When I was like twelve and my face was just a launching pad for the supernova zit bunker under my nose, I found myself spending a good couple of hours each day thinking about giving up Little League.
It had been a good ride, I knew that.
I had gotten a few hits through the years, even pitched some innings and didn’t kill any kids with my hard/loose bean-ball. But now, my chicken-tender mind was wandering.
My Mom bought me a pair of fake parachute pants to go to a birthday party at a roller-skating rink and even though I was starting to hear the distant call of the wild wolf (Pre-Teen Lust), no one wanted to couples skate with me.
None of the girls at the party even pretended to be into that idea. And yeah, it stung a little, but even back then…I kinda knew the deal.
A couples skate was a freaking declaration and if you came out of Turn 4 and down the front straightaway by where the hard orange plastic tables bolted into the floor were peppered with the husky/the pimpled/the grotesquely common and you were holding the hand of some acceptable boy while the mirrorball shot prism darts out into the thick forest of ‘Eyes Without a Face’, then you could squeeze your clammy palm just a little bit tighter on your hold on tomorrow and all the promise and fortune that was living there.
Your future was sort of all mapped out for you at that moment. Somewhere out in the darkest part of the galaxy, there was a mini-van hurtling toward your big bad 2009 self.
But, if you were over in the snack bar glow, nursing a Dr. Pepper in your goofball K-mart pants, wishing you could pop your own eyeballs out with your thumb and your booger finger and just swallow them so you didn’t have to see any of this dumb crap unfolding in front of you, well, you probably ended up in a rock band before very long at all.
I didn’t understand any of this, of course. Oh no.
But there was a sizzling in my guts. Something was getting cooked up down there. And I faintly recognized it as something that Little League was never ever going to satisfy or cure.
Sometimes when I go to pick up Violet at “school” (that’s what I call it to her, though that’s just my way of glorifying daycare) one of the nice ladies will wander over to me while I’m waiting for my daughter to get up out of the potato-bug ball she’s collapsed into upon seeing me. We’ll watch Violet in quiet for a moment or two, both of us completely familiar with the drill, with how this particular guy’s kid puts her own original stamp on Pick-Up time.
Then sometimes she’ll casually tell me that Violet had a fine day/did some coloring/kicked a soccer ball into some poor boy’s cheek.
“She mostly sticks to herself though,” the nice lady adds, country subtle. “She don’t get too involved with the bigger playgroups.”
I let out a little air. It’s not a hiss, but it’s not not a hiss either, I guess.
I know what this means, probably. Violet is a sweet kid. She’s well-adjusted and friendly and yeah, she might pop a doofus with a stealthy hook if the kid is being a jerk, like if he is trying to get Violet into the sharing spirit (Little V don’t share, ya’ll. Just saying.) But other than that she is fine. She’s more than fine. I can see that. I’m her daddy and my blood runs down the gutters and over the cobblestones of her lane. So, I know this stuff.
But, one thing does occur to me. I’ve been there, where she might end up someday, where any kid could end up at any time.
And ultimately, that’s what led me toward the lights; towards the sounds of the guitars and amplifiers in the night.
That’s what led me to the music.
And thank God or whoever for that.
Tuesday, May 1st is coming up fast and so I thought I should let you know about Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls before it’s too for the little Joan Jett/Joni Mitchell/Joan Armatrading/Janis/Aretha/Lita Ford/Lady Gaga/Rhianna in your house.
Tuesday is the deadline and it would be a shame for any young Riot Grrrls to miss out on this camp, which takes place in the Big Apple (it helps if you live there or near there, but if you are in the west keep in mind that there is a similar venture in Portland, OR.)
I haven’t been to Willie Mae, mostly because I’m not a young lady much anymore, but lots of people have been and judging by the accounts on the website, and how successful they have been with their week-long camps since 2004, I’d say this place sort of seems like one of the greatest summer camp experiences on Earth right now.
Named for Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thorton, a pioneering legend of the music that came to be known as rock and roll ( and a woman who sure doesn’t need me to speak for her (see video)): the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls is a place where girls between the ages 8-18 can have a genuine New York City music experience without even an ounce of prior experience. All a lass needs is the desire to learn to play an instrument, to record music, to learn a little about grassroots artistic ambition, to be in a cool band, and most of all: to have a blast with other like-minded girls who love rock or hip-hop or blues or salsa or punk or whatever music you can think of!
Why am I writing this thing then?
Is this an ad?
Answer: absolutely not. I have no ties to this place. I am just a conduit for cool.
I’m writing about this Willie Mae Camp today because, quite simply, it’s the kind of place I dream about for my Violet someday. A place where all sorts of people come together to make music together in Brooklyn-town.
And that, my friends, happens to be one of the few things in this world that I know a little something about.
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