Monday, February 11, 2013

No. 479 – The Everlasting Gaze

Performer: Smashing Pumpkins
Songwriter: Billy Corgan
Original Release: Machina/The Machines of God
Year: 2000
Definitive Version: None

When Laurie and I went to Sacramento in 2011, it was the first time I had been to Northern California since 2000. The previous visit wasn’t even for a full vacation: It was a quick in and out for a wedding.

The daughter of Debbie’s best friend in Sacramento, with whom we always stayed when we visited, was marrying her longtime boyfriend, and of course, we couldn’t miss it. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the weekend, just a few small shards of broken memory—the rehearsal dinner, to which we were invited; the ostentatious reception hall; a particularly attractive friend of the bride’s in high heels.

The thing I remember clearly about the whole weekend was Alexandra. Alexandra was the 6-year-old daughter of the bride from a previous relationship. Dad was out of the picture, and, obviously, mom, grandmom and granddad were otherwise occupied. So Debbie and I were drafted to look after Alexandra during the redtape part of the reception—the formal dinner with the wedding party seated at the top table, the ceremonial dances, the tossing of the bouquet.

It worked out so Alexandra sat next to me at dinner, and it ended up falling to me to more or less take care of her. That was OK; she was a good kid. I explained everything that was going on and cut up her dinner for her and helped her butter her roll.

At one point, she had to go to the bathroom, which seemed like a natural thing for Debbie to help her with, except that at that particular moment, Debbie was unavoidably disposed (with what I can’t remember now). Well, Alexandra couldn’t go alone, so I took her to the woman’s bathroom, which was on the second floor.

I said I shouldn’t go in, so I helped Alexandra out of her dress—she had a jumper underneath—and then stood by the door in case she needed help. Everything went normally, and I helped her get her dress back on before we headed back to the party.

Inevitably, Alexandra had to go again at one point, and this time Debbie was available, so she took her to the bathroom. But apparently Debbie wasn’t as good about straps and hooks and whatnot as I was—I guess the knowledge I’d gained from undoing those of others over the years paid off—because Alexandra appeared at the balcony of the second floor that looked over the reception area and called out: “Will, I need help with my dress!”

Yeah, Alexandra was my buddy, and we bonded that trip. Unfortunately, that was the last time I ever saw her. Fortunately, another little girl would come along a few years after that who would similarly steal my heart—more on that later.

That also turned out to be the last trip anywhere that Debbie and I took together. In retrospect, it makes sense that Smashing Pumpkins’ last album with the original band members came out at about that same time. The next six months would be a time of lots of finalities.

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