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Saturday, February 18, 2012

2-18-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job # 46 (“Mystery Achievement” into “The Wait”)


(Photo by the famous Moshe Brakha, circa '79, of the glam new wave poppers, Nervus Rex)

One of Dianne’s great talents was as an amateur athlete. Besides being a swimmer and a golfer, she was an ace on the slopes, a really good skier. She and Jonathan knew people (Jon’s relatives?) who had a place up in Massachusetts at Mount Brodie ski resort, and we were all invited there for a long ski weekend in the winter of early 1981.

At this point, as a band, we were rather dispirited -- with no management, no booking agents, and a record company who were fast losing interest after sitting on our debut album for a year, then releasing it to meager attention and lukewarm reception. Our personal relationships within the band were approaching an all-time low as well. Shawn and me, Jonathan and Dianne were bickering and at odds.

At any rate, I was happy to be on that “break” and keen to learn to ski because I love ice skating (which is similar, balance-wise to skiing), and a new challenge is always fun. I may not be greatly coordinated, but once I get a rhythm going -- on an instrument or dancing around -- I’m all right. So, Dianne dressed me in one of her cool ski outfits and we went to the ski rental place to get me outfitted.

One thing that the people running the rental place forgot to mention to me (and Dianne didn’t check) was the importance of the ski boot releasing from the ski when the ankle bent at a certain extreme angle. That release prevented bone breaks. At least, that’s what I understood after the fact. I didn’t know about it beforehand, and everybody was so busy nobody checked my boot and rental skis for the release.

So, I spent three marvelous days skiing downhill on an easy slope (I did the side to side or “S” pattern skiing down to be safe -- no straight down skiing for me!) but on my last run a real game-changer happened: I broke tibia & fibula while my brain switched Pretenders songs in the jukebox in my head: from “The Wait” into “Mystery Achievement.”

‘Twas a mystery, indeed, how my ski slipped and crossed over in front of me JUST ten yards outside the First Aid Station at Mt. Brodie! Truth told, I had music in my head that slipped and the thought of some yummy hot chocolate by the fire at the ski lodge. Oh well. The boot didn’t release from the ski and BOOM! I went down, hearing the SNAP! of my brittle bones (not helped, no doubt, by years of near-starvation). Ouch.

Dianne rushed over on her skis, seeing me. “Laurie, what happened?”

“My leg broke,” I gasped.

“No!! No, you couldn’t have!” Dianne gasped back in disbelief.

“I heard it! Ow, it hurts. Help!” With help from the First Aid station, I was rushed there, then rushed to the nearby hospital, where they x rayed and set my leg, putting a real kibosh on the first and last Nervus Rex ski trip. I remember the Iranian Hostage Crisis -- and the release of the hostages -- was televised in the background, so we must have been away in 1981 between January 19th & 21st.

I remember the Presidential elections a few months earlier, where Reagan won and I felt sick to my stomach (I was eating dinner with Shawn at one of our favorite little Italian Restaurants at the corner of Spring and Sullivan streets). That kind of resolved me to leave the country -- I was so ashamed to have that bozo, Reagan, as our leader!

So, the Nervus Rex ski trip was a bust, and I went home to a fifth floor walkup on Thompson Street in Soho with a broken leg and no elevator (yet), a broken band, and a boyfriend who ran after “midget models” and had acquired an expensive habit that kept him up nights and upped his cigarette and vodka intake.

1981 was shaping up to be a real doozy. . . but I still had friends in bands like Squeeze. . . so one night in February, I got a phone call from good ol’ Glenn Tilbrook. . . .

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