Readers’ Memories: Week 4

This week’s reader memory comes from a good friend of mine, Kim (aka “Kimberley”) whose writing I ‘ve always loved—as I’m sure you will too…

Favorite memory from Kim Cameron, New York, NY: My Year as a B-List Groupie

“This is cool, though, right Kim? Kimberley! It’s preppy.”

I’m sitting on the edge of a bed with no frame, absurdly near the ground considering what the hotel room must have cost. My friend Nikki is huddled close beside me, monopolizing the beer we’re sharing in our matching all-black outfits, and she shouts gleefully in response to something happening in the poker game taking place on the next bed. In one corner, a world-class guitarist strums idly, while in another, people partake in all manner of things New York is famous for.

“The preppy look is always in,” the boy sitting in front of me on the floor adds, still indicating his puffer vest and looking at me earnestly, and I start to laugh. My one-year-ago self would never believe where I am right now.

———————————–

I was three days late for my move to New York following my college graduation in 2004 because Howie Day was doing a free mini-concert in Copley Square in Boston, and at the time I loved him more than any other musician or band (aside from maybe Jump, Little Children, and as it turned out, Jay Clifford, Jump’s lead singer, was touring with Howie and was going to be there too). So I left my college-turned-NYC roommate to maneuver our minimal furniture into our shoebox of an apartment herself so that I could attend what was, for all intents and purposes, a 20-minute radio station promotion.

It’s not like I’d never seen Howie in concert before; his rigorous touring of the New England collegiate circuit in the earliest aughts was the only reason I even knew who he was. My attendance record at his shows already hovered somewhere around 20. And it’s not like I needed to go to this more intimate, middle-of-a-weekday event so that I could get up-close-and-personal and actually speak to him like all of the other girls were doing (my story about listening to his album Australia pretty much exclusively during my semester abroad because it was dark and depressing and I was crazily romantic about things dark and depressing when I was 20 would have moved him more than theirs, though, of course). No, I was already a New Yorker, I had decided, and New Yorkers don’t care about celebrities, even their favorites. So I wasn’t going to try to talk to him or anything. In all, it was a ridiculous thing to delay moving plans for. But in a way, I was convinced this was it for me and Howie. Not that it would never be possible to see him again, but kind of the swan song for my college obsession, because he was probably about to have a hit song on a CW show and hook up with Britney Spears in rehab or something (spoiler alert!) so I had to be there, this one last time.

When I arrived in New York a few days later, my roommate had, in addition to unpacking our whole apartment, kindly secured me a job cocktail waitressing at an Irish bar with her. During my first shift, the manager gave me money to load up the jukebox until the crowd picked up and took over, and I of course instantly began bemoaning the lack of Howie Day songs (this was a typical woe of mine at most bars).

“Howie Day?” Joe the bartender repeated. “I know him. Like, personally.”

“Riiiiight,” I replied, and my roommate laughed.

“You can pick on her for being a Red Sox fan, but I wouldn’t joke about Howie Day,” she advised.

“But I do,” Joe said, unperturbed. “He comes in all the time. He’s the one with the hair, eh?” He mimed Howie’s mass of signature spiky hair and I fairly vaulted over the bar demanding details.

Over the next few months I saw to it that Howie’s entire discography was added to the jukebox and created a miniature army of cocktail waitress superfans in my co-workers. We’d beam with pride every time a customer would ask us if we knew who was singing “Morning After” or “Disco,” as if we had anything to do with it at all. One Monday night in November I showed up for my shift and my co-worker Kelly told me that the night before “people from Howie Day’s touring company” had been in the bar and tipping well. I confirmed that he was in town, doing some radio show with John Mayer (remember John Mayer?!), and laughingly announced that he’d obviously be in in a few hours to rescue us from the tedium of Monday nights.

“Right. He’ll probably bring John Mayer!” Kelly agreed, and we laughed and got on with our regularly scheduled $30 shift.

When he walked in six hours later, the first thing I saw was his hair. The first thing Kelly saw was the back of my head, as I turned heel and bolted into the kitchen, where I remained, whisper screaming into my phone to my roommate, until the bartender came back to fetch me because my section was now obviously completely full with the Howie Day entourage.

“Are you our waitress? Sorry, hi! Are you our waitress? You can use this card. What’s your name?” Within moments of stepping back on the floor, Howie Day’s Amex was in my pocket and the man himself was looking me in the eye and smiling.

“Yes-hi-yes-great-Kim,” I managed, or something to that effect.

“Like Kimberley?” He asked, and I nodded. “I’m going to go with Kimberley, then. It’s pretty.”

And we were off. He was delightful. His friends and band members and managers were delightful. He was drinking sea breezes (bright pink sea breezes!), his girlfriend was probably seven inches taller than I was, and his roadies were ecstatic to find all of his music on the jukebox. Kelly and I would meet up around corners to hastily trade “he said hi to me!” and “yeah, well he said he LOVED me!”s. I continued cocktailing for an hour after I could have cut and transferred their tab to the bar, demanded that the bartender send them shots, and got two drinks, multiple hugs and kisses and a $101 tip out of the whole affair. When they finally shut the bar down, Kelly, the bartenders, a few regulars and I headed to a diner across the street for 4 a.m. breakfast. I had chocolate cake and iced coffee and stared into space with the dreamiest grin on my face, and we all (including the jaded New Yorkers and even the native New Yorkers) talked about what a great town it is and how anything can happen, etc., etc., cliché, cliché, magic, perfect, New York City. And as ridiculous as it sounds, after my constant babbling about him for months, everyone was genuinely thrilled for me to have had such a great run-in. Kelly was particularly pleased, considering we pooled tips at the bar.

That Howie encounter alone would have been enough for me (and it still remains my favorite one) but it turned out Joe the bartender hadn’t been kidding – he was something of a regular whenever he was in town. Better than that, he was great at remembering people and names, and the next time he showed up (this time with various members of Jump, Little Children) some of us found ourselves a bit … adopted … and “waiting on Howie Day” quickly turned into “hanging out with Howie whenever he’s in town.” I loaded his touring manager’s number into my phone and made the guest list at any concert I requested (and did I ever make use of that, attending shows in New York, Boston, Connecticut, Philly and LA in 2005) and found myself at more after-hours parties with musicians I adored than I could have ever imagined. Best and still somewhat hilarious to me, I spent hours just sitting around, drinking and playing games and talking about dating and music and being 22/23, that weird age between kid and adult, and pondering the important questions, like if we should all quit life and move to Bar Harbor, with Howie Day, my most-adored “celebrity.” And all the while he tried to call me Kimberley instead of Kim.

———————————–

“Yes, Howie, the preppy look is always in,” I agree, as Nikki nudges me conspiratorally.

“Can you imagine telling last year’s you that pretty soon you’d be sitting around a hotel room in New York while Howie Day asks for your fashion advice?” She asks in what she seems to think is a hushed tone.

“I was just thinking that!” I yell, not even bothering, and we both laugh as Howie starts demanding we take whiskey shots with him.

Howie at O'Flats 2005

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Memory #6: Summers on the Great Point

My summer job all through college was tending bar in the first class lounge on a 900-passenger ferry called the Great Point. For 11 hours a day, I served cocktails and cheese platters to tourists on their way from Hyannis to Nantucket and it was totally amazing—the absolute best summer job ever. I basically spent 5 glorious summers sailing the beautiful waters of Nantucket Sound, flirting with hot European deckhands who were on Cape to work for the summer, reading as many books as possible during the slow trips (one summer I polished off 19), and going to wild parties that the Irish kids threw at their house—there was always an Irish house and they always had the best parties. It was awesome.

There are way too many individual memories to write about, but I’ll share a few photos to paint the picture for you (although sadly, I don’t have any photos from before the summer of ’04, I don’t think I had a digital camera before then haha). To all my GP friends who might be reading this: I’d love for you to comment and tell me your favorite memories from the boat (this especially means you Kim Cameron).

My beloved Great Point

My beloved Great Point

The door to the first class lounge, I may or may not have unscrewed that sign and taken it home with me on my last day working

The door to the first class lounge. I may or may not have unscrewed that sign and taken it home with me on my last day of work. 

My home away from homeMy home away from home

The GP crew in 2005

The GP crew in 2005

Irish party, summer of '04

Party at the Irish house, summer of ’04

A rough morning after followed this night. Being hungover on a boat is about as fun as it sounds.

A rough morning after followed this night: Being hungover on a boat is about as fun as it sounds.

"Irish Tea Parties" with Marek, Jenny, and Cathal. Read: Drinking Whiskey from tea cups

“Irish Tea Parties” with Marek, Jenny, and Cathal. Read: Drinking Whiskey from tea cups

Do I even need a caption?

Do this even need a caption?

Seriously, those were the days…

Readers’ Memories: Week 1

I’m very excited to share the first of my favorite memory posts from reader submissions, which I’ll be posting every Friday this month. The first 2 come from my 2 best friends from college: Jocelyn, my Italy buddy from Memory #2, and Amanda, my partner in karaoke crime. I love these 2 ladies to pieces and am so happy to still be close with them, and to have them share their favorite memories with me. I have to say too, I absolutely LOVED reading these stories (even the one that wasn’t about me, I swear), and it’s been amazing to have people share their favorite life memories with me. Keep ’em comin’ everyone!

Favorite Memory from Jocelyn Gomes, Boston, MA: Oliver

Growing up, my family (along with much of our extended family) spent our summers at Camp Dennen, on Hedges Pond in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I have so many wonderful memories of summers spent swimming in the pond, hiking and collecting blueberries for pancakes, 4th of July field games, going to the Snack Bar at the “Rec” Center, camp-wide Pig Roasts, and rainbow campfires—my Ti Pat would throw a copper pipe covered with a piece of garden hose into the fire, and the flames would change color as the hose-covered pipe burned.

Two of the people that you would see every summer at Camp Dennen were Rick and Penny, along with their dog, Muffy. She was a white Shih Tzu, and one summer, when I was about 11, I found out that Muffy was expecting puppies. Unbeknownst to my parents, and being the precocious child I was, I asked Penny point-blank if I could have one of Muffy’s puppies. I remember being told that Shih Tzu litters are usually very small, maybe 2 or 3 puppies at most, and that Muffy’s puppies had already been promised to other people. But, if Muffy had more than 3 puppies, I could have one! As summer wound to a close, my family packed up, and headed back home. A new school year began, months went by, and my dream of having a dog began to fade.

I was not privy to what happened next; but, as my parents tell it, they received an out-of-the-blue phone call from Penny. Apparently, Muffy had a litter of 6 puppies (!) and she was calling to let my parents know that we could come pick one out! My parents were surprised (no doubt, as I had not told them of my previous conversation with Penny) but decided that maybe the time was right for us to get a dog. After all, I had gone to an awful lot of trouble to arrange this. However, what they told my brother and sisters and I was that we were only driving to Rick and Penny’s to visit Muffy and her puppies. One of my favorite memories, and probably one of the Top 5 Greatest Moments of My Life, is the moment my Dad turned to us, as we sat in Rick and Penny’s living room, each cuddling or playing with a puppy, and casually asked, “Which one are we going to take home?” I distinctly remember burrowing my face into the fur of the puppy that had cuddled itself around my neck, and bursting into tears. Not dainty childlike tears of joy. Sobs. I am tearing up now, just thinking about it! It was a completely perfect moment of childhood wish fulfillment.

The puppy I had been cuddling (and using to mop up my tears) came home with us that day. We named him Oliver, and we had 6 wonderful years with him.

This memory, in particular, is one of my favorites, because it’s not only the (awesome) story of the day my family got a dog. It is one example, among many, of how incredibly loving my parents were and are, every single day, and what a lucky kid I was.

Oliver

Favorite Memory from Amanda Eckhardt, Providence, RI: Karaoke at Flann O’Briens

There are so many incredible memories that we’ve shared together—so many that it’s really, truly, incredibly difficult for me to choose just one! After all, we did spend our college years together…In the dorms we first lived down the hall from one another, then next door to each other, and then later, when we moved off campus we lived practically across the street from each other. Everyone knows that your friends during your college years become like your family away from home. Through mixed feelings of intense stress from school, maybe a little homesickness, and excitement you end up cementing really strong bonds with this new little family. With that said, not everyone goes to art school. You’d think that with the crazy mixed bag of friendly, awkward, art kid weirdos, that surely there would be plenty of potential kindred spirits hidden in the mix. And believe me, I love eccentricity. Truth be told, I’ve been magnetically drawn to characters my entire life. But after finding the twelfth Polaroid self portrait of your roommate with a fake bloody nose taped to your bathroom mirror after excusing yourself from yet another viewing of Hedwig and the Angry Inch next door, you find yourself nearly knocking that kid off his unicycle in the hallway as you run…Cue Danne Dzenawagis.

I think I probably knew from the moment I accidentally barged into your room that first semester, finding you blasting “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin and drinking tea on your couch at midnight on a Friday. If not then, I DEFINITELY knew by the time we were begging our way into DDD’s under age just to watch karaoke (OK and maybe sneak a beer or two in the bathroom)…We both shared an appreciation for cheesy, simple, comforting, and nostalgic hits from our parents’ youth. By the time we found ourselves at Flann O’Brien’s together for karaoke for the first time, you were already a pro. I, on the other hand, was terrified. I had never sung in front of people that way before. Lets be clear. I LOVE to sing. But. I’m paralyzingly shy.

That night we decided to sing a favorite: “Silver Springs” by Fleetwood Mac. We chose to do it as a duet and switch off parts. All of our friends were there in the crowd (and tending bar) plus tons of people we didn’t know. Maybe it was the high we were feeling from performing, or maybe it was the gin and tonics, whatever it was, in that moment it was like we were magic and we sounded so incredible together! When we reached the chorus I chose the harmony and something crazy happened. The whole room lost control. It was like an out of body experience. I think at one point both of us dropped to our knees. When we finished people we didn’t know we’re coming up to us and congratulating us. It was truly a moment out of a movie and something I’ll always remember. Only maybe in my memory there is confetti raining down on us as we’re lifted onto shoulders and paraded down Tremont Street. We felt invincible.

Damanda livin it up