We were laying on damp, orange, shag carpet.
It was wall-to-wall and so polyester it almost sparkled. It felt disgusting against my skin, and I wanted a sheet or blanket under me, but didn’t get up to find one, for fear of missing a moment. There was a B&W movie marathon on T.V and we had been watching it for hours. Erica lay beside me, singing along with great enthusiasm. I sang along with her, pretending to know the words. “Clang, clang, clang went the trolley”. I was overwhelmed with emotion and knew absolutely, in my heart of hearts, that my destiny was here and now before me. Of course I couldn’t actually be Judy Garland, her protégé perhaps? If nothing else, she could at least be my mentor.
I wrote her a detailed letter, worded eloquently and dramatically. I wanted her to take me seriously as an actress after all. I wrote it on
Pink paper, in my fanciest handwriting and threw out many rough drafts before finally reaching satisfaction. I chose the envelope carefully from my mother’s stationary drawer and wrote her name on the front. I made sure to write the J for Judy exactly the same as the J for Jennifer that I had used to sign the letter. This would establish a bond between us. I asked my mother if she happened to have any friends who might know Judy Garland’s address because I had a little note to send. My mother hesitated before gently letting me down.
“Jennifer, Judy Garland died the year before you were born.”
I can’t remember if I actually threw up or if I just really felt like I was going to, but I do remember the feeling of my stomach turning, and how much it hurt. I threw myself on my bed and sobbed for hours. I was depressed for days.
Despite my mother’s attempt at consoling me, by recounting the horrifying tale of, the day she learned of the passing of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I was inconsolable.
A few weeks later there was a Western Marathon, on the same channel. That’s when I realized that my true destiny was to become a prostitute in a brothel. The dresses were fabulous, the men were handsome and strong, the working girls were as close as sisters and the piano player was everyone’s best friend.
I can’t remember if somebody was cruel enough to shed light on that dream, or if it faded on it’s own, but my tendency to attach myself to entire eras is still going strong.
When I moved in to the apartment I live in now, 3 months ago,
I was so moved by the details of the flat, I became absolutely consumed with curiosity. The wallpaper and woodwork, balconies, the ivy, the floors, etc intrigued me…
Even the shape of the toilet has an early art deco feel. I wanted to know who had lived in this house, slept in my room, sat, sipping warm comforting liquors by my fireplace. I wanted to know who had cried in my hallway, made love on my floors, who hid in my closets, gazed out my windows and hung their stocking in my bathroom. I wanted to throw all of our furniture in the garbage and ornament the entire apartment in respectful antiques.
I called Hotel de Ville and learned that our apartment had been built in 1926.
I went on the internet and searched for every film I could that was made in and/or around or, set in the mid twenties. I played. Paused, rewound, studying the window dressings, the furniture, the artwork etc… I went to the library and looked at photographs of Montreal in the 20′s and admired the fashions, architecture, automobiles and a general air of class. Men wore suits, not sweat pants or jeans so baggy that their asses hang out. Women wore hats, gloves and real lingerie.
I didn’t throw my furniture out or buy antiques with money I don’t have, but I did get sad. I felt genuine sadness regarding the evolution of North American society. It’s frustrating to look around, knowing that nobody else cares. They care about their cars, their juicy couture sweat pants. Their cell phones, their gym memberships and their mp3 players or whatever, but none of them care that this isn’t 1926. None of them would trade their SUVs, their facebook, myspace accounts,instant messaging etc… for the suffering of the depression or the misery of the prohibition.
None of them think the jazz clubs, hosiery, pompadours and under-pinning are worth it, except me. I get so frustrated, I feel like crying and have weird fantasies about being the richest woman alive, and buying the entire city of Montreal, just so I can transform it into a “genuine” early-art-deco haven for people who care.
It’s not that nobody cares that it’s 2007 mind you. I’d have to battle it out with a few people.
The hippies on the mountain who meet every week, adorned in armor, to bonk each other on the heads with “swords” made out of foam and duct tape would have something to say about my version of the ideal world, I’m sure of it. My friend Johanne goes to medieval camp for a week, every august. There are people who live out there, like that, all summer long. I scoff and roll my eyes but whom are we kidding?
If 1920′s or 1930′s camp existed, I’d be all over it. I’d have my beaded sleeping bag, cigarette holder with the official camp logo on it, camp flask and my name sewn into every pair of knickers I own. I would volunteer for duties, clean the mess hall, wave the flags, sing the songs and chant the chants with passion. I would sing at the Camp’s Cotton Club and drink swanky martini’s with men who dress like gangsters, real gangsters. I would have a torrid love affair with a trumpet player who I only saw once a week because his first love is music and he jams almost single every night. I’d wear French seamed stockings everyday. My best friend would be a 70-year old piano player with a heroine problem and soft spot for delusional torch singers.
I’d be a single mother, in a third floor apartment, with no money, just trying to get by, singing and burlesque gigs. My landlord would scream at me every month, for being late on the rent. We would live in constant fear of being thrown out of the flat and onto the streets. I’d spend most evenings dressed in nothing but a leopard bed coat, writhing in an artist’s creative torment, alternating between sitting at my typewriter, writing the book I’ve been working on for 10 years, singing at the piano, and sitting on my balcony, smoking sweet cigars, drinking cheap red wine that I bought illegally (on account of the prohibition) from the corner store; dreaming of the future I would build for my children once I “made it big”. We’d have it bad, but it would be good.
I would cry on the last day of camp, mourning, in advance, the 9months I would have to endure before the first day of summer returned.
I’d be forced to go back to my real life. I’d go back to being me, here, in 2007. Back to being a single mother in a 3rd floor apartment, whose landlord screams at her every month for being late on the rent. We live in constant fear of being thrown out of the flat and onto the streets. Back to my boyfriend, who I only see once a week, because he is a DJ whose real love is music and he mixes almost every single night.
I’d be back to trying to get by on singing and burlesque gigs; Back to spending most evenings dressed in nothing but a leopard bed coat, writhing in an artist’s creative torment; Back to alternating between sitting at this computer trying to write the book I’ve been working on for 10 years, singing along with my guitar, and sitting on my balcony; smoking cigars and drinking cheap wine that I bought legally from the corner store; dreaming of the future I’ll give my children after I “make it big”.