06 December, 2008

naked sunday

old friends come back into your life for a reason. i'm finding lately, that they're back to remind me of a person i used to be, who bears some resemblance to the person i am now, from whom i can learn quite a bit, i think.

when i was 20, i left college for a semester. i toured that summer, spending part of my time interning at a label in chicago and part of my time driving around in my car playing coffeehouses. at the end of august, i moved to durham NC. my friend killer got me a job at ladyslipper, a venerable bastion of the independent women's music movement. i worked the last regular job i ever had, filling orders of music, calendars (we'moon, what what!), and books in the warehouse. my co-workers were kaia and STS. we went to biscuitville daily, and i slept on killer's couch. i cant say it was the best time in my life; i hated having a daily job and regular hours, but i was definitely learning lots about a bigger world and dipping my toe into the womyns / womans / womens community for the first time. after the christmas rush, i went back to providence, moved into AS220, and started my career.

i've been hanging out with killer again. she's gone on to have a myriad range of jobs in the music biz. in her current incarnation, she's a busdriver and tourmanager. this week, she's taking time off her main gig and helping me out a little. it's nice to be on the road with an old friend, who also happens to be very good at a job you really need help with. we've been showing each other shit on the internet and finding a little time for thrifting. today's outing will take us to a wig shop in norfolk VA. enough said.

the other day, we were sharing a hotel room, and i, as is my habit, was rocking it semi-nude on the way to the shower. i guess it triggered a memory for killer.

"hey, do you remember naked sunday?" she asked.

no, i certainly did not, but i was curious, so she explained. "naked sunday" was a tradition i had brought with me to north carolina from the co-ops i was living in at college in providence. our co-ops were student-run and student-owned giant victorians on providence's east side, with as many as 20 people living in them at once and another 15 coming to dinner every night. we rotated house jobs and cooking responsibilities. it is still the most satisfying living experience i've ever had. once a year my co-op held the famous "naked party" and we also had, weekly, "naked sunday", where it was ok, even encouraged, to spend your sunday in the buff. to praise the lord, of course.

i had completely forgotten about this. but once she reminded me, it set off a chain reaction of memories of my own. brazenly handing out donuts during reading period, cooking in the crowded kitchen with just an apron on, looks of surprise from unwitting dinner-guests, but mostly an ease with my body and silliness around life that i don't feel so much anymore. huh, when's the last time i felt that light? where is that person with a grin and paunch who didn't care if she had tits, or not? lost somewhere in years of working hard on the road. lost in going from studio to gig to writing. lost in worrying about making the right album, making the van payment, and making sense of a career that doesn't look like my dreams.

sigh. i miss her.

another old friend from that time just found me again (and not through facebook, scrubs). she's getting her doctorate, working on the Hill, and sending pictures of me in a vinyl catsuit and pink feather wig. and pictures of me naked in the bathroom getting the first of many many home-made haircuts. and a picture of my front yard, circa 1998.

my friend the fiz and i were celebrating the end of our sophomore year. it was may, which in providence equals heaven. early in the afternoon, we headed over to the co-op that fiz lived in for some light drinking. we planned to get a little buzz going, eat dinner, then get into the serious party-ing later. around 4 or so, the word "light" had disappeared from our vocabulary, and we were now heavily drinking. i decided to take a break, riding my bike the 4 blocks back home to my co-op. i don't drink anymore (which i am not nostalgic for) but i also don't ride my bike as much either. i know it wasn't safe, but i really did love the feeling of being tipsy and zipping through the streets and hills of provie.

when i got home, i locked up my bike on my front porch with the same bike lock i had had since i was 10, a flimsy chain wrapped in pink plastic. i crawled into bed and promptly fell asleep. i woke up around 7 and went to grab my bike for the trip back to the party. while i was sleeping off my semester and my drinks, someone had come, cut my bike chain, and taken my ride. up to that point, i had never had anything stolen from me. ever. i was a lucky and sheltered girl.

i was definitely still drunk, but i was also 20 years old with a pathologically mischevious bent. i called fiz to tell her what happened, and we sprung into action. first i took what was left of the bike chain and nailed it up over the doorframe of our parlor (yes we had a parlor). i signed, dated, and memorialized my bike. i haven't been in that house in almost 10 years, but perhaps someone can tell me if it's still up on the wall. i wouldn't be surprised if it still was. the co-ops were always evolving and organic spaces. one part crunchy living experiment, one part surrealist installation, it was like living inside a whole foods designed by duchamp.

by the time fiz came over, i had a plan. no one was going to do this to me without having their fire returned. we needed to send a message. a big one. fiz and i worked quickly, barely speaking, our mission unspoken and clear. we found a door in the basement, sealed over the knob hole, and gave it a good coat of primer. our co-ops were student maintained, and at this time, fiz was maintenance co-ordinator. one of her many talents, besides fixing boilers, meeting firecode, and shingling, was a facility with cement. we decided our message would stand the test of time. so while i sawed two 4 x 4s of pressure-treated wood, fiz mixed up a batch of cement. we went to the front yard and dug two deep holes. it was probably 8 o'clock now, getting dark. we had only consumed alcohol and hummus. we were running on our youth, our indignation, and our pure sense of purpose. we filled the holes with fresh cement and planted the 4 x 4s. we gave the door another coat of paint, then took it outside and mounted it on the posts.

i settled on a simple message that succintly summed up how i was feeling. i carefully painted the following;


i added my co-op logo and a few graphic flourishes. fiz and i stepped back to admire our handy-work. yes, it would do. we promptly went back to her co-op and told our story over and over, extremely proud of our sass and industry.

my co-op sat on the corner of waterman and brook streets, a big intersection on providence's east side. for the next several months, we'd sit on the porch and just watch the motorists stopped at the light and their reaction to the sign. there were lots of smiles, horn honks, and "you go!". remember this was 1998. about a month after my bike got stolen, a knock came on the door. did i need a new bike? someone had seen the sign and donated a very fine old fashioned red racer with banana seat. i've never bought a bike again, always trading for my wheels. the sign eventually got painted over, and our billboard became a bulletin board for community happenings and co-op chicanery. i haven't been by in awhile, but it was up for at least 5 years.

i am still the person who loved to walk around naked on sunday (or any day really) and who sent a creative fuck-you after a petty crime. my heat might cost too much for me to be naked as often as i'd like now, and i might have changed the medium for my messages, but that was me and is me still. i am glad for this reminder to be lighter, to remember my younger self, and embrace my inner flaunt.


  1. Dear Erin - you're pretty great.

  2. I was just imagining what it would have been like to have known someone like you in school. And then I realized I knew plenty of them!
    Nice memories.

  3. This is beautiful writing; and reflecting. Thanks for sharing that.

  4. I loved reading this. That is such a good idea and I'm so glad it ended for the better : )
    I'm Autumn by the way.

  5. thank you for sharing! it's really interesting to learn how you came to be where you are today :-)

  6. cooking in just an apron...hmmm...it sounds like a great idea except i have a tendency to wear what i cook!

    thanks for the story.

  7. Except that I was trying to comment on this when I said "great story." Oops!

  8. I distinctly remember, as a RISD student, driving past Finlandia, seeing the sign, and Timmy screaming out the window some version of, "ATTA GIRL!"

    He was the voice behind the operation, I merely had the wheels.

    We were proud of you, long before I knew you, even as, "that Brown chick with the guitar."

    On a separate note, as I mentioned this morning, Naked Sunday makes me squirmy. And not in the good way.

    Long live the Sprinter. It's awesome and I'm deeply envious. Can't wait to have it come for a visit in CO.

  9. Erin,

    I have been reading your blog since it started, and was a MySpace reader before then, and I have FINALLY decided to leave you a message.

    You have been an incredible inspiration to me over many years. Your music has been the soundtrack of my life so many times, and then, when I come here, and read your words...I am always touched by something...some phrase, a story. I love that I read this particular post so soon after the new year. I wonder, if we all need to spend a little more time with Naked Sunday. Maybe not literally, but, I know there are so many things I have abandoned for my "older, more mature" life...the more serious one...but desperately I am nostagic for those youthful...whimful...joyful things of a simpler time. Today I read something about nostalgia. It said that Nostalgia is the minds way of going back home. After I read that, i looked up the definition for "home." One of the definitions was: "A place where one is loved, welcomed, and accepted" In remembering these wonderful things of our past, we are brought home. We are reminded of times and places where we were loved...welcomed...accepted. In a culture (living in NYC) where so many people are so cold and absorbed in their lives...it is nice to go home.

    Thank you for EVERYTHING.
    Your words
    Your songs
    Your heart
    Your soul
    and for sharing all those things with me in a way that has changed my life.

    Thank you.