Let’s Raise a Bartles & Jaymes to Memories

He was my first kiss. He was tall and lean and blonde. He didn’t look like the other guys in El Paso, Texas. He looked like he should be on a surfboard or a beach somewhere in California.

He was my best friend’s brother and I had known him since eighth grade. He was four years older than us and for years, we considered him a pest. Until one day, I didn’t.

I spent most of my free time at my best friend’s house. She had a pool and a fridge full of snacks. They had a microwave—a luxury that was not yet available in our double-wide trailer—and a VCR. We watched “Weird Science” and “Labyrinth” and “Princess Bride” until we could quote them word-for-word, our re-enactments often punctuated by the “zzzttt” of the hanging mosquito zapper right outside the den window.

When I was 16, we went on a double date with my best friend and her boyfriend to a drive-in movie. I think it was called the Fiesta, and it was way out on Montana Avenue (although, the only Fiesta I find now shows an altogether different type of movie these days, so I might have the name of the place wrong.) It was a long, dusty desert drive, with few houses and almost no businesses. The stars were bright pinpricks.

I don’t remember what the movie was. Since it was the summer of 1988, it was probably “Die Hard” or “Rain Man.” Apparently, 1988 was a great summer for movies.

We were drinking wine coolers and he had his arm around my shoulders. My stomach was nothing but knots while I tried to keep my breathing normal. When I’d finished my wine cooler, he offered me a sip of his. Then he laid his line on me: “Wet your whistle? Here, let me.” And he bent in for a kiss.

To this day, cheesy though it is, I still think that’s about the smoothest thing I’ve ever heard.

Not surprisingly, we didn’t go out again. It was too weird. We were too close. More like brother and sister. I’m sure he let me down gently and I probably pined for a little while, but soon there were other crushes to distract me.

He moved on with his life. I moved on with mine. I lost touch with my high school best friend as college and marriages and children and careers moved us further and further apart, both emotionally and geographically.

I learned this weekend from a high school friend that my best friend’s brother had died, apparently taking his own life. He was only 44. I don’t know why, nor does it matter. I have no idea what had happened to him over the years to put him in that dark place. But just hearing the news sent me spiraling back to a warm, West Texas summer night sipping wine coolers on a warm car hood under the glow of a large screen and a million stars and the softest lips touching mine.

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Hold on to that Feeling (Inspired not by Journey but by Bartles and Jaymes)

Emilia and I went and saw a little of this on Saturday night.

Falling in love 80s style

After standing and sweating in a TKTS line in Times Square (the people who work for TKTS were wonderful, by the way, handing out water and answering questions while we waited), we scored 30% off tickets to “Rock of Ages” at the Helen Hayes Theater.

In case you didn’t know about this musical, which is currently being made into a film starring Tom Cruise (WTF? I don’t see it), here’s a description:

“Rock of Ages is a rock/jukebox musical, with a book by Chris D’Arienzo, built around classic rock hits from the 1980s, especially from the famous glam metal bands of the decade. The musical features songs from Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Asia, among other well-known rock bands.”

 

Now I am, of course, a child of the 80s. I graduated from high school in 1990 and the late 80s were definitely my formative musical years.

But unlike the characters in “Rock of Ages,” I was not really into Journey or Night Ranger, although, don’t get me wrong, I can sing along with just about any hit from the 80s, including “Sister Christian” and “Don’t Stop Believing,” both of which were featured in Rock of Ages.

No, I carry a slightly darker 80s music secret – I was what folks these days would probably call “goth.” But back then, we called it “New Romantics.”

I was known to wear a puffy shirt or two in my time. I had a penchant for velvety vests. I was obsessed with anything Victorian. I never met a beaded appliqué I didn’t like.

I was a really big fan of Book of Love, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Echo and the Bunnymen, and of course, the Cure and Depeche Mode. Again, all classics to the movement.

While “Rock of Ages” didn’t cover the New Romantics, it did hit all the right nostalgic notes and it was an awesomely fun time. I especially liked the fact that they encouraged you to take your drinks back to your seat, something that most theaters forbid.

We got in a lot of trouble for taking this photo, so enjoy!

And, at the theater bar, they had Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers, which hold a very special place in my heart. The story of my first kiss is forever entwined with those wine coolers. I was 16 years old, and I was on a date with my best friend’s brother (BRB). He was a couple of years older than me—I think he had just started college—and he was definitely pretty dreamy.

We were at a drive-in out in West El Paso watching “Die Hard.” Oh, funny side note, I’ve been told that that particular drive-in now specializes in, ahem, adult movies. Ick. Because you really want to watch porn at an outdoor theater?? There are homes nearby!

Anyway, BRB and I were sitting in the back seat, and he had his arm around my shoulders, which is probably why I don’t remember what the movie was. My stomach was flip-flopping all over the place. We were drinking Fuzzy Navel wine coolers when BRB pulled what I consider pretty much the smoothest line I have ever heard, even to this day. He went to hand me a wine cooler and said, “Wet your whistle? Here, let me.” And he swooped in for the kiss. Heavy making out ensued to the ever-so-romantic soundtrack of gunshots and Bruce Willis.

It must not have been very good because he never asked me out again. And that’s ok, because it was a bitchin’ first kiss, to use some 80s vernacular.

Were you a child of the 80s? Rocker, nerd, New Romantic? Do you remember your first kiss? Was Bruce Willis and his pretty pursed lips involved? (seriously, look at that poster. He’s begging for a smooch)