Crazytown

I had been up since five this morning trying to get my email box under 100 messages.  Every time I answered one, three more seemed to pop in.  As I typed in answers to the myriad of questions from fans all over the world about Rick’s newest release, I could hardly believe some of the things I was telling them.  I gave them the address and phone number of Rick’s record distributor if they asked about stores that hadn’t planned on carrying the disc who they had cajoled into doing so.  I gave them the email of the press manager if they had managed to get their local paper to cover the release or an upcoming show, or both.  I researched local radio stations from the online database and gave them the call letters of the one most likely to play the first single if they asked what radio station to contact about getting the music on the air.

I had no experience in the music industry other than growing up calling radio stations to request music, but I was a fast learner and I listened carefully when the record company reps or Rick’s managers would call me with information, or suggestions, or answers to the questions I just couldn’t figure out.

The fans surprised me.  I came up with a contest where for each fan who went to a store and asked them to stock the CD, they would have a chance to win a phone call from Rick.  They fanned out all over the country and succeeded in many cases in getting orders that would have never have happened for the disc.  One fan worked at Target headquarters in Minnesota and actually had meetings about getting the chain to carry the disc.  I couldn’t believe the range of our reach.

The record company had told me that it was nearly impossible to get in store displays without spending money on them; I created another contest where fans would win tickets and backstage passes if they could get a store to allow them to create an in store display.  When the record company balked on sending us the promotional posters to send fans who were successful in their negotiations, Rick himself sent me a package of posters to send to the fans.  Soon, photos of the fan created displays started pouring in.

“Can I speak with you regarding Rick Springfield’s street team?” came the voice on the other end of the phone.  I glanced around my kitchen and family room quickly.  This morning’s breakfast dishes were still in the sink, the laundry was still sitting in the laundry basket from when I’d brought it down this morning, untouched.  The family room floor was covered with the kids’ toys, but they were both generally quiet; Noggin was broadcasting Max and Ruby right now, and they were both transfixed.

“Sure,” I responded, modulating my voice to sound like a respected leader and member of Rick Springfield’s promotional team and not a mother with yesterday’s dinner stuck to the edge of my shirt.   I stepped out of the kitchen and into the dining room, which had turned into my command central for the team, and opened up the laptop in case I needed to reference anything there.

“Rick Springfield’s new CD is generating a lot of buzz to be sure, but so is your group of Street Teamers.   Everyone seems to be talking about how genius it is that Rick doesn’t have just one or two promotion people, he’s got hundreds.  Rick can’t say enough about the team and how much of a difference it is making with this new record.  Can you speak to me a little about that?”

I glowed with pride.  Late nights, crazy emails, too much frozen food, many cups of coffee.  In that moment, it was all totally worth it.

“I’d love to,” I replied.  “The Shock Street Team is composed off…” and off I went.

 

To read a copy of the San Francisco Gate story about the Shock Street Team in 2004, please click here:

Rick’s album gets jolt from fans 

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Home from College

It was time for Christmas Break.

Joe and I were both going back home to work and earn a little more to put in each of our bank accounts.   He had lined up a horrible construction job for the three weeks of break, a back breaking schedule of physical labor that started early and ended late.  I was going back to Burger King, working the early shift that started at 6 and ended at 2.

It was a welcome break for me.  I had gotten so intensely unhappy worrying about my grades, which ended up as passable for most but subpar for me.  I ended my first term with a 3.5 GPA; for someone who had graduated as class valedictorian, this was upsetting and disappointing.  I was constantly feeling unsure of my choice of majors; the music classes I was taking were not coming naturally to me.  But I vowed to persevere and keep going forward.

Joe was less happy about the break.  The job wasn’t his first choice, but he needed the money.  Also, he’d have to spend the break at his grandparents’ again, as his mother was just moving into her new place nearer to the university.  We’d both be going up to help after Christmas, together, but for now he was stuck down here without her as a buffer.  I told him we’d try to spend as much time together at my house as we could.

I was looking forward to the alone time with him.  At college there were always people around; we each had three roommates.  I wasn’t interested in ever getting caught in the middle of a compromising position, so we weren’t having sex nearly as much as one would think a couple together away at college might.  Plus we both were driven students, so we spent most of our time together studying, not making out.  We both had goals and were not interested in derailing the other one from theirs.

We spent those weeks enjoying each other.  My sister was hardly ever there, and my mother always worked late.  We spent nearly every afternoon we could making love.   We’d missed this beautiful part of our relationship; while we loved each other and respected each other, our physical chemistry had been on the back burner so much that we were on fire when we finally got home.  The more we did it, the more we craved each other.

It was good to be home.

A Hot Summer Night

My mother was spending a weekend up north at her friend’s cabin on the lake.  This is what people do in the summer in Michigan, they all go up to cabins on lakes in the proverbial lands labeled “Up North”, which means they are somewhere north of the outer ring suburbs.

She often did this.  She would leave on Friday afternoon or maybe early Saturday morning, and come back Sunday evening.  Sometimes my sister was around, and sometimes she wasn’t; I had friends over and had my one and only drinking party one weekend when she wasn’t.

Joe’s mother sometimes did a similar thing.  She had a boyfriend, and he had a place out on the western side of the state near Lake Michigan.   She too would disappear, leaving Joe alone for an overnight, all summer long, every other weekend or so.

One weekend, both of our mothers plans coincided.  And we quietly made plans to Do It.  We agreed to spend the night at his apartment, since at my place my sister might show up.  My sister might not have much to say about me spending all night out (I might just be at a girlfriend’s), but she might have something to say if she heard such goings on while she was home.

The difference between my only other partner and Joe were extreme.  With Joe we discussed everything ahead of time, talked about the protection we’d use, planned for it, and even worried aloud about the trauma I might experience since the last time I’d had sex it was not consensual.  He was kind, thoughtful and in a total surprise to me, a virgin.   It was mature, and honest, and thoughtful, and equal.

We’d gone pretty far in our two months together prior to this moment, so I was rather surprised at how fearful I was during the experience.  I cried so much I couldn’t breathe; and poor Joe quietly talked to me and soothed me through all of it.  He was so kind and so thoughtful that I couldn’t believe it.   I was honestly scared, and rather than take it personally or have a problem with it, instead he genuinely wanted to help me through it and understood that it wasn’t about him.

And then, finally, after four hours of soaking his sheets with snot and tears and shame, we did it.   Joe’s quick breathing and sheer joy was palpable.  I wanted to do it, I told him, over and over as the tears kept coming.  I wanted to be able to do this with him, and I was sure that once I got through this first time, I would be fine.  The happiness I saw in him as we shared the moment together was a gift that I treasured.

We tried again the next morning.  It was so much different than anything I’d ever experienced.   The sensations I felt were so intense that I wasn’t sure they could be real.  This was not dirty, or wrong.  This was what heaven must be like.

Bittersweet, but mostly Bitter

All of my friends had dates for Homecoming my senior year, but they encouraged me to go anyway.

My friend Karen was going with Alan, who probably had a huge crush on her. My friend Dawn (who I’d had a huge fight with over my crazy competitiveness about our writing…she was right, and I was so upset at her being right that I refused to admit it) was going with Bill. They were both considered outcasts, and were going just to spite conventional wisdom that outcasts couldn’t go to Homecoming (picture the two outcast friends from Mean Girls). Lauri was going with Todd, who’d recently broken up with his longtime girlfriend (and one of my less close friends these days) Andrea. Mark was going stag, and told me there was no shame in going stag.

So I decided to go anyway. I have a photo of me getting ready in a peach dress next to my mother, who was getting ready to go out to the bar with her girlfriends. She looked fantastic; she’d lost fifty pounds and was working part time at Casual Corner to help pay for all of the new clothes she needed for her new figure.

Everyone was having fun with their partner, but I was watching all of them together, interacting. I wasn’t as sad as you’d expect, except for a few melancholy moments as people paired up for the slow dances. My friends had asked me to come, so they made a point of including me in their groups; I had conversations, I had a place to sit, I talked with the few graduates who had come back with younger dates. But what I remember the most about that evening was seeing an acquaintance named Joe.

It was the first time I’d ever really noticed him. He had been in band with me all along, ever since freshman year, of course. But I’d never had any other classes with him. I never ran into him, never had a conversation with him. But he was dating a girl named Amy, who was neighbors with my friend Karen.

Joe was handsome, with dark hair and a lean and lanky figure. A strong nose and angular face, he lit up when he smiled and looked peaceful when in thought. He was kind and engaging, even though it was clear he and his date were having a bit of a rocky evening. Karen confessed to me later that she too found him attractive, and Amy was harder on him than he deserved. She predicted a break up would occur sometime soon, at Amy’s hands. Not Joe’s. He was the type that stuck, she told me.

I left alone that evening, alone still when I got home since my mother had not yet returned from her evening out. Despite my friendly conversations, despite the dancing and the fun I thought I’d had, when I got home, the feeling of being alone was so palpable I could taste it on my tongue. It was bitter, like anticipating the sweet taste of creamy chocolate and finding out you’d just bitten into an unsweetened bar instead.

I longed to spit it out.

The Knife

I was thinking about it.

I was alone, one night at home, thinking about it.

Everything was converging all at once in my head.   I had made the wrong choices at school, putting me a year behind in science from my other gifted peers.  They were all studying physics or advanced biology while I was still in chemistry.   I was had quit the band, which I was starting to regret.  I missed my friends from the music group, and no matter how much I tried to see them off campus, it wasn’t the same as the camaraderie that came from sharing the same experience in class together.  I wondered all of the time why my father didn’t call more often or come to see me; now that my brother was out of our house, I heard from him once a month or less.  What was wrong with me?  Why didn’t people like me?  Why was I screwing everything up?

Mind you, I wasn’t able, in my drowning state, to see the good going on around me:  my ever emerging relationship with my mother, my new “boyfriend” John, the good grades that I was pulling in, the job I had, the friends I had.  None of this seemed too penetrate.  I started thinking of how my friends would be better off without me, how my mother’s life would be so much easier if I would just disappear.  I even thought the worst, most dramatic thought of all:  Ray would be sorry.

Because I was alone so often, the thoughts pounded through my head, uninterrupted.  All of the time, for weeks.  Until finally one night, I snuck downstairs.

I went into the silverware drawer and looked at the knives.  The serrated ones would be no good, I assumed.  I didn’t want to take one that would be noticed.  I wasn’t sure I had the guts to do it tonight.  But I wanted to have the knife with me.  Just in case.  Just in case I worked up the nerve.

I found a relatively sharp knife that we didn’t use often underneath the ones more frequently used and scuttled up to my room quickly.

In the semidarkness of my quiet room, I traced it slowly up and down my lower arm, just above the blue vein visible beneath my pale skin.  I pushed with more pressure, more pressure, until I broke the thin layer of skin.  A tiny drop of blood appeared.  Not much.

That was enough, for now.  Knowing I had the power to do it, at any moment, if I wanted to.  That was enough.

Not Alone

My mother, while hesitant, was surprisingly OK with me driving a hundred miles away to go see a boy that I had a romantic interest in, even though it meant that I would be Staying Overnight At His House.

My friend Dawn thought it was because my mother had been through so much with my sister busting through her curfew so many times and my brother being all crazy and breaking laws and stuff that me going to a house where parents were telling her they would supervise me seemed somehow perfectly OK.  After all, I did this with her and her sister all of the time (granted, Dawn’s sister lived across town not a hundred miles away), and I’d done it with my girlfriend from camp in Kalamazoo.  So there was historical precedent and all.

My other friends?  They all thought I was nuts, chasing after something that if I just was patient I could probably find right in my own backyard.

But I knew better.  The people I knew here, had known me since I was ten.  They knew about my crazy brother, and my sad insecurity, and my total lack of self esteem.  This guy had just met me, and all he knew is that I was bold enough to drive hundreds of miles to make what I wanted to happen, happen.  He thought I was tough and smart.  I was pretty sure that no one else I knew thought that.  And so, I got in my car that November afternoon and drove west.

Ray and his parents struck me as a typical American family, and from the second I stepped in to the smell of the homecooked dinner before the play performance, I was sucked into the normalcy of it.  It was all that I craved:  stability, two parents who were paying attention, someone at home at night, people who paid attention to the details.  Not that my mother didn’t; she was doing the best that she could.  But there wasn’t much time between the hours of 7 or 8 when she got home from work and the ten o’clock bedtime I self imposed.  And now that I worked two nights a week and my mother went out at least one night a week, there was less and less time together.    My father was busy with his work and we hardly ever saw him; sometimes once a month, sometimes less. And my sister was now dating someone super serious; she was often not home either. I was always alone, and while a certain amount of solitude suited me well, too much made me feel as if no one cared.

By the time the curtain went up on “The Music Man” later that evening, I was as much entranced by the kiss on the side of the road that I’d savored as I was by the family that genuinely seemed to be functional.   His parents actually seemed happy that I was there, interested in who I was.  When I closed the door on the guest room that night, I felt safer and more comfortable in their house than I had in my own.  I knew if something went wrong there would be someone there to ask for help.    I knew I was not alone, on so many different levels.

It was a feeling that I didn’t even know how much I’d missed.

Something New

Amazingly, my mother allowed me to drive out to see some of my camp girlfriends that fall.  We lived in a triangle, the three of us, with my location being the most distant from the two of them.  Lori lived about an hour southwest of Kristen, and she lived about three hours west of me.   We devised a plan where we would all meet up at Kristen’s place, which was large and comfortable for all of us.  I still can’t believe that my mother was OK with this.  I drove out on a Friday afternoon, on I 94, through the city, and then broke west past the airport.

My newly minted driver’s license not eight weeks old in my hot little hands.  I took an atlas with me (obviously there were no GPS gadgets, nor was there even Mapquest to consult) and the basic directions my girlfriends had sent me.  I got to Kristen’s place around dinner time.

We spent the weekend having fun, enjoying late night joy rides on roads more deserted than anything I’d encountered in my corner of suburbia, shopping for snacks in impossibly small grocery stores and just catching up.   I shared with them my little secret plan that even my mother didn’t know about.

Not long after I realized that I wasn’t going to marry Rick Springfield after all (I am mostly joking here), I started hearing more and more from Ray, the boy I’d met at camp.  We’d been talkin on the phone sometimes, and sent a few paper letters in the mail.  It’s hard to even imagine that distance these days being an issue (since now he lives six time zones away and I can communicate face to face via Skype), but in those days, a hundred miles was a big deal.

Kristen’s place was about an hour south of Ray.  I figured I could simply “stop by” his place on my way home.  It was completely out of the way, as a matter of fact, but I couldn’t even imagine being so close to where he was and not trying to see him.  The girls loved the deviousness of my plan, but warned me to be careful in the presence of the player that we all knew he was.

I was really starting to like Ray.  The phone conversations and snail mails were showing me who he was besides the player; a serious boy who loved music and singing; who loved his family; who struggled academically.  I wanted to help him.  I wanted to help him be the person who I was starting to get to know all of the time.  So I literally tingled with anticipation as I drove north towards the western outskirts of Lansing.

We spent just a few hours together.  I met his parents, who didn’t seem the least bit fazed that a girl from such a distant location was coming to see their son.  They were friendly and offered me dinner but also kept their distance as Ray and I talked about this and that, my weekend and his upcoming play at school.  We agreed that I would come back in a few weeks to see the play.  I wasn’t sure how my mother would take me driving to spend the weekend at some boy’s house, but his parents were all for it, and promised to talk to my mother about it so that no one would think any “funny business” was going on.

And just like that, I was in.  I was involved.   I was, for lack of a better word, dating this boy that lived a hundred miles away from me.  As he kissed me before I drove off, literally into the sunset, I knew this was not going to be like the last boy I’d met from camp and dated.  I’d never felt this overwhelming sense of emotion with Jeff.  Hadn’t felt that intense urge to keep kissing until the end of time, the push from somewhere deep inside me to move closer, closer.  No, this was different.

This was going to be very, very different.

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