I just got a new freelance gig with a regional North Carolina rag. My first copy of it arrived today. I would describe the thing as being for rich people but, thinking back over it, what magazine isn't for rich people? So nix that. It's a publication focused on affluent, culturally aware North Carolinians. I'm very happy to be writing for them.
Anyway, I got my first issue today. And it's all about North Carolina nightlife. There's an article about the Orange Peel in Asheville, the Varsity Theater on Franklin Street, the Double Door Inn. Everywhere, it seems, North Carolinians are going out, drinking small batch whisky and handcrafted ales and generally whooping it up, listening to live music and going to see foreign films in restored movie theaters. It all sounds pretty cool. My memories of North Carolina nightlife, though, are a little bit different.
I remember sitting on the front porch of my house in Winston Salem, bored off my ass on a Saturday night and playing a broken trumpet. I remember buying thong underwear and dart guns and tapes of 80s music at the Super K at 2:00 in the morning. I remember how everyone in Winston lived in gigantic houses built from Sears & Roebuck kits, and that the rent for those houses was something like $200 per person per month. And I remember how we trashed those houses every weekend with our beer and our Boones Farm and our Camel City cigarettes. I remember singing Karaoke at an AmVet bar so far out on Peter's Creek Parkway that I don't think it was called Peter's Creek anymore—I went with this girl named Kat who I'd met only a few weeks earlier, on Halloween, when she was complaining of freezing out on the back porch of one of those Craftsman houses, smoking. She was dressed like a Playboy Bunny. At the AmVet bar she was clothed more fully. We drank Budweiser and sang "American Pie" by Don McLean and we won the veterans over. Drunk, we talked to third shift waitresses, amputees. We were young enough and self-centered enough not to know that these people existed and we were fascinated by them. One woman sang a county song. It went "satin sheets to lie on, satin pillows to cry on." She was off-key but we cheered her and sang along with her when it seemed like she needed a little help.
I remember driving a whole houseload of acid-tripping boys downtown in my truck so we could go swimming in the Wachovia fountain. I was 18 and in love with one of them. I remember forcing college freshmen to shake a giant cooler filled with a mysterious alcoholic concoction known only as Yucca for an hour before allowing them to take shots of it in my backyard. Hours later, I remember them puking in my bushes and my kitchen and my roommate's bed. I also remember that family that lived across the street in the yellow house. It was a grandma and a mom and a dad and their fat son. They were called the Swanns and they always called the cops when we had parties. The other neighborhood kids used to scrawl "The Swanns Suck" on the pavement in front of their house. I always got a kick out of that.
I remember hopping the chain link fence of an abandoned bleachery at four AM, tearing my skirt and not caring, then sneaking inside and riding a conveyor belt from the second floor down to the basement. I think that it's a Wal Mart now.
I remember sitting on a park bench beside a man who was not my boyfriend on my last night in a town I hated, drinking warm Olde English in a park that I used to play in as a child, and knowing that such a peculiar moment would never occur again.
So when I see that magazine, and even when I think of myself—here, now—and how endlessly replicable most of my evenings are, is it any wonder that I sometimes long for the singular, for those mostly muggy or freezing cold evenings where there wasn't really anything to do but goddamn if we were going to let that stop us?
Grow up, I tell myself. You still have fun, I say. And it's true, I do. It's just hard to come to terms with, sometimes. Getting older. Getting wiser. Sometimes, I really want to not know any better, to make bad decisions, to do really stupid shit, to drive through police checkpoints with a beer between my legs. It's finding the balance is all: finding that elusive, elegant balance.