Tuesday, November 04, 2003

My email address:


If you were a Mama's patron, email me!

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Crazy Mama's
(as I remember it)

I went “home” for a visit last May. It was the first time I’d been back to Ohio in over 14 years. I stopped by Coventry, and was disappointed to find that Arabica was no longer there. I had worked there when I was young – 19 years old, and still figuring out who I was.

Coventry had been this warm, ragged, sort of dirty, but very comfortable place back then. I remember long conversations about Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, communism and freedom, religion and philosophy until late at night with all sorts of people.

I was saddened, last May, to find Coventry to be little more than a shopping mall without a roof. I was acutely aware of the years I had been away, and I made a joke – which I thought funny at the time.

I asked, “Where are all the 40-year old Go players?”

It took me 10 minutes to realize that WE were the 40-year-old Go players, which is simply another testament to how truly old I’ve become!

Okay, so the fellow I said this to was 39, and I was only 36, and I don’t have time to play Go, not with 6 kids at home.

But still, it was close enough for discomfort.

It is in this frame of mind that I create a website dedicated to Crazy Mama’s.

Here I sit, a mother of 6 young kids, creating a site in honor of a nightclub we all probably should have forgotten about years ago.

But anyone who found a home at Crazy Mama’s is not likely to forget. It was more than a nightclub – it was acceptance in the middle of cookie-cutter Ohio State University, in the middle of middle class Ohio, in the heart of the Midwest.

I always found the eclectic, strange blend of music and people at Mama’s to be amusing and interesting. “Death Betties” and skinheads, punks with Mohawks and 60’s throwbacks in tie dyes dancing together to the Jane’s Addiction and Frank Sinatra. I learned to love Patsy Cline at Mama’s, just as I learned to love the Butthole Surfers.

I made a home for myself at Mama’s during my few years at OSU – being neither a Death Bettie, punk, skinhead, or 60’s throwback. If I had to have been pigeonholed, “radical feminist” would have been the appropriate category. And Mama’s wasn’t full of women with shaved heads, but there were a few of us in the mix. I even worked there, as a waitress, for a few months before I left Columbus permanently.

Mama’s was a great place. For those of us who loved it, it was a calm in the middle of a storm of “normalcy”, I think. You didn’t have to be anyone to fit in there – you could be yourself, in whatever form “yourself” chose to take that night. You could play with your identity. In the same way that a little girl dresses up her Barbie doll as a doctor, or a pilot, or a movie star, we could try on different identities and simply change them at will.

It was truly wonderful! When I shaved my head it was a simple experiment – I wanted to see if men would treat me differently if I didn’t have hair. I was curious, and it wasn’t anything more than a social experiment. (And, in case you’re interested, yes, men DID treat me differently when I had no hair – it was great – the pressure was off, and it was wonderful!) This sounds a little severe, even to me. But this is the freedom that Mama’s - and the culture it cultivated – gave to us. The freedom to play with identities.

I homeschool my kids, and even though I look perfectly normal these days, I suppose I still have a number of radical viewpoints. Telling a stranger that one homeschools doesn’t even get a raised eyebrow here in Los Angeles. I’ve lived here for 10 years – and I must have gotten really accustomed to the personal freedom of living in California.

Earlier this year I was considering a move “back home” to Ohio. During my visit home in May, I think I was asked at least 15 times “why would you want to homeschool?” I tried to explain it, but the look of disbelief on the faces of the people asking was something I’ll not easily forget. I think they actually believe I’ve got some loose screws to want to be home with my kids all day.

I realized that my experiences growing up in Ohio were great. But I had found Coventry, and Crazy Mama’s. Of course they were great! It was easy to forget the sorority houses and shopping malls and suburbs were there.

As a mother with 6 children, and with both those places now gone (I wouldn’t be hanging out at nightclubs now, at any rate), I realize that what made Ohio wonderful was having a place I could call home. I am sure there are places like them – not exactly like them, but haven enough for those who need them in Cleveland and Columbus.

I won’t, however, be moving back to Ohio anytime soon, God willing. So instead, I’m honoring those places that made Ohio a place of great memories for me, and the people who made those places what they were.

This site is dedicated to the DJ’s of Crazy Mama’s, particular the one who let me stay at his place for a month when I needed a place to stay (I can’t believe I’ve forgotten his name.) The man of a thousand records, who played “She Drives Me Crazy” every night when I arrived at Mama’s and hit the dance floor.

If you’ve got a page about Mama’s or Coventry, let me know and I’ll add it to the list.


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