He was alternative, he was the city, he was our deliverance from a boring suburban existence. I don't want to inflate his ego, it could've been virtually anyone. He just happened to be in the right place when we needed someone to obsess about.
It all started on one of our fairly routine weekend trips downtown. Our being myself, my sister and a third male party that we'll refer to as Bobby. So, we were record shopping for the usual young, hip, I'm-so-deep-nobody-understands-me music in one of the shops on our route, Dudley's. Can I actually name them or are we talking lawsuit? Oh well, let 'em try! It was the old school Dudley's not the new and improved Alder street Dudley's, that I have never stepped foot into...I'm just setting the scene here. After browsing around a bit we left the store and started talking about the guy who had been working there. We were all in agreement that he wa a bit of alright. See, Bobby was gay or maybe he was just like all the other alternative teen boys and thought his love for Morrissey constituted homosexuality. It was no matter to us, we benefitted, it was a virtual requirement to have at least one gay male friend if you wanted to be an alternative girl. Anyway, it all started out so innocently--typical teen infatuation. But I guess it mutated at some point...
On June 28, 1988 I went into Dudley's and I got to talking with a co-worker of the babely one. By using an old "I Love Lucy" trick I managed to find out his name...DALE! Okay, it's not the name poems are made of but it was beautiful all the same to know who he was. But like a drug we needed another hit, a more intense high--so we followed him!
We made yet another discovery, his home! He lived on the park blocks in a building called Jeanne Manor--how exotic! Our obsession grew. Now at some point we decided that the best plan of action would be to send anonymous one-line postcards!? Yeah, makes perfect sense now, but we still had to get his exact apartment number.
Nothing seemed plausible so I decided to just go into it headlong. I took my ballsy self up to some guy watering the lawn next to Dale's apartment building. I made a few inquiries as to if he lived there, etc. He turned out to be the manager and he was all too willing to tell me what he knew. He blabbed on about the apartment, number 410, how it was a 2 bedroom and that Dale had a roommate (this roommate is still unknown. If anyone has any information please come forward!) I left the manager a postcard to pass along to Dale. On the front it was The Cramps "Date With Elvis" and on it we wrote, "We think you're smashing". What we were hoping to accomplish, I don't know. We continued to send a postcard every couple of weeks, sticking to the same anonymous one-line formula. Bobby went to the beach with his parents and we decided sending a card from there might throw Dale off a bit. Yeah, very tricky! But that's another mystery, for some reason we never asked Bobby what he wrote and shortly thereafter we ceased being friends so we may never know! Unfortuntaely our master plan wasn't really getting us anywhere so we decided to include our return address on the next postcard. We were hoping to get a letter, but we definitely wren't prepared for a phone call!
At the time we were unaware of the fact that you could go into the libary and look up an address and get a phone number and vice versa (ed. note: Do you think he really went to those lengths? I know the library was across the street, but I don't think he was that together). We're hip to it and have used the directories countless times, but at the time we were naive. Well yeah...it was a week night on summer break and the phone rings. I picked it up adn said the usual, "hello". The response? "This is Dale". All I could utter was "what"? Very clever. There it was again, "This is Dale". Somehow a muddled conversation ensued. A good hour or two was spent with me and Krista alternating talking to this person who we were quickly doubting to be Dale. There was also some girl there named Annette, who kept jumping on the phone now and then. She was very annoying. The conclusion of the conversation was that we would meet up the next day. Why? I can't remember.
As Krista and I sat down, shell-shocked, to compare notes we decided that the person we for the most part talked to was Gary. This is all very confusing, but I'll try to explain. Basically the person we talked to claimed to be Dale, but he didn't know somple things that Dale should've known. He kept talking to another guy in the apartment when he was confused and we deduced that he was consulting the true and real Dale for the right answers. They wre trying to be crafty and pull the old switcheroo, but the Gary guy was too drunk to be convincing. The only semi-coherent thing to come out of the conversation was that we were to meet up at The Metro on Braodway the next day. Another crap place in Portland that I assume they hung-out at.
Well, we got our shit together, took a deep breath and went downtown the next day. As we walked in the Metro it was a bit disconcerting--we had no clue what the poeple were supposed to look like (ed. note: Yes we did, remember? a huggable teddy bear with long hair and a moustache and a blonde female. At least that's what they said). All we could do was get some coffee, sit down and wait for them to approach. Our fear, stress, and nervousness turned out to be pointless because no one arrived. We must've stayed a few hours, but they wre a no-show. Off we went back home. The mystery people called again that night demanding to know why we didn't show up. Obviously we were wondering the same thing. The whole conversation was spent going round in circles--it all seemed a bit pointless. Once again we were back to square one and it seemed like a good idea to call it quits.
Still, the urge was there. We sent Dale a small package around Halloween. It contained one miniature pumpkin and two baby ears of Indian corn. How could he not love it? He still did not respond.
We continued to "stalk" him. We would watch him doing Dudley's window displays from the third floor of the library, strategically placing ourselves in establishments he frequented. Even striking up conversations with people we thought mght know Dale, and surprisingly a few did and were most helpful! (Thanks Mark!) Alas, no matter what we did it felt like we were losing him (yes, I know you can't lose someone that you've never exchanged words with).
Every time we would go into Dudley's Dale would skip out on us and take his break. When he passed us on the street he no longer smirked at us like we were morons. The sparkle was fading from his eyes. We realized that we had to do something about it, we had to stop his decline. We decided the best ting to do would be to apologize for our stupid and childish behavior and ask for his forgiveness. Oh yeah! Then everything would be brilliant! We could all hang out and drink coffee and play chess! Yeah sure.
The next Saturday came 'round and we made our way into the city to put our plan into action. We put our heads together and sorted out the last minute details, then plunged right in. We nonchalantly sauntered into Dudley's and did our usual mucking about. We had to do our business at precisely the right moment. We kept watch and finally the line at the counter had cleared. Dale was standing all alone, looking vulnerable--this was our chance. We grabbed a record and headed straight for him before our dignity could stop us. We exchanged the usual chit-chat, "That'll be 7.99". I found myself deperately searching for the right words to say and the balls to do it without faltering. But like a lightning bolt out of the clear blue, Krista cut to the fucking chase, "Dale?". There was a long pause and all he could say was "uh-huh". Yet another pause and Krista let loose, "Um, I wanted to say we're sorry, really sorry". All I could pipe in were a few "yeahs" and "so sorries". Krista continued, "I'm so sorry for all the stupid things we've done"...blah, blah, so on. I still was completely paralyzed and just kept saying "stupid" over and over. Then Krista did the most endearing thing she possibly could. She asked for his forgiveness and if "we could be friends"! How fucking cliche, but very sweet! How could he resist? I can't remember if he looked at us, but what he said completely overshadows whether he did or not...After a massive, foreboding silence he spoke, "ON ONE CONDITION..."
I think that was one of the creepiest things anyone's ever said to me, but I can't really put my finger on why. It sounded so menacing and open to interpretation (ed note: Just typing this part makes me feel all sick and jittery--it truly was a scary moment). It was almost like he had reached into my head and planted all these vile thoughts. Images rushed through my brain--dead babies and animals, carnage, gaping orifices, blood, pus, vomit, and cum...the pictures kept passing before my eyes and by the look on Krista's face she seemed to be thinking the same things. We were so fearful of what would be said next. When Dale looked at us, and I know he did this time, and said, "NO MORE MAIL". I almost pissed myself with relief! Krista and I started yammering on with a steady stream of "I knows", "okays", and "yes, that was so stupids". We booked out of there feeling very triumphant.
However, the warm fuzzy feeling did not last. Everything remained how it had been before. Our young teen angst returned and it seemed to hit an all time low. We still kept our bi or tri-weekly Dudley's visits, but nothing ever materialized. Shit! Here we were spending vast amounts of money on records, skipping school, and for what? He wouldn't even give us the time of day. Now most, if not all peole at this point would be saying to themsleves, "He doesn't like me. I'm wasting my time. Call it a day". Not me! I was thirteen for fuck's sake! I felt completely invincible and at this point it was no longer a crush--it was a battle of wills.
Like always, life kept plodding along, no ups no downs, no possible changes in sight. Here it was the brink of 1989, New Year's Eve and still nothing. The usual schedule was kept and that included a mundane and routine trip to Dudley's. I browsed through the Bauhaus section or whatever. It was second nature at this point. I just kept methodically sifting through the records, keeping an eye on Dale at all times. Something made my ears prick up. It was a conversation of a few girls raving about some guy. Krista and I exchanged glances, this could be good for a few laughs so we listened in. The girls chattered on about this guy and his babeliness, etc. I was starting to lose interest when I got a verbal slap in the face. To my complete horror I realized who they were talking about. Didn't they know who he belonged to? I wanted to scream at them and make them see that he was ours! I wanted to beat the shit out of them, but what would that do? He still wouldn't really be ours. I just wanted to get out of there, I couldn't take it anymore.
The whole way home we fretted. I felt ill. How could all of our work be trashed? How could anyone not see how much we'd given and sacrificed? This was a desperate time--someting had to be done! Finally my retard brain kicked into action. I've got it! I'll just call him and we'll sort it out like sensible adults. It makes perfect sense! We've never had a decent conversation, he looks at me as if I'm shit, if I died he would rejoice. Yeah, perfect sense.
Krista and I got home, had a quick consultation, and I called him up. I had to call him at work--there was no time to waste. I couldn't wait for him to go home, these girls could have already sunk their claws into him! Before I could back out, he answered the phone. I can't remember the conversation word for word. I know I rattled on at first, but then I decided to cut the shit and sort out our business, "Dale, we need to talk". And you know what he responded? "That seems sort of silly. What would we have totalk about"? Silly? The fucking dumb-ass called my idea silly, and in a sense was calling me silly. I should've hunted him down and kicked his sorry ass. Is there anything more revolting than silly? Not funny, not amusing...SILLY! How degrading! (ed. note: Yeah, almost as degrading as being called "mall regulars".)
I managed to maintain my cool and tell him that I just had a few things I wanted to sort out and maybe a few questions. I told him he wouldn't even have to waste time in meeting up with me, I could call him or he could call me. He was definitely not keen on that idea. He reluctantly agreed to meet me the next Wed. at the same ol' crappy Metro on Broadway. What is it with that place? (ed. note: Remember all their rules? No under 18's after 4 p.m., no torn clothing, no all black clothing, no colored hair--and this was just an eating establishment!?)
Krista and i had a long weekend to prepare and plot and stress. It was a new year and we were ging to start out on the right foot. We would have him no matter what it took. We pooled our meager resources an bought a portable tape recorder. We weren't going to let any of his clever nuances slip through the cracks this time. If we could capture his conversation we could capture him!
The day came and we made yet another long lightrail trek downtown. Krista got sick on the ride and had to get off and puke. There go the nerves! (ed. note: I think I'm currently suffering from an ulcer brought on by these excursions.) We mangaed to get there and find a seat. We had the tape recorder all rigged up in my bag and ready to go. We were so fucking nervous! The time was ticking away and every minute gone was a minute closer to Dale being there. Time kept ticking by and there was still no sign of him. At first it was a bit late and then it turned into "maybe I mistook the time". Finally it just became, "the bastard better be dead in the gutter". Just when we were throwing in the towel Krista uttered the words I so desperately wanted and yet at the same time feared hearing, "Oh, fuck! He's here!". I deftly swept my hand into the bag and pressed record, took a deep breath, and looked up, but there was no trace of him. We both frantically scanned the place and came up with nothing. I still to this day can't figure out this one. I guess he came to the door and then left, God knows why. We've pondered many theories over the years, but the question still remains unanswered.
I guess when I look back now I realize from that point on that it was over. In the sage words of The Smiths, "I know it's over/yet it never really began/but in my heart it was so real". God, that song tore my heart out at the time. We still pursued him for awhile, but then he quit Dudley's at some point and moved in with his mom.
Krista went to France for the summer and I was left as the sole pursuer of the bastard. There was no sign of him for some time, but out of nowhere he popped-up in a cheap suit. After a little detective work and the help of the Bauzon sisters three, I discovered him working in the shoe department of Meier & Frank. The man who once wore suede pants, Cramps t-shirts, and made my heart swoon was now just a shoe salesman. I still refused to believe he was like all the rest, but my resistance was halfhhearted. After a few more failed attempts it all just fizzled out.
I guess maybe moving out of the suburbs, getting a life and a real boyfrined had something to do with the whole "Dale situation" ending. Krista went to college, I finished school and started working. Our energy went to things like paying the bills and rent--this whole thing seemed like so long ago. We gave such little thought to where we would be at this point in time. We didn't know that seven years later Krista would be done with college, living with her cat, (ed. note: Not anymore--I miss you Lil' Smokey) obsessing about Henry Thomas, and writing a zine. Nor did we know that I would be in an entire different country, married, looking for a job, (and then I found a job/heaven knows I'm miserable now--Krista's obligatory Smiths' reference) running one half of a tape label, and writing this. We had no clue that something that initially was so insignificant would snowball and still be with us to this very day. It is all still so clear in my mind. I hope it alwys will be. I wouldn't trade those days for anything.
[stalking] [goodies] [Lone Star Thomas] [project me]