The summer of 1986 has lodged itself in the pleasure centers of my brain, although a hard look at the details makes me wonder why. Yeah, I was working in what passed for a cool job for a kid who’d recently graduated from college (copy and production manager at a rock radio station, albeit one that paid me less than $13,000 a year), and maybe that’s most of it. I remember lots of sunny weather, pool parties, incredible music, and I remember Karen, the staggeringly beautiful woman that I dated for awhile. Tall, lean, a study in elegance with a quiet smile that could have lit every stage on Broadway.
In particular, I remember the Saturday we spent at Carowinds, courtesy of the station, which was sponsoring that night’s concert by – brace yourselves – Starship. Yeah, the “We Built This City” incarnation. I know, I know. They opened the show with the damned song and then, just for good measure, did it for the encore.
But the real fun was spending the day with such a wonderful young woman, and in getting to see one of my favorite bands at the time – opening for the Wankship was The Outfield.
Things didn’t work out with Karen. But one night that I’ll never forget made its way into a story I published some years back with storySouth called “Pictures of Venus.” The key passage went something like this:
Alone, he sometimes remembers one night just before the end. After making love she asked him to get her something to drink. So he trotted naked downstairs and filled a big Wake Forest Football cup with ice and Pepsi, and when he came back into the room she was lying on her stomach, arms folded under the pillow and her left knee bent, foot touching the inside of her right knee, like a ballerina arrested in mid-twirl, cast in porcelain and brought here for display in the gallery he’d made of his life. Streetlight streamed through half-open Levelors and fell like prison bars across the curve of her hips…
She was already asleep, and he stood there several minutes, enchanted, looking at her nude form. He knew what he admired in women—intelligence, humor, communicativeness—and Karen had all those things in abundance. But he knew that a man can also love simple beauty—primal, physical, elemental. There was no defense against it, this simple purity of form. Karen was sculpture, flesh and immortality, more exquisite in that moment than every hand-wrought majesty in a universe of Louvres.
The summer of 1986 was short on money and, in the final analysis, long on youthful heartbreak. But every time I hear anything off of Play Deep, the endorphins kick in and I can’t help smiling.
I never had a convertible, but I drove around at night, blasting “Say It Isn’t So” and “Your Love” as loud as the stereo would go. And I do it now, sometimes, when I remember the beauty of the women who graced the proscenium of my youth…