|I had a job after school (and sometimes on weekends) in an office. I did all the shit work -- mail-outs, answering
phones, filing, copying. My dad started his own maintenance business after doing it part-time for years. He'd quit
his job at a rubber factory after 17 years of service. He ran his business out of the property management office
of an old family friend. I'd known her since I was a little kid. She offered me a job for the summer when I was
15. Had to get a special work permit from the state because of my age. It became an after-school job when school
started. Money was good. I'd just go to San Francisco and see bands, go record shopping, eat pizza and come home
broke and happy. Pretenders, Pretenders, Pretenders. I'd spend all my cash on them, many times borrowing some from
my sister. Two things about me -- I always repay my debts and I always keep my promises. If I tell
you I'll do it, it's done. I don't consider that last one to be a good thing. More often than not, it gets me into
As I mentioned earlier, my sister and I did not get on well when we were kids. The firstborn, she lived in the
perfect world, got all the attention, never had to share her toys. Then one day, I was there, screaming and screaming
and crying and crying and never, ever happy. She was a quiet baby, I was certainly not. She slept for 21 hours
once, scaring the heck out of my mother who would not go into the room, fearing her infant dead. She called the
doctor and he asked if she was breathing. "It looks like it." "Then leave her alone and she'll wake
up when she needs something." She did.
Hell, I couldn't shut up for 21 minutes. I ruined my sister's perfect world, chewed the legs off her plastic
animals so she had to lean them against the wall or put them between blocks to make them stand up. Theresa once
wrote a very serious school paper (she was a pretty serious kid) about her family, and about me she wrote, "I
wanted a little sister, but I got her instead." I've always heard from my parents that, had I been born first,
I would've been an only child. (A lot of parents say that, but mine really meant it.) My shoes never lasted more
than a month and my new clothes were damaged the first time they were worn. There
is a picture of me and my sister that pretty much says it all. I'm in a stroller, Theresa's kneeling down beside
me with her sweet little blonde head on my big baby shoulders, her arm around me. She's looking sweet and innocent.
I look like I'm screaming - I probably was! - and I'm pulling on her sweater. I look like a psycho child.
My sister took every opportunity to show me how she felt... from locking me in the basement with the lights off
to giving me mud to drink and telling me it was chocolate (I was really little), then telling Mom I was
eating mud, for which I got spanked. The stories are endless (did you notice?). I broke her jar of paste in the
driveway -- I could not tell if the jar was glass or plastic. No matter how I looked at it or how long I felt it,
I could not figure out which it was. I knew one way to find out. I threw it down as hard as I could. It was glass.
She chased me up and down the California coast with seaweed ("AHHHHH! A MONSTER!"). I broke her records.
She traded her "bigger" nickels for my "smaller" dimes, but only because she was being nice
to me, and I'd better remember it later.
I took all my toys apart so I could see how they worked. Once, when I was about 7, I asked for a tape recorder
for my birthday. My parents wouldn't get one for me (they didn't have those indestructible toys back then, which
I'd have broken anyhow). I tried again at Christmas and they said I should wait until I was a bit older. There
was a commercial on TV for a doll that would repeat whatever you said to her. I did a very unusual thing and asked
for that doll for Christmas. My parents were delighted! I'd actually asked for a doll. How... normal of
me. Imagine how upset they were when, by Christmas night, I'd stripped the doll and taken the screws out of her
back to try to get to what I was sure would be a tape recorder. Never did get that damn doll apart. But I did get
a tape recorder later! I took it apart... and put it back together when I was done looking at all the pieces. And
it worked fine. And I got my butt beat. I can't imagine the dread my father must have felt every time he discovered
a screwdriver missing...
I counted down the days until the Pretenders would be in San Francisco. I was 17. Saved as much money as I could
(not an easy thing for me). It wasn't much, probably about $30. Talked my parents into thinking it was a great
idea for me to cut school just this once. I never cut school because, had I gotten caught, they very well may have
killed me at long last. I spent the night before the show at Theresa's place. We got up at four in the morning.
We had to leave early so we could get in line -- I had to be in the front. I had to! So what if I waited
all day? What else did I have to do? Besides, I had promised myself two years earlier, almost to the day, that
NEXT TIME I'D MEET THEM. Even if it was a different them.
I'd found a black t-shirt with a little Telecaster on it. I thought it was a neat shirt so I got one for Chrissie.
This seemed to cement my plan - I had to meet her, I had to give her this dumb shirt...
I awoke feeling queasy... hadn't actually slept. I was too wound up and my stomach was churning. I knew I'd get
to meet Chrissie, I knew I would. I still get that. It's a wonder I've never puked on her. For some reason,
my stomach can predict if I'll see her or not (now if I could just get it to predict some lottery numbers). I carefully
chose the clothes I wanted to wear -- jeans, black hi-top Converse that had to be replaced each month. I wore my
black '82 tour shirt, and a long-sleeved Army shirt as a jacket. We drove to the San Francisco Civic Center. I
hopped out of the car and ran to get in line while Theresa looked for a place to park. There was a line already!
Damn! It wasn't even six in the morning yet! The sun wasn't even up. So I was about fifteenth in line. Boy, was
it cold. Mercifully, at about ten o'clock, they gave us tickets with numbers on them so we could each leave and
come back later to our place in line. It was so exciting -- all those big trucks with Pretenders stuff in them.
Theresa cashed her paycheck and said I could have whatever I needed, after we saw truck after truck, box after
box of tour merchandise being unloaded. But Theresa did not share my amazement with Pretenders stuff in big trucks.
She went record shopping. Me? I was gonna meet Chrissie.
I'd forgotten one thing -- San Francisco has truant officers. If there is a rock band playing, they are out in
full force. I was chased all over the place that day. "Hey, you!" I wouldn't even look -- I just ran.
There is a park across the street from the Civic Center. They want you to run into the park because it's saturated
with truant officers. That was my guess anyhow and I wasn't going near that park. I'd run down any other street,
through traffic, anywhere. Damn them. I had to run into the park a couple times, but as soon as I was inside,
I'd cut straight out again and into a federal building where I'd be safe for awhile. This really cool hippie couple
having a cook-out at their car in front of the park said I could stay with them. A truant officer did come over.
I never let him get too close. They said I was with them and he left. Hell, they said all of us kids were with
them! Thanks, guys, whoever you were!
Where would the band go in? The back, for sure. I'd go behind the Civic Center and wait until I was chased again.
They had to be here soon, right? They had to get here for a sound check, right? I'd heard about sound checks on
MTV, the day my fave VJ, J.J. Jackson, commented on the "Day After Day" video being shot during a sound
check. C'mon, guys, I'm really pushin' my luck here... A few other girls gathered back there as well. Maybe some
guys, too, but I don't remember any. Finally a limo came around the corner. God, I felt sick. Who was in there?
Would we be pushed aside so they could get in? Would we only get to see them walk by? I'd never met anyone famous
before -- who fucking cares if someone is famous? But it was still sort of mysterious, just because it was a new
A door opened and... Chrissie got out. There she was. It was really her. It was HER. Finally. Finally! IT'S
ABOUT FUCKING TIME! She looked at us and smiled, came over and signed album covers, magazines, pictures. She was
wearing an Army shirt, too, and that wonderful Road Spider jacket. I hadn't brought anything with a picture on
it, not wanting to lug something around all day. I hadn't even actually thought about bringing something for her
to sign after I'd ruled out bringing an album cover. What was I, nuts? I had waited so long for this moment, and
didn't have a single Pretenders thing for her to sign. What an idiot!
Somebody asked Chrissie if she wanted a Tab soda. Yuck. That was like the worst-tasting stuff ever made... I'd
rather drink chunky sewer water. She said the perfect thing. "No, that stuff is poison." She probably
meant soda in general, but diet soda has artificial "sweeteners" in it that taste like nuclear waste.
It cannot be good for you and is, I'm sure, much worse than drinking a load of sugar. My mom would buy Tab, Theresa
and I would say "Mom bought poison -- she's trying to kill us," and we wouldn't touch the stuff. So I
laughed when she said that. No one else did -- maybe everyone else drank Tab, maybe they didn't get it. Chrissie
looked at me when I laughed and laughed, too.
Stan Tippins, the tour manager, walked by and said, "C'mon, Chrissie." "Yeah, be there in a minute."
I didn't have a Pretenders thing and she was finishing signing stuff! I always had paper, took it out of my pocket,
felt dumb. She looked at me and put her hand out for it, so I handed it over. She flipped it over. Yes, Chrissie,
it's blank paper, cuz I'm dumb. She looked at me again, more slowly, signed the paper and gave it back, and handed
me the pen she'd signed everything with. Don't know where the pen came from, but it was mine now. I held out the
shirt I'd bought for her. “I thought this would look good on you.” She took it. “Oh, hey, it's nice. Thanks.” I
nodded. Stan walked by again. "Chris, we've gotta go." "Yeah, OK." But she was still talking
and not going anywhere.
I'd promised (and we know how I feel about promises) K. I'd ask something. Why did I say I would? It had seemed
like this would never happen. Damn. Chrissie scares me in that she senses when you want something, or that you
want to say something. It's not just the ants-in-your-pants kind of thing that some people do, but even if you're
quiet and standing still, she still picks up on it. She's not a patient person, but sometimes, for certain things,
it's like she'll wait forever. Maybe I looked desperate. Maybe I always look desperate! Maybe I'm easy to
read. I don't know how it is that she can do this, but the skill is well-honed, finer than a razor's edge. I hadn't
said anything other than "Hi" and thanked her for the autograph. She kept glancing at me, while the other
girls talked. Stan: "Chris, now." "I'm coming." She gave no indication that she wanted to move
from that spot. I realized later that, because he'd said "now", he had to wait that much longer.
Finally, she looked at me. I had her full attention, whether I wanted it or not. She may as well have put me in
a headlock. You can't get out -- don't try. I looked down, reluctant to speak the words. Looked back up -- she
still had me in that invisible headlock. "A friend of mine made me swear I'd ask you this..." Shit, why
did I promise? Maybe an earthquake will knock a building down on me and I won't have to say this. God? Are
you listening? Can I have one well-aimed bolt of lightning, please? "A friend" -- yeah, that's believable.
Crap. Proceed. "He called your mom on your birthday and asked her to tell you he said 'Happy Birthday'...
did she?" "No." That was it. It wasn't even a mean "no." It was actually the sweetest
"no" I've ever heard. I was so relieved. I didn't have to say anything else now, but nobody else
said anything. Hey guys -- someone else's turn now, come on. Someone? Why wouldn't anyone say anything? Uh... I'm
done. It was like we were reading a script and I had a line to read before we could continue. I didn't want to.
I'd kept my promise -- the end. Someone else, c'mon!
We would've still been there today -- I know it. I waited. Nothing. Shit. I squirmed. She was still watching me.
We weren't done. "Oh... why not?" She smiled. "Because that would just piss me off." She began
to laugh at the end there so I did too. That was OK, then, and yeah, I guess it would. "Chris, we really need
to get going." "Yep." Another five minutes. Someone I'd met back there earlier -- Kristi -- gave
Chrissie the Road Spider vanity license plate she'd had made for her car. It said "RD SPIDR." She asked
if she could take a picture. We all stepped out of the way. Chrissie was standing by the back doors of a filthy
truck we'd been writing on all day. She held the plate up under her eyes and turned so you could see the "Road
Spider" on the back of her jacket. The photo was taken and was a great success. I have an 8 x 10 copy hanging
in my hallway today. Matter of fact, everyone had a camera and took pictures. Why didn't I have a camera?
Why am I so exceedingly stupid? Everyone got a picture of them and Chrissie. All I brought was blank paper, for
God's sake. But it wasn't blank anymore. Well, I was so happy at that point, I couldn't ask for more. I'd get a
picture of me and Chrissie, sometime.
When Hynde left, Kristi and I started talking. Had I been at the ‘82 show in Oakland? Yep. Her too! I began to
tell her the story of the drumstick I'd nearly caught. I said, “I was reaching out for it and...” Kristi interrupted,
“And he kicked it! It went spinning...” “Yeah,” I continued excitedly, thinking we must've been pretty close to
each other at the show... I couldn't believe she remember this also! I finished, “Some bitch got it...” She looked
at me, her jaw hanging. “That was me - I'm that bitch!” She wasn't at all mad about what I'd said. Pretty
proud, actually. We were both shocked. “You got my drumstick? I can't stand it!” Every time I see her, I say something
about it: “Gimme my drumstick!” or “Damn you! You took my drumstick!” I think she's willed it to me.
Those of us with our well-before-dawn tickets lined up in the park like we were told, then were brought across
the street and installed in front of the doors. Jennifer showed up at some point to join me and Theresa. I showed
her my autograph. She was jealous. I was so amazed that I'd met Chrissie. Everyone around us wanted to see my trophy.
They asked if she was mean, what was she like, etc. Mean? All I could say was, "She's so nice. She's funny
and... really just... nice." She'd been very kind to me. And it was nothing I was used to.