CHAPTER ONE: THE FLIGHT OF THE FAIRY
By the time the sun started to rise over the Great Lakes I had almost managed to convince myself that maybe I wasn’t crazy after all. Stressed? Sure. Way too old for this nonsense? Okay, you got me there! Thirty-eight was way too old and it was way too late to run away from home, so that was a very good possibility. Exhausted? No, not just yet, still a bit too soon and too early in the trip. I was bound to get that way at some point, but I would worry about that when it happened. At the moment, I was having fun. That was the important thing. The most fun I had had in years.
The Shiny Happy Sherry Fairy takes flight again! And I loved every moment of it.
The closer I got to my destination, the more convinced I was that this was the right choice. With every mile I left behind me, I could feel myself becoming more exhilarated. There was no mistaking it! Magic was in the air. Or maybe it was out there waiting just for me, around the next corner, all this time. Okay, more like hundreds of miles away. Wondering what the hell had taken me so long. I was getting closer every minute I could already feel it. I was sure it had begun to feel me. Approaching rapidly and relentlessly, running years too late, but inevitably one of these days bound to arrive.
I guess it was a somewhat reckless decision on my part, at close to 10 p.m. on a perfectly ordinary Thursday night, to take off on a long distance road trip to see a man in a band; just like back in the good old days when I was young and foolish, with no real life, no actual responsibilities, and no fear or common sense at all. In this case, this band featured my old flame, Eric Burdon, sinner, singer and front-man extraordinaire, formerly founding member of one of the world’s greatest classic British invasion bands. My very favorite man of all the men who made music in any band I had ever seen or known, and the reason I was spending all night tearing wildly down the highway in the family minivan headed for a weekend-long festival, hundreds of miles from home.
The morning light (what little of it there was, so far) had emerged above the horizon, as pure and bright as liquid silver, sparkling, shimmering, and pulsating. I had never seen anything quite like it before, and I am sure I never will again in this lifetime. Gentle but relentless mists of rain had been thoroughly drenching the van for hours, providing a damp silent cloud that muffled and masked every exterior sound. A thick, dense fog was slowly emerging from the mirror-like surface of the lake. Steam lifted from the highway in the rapidly rising late July morning heat. The tires were kicking out a spray of fine water vapor almost as high as the windows.
It was impossible to tell anymore what was sky, air, water, or ground and exactly at what point they separated, started, or stopped. Everything around me was in shades of grey, but in every conceivable texture, consistency, and variation. The whole world had turned into a soft, out-of-focus, black and white silent film. It was all so extraordinarily strange for someone so unfamiliar with the phenomenon and far from home, yet somehow perfectly appropriate and exquisitely beautiful.
I am the only thing in full, vivid, glorious Technicolor. When the sun finally does manage to creep its way through the fog from the lake and take a quick peek over the horizon, I can tell it is embarrassed to show itself because it cannot begin to compete with my heat, outshine my colors, or ever hope to melt my wings. I fly high tonight on old memories and new dreams, fueled by unforgettable emotions, promises from the past, and cheap truck stop speed washed down with huge Styrofoam cups of powerful, lukewarm black coffee.
I almost wish I were chain smoker.
There should be a cloud of aromatic silver smoke swirling inside the van as well, intoxicating me, with the scent of the thrill of ever distant, unfamiliar air that meant freedom. Sucking it down, drawing it in, as if I need it just to keep breathing. Trailing flaming sparks and blackened ash, more like gunpowder than fairy dust as I soar along the highway. Firing up a new fresh buzz and frantically stubbing out the drained remains of the old one, with cotton-candy-colored chipped and chewed fingernails as each minute and mile passed, the tray filled to overflowing as the spent remnants tumbled out all over the carpet.
It certainly would have suited a character in the divine melodrama currently featured. However, in this reel I was cast and costumed to be the Glamorous Starlet. Certainly not destined to be the Figure of Tragedy or the Villain but quite likely, the occasional Comic Relief. So my nails were quite expertly manicured in the pink French tip style; it was, after all, a special occasion.
In reality, in all these years I had managed to escape ever becoming a slave to the filthy, disgusting habit of actually sucking down cancer sticks. I always felt everyone should have one bad habit they could not or would not ever indulge in, and smoking always seemed out of them all to be the least fun. So long ago, I swore out of all the vices it would be the one I would forever do without. I had tried most of the others at one point or another in my life and they were all a lot more fun than tobacco, believe me.
I didn’t really care that I hadn’t been able to reach Eric to warn him I was coming. I didn’t even know myself until a few hours before I left. I had done it before, more times, than I could remember since we had first met twenty years ago, and it had always worked out just fine every time. He was always gracious and appeared happy to see me, even when he never expected me to be there. We shared some very good times that way for a long time.
When I first met Eric, I had just turned eighteen and he was in his late thirties. He hadn’t had any hits on the radio lately, or built up much of a solo career touring in the States. I guess you might say he was in a bit of a slump. It was nothing like the days on the road when he was a star in one of the biggest bands in the world. However, times had changed, and so had popular music. Punk and disco were not his forte or his friends, and they were not my taste either. I did not buy those records or know who any of those people were, but I sure knew who he was. His original band, The Animals was one of my favorite groups.
Nevertheless, he was still so gorgeous then, extremely sexy and extraordinarily talented even if the fickle fans of the Top 40 seemed to have lost interest. Dark shaggy hair, fantastic smile, that sexy soft English accent combined with his fame, charm, outspoken personality and big, rich, soulful voice. He had a powerful presence, impossible to overlook or ignore whether packaged for market in a stiff suit, silk shirts, fringe and fur, denim and leather, or tie-dye
He was accustomed to living the life of a rock-and-roll legend, playing everywhere from the hottest clubs to the biggest stadiums just as he had since he had his first hit record barely out of his teens. He had always seemed pretty stiff, quite serious, very hard and tough, when I had seen him in pictures in fan magazines or on TV.
However, he was much softer than I ever expected or imagined at the time I met him. He was charming, lighthearted, and joyous. Playful and mischievous, with a certain impish quality that could completely disarm you, which women all over the world found irresistible. Notorious for his very bad attitude and very big mouth and infamous for the celebrated company he kept and their well-chronicled, inebriated antics. He had been living and loving a lifestyle of extremes and excess, which almost managed to overshadow his talent, which was, quite formidable.
Enter the Shiny Happy Sherry Fairy.
A perfect landing right on cue, front row and center.
Where I could get a good look at him and be sure he got one of me.
Just a naive little freckle-faced redheaded American kid from the suburbs, who somehow ended up in just the right, or the wrong place as Eric that particular night. Done up like a birthday present in a pink flowered sundress and white hair ribbons and a pair of sky-high–heeled platform sandals. Clearly, it was a match made in rock-and-roll heaven. I was struck completely deaf, dumb, blind, and stupid by the size of the stars he put into my eyes.
But I had called a halt to my years as backstage teen queen when I was 22 and gave the whole ridiculous scene up over 15 years ago. I had just had enough. The time had come.
Rock and roll is a cold, ugly business and was bound to break your heart, ruin your life, steal your spirit, and destroy your soul sooner or later, inevitably.
If it did not kill you first.
However, odds are it would do them all eventually, if you did not get out when you had the chance, or if you were not very smart, very tough, very lucky, or very careful.
Deep down, I suspected I was just not enough of any of the above.
In fact, I was sure of it.
By almost twenty-three, I was ready for real men, not immature egomaniacs with drumsticks, microphones, and guitars, and their debris of damaged hearts and hotel rooms with skeletons scattered in every club, closet and cupboard in every corner, all over the world. Fed up with being one of the beautiful fragile young creatures constantly mooning over them, swooning at the sight of them, left behind when they went, secretly stashed away or blatantly paraded beside them before being worn out, used up, well fucked and then fucked over, destroyed and discarded. There were always plenty more, waiting.
Eric couldn’t seem to understand why I had such a problem with all this. It was all he had ever known for a long time. He had been doing it almost his whole life, but I wanted something different for me and mine. So he did kept doing what he knew how to do best, what he always did, stayed on the road, living his life, wherever or whatever that was to be after.
I made the decision to completely change mine.
Decided to go home, find myself a real man, a good one, and settle down, get happily married and try never to look back. I just forgot all about those days, stopped caring about that world and made a new one of my own. I went to the local University and got a degree in Education, bought a big house in the suburbs, opened a private pre-school, filled it with kids, love and laughter. Gave up the men and music, the makeup and miniskirts, the drugs and the decadence, the hard living and easy dying and traded it all in for self-respect, security, safety, and sanity. I paid my dues and earned righteousness and responsibility and bought a ticket to ride on the “American Dream”
I worked my way up to the dizzying heights of the very pinnacle of suburban success and earned my rightful place in the real world and proper society. Became a shining example of proper modern womanhood, a wife, mother, business person, you know, what they call a “role model.” Just another one of the cold, grey, stone pillars of virtue that support and protect the community and make the “real world” go endlessly round. My whole life revolved around my job, house, husband and family. I completely lost interest in rock and roll. I had outgrown it. I was uninterested and unimpressed and no longer a part of it.
I wouldn’t even buy a record or go to a show except to see Eric or a few other really good friends, who I still kept in touch with. I just wanted to have nothing to do with all its nonsense.
Looking back, to him then, I think that must have been my appeal.
Through the years, I went to every gig to see him. But I always came home just as soon as it ended. With Eric and me, it wasn’t really safe to do anything else. Our unlikely association had now gone on for over twenty years, which was quite surprising, to us just as much as anyone else, because our lives were so very different. Especially since the average length of most of his relationships with girls on the road was lucky to be room service breakfast the next morning.
I always felt I had spent the last 15 years of my life in disguise.
Hiding behind huge owl-ish schoolteacher glasses with my wild red hair and big, bold personality kept well in check. Constantly covert, controlled, restricted, constricted, and well-contained. Living with the choice I had made to be non-threatening, unappealing, uninteresting and innocuous in order to conform, progress and succeed because it was appropriate for my station and position in this place and time, for the life I had chosen to live from now on.
Surprisingly, as it turned out, I loved it. Even though I spent every single minute all those years, busting my ass every single day, overworked, unappreciated, undervalued, and covered with multicolored crayons, apple juice, and baby spit. I adored the children I took care of; it was the parents, the childcare administration, the community and the monotony I could not stand. I was happy doing it all for a very long time.
Until one day, for no one explosive or explainable definable reason, I just was not happy at all anymore. Call it a mid-life crisis, or the fifteen-year itch, or some form of temporary insanity. All I knew was it was time to do something else. Something different, I just had no idea at all what that could be.
I think the last straw was on the day I had changed my three hundred thousandth dirty diaper, in the week that four different mothers had “forgotten” their checkbooks on payday, in a month that I hadn’t left my house where even once, in the year I finally knew my marriage was over. I tossed the last diaper I would ever change in the can and said out loud to myself.
”That’s it. I’ve had enough! I would rather shovel coal or kiss the devils ass daily or flip burgers with my bare hands at the McDonald’ s in Hades for the rest of eternity then do any of this one single minute longer! I QUIT”.
And sure enough, I did, at the end of that week.
And that was about six months ago.
As I got ready to go “The Animals Greatest Hits” on old vinyl blasts, crackle and hissed through my cheap, crappy, boring, affordable old respectable suburban married type people’s stereo speakers. Nothing like the equipment I used to have back when I was young, single and foolish with plenty of spending cash, and music, and, the men who made it and nothing else was my very reason for living. I made sure to sing along with every single song, completely off key and with ever growing conviction and even greater enthusiasm, getting increasingly louder and out of tune, while I do the electric boogaloo around the bedroom in my old grannie panties.
Eric and I do a duet. We are bloody marvelous! We always were, even if I do say so myself. And I think even he would have to agree. I opened the windows wide to make sure the old prune next door can be sure not to miss a note.
I dug through the disorganized mess on the floor of the closet of our bedroom. What a mess, a complete disaster, all these things that were scattered haphazardly and left behind when he left with all of his, and I still hadn’t sorted it all out yet these many months later. No, I guess I mean my bedroom now. Wade my way through a huge pile of ugly smelly old worn out old sneakers. I hadn’t bought any other shoes for as long as I could remember. The same ones I had worn every single day for the last 15 years when I finally dragged myself out of bed at 6 am in the morning and threw on the nearest semi-clean tee shirt I could find with my eyes still half closed, hopefully without too much grape jelly or baby formula stains all over it. And didn’t get to take off until frequently way after midnight when I finally collapsed into bed in exhaustion. There they were, thank God! I was starting to panic! My favorite tall black leather boots. For a minute I thought that it just might be possible in a moment of madness I could have foolishly decided they were no more than some sort of obsolete garbage and just carelessly and callously given or tossed them away.
But no, not gone, just out of sight and definitely way out of my mind. Just like me these days, evidently.
There once was a time wearing anything else would be unthinkable!
They were my prized possession. Now look at them, all roughly mistreated and miserable. Just shoved in there, and evidently completely abandoned, stuck down at the bottom underneath a bunch of old dirty everyday crap, no longer a priority much less a necessity, just weighted down now, helpless, useless, smothered, overwhelmed and overpowered. Exiled by the others for being strange and different and therefore (until now) banished! They had clearly hit very rock bottom, reduced to pathetically cowering in the very back of the deepest darkest of corners. What a crying shame! This is footwear that lives to see and be seen! With their mile-high chunky heels, the corset lacing in the back and the silver three inch embossed square buckles and studs!
Oh dear, looks like I better give them a good polish first though, since they too are quite old and dull these days and seem so close to worn down and out and have apparently become just a bit too much their owner these days, both looking and feeling pretty lackluster. I cradled them in my arms and then lovingly rubbed every inch of their dried out wrinkled old hide with moisturizing, nourishing beeswax.
“Poor babies, you’re a mess! How could I have let such a thing happen? You are in need of some serious help if you ask me! All you really need is just a little time and attention, somebody to notice you and take you out and take care of you and show you a good time! That will really sort you out, wont it? “
“Well, let’s get right to work, I just hope that it’s not way too late to save you!”
And they came up a treat, bright and shiny as new; I thought that was a very good sign. Clearly they were just as fed up as I was of being bored and neglected, cooped up, crushed, and falsely imprisoned! And were just as thrilled to no longer be forgotten and buried alive just hoping and waiting for the wonderful day they get a well-deserved and long overdue chance to “that thing they do” once again before they go off to the Great Shoe store in the Sky.
Now what? I had almost forgotten how all this was done. I glared at my reflection in the dressing room mirror, and it stared just as rebelliously and defiantly back.
“Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be, eh?”
“Ok, you scoundrel, I accept your challenge! En grade! And may the best man win!”
With great trepidation I lured the rabid red badger that lived on my head and pretended to be hair out of the rubber restraints of its perpetual ponytail prison. It had grown almost comatose out of sheer boredom and inhumane levels of neglect over the last 15 years. I unleashed it, grabbed a tight hold on it, and violently shook it and shocked out of its slumber, then jumped in the shower and squirted steaming then ice cold water all over it, moussed it and mussed it, spritzed it and sprayed it, until at long last it showed some renewed signs of life. Then fried it, dyed it, baked and burned it and teased and attacked and tormented it with no mercy until it was once again a scary wild out of control dangerous beastie.
Once I had its full attention I laid down the ground rules.
“Ok, I don’t like you, and I know you really hate me, but can we at least try to cooperate with each other for just a couple of days? It’s really important! And by the way it’s nice to have you back, I really have missed you, you evil soulless mean furry critter!”
I thought I heard it growl just a little bit but it didn’t try to devour or strangle me, so I took that as agreement to the truce and a halfhearted promise to at least make some attempt to behave.
Eventually, I managed to track down my favorite fab bunny-soft slate grey suede miniskirt with the white stitching. In a box in the attic that said “SHERRY’S USELESS CRAP” in great big black definitive letters written with permanent ink.
“That’s what you think you silly box, what do you know?”
I fling the contents of my underwear drawer around the room and finally decide to shimmy into slinky black and white zebra striped demi- bra trimmed with frilly hot pink lace and of course, just a FEW tasteful and strategically placed sparkly pink sequins. After all, I grinned, I wouldn’t want to look like some sort of cheap floozy! I always had plenty of nice sexy things like this fairly close at hand, always and forever still worth the investment. Just in case. Of what, I wasn’t sure. That was my little secret. And of course, the mysterious Victoria’s.
Now… for the top? I think maybe a fairly conservative white silk button up blouse just sheer enough that if you were really trying you could you could just catch a little hint of what wonders may be hiding beneath the thin fabric. Add a plain silver braided chain almost a choker with heart shaped tiny locket I got from my grandmother, one of my favorite things that I saved for only the most momentous of occasions when I could use all the luck I can get. And the charm bracelet I had from childhood just to be whimsical, dangling dozens of little mementos of times and places of things worth immortalizing in a jingly silver-plated miniature form.
I am ready. At least as ready as I will ever be, this is as good as it’s going to get. But is one ever really ready for something like this? You may be fully prepared… But ready? Who knows! There’s only one way to find out.
All I need to do now is grab my leather jacket, lock up the past, and leave my real life and real world behind far behind and actually really start doing it.
That’s the hardest part. And after that? Well whatever happens, just happens!
I check out the final results in the bathroom mirror. It’s a bit friendlier. I don’t even have a full length one in the bedroom where I always dress. And I wonder at exactly what point, on what day did I stopped really caring at all what I looked like? No wonder my reflection was none too fond of me. I didn’t really blame it at all. I wasn’t too thrilled with myself either. Thank god, that girl from the past that these clothes truly belonged to and the one I am now seem to still be approximately the same shape and size. Even though that may be the one and only thing they have in common. And somehow tonight, it’s all a perfect fit!
Chasing all those little kids around all these years seems to have had some advantages. Although at the moment, at least, I certainly can’t for the life of me remember what a single one of them was.
Tonight, by some miracle, the two of us, who I was and who I am now seemed to have somehow managed to come together in the end. Smoothly and seamlessly, without too much effort, making some strange brand new girl I’d never seen before!
One I guess I better get to know and get used to. And fast!
If I was going to take her out for a test drive, especially under these circumstances!
I checked out the finished product.
Hmm…not bad, not bad at all, in fact, I conclude, a rousing success!
“Take that you bitch! VICTORY IS MINE!”
I stuck out my tongue and gave the dressing room mirror the finger.
The look was quite retro, I know but with a few modern stylish touches, definitely vintage, rather than antique. The perfect blend of classy and sassy, both dead cool and yet somehow, hopefully, still totally hot. Let’s just hope and pray that just goes for ME too!
No more excuses, or putting it off.
It was definitely long past time to go.
My showing up (with zero notice, no warning) pounding on his hotel room door tired, wired and just a bit of a mess, a mangy stray puppy dog on the back porch demanding to share his finest steak dinner, with no real clue what I was doing there or why I was doing it, was so bloody typical, and just like us in the old days, it was perfectly priceless and going to be totally worth it!
Or so I hoped.
One never really knows for sure about this sort of thing.
But you won’t ever find out, will you?
Unless you are ready and willing to actually take a chance and make that choice, whenever it is, when you are offered the option. My best advice? Once and awhile, just pick the one you would have to be crazy to choose, whatever it may be. Just fling yourself headlong into the cosmic storm and let it spit you out where it may. And hope the universe will somehow provide and take care of you.
And Do it fearlessly or not at all.
You may disagree. And perhaps you should, and you might be turn out to be right.
Decide for yourself.
After you hear my story.