17 World of Mirth Memories.

So I’m a total hypocrite. I just spent time ranting about “Best of…” lists and why they don’t work. But all I seem to have left are mind snapshots – little snippets of memory that in and of themselves don’t mean a whole lot, but I still find the need to get them down on paper. Maybe by listing my World of Mirth (WOM) memories, I can finally let them go…

(I’ll be adding to this list all month long – I’m shooting for 100, but who knows…)

1. Red Lamp – I have this fantastic black and gold lamp with a red shade, people always comment on it, on how “neat” it is. I always reply, “I got that at WOM.” The shade is custom made, 1950’s red tiered with black streaks. I love it. Every Christmas I have to move it to make way for our tree, and as I move it I can’t help thinking, “I got this at WOM.” Every time.

2. Celluloid Cow – I used to have a small cow made of celluloid that I placed on layaway while I was working at WOM; I always worked for store credit – too much cool stuff in that store. It was so thin and delicate and flammable. I don’t know where it is now.

3. “To Get” Notebook – Kathryn had this little spiral notebook she kept behind the checkout area – if a person couldn’t find what they needed in the store, she’d write it down to look for at flea markets later. She found so much stuff for my house that way. Mostly lamps :0)

4. Couch – Bryan and I talking at the newer location back by the coffee bar. I comment on how much I love the couch we’re sitting on. He asks, “You want it?” I bought it out from under him and he helped me move it that day. It had arms so wide you could sit cross-legged on it. Beige, rough fabric, 1950’s lines. I made out with my husband for the first time on that couch. My cat Gunther scratched the crap out of it. I wish I still had it.

5. Patio Furniture – Again at the newer location, Kathryn had this terrific patio set – white rubber tubing wrapped around black wrought iron. It was 1950’s style and lived outside the store. People would buy coffee and sit in the lounger and watch the people of Carytown walk by. One day I commented on the great set and she asked, “You want it?” Six weeks of layaway later, the 6-piece set was mine. I had to sheepishly ask people to move so I could take it home. For a time it served as my entire living room suite. Now it lives on my front porch and I absolutely love it. It feels like Nana’s house.

6. Price – I can remember calculating sales tax on a calculator with big numbers, then writing it on the little pad with the carbon copy between the first sheet and the yellow sheet. Giving the customer the yellow sheet and putting in with their purchase – in those little paper bags with the ugly print that we got in bulk for cheap. Counting change out of the money box because we didn’t have a register.

7. Winkies – We had tons of them. I started my collection from Kathryn’s big backstock of winkies. Winkies are little pictures that move when you move them back and forth. They’re made of hard plastic with a kind of ridged, rough surface. We had ones of people dancing “The Frug” and one where a girl picked up a phone while people were doing the twist in the background. I bought those and another one of a rodeo cowboy that roped a calf over and over again when you turned the winkie just so. I pasted a magnet on the back and stuck it on my fridge. We kept them in a shoebox in little plastic sleeves – with tabs between them, categorized by activity. Dancing winkies, blinking winkies, walking winkies. I don’t think I’ve seen a winky since I stopped working there.

8. Roy – Kathryn had huge letters she had grabbed from a dumpster and hung on the back wall of the store – they spelled out “ROY” and I think they were part of a store sign. They were white, and wide, and always made me wonder where they ended up. Who bought Roy?

9. Disco Ball – I remember I bought a record player in the shape of a disco ball once and traded it at WOM for other stuff. Actually, it was a huge, clear and beige sphere that held a record player inside when you slid back the clear cover – kind of like a space ship peels back its door. In the middle where the records play there was a tiny disco ball that spun when the record played, and a light hit it and showed little glittery disco lights all over the sphere when you closed the cover. It was a sight to behold. Afterwards I regretted trading it because it was just such a weird thing to own, but Kathryn put it in a place of special regard – right by the checkout with a “Not For Sale” sign on it. That made this dorky girl feel so cool.

10. Camille Howard and Boogie Woogie – “Ooh, I’ve got the boogie and the blues…” I can remember keeping her CD on rotation the whole time I was working, often alone. There was no one in the store, Camille was wailin’ on the boombox, and I was straightening shelves. Once Mimi came from downstairs to ask a question, listened a moment, and said, “Who is this? I like this.” I felt so friggin’ cool right then. This was at a time in my life when my self-esteem was non-existent so that little throwaway comment stayed with me for a long time.

11. Wynona Carr and “Ding Dong Daddy” – “I wanna ding dong daddy!…I don’t want his money, he may not have a cent, but if he rings that ding dong bell, I’ll live with him in a tent!” One of the greatest lyrics ever. I used to listen to Wynona Carr too in the store, dusting shelves, singing along. My heart would race a little when customers came up the stairs because I was hoping they’d hear her sing and think I was cool for playing it. Yep, I used to care about that stuff back then. Maybe I still do a little.

12. Objects – I’ve just noticed that many of my so-called “memories” are wrapped around objects, and I wonder why that is. It’s like the objects are vessels of memory, they’re like vases, holding things in for me. A Pandora’s Box of memory. I look at the object and the memory of when I bought it, how I felt when I bought it, who I knew, the person I was, come pouring out. Should we put so much reverence in objects? Probably not. I’ve been decluttering a lot of objects away lately, out of my life, and I wonder if because of the tragedy these particular objects have become more precious than they might have been otherwise. Some of the objects I don’t even have anymore, they’re long gone, but I still remember them. Will I always keep these WOM objects now? Put them on some pedestal? I think it just coincidence. I love mid-century crap, and Kathryn sold a lot of mid-century crap. I love lamps, and she had a lot of lamps. And she had great taste in lamps.

13. Roller Coaster of Love – Kathryn had a 70’s funk and soul tape that she would play in the store – one of the songs was The Ohio Players singing, “Roller Coaster”. I stole it. Well, not stole it, borrowed it to take home and make a copy of. I just never got around to doing it. I still have that tape, and my love for 70’s R&B has grown and grown over the years because of it. I never stop listening to Soul Town 53 on Sirius. I remember there was a shitty rendition of “Love Train” on that tape by some crappy 80’s band – it was a horrible remake. The original is much better.

14. Carter’s Limo – Once when I was working, my friend Carter called from D.C. and insisted that I drive from Richmond that afternoon because he and his brother were getting a limo for the night. No reason, they just felt like getting a limo. Carter was rich, lived in a brownstone right near Foggy Bottom metro, went to GW, and I remember he had a huge collection of Patrick Nagel art. The guy who did the Rio cover for Duran Duran. I even sold him my two prints when I needed some money. I had bought them with my employee discount a few years before when I worked at Art Explosion. God, that was a million years ago…

Anyway, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I just remember standing in an empty store, broke because I’d spent all my wages on store credit, trying to justify a 2-hour drive up I-95 for one night of limo-ing, then driving home the next morning to work again. I think I did end up going after all and having a great time. Why am I writing about this? I just remember how weird it felt, having this rich friend with all this $$$ and evidently time to spend trying to convince someone to go out, and I’m standing amidst all of this “stuff”: Javanese puppets, 50’s lamps, winkies, ancient postcards, tee shirts, German tin toys, and other various knick knacks. It just seemed so strange…

15. Carytown Location – I remember Kathryn taking me aside once and telling me she was thinking about moving the store to a new location on Cary Street, and did I think this was a good idea? She was worried that Mimi would think she was abandoning her, because I guess they had started out as some sort of business partners or something. She was worried that because people had to come through Exile to get to World of Mirth that she wasn’t getting enough foot traffic. But she was also worried about not wanting to lose Mimi’s friendship. I felt honored that she would ask my opinion, and thought it was a great show of the kind of person she was – not worried about the bottom line so much as to how her friend would take it. I guess I do remember this because she did end up moving, and her business growing a lot because of it. One of those, “I knew her when…” kind of things I guess.

16. Store Credit – I hardly ever got a paycheck working there. It would have been a waste of time. So much stuff arrived at the store that I wanted that I just ended up turning my whole paycheck right over to Kathryn. So we came up with an agreement where I would work for store credit – in that way she could “pay” me more per hour, which worked out well for both of us. She had more turnover of merchandise, less payroll, and I got to grow my beloved 1950’s collection of crap.

17. German Tin Toys – WOM had a huge stock of really expensive, handmade German tin toys, not antiques, but really cool nonetheless. They were cars, planes, guys on bicycles, things like that. You’d wind them up with a key, and they would go spinning crazily until they wound down. No one ever bought any – the VCU art student who frequented the store couldn’t really afford them, but we’d always keep one example out of the box to play with. I remember the boxes being really cool too – really detailed drawings of the toy inside, all the text in German. Old-looking.


So here we are, one year later. The Harveys are the reason I started this blog in the first place, and that’s also why their links remain at the top.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you can read my older posts, or go to any news site and type in “Bryan Harvey” and get the whole story. I have to admit, I’ve been very angry the past couple of weeks because it seems like every music site in the world has listed Bryan as one of their “Worst of 2006” news tidbits. All because he was a musician and because he died tragically on New Year’s Day.

Everyone that knew Bryan and his family has been changed because of how they lived, not how they died. To reduce the Harveys to a news factoid to be tacked onto the beginning or end of some list that will only exist in everyone’s mind for a few weeks is the real tragedy. How dare they.

I don’t know why I ever expected more to begin with. People love lists, love being able to package stuff into little 3-minute increments. Remember this? Remember that? And then they move on to a story about losing that holiday fat or how resolutions are a waste of time.

I admit, I spent the better part of yesterday and today remembering the Harveys. Collecting my memories of them, looking at old pictures. I still can’t play his music without losing it though. That’ll come though, I know it will. Grieving takes time. It can’t be packaged into a list.

Auld Lang Syne.

Amateur night. The night when people put on party hats and act like they can hold their liquor. They hug, kiss, drink, make resolutions, drink some more.

You always know New Year’s Day is approaching because all the TV stations have their “Best of” lists, their hangover suggestions, and their gentle reminders about resolutions. I even saw a sale today – “Let’s resolved to get organized this year honey, go to Home Depot for their big sale.” Jeez.

I find going out for New Year’s is less of a priority. It’s like Valentine’s Day – restaurants pass out noisemakers and cheap champagne, then charge out the wazoo for a fixed menu they produce by the boatload. Crap food dressed up to look nice. I’d rather celebrate at home and save the celebrating for a regular mundane day in early March when I really need it because the winter crazies have hit me hard. Yay, I didn’t kill anyone today, let’s crack open some champagne.

I do have a few memorable New Year’s I’d like down in writing – recorded somewhere so when I’m too old to remember them I can say, “Wow, I did that? Nice.”

So, in no particular order:

New Year’s 1977
It could’ve been any year in the 70’s. As a kid it was the pleading to stay up late, the thrill at watching the ball drop, Dick Clark and “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” all that stuff. I can remember wishing I was there in Times Square because everyone seemed so excited, jumping up and down like they’d won the lottery. And the dancers inside looked blissfully happy, covered in disco glitter, glaring at the camera saying, “Don’t you wish you were me?”

One year my parents went to a party at a friend’s house and got so drunk they couldn’t drive home, so we spent the night. That was the coolest, an impromptu sleepover complete with brunch the next morning. We never got brunch growing up, only on Christmas so that was a special treat.

I remember playing HotWheels with their son Michael, crashing cars on the looping track over and over way into the night. Mom’s friend Tony playing 70’s rock tunes on a reel-to-reel stereo system. Mom was actually really pissed we couldn’t drive home that night, but as a kid you block out the fighting and yelling, you just remember that it felt like an adventure.

Patrick’s House – 1983
My first real boyfriend. I asked to go over his house to watch the ball drop, all so I could have someone to kiss at midnight. And we did, sitting on a beanbag, watching those people freeze their asses off in Times Square and this time girls with big hair and guys in skinny ties dancing to Huey Lewis or something equally terrible. Still looking blissfully happy.

It’s funny about New Year’s, the momentum builds until midnight, you jump, scream, kiss, hug, blow horns and throw glitter, dancing around and then maybe an hour later, it’s like, “What now?”

And the older I get that moment comes sooner and sooner. We stay up, toast another year, flip channels a while, then say, “Okay, off to bed.” Another year down.

I’m digressing. I remember my heart pounding hard right before midnight 1983 because it was the first time ever I had someone special to smooch at the stroke of twelve. I felt like Cinderella. It was so innocent and poignant, just like you’d think it would be. I’ll never forget it.

New York – 1992 (or thereabouts)
The only time I’ve actually gone to Times Square. A bunch of friends racing like mad people for the train from D.C. to New York – a last minute decision because an acquaintance offered us his apartment for the weekend and promised us “Big Fun” and big parties. It was our Sex and the City weekend – just imagine the show and yep, that was us. Throwing party clothes into carryon bags, making sure we would be bejeweled and high-heeled for a big city adventure.

It was cold as shit and because back then it was better to look good than to feel good darling, I didn’t wear a winter coat. Just a navy strapless cocktail dress and sheer wrap. And heels. I looked great walking 40 blocks, my hair big and curly, the only problem was that Kevin thought he could do makeup too and so my eyebrows looked frightening and my lips garish. But the lights in the clubs were dark so that helped things somewhat. I remember Kevin’s friend had so much pancake on he looked like a ghost. I remember my feet hurting and being cold, but I didn’t care. There were no cabs, subways too crowded, but I was in New York baby!

We couldn’t all fit in the one cab we got early on. So Eva in her beehive pompadour lay across us horizontally. We paid the driver $20 extra. Howling with laughter, feet and hands everywhere, the cab driver shaking his head, Eva screaming, “Watch the hair guys, watch the hair!”

First stop? Some club for drinks – but then we went to a loft party – some guy who had helped finance the documentary “Paris is Burning” – I held up a wall and watched Patty Davis act drunk and drape herself all over everyone. And I met Lypsinka – out of drag and looking like a Microsoft nerd in a down vest and jeans. I never would’ve recognized her.

Later we danced in a tight circle at Jackie 60, then eavesdropped on Debbie Harry holding court in the basement. I met Patrick McMullan and Chi Chi Valenti and felt pretty fucking cool since I was a lifetime subscriber to Interview back then. And here I was in Jackie 60! Interview was my guide to life living in little ol’ Richmond, Virginia. I could hardly believe it. It was my own “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” come to life, except better. Because the music was HOUSE.

Glasgow, Scotland – 1995
New Year’s here is less of an event than Burns Night (1/25) but it’s still pretty nuts. In Edinburgh they do a huge military tattoo in front of Edinburgh castle and pretty much everyone is hyped up on lager. I remember a small flat in Cumbernauld, feeling colder than I could have ever thought possible. We drank a case of Stella Artois that Stewart’s brother had brought back cheap from France. Said brother was in Shropshire for the holidays, so we drank his beer. Needless to say he wasn’t happy when he got back. I remember fireworks on TV, Deacon Blue on the stereo, cold Stella Artois and chicken pakora to wash it down.

Washington, DC – The Benetton Party – 1994 (?)
My sister, friends and I all drove to Washington from Richmond for the party of the century. The Greek tycoon who owned pretty much every Benetton on the East Coast was holding a thank you/New Year’s party for his employees. I was in college, working two jobs, one of them the evening shift at Benetton – folding sweaters and selling sweaters, but constant folding, folding, folding.

This party was incredible, and to this day I wonder how much he spent. An entire office building lobby was set up to look like Rio at Carnivale, and the party came complete with dancers in huge headdresses covered in rhinestones sashaying down a spiral staircase to the music of a steel drum salsa samba rhumba band. I obviously don’t know my Latin music, but those guys were great. If you weren’t dancing, you were dead. The food was incredible, the desserts were incredible, and the drinks were free. There were miniature musical instruments on five huge Christmas trees and after much champagne, we of course tried to play like the guys on stage. At midnight balloons and confetti fell from the ceiling and I remember all of us looking around stunned, as if to say, “Wow, are we really here?” It felt like Rio. Even today when I think of the top five parties I’ve ever been to, this one rates right up there. There was nothing cheesy or “New Year’s Evey” about it. It was just a great friggin’ party.

Chincoteague, Virginia – 2000
My then fiance and I went to Chincoteague for Christmas week – to hike, to drink wine, mainly to rest. Again, it was cold and the beaches were deserted, but we bundled up and hiked around the wetlands, stopping in a Mom and Pop restaurant to dethaw every so often.

The wind felt like a knife across the beach, but the horses, who so often steer clear of the tourists, came right up to us to stare. “Why are you here this time of year you fools?” they seemed to ask. I loved the feeling of the deserted winter beach, no one but us around, drinking from a flask and trying to stay warm.

New Year’s Eve found us at the local VFW, guests of the “Year of the Horse Inn” owner, who I guess thought he could make some money out of selling a “Chincoteague New Year” package to tourists. I’ve discovered he’s since sold the B&B and moved elsewhere, but it was a nice little place to stay. We had our own table, party hats and favors, and some really terrible champagne. But the band was good, and the people at our table friendly.

We got totally trashed – I remember going in the bathroom and catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror – New Year’s tiara, Mardi Gras beads, plastic champagne flute and a noisemaker all in my hands, purse tucked up under my arm. I cracked up laughing. I looked totally ridiculous and it was fantastic.

Las Vegas – 2002
My husband and I came to Vegas for the first time for some much needed R&R. I always thought we’d “do Vegas” one time and be done with it, but it’s so much fun we’ve been back three more times. Anyway, we chose Christmas week for our first trip, rather than travel to every relative and their mother to visit. Just because we don’t have kids, doesn’t mean that we’re the ones “obligated” to do the visiting. We deserve a great Christmas break too.

I’m digressing again. This trip was fantastic. The food here is fantastic, the gambling and drinking are great, and there is so much to see and do it’s like Disney for grownups.

For New Year’s we decided to go “Old Vegas” and see Wayne Newton live at the Riviera. Old school Vegas with Old School Wayne. They shut down The Strip and turn it into a giant pedestrian walkway. So while everyone is walking downtown to see the fireworks, we’re walking uptown, toward the older casinos to see Wayne. I remember people calling out, “You’re going the wrong way!” Yeah, whatever dude, I come from Pittsburgh, land of fireworks.

As we walked, we passed every type of humanity. It was crazier than Times Square. Old people, young kids, teenagers, you name it. This one guy had a plastic glass around his neck that was as tall as he was. One huge daiquiri. When we asked him what it was, he replied, “The best $30 I’ve ever spent. This here is 100 ounces of happiness.” Yeah, and if you drop it, you won’t lose any, because it was hanging around his neck on a rope! Truly bizarre, Vegas genius.

We also saw doomsdayers – people in white robes with big signs that said, “The End is Near!” For some reason, I kept thinking of Stephen King’s book, “The Stand”. Hmmmmm…..isn’t Las Vegas the city in that book where “The Dude” appears? I felt for a moment like I was living the book.

Wayne was awesome, but his fans were even better. I didn’t bring a camera because I didn’t want to carry a purse, and I regret it. We saw an old guy in a brown velvet tuxedo with a ruffled shirt and the most perfectly coiffed combover I’ve ever witnessed. His date had on a baby-blue evening gown and a tower of black, high hair. Hair so tall and coiled it put Madame de Pompadour to shame. It was better than a David Lynch movie.

You just know this couple spent hours getting duded up and set for their big night out. They sat in the front row and of course Wayne bent down during his show and gave her a kiss. She giggled and blushed like a schoolgirl, and I just howled with laughter. You go girl! In all your finery getting a piece of Wayne!

We saw a guy actually get thrown out of the casino like in the movies and the hubby witnessed a chick pulling a “Britney” because she was too drunk to walk, but that couple was definitely the highlight. As we slowly made our way back downtown, among the literally THOUSANDS of messy drunks (amateurs!) and discarded horns and beads, I kept wishing we’d just stayed at the Riviera. I wanted to soak up more of its “Wayne-ness” and sit and watch the Riviera and its goings on. Not as pretty, not as sanitized, way more interesting. While other people were watching fireworks and Ashanti shaking her booty in front of the Venetian, we got to see some of the real Las Vegas. I mean how much more Vegas can you get? New Year’s with Wayne at the Riviera, the same place my parents had stayed in 1973. It was awesome.