Friday, March 21, 2014

My Misspent Youth

Once upon a time I belonged to a motorcycle gang.

Actually it was a lunch club. It was sometime around 1980. We met at my apartment on State Street in Trenton, within easy walking distance of the state office buildings where we all worked. Everybody gave Harold five dollars a week, and he came up with enough food and drink to get us through the rest of the day until dinner time. The menu was long on instant powdered soup, as I recall, the contemporary equivalent of ramen noodles.

Nobody had a motorcycle. Most of us had never even ridden on one. At some point we acquired a helmet, but that was as close as we ever came until Phil Rowe abandoned his non-functioning Ducati and Harold dragged the pieces home and stuck them in the yard. So, as you see, motorcycles weren't the point of the club, and neither was gourmet lunch. We came together because we were dizzy stylists, out for an hour of fun away from the bowels of the state bureaucracy.

We ate our soup, talked about Life with a capital L, gossiped about our friends, and sometimes did writing exercises. The three core members, me, Harold, and Lee, were writers. Others dropped in, Jim from upstairs, Leanne when she could get to town, the lovely Phoenix, and even George, who recently published his entire memoirs without ever mentioning the Wild Snakes. The membership was fluid. At its height it included all of our friends plus the forty city employees who claimed to be living in Jim's apartment. You had to live in Trenton to work for the city in those days, and these people, architects and like that, were far too hip to live in a place like Trenton. They commuted from Manhattan or Brooklyn and gave the city Jim's address.

At the height of the Snakes craze, when everybody wanted to belong, we threw a huge party in Jim's apartment. It was themed. The purity party. Everyone came in costume, and the costumes had to be white. Harold rented a white tail-coat outfit. I made myself a white satin evening gown and bought a cheap blond wig. One of the women came as Princess Leia, with her long hair done up in cootie-garages over either ear. The resemblance was striking. I've forgotten what everyone else wore, but we all looked perfectly gorgeous. We were perfectly gorgeous. We had so much style.

When Harold and I moved to Lambertville the Snakes broke up for lack of a place to meet. It had been winding down before that. The city, for example, found that it didn't really need all those architects, and Jim went back to Minnesota. Every spring, though, I feel the stirrings of the old desire for dizzy style. Here it is again. I think I'll go try to find my old Wild Snakes tee shirt.

© 2014 Kate Gallison

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