Les Ryce

The sounds of our youth

This was a post that took me a long time write. It’s not an easy topic, but it’s a rather nice one: relationships through music. I’m nearing my second term of grad school and I’m forgetting where exactly how I got where I am. Having a few weeks off – despite having massive amounts of work to do – has given me a lot of time to sit and reminisce about home.

I really hated high school. John Hughes understood that excruciating pain best (that’s why Andie Walsh is my spirit animal). Somehow our minds tend to twist reality into thinking the past was really all rosey. Now that I’m five years removed from those days, I actually have incredibly fond memories of those days. I know the actuality was a small town of less than 3,000 in North East Wisconsin that was filled with awful kids who snowmobiled to school, had impossibly low IQs and enjoyed ridiculing everyone who was “different.”

Guess what group I was in.

Despite everything, I liked to think of myself as some sort of rebel. A punk. But I wore my dad’s dog tags, played piano and did Irish step-dance. It always made me feel really uncomfortable as a kid when I’d see “real” punks at the coffee shop downtown. They had studded jackets on and blue hair.  It’s safe to say that I was nothing like I had dreamnt myself to be. Not only is adolescence a difficult time, but I apparently enjoyed making it worse for myself by being stuck somewhere where I didn’t belong to anyone.

Enter Les Ryce.

Those treacherous years of high school were make a million times better by two ladies: Sarah and Sarah (or James and Haras, rather). We called ourselves Les Ryce, an imaginary band that played “Asian baroque punk.” In reality, Les Ryce the band practiced exactly once in our entire friendship.

One Sarah and I worked together in an Italian restaurant. Instead of going to homecoming, we cleaned the tables of teenagers more fortunate to be going out to a dinner paid by their parents. We mutter to each other under out breath and thus our first “single” was created, “Masochistic Fuckers.” I’m pretty sure I didn’t really know what masochistic meant at the time, but it still evokes a chuckle.

Even though our band was imaginary, the music wasn’t. Some of the most vivid memories I have are of Les Ryce put to music. Like parking garages. We didn’t hang out at the trendy parking garage (oh my god, where did I live), but instead we always picked the one by the library. There was the time we rolled Haras’ Lumina down almost the entire parking garage on our last day of summer before college. We listened to Songs to Learn & Sing. Once we got stopped by the police for dancing to “Jane Says.” Probably the most daring moment of all of our lives.

All those songs we listened to then still make me smile now. When I hear “Headmaster Ritual” I think of the last day of high school and how James and I pulled out of the parking lot blasting the Smiths screaming “I HATE YOU!” And whenever “More Than A Feeling” comes on the radio I remember the day the three of us drove down the country roads to get sparking juice.

They say that friends are often made by pure opportunity instead of choice. That’s why many relationships don’t last. Once we find something that we prefer, we move on. I’m amazed that after all this time they haven’t moved on from me.

And somehow, by a miracle of God, we all turned out okay. I ended up being best friends with two of the best humans anyone could ever meet. They’re beautiful, intelligent and extraordinarily talented.

The worst part about being 4,000 miles away from home is being 4,000 miles away from Les Ryce. I’d like to think everyone was as fortunate as we were to have found each other.

Chances are, most of you haven’t read this far. Reading about someone else’s memories isn’t always thrilling. It’s probably not a very great idea for my blog, but I’m listening to a playlist of all the songs we grew up listening to together. Nostalgia is probably more deadly than curiosity.

Just one last memory. Just one. Promise.

The last nights I had in Wisconsin, I found Les Ryce journals that we kept in high school. Each one of us would write an entry then pass it on. Reading them now, it’s pretty stunning how much teenagers whine and moan, but they’re also charming as fuck. The most important part is that you can see glimmers of the women we’d become. I’m glad we helped each other rise above the bullshit.

If it wasn’t for music. If it wasn’t for our best friends. Who would we be?

PS: If you believe in active communities and helping the elderly. Please check out the program my friend works for, Islands of Milwaukee. They are a group of care providers, older adults and researchers that work together. Always brings me to tears.