I read this NY Times article today:
and was reminded about a post I’ve been wanting to write. I think it’s obvious I enjoy nostalgia. Sometimes when my own life is happening I can’t believe it, and those are the memories I retreat into years later when I want to retaste what it felt like for things to be really new.
In 2003, I was a new Detroiter. A transplant from Los Angeles that really blew everyone’s mind. For example: “you moved here from L.A.?” Now they’re starting to understand after the storm of post-2008 Detroit media about how cool it actually is, ruin porn and all. The film incentive took effect just as I moved away in 2008, and all my friends were seeing Ryan Gosling at karaoke. SO unfair.
My dark years in Los Angeles had almost turned me into so many things I didn’t want to, or wasn’t ready to be. First, the wife of a tough guy, and second, a woman who only had her career and whose biggest accomplishment was owning a Jag (for the record I’d never buy a Jag, but I’m speaking from observation).
I knew what I wanted to be. Truly – I wanted to be a rock star. But I’d take the next best thing: being friends with rock stars. I wanted to party. I wanted to pretend I was living in certain parts of “Please Kill Me”, specifically in 1975-1978 New York. So, I did the obvious thing and moved to Detroit, where I could pretend, with much cheaper rent than where I was living in L.A., or where I’d come from in the modern era New York.
If you read this book there’s a stronger than average chance we could be friends.
The epicenter of what I was looking for, at age twenty five, was at the Magic Stick.
My roommate bartended there, which felt like a huge gift from the universe. I got to go to many shows free… and I did, alone at first, while I tried to gather friends from my jobs and my solo excursions. After the Electric Six show on New Year’s Eve, Jack White was holding hands with Marcie from the Von Bondies as the room emptied. This was a huge deal in “Fell in Love with a Girl” legos video Detroit (for me).
I don’t remember exactly how I met the Modern Dancer, but I know it was in front of the Magic Stick.
I don’t remember if he took my number or gave me his, or exactly what our first date was.
I remember these things.
1) The Blackout of 2003. My roommate and I were driving around the corner from our house, probably on our way to go someplace we could shower. The Modern Dancer (“The MD” for short) drove by with a beautiful black woman in his car. I was deflated. I think at this point he just hadn’t called me or something, we hadn’t even had a date. But I was 25, inexperienced, and obsessive.
2) One date, we sat in the backyard of the Old Miami, a notable Cass Corridor dive bar, with the MD’s friend. The MD was discussing his DUI. He was 26. I can’t remember if this was the night that the friend hit on me or not. But that happened too. I was so confused by that. ”I’m kind of seeing someone,” I said, hoping he’d figure out what I meant. Later the whole scenario made more sense.
3) Vivid memories of this night… I’m hanging out with the Modern Dancer. I don’t remember what we did except for going to a party at the house across the street from me (the MD and I lived blocks from each other, where everyone lived, in Woodbridge). I was wearing the navy blue mesh skirt to my Rocawear basketball cheerleader outfit (yes, you read that correctly), a white tank top, and Adidas Top Tens.
I mostly listened to hip hop at this point in my existence. I just got rid of those Adidas a few months ago (they always pinched my toes). We got stoned, and the girl that lived at the house suddenly fainted. All the stoners panicked. The Modern Dancer said “I have some gauze at my house!”, jumped in his Escort wagon, and rushed the few blocks to his place. Unsure of what to do in a houseful of strangers on their way to the emergency room, I walked across the street and back home. Eventually, the MD showed up on my doorstep. My neighbor, who had promised me a turkey burger hours before when it was close to dinner time, showed up after midnight on my porch where The Modern Dancer and I sat talking. ”Oh my god, I cannot eat that right now, I am way too high” I said. What I meant was “I already ate, it’s not dinner time, and I am about to get it on, pothead style, with this flexible guy on my porch.” She seemed very offended.
4) Big, important point about The Modern Dancer. He did not have a cell phone. I had a cell phone with an 810 area code, as name checked by Marshall Mathers in “8 Mile”…
“and I can’t even say I’m from Motown, cause I’m back in the 810 now!”
The Modern Dancer did not have a long distance plan. He could not economically call me. Therefore, he would show up at my house on Tuesday nights. It happened on Tuesday… frequently, once we slept together. Though we only slept together a handful of times over the three months we dated. I asked a friend what she thought of it. ”You’re the Tuesday night girl!” was the resounding response.
5) Everyone I knew in Detroit – and these were all new friends, mostly my neighbors, but as I mentioned everyone was connected – would say, “Oh, you don’t want to date that guy!” when I mentioned the MD. ”Why, why?” I’d ask desperately, but no one would give me a straight answer, until finally one of my neighbors said something like “I’ve heard he’s a player.” I found this really difficult to believe with our sad record of having sex, even though another friend suggested the MD had had sex with someone else besides me in the same day, ruining him for me on several occasions. This began my attempt to go out every night in an effort to catch him with another girl. No luck.
6) The Modern Dancer worked at one of our neighborhood’s hot spots – an organic bakery in the Cass Corridor. A friend of mine was dating a somewhat notable graffiti artist (who ended up in jail, causing her an extremely high phone bill and a lot of stress). I told him about the MD on my townhouse duplex porch. ”Oh, bakers get all the girls, he said.”
7) It finally came down to a night we were out and another girl showed up. She was overly touchy with the MD, and I believe we were hanging out with her ex-boyfriend also. I don’t remember if I specifically asked him about her, or about other girls, but I got it out of him that night. I stood naked in my bedroom telling him “you knew I wasn’t that kind of girl! I’m a one man woman!” A few weeks before he’d asked me, “hey girl from around the way, how around-the-way are you?” and, thinking I understood this question as a listener of junior high era LL Cool J, I’d explained my stance. When I asked him the same question, his response was something like “I’m not nearly as skeezy as I used to be”, which I took to mean we were exclusive. So this relationship was pretty much my education on dating in your twenties, after the two serious relationships of late college and early graduation.
Even after we “broke up”, I had some interludes with the MD. I’m not sure how we ended up being friends, but I went to the sauna with him on more than one occasion. He’d show up… it was probably Tuesday, and I’d go get naked in a sauna with him. ”I covered my nuts so you’re not uncomfortable” stands out in my mind. My ’20s were so romantic!
We may have made out after one of these sauna occasions. I know there were other sleepovers, though I don’t think we ever had sex again. In fact, I strongly remember a sleepover when we definitey did NOT have sex. Like REALLY didn’t have sex, if you know what I mean. I was also dating a 22 year old white rapper at the time, so I was learning. That seemed like a huge age difference then; I was turning 26. I do remember, when I was dating the MD, that he gave me a ridiculously awesome massage and I fell asleep until the next afternoon. So that was my fault that time.
Anyway, even after the “kind of” lying and the sleeping with other girls around sleeping with me, I still have fond feelings for the MD. Romance with him had a delightful element of surprise. I was trying to track him down. I remember the humiliating moment when I realized his phone had caller ID (oh the times I’d called without leaving a message… in a row), but even in a small community, I had no way to interstalk him in 2003. There was an article in the Metro Times about one of his performances. That was the only way I could see a picture of him when I was thinking about him. No yearbooks. No Facebooks. The MD rejected “Friendster”.
Eventually, I knew more people and got to the point of being embarrassed about this guy I’d been completely enamored with. Apparently I had become really cool. A few years later, I finally saw him dance.
Then I was really over it.
When I think back to my 25 year old self, I was so inept at everything other than chasing boys and social climbing that I don’t know how I managed to pay my rent or prevent from dying. I love having money and loving myself, but I miss those times. Especially land lines and the mystery of waiting for someone you knew was out there to show up. God, it was miserable. But so much more exciting than a text.
Striking a pose in an empty dance club in 2003.