Dad, called Marty, used to go out with a gal named Mary June. We hung out at weekends when it was Dad’s turn to keep me and my sister. Mary June had a son too. She worked at the local radio station, making the shows with the DJs, which I thought was a big deal. I always wanted to be a DJ. A real one — not the kind they have today — the kind that sat alone, in their little rooms surrounded by metal and vinyl, making the world happen in the minds of their listeners.
Later, after Dad’d moved on, Mary June moved into the same apartment complex where we lived. The complex: the place where the new swathes of divorcées now allowed to show their faces in public and us, their kids, went-to for a home — and they were real homes — not these cheap builds they have today — the kind of place where, despite the best efforts of the Holy people, folks of all rank and register, craft and colour mixed and mingled. Mind, I didn’t say ‘blend,’ the word is mingle — shared, exchanged, collaborated & conspired to a respectable semblance of happiness in a place reserved for those with nowhere else, really, to go.
What festered there fed my mind: without Mary June, I’d have never heard of Supertramp — “You’ve never heard of SUPERTRAMP!?!” Bloody well right. Without the black kids, I’d never appreciated Bootsy Collins or dancing the ‘Bus Stop’ — “You can’t do the BUS STOP!?” Not yet. There was even a woman, Marlene, who’d get merry and blast Janis Joplin from one end of the street to the other. And without the geeky kids from up north, I’d’ve never heard of the Human League. “You’ve…” ok, you get it. I got it. And although I was born appreciating a good hustle, something new awakened at my ripe age of 13, and I wanted to know shit — to read between the lines and lyrics. And it was good.
Once, I sat in Mary June’s living room, amongst her massive record collection, studying the front of an album while she went the kitchen. I remember not wanting to be caught surveying the art so intently — nonetheless she whipped back and did — I shuffled ashamed, but she reassured: “Oh, that’s fine, I like to be very familiar with my album covers” — the graceful permission to be curious — which must always, without fail, come from a neutral source.
So when I hear all this broken-home bawling, and consider my own — it recently occurred to me that all might not have been so terribly, absolutely unfortunate. Marty’d left early on, but I wasn’t abandoned. The things I learned in my neighbourhood of misfits and wayward people inform me to this day. I wish I could turn on Soul Train or Bandstand this Saturday morning, & play it real loud with the windows ajar — it used to be guaranteed to attract visitors. It was more fun than staring at the internet.
OK, so everybody been wanting me to read – well, here it is, raw, & unedited: