The first story, from Chicago

Originally Posted June 29, 2004

I was in Chicago this week, where drunken Paul went to the Taste ofChicago and smoked a half a cigarette under extreme peer pressure under the influence of misguided Canadians, and remembered the last time I was there.

There are a few women I wish I still kept in touch in life, and the last time I had seen them was that last summer in Chicago, 1992. The ones that come to mind are Megan, Amy B, Becky Burns, and of course Barb. REM had the popular song "Calling to Wake Her Up" from the "Out of Time Album," which I though was "Calling Chuck Gaidica." From Detroit, it only made sense to call the channel 4 weather man. While it was the last time I had spoken with many of them, the last time I was at my fighting weight of 175, and the last time I had a good sense of humor before becoming so cynical – it was not the last time of thought of my one night with Barb.

It all centers around this one night in 1984 when I was ending the eighth grade. It was about this time of year, one of those warm June nights in Michigan, when we had our eighth grade dance. Probably the first dance I had ever been to, and my expectations were high. In my knit tie, and best "break dance" moves for a white kid in Birmingham, the greatest slow song of all time came on half way through the night, Careless Whisper, by Wham. "Time can never mend" it starts "the careless whisper of a good friend." Ah, words that meant so much back then and so little now. I tapped Barb on the shoulder, asked her if we could dance, and she agreed. With her elegant grace and sway to the music I was confident no one saw me fumble about. We talked about the class trip to Cedar Point that week, how I wished my "best friend" of the time had not forced me out of the seat on the bus next to her from "the point", and her plans for the summer.

In hopes of getting in those summer plans, I noticed something change in the situation. Maybe because I could feel the ruffle of her dress under my hand, the smell of that Hello Kitty perfume young ladies worn then, or the fact that I was finally with her, the worst thing that could happen to a developing youngman began to rise. An enormous, raging errection grew under my khakis, and there was no escape. Attempting to get my mind off of the topic (baseball, religion, mangled baby ducks) I couldn't draw her closer to cover the problem; it would only make the matter worse. I couldn't let her go, because that would reveal the problem to my peers. As the next song started,Phil Collins, "Against All Odds" from the movie of the same title, she said thank you for the dance, and began to turn away, I held on tight and asked for one more. The music played on, we danced, I slowly positioned us closer to the boy's bathroom. When the DJ crossed over to something funky from Prince I was able to slip away, unnoticed, to a splash of cold water.

So when I hear one of these two songs, I think of this time. I ask myself why didn't I keep up with her? Ask her out? Keep up with anyof those friends who came to Chicago for a long weekend one summerto visit? More importantly, I wonder if she knew what was happening? Or was she too young to figure it out? I know that women find it funny when this sight pop's up in public. Most guys do too when it's not them. Funny what pop's up in your mind walking through the lobby of a hotel hearing these silly songs.