Monthly Archives: January 2011

Confessions of a Former Disco Queen

I noticed that I’ve been writing a lot about the suckiness of cancer and widowhood, so today I take pen in hand – actually, place fingertips on keyboard – to write about another fascinating facet of Things That Make Me Cool.

Class, today’s topic is Music. I really love alternative music and going out to see various artists on that musical spectrum. I’ve seen some great shows over the past dozen years, and I continue to keep abreast of who’s coming to town or nearby.

But once upon a time, I wore miniscule amounts of spandex and had lots of hair, A Look promoted at the local discotheques. I remember when the Beatles broke up, but I never really loved music until I stumbled upon ‘Soul Train.’ I never missed me some Don Cornelius urging “Love…peace…and soul!” The dancing blew me away, although the scramble board was lame. So I was even more in my element when the disco scene hit during my wayward catholic schoolgirl years. Life took on new meaning when you couldn’t wait to hang out with classmates at Petar’s every Friday and Saturday night. It got even better when you discovered the big city across the river, which had even more cool dance clubs at which to sport one’s newest spandex ensemble.

If you wore a ‘Disco Sucks’ t-shirt, you were definitely not my friend.

Yet as fate would have it, another wayward youth lifestyle was going on parallel to the disco scene, where frustrated youngsters from the suburbs hung out in totally different Albany clubs. They wore leather jackets and appeared unclean. They listened to punk and new wave music from across the pond, a cacophony of screaming put to music as if played on amphetamines. Disdaining conventional everything, never mind the bollocks.

If you were in one camp, you scorned the other. Perhaps this was part of being 20 years old, with fixed sets of friends defined by the narrow parameters – spandex or leather, take your choice .

Twenty years later, a man and a woman met and shared histories, one a former disco queen and one a former lead singer in punk bands. They looked back at those parallel lives and discovered common ground in the alternative music scene. They incorporated aspects of each other’s likes and dislikes from each of those twenty years, and moved forward together  in life. Never one to make conventional choices, they decided that Their Song would be ‘Everlong’ by the Foo Fighters. “Breathe out, so I can breathe you in…hold you in.”

Music hath charm, after all.

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My Friends Have Cancer…And All I Got Was This Crummy T-Shirt

I’m a fairly social person. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with me after all: I’m quite funny and I know lots of cool things to do. I also know where to get good stuff to eat. For a good time, call 867-5309.

Several years ago, Mark suggested we join what was then called Gilda’s Club, “a place to come when you have cancer.” He became involved in a discussion group for people actively living with cancer, while I stuck to the social gatherings. “Nice people,” thought I, “Cancer is so welcoming and fun.” He volunteered us as models for an upcoming fashion show. “Cool,” thought I, “Free clothes courtesy of a tumor.” And he volunteered himself for a TV commercial about the clubhouse, mostly because he was a frustrated former lead singer and missed the spotlight. Cool once again…fame and fortune thru asbestos exposure. 

Then he up and died on me. 

This is when I discovered Gilda’s Club [now known as Hope Club] for what it really is: a supportive community for anyone whose life is touched by cancer. 

I went to the clubhouse within a few short days of his passing, drawn to the staff for support, as well as the few members that knew me thru him. Weeks down the road, I started attending a group for widowed people to begin the healing process. Mark’s older son and I took part in an art therapy opportunity, lending our rudimentary artistic abilities to painting a rock for the community garden. Our ‘modern art rendition’ of symbols from Mark’s life – the Clash logo and a basketball, for example – helped us smile a few times thru our tears. Later in the year, we all came back to place our rocks into the garden, a fitting moment considering Mark’s knack for growing things. 

As I developed further ties to the clubhouse, my relationships with other members grew and strengthened. And the staff and members were and continue to be guiding forces in carrying out Mark’s annual 5k race. Yet it slowly came upon me that “My friends are fighting cancer and some of them might die.” A few times after leaving the clubhouse, I cried my way home from missing him being there and dealing with people living with impending death. 

It would have been easier to stop going, protecting my emotions with only happy moments.

Instead, I thought of a conversation with a friend of Mark’s who has since become my very good friend. Over the summer of 2007, Dick was making sauce in the clubhouse kitchen when Mark happened by. He must have worked that day because he had on a white shirt and didn’t want to hover over Dick’s concoction for fear of staining his shirt. But he put his two cents worth in about Dick’s recipe, shooting the breeze for some time and then leaving. Dick never saw Mark again.

Months later, preparing another clubhouse meal [yeah, we cancer people love to eat], Dick found the last jar of ‘starter sauce’ in the freezer dated July 2007. He told me how it brought back a flood of wonderful memories of Mark, only slightly tinged with sadness. I remember him commenting about the delicate connectivity of the thread of life, and we both smiled thru our tears.

Dick’s remark has resonated with me as I’ve built relationships with people who live with the reality of cancer every day. It’s kept me going to the clubhouse when it would be easier not to have friends who might die. It steeled me this week when one of those people, only 46, passed after an incredible 6-year battle with this fucking thing. He didn’t deserve that any more than Mark did, but what they shared of themselves is what makes this club no one wants to join a most wonderful and caring place.

“Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more.” ~Virginia Woolf


Bitter With Baggage Seeks Same

Being over 50, I don’t have a lot of time left for games, so let’s just get it all out in the open: 

  • I have two kids still living at home, along with my aged mother!
  • I have been married twice!
  • Despite my fitness regimen, my thighs look like they got caught in a hailstorm!
  • And I owe everyone, so will be working until age 75 at least!

 With baggage and drama the new dating buzzwords, who among we middle-aged single people does not have post-relationship ‘issues?’ It’s what you choose do about them that makes all the difference. Then there’s the whole “I turned 50 and chose existing & aging over living & thinking ageless” mindset. 

Still worse have been the sophomoric dating behavior patterns of the Indigenous Middle Aged Supposedly Single Guy, including those who claim their spouse has given them permission to date. Lest you think, dear reader, that I’m a cynical as well as buff old broad, let’s recap my 2010 dating history as proof that middle-aged relating between the male and female species is fraught with disappointment.

  • Went out on a solid dozen one-time date-like encounters. More than once, I felt as though I was in the company of some old fart, contently entrenched in the aging process. One memorable encounter made me feel like a student on a date with her English professor, hoping for a good grade.
  • Another guy received numerous phone calls/text messages regarding his teenaged daughter’s social plans, which the ex apparently couldn’t handle on her own. In my world, if the kid wasn’t bleeding or missing in a ditch, he could have shut the phone off for an hour of social interaction with a potential good time, namely me.
  • Saw a guy three times who was soon heading to a business trip to the Far East. It seems as though our ideas of ‘communication’ were different as I received two e-mails during the six weeks he was gone. While I didn’t expect phone calls, what with the whole other-side-of-the-world distance between us, e-mail is 24/7. I felt as though he could have indicated ongoing interest a tad more. Upon his return, I received a cryptic text, the sum total of which was “Remember me?” Lame, dude…real lame. 
  • Saw a guy twice who thus proclaimed himself completely smitten. Barraged me with text messages while I was away on vacation following date #2, only to ‘break up’ by text the day I arrived home. It seems “he wasn’t ready” and felt inferior to my obviously advanced state of physical & emotional awareness. You have to feel bad for this guy though…holding one’s self up in comparison to me is clearly a fall of great magnitude. Weeks later, he attempted to wheedle back into my life with lame texting in reference to my upcoming marathon. No return message from me prompted a re-pleading of his case for not being ready and an apology for hurting me. Get over yourself, dude…I sure did.

 With a new dating year firmly upon me, could it get worse? I surely hope not. I wasn’t a very good catholic schoolgirl way back when, so I think I’d make a worse nun at this point. As Renee Zellweger said in ‘Jerry Maguire:’ “I know men are the enemy, but I still love the enemy.”

 Despite my tattered ego, I’m going with “Fucking A.” After all, I met a certain tall blue-eyed  fellow at a time when my dating agenda was nothing more than “Hey, he’s kinda cool, so I’ll let him hang out with me.” Despite the tragic end, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.