Thirty years and one day ago, Alexis and I met at Players on Indianapolis Boulevard in Highland. My mom had just died a few weeks earlier. I was thinking about heading back to California when I saw this really hot Mexican chick shaking her hips on the dance floor.
“Hi, I’m Jimmy Dedelow.”
“I know a few Dedelows. Which one are you?”
“Like I said – ‘I’m Jimmy Dedelow.’”
The music started up again. It was "The Twist." I can’t remember, 30 years hence, if it was Chubby Checker’s version or someone else's. Alexis would know. I do remember, however, that I was relieved that it was a song that I could dance to.
“I got this,” I told her. And we started dancing.
She twisted. I twisted. Every once in a while, she danced her back to me. This was not unpleasant. To this day, when she turns around, I stop in my tracks for a look. It’s the same feeling.
It was a good thing that it was The Twist. Often, when I was a kid, the song would come on WLS AM 890. My mom would be washing dishes and my dad standing by the kitchen table. They wouldn’t even say anything. They would just start twisting together in the kitchen, a block from the back door of Johnny’s Tap. I always thought it was weird. I never in my wildest dreams considered that they might be training me for the moment when I would meet the woman I hadn’t even dreamed of yet.
Decades down the road, Alexis admitted to me that the reason she turned her back to me while twisting wasn’t to show the merchandise. It wasn’t to give herself room to twist. It wasn’t simple grooving to the music.
It was so she could laugh.
This is true. Evidently, my twist moves aren’t nearly as rhythmic as I thought they were.
“It was cute, for sure. But I just kept thinking – ‘this guy isn’t even embarrassed.’”
Amidst such hidden ridicule, there is hope. You see, if she didn’t dig my game from the start, she would have laughed right in my face. She’s that kind of East Chicago girl. This ability to tell it to people straight makes her a good judge. Her ability to stand her ground no matter how ridiculous the position might be made her a good lawyer for a long time. He ability to turn the other way so as to not hurt my feelings has helped to make her a good lover for 30 years.
It was a tough time for me and my family. We had lost all of our money and our mom. It took a long time, but the tragedy was complete. Of course, there would be minor tragedies in the future, but none like no money, no mom. And there I was in Players with another woman who wasn’t Alexis and with an eye to going back to California, where I had left a storage locker full of stuff from college.
My brothers – Jeff and Brian – and my little sisters – Jenny and Allison – and I were in the midst of a great sadness. But since our mom had been fighting the creep of cancer for so long, we also felt relief.
Ally was still in high school. A few days before my mom died, Ally won homecoming queen at Munster. It was surreal. My mom walked out on the field for the presentation but lost strength on the way back. She wouldn’t allow me to hop the fence, so the administrators let my dad pull the car onto the track next to the field. When my mom finally got to the car, she grabbed for the oxygen tank as a heroin addict might grab for a needle.
It would make an incredibly powerful scene in a movie.
Anyways, after The Twist, Alexis and I talked. She had been a bartender at Edo’s on the Boulevard for a long time. I knew that. I had admired here before. I also knew that my cousin, Dr. Doug Dedelow, and one of my best friends, Billy Baker, had bartended with her. I used this to my advantage.
“I guess, if you don’t have a place to stay, you could bunk in my son’s room. He’s gone for the weekend.”
This was a partially true lie. I rented an apartment in Chicago, but not in the Region. I could have easily slept at the house my dad and sisters stayed at on Belden Place in Munster. Or I could have slept in my car, as I would sometimes do. But I used Doug, Billy, my tenuous housing situation and immediate lust to my advantage.
“What’s your address?”
Here’s where another unexplained fortune came my way, our way. Her address, which would ultimately become my address, was 121 35th Court. It was in Griffith off Cline Avenue right behind what was then Venture, a large department store.
The three or four of you can probably guess why "The Twist" was an act of god, especially if you watch me dance on the show in the morning. I dance passionately but not rhythmically. If you’re looking for a definition of “white man lack of rhythm,” there’s my picture in the dictionary.
But "The Twist" was part of our family for so long that I could at least bumble my way through it or, as Alexis put it, look “cute.” If it had been, say, a Motown song or Bob Seger, I might be twice divorced by now with drug, alcohol and gambling problems.
Also, if Alexis’s address had been, say, 8379 Arbogast, I’d still be driving around looking for it. Everything I see, do, say, believe comes out forwards and backwards at the same time. Numbers get jumbled this way. Do you know how many girls’ numbers I mixed up in my head on the way home from a bar? One set of juxtaposed digits and AT&T doesn’t care how fated you are to be together, they won’t connect the call.
I had done the right thing and gone back to the people I had come to Players with, including the girl I was hanging with at the time. The whole time I was doing this, I kept running the address through my head.
121 35th Court.
121 35th Court.
121 35th Court.
This worked. By 3:30 in the morning, I was standing in front of a four-unit apartment building in the cold.
I’m sure that I’m not the first guy confronted with a situation in which you got the address right, but you forgot to ask for an apartment number. I remembered that she had told me she lived on the second floor. So I did the right thing. I pressed the buzzer for #3 and #4. Number three answered, and that has made all the difference.
That was 30 years ago on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It’s been a pretty wild ride since. But I can tell the three or four of you this with all sincerity. If Alexis hadn’t come along – or had been placed in my path by a power greater than the three or four of you and me – then I don’t know where I’d be. It was as if she was put there by someone, some being, some force so that we could live a reasonably sane life with a ton of family and a couple radio stations. Thanks to whoever.