Sweet Burgundy for my 22nd birthday

Today’s my birthday. I don’t remember most of my birthdays. They’re all like a blur. One I do remember was my 22nd birthday. 1978. Forty-four long years ago in the ancient past (sheesh!). Burgundy was my drink of choice back then. I used to like to buy a big jug of burgundy and spend the evening sipping on it while I stared into the fire in the fireplace at my friend’s studio apartment on 10th St in the flats of Berkeley. And we’d listen to music and talk and drink and smoke a joint or two. This song “Sweet Burgundy” by Tommy Bolin was one of the songs they played on the radio back then (KSAN) so when it came on the radio while we were drinking burgundy it was like one of the soundtracks of the movie of my life during that period. . .

Anyways around the time of my 22nd birthday my friend’s sister showed up and stayed with him for a couple of weeks while she was visiting California. So I got to know her a little bit. She was 19 and the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Then or now. The only way to describe her was “angelic.” She looked sort of like the pop star Pat Benatar, with the cat eyes and long legs and curves in all the right places, except her hair was blonde — she was pure Swedish — and she was even more beautiful and sexy. One of those women who was so alluring, when you were out in public with her she practically caused a sensation everywhere she went because she was so beautiful. Heads would turn. People would stare at her like she was a vision — she was so good-looking it was almost like you couldn’t believe she actually existed in this world, you’d do a double take just to make sure she really existed and was real. She was almost otherworldly in her beauty.

Anyways, for my 22nd birthday she put bought me a jug of burgundy as a birthday present. And we hung out at my friend’s apartment by ourselves — he was gone for the evening — drinking burgundy and listening to music. At one point she said “Would you like to see my go-go dancer routine?” That’s what she called it. “Go-go dancing.” She worked as a stripper back east in New York City. And you can bet she made damn good money back then plying her trade. I said “Sure.” She went into the bathroom and changed into her stripper uniform. High heels, fishnet stockings, garter belt, this little white lingerie thing that barely covered her butt, thong panties, push-up bra. She asked me to pick a record from my friend’s extensive record collection that she could dance to. I was so stupid I played David Bowie’s “Low” album, the second side that was all this weird avant-garde synthesizer space-out music. She said: “I can’t dance to THIS!” and took off the Bowie record and played more of a disco kind of record with a steady beat that she could dance to. . ..And I always remember what she said to me right before she started her dance routine:

“I am going to blow your mind!”

And she really did blow my mind. I was madly, obsessively in love with her for the next entire year of my life. Relentlessly obsessed with her. Like, I thought about her every day. And plotted and schemed of the ways that I might win her love and she would live with me for the rest of my life as my girlfriend and soul-mate (that was my plan). I mean, I was HOOKED on this person. Hook, line and sinker. I was 22 years old and about as stupid and helpless as a young man seething with hormones and testosterone and lust could be. It got so bad it almost destroyed me. It reminded me of a line from Bukowski: “We don’t know what to do with sex. We treat it like a toy. A toy that destroys people.”

Anyways, after two years of being unrequited obsessed with this person. I finally found another woman that I could fall in love with and obsess over. So I got over this angelic person and eventually stopped thinking about her 24 hours a day and moved on to further tawdry stupidities that was my love life (replaced one stupidity for another stupidity basically — that’s “love” for ya!).

But that was one memorable birthday. 22 skidoo. Most of the others birthdays I can’t remember a damn thing about. I’ll probably forget this one (age 66).

PS: Tommy Bolin ended up dying shortly after he released that song “Sweet Burgundy” — I think he ODed on heroin or something like that. Poor guy. He should have avoided hard drugs and just stuck to the wine and booze.


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