 and Harry Potter from year 7. All their songs were silly and Harry Potter-themed and my sister and I danced and danced and shouted and took pictures while the Harry Potters on stage explained to us: "You know, sometimes you just get angry at the Man! And the Man, sometimes he's your parents, and sometimes he's the government and sometimes he's Lord Voldermort! We're going to sing a song about being angry at Lord Voldermort!"
They were scheduled to play a show in Allentown. Karly and I couldn’t believe our luck. It was the post-show game of capture the flag that enticed them. I didn’t know where Fireball Island was but I heard it was supposed to be the successor to the Pirate’s Cove – the center of the Lehigh Valley punk scene that got wiped away in the punkest way to go: The Man. Drive over the new 222 bypass. That’s where the Pirates Cove used to be.
I don’t remember what I said or did to convince my parents that it was safe for a fifteen year old to go to a place she’d never been before in a dangerous part of a city that she didn’t know, but two weeks later my dad dropped me off on Jordan Parkway, just before the Tilghman overpass.
- - -
Karly and I listened to the guitar sounds that leaked out the cracks of door 208, it was another world in there. The stark fluorescent lights and creaky wooden floor of the hall gave way to a warm throng of people all singing along to a song called “This Is Not My Town.”
The singer explained to us that “sometimes the towns we grow up in aren’t our towns, that sometimes we have to go out and find our towns. When I give the get-go, shout what towns aren’t going to be yours.”
Karly yelled SCHNECKSVILLE loud enough for the two of us.
Karly had a better view of what went on. Karly was taller than me. She looked like a supermodel and still does. She's beautiful and all the photography students always used her for their projects. Harry and the Potters took the floor and the little kids jumped and danced and swung their mohawks around. I didn’t dance. The lights were on and as much as I feared the dark, awkward adolescence made me uneasy in a well-lit room. I contented myself with answering text messages from my parents, who demanded I appear at the front of the building.
- - -
My family was late to get on the way to Andrew's Air Force Base. We sold military posters with my grandpa every year. Four dollars for a poster of an eagle in front of the flag with the statue of liberty in its eye and a logo, "THESE COLORS DON'T RUN." Ten bucks if you buy two others with it. All the planes looked the same to me except the blue angels. I was useless, but I went anyway.
Karly and a boy she met -- Karly was always meeting boys -- walked me under the overpass and up the street to my parent's SUV. I collapsed into the sickeningly new-smelling leather interior. My brother played his game boy. Police lights flashed just up the street. Sweat made me stick to the seat and exhaustion made my eyelids stick to each other. I slept in a cradle of music that hung in the air and in my head, I slept the whole way to D.C.