9 - Chic with Cane at the Plum Street Pub, New Brunswick

After leaving the hospital, I walked with a cane. It was a loaner from one of my father’s friends. The cane was bamboo, a bit worn. Very jaunty, I thought. The cane was a welcome support to my now askew sense of balance, and it complimented my eclectic style, which was a mix of vintage, kid sized t-shirts with homemade silkscreen prints, skirts, hand-me-downs, and lots of black.

Not long after acquiring the cane, I noticed a flaw. The base of the cane was rounded and tended to slide on smooth surfaces. This was especially a problem when riding the bus to classes. The drivers tended to not slow down for a floundering girl in a black faux fur jacket, black stockings, boots, and a cane.

Perhaps, I appeared to be in costume - a punky chic with a cane. I was to an extent. Remember, the cane was kinda cool. Besides, I traveled to a from the art school, and certainly I was not the first girl in black to sport a cane at the art school.

Besides, very little about my appearance said “sick”. Certainly, my face was painfully swollen and broken out from high doses of steroids for cranial swelling. Puffiness and acne don’t stand out among college students. They don’t say, “Hey, bus driver gimme a break. Let me hobble to my seat before taking off.”

I acquired a drab, grey rubber foot for my cane. Jauntiness gone. Functionality ascertained. Admittedly, I was disappointed.

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During this time, I refused, to some extent, to slow down. I returned to classes with some adjustments to my schedule. I dropped one class that I didn’t like and took a different one. I arranged to avoid trips into Manhattan to visit galleries, a requirement of another class.

My band continued to play shows, too. We traveled around to clubs in other cities with my cane and its drab grey foot. I just wanted to be some combination of completely normal, completely tough and brave, completely wild and free. Inside, I was all these things and also completely out of my mind, scared, euphoric, and determined to charge on.

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My bandmate leaned in and whispered, “You know, they are calling you ‘the hot chic with the cane’”. He was referring to the members of a Midwestern noise band on the bill we were also playing. My mouth twisted. “Oh,” I said. I thought, “Ugh!” and “Great!” simultaneously.

I didn’t speak directly with the Midwestern band that evening. Honestly, I was equal parts intrigued, reserved, and uninterested. I was often one of the very few women at shows. This alone made me intrigued and reserved in my surroundings, human and otherwise. I sometimes was distant and aloof so I could sit back and watch, uninvolved.

I was “the hot chic with the cane”. For that evening and in my mind for years to come. Playing in the noise genre, it was a strange and fun place to be, and quite possibly the decent place for me as I navigated illness. My not quite rightness was just fine, if not preferred.

For those of you who enjoy or have enjoyed the genre of “noise”*, and I bet this population is very, very small among my blog readers, you may also know that there can be, how to say, a thread of macabre in noise music culture. A fascination with and exploration of oddity and distortion. Hence, hot chic with cane.

On this particular evening, we were playing a show at the Plum Street Pub, a dive bar in New Brunswick. I have no idea who pulled off this show. I think on of my bandmates. I was somehow involved, and I tried to get he show listed on the concert calendar on WPRB, Princeton University’s famed indie radio station. They never listed it.

An all noise and avant show at a dive bar in New Brunswick, it was unlikely. We rarely played clubs or bars, and when we did, things often went oddly, at best.

The bartenders hated us and the rest of the bands. We did not get paid. I made a lifelong acquaintance with a fellow named Don, who freely sipped his own Mason jar of booze outside the club. [I just saw Don on the street in Princeton this weekend.] The show was somewhat infamous, though hardly anyone attended. Perhaps it was infamous through the regret of those who did not see it.

*Noise is a genre of music.