“It’s all Sugar’s fault”
This is a Love Story
I was one of the musicians in “Third Eye”, a psychedelic acid rock band that was “out to tye-dye the moral fabric of American society”. It was wild, loud, and if we didn’t make you dizzy we felt we weren’t doing it right! One evening we were playing a gig down at the famous Printer’s Alley in Nashville. After the gig, we packed away the guitars, wrapped up all the cords, and lugged the amps and P.A. into various cars and the drummer’s van to head home. It had been alright as gigs go. We didn’t have to pay much more on our drink tab than we made that night.
The guitar player from the other band that evening came over to me and said, “Hey, you should go to Susie’s birthday party.”
Susie and I had been separated for over a year. My first “solid” relationship after my separation/divorce. I was heartbroken when she suddenly told me to leave, that it was over. Karmic paybacks are a bitch. Parties at Susie’s were a social event that I had been forbidden to attend in this last year. “But your other old boyfriends get to come!” I would whine. “You’re not over me yet.” she would reply, and she was right.
But time had passed and now I had been invited. No, not just by the guitar player, but she had called me herself. She had reason to, I was truly “over her”. In fact, I really couldn’t care less about her party and had no intention of going.
Why Should I?
“I don’t really care about seeing her, or her friends,” I said to the guitar player, and at last, it was true!
For the last year I had pined away at being expelled suddenly from the comfortable life of the previous year. I had gotten an apartment in a decent house with a basement for band practice, dug my waterbed out of storage and in the last year had finally started to put it to good use again.
A Slight Detour
Saying good night to everyone, I got in my car and started home. It was still relatively early so I drove around for a little bit thinking I might could find some trouble to get into. Not really paying much attention to direction, I must have gone on “auto-pilot” because suddenly I was on a little back street lined with cars. Susie’s birthday party.
“What the hell, might as well,” I said to myself and pulled my car into a space as someone left. “Least I can do is wish her a happy birthday.”
The garden looked like the party had been a “humdinger”, but it was certainly winding down. Looking around for Susie, one of her surprised ‘girlfriends’ directed me into the house, “She’s upstairs… I thought you two…,” I didn’t wait around for her to finish or to talk to her, she was bad news and the reason so many of her ‘girlfriends’ ‘relationships’ had broken up.
Susie looked good that night. The last year had been decent to her. She actually looked happy to see me. She knew how to smile, but it seemed there was always a motive. It kind of made me nervous to see all those pretty white teeth, what could she want? Did she really want anything? Could it be, that it was just her birthday and she was just happy to finally feel good about my being there? I gave her a polite hug, wished her happy birthday.
“You want a beer or something else?” She said.
“Sure, why not. But I can’t stay long.” I replied.
“…And we have barbecued chicken wings down on the grill.”
“Well maybe for a minute.” I’m really a sucker, especially for barbecued chicken wings. We headed downstairs and made a b-line for the grill and the cooler of beers.
The sky was clear and full of stars. No sign of that much-needed break in the heat that paralyzes the mid-south every August. Susie didn’t care though, rain was not part of her plans.
The garden had been decorated in typical Susie style with Christmas lights strung all over the place, leaving that faint glow of light that was enough to see that the crowd had thinned out considerably. Maybe only fifteen of the original hundred or more people were left scattered around the tables into more intimate groups of two or three.
Fairy Wild Woman
As Susie and I continued to talk I saw this “wild woman” moving around the tables like a fairy. I say ‘fairy’ because that’s how she seemed to be dressed. Lots of crinolines and flowing fabric. I say ‘wild woman’ because, as she made her way in our direction I noticed she wore some sort of beaded headband on which was placed, in the middle of her forehead, a small crucifix. She really looked out of place in this normally more ‘conservatively liberal’ setting.
“Hello,” the ‘fairy wild woman’ chirped as she floated over to us. “And who is this handsome late-comer to your wonderful party?”
“Oh, let me introduce you!” Susie chirped back. “This is Lance.”
“Come on,” came a more bawdy voice from the ‘fairy wild woman’, “Nobody is named Lance … what’s your real name?”
“Really, it’s Lance.” Susie and I said in unison.
“OK, so what’s your last name?” inquired the ‘fairy wild woman’.
“Is that with two ‘R’s?”
“Yes it is.”
“Sooo happy to meet you! I’m Donna.” the ‘fairy wild woman’ chirped.
A Little History
Little did I know at the time that she had quite a history with double letters. You might even say it was a recurring theme. Apparently, all her husbands and lovers have had double letters in their names. Her first love was a man with the last name ‘Weed’ (two ‘e’s). Then there was ‘Feeley’ (two ‘e’s). Followed by ‘Sutton’ (two ‘t’s). ‘Miller’ (two ‘l’s). ‘Busse’ (two ‘s’s). ‘Orr’ (two ‘r’s), and so on…
Donna had been divorced and avoiding any relationships for a couple of years at which point she had opened her house to all kinds of people and possibilities. Among the possibilities, her house had become a regular place for young people and drum circles. When the friend of a friend (Susie) was throwing her garden birthday party she (the ‘fairy wild woman’) was invited, mainly because she could round up the drummers for the evening’s entertainment.
Late Night Investigations
Well, after the evening had peaked she started looking around and realized … there were men there about her age. Maybe it was time to open herself up to another relationship. She had been walking around asking, “So, what is your name?” One man was ‘Carrol’; two ‘r’s but he was such a jerk, she was beginning to think maybe this two-letter thing might not be such a good idea after all. Then she had spotted me talking to the hostess.
So we talked about Rainbow. She seemed the type, and indeed had been to a few “Gatherings”! Then there was the fact that our first Grateful Dead show had been the same show. So my next question was “So you want to split a tab, smoke one, and head back to my place?”
“Sure!” replied my ‘fairy wild woman’.
I’m not about to kiss and tell, but holy moly what a wild night!
Donna later sent a note to Susie saying, “Nice party, great party favors!”
We really haven’t been apart since that evening.
Turns out that my apartment was the same place that her best friend (also named Donna) had previously lived with her ex (Donna’s, not Donna’s) before she had moved up the hill to her (Donna’s) house. After our first evening together it was obvious we were going to see a lot more of each other. With one house up the hill and the other down the hill, it was pretty convenient for both of us. It didn’t take long before my kids and I moved up the hill and we consolidated our households.
What a place. It was like a museum, filled with the findings of so many hours of escaping to the antique malls in search of some happiness. She was quite a collector and had a fine eye for the treasures that could be divined from the local dealers of “junk” and “antiques”. She had managed to find a “Motherwell” print, an “Ames” chair, a sarcophagus from Egypt dating from 3400 BC, and several huge “day of the dead” figures from Mexico. There were sculptures, a cut glass window from a synagogue in Seattle, and HUGE paintings that were colorful explosions and geometric shapes bursting from the canvas’ boundaries.
These paintings I discovered were from her ex, a very talented artist that was even more talented at his own self-destruction (and anyone else that happened to be part of his life.) A museum of hope and despair. But still, a happy place, full of life.
A Housefull of Hope
After her last divorce, her daughter had returned from some months in New York, and with her, the house had been visited by her friends, which soon became Donna’s friends. The house was once again enjoying the positive vibrations of youthful exuberance. Soon, as a “safe house”, the hippie kids were coming over to have drum circles (up to twenty kids banging on djambes and bongos, which were driving the neighbors crazy) exploring the tribal rhythms in their heads. And of course, there was “Sugar Ray”. It’s all Sugar Ray’s fault.
Sugar was a giant schnauzer. A big hairy creature who somehow was the focal point of our life without being the center of activity. It was because of Sugar Ray that Donna met Donna, whose husband was a good dog trainer (but less appealing in other parts of his being.) Donna (of the trainer’s ex) was friends with Susie who was having a birthday party, and she wanted drummers for entertainment. So Donna connected Susie with Donna for the drums.
So, it’s all Sugar’s fault Donna met me! Sugar Ray turned out to be a really good friend and a very special pup. We had many more adventures together!