The 1980s Video Challenge

The ’80s Video Challenge

 

I was challenged recently to post my choice of videos from the 1980s. Boy, did they pick the right girl. I thought I’d share my selections along with my commentary, for those of you who maintain a sense of nostalgia for the best decade in musical history. Enjoy.

Don’t be envious, Millennials. We’ll continue to share our sensibility with you.

The Police: King of Pain, 1983

To start us off, from The Police’s Synchronicity album, tpolicehe above is some rare Australian video for this song, complete with a stuffed goat and a flaming dial telephone. This kind of eerie, Imagist camera work was considered artsy and cool at the time.

I went to the acutely famous concert promoting this album that took place at Shea Stadium, Flushing, NY, in the summer of 1983. I was 19 years-old. The LIE was transformed into a parking lot stretching across Queens, and I was twice rear-ended waiting in near-stop-dead traffic. We were so late to the event that we missed both opening bands, REM and Joan Jett, respectively. I didn’t even know who REM was yet.

According to Internet reports, it was after this one-night-only show that Sting decided to break up the band and go solo, because playing Shea Stadium (as did The Beatles) was a performance epitome for him, so he decided to move on to other pastures, where, say, the Blue Turtles roam.

Anyway, just listen…

Echo and the Bunnymen: Lips Like Sugar, 1987

Here is a quintessential ’80s dance song, although I don’t think I ever saw this video at the time. Remember, friends, there was no YouTube, and MTV had actually just emerged. Not everyone even got cable TV. So we mostly viewed these videos in the background as we danced at clubs. I hope the end of this one was supposed to be campy, because it’s as bad as some of the Godzilla films my son watches. However, the song is AWESOME, still. One other thing the rest of you ’80s people might experience:  These guys all seemed so mature and intimidating at the time. Yet viewing them now, they look like babies. Oh my Lord, the perspective of a 22 year-old.

And dig that hair.

Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime, 1980

Presenting the lead track to the movie of my life, and the theme song for my crew of girls in college. We made up a poster that had lyrics from the song magic-markered on it back in our dorm. We taped it to the ceiling, so that whenever one of us awoke on the rug the morning after a party, we’d see the lyrics staring down at us:

And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?!”

David Byrne is a freaky-amazing genius and I adore him. He better not die any time soon, as losing David Bowie was enough of a blow.

Herbie Hancock: Rockit, 1983

This breaks out of my typical new wave mode, but still fits the technotronic synth-y club vibe we all grooved to at the time. I recently rediscovered this song and played it full blast, dancing through my house, remembering how wild it was with all its funky scratchiness and such.

Even my son, whose hobby is mixing “beats” all day on Mixcraft, leaned over our stair rail to ask, Hey what are you listening to?

This video was a gas in the ’80s and one of the earliest I remember seeing on MTV. The musical artist, Herbie Hancock, is funked-out fantastic. And the guy who put together these half-humanoid, half-obscene robots, a British artist and inventor named Jim Whiting, was quite The Bomb. I recall rumors at the time that the scene in “Blade Runner” where they visit the toy maker/android designer in his apartment, wherein life-size robotic toys wander aimlessly, was inspired by this guy. Although a current Internet search doesn’t back that up. 

Not exactly Disney’s version of animatronics.

**  I just learned I can’t post The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” as an ’80s video as it was actually 1979. Dang it. Can’t use “Rock Lobster,” either. Same problem.  Argh! ** Moving on …

Buster Poindexter (a.k.a. David Johansen):  Hot, Hot, Hot, 1987

I’m going more late-’80s mainstream this time, although we didn’t know back then this song would become a wedding conga-line classic. Mostly I’m posting it because I have the real inside guff this time, as I was AN EXTRA in this precipitous piece of film making.

hot

Left: Blonde in bustier. Top right, Sharon with long red curls. Orange arrow, head below Sharon with dark bangs: ME. I think.

Alas, hard as I try, I can barely see myself in it. Although refer to the arrows in the screen grab to the right. That’s us at the table in the indoor concert scene at the end. For four seconds. I see the exact table where we were sitting. I recognize the blonde woman in the black bustier dress who was sitting across from me. I see a fuzzy likeness of my friend Sharon who I dragged out to accompany me, and there’s my head below hers. The shot is nearly as grainy as a sonogram, but it’s us.

Here’s what happened:  I was working at Columbia Pictures as a script researcher and had to call a club downtown, the Latin Quarter, to fact-check something for a script. The manager said, Hey, we’re having a party for David Johansen tomorrow night because he’s filming a new video. Why don’t you come down? I grabbed my buddy Sharon and we got painted up and trucked down to the place. I asked for the manager who had invited me.

An older gentleman in a bedazzled tuxedo coat met us at the door. He looked me up and down and said (and this was cute–not sure what he was expecting):

“Oh, sweetie — you’re much more attractive than I thought you’d be. Come with me!”

Next thing you know we were signing release contracts and he sat us against the stage. They filmed the end of the song repeatedly and shouted for us to dance, throw our hair, and scream. Which we did. It was a blast.

At the time, we thought it was some weird number that no one would ever hear of. Because frankly, it was David Johansen, former cross-dresser from the New York Dolls, in a 1950s pompadour hairdo and a formal suit singing a Latin song — not something you thought would become a major hit in punky 1987.

As it turns out, I’ve been able to tell this story at every wedding I’ve ever been to.

Tears For Fears,  Everybody Wants To Rule the World, 1985

i-ran

Screen grab from the Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran” video. Tin-foiled camera visible in mirror behind keyboardist.

I’ll sign off with this one, because the video for The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” in retrospect seems vaguely racist, and I can’t find the original video for that Thomas Dolby song. And the Flock of Seagulls video for “I Ran” is just too corny, with the cameras covered in aluminum foil, reflecting in all the spinning mirrored backdrops.

Soooo … I was studying a semester in England when I bought the album Songs From The Big Chair on cassette, because all I had with me was a SONY Walkman. I’d hide away in the tiny basement of our flats and play this, and literally bounce off the cinder block walls. When I hear it, I’m re-infused with the excitement and fear and wonder and expectation of my life finally beginning. I turned 21 years-old in London. And for a few moments, in my little head, I really did Rule the World.

Thank you, 1980s.

Who had more fun than we did?

 

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Write Here, Write Now Anthology 2016

“How do you know these things about Italian guys, Ma?”

“Because I married one.”

 

The GLVWG Write Stuff Anthology is now available on Kindle and eBook format, for the first time, including my short story:

CHANGE FOR DOMENICK

itialyNever go on your first date with a guy who asked your mother out first.

Especially if she has this near-psychic ability to pinpoint a person’s true character down to the bone within two minutes of meeting somebody. My mother was weird that way. Half the time she was mistaken for a giggly twenty-five year-old. She loved low-budget sci-fi movies from the 1950s and believed Bigfoot was out there. But when it came to a person’s character, she had your number the minute she saw you.

My buddy Marianne’s Sweet 16 party was at Pat and Jim’s restaurant in Patchogue, Long Island. The party ran long. Ma waited for me in the lobby, with her long Mediterranean-looking little-girl hair; as usual, smiling like a six year-old.

A D.J. named Domenick packed up his light board and cables in the front of the restaurant.

Ey,” he said to Ma, unplugging things. “You missed the party!”

“Me?” she said. “I’m just a taxi service.”

*    *   *

To continue reading, only $2.99 on Kindle, buy at:GLVWG image

http://www.amazon.com/Write-Here-Now-Anthology-Anthologies-ebook/dp/B01ETJPF5W/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1461705320&sr=1-1

Take a read, give a review! Plenty of other terrific fiction from the Lehigh Valley inside…

Or find Domenick in my Channillo.com short story series, “A Run In My Tights.”

 

Quarters With The Chippendales

Quarters With the Chippendales

chipp pic

I see the Chippendales dancers are doing a tour this year, including in my home town. I guess we have “Magic Mike” to thank for dredging back up the franchise; I thought they were defunct for a while.

I have a Chippendales story.

My first job out of college, I worked in Manhattan as a researcher with a major entertainment company. It was a lousy, entry-level job that only sounded exciting. There was one definite perk, though:  I constantly received postcards from city venues advertising special pricing and parties and such.

My buddy Sharon worked across the hall from me in the file room.  She lived in Jackson Heights, right over the 59th Street Bridge, and she owned a little Jeep. And oh yeah—Sharon was gorgeous, and boy-crazy, and never said no to anything. Like I explained in the story about the bass player, since going out in the city was a complex and often dangerous undertaking for young women, we had a pact:  Whenever one of us wanted to go somewhere, the other would agree to do it with them. It was the buddy system.

We were symbiotic:  I shared my special-event invitations; Sharon provided transportation home and let me stay the night at her house. I provided the classy Long Island college girl vibe; she delivered the Queens there’s-nothing-I-won’t-try bravado.

A postcard arrived on my desk for special admission to the Chippendales show.quarters 1

We got there early and claimed a decent table by the show floor. A shirtless guy in a bow tie, white cuffs, and black spandex pants introduced himself as Steven Our Waiter. He had Italian looking hair and nice cheek bones, but was kind of boyish compared to the dancers advertised on the billboards, and was not much taller than me. Sharon was immediately smitten, and started ordering glasses of wine like crazy.

Steven appeared and disappeared at our table throughout the show, as various dancers did their schticks, sometimes backed by a chorus of other guys. One guy was the fireman, one was the cowboy, one was the businessman, one was a cop… it was like the Village People on Broadway. There were about six different acts from individual guys, leading up to the Finale Guy, who slid all over a motorcycle seat in a g-string while colored lights splashed on him like an AC/DC concert.

Once the show was finished, the women were let loose on the floor to dance off their energies for another hour. The male dancers stayed around to take photos with the patrons; the line was an hour long. Sharon and I skipped the photograph, but did our share of dancing and drinking and hollering.

Late in the night, she took me aside. Steven Our Waiter stood behind her.

“Steven’s done with his shift,” she said to me. “We’re gonna take a walk.”
“A walk?” I said. “It’s 2:00 a.m.”
“Then maybe we’ll drive around.”

It did not escape me why she was going off with Steven. She had a habit of showing up somewhere with one person and leaving with another, never to return.

“Sharon, in your Jeep?” She didn’t have one of those big Jeeps with storage capacity and sturdy sides and such. She had a Suzuki Samurai, a two-seater with zip-up plastic sides. It was almost a golf cart.

“You’re leaving me here?” I said. “By myself?”

“We won’t be long.”

I knew there was no stopping Sharon when she wanted to … take a walk. There’s no way she was going to pass up the opportunity to get with a guy from Chippendales.

“I swear to God, you better come back,” I said. Although she lived right over the bridge, I didn’t. I lived at the outer edge of Queens, one of the very last numbered streets in the borough. 262nd Street in Floral Park. It was a distance no cab would travel from Manhattan. If you could even find one at that hour.

Half an hour, I promise,” she said. Shirtless Steven loomed in the background.

Then they were gone.

I downed another couple of drinks at our table and listened to the music. An hour went by, me looking rather pathetic at a table by myself, watching a bunch of screaming, jazzed-up women decimate the dance floor.

The line to take photos with the dancers started to wane. An MC announced they were closing. Sharon was still nowhere to be seen. In an era before cell phones, this was a problem.

Never has a woman felt so awkward as to find herself alone at a table in the middle of the Chippendales Club at 3:00 a.m. When almost everyone else in the place has cleared out. And you have no way home.

A couple of dancers paced by, giving me suspicious looks. Finally I flagged down one of the more sympathetic-looking guys, who had obviously been wondering what my problem was. He was not one of the headline dancers, but I recognized him from the show.

“I’m looking for a waiter named Steven,” I said. “He took off with my friend, and she’s my ride home. Does anybody know how to track him down?”

Close-up, the dancer guy seemed much older than I originally thought, maybe in his thirties, which when I was 22 seemed like a much more functional adult than I would ever be. Still, he was hardly wearing clothing.

“That’s so Steven,” he said. He sounded like any old Joe I might meet at work. I don’t know why I expected him to have some deep resounding voice, or a Mediterranean accent.

“Yeah, and that’s so Sharon,” I said. They were meant for each other. “I’m a little worried. I live practically on Long Island, so I don’t know what I’m gonna do if they don’t come back.”

“Wait here,” the guy said. “I’ll see if anyone knows how to find him.”

I thanked him profusely. He disappeared into some backstage area. Dancers and waiters had been milling in and out, some of them back into jeans and regular shirts. Once the guys determined I wasn’t a stalker, several of them stopped to say they were sorry to hear I got stranded at their club. By one of their waiters, yet.

The original guy—let’s call him Dan—came back out and sat with me. He had changed into street wear.

“Steven’s clothes and his keys are still in his locker, so he’ll probably be back here tonight,” said Dan.

“God, I hope so.”

“He’s going to get an earful when he does,” Dan said. “But don’t worry. We’ll stay here with you until those two show up. We don’t want you hanging around alone on the street at this hour.”

“You guys don’t know how much I appreciate this,” I said. “You’re much nicer than I would have guessed.”

“What were you expecting?” Dan laughed. “We’re pretty ordinary. Half these guys are a mess. See Charlie over there, with the long hair?”
“Yeah.” Charlie’s hair was rather lovely.
Plugs,” Dan said.

I laughed. “You’re kidding.”

“Not at all. He’s a huge drama boy.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely. And Tom who did the routine with the fire hose?”

“Yeah?”

“He’s forty-six.”

“No way!”

“Yeah. Married with four kids.”

“Anything else I should know?”

“Can you keep your mouth shut?” He leaned in. “Did you see Mark, with the motorcycle?”

“You couldn’t miss Mark with the motorcycle,” I said.

“Did you notice that scar across his glute?”

“I don’t like to stare …” I said.

Dan whispered… “His girlfriend cut him.”

“Holy shit, really?”

“You better not breathe a word of this to anyone,” he said. “I’ll probably get fired if you do.”

I crossed my heart.  “Not a word. As long as you don’t toss me out on the street.”quarters 1

After another ten minutes with no Steven or Sharon, I had a whole table of Chippendales drinking a round of shift beers with me. The lights went up in the place, which then looked like a banal warehouse, with lunch tables and a railed-off wooden floor in the middle.

When Sharon finally strolled in, she found me and the guys in the middle of a rousing game of quarters, hooting and hollering. Just me and the Chippendales, 45 minutes after closing the place down.

I was so effing pissed at her.

 

 

 

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I’m Going Like This

I’m Going Like This

My husband does this thing. I tend to rush around my bedroom, jumping into clothes and multitasking, trying to accomplish some task and get clothed simultaneously. Sometimes I do this while conducting a business conversation via phone. As he sees me frenzying around, talking technology PR in a blouse and no pants, he invariably points and says, “You going like that?”

I drop what I’m doing and say, “Yes. I’m going like this.”

He and I will often conduct full conversations about our household as we change to go out somewhere, clothes flying. As I pull off a pair of jeans to transition to a different outfit, John stops mid-sentence and says, “You don’t have to get that excited.”

I do a happy dance about whatever ridiculously banal item we’re discussing.

After multiple years of this, I have gotten the hang of it. When his business line bounces to his cell phone too early in the morning and he hops out of bed to answer it, I mouth to him, “You goin’ like that?”

He silent-laughs at me.

Someday, he says, when we die, they should bury us together. Naked. And our headstones will read:

“THEY WENT LIKE THIS.”

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Winner:  First Place, Non-Fiction category in the Pennwriter’s Conference Flash Fiction “In Other Words” competition, 2016

ethereal-smoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sing It That Way, Suzanne

Sing It That Way, Suzanne

Thoughts on Creativity and the Broken Brain

 

I recently watched “Love and Mercy,” the biopic on Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys, and last week took a look at “The Imitation Game” with Benedict Cumberbatch.

I am reminded how torturous it is to watch people who are inherently genius, yet are so deeply troubled that they have to suffer for it their whole lives. I am also reminded of a conclusion that I’ve held for years:

Maybe this is an intrinsic part of being brilliant.

Maybe you have to have a few things missing from your brain in order to have quite enough flexibility day dreamfor all that cool stuff to happen as it does. Maybe authentic creativity requires a brain that does not function like a normal person’s. Creativity is in fact a side-effect of impairment.

Not to categorize myself as Miss Brilliant, but I’ve always had an affinity for the tortured artist type. I’ve felt my brain on occasion go to off-beat places because it had to, because of aberrant dyslexic flashes where I can’t put two and two together. The signals in my brain don’t make the jump from one synapse to another like a regular Joe’s. It skips over the traditional thought process and crafts a new way to interpret stimuli.

I’ve sometimes remarked that all my creative impulses may be one big, undiagnosed dyslexia symptom.

Scary thing is, my brain is so good at compensating that there have been times I have surreptitiously seen and heard and things that weren’t there. (Or sometimes didn’t see something that was there.) Usually I hear something musical, or narrative, where a story or a melody start running in my head.

There are scenes in Love and Mercy where Brian Wilson lies down and hears things… people talking, melodies and harmonies singing, sounds in the background. I’ve had instances of that. I’ve lain back, or dropped half-asleep, and heard songs playing or people speaking dialog that I’d never heard before. I hit a state where things start writing themselves, and I sit back and listen. It’s a weird and beautiful experience. It is magic. But sometimes it is spontaneous enough that it takes you by surprise and makes you wonder about your reality.

My husband insists I fabricate these kinds of things to position myself as special. It’s not true. I’ve walked through my life seeing certain things backwards or further away or closer than they are. Or sometimes I don’t see an object in front of me at all—it blanks-out and fades into the background. Yet my brain bridges the gap.

No one has ever really asked me, but this is my life:

Have you ever had that moment when you pick up a glass, and you think it’s full but you’re mistaken?

You lift it, and the glass goes flying and you spill water because your muscles were bracing for a different level of heaviness. You were fooled. Your brain misperceived it.color leaves

That’s my existence. I walk past a door jamb or a coffee table, and my brain tells me it is twelve inches from my body when it is actually only three inches away. I smack my shin on the table or bang my shoulder against the molding. I have dealt with unjustifiable bumps, bruises and scrapes my whole life. I am a grown woman who walks into things.

One day when my brother and I were in a band together, we were practicing in his room. He played the bass line to The Police’s “Roxanne.” I said, No, Jim, wait—you’re missing a couple of cool notes here, that’s not how it goes. Where are those two other notes?

“What two other notes?”

I mouthed the bass line. “You know, DAT DAT – dat dat… DAT DAT – dat dat… Loved you since I knew ya’…”

He said, No, what are you talking about? That’s not how it goes.

I said, oh please, I’ve listened to this song a thousand times.

I sang it again, and he argued. Finally he sat me down with my ear next to an enormous speaker and played the record. He turned up the bass on the equalizer. He said, “I want you to take a deep breath and listen.”

Wait, I said, where did those other bass notes go? I swear they’ve been there all this time.

He said, “YOU WROTE THEM.”splat guitar

“What?”

You wrote them, Sue. You hear them in your head because you wrote them into the song.”

And then there was the day I sang in my high school talent show. A fellow theater student played piano behind me … and then he just stopped. I kept singing, because that’s what they teach you to do when something screws up on stage. You keep going. The piano kicked back in.

After the number I went to the accompanist and said, What happened?

He said, “What do you mean?”

“You stopped playing. In the middle of the song.”

He gave me the face. The expression people deliver when I inadvertently admit I’m not experiencing quite the same world as they are.

“I never stopped playing,” he said.

I asked another friend in the show, What did you hear? Did he stop playing?

There was the look again. The tilted head and squinty eyes. “Of course he didn’t stop playing,” she said. “He was fine.”

I thought to myself, Jesus, it’s me. My brain stops perceiving things sometimes. Yet I always push on.

Flash-forward to the few weeks I tried to learn piano. A friend in a band gifted me his cast-off Moog keyboard. I commandeered some rocker guy with long, carbon-black curls to give me keyboard lessons at Focus II Guitars in Babylon, NY. He made me practice scales, and sent me home with a few measures to learn.

Next lesson, I swung open my workbook and banged out the piece. It was a lovely bit of music.

Rocker guy scratched his head. “That was nice,” he said.

“Thanks.”

“What was it?” he said.

???!!

I pointed to the sheet music. “It was this.”

He tried not to do the face, because he otherwise kind of liked me. “No,” he said. “It was pretty and all. But that wasn’t the music I gave you.”

He stood behind the keyboard and played the measures as they were written.

A whole different piece. I had developed my own version.

I never did learn to play keyboard.

There was also a rehearsal for “Godspell,” the first show I ever did outside a school production. I was eighteen. The cast sat around a table so Eddie the director, who also played Jesus, could teach us the harmonies to “Prepare Ye.”

“Do you know how they go?” he asked.

Oh, yeah.” I had in fact had been listening to the original Broadway soundtrack on vinyl since fourth grade.

He said, “Okay, Kerry, please sing the melody and Suzanne, you sing the harmony.” I sang it the way I’d been doing since I was 10 years-old.

“Cool,” Eddie said to me. “Where is that from?”

“What do you mean?”

“Who taught you that part? Is that from the movie soundtrack?”

I shrugged my shoulders. No one taught it to me. “I just thought it was pretty. Isn’t that what’s on the album?”

“No,” he said. “This is what’s on the album.” He and Kerry sang the harmony that was written for the show. Which completely diverged from what I’d been singing half my life.

He said, “Now you sing your part with us,” and I chimed in. It was gorgeous. Suddenly, we had three different parts going, one of which had never appeared in any other production.

Eddie said, “Sing it that way in the show, Suzanne.”

Way to make dysfunction work.

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Amy and Nina and the Statue of Liberty

liberty stairsAmy and Nina and the Statue of Liberty

I saw a meme with two young girls walking, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders. “Who was your best friend when you were 10 years old? Tag them if you’re friends on Facebook.”

*          *          *          *

I was the type of kid who only needed one good friend. One person I trusted, who liked me better than anyone else.

Amy and I knew each other since we were seven. It’s been kind of unbelievable.

Amy, however, always preferred to have a lot of different friends, even while being devoted to our kinship. I was loyal as hell, but in the cold light of day, I was likely downright clingy and isolated and over-emotional compared to an easy-going, bawdy kid like her, who attracted leagues of buddies and pre-pubescent boyfriends at a time. She’d often try to share them with me. Through it all, I knew she would always liketen me best.

Amy’s other friends always noticed—and often resented—the bond between us. Not all those other friends took kindly to our attachment. Or to me. Instead of branching out with additional friendships of my own, I took it personally. I was intense.

In fifth grade, Amy became buddies with another girl in our class named Nina. Amy “shared” Nina with me, bringing the three of us into one fold, which worked out nicely for a while. In time, Nina got tired of being the third girl in the triumvirate. She wasn’t always so friendly anymore. She’d invite Amy to do cool things like ice-skating on the pond by her house, which my mother didn’t allow me to do, edging me into sporadic third-wheel status.

Throughout fifth grade at our Long Island elementary school, we students had been building classroom “points” for tasks and good deeds and high grades and such. Our teacher Miss Harrigan conducted a year-end class auction where we could purchase garage-sale items based on the points we accumulated.

There was a grand prize offering:  A trip to New York City with Miss Harrigan to the Statue of Liberty. Only five kids could win that, whomever bid the highest amount, secret-Chinese-auction-style.

I didn’t need the trinkets Miss Harrigan assembled. I bought a magenta glass brooch shaped like an apple, then dumped my remaining wad of points into the New York City prize envelope. Amy said she’d do the same.

Me, Amy, Nina and two “popular” girls in the class won the trip. I wonder if Miss Harrigan hand-picked a set of power girls and claimed we were the highest bidders. I resolved to go, even if Nina was no longer crazy about me, even if I was a loner and not Miss Popularity like the rest of the bubbly crew.1003NewYorkCity092 Statue of Liberty View through Crowne towards Manhattan

We climbed hundreds of steps to the crown. Amy, Nina and the girls were cordial enough, yet I waited for the shoe to drop where Nina might decide to cool it and not speak to me. I still felt that veil of threat between us, even knowing that some of it was a threat I represented to her, the girl who reciprocally forced her to apportion Amy’s attention. Meanwhile, my relationship with the best friend I had in the world sat squarely in the hands of a third party.

I’m not sure what happened to the teacher, but we ended up five eleven year-olds alone at the top of the Statue of Liberty. We gazed through the panels of the crown across a gray New York Harbor, the skyline miniaturized as to fit into a snow globe. I stared at the Gulliver-sized book Miss Liberty tucked under her arm (“JULY IV”). Satisfied, Amy and our two other classmates shot back down book july IVthe steel spiral staircase, echoing chatter. I moved to tag along—always the follower, never the leader.

Nina grabbed my arm and squeezed.

“DON’T LEAVE ME.”

I thought she was kidding.

Our friends’ footsteps were already too far below to hear. “Come on, let’s go,” I said. “The other girls are way ahead ….”

Nina had a death grip on my forearm against the stair rail. Her body vibrated like a scrap of paper caught against the back of a fan. Fifth graders in New York would rather burst into flames than cry in front of each other. Yet Nina stared at me, wide-eyed and blinking back tears, her feet rooted in place.

“YOU HAVE TO HELP ME DOWN,” she said. “Please, Suzanne. Please-please-please. I can’t do it.”

Amy was nowhere to be found.

I couldn’t leave Nina there.

I hugged onto her shoulders and said, okay, let’s go slow. We literally took one step at a time, resting on each step before she could face the next one. She wouldn’t let go of me. Every pace, she insisted she couldn’t finish. Every step, I said, it’s okay, try just one more.

Three hundred and fifty-four steps.

It took us nearly an hour. She asked me not to tell the other girls.

*          *          *          *

This morning on Facebook, I saw the meme again. It warmed my heart to see two friends from middle school tag each other across the miles, defying decades.

Then Nina tagged Amy—and me.

 

 

 

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Note I changed the names here.