But When Cindy Dances

July 9, 2008 12:37 AM

The first song I ever wrote, dating back to 1986. A pop song about a real Cindy and a possibly invented dance, sung in a fragile and especially twee manner. Part of my Old Songs project.

Here it is, the first song I ever wrote. There's not much too it -- three chords, a very simple melody line, and rather unambiguously pop lyrics. I don't expect I sang it in the high, twee falsetto I have adopted for this recording, but I don't know that I didn't -- I tended to sing at the very top of my range when I was a boy of 18, in 1986, when this song was written.

I wrote this in my dorm room at the University of Minnesota late one night, and it's about a real Cindy, who I had a terrible crush on. I knew her from high school, and occasionally hung out with her, but doing so was uncommonly awkward for me. I believe we went out for dinner together a few times, and we went to a Tom Waits performance at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Minneapolis, which was then much as Waits described it in his song 9th & Hennepin. She was always friendly to me, and had written me a very nice note in my yearbook, and I thought she was one of the prettiest girls I had ever met. So I guess I got to noodling with my guitar one night, and this song came out.

Cindy was a year younger than me, and so entered the University the following year. It turned out that our paths crossed once during the day, at Coffman Union, and I would malinger there and make small talk with her. I was probably obvious about having a terrible crush on her, and I don't expect our conversations ever got any less awkward, although I don't remember them now. One day, when I was waiting for her at the Union, I saw her at the other end of the building, walking at a fast clip. I called out to her, and she speeded up, and I was suddenly flooded with embarrassment. Suddenly it seemed to me that I had been a terrible pest, and I felt that I must have been forcing my company on her. I never tried to talk to her at Coffman after that, and quickly lost contact with her.

Years later, in the mid-90s, I participated in a number of anarchist activities in the Twin Cities, mostly centering around environmental issues and running an infoshop called the Emma Center. For the first few weeks, when I first got involved in the anarchist scene, I saw Cindy here and there; she had obviously been involved with this group for a while. Before I could screw up the nerve to say hello to her, she moved out of state. I later discovered a zine she wrote and illustrated called Doris, and I occasionally picked up issues. Her writing was often autobiographical, and I read the zine with a certain amount of dread, worried that my experiences with Cindy might show up, and worried about how they might be represented.

22 years later, I look back on this whole experience, and on my first song, with some embarrassment. Although, the truth is, this story is filtered through the undependable interpretive skills of a very young and immature boy. I saw a girl walk away from me, and immediately responded with a youthful shame and awkwardness.

It's a little strange the revisit this memory, and I don't think I would have were it not for this project. Usually, I keep it tucked away in the corner of my brain reserved for the very small handful of memories that I don't particularly want to revisit, although, thinking back on it now, it doesn't seem like something I should have felt so odd and awkward about. It's puzzling what sticks with us, and how it sticks. I look back on my entire experience of homelessness with a sort of fascination, as though it were simply a terrific adventure, but a teenage crush that had an awkward, puzzling moment has remained a sore spot for two decades.

Also -- and this may be a minor point, but I might as well admit it -- I'm not convinced I ever actually saw Cindy dance.


She don't wear no perfume
She don't wear diamond rings
But when Cindy dances
She dances the sweetest I've ever seen

She don't wear fancy jewelry
She don't wear designer jeans
But when Cindy dances
She dances the sweetest I've ever seen

She don't go for the rick and famous
She's only sweet 16
But when Cindy dances
She dances the sweetest I've ever seen

posted by Astro Zombie (3 comments total)

Heh. The falsetto really matches the guitar nicely with the lo-fi distortion. Very cool.
posted by danb at 9:29 PM on July 9, 2008

Wow, that's amazing that you had a crush on THE Cindy Ovenrack! Just in case you didn't know, she has a blog and a site.
posted by symbollocks at 9:14 AM on July 10, 2008

Well, I think a lot of people had crushes on Cindy. Probably still do.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:17 AM on July 11, 2008

« Older The Ballad of Daisy and Jay   |   Et ne oblirate as Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments