Hellfire and Orange Juice 

You have something unique to offer. 

This is what most healthy parents tell their children.

It's true.

It's as true as your face.

I can't explain the hellfire urgency that accompanied trying to offer this uniqueness in my twenties. I hated it. When something's urgent, it means it's not here and it's not now. This urgency was an unwelcome obstacle. I would hear it in recordings. It was the extension of the shake. in the middle of Rome, in the middle of legendary producers and other young artists, I would feel it, and I would hate it. Leroy Burgess would yell across a crowd to me "Michelle, you're SO SAD!" or maybe he said mad? It was pretty much both. That he could see it made it even worse.

It's the kind of angry urgency I've only seen a few times, once when I worked in my parents' cafe. A man in his 50s walked in, irate. "GIIIVE MEEE ORANGE JUICE!!!" he roared. I was stunned. My dad was familiar with the situation, but he wasn't behind the counter. "Pupa, get the man some orange juice!" and in minutes the roaring monster turned into a human being. In case you are wondering, Pupa, pronounced poo-pah but without hanging out too long on the vowels, is one of my dad's names for me from the many names in his imagination. Pupita, Puca (this one was actually granted by my godfather and means imaginary 6-foot rabbit. Thanks! I'll take that). Years later my oldest brother would insist that Cachoomba was an original part of the nickname lexicon. He would perpetuate this propaganda until now when people's memories are fuzzy. It was not, though you can expect to see a comment below from him if he reads this. Who knows. Maybe it was what they called me behind my back! I didn't hear it until my late 20s, so I call bull, is all I'm saying. Besides, it has an unpleasant sound. 

I wasn't urgent about music growing up. Music was just a part of life. Go swimming. Eat food. Climb a tree. Ride your bike around the block. Play the piano. Make up some music. There's some TV in there and me trying to sneak in rock and roll on my stereo in my room. (Rock and roll was not allowed. :D!)

I don't remember my first song, but I remember my second song, which I made in high school and which I think I created as a soundtrack to a high school memories video? My dad had a camcorder that I had quickly made my own. That thing was heavy!! But I loved bringing it everywhere and catching pieces. And if anyone out there has that VHS gift I made, please share it back. I remember fragments only and I'm fairly confident there was an overuse of the built-in effects! YEAH!!

This second song is one I have remembered clearly for years. I just sat down to record a rough for you. (It's done on my phone, so you know...production quality.)

I don't remember my first song, but I remember playing it for my godfather. I think I was in middle school? I remember it having a rag-time feel. I think. I remember the beautiful brown tigerwood upright piano that my mother refinished. And I remember my godfather standing about 3 feet behind me. Listening. He didn't say anything, really. He asked me to play it again. A few times. He asked me if it was mine.

At that time, he was just my godfather, as in a person who has no identity except the role they play in your life. I mean that was one aspect of who he was. He was also a crooner. That's how my godfather met my dad and became friends. He would sing and my dad would accompany him in San Francisco. Back in the day. Those two on the town. Now that's something. Imagining these two made me imagine hellfire and orange juice as a cocktail. Guess what? It is one!

Leave a comment