Tonight, on Day 21 of 30 Days of Blogging, I've decided to use a topic suggested by my friend Beth, who is a musician:
Talk about a time that music changed your life.
OK, but you're going to have to imagine yourself back to a time and place that few of you remember and some of you may not have been born yet in. Picture it, everyone:
It's a leap year. Bill Clinton is running for president, and so is Ross Perot. Euro Disney has just opened. Manuel Noriega is going to prison. "A League of Their Own" is the charming feelgood movie of the year, and stars my friend Lesley's little sister as an extra. This will be very exciting when I meet my friend Lesley in the fall of 1993.
I live on Fort Drum, an army base in upstate New York, on Blout Loop. Our street was supposed to be named Blount Loop, after William Blount, a signer of the US Constitution. Many of the streets in the housing areas on post were named after signers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, but ours was spelled incorrectly. My father tried to have it changed, but the Army, being the Army, decided that if it said "Blout" on the sign then it was going to be Blout Loop because, hey, they already made the sign.
In a random coincidence, I now live in the same town as William Blount's historic mansion.
I've never been there.
This may be hard to believe, but I am socially inept. I don't speak to a lot of people, and I don't have a lot of friends. I'm about to enter the eleventh grade and I want high school to be over. Tenth grade was the worst school year of my life, but by the end of eleventh grade I will be friends with pretty much everyone that I choose to be. I just don't know it at the time. I don't know where I want to go, but I know where I don't want to stay. Also, I have a problem:
I don't move my arms when I walk.
I became aware of this when I overheard my parents' other child explaining to my mother how embarrassing it was to be related to me, and how the two of us pretended to be cousins at school. "Overheard" kind of implies that there was some effort made to hear this, but in actuality I was in the next room, loading the dishwasher. I didn't catch the entire conversation, but the gist of it was that I was a nerd, everyone hated me, I wasn't good at sports, and I was a freak who loped through the halls like Frankenstein's monster.
"He doesn't move his arms when he walks. Like, people swing their arms, you know? He doesn't move his arms. He's a freak."
My parents' other child said a number of horrible things to and about me over the years, which we will maybe discuss more in a future entry, but for some reason this one seemed especially damning. Over the next few days, I found myself evaluating my walking, completely self conscious of my arms and my hands and what they were doing and whether it was the same thing that everyone else's arms and hands were doing when they walked and then I discovered that, oh God, it was true. I was a freak who somehow managed to walk without swinging my arms.
Fortunately, at this time I owned Scruffy, the best dog in the world, who slept on my bed every night and never told me I was a freak. I also owned a yellow Walkman with black headphones, and a cassette tape of "Red Hot + Dance", which included George Michael's "Too Funky". Together, somehow, these things added up in my mind to a solution for my non-swinging arms.
Here, watch the video while I attempt to explain:
What are the beautiful, glamorous people in the video doing?
And swinging their arms.
And, God, is that not a fantastic song to walk to?
So, every night after dinner, since I had no friends' houses to go to, no parties to attend, and no shows to watch for a couple of hours, I strapped on my Walkman, popped my cassette in, and took Scruffy for a walk around Blout Loop. One trip around the loop was about as long as one playing of "Too Funky" and a few moments to rewind it, so I walked, and while one arm held the leash the other arm swung, deliberate, practiced swinging. I strutted and stomped in time to the music, and each time I got to my house I turned around, switched hands with the leash, and walked the other way.
By the end of summer, I was swinging my arms while I walked, just like a normal person.
And I have George Michael to thank for it.