Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Go ask Alice when she's three martinis tall: A story about New York


(General Disclaimer: This one's long, kids. You might want to bookmark it and come back, later. Photo by Matthew Byrne)

When you're young and starved for adventure, the thrill of sneaking out takes away from the embarrassment of having to do it when you're in your twenties.


"Hey, you with the flower!" called the DJ.

I wasn't wearing one that night. I swear, you get into one heated argument over the superior academic discipline (library science vs. museum studies, natch) the night you've got a rose in your hair and they never let you forget it. I'd be You With The Flower forever, but at least I wasn't Nose Ring Girl or Straight Best Friend.

Oh, wait. Straight Best Friend was my wingman, hobbling around in a curious way on her too-high heels with a too-short skirt with a Coke in hand. Tonight was relatively uncrowded, but the crowd all seemed to know each other--but not us. No matter how well I could do an unintentional cat's-eye in liquid liner, or how tasteful a conversation piece my jewelry was that evening, I always felt like a wallflower. The difference between her and I was that she didn't care.

"You singing tonight? You shouldn't keep ordering those," the DJ told me, "You keep staring off into space with a weird look, like you're blogging this in your head."

"I'll sing," I said, "I just don't know when."

The setup for Karaoke Night was effortlessly casual but had a certain kind of magic to it, the magic that came from being in New York and young and maybe a little tipsy and in love with music and that pretty young thing over there dressed like Claudia Kishi via H&M.

There was no stage, no booths, and no drunken frat boys--they shoved a microphone in your hand and tossed you out onto the dance floor when your chosen song came up. Just a little terrifying, but the locals seemed to join in whether you liked it or not.

If life were truly a music, right now we'd swing the spotlight to the right and give an all caps entrance to Her.

Wingwoman stopped in the middle of an anecdote. "Oh. You've spotted one. You've got that look."

"Do not!"

"Whenever you see a cute girl, you stop paying attention to me and start quirking your right eyebrow." She turned around. "In the Threadless shirt? Brown hair, blue eyes, dinosaur pendant?"

"Ding ding ding. I'll refill your soda." Wingwoman was a dear for coming at all, but after a couple of years of dealing with crappy boys and their crappy drama, she happily accompanied me to the girl bar, enjoying a dance floor where her bottom remained pinch-free. "I like the dinosaur."

Ms. Threadless ignored the bar and strode over to the the DJ booth, paging through one of the well-loved and much-photocopied songbooks.  She nodded, pointed, and leaned against the wall.

"I love it when they lean," I sighed.

"You love it when they breathe and have a pulse," said my friend, before sitting back to enjoy the last bits of the hostess's spirited rendition of something heartwrenching by Joni Mitchell.

Threadless Girl skipped the line. She was up. Wingwoman rolled her eyes and went back to her soda.

I knew those opening chords.

Ah, now I don't hardly know her
But I think I could love her ...

Well, she was no Blackheart, but she'd do. I feigned disinterest while the Wingwoman craned her head around, trying to figure out if the hostess's girlfriend was her ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriend.

Ah when she comes walking over
Now I've been waitin' to show her
Crimson and clover over and over

Somebody was staring at me. Was I being...mocked? I whirled around, and there she was.

Oh, this wasn't over. What happened next? The only explanation I can give you is it's New York.

I took the spare microphone from a blonde dressed like a Bratz doll (in the most endearing way). The ringing chords and deep harpsichord of my favorite tune kicked in...

I am not your senorita. I am not from your tribe.
In the gard- in the garden, I did no crime.
I am not your senorita. I am not from your tribe.
If you want inside her, well, boy you better make her raspberry swirl...

The tune slowed, grew mellow while the piano jangled in the background. I remembered this one, I thought it was obscene when it first came out and still did now, as she smirked and retorted

Would it be my fault if I could turn you on?
Would I be so bad if I could turn you on?
When I kiss your mouth,
I wanna taste it.
Turn you upside down --
don't wanna waste it.

Oh yeah, hon? You got another thing coming. I got close enough to identify the dinosaur around her neck, (Pleisosaur. Awww, Nessie.), but backed off as the tempo went up and the crowd huddled into the bar and couches, whispering about what would happen next...

You're no rock n' roll fun
like a piece of art
that no one can touch
Your head is always up in the clouds
writing your songs
won't you ever come down?

I looked to Wingwoman for backup. She was watching the hostess canoodle with the little brunette. Guess it was her ex's ex after all. There's one for Facebook.

Wait, where'd that synth come from?

And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
And if you'll only hold me tight
We'll be holding on forever
And we'll only be making it right
Because we'll never be wrong together

I was temporarily blinded by nostalgia, but not so much that I protested heartily when I heard a certain Eurodance cover band wind its way into the melody.

"Oh no," I said, covering the mike.

Oh yes. Oh well. It was bound to happen, after all.

Look at me now, will I ever learn?
I don't know how but I suddenly lose control
There's a fire within my soul
Just one look and I can hear a bell ring
One more look and I forget everything, w-o-o-o-oh

The dance floor grew tighter as the whole bar joined in, dancing with vigor if not exactly talent. It was a beautiful thing.

Mamma mia, here I go again
My my, how can I resist you?
Mamma mia, does it show again?
My my, just how much I've missed you
Yes, I've been brokenhearted
Blue since the day we parted
Why, why did I ever let you go?
Mamma mia, now I really know,
My my, I could never let you go.

I squirmed my way out of the crowd with a wink for Threadless Girl, collecting Wingwoman on the way. I didn't know her name. It was okay, I'd find out another night. We tripped down Hudson, breathless and still a little incredulous about what had just happened.

"That was fun!" she cried. "But next time, Rie?"


"Next time you get three wishes...try to come up with something better than I wish my life was a musical."



If you made it all the way down here, congratulations and Happy Rabbit Hole Day! This is an untrue post based on true facts, and I hope you got a kick out of reading it, cause I sure did writing it.

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