The first conversation I ever had with Dhyanna was in the bathroom of the bar I was working at. When I first went in, she was sitting cross-legged on the sink vanity, smoking what appeared to be a very large joint. As I waited for the next available stall, she handed me the joint as if we were in the middle of a conversation. Two things came out of that chance encounter: I made a new friend whom I would create much debauchery and havoc with for the next several years, and I learned that a really big joint is called a spliff (sp?).
Dhyanna, while all of 5 foot nothing and weighing in at less than a buck wet, was like a force of nature. If I close my eyes, I can still smell her, clove cigarettes and patchouli oil. Her hair was red and baby fine, and her eyes sparkled when she was pleased. She dressed in mostly dark clothing, and lots of layers. Sometimes, she looked like a bag lady, a really beautiful bag lady.
She didn't show it, but Dhyanna had had a difficult life. When she was a little girl, like maybe 8 or 9, her mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer, a particularly painful and ugly form of cancer. Her mother died roughly a year after first being diagnosed. A child losing their mother is as cruel as fate can be.
When Dhyanna was a teenager, she was diagnosed with the exact same kind of cancer that she had watched her mother die from. By then, the colostomy had been perfected and her life was spared. Still, she lived the rest of her life with a bag connected to her side, something which very few people knew about her.
Her response to all this was wild abandon, she lived on the edge, with everything she did a blur of colored flourish. If she was angry, she was known to break dishes. If she was happy, she was known to dance on the bar. When she partied, it was known to go on for days. When she broke up with a man, it was always a magnificent show. I was more than happy to go along for the ride.
As a rule, I have no use for people who seem to have made it through life unscathed. They are the least interesting of all. It's the souls that have been to hell and back that can teach you the most and take you out of your comfort zone. That's why she was such a great friend for me,
fear was always a huge theme in my life, and she would rip me from it, and make me dance on the bar with her. Dhyanna was the Pied Piper of mayhem.
When we first met, Dyhanna was living in the strange building on Main and Liberty that I mentioned in an earlier post, and I was back living with my mother. Her apartment was bohemian chic, and needless to say, I began spending most of my time there.
This is the neighborhood that coined the phrase "racial diversity". A lot of the residents were left over from a great Appalachian exodus, others arriving from an exodus from the south. It was urban living in it's truest form, and being the urban Jew that I am, I knew I had found my planet.
That first visit, I remember helping here peel contact paper off of her kitchen table. It was the perfect activity as far as I was concerned, because it was just like picking and I like to pick. (ewwww, I know). So, there we sat, peeling the table, chatting, smoking and drinking. Eventually, her boyfriend Jimmy came home and joined us. You have no idea how bonding neurotic behavior, like the love of picking, can be.
We would go to this strange little store across Main Street for beer. Everything in the store was behind chicken wire. You had to point to what you wanted and the clerk would have to get it off the shelf for you. What I remember the most about this Mom and Pop operation were all the hand written signs posted all over the store. Each had a message that was phonetically spelled, like "Bee good", "Dont Steele", and "Wate yur turn". You can't pay for that kind of cultural entertainment.
At the time, Main Street was occupied by low income families and punk rockers. Every friend I ever had that you would classify as "punk" were really just artists. Personally, I haven't changed my hair since the second grade. The whole atmosphere was actually more salon like (think Gertrude Stein or Dorothy Parker) than thrash like. It was like Paris in A Movable Feast, poor but rich.
The rent was incredibly low, and the apartments huge with character. It was oddly safe to live there because, against common perception, it's the wealthy neighborhoods that have crime, mostly because there is more to steal in suburbia. None of us had anything that wasn't already second hand. Good Will was our fashion mecca, the Salvation Army our Clossen's.
Eventually, Dhyanna moved away. She had a baby boy, and wanted to live near her sister somewhere in the Ozarks. In my head, I can see her sitting on a porch somewhere in the mountains, watching her herb garden grow.