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Lesbian Perspective

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Time Capsules--Music and Memories

Just when we least expect it, something will come along and invite us to step backwards in time... to take a journey of remembrance that is as unique and individual as our fingerprints. In my case, the catalyst is usually a song.

I was driving along Esplanade Ave. last week, fumbling for a CD to play. Keeping one eye on the road and the other on the clutter of discs on the seat, I finally grabbed one and let it slide into the player. As the first strains of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme made their way into my ears, I looked up and was unexpectedly greeted by the old man, himself. . . H. G. Wells. There he stood at the corner of Burgundy and Esplanade with his time machine. I saw him beckoning me to climb aboard. Who could resist that delicious temptation.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair.. I was 21 and eager to know what the gay social scene was all about. Two friends decided that it was time for me to enter the smoky world of the gay bar. I was excited, terrified, thrilled, and nervous beyond my wildest expectations. This was to be my first journey to Rampart Street and I was ready ... sort of.

First stop on this adventure was The Grog. We walked in the door and down the long bar to the smoky back room where women were dancing together. The music came from an old juke box and it had the herculean task of playing louder than the customers were speaking. Tiny tables lined the walls. My friends wanted to know what I was drinking. Beer. I only had $1 0 to spend.

The back room was too intimidating, so I moved to the wall near the bathrooms. Soon I was approached by a well-dressed woman. She smiled. I smiled. She asked me what I was doing there. I answered that I was checking out the scene. She then launched into a 1 5 minute tirade on why The Grog was located at the gates of hell. Oh great, just what I needed... repentance, and I hadn't even had my first taste of sin yet! I excused myself and slid onto an empty barstool.

There I met Star. That was her name and she was into softball. She talked about her team and the coach. She, at least, saw no sin in the bar, only opportunities to recruit new ball-players. Alas, I was no athlete, so she quickly lost interest. That left me to drift further up the bar towards the only video game. . . PONG. PONG was the most boring of games. You had to hit the ball, or let the ball hit, a small block that could only move vertically up and down the screen. Pong... a game of chance in a carnival side-show where I did not know the price of admission or even where to get a ticket.

Someone suggested we go down the street to Brady's. . . there were pool tables there. (Big deal, I couldn't play pool either.) So off we went to Alice Brady's. At the door sat the person for whom the establishment was named. White t-shirt, tightly pulled over her breasts, cigarette package rolled up in the sleeve. Black slacks and men's shoes. This was the keeper of the castle, and one had to pass Alice Brady's inspection before being allowed to enter her kingdom.

"You new?" she asked me. "Yes, my first time," I replied. She laughed uproariously as though I had just told the funniest ribald joke. I didn't know if I should join in her merriment, but before I could decide, she had waved me in with my friends.

Brady's was dark. There was a long bar and a back room with a pool table in it. Otherwise there were only a few tables, a juke box, and the bar stools. The juke box sang "Midnight at the Oasis, send your camel to bed" while a few women swayed together to the sound. I was fascinated by the dress of the crowd ... very delineated between butch and femme. The butches wore duck tails and button down shirts, penny loafers and men's slacks. The femmes wore dresses, an occasional skirt, some wore blue jeans and pony tails. Me. . . I was dressed in my Levis and a flannel shirt. . . the original granola dyke.

Another song began to play. . . this time Barry White. That's when I got nervous . . . across the floor came a blonde-haired woman who wore cowboy boots and a big silver buckle. "That's Sonny," my friends whispered and they hurried off to the pool room. I was too slow. The next instant she stood before me asking for a dance. I instinctively knew she was going to lead.

She danced smoothly, holding me close. Her breath smelled of winter green. "What's your name, little girl," she inquired. "Morgan," I replied with a bit of a twinge. Morgan was the name I called myself when I was acting out a fantasy in my imagination. Besides, this was clearly a fantasy. Barry White knew that, the bartender knew that, Alice Brady knew that.

The song ended and Sonny thanked me for the dance. I smiled and scurried off to find my friends. I was a stranger in a strange land. . . and I needed an interpreter. The rest of the evening went by without any more human contact. Finally, I told my friends I was going home. Rampart Street was overwhelming to me. I needed more practice. As I walked down the street back to my car, I passed drag queens and men dressed in leather, other dykes in butch/femme attire. Where, oh where, did I fit into this world, I wondered. My love for women was obviously not enough to help me translate the language of the gay social scene. I would need lessons on etiquette, on manners, on customs. I was truly a babe in the woods.

And that was when I got another lesson that I would not forget for a long time to come. Do not park your car in the bus zone! I had much to learn.

Something jolted me back to the present. Simon and Garfunkel were finished their Dangling Conversation and I was back on Esplanade Ave. searching for a parking space when the meter Nazis wouldn't find me. I was meeting a friend for lunch at Port of Call, and as I entered the door, the juke box played the Righteous Brothers. . . you've lost that loving feeling, oh that loving feeling. . . I hummed the rest of the song as I sat on a bar stool waiting for my lunch date. Then the Three Degrees started singing When will I see you again. . . and I imagined as I looked into the smoky mirror behind the bar that I could see Star and Sonny and Alice Brady leaning against the wall looking back at me.

Dear Mr. Wells, your time machine is both a blessing and a curse.

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