bitch power is the juice, the sweat, the blood that keeps pop music going. Rick James helped me understand the lesson of the eighth-grade dance: Bitch power rules the world. If the girls don't like the music, they sit down and stop the show. You gotta have a crowd if you wanna have a show. And the girls are the show. We're talking absolute monarchy, with no rules of succession. Bitch power. She must be obeyed. She must be feared.
We couldn't believe how exciting it was to be together, a pair of young Americruisers on a roll. We'd lived for just twenty-five years; we weren't planning to die for fifty more. We danced and drank and went to rock shows. Our lives were just beginning, our favorite moment was right now, our favorite songs were unwritten.
I've never heard of anybody getting rid of their prized Exile postcards, much less actually writing on them and sending them through the mail to a girl. I watched these two, laughing over this story at the same kitchen table they've shared for thirty years. I realize that I will never fully understand the millions of bizarre ways that music brings people together.
Back home, my favorite part of Mass was during communion, when I'd stand at the rail and hold a little gold platter under people's chins. The pretty girls would line up for communion (I confess to Almighty God). They'd kneel (and to you my brothers and sisters),cast their eyes demurely down (I have sinned through my own fault),and stick out their tongues (in my thoughts and in my words). Their tongues would shine, reflected in the gold platter, and since the wafer was dry, the girls would maybe lick their lips (and I ask Blessed Mary ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters) before they swallowed (to pray for me to the Lord our God). It was all I could do not to pass out.
I was helpless in trying to return people's kindness, but also helpless to resist it. Kindness is a scarier force than cruelty, that's for sure. Cruelty isn't that hard to understand. I had no trouble comprehending why the phone company wanted to screw me over; they just wanted to steal some money, it was nothing personal. That's the way of the world. It made me mad, but it didn't make me feel stupid. If anything, it flattered my intelligence. Accepting all that kindness, though, made me feel stupid.Human benevolence is totally unfair. We don't live in a kind or generous world, yet we are kind and generous. We know the universe is out to burn us, and it gets us all the way it got Renee, but we don't burn each other, not always. We are kind people in an unkind world, to paraphrase Wallace Stevens. How do you pretend you don't know about it, after you see it? How do you go back to acting like you don't need it? How do you even the score and walk off a free man? You can't. I found myself forced to let go of all sorts of independence I thought I had, independence I had spent years trying to cultivate. That world was all gone, and now I was a supplicant, dependent on the mercy of other people's psychic hearts.