Yard Stick Vs. Tape Measure – 1986/1994
April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
“Fill the pit!” The mic dropped screaming kick kick and I floated. Hands were grass blowing waves licking and I tried to remember the words (they yelled them for me). A scuffle growled from the amps and as they lifted I swam for the floor. Grope up my shirt so I punched as Velcro ate his guitar and the screech poked through my plugs there it is! can’t miss my mark. “Electronic faucet I drink from the socket” wrapped the cord around my wrist.
“Pull the plug!” Sasha smirked as she walked on heads.
“Throw the switch!” They lofted me by my legs, made a wish, and pulled.
“Fuck the microphone…” Shirt over face upside-down.
“….YOU BITCH!” 8-track pounded, Caroline dived in with me, and I kissed that cute girl that had been looking at me all night asking for it – licking from pierced lip to ear, following the invisible chain. She smiled from underneath her smoky green hair and gave me the finger as they dragged me back to the stage.
“Where the fuck is Jo!” this gutterpunk yelled between punches, as I tore the duck tape from my cheeks. The mic was somewhere down my shirt so I fished for it.
“Jo’s not home right now.” I choked up on the nearest guitar.
“Can I take a message?” Caroline jumped up on his shoulders, jammed fingers in his ears, and leaned back. He jerked forward and she flipped over onto the stage, knocking over the water bottles. I gave her the guitar.
“Alright, enough with the sound check.” Sasha flew up towards the ceiling, grabbed the tire-swing, and hung herself by the knees.
“We’re Suspender. Prepare to die.”
All this time Velcro was laying down his patented Nagasaki-buzz/drone, while 8-track shifted from a bouncy box-car to a helicopter lopping off tree-tops. Caroline joined in with this thing she stole from a laxative commercial the night before, and I looked for a hole in the noise to rip through, but I couldn’t see it, not like Jo could.
This is the story of the week I took her place. Of a dream come true.
I’m tempted to start at the very beginning, when Intruder Alert! ruled and I was a medium-sized snot, dreaming of sticking my tongue up Frisbee. Of course, she wouldn’t have me – too busy with Jenny and fucking antizine (sorry, Friz, that’s how I felt then) – but that didn’t stop me from fantasizing big time. The first time I heard Joan was on an Intruder tape that Jenny sent me, I guess it was a bootleg of one of their shows on the coast, and I didn’t take it out of my walkthing for a month, drowning in the buzz and her voice from I don’t know where. She must have been only 15, but to me she was fucking Athena or something, running through the woods bow drawn shooting all the boy bands in their crotches and loving it. Sure, Intruder was half guy, but Jo made them shine, gave them her smell.
Anyway, so whenever the newest anti came out I would read it in the bathroom, Jo singing in my ears while Frisbee ranted at me, and I would lock the door so no one walked in with my hand between my legs, lost in afterschool extra-special daydreams of a little queer girl getting what she wanted and then some. I always came but they never did – so abstract, so far away – and the constant rubbing, like I was calling up my own personal genie, kept me sane but alienated me from the “real” world. My first wish was always to fuck them both, the second was to make them fall in love with me, and the third to have them fight for my attention, to the death. Of course, nothing ever came forth but an indescribable longing. That, and the realization that I was alone.
The first time I saw Jo was at an Intruder show when I was 14, and although I didn’t realize it then, that was also the first time I saw Sasha. Intruder wasn’t actually on a tour, they just happened to be back east for a few days getting into trouble. I had no idea that they were around, but it’s true that I was extra-hyper that weekend, almost going so far as to tell Patricia – my then best friend and partner in grime – that I had this monster-sized crush on her. But I regained my sanity and only asked her out to the Treehouse, because I wouldn’t dare go alone, especially on kinda-new band night. So we gave our hair Kool-Aid dye jobs and borrowed her father’s leather jackets (he was that way in the 60’s), tried our best to look rough and experienced, and took the bus to 3rd street. As soon as we got there I knew that something was up, because there were about 500 pre-punks roaming around outside, shitting in their pants in anticipation, breaking the bottles they swiped from home before they even got drunk. Lucky for me Phone was working the door that night, and when he waived us to the front of the line he slipped a note into my right butt pocket with one hand, tagging that night’s icon our cheeks with the other. It was a upside down “T”, kind of like one of those perpendicular signs in Geometry, and the deal was that if he let us in penny-minus he could mark us wherever he wanted. Plus, he was a really good artist, and the note made up for any temp-hate from face adjustments (it took us hours just to get that punker-than-thou-without-even-trying look). What did it say? Well, as me and Pat passed through the living room (where the girls hung) and the kitchen (guys and band members), finally taking up space by the tetherball pole, I gave a look and….
INTRUDER ALERT! YOU OWE ME BIG TIME! (in quick, felt-tip black on the back of the next week’s flier – Slow Cone was playing)
“Uh….Anna…isn’t that…” Over by the bowling pin sculpture of God….
“Is my spit fawcet running? Do I have a straight jacket?”
“We’re both going to die!”
“Not quite. Watch my shadow, I’m gonna attack….”
I gave her the pointy “stay” finger and started to circle the room. No wonder the pre-punks were restless, fucking Joan of Arc was getting ready to burn us all at the stake.
“Where are you sneaking off to?” Arm on my wrist, and I didn’t have to turn around to know I’d been robbed.
“I’m busy, Slinky……come back later.” There she was, past the Trouble Twins – I could almost taste her aura of sweat…
“Where’s my Eskimo Guy tape? I want to get it signed.” Did I mention why we call him that? Had this slinky hooked in one earlobe, and it stretched around the back of his peanutty shaved head to the other side. Worse than it sounds.
“Fuck, I ate it, O.K.? Let me go.” Jo! Don’t talk to that don’t-know-how-to-be! I’m coming…
“Man! When I loant it to ya I told ya that the deal was up when I said it was up. It’s up!” Plus, when he got mad his head bobbed up and down like those wobbly-top toy people.
“O.K. You got me. Go and talk to Pat, she’ll set you up.” Hated to do that, but I had to get away.
“Yeah, I’m a winner….” Bobbed in joy across the room, and I watched Pat start to freak. Gave her the open-fist “bathroom time” sign. She got the hint, and hopped in the girl closet before Slinky caught her.
“Pixie dust?” Some strange (yet cute) slurpette wagged a stick at me. I paused, weighed my options, and took a sly drag, all the while keeping an eye on my target. It was the green kind, and it was good.
“Thanks.” Yeah, she really was cute. One of those half-headed hair jobs, with the back missing and the front really long, so she could brush it back and barely reach her neck.
“There’s a lot more where that came from.” She must have been about 14, and you could tell that she was smooth yet firm just by glancing at her shoulders, that peaked out past her official Circle X uniform, a short-sleeved, polyester, red shirt with the Intruder Alert! logo stenciled on her right breast, “Hack” stitched in cursive on the left. Her shoes were plastic, translucent hi-tops with purple yarn laces, so you could tell she was going sockless. It looked like she had overalls on, but her shirt was buttoned, concealing the straps. Absolutely adorable.
“Maybe we’re coming from the same place…” Always wanted to say that.
“Come here.” She patted the spray-painted cement floor next to her.
“I will. But I have to do something real quick.” Gave her that “I think I really want you” hand-waive/smile combo, and I fully intended to follow through. She smirked, and went back to her Pixie stick.
So. Gathered myself, stepped over who I soon determined to be Circle X – it seemed that he had the flu or something, because he kept throwing up but it didn’t stink that much. Besides, he always drank after the shows, never before – in that way he was terribly straight edge. Yeah, right. As I hopped over his fetal-ball – more like a bunch of lint because he had a nasty brown wool sweater on – the lights suddenly dimmed and Masking Tape took the stage. Sure, Susanna was a real babe, with a voice like a baby bird, but I wasn’t about to fixate on a band I saw every week when Joan was around. She was about 10 feet away, over by the equipment corner, talking to Caroline about their set I guess, when out of nowhere 50 pre-punks summoned a hurricane, a smuggled in boom-box playing Flexidick at the eye of their storm. Unfortunately I was sucked into the body-winds before I could prepare my elbows and fists, and then it was breast-thigh-drumstick, everyone trying to bucket the good pieces. Of course, no one but Pat noticed my torment – the girls too busy tagging the walls, the guys too busy watching. And she wasn’t about to do anything direct, because they would have torn her to pieces and used her teeth as guitar picks. So when I swung around her way I gave her the locked-hands-overhead “tetherball chain!” yell, and she shimmied up the pole, unhooked my salvation, and approached the pseudo-pit close enough that she could throw it to me as I spun uncontrollably past, when some jerk had his face up my ass. Well, as soon as I wrapped my wrist with power, I turned to the nearest offender – Ronald, the guy who was fired from Circle X because he kept stealing quarters from the videogames and using them to order pizzas from nasty-ass Peppies’ of all places – gave him 3 seconds to desist, and then made him a steel necklace, sized personally for a snug fit. Choking, he put me down long enough for me to get a good whack at the radio, killing Tom’s whiny voice before I really got pissed off. At this point the storm started to die down a bit, and everyone soon realized that I was not only holding a chain, but on the average was 2 inches taller than them. All it took was a few cautionary swings for the junior high scabs to scamper off, leaving a hand-picked bunch of nothings that I didn’t even consider giving my attention to. Draped the chain around the back of my neck, gave Pat the “Fuck yeah!” finger, and headed over to Jo.
“Uh, can someone remove their radio from the floor?” That was Not Ian, the unofficial announcer-guy that took the stage before each set. He had on a Potato Power shirt, the light blue one with the stapler. “And has anyone seen Isabel?”
“Who?” That was half the audience, or all the out-of-towners – take your pick.
“You know, Masking Tape’s drummer?” We called him Not Ian because one time, at this particularly horrible show, just after he made his stupid announcements, the lead singer for the next band took the mic and said “Who was that boring jerk?”, to which the drummer replied “I don’t know, but he’s sure not Ian.” To this day no one knows who Ian is.
“Never mind.” She was hanging out by the door. Did I mention that she and Phone were going out then? Or that he was cheating behind her back left and right? The night she found out is one I’ll never forget – but I’ll save that story for another time.
Anyway. Not Ian awkwardly jumped off the stage and I was this close to Jo when Masking Tape started to play – Isabel dived behind her drum set just in time. Caroline took the opportunity to whisper something in Jo’s ear, take her by the hand, and drag her out to the back porch. Shit.
I wasn’t about to go out there, because that was the de-facto dressing room/ rehearsal space/ kickball field. So I turned around and started back to Pat, when I saw that she was busy with Isaac, the boy that she had the hots for since 5th grade. I hated to see her look at him that way instead of me, but I wasn’t about to get in the way of her happiness. Besides, if you went for boys he was the cutest one around, with chin-length brown hair, the best band-T’s you could think of, and a sly way of smiling and frowning at the same time that drove everyone wild. Everyone, that is, except me, and as I was scanning the room, I suddenly remembered the Pixie stick girl. She wasn’t in her previous spot – over by the ice chest, which had “One Handful Please” written on it – and just before I got totally bummed there was a tap on my shoulder. It was her.
“I hate Flexidick too.” She slid the chain from around my neck, and then held out her hand. “Come with me.” I took it, and it was very warm, yet harder than it looked.”What’s your name?” I tried to be cool about it, but my glow was obvious.
“All in due time. This way.” I was too focused on her to realize that she was leading me out to the back porch. I started to tense up.
“Don’t worry.” She squeezed my hand. “I just want you to meet someone.”
We passed by Ariel – who always worked the back, was as tall as I am, and had arms to die for – and it took a second for my eyes to adjust to the bright light above the steps. At the foot, concentrating on their guitars, were Jo and Caroline. Over by the garbage can was 69rpm, practicing some riffs because he wasn’t about to set up before the show only to tear down again. Pixie (I’ll call her that for brevity’s sake) yanked my arm and dragged me down the stairs. Then, she tapped Jo on the shoulder, and I just about died.
“Oh, hey. You having fun?” Jo smiled at the two of us. “Meet someone cool?”
“God, Joan. Don’t even start.” She turned to me, giving a little wink. “This is my friend, Annabelle Spencer. She knows Frisbee.”
I stood there and grinned like a stupid fuck, because I was totally shocked. How did Pixie know my name, and Frisbee for that matter?
“Is that right? Sit down, girl. Don’t be shy.” I wasn’t about to resist a direct order, especially coming for Jo. So I sat behind Caroline, and Pixie snuggled up to Jo, giving her a neck massage.
“So. Are you from around here?” That was Caroline, the other real half of Intruder. She’s around 5′ 9″ now, but then she was an inch or two shorter (18 but still growing, I guess). Her hair was completely shaved off, except for a long, purple stripe about an inch in width, which split her between the eyes. She had on a floral dress that went up to her knees.
“…yeah.” I couldn’t speak. It was like a dream.
“Actually, Annabelle’s a real fan of Intruder Alert!” Pixie tapped her foot against mine; I could see that her toes were painted Circle X red. I had to say something.
“Yeah. Frisbee gave me your first tape, and ever since then I’ve been totally hooked. You are so amazing!” God, I sounded like a total sponge.
“What’s your favorite song?” Caroline again. Jo whispered something to Pixie, and both were smiling. Pixie handed her the chain.
“‘Loop’ is really cool, but ‘Half Open Window’ is awesome.”
“You are a real fan. Everyone seems to hate the B to ‘Usual'”
“No way! I mean…” Pixie squeezed Jo on the neck, smiled, and got up to leave. “…I mean it’s a really good song.” I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that an opportunity like this only happened once, and I wasn’t about to waste it.
“Annabelle….” Jo frowned. “God, that name is too long for me. Help me out Caroline. She needs a new name.”
“I don’t know. I kinda like Annabelle.” Caroline smiled at me. “It has an old-world charm.” At that point 69rpm started up this revolutionary drum-march thing, and everyone started to crack up.
“How about Oceana?” He stopped drumming for a second. I could barely see him in the dark, but it looked like he had a harmonica hanging around his neck. “I always thought that was a cool name.”
“No, no. All she needs is a good contraction, something that shows her essence…”
“I don’t know, Caroline. Everyone calls me that now.”
“I got it.” Jo put down her guitar, and stood up. Out of the cone of light, her face was half in shadow, and her brown hair – pulled back – dissolved into the night. Her white, pin-striped shirt and really loud tie took on an orange hue, and her dark, ankle-length skirt shifted in the wind. “A-Bell.”
Everyone was silent. Even 69rpm stopped with the garbage. I could hear Masking Tape play through the door; Susanna was just starting “Drinking Utensils,” the part when she sits down on her knees, closes her eyes, and whispers “I need a glass/so I can break it.” There was no doubt in my mind that it was perfect.
“Cool?” I smiled.
“O.K. then. A-Bell, come with me. Time for stage two.” Jo reached towards me, and I gladly took her hand. As she lifted me from the stairs, I could feel the callous on her fingers, I could sense the songs that flowed out of them continuously. We walked around the Treehouse to the left, towards the dirt parking lot and the tall, wide trees beyond. She swung the chain slightly as we walked; it seemed to clank in time with 69’s drumming, slowly fading in the distance.
“My cousin was telling me how impressed she was with you.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say it. I just stared at her tie – yellow, with green turtles crawling upwards.
“She’s the mysterious type. Never telling you what she thinks.” She kicked a rock. “Or knows.”
“I’ve just met her, yet….” I looked up at the stars, coming out past the clouds.
“I know. She has that effect on people.” She stopped. “Far enough. Now listen.”
And I did. Of course, all of the quotes that I’ve included so far are semi-manufactured, because I didn’t have a tape recorder with me or anything. What’s been said was said, more or less. But when we stopped in the back of the parking lot – right by Slinky’s station wagon, which still had windows at that time – and Jo looked me straight in the eye, I can never, will never, forget what she said to me:
“Frisbee wanted us to find you. She’s worried.”
I was confused. Sure, I knew Laura pretty well, having written to her since antizine 1, but we had never met, and I hadn’t told her that much about my problems.
“I don’t understand.”
Jo frowned, and then turned towards the Treehouse. The air pulsated slightly with Susanna’s voice. I could tell she was rolling on the stage about then. “It’s not a mistake that we’re here tonight. It’s not a mistake that you met my cousin.” She closed her eyes for a second, and then put her hand on my shoulder and opened them. “You’re so special, A-Bell. You can’t possibly know how much.”
I was about to die. Jo was saying all of this wonderful stuff, and she couldn’t possibly mean it. She didn’t even know me. But still….
“O.K. What’s going on!” I shook her hand off.
“Fair enough. We’ll talk.” She smiled. “We need to go to our van, though. I need to show you something.”
Part of me felt like I was going to get molested or jumped or something, but the other – A-Bell, my newly named essence – knew that it was right. So we went, and talked for about an hour. I can’t discuss the conversation, but sufficed to say that I finally understood what my purpose in life was. I understood my attraction to Frisbee and Joan, and I understood that Sasha was the one for me.
You see, Pixie was Sasha, only I didn’t find that out until later that year, when she started working with Joan in Jumpster, and by then she had changed so much that I almost didn’t recognize her. Of course, all it took was a second of hand-holding to fix that. I could never forget her warmth.
So anyway, when I went back into the Treehouse that night, desperately looking for her, all that was left was that Pixie stick, now empty, duck taped to the side of the ice chest, along with a note. It read:
Sorry about the runaround, but I promised Frisbee that I’d get you in contact with Jo. If you’re reading this then I assume you forgive me. At first, I was just playing along with the plan, but… I don’t know how to say this. It’s strange. I really do feel something for you, something that I’ve never really felt before. I need to think about it.
I know we’ll meet again, sooner than you imagine. Please don’t forget me, or this night. Take care of yourself.
Your Secret Admirer
As Intruder started to take the stage (the pre-punks tearing themselves apart in anticipation), and as Pat snuggled up to Issac in the living room – under the painting Phone did for the Treehouse-warming, “Yard Stick Vs. Tape Measure” – I slumped down by the ice chest, held the note to my heart, and cried. Cried while Jo sang “Half Open Window” just for me, cried while Caroline, 69rpm, and even Circle X (who recovered in time for the set, but didn’t bother to take off the sweater) made the most beautiful music in the world. I didn’t stop crying until well after the show was over, after I had said goodbye to Jo and made plans for our next meeting. Pat went home with Issac, Susanna biked along side Phone, and little male pre-punks snagged unlucky girls for their adolescent, temporary bliss. I took the bus, and the clouds were now far away – I could see some constellations that I recognized through the window. I didn’t want to cry under those stars, the same ones that shine upon us all at our respective births and deaths, so I wiped my face on Pat’s father’s jacket, made the chain into an quick belt, and prepared myself for the big mess.
Home was the big mess, of course. “What the fuck were you doing out so late?” That’s my dad. “Weren’t you supposed to be at Patricia’s house?” Mom. “How was the show? Any cute boys?” Mary, my “sister”. I was all cried out, so I just remained silent until the questions subsided, went up to my room, and put on my tape of the first Intruder show. It was loud, and I had headphones on, but I fell asleep pretty quickly.
I had a strange dream, one that I made sure to write down the next morning. Sasha, Frisbee and Joan were in it, along with a number of other women that I didn’t recognize, and everyone was older – in their mid-to-late twenties, I guess. Anyway, we were all at this show, some group we didn’t know was playing, and suddenly everyone in the band disappeared. Jo jumped on stage first and grabbed the guitar, and then Frisbee and Sasha followed. I hesitated a bit, but all the rest of the women pushed me onto the stage. Then someone helped a little girl up to join us, and she ran to Frisbee, who raised her into a hug and kiss. She put her down, and then the little girl grew older really quickly. Frisbee ran off the stage, yelling about something, and then there was a tremendous explosion. The only person missing, though, was Frisbee – all of the other women were still in the audience. Then, Sasha started to draw strange markings on herself, which reminded me of what Phone did at the door to the Treehouse. Soon she took off her clothes, covered her whole body with shapes and symbols, and then gave me a pen, telling me to do the same. I tried, but the marks kept disappearing right after I made them. I told Sasha this, but she just smiled. The little girl was now a full woman, and she started to play the drums, so Jo followed her lead. Then, Sasha started to touch the markings on her body, and each spot produced a different sound. I tried to touch myself, but nothing happened. So I walked over to Sasha, and asked her to show me how it worked. She put my hand against her face, and then I heard the most beautiful noise in the world. It was so wonderful that I couldn’t tolerate hearing it, so I pulled away and immediately woke up. My walkthing, which had auto-reverse, was still playing the tape from the night before. And the upside down “T” was transferred to my pillow.
Ever since that day I studied that tape, hoping that the perfect noise was somehow included within it, and just happened to enter my dream. I haven’t found it yet, but when I touch Sasha’s face I get the same feeling, that this-close-to-exploding mass of wonderfulness. Fuck, I even get it when I look at her, like when I was playing with Suspender that night, when Jo was off recording another one of her secret projects.
During our first encore, when John and Frisbee finally showed up (they said they got lost coming to the club, but I knew better – ask her to tell you the story), Sasha had migrated to the front of the stage, staring at me with those knowing eyes of hers, the ones that look straight into your brain and heart and caress them. Well, I was sweating up a storm, and the crowd was not even close to being tired, so I made a call and Caroline seconded it. Fortunately, 8-Track and Velcro were versed enough to know what I was going after, so once we regrouped and dug back in our brains to 1986, I took the mike off the stand, and gave Frisbee the secret sign, the only one I can’t discuss.
“This is a song that most of you don’t know, but it’s really dear to my heart.”
“Get on with it, you fuck!” Yeah, it was the “Where the fuck is Jo!” guy.
“It’s called “Drinking Utensils”, and fuck you if you don’t like it. It’s not for you anyway.” 8-Track started us off slowly, as Caroline and Velcro stood back and watched.
Staring at Sasha, I slowly dropped to my knees.
And I sang.