Monday, June 2, 2014

brody dalle

It's the summer of '87 in South Carolina. I'm 15. My parents have rented this place across the road from the beach, because Dad says, “You pay twice the price to keep from having to cross the road.” My friend Davey was supposed to come with me but his grandfather died unexpectedly two days before we left, so he had to stay.

I mostly figure out how to entertain myself. I walk the beach a lot listening to my Walkman. Sit in the hammock on the back deck of the house and read. Watch the VCR tapes I brought with me. Play cards with my mom.

The second night we're there, I'm in the hammock reading when I look to the house next door and realize I can see straight into one of the bathrooms. A woman is in there, drying off after her shower. She could be 31 or 46. Clueless 15-year-olds like can't tell much difference. Besides, I'm too distracted by her nudity and by the opossum-in-the-street frozen uncertainty of whether I'm doing something wrong and should flee, of whether I could stop staring if I even wanted to stop. Which I don't. Because, y'know, boobies.

So I keep rocking in the hammock, book open. I conveniently position the book so I'm looking over it and at her. This gift of an inappropriate moment lasts perhaps five minutes, but it feels like an entire Cinemax movie. At one point, I worry that she notices me watching her, but she continues her business, blow-drying her hair and slipping into a black lace nightgown before walking out and turning off the lights.

Who knows what I did the next day. Whatever I did, alone or with my parents, was merely prelude and clock watching and plotting to ensure I could be on that hammock at the same time, just in case this miracle moment was part of a routine.

I returned to the hammock early. I'm not five pages in when she walks into that inter-dimensional portal. This time, instead of seeing the scene in medias res, I get the alpha and omega. I see her disrobe, disappear into the shower, and reenter my line of sight wet, to dry off.

After I eat my ham sandwich lunch the next day, I grab my Walkman and head for a nap on the hammock. I see her. She's stretched out on one of those tri-fold plastic sun chairs. She's lying on her stomach. Her neon orange bikini top is untied, the strands dangling off the edges of the chair.

Her head turns just a couple of degrees. Her sunglasses reflect the sunlight. She waves at me. I am too cowed to move. She smiles. I wonder if astronauts can hear my heart pounding from orbit.

That night, she again takes a shower. Same time. She's in there longer. She knows I'm there. She is soaking up my lust like ultraviolet rays, and it gives her body a glow.

This story is complete fiction. But that woman in the bathroom is Brody Dalle.

I'm 17 and my sister is a sophomore in college. In October, I travel to Athens to visit her and watch the Bulldogs play the Vols, and I get to stay the night in her dorm room.

After the game, she takes me with her to a party. I mostly hold a solo cup of piss-tasting beer in my hand, but I only take sips whenever I can manage to not think about what's in the cup. Several of Jane's KD sisters have oogled me like a stuffed animal Jane won at the county fair. I'm soooooo cute. I'm soooooo adorable. I'm soooooo much sweeter than their pain-in-the-ass younger brothers with their zits and violent fits. My sister smiles and agrees. We've always gotten along. We don't know why, exactly. We've just know we're lucky.

My sister's maybe-boyfriend shows up, so she disappears. Her one non-sorority friend sits next to me. Her eyeliner is caked on, and she wears a ripped-up Black Flag shirt and combat boots. She smokes like a chimney. Her voice is scratchy and deep, like she wore her voice to bed without washing or ironing it for a week straight. It is the voice of someone who has seen more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy.

She talks at me. Not that she doesn't care to know about me; she just sees quickly that I don't have much to offer. No wild tales. No exotic adventures. Both of us would rather hear her talk.

Into her who-knows-how-many'th beer, she grabs my hand and says “Let’s blow this party.” We walk the campus for an hour and she talks about her plans to work in a bar like CBGBs, learn to work the sound, maybe work her way into music production.

She plops me down on a concrete bench and keeps talking, but she rubs her hand slowly up and down on my thigh and says she loves feeling buzzed and reckless. “I wish we could be riding a motorcycle right now,” she says.

She kisses me once, letting her tongue make the briefest of contact with my lips, and then laughs and grabs my hand and walks me back to the party. Her laughter wasn’t mocking or insulting.

This story is complete fiction. But that young woman whose tongue caressed my lips for a brief second is Brody Dalle.

Brody Dalle is the female voice of rock ‘n roll.

I bought Brody’s new album, Diploid Love. It’s received mixed reviews. I like it, but I can’t lie. I like the album because Brody Dalle, with only her voice, paints in my mind the idea of every desirable, unreachable, brilliant, tortured woman I’ve ever wished I was cool enough, unstable enough, miserable enough to understand.

I had no idea who she was until May 2014 when I heard a song from her new album and realized she was the lead singer of the briefly-lived Spinerette.

So now I know her name and have seen a few pictures, but I don't know her. I don’t really want to know anything about Brody Dalle; it would screw with my illusion. She is Rock. She’s the sex, the drugs, the head banging and the seduction, the shot glass and the shattered guitar, the El Camino and the old school jam box. She’s Courtney Love and Shirley Manson and a dash of Stevie Nicks and Joan Jett. There might even be some Lita Ford and Janis Joplin in there.

Unless you’ve been trapped under a rock for the last several decades, you won't even try to use up all your fingers and toes to count up the badass women rockers out there. Not now, and not really ever. There’s not many badass rockers period, penis or no penis, making music in 2014. Rock is going the way of the dinosaur -- or it's at least in some deep form of hibernation -- but anyone out there who can rage against the dying of the light is likely to get my enthusiasm. And Brody Dalle, on some level, at least in my mind, is raging.

So Brody, thanks for all the memories we never had together. Keep that rock flame lit.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

We be rockin' and ragin' tonite, brutha!

troutking said...

Nice! You had me fooled--twice!

troutking said...

Where were you, anonymous?

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