(In order to draw out the Anonymous Commenter From My Past, I'm doing as instructed and blogging about the "old days." Welcome to "Jonny: The College Yearz.")
My first year of college is a haze of depressive moods, suicidal urges, loneliness, and occasional LSD hallucinations. I genuinely remember none of it, apart from occasional brief flashes of me sitting alone in my room listening to Morrissey and crying about how nobody understood me. I imagine this makes me like every single college student ever but man, did it seem profound at the time. I dated a girl named Karla with bleached blonde hair cut into a severe crew cut, and we made out to Nitzer Ebb every night. It seemed properly existential. Our first date involved me throwing up on her.
Once I met Marcy, my situation began to improve. We were in Russian class together (note: I got an "F"), and showed up to class wearing the same Bauhaus t-shirt/cardigan sweater combination (that pretty much sets this in an era, doesn't it?) and became fast friends. Later, after a complicated situation involving her dating my friend (CENSORED) and me making out with her behind his back (sorry, (CENSORED)!), we started dating. At the time, I still half-lived with my parents, and after a rather difficult and annoying summer spent back at the folks' house (imagine, if you will: tripping on acid while watching "Easy Rider" with your dad), I decided it was time to friggin' move already, so Marcy, my best friend Trevor, and I got a place together in Dinkytown, the area of Minneapolis right around the University of Minnesota, also known, in the late 80s and early 90s, as the Hub Of Everything Cool.
Oh, sure, Uptown thought it was the hub of everything cool, but Uptown always fucking thinks its so great. Sure, it had Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday night which attracted every half-punk and neo-goth ever to its welcoming embrace, but Dinkytown in the late-80s was Where It Was At.
Dinkytown in the late 80s was arranged around three main centers of gravity. Note, please: this is if you were remotely cool. If your memories of Dinkytown in this era involve you getting totally WASTED at Sally's and heading back to your boyfriend's frat house for a wop party where you passed out and were gang-banged by the entire Delta Kappa Nu, you probably weren't cool. Just saying.
Ralph and Jerry's. This 24-hour groceria, a dirty, dismal little superette plunked right down on 4th Street, was, for some reason, the very center and hub of my life for five years. Marcy was general manager there, my roommate Trevor worked there, and eventually every single employee there -- each one cool as shit -- became our circle of friends. Anitra, the uber-hip tattooed waitress at the Triple Rock? Worked there. Rosemary Pepper, online goddess and member of the San Franscisco who's who? Yup, worked there. James Lileks, Minneapolis humorist/bon vivant? Worked there, but way before my time, but I suspect he's responsible for scrawling the lyrics of "Cowgirl In The Sand" on the walls downstairs. Everybody worked there. It was an astonishing confluence of hipsters and talented folks.
Of course, I managed to ruin it. I worked there myself at the tail end of its existence, usually on the overnight shift. One night, a con artist came in and pulled that one scam where he asks for change for money you've already given him and manages to confuse you into giving him change for money you haven't given him -- you know the grift, if you've worked in retail, somebody has tried it on you but you, dear reader, were smart enough to avoid it. I was so fascinated and hypnotized by his patter, and so totally blown away that I was basically being robbed before my eyes, that I stupidly and rather dazedly played into the whole scam. I think I lost the store 100 bucks all told, and was fired the next day, quite deservedly. Soon after, the store was sold. The end of an era. I blame myself and that hundred bucks.
Positively 4th Street / Northern Lights. If you were even cooler than the folks who worked at Ralph and Jerry's (i.e. cooler than me), you worked at "The Pos" (named after the Bob Dylan song named after the street it lived on) or later, once it changed management, Northern Lights, right next door. During the Positively 4th Street era, I spent all my rent money every month on records there, and bought my first bong there as well, a bright green plastic number I had for the next 10 years. Notable employees include: Linda Pitmon, drummer for Zuzu's Petals and now Steve Wynn, Ed Ackerson, Nick Tangborn of Jackpine Records. I kept vying for a job there -- I think they all secretly thought that because I listened to Yes, my musical taste was suspect.
One night, I was working at Ralph and Jerry's. A guy came in, a shabbily-dressed fella who smelled vaguely of urine. He bought a bottle of Listerine. "Jesus, it's about time you freshened your breath," I thought, and sold it to him. He left. He came back in five minutes later smelling even FURTHER of urine, and bought another. I sold it to him, wondering what the fuck was up. Ten minutes later he came in REEKING of THE OPRESSIVE STENCH OF STALE, ACRID PISS, and wanted to buy another. I finally cottoned to the fact that he was, in fact, drinking the Listerine. I refused to sell it to him. He paid me back by staggering next door to Northern Lights, pissing himself until completely sodden, and passing out in the aisle.
Cafe Giocco / Espresso Royale Cafe. Espresso Royale, or just "The Cafe" -- the definitive article, you might say -- was the hangout of choice for underage hipsters and pre-bar drinkers alike. Much like Ralph and Jerry's, just about everybody I know has worked at Espresso Royale at one point in their life (including me). The Cafe mainstay was Jay Hurley, my bandmate in Shatterproof and Landing Gear, who worked there for umpty-ump years before moving on to pastures greener. I met just about everybody in my life through the cafe, in one way or another, including at least one wife, several bandmates, best friends, and on one notable occasion, Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers, whom I gave a brief tour of Dinkytown, pointing out places his dad used to live.
Note to all concerned: THE ESPRESSO MACHINE AND THE DISHWASHER OCCASIONALLY BECOME INFESTED WITH COCKROACHES. We'd see those little suckers and kill 'em with the milk pitchers. Clean!! Also: I slept in the basement on more than one occasion, on the couch where it was rumored more than several lice-infested trysts happened.
Notable people from my life at the time:
Johnny and Christie. Johnny was the drummer for my first band, The Now. Folks: we sucked. I'm not even saying that to be humble, we just, completely objectively, sucked balls. Johnny was a sweet, sweet guy but he wasn't much of a drummer at the time, which was fine -- I wasn't much of a songwriter or guitar player, and Trevor wasn't much of a bass player, so we were evenly matched. His girlfriend was Christie, a stunningly gorgeous girl who was the first exhibitionist I ever met -- she had the intriguing habit of dishabilling in front of us, which wasn't something I particularly minded, mind. She was also the first stripper in my life -- she got a job at Deja Vu right when it opened; then, if I'm not mistaken, married one of the patrons, and disappeared completely. I kind of miss them both. After Christie, Johnny dated Becky, the moddest mod chick that ever modded. Ever. I could never tell if she liked me or was secretly laughing at me behind my back -- probably a combination of the the two, and probably deservedly. I was such a phony-mod it wasn't even funny, with my hairsprayed pudding bowl, stupid suits, and lack-of-two-tone-love.
Interesting tale: Johnny eventually moved into a house in Northeast. The upstairs neighbors were slightly scary punk rock girls -- at one point, some of the punk kids that were over there were busted for grave robbing. GRAVE ROBBING. Then, soon after, one of their other friends was busted for killing his aunt by drowning her in a toilet. We stole his records and his Nintendo. Whee!
Mischka. Mischka -- who I'm not sure had a last name -- was actually a faerie. I'm convinced. Spelled that way, too. I knew nothing about her at all, only that she kind of drifted into our life, this odd, beautiful girl who could easily have been a model, dressed in the strangest mish-mash of hippy, goth and alien, and then drifted out. I don't even know her real name, where she was from, what she did -- but she was over a lot, and we all liked her. She started the brief trend of braiding crystals into one's hair, which everybody adopted in Dinkytown for a while. She seemed like such an oddly ethereal presence that I still, to this day, can't quite explain her. She may have been a government experiment gone awry, or a presence from another dimension.
The Jello Arc. Jello was an odd hippie guy I knew who was Johnny's roommate for a while, then moved to Wisconsin. The odd thing was that Jello was in my life for such a short time, but his relatives weave in and out of my life constantly. Marcy and I inhereted Jello's cat Zoe, who just died like last week (RIP Zoe -- what a sweetheart). One of Jello's sisters dated my friend Ben, who introduced me to Chris, who is the closest thing I have to a brother (besides my actual brother of course, but we didn't grow up together!). Jello's brother Isaac was friends with Chris and Allison and about twenty other people I knew. I just bumped into his OTHER sister the other month at a restaurant where she worked. For some reason, these folks just weave in and out of my life constantly -- weird, for someone I only met briefly and played D&D with a couple times.
Deva. Deva was an employee at Ralph and Jerry's. Deva was also one of the most beautiful women I've ever met. She had gorgeous, shoulder-length, curly Pre-Raphaelite hair; plump, delightfully puckered lips; a smile that could have turned a tyranical despot into a pussycat; and eyes that bore straight into your soul. Deva was an artist. Deva was a bohemian of the Old School. Deva liked music. Deva photographed so well that the inventor of the photograph was heard to sigh in his grave. Deva was smart. Deva was charming. Deva never wore a bra the entire time I knew her, and didn't seem to notice or care. You may think, from reading this, that I nursed a wicked, wicked crush on Deva. You would be dead right. Did I ever do anything about it? I did not. Probably a good thing, since I was engaged at the time -- and an even better thing when you consider she wouldn't have been caught dead with me anyway!
David Beckey. I just got done playing with David Beckey in the Autumn Leaves. Oddly, I met David, like, twenty years ago. The chances that we wouldn't have played together are nearly nil -- we liked the same exact bands, had the same exact circle of friends, dressed the same, did the same stuff. Yet, for some reason, that crucial connection was never made. Explanation? At one point, I expressed a desire to play the rock with him while at a party. One of the people at the party said "Oh, man -- he's NUTS! His roommate came home and found him playing guitar COMPLETELY NAKED!!" And I kind of went -- oh. Uh. I see. And then forgot about this desire to play with him.
TURNS OUT THIS WAS COMPLETELY FALSE. So to whoever told me that story? Total, bald-faced lie! I coulda been in the 'Leaves years ago.
Okay, so if that isn't enough of an "Old Days" blog to draw out the Anonymous Poster, I don't know what is. Jesus. I have to get back to work now. Hopefully people who weren't there will find something to amuse them.