I did an interview with Guided By Voices, in which I tried to make it seem like I wasn’t freaking out the whole time. Read it here.
I did an interview with Guided By Voices, in which I tried to make it seem like I wasn’t freaking out the whole time. Read it here.
I interviewed The Black Lips. Read it here.
There was a span of time where the library had some really great speaking events. Authors would come and talk about their book and whatnot, but the really juicy events, the ones that I was interested in, were when experts on a niche subject came to do presentations about subjects like aliens being spotted over Lake Michigan, weird history, or how to listen to music properly.
The best presentation, by far, was this ex-cop who spoke about an unsolved murder that occurred in 1970 in Grand Rapids, Michigan (where I was living at the time).
The story goes that a couple was living in a house on College Avenue. They had gotten married seventeen days prior. The young wife was home alone when (police suspect) a person knocked on the door and, after she let them in, stabbed her thirty-two times. Once in the chest, once in the back, and THIRTY TIMES IN THE NECK. She was almost beheaded from all the stab wounds. The guy had photos and a blueprint of the house to go along with his presentation. He showed us gruesome photos of the crime scene, the woman’s dead body covered in red, doubled over. People in the audience gasped at the photo. Her face was hidden by her hair, saturated with blood. She was found on the floor in the kitchen, right outside the door that went to the bedroom. He displayed an outline of where the body had been found in the house.
There is no suspects in her death, and many believe it was a random person who killed her and ran off.
During the presentation I realized the house in which the murder took place was down the road from where I lived. After the presentation my friend and I walked a little further down the road to check out the house where the this atrocity happened.
We stood in front of the house, having walked past it a million times before, but now looking at it differently. In the front yard was a FOR RENT sign, and I wondered which apartment (there were two–the one where the murder took place was on the first floor) was available.
When I got home, I called the number. A man answered, and I told him I was interested in renting the apartment. He seemed cheery, and told me that it was indeed the first floor apartment and that he’d be happy to show me the apartment in the next couple of days. I told him i’d look at my schedule, not actually thinking about intentionally renting or going inside a creepy murder house. The thrill of talking to the landlord and finding out which apartment it happened in was exciting enough for me.
The next day I had to run an errand that took me past the murder house again. Knowing the first floor was empty, I walked up to the windows and tried to peek inside. I couldn’t see much and after a minute or two I heard a young girl speak, startling me, asking if I was interested in the apartment. She lived on the second floor and was returning home from somewhere.
“The apartment is open–I can let you though the front door and you can go right inside,” she said. “My landlord doesn’t mind.”
I thanked her and followed her into the house, not sure if I should be scared or excited to have such an opportunity. Through the front door was a small area with a staircase that went upstairs, and a door in front of me that went to the apartment in question. I thanked her as she went upstairs, and I wondered how I went from listening to a guy talk about the murder in a library auditorium to standing in the very doorway this woman’s murderer past through to kill her.
Now alone, I turned the knob and opened the door.
I thought for sure the apartment would look somewhat modern, stripped completely of its past. You’d expect an old-ish house to have a complete overhaul, giving it a more sanitary look. What I found was a time warp to a completely different era. Absolutely nothing had changed. I might as well have been there the day after she was murdered.
I stepped into the kitchen, hesitantly. The walls were a dingy, dark yellow. Looking to my left was the living room, its dark brown carpet with outdated sheer window blinds. There wasn’t a piece of furniture anywhere, which made sense, but also meant no one’s lived here for a bit. Immediately my eyes were drawn to the spot in the kitchen where the door to the bedroom was. I looked down. The kitchen floor was covered in vinyl flooring, in typical 1970’s decor. I walked over to the spot Shelly Speet Mills’s body was found. There was no evidence of blood anywhere, but it was hard to decipher between what stains had come from her murder and what had come from forty years of use.
I felt sick knowing all that I knew about this spot. The history of sadness in this place after the horrific act occurred. Her mother finding her. The moments alone with her before anyone showed up to help. Her husband coming home to find countless police officers milling about the apartment looking for clues while the woman he married two weeks prior lay dead on the floor.
I hopped over the spot I knew she’d died and walked into the bedroom. The floor was sticky, and there were rat traps along the wall. Crumbs of dirt littered the floor. One sad window filtered sun through a dirty sheet. It was as if my imagination of the murder had replicated itself in reality, and I was forever going to be trapped there. At any moment I was going to turn around and she would be standing there, bloody, her arms reaching out to me, as if pleading to bring justice to her murderer. I felt aware of myself there, then. It was quiet, I couldn’t hear the roar of cars driving past the house despite it residing on a busy street. I exited the bedroom, hopping once again over the spot, and half-skipped/half ran to the door. I whisped myself out the exit, to get outside before I was trapped forever in that house.
The Kok’s. What an unfortunate name. A name that had been dragged in the mud by everyone at school for who knows how long. They reminded me of trolls, the whole family. The youngest, Mary, always had greasy hair sticking to her neck and back; thin strands of smokey blond that had a chance of being pretty if she washed it. Her older brother consistently sported a black eye, possibly because he was often angry, but maybe he was just defending the family name.
I’d every so often catch a glance of them when visiting my friend who lived next door. They’d be playing with a two-by-four in the backyard; Old, rotting pieces with nails still stuck in them. Or peeling twigs off trees to set fire to. Barefoot among piles of trash. I could see the dirt on her skin from where I stood in the safety of my friends better fortune.
Mary was a grade older and took the same bus as me to school. She always sat in the front seat, always alone, looking solemnly out the window each morning while others chatted quietly to each other.
I got on the bus one day and paused at her seat. I sat down next to her. Her stench was overwhelming. She didn’t acknowledge me the whole ride to school.
The next morning I sat down next to her again without giving it another thought.
“Good morning,” I said. “I hope it’s okay that I sit here.”
She turned her neck slowly to me, gave me a polite smile, and nodded. She turned back to the window.
The next morning I sat by her again, and after saying hello, I launched into what would be a one-sided conversation about the excellent creek that resided by her house. She looked at me with a blank expression, one that didn’t say stop. I continued about the area around the creek, and the excellent tree fort someone had built years ago, hoping my young interests were the same as hers. I watched her watch me as I spoke, the details on her face already looking years beyond her age.
We pulled into the parking lot of the school and I stopped talking. I put my backpack onto my shoulders and stood up, feeling embarrassed at myself.
“The toads are great in that creek,” she beamed. “I found four of them just the other day.”
Everyone’s coming home from work, speeding up when the light turns yellow instead of slowing down. I’m on my way back, too, carefully gliding through the cars stopped or going.
From a block away I can see them already. Rambling around outside, smoking, carrying plastic bags from the bodega across the street. I lean my bike against a metal pole, take my U-lock and hug it to my bike frame to lock it.
I walk through the front door into a short hallway. I open the door on my left that takes me into the waiting room. Every time I come here there are anywhere from five to twenty five people sitting in the chairs, waiting to be called. Everyone is a person of color. They’re on their phones mostly, but sometimes someone will be reading a book or talking to someone nearby. The people in cheap, paper coats behind the window don’t look at me as I sign in at the front desk.
Depending on how many people are poor that day, or if rent’s due, I will get called from anytime between five minutes and a half an hour. A woman with a strong eastern European accent calls a name out to the crowd. It sounds like no name, perhaps the name of a river in Moldova that is now dried up. She scans the room, looks down at the photo taped to the folder, then looks up at me. “You,” she says. “Room B.”
She buzzes the door to the back room open for me. The handle is still vibrating as I grab it and walk to a closet-sized examination room. An Asian man is there, in the little box separating us from the other two identical rooms. He glances up. “Let me see your veins.” I place my hands on the counter, palms up, and he looks at the bends in my arms. He jabs a blue-ish area on my arm but doesn’t say anything. He scribbles something on the sheet attached to his clipboard.
He signals for me to step up on the scale in front of me. He writes the three digit number in a little box on his paper. I’ve gained one pound since thursday.
He makes checks down the long list of questions he’s supposed to ask me, such as if i’d had sex with a male anytime before 1975 or if i’d ever visited any country in central Africa.
He pricks my finger, collects the blood with a thin tube, and checks my blood pressure.
“You’re good,” he says, which is my cue to leave and walk down a hallway where there are people leaning against the walls, waiting to get their phones charged on the only two-plug outlet available.
I get to another door and hope someone on the other side sees me and lets me in so I don’t have to pound on the wall for someone to buzz me in. An old lady with a sweatshirt that says CHICAGO CUBS ~~ WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS 100 YEAR ANNIVERSARY 2004 is kind enough to open the door for me. I thank her and sit opposite her in the new room. This waiting room is smaller. Several people are playing music from their phone next to me so that all I hear is a mixture of beats in different time signatures and scattered melodic voices over cheap speakers.
I sit, and sit, and sit. People come and go. The Chicago Cubs lady leaves and a woman with neon red hair extensions takes her chair, not looking up from her her phone.
Someone calls out my name and a frowning white man in a paper coat ushers me into the big room where it all happens. There are six TV’s, three on each end of the large room. Laz-E-Boy chairs (but more medical looking) line the walls and also form a path for me and the doctor to walk through, sometimes brushing up against the feet of the people in the chairs. The room is filled with people reclining in these chairs, a machine nearby, pumping blood from the red cord going into their vein. The machines whir, clicks, clacks, and drips blood into a plastic container hanging nearby. Football is on TV and sometimes men in the seats cheer at the TV simultaneously. Everyone else is on their phone.
The doctor ushers me to an empty chair and I slide in. The same eastern european woman from before comes over and starts to hook me up to the machine. She doesn’t count down before sticking me with the needle in my arm, and it hurts. My fingers go numb, the sensation slowly moving up my arm. The woman loosens the tourniquet on my upper arm before it gets worse. I watch as my blood slips easily through the tube and into the machine. It clicks, clacks, and then I get the worst sensation during the whole process, which is repeated many, many times. The feeling of the blood being pushed back into my vein. Sometimes it feels like blood is being poured over my skin in the area I was jabbed, other times it feels like a fat man trying to fit into an inner tube–the blood has a hard time getting back in, even though it lost its plasma.
I sit there for an hour, feeling sorry for myself. My lips start to get numb, and I try to get someone’s attention before its too late. The numbness in my arm comes back, and it’s traveling up my arm but doesn’t stop at the tourniquet this time. My head feels heavy. Someone in the seat next to me glances at me and ushers a nurse over. In broken english, she asks “are you okay?” but all I do is stare at her. My brain doesn’t know how to respond.
She calls for a different nurse and pushes some buttons on the machine. It clicks, clacks, and stops. She unceremoniously takes the needle out of my arm, pressing a piece of cloth over top.
After a couple more minutes she asks me again and I say “yes” but feel sadder than when I walked in two hours ago.
“Don’t worry–you get your money,” she says as she holds my arm as I stand up. I walk over to the asian man who’s sitting at a different desk now.
“Initial here.” He taps the tip of a pen next to a box that says “30” and as I walk the hallway back outside I pull down my sleeve over the massive bandaid that’s preventing further bleeding.
The countdown begins now. I’ve got roughly thirty-five minutes to bike home before my body will get weak and force me to crumble to the floor wherever I am. Most of the time it’s in my bed, but sometimes I’m in line at the corner store, or worse, still riding my bike home.
For me, this is something I do to pay the last bit of rent I owe. I know that if I couldn’t pay the full amount this month, my landlord will be patient with me. I could stop going if I needed to, for whatever reason. But for many people, they have to keep going. They have incidents like this every week, and they have to keep going. And I think that’s wrong.
I’ve made a career of standing in doorways. Either I or a friend would organize a show for bands to play and I was the limbo between “at the show” and “outside the show.” There are only a few jobs for an evening of socializing amongst one’s peers, and one of them is standing in the entrance to the venue and collect money from each person attending the event. I’ve learned that people never want to pay for things if they can avoid it. That’s why i’m there to crack the whip. I’m the gatekeeper and people will try everything to get past me without paying. Here are a few:
No. 1: The “Dasher.” This person waits until there’s a long line of decent humans willing to pay to see musicians play. The Dasher sees the long line and squeezes past the crowd at the door. Usually there’s a bunch of people giving me money at once, so i’ve got my hands full. I’m stamping hands, giving change, making sure someone gave me the right amount of money. The Dasher gets away with sneaking in because there’s usually people who’ve paid already walking in and out of the venue. They’ve got a stamp on their hand, or if its a smaller show, I can usually remember them (most of the time I know everyone at the show anyway).
If I could stereotype the kind of person who does this, it’s usually a young punk. Median age being twenty. They’ve just discovered punk and know that THE SYSTEM CREATES A CORRUPT FUTURE and better yet just NO FUTURE! and every opportunity to practice that new found punkness is a way to demonstrate how much they hate everything. What they haven’t read yet in their copy of Please Kill Me/American Hardcore/Steal This Book is that you should never dismantle the community you love and thrive in (this goes the same for shoplifting from local businesses. Unless it’s a KKK outfitter, steal from the big box stores, not the hippy hemp store owned by the guy who also does your elderly neighbors taxes for extra cash).
No 2: The Unprepared Cheapskate. This person acts surprised when you tell them the amount they need to pay to get into the show. They’ve always just got one single dollar. “I’ve only got a dollar!” they’ll say. “I didn’t know how much i’d be to get in!” Lemme tell you–they always know. Punk shows have cost $5 since the beginning of punk. It only ever changes if the newly reformed Subhumans or a band with one member of Youth Of Today play and charge double.
The longer you hassle them for money, the more they reveal why they can’t pay. They’ll say something stupid like “I won’t have cigarettes for tomorrow!” as if i’ll say “that’s terrible–nevermind, you can come in.” Typically you’ll see the Unprepared Cheapskate outside drinking a 40 oz’er with the other cheapo’s with a dog wearing a bandanna. The band Fugazi still charges $5 for their shows and you know twenty kids are banging around the entrance complaining how they didn’t know how much the show was. They’re alcoholics at sixteen years old, hard drug abusers at nineteen, and sadly, dead at twenty four.
But within the “I’ve only got a dollar” cheapskate are two sub-genres. The good cheapskate, after I let them in (because they’re pestering me) use the money they didn’t pay to get in with (85% of the time they actually have the money but just don’t like to pay for things) to buy merchandise from the touring bands. This I can deal with because the money is still technically going towards the band). The bad cheapskate complains to their friends in between bands outside about how terrible the venue is and berates everyone walking by the point where it gets the police’s attention because they’re a seventeen year old with shredded black shorts and no shirt and a missing front tooth, drunk and reckless on a busy street.
No. 3: The kid who honestly doesn’t have money to get into the show, and will be very honest about their lack of funds. These are the best people (besides the one’s who actually pay). You’ll see them lingering around, psyching themselves up, then slowly walk up to you: “Hey, I don’t have any money, but I really want to see this band play, and I figured it’s better to have physical bodies here to watch the band play, than not have anyone here at all.” They usually pay nine out of ten times, and often ask if they can help clean up afterwards. They come to a lot of shows and give a lot of support and you know they genuinely love the music and the space and the environment. Their intentions are good, and you know they feel really bad about not paying. This sort of thing can’t happen all the time, and it can definitely be abused, but it’s passable. Sometimes if I’m this person, I’ll try to bring treats for the touring band to eat as an alternative way of paying them (just make sure they know its to help the band with their growling stomachs and not for every single person at the show to scarf down).
No. 4: The preppy hipster. Every once in a while I’ll help out a friend taking money at a show I usually wouldn’t do. Punk shows are usually where I work and it always throws me off when I take money at hipster shows because everyone pays. Shows are usually always 5 bucks, and if it costs $10 or more, I always assume i’m gonna have to squeeze every last penny out of each attendee. But then I remember that hipsters always have money from their high paying jobs/trust funds/daddy’s credit card and they often have their money out, ready to give to me before I even tell them how much I need from them. It’s like going on vacation. They always show their hands at the door when they leave for a moment so you know if they’ve already paid, and they often ask politely if certain things (photography, certain drinks) are allowed in the venue. After the show I go home and I sleep peacefully.
Luckily it isn’t more complex than that. Show-goers are interesting creatures, and i’m happy to witness the sorts of things I do from my seat at the door. And so you know, just because I take money at the door doesn’t mean I haven’t been in every single one of these situations. Yeah, i’ve been down and out and tried to sneak in. They’re not my proudest moments. The excuses I give may be different, but I suppose that’s why I choose to help out and take money at the door–so I can watch the show while earning my place there to begin with.
That age when your body comes into fruition is so delicate, and every adult knows it. Your elbows become pointy jabbers that get stuck in doorways and there’s never enough room in the back of the car for your spider legs. Everything is the most embarrassing thing, and nothing fits. The world might as well be against you, and suddenly one day you swoosh your hair back from your face while drinking from a water faucet and dudes completely lose their minds. Having no self-confidence, I’d joke with my friends, like “today this dude ran halfway across the field to pick up a baseball I threw. I think he felt sorry that I have such bad aim,” or “Dori’s older brother asked if I needed a ride back to my house when I was visiting the other day. He wasn’t even going anywhere. He just hopped up and grabbed his keys. He must of been wanting an excuse to get out of the house.” It took a couple of really strange incidents and a particularly eye-opening sleepover with my friends to realize that I was not alone and this was how my life would be from that point on, and these would be benefits (and sometimes bothersome moments) to becoming a lady.
On my street there was a long sidewalk that, when I was growing up, my best friend and I would walk down in the summer to go to an ice cream shop in town. I was around fourteen when I noticed cars would beep at us, or we’d hear people yell things out the window. At first I thought it was a coincidence, but then dudes started hanging out the windows and woop at me, which I soon understood was on purpose? It was very odd. Couldn’t they see I wasn’t cool or pretty? Don’t they know i’m just a gross girl with B.O. and hairy legs?
I was shocked when I heard someone at my school got caught giving someone a blow job in the locker room. This was four months after I found out what a blow job actually was (and could not believe someone would choose to be the giver in such an act. Like most women, it took me a while to realize–and experience–what reciprocal pleasure was). I hated how my place in the world was changing. I had power, all of a sudden, and I didn’t know how to wield it. I thought being a kid was a lot of fun, and the benefits of staying one outnumbered the perks of changing. It’s the one era in a lifetime that creates an obvious shift between two phases of life (childhood and adulthood) that humans never experience again in their life once it’s over, and if I could choose, I was having no part of it.
Every summer I went camping with my family. I was definitely approaching the age where it was uncomfortable to share a camper bed with your two (equally growing) teenage sisters. We’d camp five or so times a summer but as I got older I wanted to hang out with my friends rather than sitting around the campfire while my dad complained about cold coffee while shirtless.
One weekend our camping spot was in a big open field at a campground twenty minutes from home. A little ways down, there was a big family with numerous tents and Winnebagos crowded in one area. They were always playing games, laughing, singing songs around the campfire, and other stuff you wouldn’t do if you were at home. My favorite pastime that weekend was casually watching a guy in an orange hat my age at that campsite. I couldn’t see his face that well but decided he was hot anyway because my hormones made irrational decisions based off nothing.
All you could do to pass time was walk around in the circle that the campground made, or go swimming. There was also a one-room arcade building that had pinball games and a candy store, a place the owner created with bored teenagers in mind.
The pool closed at eight and one time my cousins, my older sister, and I snuck in and threw the plastic furniture into the pool. My sister was in the pool when we heard a mysterious voice over an intercom say “TAKE THE FURNITURE OUT OF THE POOL AND GET OUT.” My sister raised the chair in her hands out of the water while keeping as much of herself underwater.
During the day we mostly sat on the edge while dangling our feet under the water to keep cool. On one such occasion, a cute guy came up to us and started talking to me. He was beautiful. I couldn’t believe my luck and thought he surely must have just arrived and hadn’t gotten a good look at all the babes at camp. Astonishingly, he asked me to go for a walk that night.
As I waited for him at our meeting spot, I was surprised and excited to see the guy with the orange baseball hat from a couple sites down make an appearance. He was walking towards me. It was Chris, the guy from the pool. My hormones couldn’t take it. I seriously got a two-for-one deal. This was the beginning of my “I can’t believe this sort of thing happened to me” storyline in life.
The evening was splendid, I was walking on clouds the whole time he held my hand, and I couldn’t sleep that night because I kept replaying our conversations in my head (that, and my sister’s long toenails kept jabbing into my leg).
The next day my family left to go back home way too early in the morning for me to see Chris. As my dad connected the hose that emptied our poop from the trailer into the weird storage tank at the campground (why is that a thing?), I luckily spotted Chris swimming. I got out of the truck and casually ran to the pool where he eagerly got out to talk to me. I had written my phone number on a piece of paper and gave it to him. His dad was freakishly supportive of our union, giving his son an “attaboy” as I walked away. I still don’t understand.
A couple of crudely written Windows ’95-era love letters were written over the next couple of weeks. He called me one day and told me his dad had a doctors appointment in my town at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning and wondered if I wanted to go on a date with him to the park across the street from the hospital. I never thought my first ever date would be paired with the words “colonoscopy” or “medicinal enema,” but what could I do? The guy’s got intestine problems. Lets hope it doesn’t run in the family.
The date was pretty low key, but I suppose it was my perfect entrance into teenager-dom. We chatted while swinging on the swing set, tossed around a frisbee in the field I once played t-ball in, and slid down the rusty, metal slide i’d been going on since I was three. Since it was eight o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t anyone around, which I liked, having no fear of being spotted doing something so embarrassing as showing my affection for someone else publicly.
After the days following the date, I decided to embrace the teenager in me and accept my fate as a (*shudder*) growing woman. Maybe I liked boys and going on dates now. I crossed the threshold, and without even thinking about it, I knew I couldn’t go back. And maybe I didn’t want to.
I have known Renee for as long as i’ve known my own mother. Maybe longer.
She grew up in a goofy family. Poor Renee was the subject at the end of punchlines as she was in birth order. Her sisters were already 4 and 6 years older (and more wiser to the ways of the world) than she. As she grew up though, I don’t know how it happened, at some point I realized that she was schooling all of us. She was shy, but often I thought she knew more of what was happening around us than anyone else did. I wonder if she was that way because her older sisters were always loud and obnoxious most of the time and she saw how that always made us look like idiots, and she learned from it.
Renee has a tender heart–a better writer would find a way to string together examples of all the important lessons she taught me, but me not good writer. She was, and is, the rock among us. She’s the sister on the stagecoach holding the reigns, and me and april are the stumbling horses. She’d call us out when we were being inappropriate, or rude, or just plain embarrassing. And in turn, when I least expected it, like waiting in line at the grocery store on thanksgiving morning, or on the way home from a draining day of driving somewhere, she’ll ever so quickly come up with a humorous quip that’ll send the whole car into hysterics.
She’s smarter than all of us. She was the first to get her degree even though she’s the youngest, and she always made April and I look bad when it was report card day. Worst of all she had to deal with having the same teachers that her older sisters had in school but surprised them all by being a more respectable and better person than we could ever be.
This might sound weird, but sometimes I would sit and wondering what kind of guy would be perfect for Renee. I felt protective of her, and I wanted to be the person to find someone for her, because I knew that this guy had to have specific things about him in order to live up to her standards and I couldn’t trust anyone else’s choices.
I wondered would she want to be with someone equally as goofy as the family she grew up with? or would she finally seek a normal life by marrying someone sane?
Tuna is, as I get to know him more and more, someone who I was relieved to find fits both those rare requirements in the best sense. He has a solid foundation, and a focused mind, but has that universal sense of curiosity about the world that keeps him young. It was during a historic game of Scattegories on Christmas this past year that i’ve discovered that Tuna is beyond what I could have imagined for Renee. His wit is as deadly as hers, and once you combine that…it’s a force of nature. All board games will have to be strategized beforehand from now on. He gives her the perfect balance of nature that she needs and deserves in a life.
So far, he’s been able to handle every weird thing that’s come his way, as far as the Heeringa’s are concerned, which is pretty impressive. We’ll have to see how well he does on the dance floor later tonight.
*Written for my sister’s wedding on 4 June 2016.
Dave Eggers theorizes that the reason you listen to a song over and over is because you feel you need to solve it. When you first listen, it’s foreign pieces you aren’t sure whether they fit together or not, and the more you understand and listen to the song, the pieces come together, and you’re done with it. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was once so floored by the first time he heard the song “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, he had to pull the car he was driving over to the side of the road and just listen. Over fifty years later, it is still his favorite song. Why? Because he cannot solve it.
For the life of me, i’ve never been able to solve the song “Lola” by The Kinks. Seems like such a casual, boring song, heard on the oldies station time and time again. No one bothers with it anymore. But have you actually LISTENED to it? I honestly think it may be one of the most beautiful songs ever created, mostly because I cannot solve it.
I’ve listened to it different ways (listening solely to Dave Davies background vocals. Only the guitars. The Top of the Pop’s version where everything has been pre-recorded except their vocals), and each time i’m so fascinated and so confused. The song starts calm and unruffled, a naive boy, having just moved from his parents house only a week before meets and starts chatting with a mysterious woman with something about her he can’t put his finger on (why did she walk like a woman but talk like a man?). They become friendly, and then everything heightens. There is a chemistry all of a sudden, and then those clever sharp notes step in. When the Davies brothers hit that first bridge (“we drank champagne and danced all night, under electric candlelight…”) its past the point of return. Sometimes i’ll listen to that part on my headphones and rewind it three or four times because it kills me over and over.
Meanwhile, things are getting heavy. Champagne is consumed, there is much dancing, the mood and the lighting and the people around them are at the perfect tone. Lola goes for it and asks the narrator to come home with her! Wow! Lola is bold! All the while the narrator is still so unsure of himself (“i’m not the worlds most passionate guy/i’m not dumb but I can’t understand/i’m not the worlds most physical guy”). He denies her, shoves her away, and dramatically goes for the door. But then he realizes his mistake! Thankfully before he even exits the building. He goes for it. She takes him back, and tells him, essentially, that she’s going to show him something he’s never experienced before. You go, Lola.
The repeated spellings of “L-O-L-A” and “C-O-L-A” are so genius, I wish the Davies brothers could have used it in all their songs, if that meant that every song he wrote were as clever and beautiful as this one and you never got sick of it and you never solved those either. And can we also please mention the perfect grammar of the lyric “I looked at her, and she at me”?
Although Top of the Pop’s sort of cheated with all their “lives” performances, I still find The Kink’s performance of this song to be one of their best (even if they’re trying to stifle their laughing throughout). Plus you get to see a good example of “drummer mouth.” (Just watch.)
Nick Hornby published the essay book “Songbook” in 2002. He picked his favorite songs and described in an essay why he loved it so much. I can’t help but do the same.
“Victoria” by The Kinks
This is my victory song (VICTOR-IA, get it?). I HAVE TO listen to it when something goes really right in my life. Like something out of the ordinary that doesn’t quite validate spending money because it’s so priceless. I dance around, I sing until I start coughing. I do that thing Orlando Bloom does in the movie Elizabethtown where he dances on one foot in the middle of a barren field. This ritual was first initiated when I had been pining over a patron who often visited the public library where I worked. He didn’t have a schedule when he came by, unlike many other people who flooded into the building when it opened (grab a session on the free computers, check out the same book they returned the day before only to place it in the book deposit at the end of the night and then repeating the process the next day), and he mostly wandered around the different non-fiction sections searching for anything that caught his eye before leaving twenty minutes after stepping foot in the door.
A wild snowstorm appeared one morning, some would call it a blizzard, and a rare announcement was made over the speakers that the library was going to close at noon for safety reasons. The guy (I still didn’t know his name) came in at 11:40 a.m. After making me blush a few times as he walked past, he came up to me and asked where he could find the Gabriel Garcia Marquez section. I didn’t know if One Hundred Years of Solitude would be under Garcia or Marquez, so I took him to both spots, chatting his ear off all the while. He eventually got the asking for my number out of him.
I grinned loudly on the walk home, trudging through the dangerous blizzard four blocks to my apartment. I blasted “Victoria” on repeat from the stereo in my bathroom as I stripped myself of wet clothes and raised my hands high in triumph. I felt exhilarated. Death proof. Like winter would eventually end and Michigan would live to reach the spring. And holy cow that bass line.
I really can’t get enough of the Davies brothers, and often go in fits of listening to nothing but The Kinks for days. This is often when my family hates me. My sister once inadvertently memorized “Do You Remember Walter?” based solely on my singing it while we strung up Christmas lights to our parents roof the day after Thanksgiving one year. It took us a good ten minutes longer for the job since I kept fiddling with the stereo, making sure it was loud enough to be heard in the far reaches of the roof.
“Victoria,” for a song written for the downtrodden, its satire makes it a happy song, a love song for the reign of Victoria in the British Empire.