“Shame” 9/23/11 New Haven CT Knickerbocker Golf Club
The Knickerbocker Golf Club is its own lil species of social, here goes nothin’!…
Down bottom: Dark skinny jeans with stretch (forgiver of MANY sins…)
Up top: A multi-colored pink sheer print long sleeved tunic type top with slits at both sides, beading at collarline (kinda bohemian but SO pretty)
Rock bottom: 4 inch heeled pumps, metallic silver peep-toe booties
The finisher: huge silver hoop earrings, lots of bangles in silver, pink, purple, silver wristwatch
Hair day: Good (but could have used a “line”)
Ride or Die: Die (rolled solo)
(Two events in the same evening, therefore the same “get-up”…)
My earliest thoughts of this particular venue were as a child, passing the funny looking building directly across from the city’s police academy that looked strangely built, from rocks, hand fashioned bricks and stones, etc…and knowing that was the place where “the old men” went to hang out, smoke and talk shit to one another, or so I’d heard–as a child. I’d come to learn over the years that the Knickerbocker Golf Club is rich in black history, having been founded in 1944 to afford African American’s a forum with which to play golf and be social with one another. Fast forward 67 years to THIS night:
The thing about the Knickerbocker: It’s not a place that I frequent, especially in years past before the U.S. as a whole became so second-hand smoke conscious and since they were zoned as a private club and would therefore not play by the “no smoking in public places” rules made it easier to steer clear, but not this night. On this night I made an appearance to lend my support and to honor one of my best friends, “Fly Girl, Sr”, who after a turn of extrememy unfortunate medical events ended up having her right leg amputated below the knee. This night at the Knickerbocker was a benefit gathering for her in her time of need as she continues to recover from such an profoundly traumatic lifestyle change. The benefit was to begin at 5 p.m., which I found out by calling Fly Girl, Sr earlier that day. She also let me know that since the ONLY bathroom faclilties were at basement level (sidenote: WTH is WRONG with THAT whole setup?) that her time at her benefit would be limited now that navigating stairs via either wheelchair or crutches proved difficult. I was disappointed with her limited time to be there because she’s HILARIOUS to hang out with, some of the BEST girl-talk, sistagirl moments have been with this chick but I was willing to take whatever time with her I could get…
Backstory: Fly Girl, Sr is a longtime, very dear friend. She and I first met as co-workers back in 1988 and became fast friends, even to this day, through things great and small, good and bad, she is one of the most loyal, steadfast friends that I have and I cherish her deeply. And up until her hospitalization, she bartended on the weekends at the Knickerbocker, so why not have her gathering there, natch!
I arrive solo at the Knickerbocker on a rainy, humid, warm Friday, early evening around 6.30 p.m….. upon entering I was met by two “women of a certain age” sitting near the entryway behind a table with a large jar covered in gold wrapping paper, for “pay what you can” donations to Fly Girl Sr, hmmm….interesting. Makes it easy for the cheapskate, trifling no-good’ers to just fold a dollar, push it into the slot and keepitmovin.com…ok, I know you may be thinking: well, at least they gave, what if they only HAD a dollar? My counter to that is: WHO BENEFITS FROM A SINGLE FREEKIN’ DOLLAR BILL????? …was my thought as I pulled out my wallet, AND a big bill and pushed it into the slot. Entering the “ballroom” of the Knickerbocker, I’m immediately impressed at the obvious effort that was made to decorate: This main room at the Knickerbocker was recently remodeled/renovated with new floors, bar, some paint, etc so it was a nice space but the extra special touches for my friend made it all the more inviting. There were several tables, most with friends, co-workers, family of Fly Girl, Sr, or people that she had served in here time there as barmaid, which she does very well. The tables were adorned with black tablecloths with gold balloons as centerpieces, even the chairs were dressed up with chair covers in black, tied with sheer gold ribbon. There were even servers walking the room with trays of shrimp cocktail to offer to guests, one by one. NICE. At Fly Girl, Sr’s table was her personal table setting, complete with cloth napkin, etc…THIS is good stuff. I stop at her table, which was close to the entrance, hug and kiss her, greet her longtime companion “The Downy Kid” who gets serious “big ups & deep daps” for being ever-present with her throughout the entire ordeal…generally a man of few words sorta guy but he has his moments where I can squeeze a good conversation outta him. I also greet her sister sitting towards the opposite end of the table who I think carries herself with such a calm “sista-girl” type elegance that its both funny and admirable all at once. I make my way through the crowd greeting various people here and there, at one of the only just about empty tables, was “Medicine Woman”, another friend I’d met a few years ago in a line dancing class that another friend, “Bleeding Heart”, who was not in attendance here, was instructing. I was glad to see Medicine Woman, we could catch up on things and enjoy each other’s company all at the same time. AND we were in the very center of the room AT the very front which gave us optimal view of the band. Getting to that…
After I greeted Medicine Woman and got settled in my seat, I was finally able to direct my attention to the band that was playing to the room. “The Organizer” of this shindig originally wanted “Guitar Hero’s” band to perform, since they were CLEARLY the superior band, but since as such they were already booked for another gig, the chosen band for the evening was “The Morris Trent Band” a.k.a. “M.T.B.”…the band was made up of 4 members: Lead guitar, bass guitar, drummer and vocalist. Upon further investigation, this band is funny. They didn’t exactly suck in the grand scheme of ultimate suckage, but they weren’t quite tremendous either, their playing didn’t sound like nails on a chalkboard, so I’m ridin’ this out. After observing for awhile, I noticed: They played songs that pretty much everyone knows, Michael Jackson, even “Let The Good Times Roll”, they sounded far more comfortable with themselves playing bluesy-type stuff than most anything else. The “Female Lead Singer” was a dark-skinned wisp of a girl, she had a good voice but never used it to its full potential, i.e. she played it safe. THE ENTIRE NIGHT. She also didn’t really bother to work her hair situation out, a short cut that was combed back off of her face and sorta half flipped up mohawk style in the back. I know it was generally a bad hair day all the way around because it was a rainy day but ladies, really? Female Lead Singer completed her “look” with some ankle boots (it was 75 degrees that evening…boots???? ok… *shrug* flared stretch pants, a top–which I never really took note of because it was a crop top that she had the body for, but what was fascinating was the navel piercing. It was fascinating to me because hanging very daintily from her belly button was a pair of handcuffs, each dangling from its own chain. My mind immediately began to wander and wonder WHY she chose handcuffs: was she a corrections officer? Was she doing undercover work for the fashion police? Was she just a girl who thought handcuffs was a good idea? I guess I’ll never know. The drummer….Dear Gawd….”G-Unot” took up residence behind his drum kit, dressed in a G-Unit style tank top with color blocked straps in black, gray & white, long hair twists ala Snoop Dogg Style with 2 medallion type pendants hanging from his neck…OMG…does he think he’s in Compton? What type of black magic IS this? Another observation: Female Lead Singer didn’t sing every song with the band, more like every other or every 2 or so, when it was her turn to sing, she came up to the mic and hugged it: stood right up on the mic stand, held the mic IN the stand with both hands, didn’t move from that position, very little facial expression, the only time she moved while there was to turn her back to the audience while someone took a solo. OMG, Performing 101? Ya don’t DO that. She also had very little interaction with the crowd, and just about no stage presence. Nothing really notable to say about the bass player, I think perhaps he was just hangin’ out…when Female Lead Singer wasn’t halfway doing her thing, she retreated back to the band’s table to scribble furiously on a bunch of papers, every single time she sat down…Hmmmm…At this point I decide I need a drink, and not being an alcohol drinker, I step up to wait in line at the bar for my double ginger ale on the rocks only to figure out that after almost 15 minutes patiently waiting, the bar has run out of change. “Errrrriiiiiiiiccccc!!!!!!!!!!!!” Yells the petite light skinned girl behind the bar, “I TOLD YOU I need change! I only have $20s and $50s!” To which the seemingly mild mannered Older Gent Eric replies ” It’s coming”…welp, I wasn’t waiting for THAT DAY to come, and I head down the curved staircase to the basement bar to get my drink. Nothing but a bunch of old school heads are hanging out down there, as this place seems to be a permanent fixture in their lives, similar to men that have “man-caves” in their basements where they go to escape from their wives, children, etc…Getting my drink here is NO problem at all, as “S” is behind the bar. S is a girl that I met through Fly Girl, Sr because they are friends also, so I’m glad to see that its her. We exchange pleasantries while I wait for my ginger ale, I leave a $5 on the bar, speak to a few other people that I know, including “Candyman” and his female girlfriend/companion “Teacher”, who are regular supporters of “The Rohn Lawrence Band” every Monday night at the Lilly’s Pad/Toad’s Place in downtown New Haven. Candyman tells Teacher that I don’t look right here, as in, I look out of place, which I find amusing because you never know WHERE I may end up…we all share a laugh and I say ‘bye’ as I head back upstairs to take my seat and enjoy the evening.
Not long after I arrived, Fly Girl, Sr asked if I would sing a song for her. My knee-jerk reaction was “Nah, I’m chillin'”, because when people find out that you sing, its like when they find out you’re a comedian” “Hey! Say something funny!”, but two things changed my mind: The fact that I figured that “Hell, she just lost her leg, it’s the least I can do” … coupled with the fact that she was after me every few minutes like a bad little kid who won’t stop until she gets what she wants. Ok, she won. IF the band would allow it. I wasn’t excited about singing ANYthing with them backing me up but I figured I could give it the old college try, so I inform Fly Girl, Sr about band etiquette, that the request for me to sing would have to come from her, minutes later I see her sending her niece over to talk with the band and she then heads in my direction to let me know that it’s a go. I then go to Fly Girl, Sr to let her know that she gets her wish and as I turn to go back to my seat, she grabs my wrist, looks at me with her eyes big as saucers and says “You better put her to SHAME.”…this makes me laugh for a couple reasons: the seriousness of her facial expression, the fact that it wasn’t about shaming anyone but about paying tribute to a friend, and lastly, the thought that it wouldn’t have been much effort at all to put that little girl to shame. I think my 2 year old niece could’ve pulled it off while sipping her juicebox and eating Teddy Grahams, ok ok ok, back to the story…
I figure since this band will be backing me up that it would be a good idea to go introduce myself and figure out what they know how to play. So I approach the band leader, introduce myself, he shakes my hand and says “Oh ok, you’re the one who wants to sing?” I reply “Um, NO, I’M the one who came to chill but the guest of honor wants me to sing.” At that we both laugh, after talking with him, I sorta felt empty, like wanting more substance to have been there…bottom line was, the song I’d chosen that was the most appropos “Get Here” by Oleta Adams, he thought he knew it but wasn’t sure if the rest of the band did and anything else I would have thought about they either didn’t know or it had already been done by Female Lead Singer. So OK, I tell him to not worry about it, I’ll sing it acapella, so he nods and tells me that after they return from their break that they will do a few songs then call me up. Ok cool, while I’m waiting I hit the buffet line, typical soul food fare: chicken, string beans, macaroni salad, deviled eggs among other things because amidst all the excitement of observing this band I forget that I hadn’t eaten in several hours. The band reconvenes and the same rhythm continues: Female Lead Singer comes up, sits down, comes up, sits down…finally the band leader approaches the mic and says that there is a special guest vocalist in the house (SURELY he’s not talking about me, I’m just a chick that can carry a tune)…and despite me telling him my name, he still can’t seem to remember it, so I repeat it twice and he still doesn’t hear it until a girl that I know, “Newly Engaged”, gets loud and says my name, for all of Greater New Haven to hear. Good job Newly Engaged, I’m thinking as I stand and walk over to the band. Since the band didn’t know the song I wanted to sing, I had already arranged with “Mr D.J.” to play an instrumental track for the song I wanted to sing so I was all set. I step up to the mic, ask how everyone’s doing and give everyone history about Fly Girl, Sr and my relationship. I tell the crowd that she is one of the most caring, giving, loyal and steadfast people that I know. Queue the opening notes for the song, I manage to belt it out, the crowd applauds and its back to my seat, after I go and hug Fly Girl, Sr and ask her if I’m free now (of any further obligations)….lol…I get her blessing and go back happily to my seat, but just before I do, at Fly Girl, Sr’s table was a beautiful tray stocked full of mini cupcakes which when asked, Fly Girl, Sr said that they weren’t good, of the person who made them, who is a bakery owner, so of course, needing to know for myself, I cast my chewing gum aside, pick one up and take a bite—then immediately spit that bite back into the nearest “icky food” receptacle which in this case was a napkin. Horrible. The cake itself tasted like cornbread, grainy and red– I’m guessing the baker’s attempt at Red Velvet….No Bueno. Where’s my gum? I want it back…Finally the evening is winding up and a mic is coming in Fly Girl, Sr’s direction which she passes to her sister to say a few words FOR HER, which sister does from a heartfelt place. Meanwhile, I’m giving Fly Girl, Sr the “Eye of The Tiger” speech, like “A lot of people came to support you tonight, the LEAST you can do is say a few words in the way of a ‘thank you’ or SOMEthin’, stop playin'”…See, our Fly Girl, Sr, despite her “ball of thunder”, “larger than life” persona is really something of an emotional softie at heart and was not wanting to cry or otherwise make a spectacle of herself, she finally took the mic, with my encouragement, and was able to do a great job in the way of thank-you’s without a single tear falling, GOOD JOB Fly Girl, Sr!!!! In the meantime, quite a few people complimented me on the song I sang which I accepted graciously and as humbly as possible because hey, no matter HOW good you think you are, at whatever it is, there’s ALWAYS someone better. I think perhaps Female Lead Singer saw that memo…probably immediately after I was done with my song. Maybe she may have been better off dropping the mic and walking out? We’ll never know but kudos to her for sticking it out… *wink*