Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Grungy Affair To Remember

The eighties were a great time to be in Seattle. I worked at a sex store on 1st & Pike. I don't think a lot of people today realize how odd it is that 'Showgirls' still occupies a portion of that corner. It was once called 'Deja Vu,' with the best and most honest business motto ever: "50 Beautiful Girls and 3 ugly Ones." Roger Forbes owned Fantasy Unlimited, Champ Arcade, and Deja Vu. He was a great boss. When Andy died, he came to the memorial at The Paramount, and looking quite out of place in his suit and tie, he cried and handed me a check for $3,000 and told me I was the best employee he ever had, and that even though I had no boobs and was too skinny, he thought I was pretty cute. 

As I stood there between Chris Cornell, Ann Wilson, and Roger - the sex store/strip club mogul - I felt a strange correlation. Here were three people that shared nothing in common besides being at a funeral - but there we were, with Chris's arm around me and Roger holding my hand. I thought about my friend Jim, and at that moment wanted to disappear from there and be beside him, someone who I knew wouldn't hurt me, wouldn't die on me. 

 People can act as refined as they want. They can show no interest in such deviant things as sex toys and latex masks. They can pretend that they always do the right thing and that they would never "cheat" on their lover. But at the end of the day, even when faced with the saddest event in one's life, we are all sexual creatures that crave the warm touch of another, and I felt no guilt for wishing I'd made different choices. Because staying with Andy had only hurt me, and in a way, taken away my chances for experiening a healthy relationship. 

Working at Fantasy, I saw my share of unique people. Everyone always thought I had to "put up" with "perverts"... not the case. I loved my customers. I loved being the one that wealthy men trusted to come to, to buy six-inch steel shank heels and corsets. I loved the day Jeff Ament came in my sewing studio in the back, and had me literally stitch him into his pants. It was in the middle of the summer, and it was really hot in that back upstairs room I had set up to sew in. He stood and I got on my knees and he couldn't hold in a huge smile as I stitched him up, face to crotch. I remember being surprised and mildly offended,  but now that I think back, I realize that we were pretty much kids. I can forgive and understand the moment - as it may be seen as some kind of indescrestion against Andy to some. He was never flirtatious with me again. 

One day, this sweet, cute college boy came in the store. It was another hot summer day. Upstairs where I worked was all the lingerie and clothing; all the toys, etc., were downstairs. I don't know why we started talking, or what this seemingly straight and squarish college kid was even doing in Fantasy. But as I tagged clothes and dressed manequins, he watched me and we chatted and eventually made plans to hang out. The day I remember the most was his college graduation party at his family's property in West Seattle. Ironically, his grandparents owned the house my first boss lived in - Gloria from Vintage Clothing - the very store where I met Andy. And they also owned the house Chris and Susan lived in, the house they got married in. Yes, those are some strange coincidences. 

I remember us sitting on the seawall together, where all the homes are waterfront property. I remember what I was wearing and I remember being happy in that moment. 

We never slept together, but we spent a lot of time together that summer. We laughed and kissed and walked on beaches. We loved each other in every way except the physical part. So I guess you could say my heart had an affair. One I will never regret. 

I have only this more to add and then I will let his story speak for itself. It was an intense time in my life. Andy was using and it was ruining everything - our realtionship, his band... everything. I felt not an ounce of guilt for my time with Jim, because after Andy was gone - there would be nothing innocent ever again. Today, I remain close friends with Jim, and I value and cherish our history. He's turned out to be an amazing human being who kicks ass at jujitsu, parenting, and works with veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and raises money for their care. I know almost no one with his integrity and I'm honored and flattered that he still holds me in the same regard as that summer in the eighties where innocence was not lost; it was held in a moment of time, to be remembered always. 

A Grungy Affair to Remember 
by Jim Michael 

While I write this of my own free will, it should be said that it is also under some mild protest, and at the urging of the moderator of Grunge Storytellers. I was not part of the scene in the late '80s/early '90s; in fact, I was a naive, innocent, sheltered West Seattle kid who was hoping to change my status as such. The closest I had come to the rock scene at the time was an interview I did with Kim Thayil for the University of Washington about Dogfish Studios in Portland. (Totally nice guy, btw, but we all knew that.) I feel a little out of place writing this, but I have been commanded to do it. And so. It was in the summer of my graduation year from the UW, 1989, that I met Xana. We became friends, and spent a lot of time laughing together and strolling through Lincoln Park. All very innocent, but not because I wanted it that way. I was most likely not alone in harboring secret designs on Xana, should she ever wise up and leave her boyfriend, some guy named Andy that I didn't know. I had never heard of Mother Love Bone, or Sub Pop, or Gorilla Gardens or the U-Men or a million other pieces of the scene then. Like I said, college kid, complete with nice haircut and good grades. But things were changing for me, and initiating the friendship with Xana was part of that. She was literally seven feet tall, in PVC and fishnets with a dirty laugh and a grey 280Z with toys glued to it. She worked at Fantasy Unlimited, and she was exactly that for me. I had it bad, but luckily I didn't do anything to screw up our friendship, now in its 24th year. So, while she made it clear that she was with Andy and things weren't going to change that, she tolerated my occasional flirting for what it was -- harmless. One day, as I walked past a parking lot near the Market, I saw her car, with the windows wide open. (Who would steal that thing?) I left a note on her dashboard. I don't remember what I wrote, but it MAY have been a little... um... naughty. All in good fun, mind you. I was working that night, so I left my work number and asked her to call me to discuss getting together later. Little did I know that Andy would be coming by to pick up her car, and would be the first (and only) reader of that note. How nice for him to learn of some fellow named Jim that was, evidently, in a sordid little fling with his live-in girlfriend. Seems like a Three's Company plot? I swear it to be true. So, a couple of hours later, I walk into work and my manager asks to speak with me. He closes the door to his office, and with a concerned look on his face, tells me that some guy named Andy had called and left a very angry and vaguely threatening message on the machine. (yes, kids, a machine used to be used to record messages. Ask your mom.) He wanted to know who the fuck Jim was, and why he was messing with his fiance', and so on. "Jim," the manager says to me, "are you in trouble? Should we call the police?" Well, I didn't know. I didn't know Andy at all, but I didn't relish the thought of some guy from the dark bowels of the Seattle underground scene out looking for me with a pipe in one hand and a broken bottle in the other. I figured that anyone who could keep up with Xana was probably some massive biker who could snap my neck with one hand. I needed advice. I sought out a friend, and explained the situation after work. What do I do? My friend Tom (used to be a bartender at the Oxford) asked a couple of questions, and then I told him that Andy was the lead singer of some band that was getting signed. When Tom learned it was MLB, he stared at me for a full minute, and then starting laughing. Hard. "Landrew the Love Child is looking to beat you up? The guy from Malfunkshun with Kabuki makeup? Oh my God. Oh, this is too great." He dug behind him and came up with a recent issue of the Rocket. There was an article on the band's new contract with Gefffen, and a picture of Andy in a fur coat and a pink cowboy hat. I looked at it. I quit worrying. THAT guy wasn't going to beat me up. In fact, I felt a little smug. After all, fuck him, right? He had Xana, he had a band, he had a deal... his life was awesome, especially compared to mine: a middle-class poser who wanted to be in the IN crowd. I wanted to hang out in the wings while Alice In Chains played the Mural Amphitheater on a Sunday afternoon, instead of sitting in the grass like every other goof. I wanted to walk into the Free Mars on Western and not look like a tourist. I wanted to understand Jesse David Bernstein's poetry, I wanted to feel at home at the Gravity Bar, I wanted to have long, purple dreadlocks like the Harler twins. (Enough name dropping, everyone? OK, I'm done.) In short, I wanted what Andy had. And he's pissed? Fuck him. Fuck him and his band with the stupid name. I told Xana about the call, she laughed it off and said she'll handle it. We continued to spend time together. Fast forward to a few months later. Xana and I remained friends, but I got my own girlfriend, so we don't have any more midnight bonfires anymore. By the summer of 1990, I've grown my hair out and I'm busy backpacking through Europe for a few months. I get a copy of Apple, Mother Love Bone's release on Geffen in July, and I think of the timing. While I was hanging out with Xana, the band was in LA making this album. Huh. I put it into my Walkman, and I'm blown away. Andy is amazing, and the band is great. I love it. LOVE it. But something weird happens during 'Stargazer' that broke my heart a little, and you may know what I'm talking about. At the very end of one of the greatest rock songs about a love affair, Andy sings, "Oh, Xana, come back again." What did it mean? I don't know, exactly, but any of us who have ever been in love know it could mean all kinds of things. I listened again, and again, and it was clear to me that there was real pain in that voice, real hurt. I believed that Andy was letting out some serious frustration and worry in that song, something deep and sincere and definitely heartfelt. And, yes, it is within the realm of possibility that my flirty little note to his girlfriend just a couple of weeks prior probably didn't help matters any. I never did speak with Andy, and the next time I spoke to Xana was after his death. I learned later about his demons, and their role in his passing. I didn't then, nor do I now, have the arrogance to think that I had any import in his life. But I do regret that note, anyway, and more importantly, my lack of sympathy for the guy who was upset by it. I hadn't cared, but I should have. He was just a boy, in love with a girl that he was afraid of losing. 'Stargazer' helped me get that. JM

today Jim is a father of 2 beautiful children and lives in Chicago.

Dedicated to innocence and undying vampire-like love