In 1989, Otis moved to the area, first to Hoboken and then to JC with the Other Marie and me. We had a duplex, first on Fifth Street for $750 a month, then later on Mercer for $950 after our artist landlady was foreclosed on during the late eighties real estate crash.
Otis had signed to a Hoboken record label that had made some money on a quirky act called They Might Be Giants. He often double-billed with another musician from the same label. Otis and Freedy Johnston were contemporaries, with one huge difference. Otis was really gutsy, dominating the stage and the room. Freedy, meanwhile, seemed nervous and out-of-place in front of an audience.
Freedy's songs were great though, and in time, we'd go see him anywhere within a two-hour radius. Getting tickets was easy. No one else seemed to know who this Kansas transplant was. Yet. In time, as Freedy's stage presence grew, so did his audience.
My friends from then have—in the words of The Kinks—married, vanished, or just left alone. But that's no reason to just stop living, and last night I got a reprieve. Maxwell's was having a 30th anniversary week, and as part of it, Freedy and Steve Wynn were performing.
Marie and her husband Doug—then a Hobokenite himself and once a music rep—drove up from DC, and Denise—also a Maxwell's regular from way-back, who used to live around the corner from me, and wait, still does (different corner now)—turned out. So did many people I hadn't seen in years.
When Freedy and his ad hoc band of local luminaries started up, I pushed up to the front. I looked over and saw that Marie had done the same. She squeezed through the crowd over to me, and Denise materialized behind us. We all three started dancing, though no one else was. We shared the conspiratorial, exhilarating feeling of release, as if we'd been locked up for months and suddenly let loose, that we were 40ish women that had been given a license to do whatever we wanted, because there was no one to impress anymore.
"My married-with-kids friends have gone feral," I thought at one point when I heard Marie and Denise giggling loudly behind me. I shushed them. There are musicians playing in front of us! Denise was yelling something in Marie's ear right when the music stopped. Loudly, clearly, Denise announced to the room "NOW I WISH I'D GONE TO SEE THE FEELIES. ... ... Oops."
The night ended with Steve Wynn joining the band for an appalling cover of Don't Fear the Reaper. But we didn't care how it sounded. For a moment, our timelines were colliding and melding together. We were both young again and yet old enough to not care that the smattering of hipsters were staring stony-faced rather than dancing. I was no longer Marie; I was part of a team know as The Maries. Freedy could have played anything and we would have obliviously cheered him on. I was ten pounds heavier than I was in 1989, but lighter than ever.