Meisters Forever

Meister and Meister: Labor Day Weekend 2011

I wasn’t always middle-aged. I wasn’t always a mom. I wasn’t always trapped in the suburbs, fighting for air in a cubicle 5 days a week. I used to be free, dangerous, and utterly idiotic. I did amazing things. I once set up camp in my car, just a few blocks away from the French Quarter during a full-blown Mardi Gras hellraiser riot. I drove to the top of the highest mountain I could find, just to cry at the distant, cloud-shadowed beauty of the world I left behind. I shut down bars. I broke hearts. I smoked a pack a day. I was indestructible. In short: I was young.

Meister was not only there with me, but many of those amazing things were her idea. She, too, was free, dangerous, and utterly idiotic. For a short, yet memorable span of time during the Clinton era, we embarked on what could best be described as a bromance with boobs. The only girly thing about our friendship was our penchant for non-stop talk about everything, (except that time we cried on the mountain). Otherwise, it was Dude City. We busted each other’s chops. We pushed each other’s buttons. We put each other up to a lot of stuff we’ll never live down. We had each other’s backs during a time when hardly anyone else knew what the hell to make of either of us.

We went our separate ways a long time ago, but somehow the planets align in such a way as to occasionally reunite us in both space and time. The parking lot at the Denver Phish concert on Labor Day weekend was one such collision; we joined forces to make grilled cheese sandwiches and give them away to concert-goers.

“You gotta put a lot more butter on, Meister! Pick up the pace, dammit!”

“I AM, Meister!” I protested, “Watch me now!”

Meister is Meister to me, I am Meister to her. We were given these doppelganger nicknames by a client who lived in the group home where we used to work. Meister worked the evening shift; I worked the nights. In the morning, this client would be the first one up for his meds, singing Meister’s praises to me. “She’s a hot babe, that Meister,” he’d say to me as he sprinkled his Lotrimin over his poor old turtle-head-looking toes, “You two make a good pair, Meister.” That we deliberately called one another by the same nickname is probably a good starting point in explaining why hardly anyone knew what the hell to make of us. But we didn’t care.

Meisters at the Great Divide: 1996

It was Meister’s idea to tailgate at the Phish show this weekend, and invite everyone in the parking lot to join us for free grilled cheese sandwiches. I offered to support her in this endeavor, which meant flying out to Denver and steeling myself for the inevitable sting of her lash. Meister is a Taurus: a dust-pawing force of brute physical will. I’m an aquarium of dreams and make believe, otherwise known as a Pisces. Whether or not you buy the astrological alchemy, we do tend to piss one another off at times.

“Dammit, Meister! Keep ‘em coming!”

I gouged my butter knife at the tub of Country Crock sitting on the open tailgate of Meister’s Honda Element and I smiled. I couldn’t really be mad; it was just like old times. Once, I was so furious at Meister I tried to kick her ass right in the middle of the street somewhere in New Orleans. To this day, neither of us can remember the precise flashpoint of this completely uncharacteristic outburst of mine. I’m assuming that she probably said something unflattering and truthful about me, very likely at a particularly inopportune moment. She had a talent for this.

Just a few minutes before, a cloudburst had rolled in like a buffalo stampede across the Colorado sky, so we packed up the “Phish Kitchen” and waited out the storm in the car. We talked about everything while the blues on the radio vied for our attention. Just like always. I remember Meister’s smokey green glasses, glinting off the naked lightbulb in the living room of her old place. I remember her ranting, shaking her fists and knitting her brow. “THE BASTARDS,” she howled. She had gone and waved her torch of unflattering truth up the wrong tree, at the wrong time, and had barely escaped from the conflagration that consumed our boss’ tree house of lies.  Meister had a lot of anger back then, and she was beautiful with her lanky, unwashed hair and hilarious “Beef Satisfies” t shirt.

The rainy grey daylight came in through the windshield and threw shadows on our faces.  I noticed a crease between her eyebrows, and I knew without her telling me, she’s still torching tree houses. Time and growth has had its way with her, as it has with me. She’s a married mom, too, and has also cleaned up her act.  But she’s still my Meister.

The rain was short-lived, and I returned to our posts: me, hastily coupling obscenely over-buttered bread with cheese and she, frying them up for the masses.

Munchies For Your Love: the Phish kitchen as captured by a reluctant Blackberry

The autumnal breeze rendered my shorts and tank top an ill-advised folly, but I soldiered on. Meister used to “feed the unwashed and unworthy” on a regular basis. She was there for the last hurrah of the Grateful Dead in the early 90’s, and the emergence of Phish. From what she tells me, these days were essentially the comet’s tail of the 60’s. As such, subversion of the status quo was de rigor: naturally, sharing and giving comprised the tacit currency of this “dirty hippy” remnant community. It was completely not unusual or uncommon for people to set up a camp stove on a card table and give away grilled cheeses from the backs of their cars.

We soon realized that we were the only people giving away food in the parking lot of the Phish show.

In exchange for our troubles, we garnered quite a few baffled “Whoa—‘s“, some incredulous “Awesome!’s”, and a couple of offers of illegal substances, which we laughingly turned down. It seemed that what people wanted more than free food, was an explanation. I can’t pretend to be in Meister’s skull to know what it felt like to come home to a place of personal significance, only to find that no one knew what the hell to make of her, yet again, but I decided it would be unwise to slow down production to attempt to console her.

“We’re giving these sandwiches away to offer you the mindfuck experience of receiving something good, absolutely free, which you don’t deserve. There is no obligation, nor the acceptance of a return favor. You get the pure experience of receiving ,” Meister would answer. I sensed the edge in her voice, and I was pretty sure what she meant was, “We’re giving away these sandwiches as a souvenir of a long lost subculture, destroyed by apathetic assholes not unlike you, Mr. Frat Boy Party Person.”

The clouds had cleared, and in the distance, I could see the Rocky Mountains heroically standing up to the sky, a perfectly-cast allegorical landscape for the moment. I nudged Meister, and pointed it out to her. “Look at that,” I said, “You’re lucky you live here. You get to see these every day.” And draw the strength to keep fighting for the things you believe in and never let THE BASTARDS win, I wanted to add, but we had a customer.

“What do you have against butter, Meister? More butter next time!”

“Screw you, Meister!”

She laughed and swatted me with her spatula.

We weren’t always middle-aged suburban moms. Once, a long time ago, we were just ourselves. The thing about getting older is, you never stop being the person you once were. Cut down the oldest oak you can find*, and you will always be able to count on its stump each layer of time and growth to the sapling that had lived within. This is true about people, too. Under the layers of maturity and responsibility—the grey hair, creased brows, the mortgages, the marriages and sensible clothing, our younger selves peer out and wonder how we got here, and why nobody recognizes us anymore.

But I see Meister in there, and she sees me.

Meisters in New Orleans: 1996

*Please don’t literally cut down an actual oak tree.  You’ll just have to take my word on this one.

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12 Responses to “Meisters Forever”

  1. sharonicus Says:

    This was really beautiful, Melinda. And full of truths.

    I miss those parking lot Dead show carnivals: the drum circles, veggie burritos (I never got one for free, though!), the little hippies selling jewelry. It was a time bubble then; I can’t imagine it even existing today.

  2. Jack Says:

    Careful, Mels … your Pisces is showing. We love your kick-ass dark side, but we’ll also take the sensitive, compassionate and intuitively profound part of you too. My heart beats a little faster, with a happy, heaving sigh.

  3. aagblog Says:

    Really beautiful. I would have taken one of your sandwiches.

  4. Meister Says:

    I love you.

  5. Amydpaz Says:

    “Once, a long time ago, we were just ourselves.” I love that.

  6. Acorn Says:

    “Please don’t literally cut down an actual oak tree.” Acorn would not be very happy if you cut down an oak tree.

  7. Renaissance Faire 2015! | The Gaytheist Gospel Hour Says:

    […] that is both up and down, young and old. But I take no credit for it, as I stole it from my buddy Meister, the high priestess of unapologetic contradiction […]

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