I remember that day like it was yesterday. Sitting on the hard red bench in the kitchen reading the newspaper while mom fussed over dinner. Back then, there was a section in the paper called the “Green Sheet” which had cultural things, cartoons, and Dear Abby. That sort of thing. It was my favorite part of the paper so I always snatched it out before anyone else did.
One article caught my eye. “Mom, what’s punk rock?”
My mother was a farm woman and not too interested in anything pop culture. “I don’t know.” she grumbled as she continued spinning around the stove.
I was on my own – and I aimed to find out.
The next time we went into town for groceries, I stopped at the magazine stand. I was a magazine junkie from the time I had my first subscription to Humpty Dumpty, a children’s rag with stories, dot-to-dots and other kid-friendly fare. By now, Humpty Dumpty had been ditched for Tiger Beat and Mademoiselle (I wasn’t a fan of wholesome Seventeen – I leap frogged right over that to adult fashion mags). It was time for those teeny bopper magazines to be dumped for something with an edge.
I skimmed the rack until I spied Creem, a rock ‘n roll magazine with “super punk” splashed over a picture of Johnny Rotten on the cover.
One look inside at Sid Vicious and the Shaun Cassidy posters were immediately ripped off the bedroom wall to be replaced with skinny, spiked-haired heroin addicts. They looked nothing like the icky clean-cut farm boys that I was surrounded with. They were dangerous AF.
I was hooked.
My mother was horrified.
But it was too late and now my weekend grocery trips were spent buying any magazine that had a hint of subversive music, poring over the articles and pictures (I secretly loved that Creem used the F word), reading Bob Gruen’s reviews with great care, and saving up my allowance to special-order these albums from the record store. The man behind the counter always shook his head “are you sure you want this, kid?”
Yep. I was damn sure.
To do this back in the 70’s in a rural area was quite a feat. But it had to be done. I couldn’t bear to listen to the heavily produced “safe” music my peers blasted out through their 8-track players during lunch. I needed unsafe, edgy, political.
Somewhere in my search for all-things-that-might-shock-my-mom, I found Patti Smith. It must have been one of those Gruen reviews that convinced me to give her album Horses a spin. It was unlike anything else I ever heard from a female singer.
Her voice alternated between deep, melodic and throaty to and scratchy and almost whiny. Her words were pure poetry, heady, intellectual – I had to look up some of those words to know what the hell she was talking about. And her appearance – gaunt, wild-haired and wild-eyed, with ripped baggy shirts and jeans, oversized blazers, motorcycle boots, and ties. OH. MY. GOD. For a funny-looking awkward nerdy girl like myself, I finally had a role model.
I’ve been in love with her music ever since.
But yet, I never saw her perform live. My parents weren’t down with me going to any concerts and couldn’t afford it anyways, so that was natch.
And, over the years, I just got busy. Patti Smith also took a big time out to raise her kids. Life went on for both of us as life often does.
A few months ago, my son texted me: “wanna go see Patti Smith?” She was coming to Milwaukee. The last time she was here was four decades ago, right around the time I first discovered her – and she would be playing the full Horses album. Duh. Of course I wanted to go!
So my generous boy bought us orchestra seats with a perfect view and off we went this week. (Ps he gets major awesome kid points for this maneuver.)
When Smith walked on stage, I was instantly mesmerized. Her performance was electric, jarring, inspirational, and intense. Her passion came through full force – transfixing the audience (save for some asshat who decided it would be cool to throw garbage up on the stage – a perturbed Smith said “this is not your fucking trash can.”).
She performed the entire Horses album along with a few extras like “Dancing Barefoot” (my favorite song), “Because the Night” and “Frederick.” Smith also got the crowd cheering when she dedicated songs to the protesters at Standing Rock and ripped into Donal Trump. She’s as political as ever.
At one point, she pointed out that she and her guitarist Lenny Kaye were 70 just like the president. For a moment, I had forgotten she was technically a senior citizen, even though her long, gray hair gave it away. The furious whirling energy that she brought to this show made her seem much younger.
For a woman like me, who is now well into her 50’s and no longer that awkward young girl but a kinda-awkward woman inching closer towards senior-citizen status, this was epic.
Patti Smith made getting older cool. Role model status = cemented. Forever.
“I’m going to live until I’m fucking 110.” she proclaimed defiantly with her fists in the air.
You know…I believe her. And I’m sure she will continue to be the badass she’s always been, inspiring women just like me, to keep on being true to ourselves and kicking ass all the way.
Takeaway from this concert: I need a blazer.
Patti Smith also met our mayor. (I wonder if he’s a fan.)
Get your free copy of Voices Rising, an e-book with stories, poetry, art and more, to inspire you to find, trust in and use your voice. (I share my story in there!)
Vanity Fair declares the stars set to rule 2017.
More moon stuff: Sap Moon: clarity, planning + moving forward.
6 top women designers share the worst career advice they’ve ever been given. Good thing they didn’t follow it!
Interesting: stop telling me to love my body.
Time to spring clean: Clean My Space: The Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster, and Loving Your Home Every Day by Melissa Maker.
This book looks gorgeous: Gatherings by Flora Sheddon.
I am fascinated by cuisines all over the world. Might want to check this one out: The Malaysian Kitchen: 150 Recipes for Simple Home Cooking.
Elizabeth Warren has a new book coming out soon: This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class.
I’ve always been fascinated by Jonestown: The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple.
Wanna learn tarot in a fun, playful way? Be sure to grab your copy of The Tarot Coloring Book.
Speaking of The Tarot Coloring Book, I have some upcoming classes and events for you to check out:
April 13 2017 6-9PM: The Waxwing in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Tarot + Wine – a free workshop with mini-tarot lessons, book signings, nibbles ‘n wine! Imbibe, learn some tarot, mingle, get a copy of The Tarot Coloring Book signed by yours truly. Books will be available for purchase.
June 17-18th 2017: The Hermit’s Lamp in Toronto, Canada. Book signing and Celtic Cross Tutorial.
Also, be sure to get your seat for the The Omega Tarot Conference: Masters of the Tarot – Five Approaches to Reading the Cards. I’ll be co-teaching alongside Mary K. Greer, Rachel Pollack, Sasha Graham and Barbara Moore!
What I’m Grateful For:
A generous son
Big bowl of berries
Soundtrack for 3/11/17:
Looking for Your (Was I) by Patti Smith
© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2017
photos from personal collection