A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
We only have one TV in the house, and last night Julien took a break from whatever he wanted to watch and let Maggie take control of it. What she put on was a DVD that had videos and footage of live performances by Nirvana. As Maggie watched, I remembered how she was impressed when I told her that an old friend of mine was in a band that had opened for Nirvana a number of times, and that Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was a big fan of this band. What impressed her even more was that this friend had been to our house here in Front Royal a number of years ago, and that she’d actually met him. I then tried to think of some other things that might impress Maggie, which brought Kurt Cobain’s wife Courtney Love to mind. There was, after all, a connection between me and Courtney Love, though not a direct one. That’s where Kathleen Hannah of the band Bikini Kill came in.
“Courtney Love and Kathleen Hannah,” I explained to Maggie, “had once gotten into a fist fight…” And then I paused, because I wasn’t quite sure how to explain my connection to Kathleen Hanna.
“Kathleen Hanna didn’t like Daddy,” Heather said.
“Why?” Maggie asked.
“Because of something he wrote in the Washington City Paper,” Heather continued.
I wanted to explain to Maggie how, back then, some of the things I wrote didn’t exactly come from a position of enlightenment, and to get to that, I had to tell Maggie how Kathleen Hanna used to work at the Royal Palace. I didn’t quite know how to tell her about the Royal Palace. That it’s a strip joint, and that a story I wrote over twenty years ago about it was rather unkind to the women who worked there. So first I told her about the Black Cat Club, the musical venue in DC.
“You see,” I told Maggie, “Kathleen Hanna denounced me from the stage during a show at the Black Cat Club because of what I wrote.”
Then Maggie said, “Oh?” and a look of puzzlement came upon her face. That’s when I remembered that our neighbor here in Fort Royal, Linda, used to dance at the Royal Palace back in the day.
“You see, there’s this club where Linda used to work, and Kathleen Hanna used to work there too,” I said, and I paused again.
Maggie had heard vague references to “a place where Linda used to work,” and when we first moved here, I thought Linda looked familiar. It was a few years after we’d been here, though, when I finally asked her, “Did you ever dance at the Royal Palace?” That’s when Linda whispered to Heather and me so Maggie couldn’t hear, telling us about her wild, dancing partying days. And every now and then it comes up again, and all Maggie ever hears are the words “Royal Palace” and a lot of hushed words and whispers. So she know something’s up, and that the Royal Palace is a place where none of us works or drinks or does anything anymore.
And I was ready to go on about how I wasn’t always the way I am now. And how, like Homo Erectus or Neanderthal man, I evolved into something better. That’s when Maggie said, “Er, okay. You can just tell me later.” Which meant she understood that this was another one of those stories where I don’t come out looking all that good in the end. Where I’m, at best, more anti-hero than hero.
“Yeah,” she said again. “Just tell me later.”
So she went back to watching Kurt Cobain as he swung a guitar around on stage during a concert, and I never got to explain my connection to Courtney Love, and why she and I were both hated by the same person–Kathleen Hanna. Though I imagine that while she may still hate Courtney Love, Kathleen Hanna has most likely forgotten all about me. As have a lot of other people. And for that I’m grateful.
I took this self-portrait while I showed Julien a video of Amy Winehouse singing, “Tears Dry on Their Own.” It’s a sad and beautiful song, and Julien fell in love with it right away last year when I played it in the car while we were driving around Rehoboth Beach. Then, just a couple of days after we got back from the beach, I showed him, for the first time, the video of Amy Winehouse singing that very song. The look of astonishment on his face made me love the song even more.
A few months later, though, Julien had tired of the song. Whenever it came up in the random mix on the car stereo he’d say, “Different song. Different song.” Now, for a long time, he’s been hooked on Miles Davis. So many times, when we get in the car, he’ll say, “Play Miles Davis.” He knows the music from A Tribute to Jack Johnson and Bitches Brew, but one time recently I played Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way when I picked him up from school.
“Who’s this?” I asked. Julien listened for a few seconds, then said confidently, “Miles Davis.”
And we slowly made our way home, listening to “Shhh/Peaceful” from In a Silent Way. Getting from Julien’s school to our house is not a long drive. In fact, it’s a pretty short drive. But it was just long enough for us to listen and let the music shelter us—maybe even more than the rolled up windows—from a cold winter day. Soon enough, those days when time seems to move so quickly would be back. There was no need for us to rush to get there.
Copyright 2016 Jose Padua