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Velcro Part Two: Introductions

Velcro Part Two: Introductions

My phone makes a notification noise, it's Sean replying back, "Wait, what a good crazy sketch comedy it would be, if she was your weird crazy aunt." The woman only gave Sean her first name so I still don't know. I'm concerned the studio owner perceives the situation as ironic or coincidental. I decide to hit a little harder on the truth, telling Sean "This Aunt was featured in one of those shows about rip-off people. She’s no good!" I stuff my mouth, finally, with a large bite of salad and search online, finding the episode featuring Aunt Strigga and some of the people she's allegedly ripped off over many decades. By nuts I really meant: grifter, con artist, morally challenged, or ethically corrupt. She's not the good kind of nuts, like the ones in my salad. I send the video link to Sean and begin rewatching it myself.

The show starts with a woman introducing the evening’s segment with a clip of a producer singing, or trying to sing, in a kind of recording studio atmosphere. The singer has big headphones covering her ears, a microphone in front of her. The producer is either intentionally not a great singer, or actually not a great singer. To be fair, it's part of the investigative reporting. The host even says, "Her career as a vocalist is highly unlikely." while smiling. So we're all kind of wondering why we're involuntarily witnessing perhaps the death of a personal dream, on television. It feels both mean-spirited and brave. The reporter comes back after the short clip of bad singing that feels long, to reiterate that even though her producer’s career as a singer was highly unlikely — we get that — there's someone who thinks she can make it. That's where Aunt Strigga comes in.

I happened upon this video during a bout of insomnia many years ago, doing random searches for people I used to know. If you've never seen a family member getting duped by investigative reporting: for one thing, it doesn't help with falling asleep. The video is less than six minutes long and is difficult to watch. I paused a couple of times to breathe and shake off the feeling that I know this woman, even though I am related to this woman, so I can shake as much as I want, the sediment always goes back to the bottom, after it taints the water. This is a family member. Next we see a musician, a real musician, playing guitar. He's actually good and I know this because many decades ago when I was a kid, I'd heard a lot about him from Aunt Strigga. My dad had his cassette tape around and would play it. The messaging I got was that this was the guy his sister was going to ride to fame and fortune.

The segment of the musician playing guitar soft transitions to show amounts of money on paper as if they were real invoices from the 1980s when the two worked together even though the printouts are laser and at that time if you did own a printer it would be dot-matrix and I'm feeling a little defensive by proximity. I recall when Aunt Strigga was working with this guy they were driving back and forth from New York City to Nashville for shows. That is a lot of tolls, food, gas money, and hotels. They also did glossy headshots with a photographer, wardrobe, hair, and makeup. At the time the venture seemed convincing to the child version of me. If Aunt Strigga had been scamming this musician it didn't show up through any extravagant means. My dad paid for any meals we had with her and Striggy dressed whatever the opposite is to impress. She didn't wear expensive jewelry, clothing, or have high-end furnishings. But I get it, Aunt Strigga made promises she either couldn't keep or intentionally knew she couldn't. It's hard to watch, bringing me back in time to a period when we were all excited for her and there was hope, and then taking that hope away. I'm resistant to it, it's too sad.

After the invoices with large amounts of alleged misspending, the show cuts back to the producer singing badly and then the official introduction of Aunt Strigga. It's startling to see her appearance on a TV show. It also feels like I want to warn her off, mostly to save myself from the association. The last time I saw Aunt Strigga in person was at that Madison-Square-Garden-adjacent apartment some many decades ago. At the time I'd found out my father and his wife were going to be in Manhattan for Yom Kippur. Would I like to come? Usually you don't last-minute invite your daughter to Yom Kippur dinner but that aside, I didn't have any other plans and said yes. I might've asked if my dad thought his sister would be okay with it and I might not have. In my family you asked if it's okay to come to something and inquired about the guest list because there was always a history of one person not speaking to another person. A perceived slight, a real theft, or an Avalon "you cut the turkey" offense. It was all too complicated for me. Once a person has two titles before their name, like Great Uncle, I can't figure out who they are related to, what side of the family they're on, what side of which argument they've taken. In most cases, which factions were not speaking to others never interested me because these people were never interested in me. My parents divorced when I was quite young, and I got grouped into my mom’s side. Being the only daughter it was some sort of involuntary lady conscription. My mom and I became our own team. She had a lot of those complicated not-speaking relationships in her life. I didn't have a side as a kid, except maybe Legos, The Muppets, and sugary cereal. Whoever could provide me access to any one of those things would get my fleeting allegiance.

When I arrived at the dinner, Aunt Strigga was very surprised to see me and also very unhappy. The vibe sucked. Now, decades later I'm impressed with how shamelessly Striggy wore her displeasure. It takes a lot of anger and narcissism to be outwardly not awesome to your brother’s kid, your niece, if for no other reason than maybe the chance of this person lessening the amount of leftovers you have. Ever since I was placed on my mom’s team there had been an hostility towards me that I tried to ignore. My dad and I were close and it seemed self-serving to dislike me. Why couldn't his side of the family simply not like my mom and leave me neutral? Some people need to have perceived enemies to take the spotlight off their own horribleness. At the time of the dinner I did not know her career as a music producer was perhaps criminal. By the time I reached my twenties the whole I'm going to ride this musician to fame routine was tiresome. There's oh so many times you can hang a shingle and ask for a clap. I had my own dreams to focus on.

The voiceover on the scam segment is narrating over the producer still trying to sing, adding this nugget, "And we're pretty sure she shouldn't give up her day job." I guess the show felt the audience needed to be reminded the producer can't sing, again, along with adding a fresh jab that doesn't land well because the show is broadcast in the evening and not the day time. Even though this woman doesn't have any musical talent, Aunt Strigga still wants to meet her and a time is set up. Cue hidden camera moment. This is where Striggy compliments the producer’s not-great singing voice as having nice "tonal quality." Ugh. The next time a friend gets a bad haircut and wants an honest opinion, you can say the volume to it has nice tonal quality and leave it there. Then Aunt Strigga takes a swipe at Mariah Carey's singing. Oh Striggy, you’re being recorded. It's cringy to hear her pitch, asking for somewhere around the five thousand range. I zone out for a moment wondering where they chose to meet. I also wonder why she never bought me a gift when I was kid, since she was maybe raking in the bucks, and in the next moment I'm grateful I didn't get to enjoy any of her possibly tainted earnings. It's quite rich she's insulting an actually famous, talented, and award-winning beloved singer, whose net worth is maybe half a billion dollars. Insulting Mariah is almost too good in terms of the segment; you couldn't really ask for a sleazier gotcha moment. It also occurs to me I don't personally recall Aunt Strigga having any musical talent to speak of herself. Well, there is the dancing I once witnessed.

(To Be Continued, Friday, March 1st, Velcro Part Three!)


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