The Proposition

Well, I just had a really nice exchange with one of my lovely lady friends on FB, so I had a complete mood shift (for the fifth time today...sorry guys and gals, it's hard to be a woman. It's hard to love a woman, I bet.).

Anyway, this story has been banging around in my head for awhile, especially today for some reason:

The Sweatshop, Allentown, PA, mid-1990s

The Sweatshop was a music (punk, hardcore, noise) venue and practice space in Allentown. My band and several others practiced there.

Someone (I don't know who) named the space "The Sweatshop" because there was a sweatshop down the hall. Ladies, and probably men, lined up at sewing machines stitching rags all day and all night. I think they only got up to bang on the halls and to shout at us to shut up. All of our noise likely made their long, miserable day even more miserable.

For practice, I tried to arrive at the same time my bandmates arrived. They'd hang out on the stoop, talking, smoking, and waiting for me or another late bandmate. We'd load in the outrageously heavy Ampeg bass cabinet, awkward drum kit, effects pedals with marginal batteries, and tangled cables.

The door shut behind us, it locked. It locked us in and everybody out.

We never practiced at night. We were too loud, and show were often booked for the weekend evenings. Besides, I didn't want to come and go from the space after sunset.

One bandmate had told me about emerging from the practice space one night, looking down at his chest, and seeing a red laser pointer dot. He glanced around the street. Nobody.

That block had no residences, if I recall correctly (and please correct me).

Another evening, the same bandmate got into his car and turned the corner. In his headlights, he saw a couple of men beating another man. With the headlights on them, they departed. Chillingly, my bandmate said, "They turned into shadows."

With this picture in mind -- and the parallel picture is that I saw great bands at The Sweatshop and we played some of our best shows there -- picture skinny, twenty-ish Rachel walking down the street towards The Sweatshop alone. No bandmates in sight.

Also picture this -- I often wore fishnets, boots, and a skirt -- but not to practice at The Sweatshop. For a show, sure. The sidewalk would be then filled with other people from completely unusual-looking to completely normal-looking. Safety in numbers for a skinny chic like me. For practice, I dressed down. [I do recall wearing a hand-me-down hunter green Tommy Hilfiger short and jeans for one show, just in case you thought there was a formula.]

So, there I am. Alone, walking down the street. Dressed like a hobo. Don't you know, a car slows down and keeps pace with me. My pace gradually increases pace. I am heading for The Sweatshop like a son of a gun.

The driver rolls down the window and starts talking quietly. He is propositioning me.

I hiss, "Get the f/ck outta here."

He is keeping pace. I am walking. I am wondering why one of my bandmates is not taking a smoke break outside.

He keeps talking. Quietly. As though I might come close to hear better.

I hiss again, "Get the f/ck outta here."

Keeping pace. Talking to me,

My eyes narrow. I state, "GET the F/CK out of here."

He drives faster. He smiles. He takes off.

I get inside The Sweatshop. "Jesus, this place," I start telling my bandmates.


I wrote about The Sweatshop earlier this year here.