Tuesday, March 15, 2011

#145: CBGB

145: CBGB What is it about places liked CBGB, the bar in the East Village in New York that showcased early punk rock scene in the 1970s? Think of your own significant place, like this grungy bar. Or just write about CBGB. Do some research into whichever place you choose to write about. The place doesn’t have to be famous, it can be important only to you and the friends of your youth. Imagine your way into one of these sites of happening. 750 words.

The Ho had stood there longer than anyone could remember. As far as anyone could tell, it was a theater theater at first, with one huge stage, that had little operettas and productions that rolled through town. Opera? Who knew. In the 1950s, it split into the two separate movie theaters so it could show two movies instead of one. That was pretty much the last time anyone could remember any sort of internal improvement, though there must have been something in the 1970s to bring wiring and ancient fire systems up to code. The place was still a deathtrap. All of that chintz, dust, and fabric would have been up in flames blink fast. But even being in a deathtrap was better than being socially dead alone at home.

It was dirty and fantastic. The two theaters: The Blue Room and The Red Room. One was blue, and one was red. But not just blue and red. I mean, Blue and Red. Huge dusty blue curtains that hung from ceiling to floor along the walls, huge blue sconces along the top of the movie screen, blue light fixtures and blue seats and blue carpet. Or red of everything just listed. Epic red and blue.

What made it even better was upon closer inspection, there were so many layers of grime that things were more off blue, off red. Blue-ish, Red-ish. It didn’t matter. Gum under the seats, stickiness everywhere, popcorn from decades past still glued to the floor, initials carved into the armrests. Didn’t matter.

The most coveted seats, ironically, were the few in the balcony, the ones you had to have the inside scoop to access from a small staircase behind the concession stand. From this perch, you could make out, drink, smoke (pot), and if the movie was particularly boring, laser point at the actors on screen until someone complained to the manager (which didn’t matter, because the manager was invariably your friend’s older sister or brother, and knew the score).

Aforementioned concession stand had all the staples: Ju Ju Bees, Jr. Mints, Sugar Babies, M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, back when the boxes were normal sizes and not gargantuan. The popcorn (oh, the popcorn) was usually soggy with butter and heat. But oh, so so amazing to eat. Even more amazing to chuck at your friends when you were done eating, since minimal contact produced maximum stains on clothes. The soda was flat and had more ice than beverage. Perfect.

We stayed there well past when the movies were over, crowded into the lobby or playing the few arcade games along the wall. Endlessly turning over the day’s gossip, stirring it and chewing it, like sustenance. In the Ho, popular kids had an air of glamour, hierarchies arranged themselves according to distance from the door (progressively better as one travelled further into the theater).

There was also a hint of the desperation that comes with all small town haunts. The desire, the urge, to run screaming away, as far away as we could, before it sucked us into it and we became the manager. The desire to be at The Ho needed to solidly center around the premise that really, we couldn’t stand to be at The Ho, would rather have been anywhere else, if only there was somewhere else to possibly go in that dumb place. Leesburg. Lameburg.

The kids who knew they were already out never went to The Ho. It was a place for those still on the fence, those still uncertain, those who still needed to have the security of place just in case it was a place they wound up living their lives. The dirty, dusty, grungy, sticky, red and blue and fantastic Ho. Where hearts were broken and virginity lost and friendships cemented and hungovers began. Where else in a small town could life have happened? Where else in that town could kids have lived? Besides the bonfires and the house parties? The IHOP and the China King? The Roy Rogers? The Rink?

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