Friday, July 12, 2013

List for a Summer Friday

The Pretenders' Brass in Pocket

I try to approximate the time travel Billy Pilgrim is able to effortlessly accomplish in Slaughterhouse 5 by researching every facet of my memories on the internet.  If I suddenly remember that for a long time I saved a postcard of cats dressed as people in a box of special things for years and years, I look up “postcards cats as people” and voila, now I know that what I’m remembering is a postcard  by Alfred Mainzer.  Three shadows from my past are coming to mind, however, as unsolvable mysteries that I can never find adequate online information about, at this is them:

Nardi’s Gay Bar in Pasadena, CA on Colorado Boulevard:  when my mom’s best friend Bill Tunilla was still alive and before his legendary used bookstore went out of business, I spent at least 3 hours a weekend sitting in the little area of collapsing, gray from filth wing chairs in the center of the store, encamped among stacks of books and magazines mom and me set aside to look through before they got shelved for sale.  Bill’s loyal customers always thought those chairs were there for them, that Bill, their god of cat/England/literature-loving bachelorhood put these chairs there because he loved talking to them so much, but HELLO!, those chairs were there for me and my mom, the queen and princess of Bill’s bookstore.  The 3 of us were outcasts, and as a little kid I thought of gay people as outcasts too, so I loved the fact that there was a gay bar next door to the bookstore, and I was endlessly pleased when I heard songs I liked (usually The Pretenders’ Brass in Pocket) coming through the wall from their juke box.  I only got to go in there a couple times and only for a few seconds each time.  It was eventually torn down.  But when?  I don’t remember, and this seems a very important fact for me.  I have so many dreams where Bill is still alive and we’re hanging out in an old version of Pasadena that no longer exists, often in his bookstore that was torn down along with Nardi’s, and the dreams feel so real but they are just dreams.  But if I could only find some cache of information about Nardi’s online, preferably a pictorial history of it, I would feel so much less frustrated by the fact that Bill can be so alive in my dreams and so dead in the waking present.

Little Nell:  Like many weirdos, I loved The Rocky Horror Picture Show when I was a teenager, feeling that it was “my” movie, and getting excited when I noticed little things in it I’d never noticed before (“Wow, did you see that?  The people in the crowd at the wedding are the same actors who play Magenta, Riff Raff and Columbia!  Is that supposed to mean that they had their eye on Brad and Janet from the get-go and somehow orchestrated their flat tire so they’d have to end up at the castle?!  I wonder…”).  By far my favorite character was Columbia, played by a woman named Nell Campbell, called “Little Nell” in the film’s credits.  What would be my dream Rocky Horror minutiae to unearth some day while very bored and looking at stuff online?  Pictures and pictures and pictures of Little Nell in her day-to-day life as well as in her other film roles, and very many in-depth interviews with her about her dreams and aspirations.  But she has hardly any online presence.  The Wikipedia page about her has no photos, and when I type “Little Nell Campbell” on Google, it auto-completes to “Little Nell Dead?”  Shit, if she is dead, I want to see what her urn is an unusual shape and if Tim Curry did the eulogy.  But I never find any adequate information about her to sate my curiosity.

Michelle Johnson:  Michelle was one of the artsy adults I totally wanted to be like when I was a little kid.  She was a friend of my mom’s, and when I was a teenager, we hung out a few times without my mom, practically as peers.  Because her name is so common, I have a particularly hard time Googling her, because there are so many women with her name, even just living in the area she used to live in when I still knew her.  I have to be satisfied just wondering what she looks like or thinks like now, when I wake up from dreams in which she’d been a character.    

an Alfred Mainzer cat postcard

Little Nell as Columbia

This is the bookstore that expanded on Colorado Boulevard -- the owner owned the whole block and raised Bill's and Nardi's rents impossibly high so he could make them go out of business, and expand his store.  This is where retired CalTech and Occidental College professors go to buy $7 slices of carrot cake and Cafe Au Laits to sip while sitting in the coffee shop there, listening to Enya and looking over their recent purchases:  The new issues of the New Yorker and The Atlantic.  That's alright, but what about the outcasts?

Billy Pilgrim 

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