Red Lodge Part Two: Upstairs

If you missed the first part in the adventures of my grandparent’s old place, you can read it here: Red Lodge Part One: Downstairs.

My buddy Tommy arrived the next day (yesterday) after a long drive from Alabama, through lightning storms, wildlife and Kansas. I gave him a quick tour of the house, we got everything unpacked and he gave me a gift.

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Now I need to buy a record player. Or date a girl with a record player. Or do an elaborate Ocean’s 11-style heist.

Anyway, we went out for burgers (he got buffalo, I got elk; we both opted in for the homemade potato salad), and then after a short jaunt around town, got to work on the upstairs.

Here are the (definitely haunted) stairs leading up. There’s a little string winding along the rail to pull that turns the light at the top on and off.

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The mirror at the top is so you can see the phantom following close behind. Here’s the hallway at the top.

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To the immediate right is the bedroom I stayed in as a kid. There’s a tiny twin bed and a dresser. Absent now is a glass case that used to be against the wall at the foot of the bed. At the time, it was filled with the creepiest goddamn dolls I had ever seen in my life. It’s a miracle I didn’t develop a complex of some kind. A couple of the dolls made it into the closet, but the room is mostly bare now, save for some boxes filled with old books.

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To the left is another bedroom. It’s the one Tommy is staying in, hence the definitely not-antique bags piled on top of the bed. There was some old sewing equipment in the dresser. In the closet, though, was where the good stuff was. I was only able to go through a bag full of magazines…

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…and one of three or four boxes, but the box I went through had literal hundreds of photos I had never seen before. It was jarring, honestly, and it affected me more than I led on with my friend there sorting through it. I was adopted into this family, right, and my parents have been absent for most of my life, so I spent the bulk of my life living with a couple that had already raised three kids. It’s both stunning and heartbreaking to see the full lives they led before I came into it. It made me feel… I don’t know. Separate. I know I shouldn’t, but seeing how my uncle, aunt and dad grew up (and I mean literally, from baby photos to graduation pictures, to Thanksgiving dinners with first wives and my great-grandmother), seeing my grandparents as a young couple, it made me feel like there wasn’t a part of me in their life.

That’s ridiculous, of course, they were a huge part of my life and I of theirs, but with most of my family dead now, distant or gone, there’s a loneliness in me that was compounded by seeing this childhood and sibling camaraderie that I never fully got to have or understand. My grandparents were loving people and essentially parents who guided me through a large chunk of my life, but they were still an entire generation removed. We played, but never tossed balls. We didn’t go fishing or camping or much of anything, really.

And another part of me sees my dad as a young kid, my uncle teaching him how to play the guitar. Graduating high school, going to the zoo, goofing off, sporting the worst mustache ever. I’m seeing this youthful, cheerful version of him smiling, and it hurts my heart to think of the broken shell of a man waiting to get out of prison – again – next month with dreams of running away to Mexico where no one can hurt him anymore. I thought of him there, in a cell, hurting from a broken back he endured when I was a kid, and I thumb through theĀ  Western Union telegram that my grandfather sent his mother the day he was born: “JEAN HAD SEVEN POUND MINE OUNCE BOY THIS AFTERNOON BOTH DOING FINE BABY LOOKS LIKE JEAN AND CAN OUT YELL DAVID. DEBBIE WANTED GIRL BUT SETTLED FOR BUSTER AND A MILK SHAKE DAVID AND I HAPPIEST FELLOWS IN ALASKA WISH YOU WERE HERE LETTER FOLLOWS LOVE”.

It was sent at 8:30AM, just over an hour after he was born (I found his birth certificate as well). He was so ecstatic and excited for his third child that he rushed as fast he could to let his mom know about it.

These photos were a peek into a history I never got to hear about. Peeks into the past, childhoods of the people who took me in and have tried to ask about me at least over the years. I flipped through countless pictures, setting aside some that I want to take home and hopefully someday share with kids of my own, but I kept going through this massive box of pictures because I knew if I stopped in the middle of it, I might be overwhelmed.

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Further down the hall on the right is the master bedroom, I guess. I suspect it’s the same size of smaller than the room Tommy is in, but it’s where my grandparents stayed and it’s where I’m staying for the duration of my visit. It’s a bed, a nightstand and an (empty) wardrobe. The bed is cozy. Of course it is.

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At the head of the hall is the bathroom, complete with old school red bathing basin with fucking legs hell yeah. Oh, and a too-small toilet that I’m only bitter at because I’m used to more accommodating porcelain thrones these days.

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And to the far left of the hall, across from my bedroom, is a storage room where most of the extra furniture has been moved. There look to be a few things go through there, too. I’ll try to get to that today.

After the photo business, Tommy and I got a bottle of Big Horn bourbon whiskey, which I purchased on the recommendation of the clerk after asking for the best locally brewed dark whiskey. Tommy and I started working through that while catching up on each other’s lives and telling old stories. We hadn’t seen each other in 8 years, but it felt like no time had passed at all.

Eventually we headed to the bar to listen to some live music and try the local beers (which were great). The bartender’s name was Tanner, but I thought it was Nick at some point, so we just called him Nick Tanner the rest of the night and he gave us water so the sheriff wouldn’t think we were being overserved. I gave my number to the other bartender, a fun, flirty, beautiful woman named Megan. I invited her to come over and sort through old shit with me. Why? Big Horn bourbon whiskey, that’s why.

Anyway. I still have some rooms to go through, as well as a basement and a shed. There will be a few more of these, I think. One for the whatever else I find, one for the city, and I think we’re going to try and head to Yellowstone at some point. Hope you’re continuing to enjoy this peek at history and my childhood.

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My First Porn Star

Sometimes half the fun of these things is coming up with a title.

Last night (or two nights ago, technically. This happened Saturday, June 28th.), a local bar hosted an event called Judigras. And it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: Mardis Gras in June, or at least a facsimile. It went how you’d expect. There was revelry and beads for boobs, body painting and heavy drinking. A live band played (a live band is almost always playing at this bar), there was a wet t-shirt contest, a twerk contest (for fuck’s sake, why?) and some other stuff I missed because I spent the bulk of my night on the deck.

See, my friend is the bartender on the deck and he and another friend and I tend to spend most of our weekend nights shooting the shit and getting some fresh air. Most of the people go out to the deck to smoke. I don’t. I just prefer the atmosphere out there. Plus there’s a grill set-up and this guy cooks a mean reindeer hot dog like you wouldn’t believe.

I was there Saturday night to get drunk and have a good time. I had the following day off, I knew my pals would be out there and I feel like I keep making an ass of myself with a girl I like. Additionally, in a twist I should have seen coming but did not, Judigras ended up scoring about a half dozen women I dated and/or slept with as rabble-rousers, so I was on the edge of losing my mind.

I did run into an exotic dancer friend of mine I hadn’t seen in quite some time. She’s a beautiful, creative soul who shares a lot of the same tastes as I do in terms of fiction, film, fashion and art. She’s very intelligent, which made it an absolute delight when some almost-jocks recognized her from the club, talked to her as if she were on the clock and she promptly shot them down so hard and brilliantly that all they could do was stare and mumble something.

Gentlemen: strippers do not give a shit about you. They do not mean the nice things they say while you’re fishing your money out to buy a drink that costs way too much. They don’t want to fuck you just because you pay them to pretend that they do. And if you forget that they are actually women with a job and you treat them like objects when they’re not at their job and thus have no reason to tolerate your sexism and idiocy, they will put you in your place. Hopefully I’ll get to see it again. It’s a goddamn delight.

Anyway, I hung out with her and her friend for a couple hours, catching up, engaging in witty banter. They got painted; I did not. I did get green glitter brushed all over my face. I haven’t looked closely in the mirror since then, but I’ve already prepared to look like I took a fairy money shot for the next ten years.

The biggest draw of the evening, however, and what brought the three of us together for a little bit, was that Jenna Jameson was IN THE HOUSE. She had done a meet and greet up in Fairbanks and then flew down to show up for one night in Anchorage.

I didn’t think I would get excited. I don’t think of myself as the kind of guy who gets easily star-struck and seeing as how Jenna is mostly known for being naked and often penetrated, I don’t know that being star-struck as a single male in this case is necessarily a good thing.

But I did get excited and I ended up being a little awkward and once I had a chance to think about it, it didn’t surprise me all that much.

Before I ever knew Jenna Jameson was a porn star, I knew her as a knockout blonde that I thought was a model. Sure, I had heard she did Playboy, but so did Marilyn Monroe. Discovering later that she did porn didn’t change my perspective or make me think less or more of her, that’s not what I’m trying to say. I just want to point out that I had this deep and abiding crush on her as a teenager that continued for years based on knowing almost nothing about her.

Was it shallow? Absolutely. I was a kid with hormones whose hobbies were trying and failing to hook up with girls, and masturbating. And comic books.

Come to think of it, that list has pretty much stayed the same for ten years

Anyway, I thought Jenna was one of the most gorgeous women I had ever seen. I haven’t read it, but by most accounts her autobiography (How to Make Love Like a Porn Star) is prettt excellent, and my respect for her grew just by knowing that. She was also married to Tito Ortiz, because I also apparently needed to know her significant other could, in fact, kick the shit out of me.

I grew older and grew wiser (probably) and developed relationships of my own with a wide variety of “types” and found beauty in many different areas. My single-minded lust of that poster image faded into the past as I matured while the respect for the woman more or less stayed the same.

Truth be told, before a week ago, I hadn’t thought of Jenna Jameson in a few years,  not since the girl I was dating at the time (and yes, she was at the bar Saturday, too) was telling me how great the autobiography was. And that’s probably natural, not thinking about porn stars regularly, so I feel like I’m in the clear. All the same, the nostalgia of this hypersexualized image that I looked at every day for four or five years (I neglected to mention I worked in a comic and collectible shop that sold posters; hers was on the outside) came rushing back, so I was curious to see what was up.

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The first thing I was surprised to find out was that she was letting people take pictures with her for free. Not just one picture, but at least a few. Not only that, but she was a fucking champ. She adapted easily to whatever pose requests she was given. She didn’t try to rush anyone off the stage. She was friendly to everyone and eye-banged the hell out of whichever camera was flashing.

The second thing that impressed me was that she was charging $10 for an autographed photo of herself, but that it was going to a breast cancer charity. I hadn’t intended on buying one before that knowledge, but:

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“Take me,” it says. Oh, Jenna.

Finally, it was my turn to go up and meet her. She was skinny. Tan. The work she had done on her face was obvious, and yet when she smiled or puckered her lips, if you looked into her eyes, that beauty was still there. She seemed a little flighty, but if I had to meet a bunch of drunk assholes with dirty thoughts in Alaska, I’d be drunk or high off my ass. The guy she was with, and I don’t know who it was because – and I can’t stress this enough – I really need to not be invested in the love lives of porn stars…the guy she was with was a gentleman. He smiled at everyone that came up, he made sure Jenna knew to sign a photo (it got a little crazy on the stage considering how many people were there), and was just generally really chill.

I shook Jenna’s hand. I don’t know why I did that. That’s such a weird thing to do. Then I kind of awkwardly suggested some poses. The conversation went like this.

“I was thinking it would be funny if, maybe, like if you grabbed my tit.”

“You…want me to grab your…tit?”

“Well, my chest. Yeah, like if you were groping me instead of being groped, cuz…like a joke.”

“Uh…sure.”

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And then I did this, because I’m a fucking weirdo.

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And then she signed my picture, blew me a kiss, and I left to go get another drink and think about how I couldn’t possibly have been less suave about the whole situation.

Jenna Jameson has changed a lot in ten years, as would any person. I didn’t go in expecting to see the woman from the poster I adored. Shit, I didn’t go in expecting to meet her, take a picture with her or have her grope me, either. I went in curious and though our encounter with each other was brief and not terribly special or noteworthy, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction anyway. Seeing how receptive she was with her fans, how willing she was to just provide a good time and a fun picture, it was rewarding. It was such a deep pleasure to see someone who has achieved notoriety and fame still be an absolute gem to a crowd of people who each weekend largely seem to try to prove that they’re horrible.

Jenna Jameson is not the first woman I’ve seen naked. She wasn’t my first fantasy. She wasn’t the first adult starlet that I turned my filthy eyes on. But I had a big, fat, ol’ crush on her for a long time. She’s incredibly sweet. She’s the first porn star I’ve ever met, and I couldn’t be happier at how it turned out.