Saturday, March 21, 2009


My son Dylan wanted to stay overnight at a friend’s house last week. We packed him up and were about to leave when we discovered he’d left his house keys at his mother’s house.

The next day was Monday. He was off school for spring break. Valerie and I had to work and wouldn’t be home to let him in. I told him he couldn’t go. He was very disappointed.

I told him this was a lesson in responsibility. Maybe next time he’d remember his keys. He grew more disappointed. I’ve always been bad about discipline so I started trying to find a solution to our dilemma.

Then I remembered I’d given keys to my friend Sharon. She orchestrated the home end of our surprise party for Valerie while we went to a restaurant so she had a set.

Dylan’s sleepover was saved. As we drove to her house it came up that I had keys to Sharon’s place too. Dylan asked, “If we have keys to each other’s homes, doesn’t that make us family?” It occurred to me that Sharon really was family. Dylan told me he’d always thought of Sharon as an aunt.

I’ve been really lucky with friends. I have several best friends and confidants. Sharon is one of the most important people in my life. She’s picked up my shattered pieces and put me back together several times.

She was born an army brat in Germany. Her dad was so macho he survived skydiving, in Hawaii I believe, pretty much without a parachute. I think her childhood gave her a slightly different slant on the human condition. She has an incredibly objective world view but lives her life in the moment. She’s superstitious, ritualistic but still tolerant of everyone.

She loves any kind of counter culture. I’ve seen her holding court in gay bars, blues clubs, and youth raves before they were called raves. I’ve had adventures with her that I doubt she’ll ever give me permission to recount.

I worked at The Oyster Bar for a year before we met. This was before it became a popular music venue. Our customers were railroad and barge employees. They treated me like a little effeminate twit. We had river rats that were larger than most cats.

My first job there was cleaning up after closing. I’d sleep there and was so afraid of the rats I’d sleep on a table.

My girl friend I had been living with moved to Milwaukee to join a theater group. I was alone and felt like I’d just moved to a new town. I didn’t know anyone. I have a habit of getting very close to people for a couple of years then moving into an entirely new group. Sharon took me in, hooked me up with our friend Nancy – I wrote about her earlier. She made sure I was taken care of. She delighted in my emotionally volatile adventures.

Sharon was with me when I had my last spectacular seizure in the middle of the dance floor at Faces “East Side”. She must have been upstairs at the drag show because I don’t remember her face when I came around. This was in the 80s and it’s a good thing they stopped before my skydiving career.

There was a big flood before the flood of 93. We were out partying ‘til dawn at the riverfront. I’ll never forget Sharon walking down the street and falling right into the river. Far from being upset she couldn’t control her laughter.

We spent a lot of evenings after the bar closed in the parking lot shooting off fireworks. She always found the best.

Somehow through all of this she raised her daughter. I learned a lot about parental patience from her. People who see me lose my cool should try to imagine how bad I could have been.

There’s no way to tell the whole story here but I have to start somewhere. There will be more.

Pic of Sharon after we just arrived in Canada. This is a parking lot at Niagara Falls.


...Sharon said...

Immediately after reading this, I held a mirror to my mouth. It fogged up. Whew, I’m still breathing in this world. (So it appears to be a slow news week in DUdell-land.)
Your facts are a bit off, but you’re spot on with all the nice things said.

Can’t wait for the next chapter…

Ps… I intentionally walked into the river, only to trip on the sidewalk’s curb underneath. But you know… I never fell into a puddle that I didn’t enjoy.

Doggie said...

Give me some facts.

Michael said...

I am proud to call her my cousin...She exposed me to the exciting city side of St. Louis when I was 15. ( I grew up in a VERY rural Wentzville) We went to see The Rolling Stones (Stevie Wonder opened) at Kiel. Rode a bus through the city and turned me on to a complete different music catalog, I would be influenced forever by her LOVE for Leon Russell. Our tastes must have kept in line because we ran into each other a few years ago at the Fox for the Prarie Home Companion!!!

...Sharon said...

Wow! Cousin Michael, also with nice things to say (he's also a great musician and his son's band plays 'round town). Yeah, that was Sept. 9, 1973 at Kiel Auditorium, we had (I think) 4th row center tickets to see Leon Russell!..!! Ya know, my Dad actually got those tickets. I dunno know if he stood in line or pulled some strings, I do remember he said it took a while. And I drug you to see the movie "Concert for Bangladesh" about three times. In a row!

My dad broke his back in that jump, in Ft. Bragg, NC. He jumped a few times after mending. His last jump was in Santo Domingo, with the uprising. The landing area was a freshly cut sugar cane field. So stupid. He then requested a transfer. He did tell about staying at Kim Novak's pink mansion while there, apparently the army took it over too.

Doggie, I don't recall any "raves" - perhaps you're thinking about my "ravings". There were more than a few.

Ahh, Faces. I went there for the dancing and drama. I never cared for the drag shows. Men looking prettier than women can mess with a gal's ego at 3am. The last one I saw though, was when a certain guitar playin' friend of ours went up to the queen dressed as Annie Lennox, planted a BIG! kiss on her mouth while slipping her some cash!!..! (not namin' names... but a clue would be - he's been known to lose guitars).

I'm glad I didn't see you drop on the dance floor, I always feared I wouldn't respond right. You later told me the gay boys knew just what to do. I was actually just about 15 feet away from you, trying to woo the gay bartenders to hire me. I really wanted to work there. That place made some money. My idea was to moonlight, right after calling last call at the Oyster Bar, I would scurry east side! Ahhh, ambitions!

Hey, tell Dylan I've always thought of him and Chloe as family. I love those kids so much.

Doggie said...

The main rave I'm talking about was that abandoned farm house we went to after The Monkees in Hannibal. You and I were in out mid 20s. I overheard some kid say, "let's get the old dude to buy more booze." I ran into Mickey Dolenz at our hotel(literally). We went to that same Prairie Home show. I was a little out of it.I told Garrison Keillor I loved his book WBLT. It was called WLT and I'm still embarrassed. It was a good read! I was growing my hair again and he asked, "what do you call that hair?" I still wish I'd said,"Nigel." My mother thinks you must be her soul sister. She loves Bunny Berrigan and Leon Russel too.

Michael said...

I was always in awe of Uncle Jim
(Sharons' Dad). I remember him getting us those tickets because he was the head of security for Stix, Baer & Fuller and they sold tickets there. I remember him telling us about meeting Bob Hope and Marcel Marceau, He opened the store so they could shop in private on a Sunday ( when all the stores were closed, way back when)And I will NEVER forget Leon Russell. Standing on top of his piano and throwing tamborines into the audience. One came very close to us.

...Sharon said...

Doggie, what's your mom's feelings about Boy George?

You know, I "met" Leon Russell, outside the stage door at Kiel (at a later show). It was so exciting. He actually came out and stood right next to me, shoulder to shoulder, while signing autographs. I was ill prepared, in awe and speechless. So I handed him my sketchbook. He gave me a curious look, then signed the cover. I still have it. But you know, afterwards, I became depressed for days. I had missed the opportunity to talk to Leon Russell - but nothing I could have said would impress him. The reality hit hard; I was just another fan. And he was mortal. I was depressed for days.

OH! This is good... My dad surprised! us with tickets one day to go see Herman's Hermits. I was never a fan of theirs, but we lived in a small town in Germany; it was a rare chance to see a concert - no matter who it was. There was no concert hall; it was held in a gymnasium. The opening act was... ARCHIE BELL AND THE DRELLS!..!! Seriously. I was 12 years old. It was so cool. That was my first concert!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm---Sharon, I've never really listened to Boy George. Probably because my exposer for music past my era was David, and I guess he didn't play Boy George. At least not around me!

David's Mom

Anonymous said...

my favorite memory of sharon is when tom of the always changing band names caught his hair on fire rocking out and leaning on one of those oil lamps on the bar, and sharon had to pour a beer on his head to put it out; it was hilarious, he didnt even know his hair was on fire! Geo