Patsy Cline

Walkin’ After Midnight

By Kedrick Rue

hwy-351When I was about ten years old my mother and I went to visit my aunt in New Galilee, Pennsylvania, under mysterious circumstances. My mother was a no-nonsense, often blunt sort of person. She did not suffer fools. She would say whatever came into her mind, usually in the most devastating manner possible. However, on this trip she was uncharacteristically tight-lipped. All I knew was that she hadn’t spoken to her sister in years, possibly decades.

Flying into Pennsylvania was like entering another world. I had rarely been outside of Los Angeles, and even though we lived in the hills, there was an expanse of city on either side of the wooded cleft in which we lived. The wilderness in Los Angeles is a pause in the city; in rural Pennsylvania–at least at the time–the city, and the airport, were merely a pause in the wilderness.

Adding to my sense of dislocation was the behavior of my twelve-year-old cousin Marty who, when he wasn’t pretending I didn’t exist, was dreaming up new ways to torture me and his sister, Maybeth. He soon learned that the discomfort I felt when he simply ignored me faded after a day or two, so he became increasingly aggressive in imagining ways to harass me, from throwing my underwear outside onto the front lawn to tearing pages out of the many books I’d brought along to keep me company.

My mother didn’t have it any easier. It was clear from their first words together that she and my aunt, a round and softly pretty woman who dressed in denim but who also wore a jarringly dissonant purple turban, were trying to find something from their childhood with which to salvage their relationship. My mother walked on eggshells. It was as if someone had replaced her with a facsimile, one which was forced to swallow every acerbic remark and quash every spleenful impulse she’d ever had. She even laughed in a high, foreign voice when my uncle made an off-color comment that I didn’t understand about her salmon-colored capri pants.

patsy-clineTo top it all off, my aunt and uncle adored Patsy Cline. My mother, a dyed-in-the-wool urbanite, was inherently allergic to anything country. This, too, went unremarked as every night the records came out and Crazy was played at full volume when the kids were supposed to be asleep.

But we weren’t asleep. Marty wouldn’t let me sleep. Instead he terrified me with stories of Charlie No-Face, the wandering, hideously disfigured demon who traveled along Highway 351 after dark, murdering children. His descriptions were full of details which it seemed to me he couldn’t have come upon if he’d only invented the story, and imagining Charlie No-Face’s melted visage and lurching walk kept me up until late after midnight.

Two weeks is a long time to be away from home, and towards the beginning of the second week I began to feel that our home had never even existed, and that I was being claimed by this strange new place and its unfamiliar trees and empty landscapes. There was nothing here to indicate that my life back home even existed. Even my mother had been replaced by a simulacrum.

One night after falling into a fitful sleep after days of exhaustion I awoke, screaming, and couldn’t stop until the entire household was standing at the door to the room that Marty and I shared. I had been dreaming about Charlie No-Face. When I said the name my aunt glared at my cousin, as if she were sharing the direst of secrets with him.

When they had calmed me down with a cup of warm milk flavored with something I knew, even at ten years old, was alcohol, they went into the living room. They thought I had fallen back to sleep, but I could hear them talking through the thin wall. My aunt explained to my mother that Charlie No-Face was an unfortunate man who lived in the country and had been electrocuted as a child. His face had melted. He was so badly disfigured he didn’t want to go out during the day, and since he had been blinded as well in the accident, he had no qualms about going out for his walks late in the evening.

If my aunt’s elucidation was meant to make Charlie No-Face sound less terrifying, it didn’t work.

“Have you seen him?” I heard my mother ask.

“Once,” my aunt said. “He’s gruesome.”

“I don’t know,” my uncle said. “He’s kinda sad.”

I remember glancing over at Marty. His eyes were as wide open as mine.

hwy-351-bGradually the warm milk or the alcohol took me. I remember dreaming about a road, flanked by unfamiliar trees. In the dream I was anxious because somewhere on that road was Charlie No-Face, and some other place on that road was home, and the me that existed there.

We left not long after that. As we were driving through the country towards Pittsburgh, the song Walkin’ After Midnight came on the radio. I remember explaining to my mother that Charlie No-Face was also called the Green Man, because his skin had turned green from an infection which went untreated for too long. I thought I was just making conversation, but my mother pulled the car over to the side of the road and got out.

She went towards the back of the car. I could feel the subtle shift in the car’s carriage as she sat down on the rear bumper and smoked a cigarette. When she came back her eyes were red and puffy. She had been crying.

But the odd thing was, she was back. As suddenly as that. She was once more the mother that I knew, and I, by default, I was myself as well.

Not long after that my aunt died. Again, no words as to why until years later, when both my mother and I were different people.

Patsy Cline

Yoko Ono

Kiss Kiss Kiss

By Lemon Peralta

double-fantasyWho were the Beatles? Only another boy band with bad hair cuts and gaggles of mindless pre-teens fainting at their feet. What, they were both tuneful AND ground-breaking? Please. I’ve heard better tunes in the sing-song of my favorite drag queen. And if I wanted to hear the phrase “number nine” shouted at me repeatedly from a speaker I’d make another trip to my friendly neighborhood STD clinic. The only thing useful the Beatles ever brought me was the Nehru jacket. And that was when I was in my “boy” phase.

Oh, they brought one other thing: Yoko. Yoko, the destroyer of the greatest band of all time. Yoko, the performance artist who could dance like a butterfly and sing like a bee…or was it a fly? Yoko, the wall of hair, like something out of a Japanese horror movie, or my fondest dream. Yoko could have been just another loft-living, clothing-cutting, fly-impersonating, obscure-because-I’m-avant-garde performance artist, but she I had the good fortune for her to marry one of the most famous men of all time. Lucky me.

Out of all the songs featuring orgasmic moaning (I’ve heard Jane Birkin on J’Taime, moi non plus, and I’ve heard Donna Summer Loving to Love Me, Baby) Kiss Kiss Kiss this is the only song featuring orgasmic moaning to which I can contribute my personal growth.

I know we all remember the time when we first realized what and who we were, THAT way. For some guys it’s when they first saw a picture of Pamela Anderson. For some girls it’s when they first borrowed some goat-smelling teenage boy’s flannel shirt on a cold winter night at summer camp. For me it was when I first heard this song.

nehru-jacket

I wasn’t wearing a Nehru jacket at the time, though I was most definitely in my “boy” phase. At sixteen I had worn it once, for a date with a girl who most definitely didn’t appreciate the fact that I was shopping vintage and she was shopping Wet Seal. That’s fine, I told her. Cancel my subscription, ’cause I’m over your issues. I was quick with a snappy comeback, but slow to recover. I didn’t want to date her anyway, just get some guys at school off my back. It didn’t work, and the Nehru jacket went back in the closet, along with my damaged psyche. I died my hair jet black, to match my mood.

When she heard about it, my good friend Sloane promised a fabulous night out. She knew she could get us into the Store House, a sleazy biker bar uptown, mostly because when she did herself up like a two-dollar hooker she could pass for twenty-five. When I did myself up like a two-dollar hooker all I could pass for was a Superstar Barbie who’d been attacked by toddlers with crayons and blunt scissors.

crystal-pepsiBut we got in, and we got drinks. Sloane had a Zima, I had a rum-and-Crystal-Pepsi. I think we were fitting in nicely. But there wasn’t much action, there was no dance floor, and the jukebox roster was filled with AC/DC and Cheap Trick. And I had left my torn Def Leppard t-shirt and roach clip hair accessory at home, so no one asked me to dance.

But for some reason they had this song Kiss Kiss Kiss on the jukebox. Maybe because John Lennon was a Beatle? It was as out of place as culottes at a cotillion, but then so were we.

Sloane dared me to put it on.

When I was five my sister offered me her stash of Zotz candies if I would jump off of the top of our two-story apartment building into the dumpster. There was no way I was going to pass up a handful of fizzing, vinegar-and-baking-soda flavored candies just because there was danger involved. Luckily the dumpster was filled to the brim with after-Christmas Hefties full of discarded wrapping paper. I escaped with minor bruises.

zotz-candiesBut this was far more dangerous. Maybe it was a death-wish. Maybe it was the Crystal Pepsi. Maybe it was the first manifestation of a life-long perversity that later led me to get oh-so-briefly married to an orange vendor that I met at the intersection of La Cienega and Centinela. But I put the quarter in, and the carnage began. You could see the bikers looking up from their beers. The balls on the billiard table stopped clacking together. Incredulous stares scanned the Store Room, eventually landing on us as the only likely culprits.

Oblivious, Sloane and I laughed our asses off as Yoko moaned her way towards climax.

As the song ended and there was a gap before the jukebox found its next Cheap Trick song, the silence in that bar was profounder than the Declaration of Independence and the Book of Matthew and the Collected Lyrics of Abba rolled into one.

Sloane and I ran like hell.

But when I got home, I knew who I was. And I never tried to date a girl who shopped at Wet Seal again.

And my hair was already black, just like Yoko’s.

Yoko Ono

Call for Submissions

Remember that crazy weekend in Mexico and the song that was playing on the radio? How about that girlfriend or boyfriend that you just can’t forget? And what about that piece of music that inspired you to take up ceramics?

Medicine I Didn’t Know I Needed is looking for a few more artists, musicians, and writers to add to our roster of contributors. If you have a special song that is inextricably tied to a particular time in your life, or inspired you to create something great, tell us about it at medicineididntknowineeded@gmail.com.

Call for Submissions