Tag Archives: Writing

Spotlight on the Rock and Roll Supermom: Marissa Bergen

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I’m extremely fortunate to have a few loyal friends and supporters of my little blog, especially considering that I have no particular background or expertise in music, about which I am ostensibly writing. All I really have is a burning passion for music and a strange desire to spill my guts to the world, no matter how painfully humiliating that may be. But the same can’t be said for the queen of all my blog buddies, rocker chick extraordinaire, Marissa Bergen. I mean, she obviously has the burning passion thing and the spill her guts thing too, but she also actually has some experience in the music biz that doesn’t involve playing the flute in band and taking piano lessons from the beehived Mrs. Sullivan. But enough cheap, sneaky plugs for my blog, let’s talk to Marvelous Marissa…

1. Tell us the story of how you started your band, Sisters Grimm – did you and your sister take music lessons, what motivated you, did your parents help and support you, etc.

Whenever someone asks me a question about what motivated me in music, I often recall a quote made by, I believe Nancy Wilson (although it could have been Ann) who said something like “All the girls wanted to marry the Beatles, we wanted to be the Beatles.”

My father was in the music industry and had a lot of successful accomplishments as a musician and producer. He actually had a brief stint with Wings. I guess growing up with that influence helped put my sister and I in a rock n’ roll direction, but my father began pulling away from our family when we were very young, until he eventually had no connection at all. So it was up to my poor mother to carry our guitars around and deal with our off key singing. She also gave us all of her vintage Beatles albums when we were in preschool and, yes, she was very supportive.

2. What were some of the best gigs you played and best experiences you had with the band?

Since we took our music career from New York to Los Angeles, I could list many music clubs in both cities that are awesome to play, but nothing compares to going on tour to a city where you don’t know anyone, and you’re being asked to sign CDs, T-shirts, various body parts… Probably the best of these experiences was in Savannah, GA. I remember when we got there someone had written ‘Sisters Grimm rocks’ on one of the paper towel dispensers in the bathroom. How awesome is that?

3. Tell us the story of how you moved to California – did you have a plan in place, did you have any connections in the music business, etc.

At the time we moved, Giuliani had just come into office and he had a huge campaign to clean up New York which meant closing many of the local rock clubs. A lot of New York musicians saw ‘an end’ coming and Los Angeles was a logical move, so we knew plenty of other musicians who also migrated from New York and it wasn’t hard to make connections. We didn’t really have a hard and fast plan as to where exactly we would live, work or gig, but we had people to stay with while we were looking for an apartment and the rest came together rather quickly.

4. How and why did you start blogging and writing poetry? Also, were you always into writing, or was this an interest that developed later?

Yes, I have always written. Obviously, the most notable outlet for my poetry was my songwriting, which was very ‘lyrics’ oriented. When I became a mom and we decided not to do the band anymore, I didn’t write for years. My husband was the one who suggested I start a blog and I guess I’m lucky that all those ideas and words were still there waiting for me.

5. You are a very prolific writer, maintaining a steady output of high quality work, sustained over a long period of time. Very impressive! How do you accomplish this?

I guess that is how my work appears to you and other readers, which I suppose is an intended effect. When I think of myself, I think I am like a miser who is creating ‘gems’ (or not) which I dole out very slowly and very stingily. I write every day, but if I published every day, it would probably be a bunch of crap. Also, I try to do the Word Press Weekly Challenges and Yeah Write Challenges every week. The writing prompts help.

6. You also cover a wide range of topics in your poetry, from family life, to the rocker chick life, to the unexpectedly profound and poignant. You draw deeply from the creative well, so to speak. How do you come up with such diverse and creative material?

Just my latent schizophrenic tendencies coming out I guess! But seriously, I’m just hard on myself that way. I think about what I want to write about, but I will abandon a topic if it is too similar to one I wrote about in the past. If I write a poem that is sad, I will try to make the next few poems funny ones to offset that. Most of my writing comes from real life experience.

7. It’s great to see that you are involved in your kids’ musical development through the School of Rock. Can you tell us more about this program and your involvement with it?

Yes, all part of a dastardly plan to have my children vicariously live out my rock n’ roll dreams! No, actually since my husband and I were both involved in the music industry, we were of a similar mind to get our children playing music as well. Currently our son attends the School of Rock, one of the many rock schools that seem to be getting more and more prevalent. The school includes lessons and performance. Along with my not so gentle prodding, he’s turning into a little rock star!

My daughter just did her first term of rock summer camp and it seems she has now been vaccinated by the victrola needle and is hooked on rock n’ roll! What have I done?!

Actually I should mention here that there is a nonprofit organization called the Rock School Scholarship Fund which helps lower and middle class families with the funding of rock school tuition. My husband and I have been very active with this organization for years and it has helped us become even more involved in the rock school community and it’s wonderful teachers and parents. You can learn more about the organization here: http://rockschoolfund.org/.

Thank you, Marissa!

One of the many things I admire about Marissa is her raw, cut-the-crap honesty. I like to see that, especially from a woman, because it’s kinda rare. And it’s powerful.¬† Reading Marissa’s poetry inspires me, because this kind of uncompromising artistic integrity is something that I want to accomplish in my own writing. In this little interview clip, you will see the stunningly beautiful Sisters Grimm – Marissa and her sister Victoria – talking about being in a girl band. And grrl power. ūüėČ

Be sure to visit Marissa’s blog, “Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth” (great title, Marissa)!

And one more thing – why do we need girl bands and grrl power, as young Marissa called it? I think a great man said it best…

Support Girl Bands!

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Filed under Art and Literature, Blogging, Music, Poetry, Uncategorized, Women

Spotlight On The Paperback Rocker: Matt Syverson

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One of the things that I hope to do with my blog over the next few months is to interview some of my very interesting and talented followers and highlight their accomplishments. So if you are reading this, look out, because I may mean you. But you’re getting a break this time because the spotlight is on….(drumroll)….that terrifically talented Texan, Matt Syverson!¬† Matt has a background as a musician and a chemist (a real one!), and over the past five years, he has written and self-published some very creative and well-crafted novels. His hilarious book, “Band on the Run”, was a #3 bestseller in Amazon’s “Rock and Roll Books” category and “Black Dog” was also very well received and highly reviewed.¬† But his latest book, “Blue Whiskey”, may be his most outstanding work yet.

Matt also does a weekly podcast series that is chock-full of advice and information for writers that are interested in self-publishing, along with cool rock ‘n roll trivia and anecdotes about his days as a musician in Grunge-era Seattle. I hope that you will enjoy getting to know Matt a little better by reading the results of our email interview.¬† Take it away, Matt and Barbara “Marie” Walters!

1. I’ve met musicians, and I’ve met writers, but I haven’t met that many musicians that are also writers. Can you tell us a little about the journey you have taken from making music to writing books? How did your interests evolve and change direction over the years?

In school, I was always a creative writer. When the teacher instructed us to write sentences using vocabulary words, I would take the opportunity to craft an epic tale. In particular, I remember one involving Zamfir having his pan flute stolen by a demon. I also won a creative writing competition at a scholastic meet in high school, for which I received a scholarship.

Music was always an important part of my life, but during my teenage years it became an obsession. When I discovered Metallica, I decided to be a professional musician. I pursued that dream with total dedication, but around the age of thirty I tired of the long nights and lack of commitment from my bandmates. I drifted for a while without an artistic outlet, and those were the worst years of my life, in retrospect. After a particularly traumatic year (2009), I decided to once again pursue my artistic passions, and I have been writing and publishing books ever since.

2. One of the things I admire about you, in addition to your many versatile talents, is that you seem to have a larger than average dose of determination. I mean, you actually follow through with your dreams and make them happen. You want to start a Grunge band, so you move, all alone, from Oklahoma to Seattle, guitar in hand. You want to write books, so you actually write them, and finish them, and publish them, and sell them. What advice can you give to pathetic half-asses like me so we can be more like you and achieve our so-called goals?

This calls for a little tough love, as they say. Finish your damn projects. That’s the best advice I can offer. Nobody is going to do it for you. Make writing (or whatever it is you’re doing) a part of your daily routine. You shouldn’t feel guilty if you take a day off, but you should feel bummed out that you didn’t get to do what you love. There has to be a passion, or you won’t care if you finish or not.

Having said that, I often speak of the ‘joy of completion’. This is the best feeling an artist can have, above five-star reviews and accolades and all else, because it is a pure feeling attached only to the creation of art. When you feel that joy once, you will pursue it again and again. It’s like what they say about using drugs, but of course I wouldn’t know anything about that.

And you’re not pathetic! (Insert Barbara “Marie” Walters shaking her head sadly and smirking knowingly to herself here.)

3. Speaking of Grunge and Seattle, I find it endlessly cool and interesting that you were a part of ‚Äúthat scene‚ÄĚ. Looking back on that time now, what would you say were the best and worst moments or aspects of the Grunge scene and all that was taking place around you? Feel free to name drop. We won‚Äôt mind. Really.

As far as name dropping, I was able to eavesdrop on Chris Cornell as he wrote his first solo album, which was mind-blowing, since he was one of my biggest musical influences. I’ll refer readers to the archives of my Paperback Rocker podcast for the full story. I met tons of rock stars over the years and played the same places in Seattle as Pearl Jam and the rest of them, but finding success as a writer has been far easier. Distributing music and developing a fan base before the internet was next to impossible.

The grunge thing was a worldwide phenomenon at the time, but it was small at the epicenter. On a show on Tuesday night, only five people showed up. The house parties were some of the most fun times I remember, because every room would have an acoustic jam session. Everyone was an artist of some kind, but it was an intimate thing. I’m glad I did it and proud of the music I made. Readers can hear some of my songs on my website, PaperbackRocker.com.

The only bad thing about the grunge scene was all the jaded people left behind after the first wave of successful bands got signed and weren’t around any more. They had toxic attitudes.

4. One of the things I have heard you mention is how the ‚Äúbusiness side‚ÄĚ of music limits and constrains the artist, and how this affects the type and quality of music to which the average listener has access. What parallels do you see in the publishing business, and what role does self-publishing play in breaking down these barriers?

To put it succinctly, the music business is a huge rip-off, followed closely by publishing. That’s coming from an informed perspective, not that of a jaded musician who didn’t ‘make it’. The artist is taken advantage of contractually, because all the costs of promotion, videos, touring, and everything else are funded by a loan from the record company against future profits. It’s like the trap of a payday loan for a minimum wage employee and hard to get out from under. The ones who make it through to renegotiate the terms – Metallica and Stephen King, for example – make lots and lots of money, but it’s not that way for most.

Coming from the music biz to publishing, I recognized the similarities. In addition, many writers fall prey to the vulture companies of vanity publishing, possibly the worst of all these situations. We are in the golden age of self-publishing, but writers need to educate themselves and do it the right way, which means forming a publishing company and working with a book printer. Notice that I said printer, not publisher. I talk about these things on my podcast, and anyone can drop me a line if they want me to address something on a future show.

Regarding access, the consumer can choose from the goods offered by the big labels, studios, and publishers, which will be mostly boy bands, rom-coms, and vampire novels, or one can delve into the worlds of independent music, movies, and publishing. And that’s not to say all indie stuff is great and traditionally offered stuff is crap, because neither is true.

5. In your new novel, ‚ÄúBlue Whiskey‚ÄĚ, the main character, Stanton Wheelhouse III, had several mentors that helped him along his rocky way to becoming a ‚Äúone hit wonder‚ÄĚ. Is there anyone that you would identify as your own mentor, either in music or writing, or both? How did this person or persons inspire and help you to reach your goals?

Strangely enough, I did not. I grew up in a one stoplight town in Oklahoma, so I barely found anyone to show me the first chords on the guitar. Again, this was pre-internet. I’ve always attempted to elevate myself to the level of my influences, so that I could view them as contemporaries, rather than idols. I met a lot of famous musicians early in my adult life, and I saw that they were regular people, so that helped. One thing I love about writing compared to playing in a band is that I don’t have to rely on anyone else. I’m not the typical introverted writer, having been the frontman for a rock band, but I am passionately independent and self-motivated.

6. One of my favorite passages in ‚ÄúBlue Whiskey‚ÄĚ is where Stanton talks about the zeitgeist of the sixties, and zeitgeist movements in general, and how this translated into the subsequent decades, eventually dying out completely with the advent of the modern information age and the internet. I thought this was a really interesting concept. Can you elaborate on this a little?

I often incorporate short contemplative essays in my fiction, and this is an example. The primary purpose of the narrator in my first novel, “Black Dog”, was to deliver such meditations. “Blue Whiskey” is a fictional autobiography, and Stanton pontificates on and explains many of the same subjects we have covered here. To sum up his thoughts on zeitgeist, the appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show spawned a million musicians. In those days, there were about three channels on the tube. The “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video was probably the last thing that will ever do this musically, since the advent of the internet and the splintering effect it has had. On the bright side, if you’re a brony you now have a community.

Stanton did a lot better job explaining this.

7. Stanton also kept track of his ‚Äúlessons learned‚ÄĚ throughout his journey. What would you list as your top lessons in the amazing creative journey you have taken as a musician, author, and podcaster?

Be nice. Don’t publicly criticize other artists. Don’t get ripped off. Finish your damn projects.

And that’s it!¬† Thank you Matt and Barbara!

Now let’s go finish our damn projects, everyone, and be sure to check out Matt’s podcasts and books!

A cool song from Matt’s CD – here’s “Chemical Marriage”…

Questions? Comments? Please Share!

 

 

 

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Filed under Art and Literature, Music, Uncategorized

Welcome to the 2013 Marie Awards!

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This is the voice of¬†Neil from The Young Ones, welcoming you to the¬†Marie Awards, where we will be counting down the highs, the lows,¬†the slight achievements, and the¬†major fails¬†of My Wild Surmise for the year 2013.¬†¬†Since its inception in May, My Wild Surmise has been¬†wildly surmising¬†about all manner of things related to music based on shakey facts from Wikipedia and various YouTube videos.¬† Now let’s go to our co-host and creator of all this ridiculosity, Marie, for¬†our first offering in today’s embarrassing outpouring of self-congratulatory alternating with self-derisive malarkey. Marie, take it away…

Marie: Well, Neil, first I’d like to thank you for lending your voice to my imaginary co-host. Let’s kick off this major event in the life of my blog by looking at what other people have done, specifically, the YouTube geniuses that have made my extreme YouTube addiction such a fun, entertaining monkey to have on my back.

In the category of mind-blowing video art that makes you think you’ve accidentally dropped some acid when in fact you’ve only taken your blood pressure pill and some Tums, the award goes to fellow blogger MetalGuruMessiah for Kansas’ “Portrait (He Knew)”.¬† I love this song, and Mr. Messiah certainly does it justice with his outstanding video…

Neil: Wow, far out, man. I mean Marie. I mean, it was no “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, but still pretty cool.

Marie: Cool indeed, Neil.¬†And so is the recipient of our next award, “YouTube Covermeister of 2013”, Larry L.!¬† Give it up for Larry L., everyone!¬† A former wedding band musician, Larry L. is keeping the music alive for all us YouTube junkies in his home, week after week.¬† Many thanks to Mr. L. for his dedication!¬† Larry L, as I’ve told you before, you’re my kind of guy.¬† I could sit on that couch in the background and listen to you all night.¬† Here’s a song that exemplifies everything I love about Larry L. – honest, simple, humble, and expertly done.¬† Enjoy the beautiful “Reflections of My Life”, originally by the Marmalade.

Neil: But, Marie, he’s an old guy – I thought we weren’t supposed to trust anyone over thirty.¬† He’s gotta be a bread head, man.

Marie: Neil, maybe you haven’t noticed, but you’re an old guy too.¬†You’re only young in my head…but¬†wait…I¬†saw you on that episode of Midsomer¬†Murders and¬†that spoiled that delusion. The fact is, we’re pretty much all old guys here, including myself…the female version, I mean.¬† Screw youth. ¬†Just get over it.

Now that we’ve looked at the achievements of others, let’s go ahead and¬†present my biggest fail.¬†¬†A great musician that deserves far more than I’ve given him, which is a partially read biography and a never written post – it can only be Jeff Beck.¬† Here’s the great Mr. Beck with one of the ass kickingest songs in the history of rock ‘n roll…”Going Down”…

Neil: Reminds me a¬†lot of “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, except faster.¬†¬†And completely different styles, course.

Marie.¬† ……¬†¬†silence¬†…..¬† Moving 0n to our next category, most paranoia inducing song and post, there can only be one contender, and that would be the post titled, “A Friday Song for the Land of the Free” with its accompanying song.¬† Umm…excuse me a minute…Dear Big Brother, I know that posting that song¬†probably put me on some kind of¬†top-secret¬†pothead radar or something, but let me reiterate…I JUST LIKE THE SONG!¬† It does not reflect the personal views or lifestyle of this blogger.¬† Now light up or leave me alone.¬† Sorry, Big Brother!¬† That was just another song from another band (cough, cough¬†TRAFFIC cough, cough) that’ll probably be in a future post.¬† Again, just liking the song, no reflecting of views, etc.

Okay, the award for “Most Paranoia Inducing Song” goes to “Shanty”!¬† (And the crowd smiles wanly and stares at me with red eyes.) Jonathan Edwards, live this time, with his lovely daughter, Grace.

Neil: Marie, that was heavy, man, but you’re probably going to get a bunch of breadheads after you for that.¬† Better stick with something safe like “Hurdy Gurdy Man”.¬† Just sayin’.

Marie: Neil!  I mean, I appreciate you lending your voice and all, but this self-promotion is out of hand!  It is you..YOU!  That has become the breadhead! Now sit over there and eat your lentils and let me announce the next award, which is for best new (to me) music.

Neil

I’m generally really hesitant to even bother listening to music from this century – I usually close-mindedly assume that it’s just going to be more of this crappy crap substitute for music that’s foisted on to us at every given opportunity, but when ultra-cool fellow blogger Matt Syverson over at Paperback Rocker posted some songs by Ryan Adams, I decided to give¬†them¬†a listen¬†because I trust and respect his judgment. It turns out I was right to do so.¬† This kid has made some of the best new music I’ve heard in years.¬† This song is the first one of his I heard, and it is¬†a favorite.¬† Here’s “Magnolia Mountain”.

Neil: ……¬† silence …..

Marie: Neil? You there?

Neil: …. yeah ….if you still want me.

Marie: Of course I do, Neil!¬† You know you’re my man. We go way back, baby.¬† Remember I used to read aloud from your book to entertain my friends and all?

Neil: well, all right.¬† I’ll let it go this time, but you’ve changed.¬† You’re such a straight these days.¬† What a drag.

Marie: Of course I am, Neil. I had to grow up.¬† I had to get a job and raise a kid.¬† But the old me lives on too.¬† Why else would I listen over and over to songs from my not so draggish days?¬† Like this next one.¬† This song wins the award for most played YouTube video of the year.¬† I¬†watched this clip¬†so many times this year, it really was embarrassing.¬†It got so bad that I would¬†exit the screen when someone walked by as if it was internet porn for fear of being the target of ugly terms like “obsessive-compulsive behavior” and “whack job”.¬† Here’s Roxy Music with my beloved¬†“Mother of Pearl”; a fantastic performance.

Neil: That was all right, I guess.¬† But I can’t help but notice that there’s no Donovan or Steve Hillage on the list of awards.¬† Both do a great version of the best song in the history of rock.

Marie: I have nothing against Donovan or Steve Hillage, Neil, but I can’t include everyone here.¬† In fact, this post is already getting way too long and there’s probably no one listening to our awards show anymore as it is.¬† Let’s just do one more and wrap it up.

This award is for the most important song (to me) that I’ve talked about this year.¬† This is the song that opened my doors of perception, at a very early age,¬†to a new kind of music; the kind they played on¬†the FM¬†dial on my little blue radio I got as a kid. Specifically, it created in me a love for the electric guitar – its many moods and expressions – that has lasted all my life, influencing me in the choices I made, causing me to spend my small resources on albums and concerts; and inclining me forever¬†toward dating and hanging out with musicians. This is the long, heavy-duty, extra delicious¬†version; you really need to listen to it on vinyl and at high volume, as mega-cool Bruce at vinyl connection can tell you, but if you’re like me and ditched all your records way back, some decent headphones will help. Here’s “Nantucket Sleighride”, by¬†Mountain.

Neil: I gotta admit, that was pretty groovy, Marie.

Marie: Profoundly groovy, Neil.¬† Well, that’s it – thanks for coming!

Neil: That’s it?¬† REALLY? You got my voice here and you’ve not even going to play my song?¬† Unbelievable.¬† You know you like it, Marie.

Marie: Sigh.¬† You’re right, Neil. I can’t lie. Your version of “Hurdy Gurdy Man” is the best I’ve ever heard.¬† Better than Donovan.¬† Better than Hillage.¬† Better than them all.¬† And you know what Neil?¬† I owe it to you to play it.¬† You’ve been¬†sort of my blog mascot.¬†And my mascot in life, really.¬† So here’s Neil (Nigel Planer) and some slightly mysterious and not fully disclosed but real, serious musicians doing…that song.¬†¬†Don’t make me¬†say it again. It starts at about 1:40.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

May the Hurdy Gurdy Man bring you all the roly poly flaky pastry you can handle!

May there be peace and joy and flaky pastry buzzes galore in your shanty!

May¬†we never have to go to another horrible New Year’s Eve party and hide between the cars in the driveway to avoid the drunken, slobbery kissing ritual again!¬† Or maybe that was just me.

Questions?  Shocked and Horrified Observations?  Anything?  Please Share!

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Filed under Blogging, Humor, Humour, Music, Uncategorized

For Keith’s 70th Birthday: My Stones Story, “Grievous Angie”

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This is a short story I wrote that was published by a literary magazine earlier this year.¬† It has now gone into the publication’s archives, so I am¬†free to share it with all of you, just in time for Keith Richards’ seventieth birthday, which I took as an omen that I should post it, although I’m a little hesitant to do so.¬† It’s utterly lacking in my usual feeble attempts at humor – in fact, it’s a little weird and melodramatic.¬†¬†I was trying to capture¬†the feeling of hedonism¬†that the Stones so successfully convey in their music, while¬†depicting some of the angst and confusion that people often experience at the age of the characters.¬† I was also thinking how great it would be if when we are young, we had some way of seeing the¬†ultimate¬†destinations¬†of the paths that we choose in life and thereby avoid their dangers.

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To be honest, I was a little surprised that a literary magazine would want to publish a story of this style and genre – I wrote it as an experimentation with the “young adult”¬†genre and submitted it on a whim, thinking it was a little sucky and probably wouldn’t get published.¬†¬†But what the heck do I know?¬† Maybe the editor was a Stones fan, and that can pretty much outweigh every other possible consideration, as every true Stones fan knows.¬† My groovy, hot stuff followers that have been reading my “musical memoirs” will¬†recognize certain elements of this story, and a few aspects of the main character, “Angie”, will most definitely be familiar.

I’m going to link¬†songs that were used as they appear throughout the story.¬†¬†It might be¬†fun to listen to the songs¬†as you read – that way you’ll be getting the full “Angie” experience.¬†¬†A note about the title – it’s a tongue in cheek reference to Gram Parsons’ album “Grievous Angel” and his influence on the Stones, particularly on Keith; also it is a reference to the Stones’ “Angie”, of course.¬† My dear followers and fellow Stones fans, I hope you will enjoy “Grievous Angie”.

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GRIEVOUS ANGIE

By Marie

¬†Angie crouched down, with some difficulty, in her tight green satin bell bottoms between a Camaro and a Mustang in the driveway.¬† Squatting there, balanced on her platform shoes, she lit a cigarette and smoked it down as she waited for the Auld Lang Syne-ing, Happy New Year-ing, and midnight kissing to be over.¬† Angie was not one to take a chance on being left out during the midnight kissing ritual, and the whole thing seemed ridiculously contrived anyway.¬† Fortunately, no one discovered her hidden there and she re-entered the house to the sound of ‚ÄúStayin‚Äô Alive‚ÄĚ with her dignity intact.

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The house was full of invincible college freshmen home from their universities for the winter break. ¬†As she walked through the sea of Izod shirts, sparkling ‚ÄúNew Year‚Äôs Eve‚ÄĚ attire, and feathered hair searching for her friend Kate, Angie cringed at the shrill laughter of the sorority sisters and the loud, testosterone-driven crowing of the frat boys. ¬†She had graduated with these people and was part of their crowd, although while they had all gone to college in a mass exodus last fall, leaving Jackson for Ole Miss and Mississippi State,¬†Angie was still living at home, selling make-up part-time at the mall and working on her drawings and paintings in her childhood bedroom.¬† She had a stack of college applications and catalogs on her nightstand, and every night after leaving the mall, she went home, walked past the sounds of rage and sobbing coming from her parents‚Äô bedroom, and sorted through them. ¬†She compared course requirements for art degrees and perused the pictures of students walking around campus and hanging out in dorm rooms, confident and beautiful, like young gods and goddesses cavorting about in their newfound realms.

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Her dreams were strange and convoluted, full of fevered flashes of debauchery and ancient mythology mixed with images of LSU, Auburn, and Tulane from the catalogs.  Night after night she went to sleep excited and hopeful, having made her final decision about which application to mail the next day.  But every morning, the chosen application stayed on top of the stack on the nightstand, and she softly kissed her mother’s often red and swollen cheek on her way out of the door, promising to come straight home after work.

She made her way through the disco-thumping, inferno-burning, night-fevered rooms until she found Kate, stoned of course, giggling on the sofa in the basement with some like-minded Greeks, watching Monty Python and rubbing thighs with a smiling, dark-haired boy wearing mirrored sunglasses.  It was quite a challenge to extract her from this warm, fuzzy cocoon, but Angie was persistent.  Once she had Kate firmly in hand, the two girls shouldered and squeezed their way through the mass of sweating, disco-inflamed bodies and escaped through the kitchen door.

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The night was clear and cold for Mississippi; the southern sky was lit by a heavy moon with a full complement of stars, and the girls‚Äô breath came out in clouds of vapor and cigarette smoke.¬† They got into Angie‚Äôs Olds 442 and sat shivering in their suede jackets, waiting for the car to warm up. When Kate started rummaging through the pile of eight track tapes on the floorboard, Angie quickly said, ‚ÄúPut in the Stones.¬† I‚Äôve got to get that disco crap out of my head.‚Ä̬† This was a sore spot between the two.¬† While Kate was being swept away with disco fever along with most of her sorority sisters up at Ole Miss, Angie was firmly in the ‚Äúdisco sucks‚ÄĚ camp.¬† Kate still dug the Stones, though, so she popped in ‚ÄúBlack and Blue‚ÄĚ without complaint.

They drove off to the sound of ‚ÄúHot Stuff‚ÄĚ, past the TG&Y parking lot where the jocks and cheerleaders were hanging out, past the Jitney Jungle parking lot where the band nerds and church kids were having their good, clean fun, and into the huge neighborhood of ranch houses where Angie lived.¬† As usual, there was a party going on at Dion‚Äôs house, but tonight cars lined both sides of the street all the way to the stop sign. Dion was the undisputed leader of the local hoods and heads, and he supplied most of their pot.¬† He was a couple of years older than the girls, so Angie and Kate had only admired him from a distance.¬† However, they did have a connection. Kate‚Äôs older brother, Stan, was one of Dion‚Äôs lackeys, and his Chevelle was parked in the driveway.¬† Fueled by the sexy, driving music, the mental image of Mick Jagger posturing on stage in his androgynous, erotic way, and their own young, warm blood, they slowed down to a crawl as they passed the house.

‚ÄúKate, I know what you‚Äôre thinking, but we can‚Äôt go in there.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúWhy not?¬† Stan‚Äôs there.¬† It‚Äôll be okay.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúNo, it won‚Äôt.¬† I don‚Äôt know those people and I‚Äôm not crashing their party.¬† If you want to go, I‚Äôll drop you off and Stan can take you home later.‚ÄĚ

The argument went on like this while they slowly circled the block.  For Angie, going to a party at Dion’s just didn’t seem doable, although the draw was almost irresistible.  These were the kids who had parked their hot-rods behind the vo-tech building instead of in the main lot and smoked cigarettes behind the gym back in high school.  They were the ones who had sat with arms folded during the pep rallies, sheets of long hair obscuring their expressionless faces.  Angie had badly wanted to be one of them.  She too had parked behind the vo-tech building and leaned against the gym wall during break, smoking Virginia Slims by herself while her own childhood friends hung out in the courtyard and flirted with the jocks.  Despite her efforts, she never was able to break into their world.  Pegged as a college-bound preppy, a characterization which she despised, she had given up on breaking into the group by graduation.  However, she couldn’t see herself as a sorority sister like Kate either, and was therefore lost in the proverbial chasm between two worlds.

Kate ultimately won the argument.¬† They parked the Olds on the street and approached Dion‚Äôs house.¬† They could hear the Stones‚Äô ‚ÄúJumping Jack Flash‚ÄĚ playing, growing stronger and louder as they drew closer. It was a house just like the others on the street ‚Äď flat roofed and red bricked.

There was no need for Angie and Kate to knock at the door; it was standing open despite the coldness of the winter night.  Through the doorway, they could just barely see people moving and dancing slowly in the murky, smoke-filled darkness.  Angie hesitantly followed Kate out of the night air and into the crowded room.

Like the college party, a vague sense of abandon surrounded the revelers, but that’s where the similarity ended.  The Izods and sparkles were replaced with concert tee-shirts.  The bodies moved more slowly, the music was louder, and the air seemed thicker, filled with the sweet yet acrid smell of marijuana mixed with incense. Under the black lighting, colors seemed strange and unfamiliar. Long hair hid many faces and talking was subdued; Angie couldn’t make out what anyone was saying.  What she had thought was a living room seemed to go on and on, or was she going in a circle?  Holding fast to the back of Kate’s shirt, she scanned the crowd nervously.  When next she glanced at her hand, it was empty and Kate had disappeared.  She looked around, panic-stricken, for the bright pink fabric and blond hair that would mean Kate was nearby, but her search proved futile.

Pressed forward by the dense crowd and with no idea where she was going, she figured that if she just kept moving, she would find her friend or maybe wind up back at the door.  With this thought, she turned and looked behind her for the door that she had entered only a few moments earlier, or had she been here longer than that?  Although the door had stood open, with the cold night air blasting through unhindered, it was not visible from where she stood, nor did she feel the fresh air anymore.  Only the steamy heat put off by the writhing bodies encompassed her.

It began to appear that the paneling was closing in on her and the shag carpeting under her feet was growing like grass, becoming longer, and starting to entwine itself about her ankles. The music had changed; it seemed to flow into ‚ÄúGimme Shelter‚ÄĚ with no break, and with no time to switch records or tapes. In fact, Angie had never heard music that sounded like this.¬† It was almost as if the Stones were playing in the room, or all over the room, or were they playing in her head?¬† With an effort, Angie pulled herself toward the paneled wall, thinking that maybe she could lean against it, catch her breath, and search the dark room for signs of Kate or the door through which she had entered.

Drawing closer to the wall, she noticed that ivy leaves covered much of the paneling.  She sunk her hands and face into the leaves, inhaling their alluring scent.  Soothed and comforted, she pressed further into the foliage, as if trying to hide herself from the cacophony and confusion behind her, and marveled at the thickness of the ivy.  She couldn’t reach the end of it; the wall itself seemed to be made of green, fragrant leaves. What she had thought was paneling seemed to actually be thickly woven branches and vines. Soon, she was becoming entangled in the living wall, which got thicker and woodier as she tried to extricate herself.  Fat, purple grapes appeared, hanging heavily from the boughs as sweet smelling honeysuckle brushed her face and anointed her hair with its nectar.  The vines were densely intertwined, preventing any further progress forward or backward, and Angie was trapped, helpless and bound by the verdant green prison which held her captive.

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Despite her bondage, she had no fear and was mesmerized by the beauty around her.  When she tried to move, the tendrils tightened about her thighs and waist, ripping away the clothing that she had so carefully chosen for the evening, replacing it with leaves and honeysuckle, and covering her as if she were in the Garden of Eden.  Having thus transformed her, the foliage began to recede slightly, and Angie could see beyond it into another room, or was it a clearing in a forest?  A towering male figure, partially obscured by the foliage, appeared just beyond the perimeter of the vines, and reaching forward with gentle hands, he tenderly released her from her confinement, brushing away the last tendrils that were holding on to her greedily, as if they were jealous and could not bear to let her go.

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As she came closer to the tall, slender figure, she could see him more clearly.¬† He was dressed in a coat of fox fur that reached the ground and a wreath of leaves encircled his untamed copper curls. ¬†His clear blue eyes were heavily lined with kohl, a long tiger‚Äôs tooth hung from his ear, and silver bracelets and rings adorned his elegant arms and hands. His skin was pale and smooth, and his slim fingers were graceful; they touched her face carefully, as to not scratch her with his long, black nails.¬† Then he said, in a soft, low voice, ‚ÄúWelcome to my party, sweetheart‚ÄĚ.

At this, laughter rang out from the edges of the clearing, or was it a room?¬† Startled, Angie looked around quickly.¬† Reposed upon the green grass/carpet were other lovely girls, arrayed in flowers and vines like her, and handsome young men, wearing animal skins. One of the girls shouted out joyfully, ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs Angie!‚Ä̬† Angie looked carefully at her face.¬† Astonished, she realized that this was Mae, who was one of the girls that had smoked against the gym wall during high school and had ignored her when she attempted to join her group. Mae jumped up, and smiling, embraced Angie, saying, ‚ÄúI knew we would see you here one day.¬† I knew that Dion would want you‚ÄĚ.

Dion watched her closely as she looked around in amazement at all of the familiar faces.¬† All those people from high school, the ones that she had so badly wanted to join, were smiling and welcoming her with upraised goblets of dark red wine.¬† She suddenly realized that the music had changed again; hypnotic percussion and Jagger‚Äôs wild, animalistic screeches signaled the beginning of ‚ÄúSympathy for the Devil‚ÄĚ.¬† The beautiful ones on the ground were instantly up and twining around each other as the vines, speaking seductively in an unfamiliar language, and mimicking the cries and calls of wild animals, with their lips stained red from the wine.¬† Where once there had been a sullen lack of expression, there was now animation and life.¬† Where once there had been acne and greasy hair, there were now clear, glowing faces and thick tresses that curled and flowed down their strong, perfect backs.

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Angie felt a touch on her wrist, and Dion handed her a crystal goblet of the dark wine.  Dazed, she raised it to her lips and drank deeply.  She had never tasted such wine; it was smooth and warm, as if it had been squeezed directly from grapes lying hot in the sun, still on the vine.  As it flowed down her throat, its power forced her to close her eyes.  Standing with eyes shut, she felt his gentle hand take the precious liquid from her, and place bracelets on her wrists and rings on her fingers.  Then he pulled her inside the fur coat to his body, where the smell and feel of him, honey, wine, and fierce heat, overwhelmed her with dreamlike images and sensations.  Suddenly a searing image flashed in her head, nearly knocking her to the ground.

 She saw herself in a strange bed alone, waiting for him to join her.  She heard his voice on the phone, and picking up the extension in the bedroom, heard him talking to another woman, saying the things she desperately wanted to hear herself.

Angie, with pupils dilated and breathing shallowly, was too disoriented to acknowledge the vision; it was just part of the party.  Dion was kissing her neck, then kissing her mouth with his soft, honey-flavored lips.

  She saw herself on her knees, begging him not to leave.  Then she was asleep on the floor by an unfamiliar door, like a pet dog, waiting for him to come home.

 No longer in a crowd, she was alone with Dion. He gently pulled her to the ground, and she was consumed by him entirely; there was nothing left but his body and the music that surrounded them. Looking around her, she could see only him, and beyond him there was darkness.  But a shadow fell over his stunning face and it began to change; the beautiful eyes became deeply hooded and dark.   The music became distorted and echoed bizarrely all around them.

 She saw herself crying out in pain as he slapped her hard across the face before walking out the door, again.  And yet, she felt the same old intense yearning and desire for him that no amount of pain or humiliation seemed to destroy.   

 He was kissing her still, deeply and passionately, but the honey had turned bitter.  There was a strange, pungent smell in the air, like the rotting flesh of animals. She felt that she could scarcely breathe; all was plunged into blackness.  The music had become a reflection of madness as all of the songs from the night blended into one dissonant, orgiastic symphony.

She saw herself in a big room with expensive looking furnishings, holding a broken wine bottle in her hand.  Her face was lined and tired.  She walked up to the still beautiful figure of the sleeping man and plunged the broken bottle deep into his neck.  Dark, red blood, like wine, flowed from the wound and covered her ageing body as she sliced her wrists with the same bottle, and lay down beside him.

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 The darkness that had surrounded her gradually faded as the light of dawn dimly illuminated the silent room.  Farrah Faucette beamed down beneficently from the wall with her mega-watt smile upon Angie, who was lying on a bed in a typical 1970s bedroom, complete with lava lamp and psychedelic posters.  Next to her was Dion, the cool leader of the hoods and heads in her suburban home town.  Mae and others that she remembered from high school, the vo-tech-parkers and gym-wall-smokers, were asleep on the floor, dressed in the usual uniform of concert tees and jeans.  She turned to look at the sleeping Dion, who was without any signs of eye liner or long black nails.  She was amazed by his intense beauty; a beauty that was almost too perfect and ethereal to be possessed by a mere mortal man.  She felt an overwhelming, almost painful desire and longing for him and was filled with joy at the thought that he had chosen her.  Struggling to understand all that had happened the night before, she thought that maybe somebody had slipped her some acid and was relieved that everything looked so normal now.

Quietly, she got out of the bed, tiptoed around the comatose revelers, and made her way down the hall to the bathroom where she splashed her face with water from the tap.  Looking up, she caught a glimpse of green in the reflection of the mirror.  She whirled around, and there on the floor by the tub was a wreath of vine leaves.

The sight of this startling relic caused fragments of her visions from the night before to begin flashing powerfully through her mind. Leaving the bathroom and walking numbly down the hall toward the bedroom where her god was sleeping amongst his followers, she now noticed that there were ivy leaves and stray grapes lying on the dark green shag carpeting.  She saw a twitching, budding vine extending from the paneling on the wall.  There was an empty wine bottle lying on the carpeting, and when she tried to pick it up, the carpet began to wrap itself around it, as if protecting its master from potential danger.  She pulled the bottle away from the carpet, strode purposefully back into the bathroom, and slammed it down hard on the porcelain tub, transforming it into a deadly, jagged weapon.

Carrying the broken bottle back to the bedroom and approaching the side of the bed, she looked down at Dion‚Äôs exquisite face and body for a long time.¬† Finally, she leaned over and whispered softly into his ear, ‚ÄúI have to let you live, you beautiful son of a bitch, and you have to let me do the same‚ÄĚ. ¬†She threw the broken bottle on the bed, and put on her somehow still-intact green satin bell bottoms, sparkly shirt, and platform shoes.¬† Dion was still and silent, but his blue eyes, clouded with rage and tears, followed her as she walked out of the room.

Angie walked back into the living room, where people were passed out, including Kate and her brother. Although the front door still stood open, the room was as sticky hot as if it was a mid-summer day.¬† Somewhere in the house a transistor radio was playing softly, and she could just barely hear the familiar melody of ‚ÄúWild Horses‚ÄĚ.¬† The volume increased and the music seemed to come alive, as it had the night before, commanding her to return to the bedroom she had just abandoned.¬† She covered her ears with her hands and with great effort ran across the floor, where the shag carpeting was undulating as if blown by a breeze, and past the reaching vines that were growing rapidly from the walls.¬† The door was closing quickly, but Angie was able to squeeze through just before it furiously slammed shut.

She walked down the suburban street in the cold, early morning light, got in the Olds 442 and cranked it up.¬† The Stones tape was still playing on the eight track and the music burst forth loudly.¬† Suddenly aware of something bulky in her pocket, she reached in and pulled out a collection of silver rings and bracelets.¬† After contemplating them for a moment, she rolled down the window and tossed them into the street.¬† Then she ripped the tape out of the player and pitched it out too. ¬†She threw the Olds into gear and peeled out toward home.¬† There were applications to be finished and mailed; time would not wait.¬† Down from above, as if from Mount Olympus itself, the Stones’ “Bitch” thundered¬†throughout the¬†sleepy neighborhood, drawing¬†residents out of their homes to stare wild-eyed into the sky, like the trumps of heaven had sounded.

Dedicated to Rock’s Hedonist Extraordinaire on His 70th Birthday…

Keith Richards

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