Kenmore, NY — My name is Robert Ravenclaw and in 1984 I was thirteen years old. Both of my parents worked, and every day my two best friends, Dewy and Puddle, would come to my house after school. And, every day we would do the same thing: have a snack, watch Transformers and then go in my father’s top drawer and pull out some of his Penthouse magazines.
As much as we loved looking at the beautiful naked ladies, what we really liked was the Forum letters where average guys, often pizza delivery guys, would graphically describe how they were seduced by lonely, horny women who needed a little extra sausage and cheese with their pizzas — yes, sausage and cheese, it was that cool. Dewy, Puddle and I so wanted to be one of those pizza guys and actively plotted our future employment by looking up pizzerias on the westside of town, where we heard the women were extra horny.
But this game got old and we couldn’t get jobs for three more years. So to break up the monotony we decided to get some marijuana from this kid at school named Rone, who was forever in a black Led Zeppelin t-shirt. On the down low at lunch, I made plans to meet Rone after school without Dewy or Puddle. At the appointed time we hooked up on a street corner and walked a couple of blocks in near silence to this apartment where he lived above a barber shop.
As we walked, I noticed Rone had this cool way of carrying himself. He was the kind of guy that said a lot without saying anything at all. And, he was classy too. Before he took my money he smoked a courtesy joint with me to make sure I liked the product. It was my first ever joint and as the weed filled up my senses he apologized with an annoyed eye roll at the Night Ranger record his sister was playing. The one definitive statement he did make was something like: “This Night Ranger is some real pussy bullshit.” But to me, with my newly minted, pot infected ears, it was heaven.
His sister was an older lady, of maybe, fifteen or sixteen years. She was folding a pile of laundry on a dining room table and knew the words to all the songs. In a pair of cut off jeans and a clingy tank top with a Van Halen logo, she unconsciously dipped, rocked and pumped her fist in the air as she sang. That was it for me. I got my $10 bag of weed, excitedly ran home where Dewy and Puddle were waiting and told them all about the pot, Rone’s sister and most importantly, Night Ranger.
From there I became the king of the power ballad bands — all of them: Foreigner, Scorpions, White Snake, Winger and especially Night Ranger. I don’t know what it was about Night Ranger, but they remain my all time favorite and their hit, “Sister Christian,” well, let’s just say I can still see Rone’s sister pumping her fist and belting out the those lyrics as if it were yesterday, Never have one-hundred-seventy-seven words ( seventy-five of which are the chorus) meant so much to anyone. Just the idea that these motoring girls, girls like Rone’s sister, growing up so fast-in flight-looking for mister right, so filled me with endless possibility, as I stood there with my teased out mullet and spandex, ready to show them life.
Dewy and Puddle, on the other hand, found bands like The Ramones and Hüsker Dü and implored me to give up all this power ballad shit and to get a regular fucking haircut. They tried to convert me, bbut by tenth grade they gave up because I wouldn’t /couldn’t change. I don’t know, “Silent Lucidity,” by Queensryche, “Miles Away,” by Winger, “Heaven,” by Warrant, “ I Remember You,” by Skid Row, and others just spoke to me in a black leather, Aqua net sort of way that made and made me feel so alive.
Last time I saw Puddle was maybe 1991. He joined the CIA right out of college and has been gone ever since. Dewy stopped by my parents house just before he went off to Columbia Law School to show me a letter he finally got published in Penthouse Forum. After smoking a joint he said he might have embellished the story a bit, but he really did have sex with one of his college professors. He’s a high powered Civil Rights attorney now and is on all the cable shows advocating for the rights of poverty stricken people. In the 90’s he even dated Winona Ryder for a time, before she went nuts.
Seeing Dewy that last time, made me feel bad about myself. He was headed off to Columbia and had a letter published in Forum. Puddle was off in the CIA doing god knows what. And what was I doing, besides failing out of college and making a few cents above minimum wage as a shipping clerk at K-Mart. The three girls kind enough to have sex with me all cried afterwards. I knew I had to make a change.
So, I did the most obvious thing — I cut off my mullet and traded in my spandex for some flannel and ripped jeans. I started to listen to bands like Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and the Goo Goo Dolls. It went okay for a while. I met some girls and got laid a few times without anybody crying. I got a new job as Warehouse District Manager for Target and started to make enough to move out of my parents house. But, it was hard trying to hide my power ballad band past. Unconsciously, I started to shape my hair like a mullet and experiment with black eyeliner. Though I had gained some weight I still wore tight, form fitting, shiny shirts.
Despite much progress in my life I was kind of lost and depressed, trying to be someone I wasn’t. Then, maybe in 2004–05, I was at the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame taking a rest on a bench on the second level in front of a Lady GaGa display. I had zero thoughts about the display when off the escalator comes this fat guy about my age in a Night Ranger t-shirt who says to no one in particular says, “Lady GaGa isn’t rock-and-roll. This is a buncha bullshit.” And then he just walked away.
I don’t know, but it now seems like I had been waiting for that fat guy in the Night Ranger tee. His dismissiveness of Lady GaGa was so pure and honest it made me think about what he would have said if it was me on display? That’s a rhetorical question, because I know what he would have said — Buncha bullshit. It was then and there I realized I could no longer be inauthentic or live an inauthentic life. For better or worse, I was going to be the power ballad guy and I was going to love Night Ranger with my whole being.
People look at my teased out mullet kind of funny and say things like “1987 called and they want that hairdo back,” but I don’t care, I’m who I’m supposed to be. And though the spandex reveals all the deficiencies of my fifty-year old body I don’t care about that either — I rock that shit every time some new version of Guns-n-Roses or Whitesnake rolls through town. I never could get a woman to stick around, but being myself has definitely led to some Forum worthy moments. I even knocked one of these ladies up and guess what . . . well, you know — me and my daughter are the fist pumping, Aqua Netted tandem ripping it up at the Night Ranger show.