Author Archives: enerjoyce

Air Guitar

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Since I grew up in a military family, we moved around every few years. During my childhood I lived in Alabama, South Carolina, Japan, Michigan, Indiana, and Germany. I remember hearing classmates in high school discuss their desire to travel the world, but I didn’t share their feelings. During our three years in Europe, I’d vacationed in Italy, The Netherlands, Austria and around Germany. We’d been scheduled to travel the Scandinavian countries, but Dad was stricken with a kidney stone the night before our planned departure, so that trip was cancelled. En route to living in Japan, we had stopped for a visit with my Hawaiian grandmother and some of my mother’s nine siblings. As a young adult, I felt satisfied that I had seen enough of the world.

 

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to see many more places. While at Purdue, I became a Little Sister at the Pi Kappa Alpha (Pike) fraternity. We Little Sisters were essentially charged with finding girls to attend the weekend parties at the house. I had chosen my University after careful statistical analysis of the published student data available. There were seven men for every woman on the West Lafayette campus in 1968. When I announced my decision to my school counselor at Warren Central in Indianapolis, he blurted, “You’re going to cow college?!” (Note: Purdue is known for a robust agriculture program as well as legendary engineering programs. Since I was a Theatre major, this was an unexpected school choice, by normal standards).  With gender odds like these, the Pikes needed a hook up in the Amelia Earhart eight-hundred-woman dorm where I lived. I eventually married a Pike, Rex Martin, and we began traveling during most New Year’s holidays to attend or host the annual Air Guitar competition our graduating group of around forty Pikes created.

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The Air Guitar group continues to this day. Parties are held wherever the host lives or wants to be the responsible contact and organizer. This tradition began in 1980 and the group has traveled the country and the world ever since. People from the group have purchased homes because the basement, family room or garage offered the perfect stage for our annual fest. We’ve been to Vermont, Texas, Georgia, Minnesota, California, Louisiana, Mexico, Jamaica and various places in between. Next year we will gather in Nashville, though nobody lives there. Peg and Dave from frigid Michigan’s northern peninsula are hosting in a friendlier clime.

While Rex and I are now married to other spouses, neither was able to take exclusive possession of the Air Guitar group in the divorce. Even though he was an actual Pike member, my time as a Little Sister preceded his arrival at the house. Besides, like good hippies, ours was not an adversarial parting of the ways. Pursuit of the elusive Air Guitar traveling trophy remains equally important to both of us.

My current husband, Paul, endeared himself to my lifelong friends by boldly cross-dressing with me in his first Air Guitar entry as we performed the Kinks Lola with Paul in a pink frock with white pumps and me in a mustache. “He’s a keeper,” Charlie proclaimed when we left the stage.

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Paul and I have had the privilege of also traveling apart from the Air Guitar crew. We’ve been to Bali, Canada, Australia and New Zealand among other places. I’ve had the honor and horror of seeing the response to my nation as the political winds have changed. As a child in Germany, I was proud to see Frankfurt locals line the streets for days in anticipation of President Kennedy’s visit.  Paul and I were in Bali shortly after Obama was elected and had the pleasure of people congratulating us and taxi drivers proudly displaying their buttons with his name. We met an ex-pat who admitted she’d been lying about being Canadian during the Bush years because people in Hong Kong (where she lived) despised Bush so fiercely. We just returned from down under where we were greeted with sympathy, confusion and ridicule because our nation just elected a presumable buffoon. We heard a New Zealand talk show host explain that their staff no longer needs to write scripts for their broadcast. They just repeat what the new president has said, tweeted and done and they have a full palate of entertainment…comedy and drama. It makes me angry and distressed that this is our reputation in the world of 2017. Only our Auckland tour guide (who spent years giving tours in Russia) offered some hope (I’m paraphrasing as accurately as possible), “This will be the chance for America to show the world the resilience of your systems. You are stronger than this man and his dangerous agenda.” I sure hope so!

The Smoke ‘n’ Poke

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For those who don’t know, a head shop is a store that sells smoking paraphernalia.  We began Wonderwall Records in the small back room of a head shop called The Golden Door on the east side of Indianapolis.  When the store owner, Bobby, wouldn’t renew our lease at the end of six months, we assumed the lease of an abandoned linen shop a few doors down the short strip mall.

One traumatic night I witnessed Bobby being shot to the ground by men who were later identified as FBI.  Apparently, he was a drug dealer they had been watching for some time.  After Bobby went to jail The Golden Door was forced to close, and we were put in the precarious position of sending our customers down the street to a competing record store where they could buy their pipes, papers, bongs and roach clips.  It quickly became obvious that we would not survive without adding those items to our store inventory.  Ironically, while we were dedicated to selling music at the lowest price possible, we had no reservations about making obscene profits on this other merchandise.

We were able to operate our store with the social ideals we espoused.  Nobody worked a forty hour work week because we thought people needed to have a life beyond their job.  We provided health insurance for all full time (35 hour) employees, one’s birthday was a paid holiday, and vacation was allotted as one week after one year of service, two weeks after two, and three weeks after three.  We had very little employee turnover, and kept most of the same staff  from 1973-1983.

Since our store was located in close proximity to Fort Benjamin Harrison, we had a steady flow of customers from the Army base where my brother and I had lived as children in the base mobile home park.  The GIs from the fort bought mass quantities of records and cassettes, but they were also shopping for gifts to send their girlfriends back home.

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One day a paraphernalia salesman opened his catalog to a selection of vibrators, thumb cuffs, Joy Jelly,  and “dicks on a stick” in white or dark chocolate.  When I asked why he would be selling such things he replied, “Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, Joyce.”  I could see the logic in his thinking.  There were strip clubs a few miles from our store.  Between the club dancers and the GIs, we learned there was actually a demand for this merchandise.  We wanted to sell all of these and the smoking paraphernalia out of the sight of children and minors who came in for music, so we built a separate room at the back of the store which employees referred to among ourselves as The Smoke ‘n’ Poke.  On a recent trip to Sydney, Australia, I encountered a sign  that reminded me of those Wonderwall days.

Sydney, Australia sighting

Sydney, Australia sighting

Let’s get this party started!

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Sixty-five years ago I burst onto the world stage from the loins of my Japanese-Hawaiian mother in Montgomery, Alabama.  I promised myself I’d launch this blog today, so the clock is ticking.   I will use this first post to say a little something something about my central beliefs.  If you hold different views, I invite you to express them elsewhere.  This is not a place seeking political debate.

Mother came to the mainland after marrying dad, whom she met on Kauai during World War II.  Dad served twenty-five years as an officer in the U.S. Army, and had to put up with my anti-war and protest marching during my college years at Purdue.  I couldn’t just tromp around carrying signs and stuffing flowers down the barrels of peacekeeper rifles (a contradiction in terms?), though I did both of those.  I  opened my trap to protest tuition fee hikes and ended up quoted in the local paper that was read by my uncle who ratted me out to dad.  Today I express most of my deeply held political views with posts on my Facebook and Twitter pages, but I also dedicate many hours every election cycle to the Democratic Party.

Mother & dad in Hawaii

Mother & dad in Hawaii

I am a product of, and continue to believe in, a strong public education.  My daughters graduated from  Indianapolis and Van Nuys, California public high schools and Indiana universities.  All three of us have spent years as high school educators.  America’s schools need more funding, teachers need smaller classes, and students need high expectations from involved parents and the society who needs them to excel.  I’ve earned the right to speak my truth about this topic through twenty-three years as a special educator at Los Angeles Unified School District and five years of college communications instruction in Indiana.

After graduating from Purdue, I became an entrepreneur.  My wasband, brother and I owned a retail record store and head shop in Indianapolis called Wonderwall.  I  believe that music is a necessity of life, following close after food and shelter.  The arts are necessary and important to any free society.   Music is in my soul, just as it is probably in yours.  I must sing, and have performed since first grade.  I recently found the mimeographed program from my first grade talent show in Lincoln Park, Michigan.  Mother, who died almost seven years ago, never told me she kept that memento.  Last summer I had the honor of performing a reunion gig with members of my pop rock band from the eighties.  Two weeks ago I was privileged to perform at the 51st Women’s AA Conference with a group of mega-talented singers and players.  Nothing thrills me more than performing.  I barely get nervous, only eager, to be in front of an audience.

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Crazy Al’s Indianapolis. Opening for the Go Gos.

 

My record store partners & I prided ourselves on selling music at the lowest prices in town.  Our slogan was, “Wonderwall…where you can afford your music habit.”  After ten years, we closed the store for other pursuits.  The store had not been my dream, but I am thrilled to have survived the experience of working for myself (a lifelong fantasy for so many).

That’s all for now.  The rain is trickling down in Toluca Lake, California.  The 2015 Oscars just ended, and I’m headed to bed as an official senior citizen.  I’m inspired, excited, impatient, and ready to rock this town.

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