Thursday, April 30, 2009

RGB Origins

This is an attempt to explain how three late-30s, early 40s, respectable, professional women came to start a Girl Band.

It began on one of those nights. I was out dancing with a couple girlfriends. One of them, we’ll call her M, kept going on about how she’d “always wanted” to be a drummer. And she kept air drumming and swooshing her hair around. She has mounds of big hair, and as I watched her, images from the 80s of big-haired drummers drum smashing and hair flipping came thick and fast. She looked like a drummer.

I should mention before we move on, that this was not the first time M had blurted out always-wants. Although she was a relatively new friend, I realized that night that she had far too many always-wants.

We all have some.

I want to play guitar — just well enough to sit around the campfire and strum “Froggy Went a Courting” and an Eagles song. I’ve pursued this want. I got a guitar, downloaded Eagles songs. Over the years, I’ve had several bouts of playing steadily for a few weeks at a time; I’ve kept the guitar where I can see it. Thus I can’t say I’ve always wanted to play guitar; I have to say I’m learning to play extremely gradually.

I’m sure I have always-wants, but I can’t think of one right now. I want a PhD in archeology, but I have a plan so it’s not an always-want. Once the little one is off to college, I intend to follow him and enroll. I want a perfect hat, but, again, I’m trying. I’ve bought several that didn’t work out and I keep looking. I don’t sheltering a list of always-wants. I error on the other side — ill-advised action. It’s one of my superpowers — that and being able to change clothing inside the clothing I’m wearing.

I have a theory that when you let the always-wants stack up, when you have decades of them in the cupboards, something bad happens inside you. Your little light starts to sputter; it grows dim.

I thought all these things watching M air drum and hair swoosh. It made me sad. So I blurted, “We should form a Girl Band!”

I should mention that my other friend, we’ll call her D, played the piano as a child and had her grandmother’s beautiful piano living room collecting dust. I should also mention that in my opinion, D had been growing restless over the last couple years. She’d earned her PhD, her son was old enough to make his own breakfast, and her husband was working out of state. She seemed to need something more, and I had watched her flounder a bit as she searched. The Girl Band would help her, too, I thought. Scratching itches and all that.

It would also force me to do something I’m terrible at, which is a tremendous way to build character. And, since we know character is destiny, build my destiny. I could certainly do with more destiny.

We were all drink and sweat soggy and thought the Girl Band a tremendous idea.

Except the next time we got together, no one remembered but me. D and I went for a run together, during which she asserted that she hadn’t even been out with us that night. M remembered but pretended not to.

Actually, I didn’t think we were serious either. I just liked to talk about it because when I said the words “Girl Band,” they felt good on my lips, kind of like swearing does but without the danger of your son begging you to stop swearing so much.

Also I still had this feeling that M, D, and I all needed something — fewer always-wants, more character, more destiny.

A couple weeks later, my husband and I went out dancing and ran smack into more destiny than I was ready for.

We fell in with an odd little group of people who were groupies of a local legend in the music scene. Before we knew it, we had an offer to use a recording studio, a practice space, and a private plane trip for the band to Las Vegas so we could check out some concert. A guy my husband had picked up hitchhiking invited the Girl Band to come and listen to his new band’s first gig.

So M and I went to see what the scene was like for a new band. Hitchhiker guy announced to the entire bar that we were a hot new Girl Band in town and that we were really good. We hadn’t practiced and two of us didn’t think we even were a Girl Band, and here we’d been announced to the public.

But destiny wasn’t finished. I went to a Christmas party where I ran into the piano teacher my son and I had taken lessons from the year before. She heard about the Girl Band and wanted in. Now she, let’s call her E, is a real musician, with a degree in music and teaches professionally. Also she’s in her 20s. I told her that even if we were really going to be a Girl Band, none of knew anything and completely lacked talent. (She must have known I wasn’t simply being demure because she’d listened to me pound the piano for a year.)

E still wanted in. She told me she had leather pants and when she put them on she could shimmy really well. She told me she would ride her motorcycle up on the stage. She told me she knew how to transpose and arrange music. I pretended I knew what that meant. I told her she was in. She told me she’d play base.

When I called M and D to inform them about our new member, destiny had been at work on them, too. They started to say things like “band practice.”

After the holidays, we set up our first Girl Band practice, at which all we did was scrounge music sites for a likely first song while drinking box wine. I felt our little flames stand taller, our characters build, and my ill-advised-actions superpower puff out its chest.

We had become a RGB.

Friday, April 24, 2009

GB Beginnings

It's hard to say which came first the real Girl Band or the fictional one.

I can say that the idea for a real band certainly came first, but since we didn't actually set up a practice until after the fictional band had taken some sort of form, I'm at a loss as to whether life is following fiction or fiction is following life.

This blog is going to be largely about the messy crash between the two.

The point is three friends and I have I've started a Girl Band. At present our name is fluctuating. We like Marmalade Superlove right now, but have learned that we're really good at coming up the Girl Band names. Meanwhile I've started a new novel about a Girl Band, the members of which have named themselves Gothic Cowgirls (for now).

Points of intersection:

1. both bands are in Montana

2. both feature late-30s, early 40s band members

3. both have never done something like this before

Points of divergence

1. the FGB (fictional girl band) actually has talent while the RGB (real girl band) has lots of talent but not necessarily musical in nature

2. for the members of the FGB the girl band experience will change their lives forever within just a few months. for the RGB it may take decades

3. the RGB members are neither as messed up nor as desperate as the FGB members.

Let me just add that neither the FGB nor the RGB began with anything like intention or thought. I'd been writing my second novel for a couple years and just felt it didn't have the heart it needed. About the same time I was becoming frustrated with Novel Two's progression, I went out dancing with some girlfriends.
The origins of the RGB will be discussed at length in the next installment. Right now, I will just say that shortly after the RGB idea came up, late at night, while working on heartless Novel Two, my fingers just sort of flipped a clog and began typing a different story -- the story of four women who've lost their bearings and find each other and their lives again when they start a Girl Band. I could tell right away my heart was in this one.

Right now, I've got half a rough draft (shitty rough draft, as Anne Lamont would say) with lots of heart.

The RGB and the FGB get kind of mixed up in my mind and beneath my fingertips. I'll just have to see what happens as they intersect.